21 January 2010

Book Banter -- Faces of the Gone

Title: Faces of the Gone
Author: Brad Parks
Length: 330 pages
Genre: mystery
Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library

Plot Basics: Carter Ross, investigative reporter for the Newark Eagle-Examiner, lives for untangling good stories. When four bodies turn up murder in a vacant lot, and the police spoon out a feeble story for how the four are connected, Carter starts doing what he does best -- asking questions to put together a real scoop. With the help of his sexy city editor, gay Cuban intern, a bum, a stripper, and some shoe leather, Carter uncovers the links between the four victims, and puts him in the sights of ruthless killer.

Banter Points: Word Nerd met Brad Parks at Bouchercon, interviewed him a few weeks back and had to wait (more or less patiently) on the library to get a copy in her hands. And the wait paid off.

Word Nerd approaches books with reporters as the main characters with some hesitation, but given that Parks is a recovering reporter too, she hoped his novel would ring true, and it did. The whole process of how editors want stories and how reporting gets handed around on a big case, and the demise of the newspaper industry and how to work sources and all of it -- right, right, right. In fact, reading the book made her miss the old adrenaline rush of a big scoop, the hum of the newsroom... not enough to go back, but enough to remember why she used to love that career.

For non-ex-journalists, the book is still a great read. Carter is the kind of protagonist people relate to and supported by a comic set of secondary characters, it's hard not to like the guy. The plot moves at a good clip, and keeps the reader guessing up to the end about who's really behind everything. Carter's also great a dry sense of humor -- his journalistic cynicism, no doubt -- that makes for some great one-line zingers throughout the story (one in particular about the worthlessness of TV reporters had Word Nerd laughing aloud.)

Bummer Points: A few times, even for those who still love newspapers, Carter's waxing on about the industry, it's demise (or not) or why journalism is so important feels a little self-indulgent on Parks' part.

Word Nerd Recommendation: Read it. Three weeks and six books in to 2010, Faces of the Gone is the best thing Word Nerd's read so far this year and will likely hold up as the year progresses. Word Nerd's glad Parks is busy writing more Carter Ross books because this is one veteran reporter Word Nerd hopes doesn't bail from the industry.

19 January 2010

A loss in the mystery world

Word Nerd's having a little trouble confirming this (like in a newspaper), but from several reputable places in the blogosphere/twitter-verse, the news seems to be that mystery writer Robert B. Parker has died while writing at desk.

Word Nerd's only read a few of Parker's books, but her dad loves them. Moreover, she knows that Parker has been a staple in the genre for years. Spenser is an iconic character.

She'll update when she finds a link to official news story about this.

UPDATED: 12:41 p.m.
A story on NPR's blog confirms Parker's death, including a link to his publisher.

18 January 2010

Book Banter -- Jhegaala

Title: Jhegaala (Vlad Taltos #11)
Author: Steven Brust
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 300 pages
Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library
Plot Basics: This is a probable spoiler alert. With 10 books already in this series, it's hard not to give anything away and still have a meaningful review.

Vlad is on the run from the Jhereg organized criminal empire, whom he has managed to piss off royally. He's also on the run from his failed marriage. Curious about his own roots -- and with few ideas of where else to go -- Vlad heads east, back to Fenario where the humans live, to seek out his family. When he starts asking questions, people start ending up dead. Vlad decides he needs to get to the bottom of what's going on, and in the process, brings down a Jhereg assassin, an iron-fisted merchants' Guild, Coven of witches and the local lord down on him. To stay alive, Vlad will have to use all of his cunning to untangle the ever-changing picture before him.

Banter Points: Though this book came out at least a year ago, Word Nerd decided to reread through the whole Vlad series before tackling this new one, a project that took her far longer than she expected. The reread was great and helped her get the timeline of the stories more firmly in place which was good for this one. Word Nerd's constantly amazed that Brust isn't telling these stories in chronological order. Jhegaala jumps back to some time before Issola and Dzur (bks. 9 and 10). The plot was the generally tangled web that Brust always manages to set up and then get Vlad out of.

Bummer Points: Word Nerd really likes the secondary characters (Morrolan, Sethra, Kragar) and this one didn't have them. Also, without giving anything more away, Word Nerd just wasn't thrilled with this, particularly with what happens to Vlad (call her crazy, but she doesn't like it when her favorite fictional characters get injured).

Word Nerd Recommendation: Word Nerd will probably go back and reread this one some time in the future and she'll probably like it better than this time through. Sometimes books are like wine. Or cheese and get better with age. And more time to breath. She will, however, gladly pick up Iorich (Vlad #12) as soon as the library fills her hold on it because all in all, it's still Vlad.

