30 December 2008

Book Banter -- Die Trying

Title: Die Trying (Jack Reacher, bk. 2)
Author: Lee Child
Length: ~400 pages
Genre: Mystery/thriller
Plot Basics: Drifter Jack Reacher is again in the wrong place at the wrong time. Trying to be a gentlemen and help an injured woman with her dry cleaning, when they are both kidnapped off a Chicago in broad daylight. Reacher and the woman are taken to a militia camp in Montana and Reacher decides that he will escape with the woman, no matter what it takes.
Banter Points: Reacher is such an interesting character, because of his drifter nature. He, of course, manages to drift into trouble all the time. Like a lot of detective/noir/hard-boiled characters, he's got that set of standards he lives by and that governs his actions.
Bummer Points: Maybe Word Nerd's crazy, but she remembers the first Reacher book being in first person and was surprised when this one was in third. Is she remembering wrong?
Word Nerd Recommendation: Like hardboiled crime stories, like Spenser or Mickey Spillane? IF so, read the Reacher series.

23 December 2008

Best of 2008 -- Top Ten Books

Here's the moment you've all been waiting for -- Word Nerd's Top Ten Books of 2008.

Without further adieu... the envelope please:

10. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mark Haddon

9. The Painter of Battles, Arturo Perez-Reverte

8. Threshold, Caitlin R. Kiernan

7. Good People, Marcus Sakey

6. The Learners, Chip Kidd

5. Pinkerton's Secret, Eric Lerner

4. Windy City, Scott Simon

3. The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz

2. The Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England, Brock Clarke

1. Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen

Of these titles, four of the top ten are titles that Word Nerd read for book club (thanks to the Biblio Babes for making her read "real" books.) Arturo Perez-Reverte and Marcus Sakey are both making second appearances in the top ten list. Perez-Reverte was at #8 in 2006 for his second Capt. Alatriste book, "The Purity of Blood." Sakey was on the 2007 list at #2 for his debut novel, "The Blade Itself."

Much like last year, if Word Nerd compiled this list on a different day, the top three books may have fallen in a different order, as all three were wonderful. Word Nerd picked Water for Elephants as number one, just because it's been the one she's recommending to other readers the most since the story is more universal.

If there was a #11 on a top ten list, the spot would go to Stephenie Meyer's Twilight, solely because this pop culture phenom is a good read that's compelling and hard to put down.

Congratulations to this year's top ten books. Who's on your yearly top ten?

22 December 2008

Best of 2008 -- Discovered Author

Welcome back to Word Nerd's end of the year book awards.

Moving on to the next category -- Best Discovered Author. This category honors an author that Word Nerd stumbled on to in 2008. There are plenty of people she read for the first time in tomorrow's top ten list, but this is a different category. These are authors (and books) who while not quite making that top ten cut, were refreshing, enjoyable and people she'll look for in the future.

This year's winner is a bit of a dark horse pick and a big surprise to Word Nerd after looking at her whole reading list for the year.

The Best Discovered Author of 2008 is:

Marcus Sedgwick

Sedgwick writes YA horror. Word Nerd stumbled on to him when she saw the title of one of his books, "My Swordhand is Singing" and thought just that's just too great of a title. She read the book and discovered he was a darn good writer too. Since then, she's also read his "The Book of Dead Days" and "The Dark Flight Down" which are both excellent books.

The runner up for this category is Jennifer Donnelly and her historical fiction series ("The Tea Rose" and "The Winter Rose"). Word Nerd doesn't read much historical fiction, but she couldn't put either of these books down, swept up in the family drama in the stories and decided that was worth a partial nod this year.

19 December 2008

Best of 2008 -- First Book in a Series

Word Nerd has reached the point in the year again where she bequeaths her "Best ofs" on books she's read this year.

Just to clarify on the awards, they aren't for books released this year (although some are), but rather what Word Nerd deems the best of what she's read this year, regardless of publication date.

Today's award is "Best First Book in a Series." Monday, she'll reveal "Best Discovered Author" and Tuesday will be the coveted "Word Nerd Top Ten Books in 2008."

This year, Word Nerd had some trouble with this category, because it was tending to overlap with "Best Discovered Author" but after some reflection she's declared a winner.

And the winner is...

Big City, Bad Blood by Sean Chercover.

This first book in Chercover's series about Ray Dudgeon takes home the prize because the book was so darn readable and unputdownable. There was a fairly graphic torture scene, but there's also a great scene where Ray drives a car into a swimming pool and that helps balance things out.

This year's runner up for Best First Book in a Series is City of Pearl, by Karen Traviss. The reason it didn't win is that the series starts slow. Things pick up by the end of the book, but it takes a while to get going.

What book would you bestow this award on this year?

16 December 2008

On the TBR pile

Word Nerd is very happy to report that next up on he TBR pile is "Die Trying" the second Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child.

Earlier this year, Word Nerd was the 20-somethingst person to have this book on hold and the library system had but one copy. After doing the math and asking them to the buy more copies so Word Nerd could read it before March of 2010, a hold copy is now waiting for her at her local library branch.

And there are a bunch more ordered copies for other branches. She wonders a bit if there will then a be a glut of readers with book three on hold. But for now, she'll take it.

