29 January 2009

Book Banter -- Brighton Rock

Title: Brighton Rock
Author: Graham Greene
Length: 247 pages
Genre: literary fiction
Plot Basics: Newspaper contest man, Hale, is murdered in the seaside resort town of Brighton. The crime does not go unnoticed and Ida Arnold, who only met Hale briefly, takes it upon herself to find justice. Her quest runs into Pinkie, the juvenile leader of a local gang/mob, who is determined to get away with him crime. Pinkie's single-mindedness runs afoul of his mob and one crime leads to another...
Banter Points: Word Nerd LOVED this book in college when she had to read it in "Valuing through Literature" class. In fact, this book turned her on to all of Graham Greene and she's read most of his famous works since then. This is the first one, though, that she's gone back and reread. She didn't like it as much the second time through -- maybe because she knew one of the big twists. It was still good, and a remarkable piece of writing.
Bummer Points: This book felt less accessible than the first time Word Nerd read it. Of course, the first time was right after being forced to read Tess of the D'Urbervilles and ANYTHING can be more accessible than that, in Word Nerd's opinion.
Word Nerd Recommendation: If you want to tackle Greene, this isn't a bad place to start, but not necessarily his best.

26 January 2009

Book Banter -- The Graveyard Book

Title: The Graveyard Book
Author: Neil Gaiman
Length: 307 pages
Genre: Juvenile fantasy
Plot Basics: A murderer goes after an entire family, but the youngest member -- just a toddler -- manages to slip away... and toddle into a nearby graveyard. There, the toddler becomes Nobody "Bod" Owens and is raised as a living boy among the dead. Bod is taught the secrets of the graveyard, how to Fade and frighten people, but he craves human companionship. As he grows up, it becomes clear that those who originally wanted to do Bod harm want to see the job finished.
Banter Points: This is another one of those books that shouldn't be labeled as a kid's book, because grown-ups really should read it too. Gaiman's spooky riff on Kipling's "The Jungle Book" is great storytelling, with a full cast of delightful characters. Bod's struggle to figure out what it means to be human among a graveyard full of dead people from different times is poignant and surprising.
Bummer Points: A few plots threads aren't ever full explained, but Word Nerd's holding out hope that this means she'll get to visit with Bod Owens again.
Bonus News: This just in. The Graveyard Book was named as the Newberry Award winner for this year. Neil Gaiman's got the whole story about how he learned of it up on his blog here.
Word Nerd Recommendation: A sure bet for readers of all ages.

22 January 2009

This just in

Jasper Fforde has a new book coming out in July.

Jasper Fforde of the Thursday Next and the Nursery Crime serieses (serieses? ... oh boy...) has a new book coming out in July that has nothing to do with either of those storylines.

Word Nerd will now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

14 January 2009

2008 Words of the Year

Word Nerd's a bit tardy on sharing these this year, but she still finds it interesting to see what words topped dictionary lists in 2008.

For Merriam-Webster, the word of the year was "bailout," a sure sign of the financial/political times we're in.

The release and the other top ten words can be found here.

The Oxford New American Dictionary crowned their own 2008 word of the year, and it's also a sure sign of the times. Their top pick is "hypermiling." Word Nerd knows, she's never heard it either. According to the dictionary's website, "hypermiling" means: to attempt to maximize gas mileage by making fuel-conserving adjustments to one’s car and one’s driving techniques. Rather than aiming for good mileage or even great mileage, hypermilers seek to push their gas tanks to the limit and achieve hypermileage, exceeding EPA ratings for miles per gallon.

Can somebody bailout us out of this crazy lexicon lesson?

12 January 2009

Book Banter -- Backup

Title: Backup: A Novella of the Dresden Files

Author: Jim Butcher

Genre: urban fantasy/paranormal

Length: 70 pages

Plot Basics: Thomas Raith, Harry Dresden's full-vampire, half-brother, gets to take the leading role in this novella. He's got the inside scoop on the latest trap that Harry's going to walk into, but if Thomas lets Harry in on what's going down, it's likely Harry will start another war. Thomas decides to take care of things from behind the scenes.