11 January 2010

Book Banter -- Void Moon

Title: Void Moon

Author: Michael Connelly

Length: ~450 pages

Genre: mystery/thriller

Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library

Plot Basics: Cassie Black is trying to live on the straight and narrow after serving five years in prison because of a casino robbery gone bad. But when senses a big change in the routine she's got laid out for herself, Cassie decides to do one last casino job. When she ends up trapped in the job during a void moon -- a superstitious time of night according the guy who set her up on the job -- everything with the score starts to go wrong. Cassie finds herself running from a Vegas "fixer" and having to use everything she's got to stay one step ahead of him.

Banter Points: Continuing on in reading all of Michael Connelly's back list in publication order, Word Nerd came to Void Moon, disappointed that it wasn't another Bosch novel. That said, she actually enjoyed this one. It was nice to have the female protagonist instead of Bosch or McCaleb or McEvoy. And, the really nifty part was that the whole story was about criminals -- there really weren't good guys in this one (it's still crime even if the people getting ripped off are criminals). The fact that Connelly had Word Nerd rooting for the bad guys (in alternating turns... the bad guy and the BAD guys) was some slick writing.

Bummer Points: Word Nerd liked the book, but it wasn't a home run. There's nothing specific she can put her finger on for what she didn't like, just that she didn't finish it with that sense of awe that sometimes accompanies books.

Word Nerd Recommendation: Keep reading Connelly. Word Nerd can't wait to see what he'll try next.

07 January 2010

Hitting Shelves Soon

Word Nerd discovered recently some exciting news for upcoming books in series she reads and release dates! Wanted to pass it along.

Iorich, Vlad Taltos #12, Steven Brust, Jan 2010

Changes, Dresden Files #12, Jim Butcher, April 2010

Deceiver, Foreigner Series #11, C.J. Cherryh, May 2010

Namaah's Curse, Jacqueline Carey, June 2010

What new releases are you looking forward to?

06 January 2010

Book Banter -- Catching Fire

Title: Catching Fire (Hunger Games bk. 2)
Author: Suzanne Collins
Length: ~300 pages
Genre: YA sci-fi
Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: It was a gift. The very cool high school student she mentors gave it her as a Christmas present.

Plot Basics: SPOILER ALERT! If you haven't read Hunger Games Stop reading. Right now. Go get a copy. Read it. Read Catching Fire. Then come back.

Katniss Everdeen survived the Hunger Games through a gutsy act that forced the Gamemakers to save face. But her act has sparked the fires of rebellion throughout Panem and the political powers that be want her to quell them, and fast, or else her family and good friend Gale will be at risk. While Kat tries to play along, her actions on her victory tour only fan the rebellion more. As the political powers attempt more and more to force Kat into compliance, she sides more and more with the rebels, but the personal cost grows even higher.

Banter Points: Collins, quite frankly, did it again. Hunger Games was a home-run book and she followed it up with a second. Word Nerd figured out what the first twist would be (she's not saying to try to keep spoilers to a minimum) but it didn't detract from the story. Like the first one, it was un-put-down-able. It's a complex world that Collins has built and she has yet to really give the reader the full back story. However, the pieces she drops are so relevant and she knows her world so well, the story moves through it effortlessly and makes the reader feel comfortable in her dystopian future.

Bummer Points: Word Nerd doesn't know when the next book in the series is coming out. Whenever that is, it's far too long.

Word Nerd Recommendation: Jump all over this bandwagon. You'll be glad you did.

05 January 2010

Book Banter -- Issola

Title: Issola (Vlad Taltos, bk 9)
Author: Steven Brust
Genre: Fantasy
Length: ~250 pages
Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library
Plot Basics: Lady Teldra, the doorkeeper for the Lord Morrolan, finds Vlad and brings him back to Adrilankha because Morrolan and Aliera have gone missing. In finding them, Vlad goes up against the Jenoine -- a primal creature of the world. To get them released, Vlad only has to assassinate a god...
Banter Points: Ah Vlad Taltos. He's so much fun. Issola is a great return in the series from Vlad's exile out of the city to bring back the secondary characters everyone likes (Sethra Lavode, anyone?) This one follows in Brust's 17 chapter motif, this time dealing with manners in polite society.
Bummer Points: There's a lot of world-building philosophy in this one that cuts away from the swashbuckling and wise-cracking Vlad we all love. Word Nerd admits that she got pretty lost with the creation myths in this story.
Word Nerd Recommendation: This is one of those that sort of weigh the middle of this series down, but it's foundational for what happens next. NOT a good place to start if you are just getting your first taste of Vlad.

04 January 2010

December 2009 Bibliometer

Time to close out the bibliometer readings for 2009.

The tally for December was:
6 books
2080 pages
avg. 67 pages/day

2o09 Totals
87 books
29589 total pages
average book length: 340 pages