12 December 2008

Book Banter -- Crossing the Line

Title: Crossing the Line (Wess'har Wars, bk. 2)
Author: Karen Traviss
Length: 373 pages
Genre: sci-fi
Plot Basics: Environmental Hazard Agent Shan Frankland is stuck on the planet CS2 forever because she was infected with a strange alien that makes it very hard for her to die. This virus is sought after by her government, pharmaceutical companies and others and Shan is committed to protecting it -- and the planet CS2 -- at all costs. Only some of her former allies are determined to take it from Shan by whatever means necessary.
Banter Points: Word Nerd enjoyed the first book in this series and really liked this one. The action that Traviss started in the first book was on a roll in this one -- with characters already established and a plot that was already in progress and didn't need set up. Word Nerd is especially fond of the character Eddie Michallat and his predicament as the only journalist in deep space and getting stuck between reporting and making news.
Bummer Points: Word Nerd can't say much with out spoiling everything, but she was shocked (shocked!) at the ending and is moving the next book in the series up her reading list.
Word Nerd Recommendation: If you want good space opera, stick through the first book and then watch the story get good in this second volume.

11 December 2008

Book Banter -- Trigger City

Title: Trigger City
Author: Sean Chercover
Length: 293 pages
Genre: mystery/thriller
Plot Basics: Chicago PI Ray Dudgeon has returned to active detective work after taking some time off to heal from his run-in with the Outfit. He accepts a case from a grieving father who wants the truth of his daughter's death -- even though the police work on the case appears to be quite open-and-shut. As Ray investigates, he has to come face to face with some events from his past and runs into trouble (of the trying to kill him variety) as he discovers the case isn't at all what it initially seemed.
Banter Points: Chercover followed up his first novel, "Big City, Bad Blood" with a fantastic second novel. What happened to Ray Dudgeon in the first book plays a role with how he reacts to the situations in the second book. Dudgeon is a character that's changing... but it's unclear at this point if he's really changing for the good (which just makes Word Nerd want to read more about him.)

Dudgeon reminds Word Nerd somewhat of both Robert Parker's Spenser and Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden, in that like Spenser, Dudgeon can be quite ruthless and like Harry Dresden, Dudgeon has a deep-seated personal code of ethics and morals and justice and protecting women in particular that gets him in over his head on cases. These two things provide great internal tension for the character that Chercover brings out well in the book as Ray struggles with knowing his should walk away from the case, yet finding himself compelled by his code to stay.

Additionally, the book is infused with real-world politics and news to give it a sense of immediacy.

Bummer Points: Word Nerd hopes that for Chercover, the fact that the book is riddled with all kinds of current politics doesn't make it have a shorter shelf-life. Obviously, plenty of books in history have been sustained despite the political overtones to them (Wizard of Oz, anyone?), so maybe this isn't a very big issue after all.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Fans of hard-boiled mysteries, if you haven't been introduced to Sean Chercover's PI, why are you waiting?

09 December 2008

Book Banter -- White Night

Title: White Night (Dresden Files, bk. 9)
Author: Jim Butcher
Length: ~390 pages
Genre: urban fantasy
Plot Basics: Harry Dresden, Chicago's wizard for hire, is seen in the company of several young women right before they turn up dead. Only Harry knows it's not him that's snatching these women. Trying to serve on the side of right and justice, Harry decides he'll get to the bottom of things, even though that means going up against the White Court Vampires.
Banter Points: There's something about wizards named Harry.... When Harry Potter books were new to Word Nerd, she was just captivated by them. Now that she's turned her attention to the Dresden Files, a new grown-up Harry wizard has her attention. He is, as Word Nerd has pointed out before, a battered hero who has to grow and change with the circumstances of each book.
Bummer Points: This book, in the grand scheme of the series, was a transition book. Butcher seriously raised the stakes in book 8, and this one seemed to do a lot to help that transition... keeping old and new characters around and fresh in readers' minds, while only advancing the big plot a little bit.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Still a great series to read... check it out!

08 December 2008

A public health PSA

Word Nerd doesn't usually vary much from her topics of books and writing, but for once, she thinks it's exceptionally important.

That trip to Chicago she was supposed to make didn't happen because she got the flu (as in influenza, not the stomach bug that people call the flu).

Here's the PSA part -- if you haven't gotten a flu shot, go get one. Trust Word Nerd... any temporary discomfort from the vaccine is way better than being laid flat by this virus for 5-6 days. Days 1 and 2, Word Nerd couldn't do much but stay in bed -- fever, body aches, chills, pounding, pounding headache. Days 3 and 4, Word Nerd was feeling better, but not much. Fever was down, aches were gone, except for the headache. Day 5 -- first full day fever-free, but wiped out.

You don't get the flu from the flu shot.

Do yourself and the people you care about a favor... get the shot so you don't get this illness.

01 December 2008

Chicago Fiction

Word Nerd's headed up to the Windy City tomorrow for three days of training to learn how to supervise new AmeriCorps*VISTA members joining the team at her real work.

The trainings are an all day affair, but once it's evening, she'll won't have much to do but sit around her airport hotel room. To stave off the boredom, she's packing books. (What else?)

In honor of her visit to Chi-town, Word Nerd's reading things set in that city. Up first, Jim Butcher's 9th book of the Dresden Files, "White Night." Granted, these books are more heavy on the magic than the Chicago, but it's still set there.

After that, she's got Sean Chercover's "Trigger City." Word Nerd is not making the same mistake that she did the last time she bought one of Sean's books and then waited forever before reading it. No, this one she's going to get to right away.

Word Nerd's got her book picks set for this trip, but anybody else have a favorite title that's set in Chicago?