Banter Points: Word Nerd has always liked Thomas (ok, from the point in the series we readers find out he's Harry's bro), so seeing him as the leading man was awesome. If anything ever happens to Harry, Thomas could easily become the full time protagonist. In addition to the great writing, the book had several awesome illustrations from graphic novel great Mike Mignola.

Bummer Points: The story was only 70 pages, or about 12,000 word (so said the book jacket.) Word Nerd would have gladly read another 100,000 words about Thomas in a full-length novel.

Word Nerd Recommendation: Dresden Files fans, you can't miss this book.

09 January 2009

Beta Readers and the End of the Hiatus

Word Nerd's beta readers are starting to chime back in with comments about her novel. Word Nerd is finding this to be an exciting process, to hear what they had to say.

So far, they have made some good catches with a few timeline problems and some transitions that aren't clear, but overall (and not to get too excited here), they are responding positively to the book.

Word Nerd's taking a look at the book again herself and getting ready to dive back into full-on editing mode. She visited an old set of characters during the Christmas holiday just to keep writing. It was a fun side jaunt, but she's really ready to get back to her novel and the characters she's created there.

08 January 2009

Book Banter -- Obedience

Title: Obedience
Author: Will Lavender
Length: 287 pages
Genre: literary fiction/mystery
Plot Basics: The students in Logic and Reasoning 204 at Winchester College have six weeks to solve the greatest puzzle of their lives -- find a missing girl named Polly, or she will be killed. Three students -- Mary, Brian and Dennis -- take the problem especially personally, particularly after they each have run-ins with suspects associated with Polly's story. It sets them on a dangerous path of wondering what is true, what are the lies being spun to them by their professor and how long they should be obedient to their class assignment.
Banter Points: Word Nerd picked up this title because the fictitious Winchester College is in a small town in Indiana and she thought it would be cool to read some Indiana-related fiction. The plot itself is great, with lots of twists and turns, but...
Bummer Points: ...it's execution leaves a lot to be desired. The characters of Mary, Brian and Dennis are fairly flat and hard to care about, as is the alleged victim, Polly. Additionally, if you have any background whatsoever in psychology (even a good recollection of a Psych 101-type class), you'll likely start to put together some of the clues and figure out at least a piece of what's going on. Word Nerd didn't exactly unravel the whole plot twist, but when the reveal came, she wasn't all that surprised.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Word Nerd was really hoping, based on the jacket cover, that this could be a top 10 book of 2009. As it is, she's recommending to skip it.

05 January 2009

Book Banter -- The Dairy Queen

Title: The Dairy Queen
Author: Alison Rushby
Genre: chick lit
Plot Basics: Dicey seemed to have it all -- booming pajama business and a gorgeous husband. But somewhere it all goes wrong. Her sister, Titch, isn't having any luck getting pregnant with IVF and their best friend Sally, breaks her foot in a night of partying. The three decide to return to their cow-themed hometown of Moo to get away from it all. Once there, they are roped into helping with a Girl Scouts-like group and the group's activities force them to take true stock of their lives and rediscover their dreams.
Banter Points: This is a light, breezy read, which when Word Nerd picked it up, was exactly what she wanted. Looking back, the characters seem 2D and the plot sort of slow, but at the time, she didn't notice it.
Bummer Points: See above.
Word Nerd Recommendation: If you need a break from mysteries or suspense or something and like chick lit, this will do the trick.

02 January 2009

Loss of a Great

The mystery genre has lost one of its great contributors with the death of Donald Westlake.

Word Nerd started reading his series about the bungling thief John Dortmunder a few years back and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The full story about Westlake can be found here.

December 2008 Bibliometer and 2008 Bibliometer Totals

Well, Word Nerd's pretty pleased with how the Bibliometer stats turned out for this year (technically, last year now, since today is Jan. 2).

Here's the final tallies.

Dec. 2008
8 books
2,803 pages
90 pages/day

2008 YTD Grand Totals
98 books
32,805 pages
90 pages/day yearly average