28 November 2011

Book Banter: Y The Last Man (vol. 1 & 2)

Title: Y The Last Man (Vols. 1 & 2)
Author: Brian Vaughn et al.
Length: approx. 120 pages each
Genre: graphic novel
Plot Basics: A mysterious virus kills every male on the planet -- human and animal -- except two: Yorick Brown and his pet monkey, Ampersand. Civilization is crumbling and all Yorick wants is to somehow make his way to Australia where his girlfriend Beth is on the verge of accepting his proposal of marriage. But others -- including Yorick's Congresswoman mom -- have other plans for the last man. Top of the list is setting out to find a leading genetic/cloning scientist to see why Yorick survived. But getting there, around the motorcycle-gang women the Amazons, and others just curious about Yorick's existence won't be easy.

Banter Points: Got a recommendation for these through a post a few weeks ago on webcomics, I believe and have thoroughly enjoyed the first two in the series. The world is complex, but the characters stand out as well. Early on, they are all forced to make moral decisions about their roles in this new world which is nice instead of it being one giant string of action sequences.

Bummer Points: My only real bummer right now is a spoiler, so I can't tell you, other than that a plot twist makes me wonder about the title.

Word Nerd Recommendation: Highly recommend this for people who like graphic novels and this could also be an easy entry point for those who haven't read any graphic novels but think they might like to try them out.

24 November 2011

Thank you

There is so much to give thanks for, especially in times like these. There is always something going on and time always moves too fast. Days like today make us slow down a little and remember what is truly important in life.

Here are our Thanksgiving lists:

  • Family and Friends
  • Running and races like Festival's Turkey Trot (now I don't feel guilty about that second piece of pie!)
  • Reading and the marvelous authors who create the worlds I explore
  • My dogs
  • Freedom

  • Family
  • My church community -- what wonderful friends and encouragers and all around good people
  • Books! and all the talented writers who bring words to life in amazing ways
  • A fantastic new job that's introduced me to the Tekes -- these guys are great
  • A house with two snuggly cats

22 November 2011

Book Banter: The Royal Treatment

Title: The Royal Treatment
Author: MaryJanice Davidson
Genre: Romance, ChickLit
Length: 256 pages
Where Stacie's Copy Came From: Oshkosh Public Library
Plot Basics: In a world where the US decided not to purchase Alaska, it became it's own country after a civil war with Russia. Fast forward to the 2080s and the Royal Family needs a queen. Through an odd set of circumstances, Christina Krabbe (the e is silent and don't you forget it) becomes the queen. Mostly.

Banter Points: This was a really fun, fast book to read, and just what I needed after four solid weeks of homework. It's cute, full of sex, and has a murder plot.

Bummer Points: The language. I'm willing to bet that if all of the f-bombs were cut out, it would be at least five pages shorter. I am by no means a prude, and have been known to use the f-bomb here and there, but it was a bit over the top and didn't always add to the plot. It would have been better to show the rough edges through alternate means instead of relying on one trite technique.

Stacie's Recommendation: Check it out, but don't plan to take it seriously.

21 November 2011

Book Banter -- Before I Fall

Title: Before I Fall
Author: Lauren Oliver
Genre: YA
Length: 470 pages
Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: Planned Television Arts
Plot Basics: High school senior Samantha Kingston seems to have it all -- popularity, good looks, a great group of friends, a hot boyfriend. But her life changes when she dies on Friday, February 12th coming home from a party. She awakes the next morning, living the day over a number of times and coming to terms with her actions and how the choices she makes affects the people around her.

Banter Points: This book completely surprised me and I'm happy to give it a big thumbs up now because of it. At the beginning of the story, Sam and her friends are horrible people and as the reader, I really hated them. They epitomize mean girls and the agonizing culture of putting others down and just general reckless behavior. But, as the story progressed, I really found myself rooting for Sam and her efforts to put things to rights, restore relationships with those she hurt, and try to make sense of what kept happening to her. By the end, I nearly made myself late to an early morning meeting to spend a few more minutes reading to finish the book before work.

Bummer Points: I firmly believe in ending stories at the right point and Oliver did that, but I would have happily read another 300 pages to get to know Sam better.

Word Nerd Recommendation: If you've got teens interested in things like Gossip Girl (sheesh, is that even popular anymore?), pluck those out of their hands and put "Before I Fall" in its place for better writing and better outcomes and better (eventually) role models of how we want to girls to act.

18 November 2011

Book Banter: Soulless

Title: Soulless
Author: Gail Carriger
Genre: Steampunk
Length: 474 pages
Where Stacie's Copy Came From: Oshkosh Public Library
Plot Basics: Alexia Tarabotti has been placed on the shelf, in favor of her younger sisters have a Season of their own. Alexia is quite already with this as she has a secret of her own that she would rather the Vampires and Werewolfs not know. In this version of Victorian England, Alexia falls into a thick plot, a romance and manages to snatch the most eligible bachelor of them all.

Banter Points: My exposure to Steampunk has been really limited (one title previously) but after reading this one, I need to explore this genre more. I grew up reading romances based in Victorian England. I love fantasy novels. And this title combines those two favorites with some new twists.

Alexia is opinionated, stubborn and determined to do her own thing, just like any Victorian maiden in a Regency romance. Only her world is populated with Werewolves, Vampires and mechanical creations that are part of a larger plot. And Alexia finds herself at the middle of it, with both the Vampires and the Werewolves trying to figure out if they should fear her or destroy her.

I love the twist too of America, which is still a British colony, and religious zealots have control, albeit in a different manner than what really happened.

Bummer Points: I'm a little fearful that this is really a mediocre title, and that my lack of Steampunk knowledge makes it seem great. I'd hate to give out a bad recommendation, but I do really like it.

The hold list is really long. And since this series is five titles deep already, I am considering a purchase with my Christmas money. The first three titles are available as a bundle from several ebook retailers.

Stacie's Recommendation: Check it out. Let me know if this is mediocre steampunk or something great.

17 November 2011

The TBR Pile, or the Wowbrary Curse

My TBR pile is currently out of control, thanks mostly to Wowbrary.

Haven't heard of Wowbrary -- check it out www.wowbrary.org.

Weekly, they send you an email of all the new stuff at your library. They break down the new material down in categories -- fictions, mysteries & thrillers and the category that I've been perusing a lot, graphic novels.

The great thing about Wowbrary is while there are certain authors that I keep an eye out for when they have new stuff and put it on hold early (#166 for Michael Connelly's "The Drop"), others I don't follow as closely or just like browsing the shelves, my interest gets piqued by something new. A librarian friend told me she uses Wowbrary to keep up on nonfiction. I don't even click on that section or I'd be even more overwhelmed...

But the result is that I have something like a dozen books currently checked out of the library! Granted, getting through a graphic novel is an evening's entertainment or less since they read quickly, but there's a hefty number of novels in that mix as well. (And don't get me started on the books I own waiting still to be read...and the asks for reviews... )

Remember back in college when some schools would give reading days in between the last day of class and the start of finals week?

Maybe I need one of those....

15 November 2011

Book Banter: Amulet Books 1-4

Titles: The Stonekeeper
The Stonekeeper's Curse
The Cloud Searchers
The Last Council
Author: Kazu Kibuishi
Genre: Graphic Novel
Length: about 200 pages each
Where Stacie's Copy Came From: Personal Collection
Plot Basics: After a terrible accident that leaves Emily and Navin with one parent, they move to the country and the house where her great-grandfather Silas lived. Once there, Emily finds that her inheritance is move than just a old house, and bigger than anything she imagined.

Banter Points: My eleven year old introduced this series to our house after a unit in English on graphic novels. The first two or three books were out then, and we purchased this much conversed about series. After a while, my eight year old was reading and talking about them too. This week, I decided to see what they were about.


Gorgeous pictures. Fun, yet scary, adventures. Themes that both the boys and I can relate to. Emily and Navin are equally part of the plot, with different challenges. The side characters are fabulous also.

I really like that Emily needs to judge and decide what is best. It isn't obvious, she doesn't always go with the advice she is given and occasionally she makes bad decisions.

Bummer Points: Each book moves the plot forward by one point only. Maybe that is typical of graphic novels, but new to me. The pictures are definitely what holds the story together.

Stacie's Recommendation: Check them out. It's rare that the boys introduce me to a book that I enjoy as much as them. Usually, I'm telling them what to read, rather than them telling me.

14 November 2011

The Confession

I am in a complete writing funk.

The novel is still, well, in progress. Like it's been. For a long time. My crit group offered some good suggestions, but my motivation for implementing those is about Nil.

I'm sure lots of writers go through this slump. It's not writer's block -- I have ideas. I just am feeling like this very long process is never going to end and that I'm never going to get there.

Through my church, I again have the opportunity to do some writing for the Advent season and I'm hoping that by working on something else, I'll get the juices going again.

I'm consuming reading material at a pretty good clip, so maybe this is just a time to be re-priming the pump. I've been reading graphic novels, thrillers, an ARC of a friend's novel. I was so into Scott Westerfeld's "Leviathan" that I was dreaming the book the other night.

But my own stuff? Meh.

I'll keep you posted on if a new project helps lift the writing doldrums. I'm hopeful, at least.

10 November 2011

Book Banter -- Game of Cages

Title: Game of Cages
Author: Harry Connolly
Length: 338 pages
Genre: urban fantasy
Where Bethany's Copy Came From: Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library

Plot Basics: Ray Lilly survived the events of Hammer Bay, but has since lost contact with the Twenty Palaces Society and his boss, Annalise. When a woman named Catherine comes to the store where he works with what feels like a mission, Ray drops everything to accompany her to a small town where an auction for a predator is set to take place. Ray and Catherine arrive too late and the predator has escaped his new owner and is terrorizing the small town of Washaway. They set out on desperate quest to stop the predator and the citizens of the town -- maddened by the predator's presence -- without the help of a peer.

Banter Points: Connolly's Twenty Palaces series is like a cross between Jack Reacher and Harry Dresden -- all the violence that Reacher can mete out with a hefty does of Dresden-esque magic. Ray Lilly reminds me a lot more of Reacher in his I-don't-want-to-hurt-anybody-but-gosh-darn-it-I'm-really-good-at-that persona. The magic elements are less classy than Dresden's magic, making them feel more rough-hewn and volatile.

Ray is a such a flawed main character, it's hard not to like him. It's great to see him grapple in this book with how much he wants to be a part of the Society and how much he likes to hurt things (OK, people) and why that's not bothering him as much as he wants it to.

Bummer Points: I was hoping for a little bit more of a reveal in this book about the whole Society. There is some, don't get me wrong, a few questions are answered, but I was hoping a lot more back story was filled in. Where Connolly did fill in the blanks, it was done deftly and not like an info dump.

Word Nerd Recommendation: Just like with Child of Fire, I have mixed feelings here, knowing that the series has been cancelled. Normally, I would say run right out and start reading, but... sigh... the writing is solid, but if you're looking for a long-term relationship with a series, know that you're going to be left hanging here.

08 November 2011

How to Search a Corpus

Yeah, I took a double take too. But it's not Halloween.

It is, however, the Word Nerds. And I'm pretty sure that the by-laws demand that self-proclaimed nerds of words should know how to search a corpus.

Or what a corpus is.

Thank goodness for Grammar Girl's recent podcast on this very subject.

It's like the universe recognized my need before I could even articulate it.

A corpus is a database of writing and Google has one called Ngram. Thanks to Grammar Girl, I'm going to have fun pretending to be smart this weekend and figuring out some cool word facts.

Any guesses as to the first word I type? Post it in the comments!

07 November 2011

Where I am today

My blogging gig has me over at the Indy YNPN (Young Nonprofit Professional Network) with a look at saying "I don't know" and being OK with not knowing everything.

We'll return you to your regularly scheduled book blogging tomorrow.

04 November 2011

Goodreads Book Poll

Maybe it's not the same as the really prestigious prizes for books, but for once, there's an award set that you can have a hand in crafting.

Goodreads is sponsoring its 3rd Annual Goodreads Choice Awards.

They break books down into genre categories and you can vote in any and all where you feel like you can make an informed decision.

Exercise your right to vote. It'll be good practice for those of us who have an election coming up next Tuesday.

03 November 2011

Book Banter -- How the Mistakes Were Made

Title: How the Mistakes Were Made
Author: Tyler McMahon
Length: ~350 pages
Genre: literary fiction
Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: ARC from St. Martin's Press
Plot Basics: Musician Laura Loss was ready to put her career in rock bands behind her when she meets Nathan and Sean, two young, gifted and naive rockers. The two convince her to play drums for them at a gig, and The Mistakes are suddenly riding high into the early 90s grunge rock scene. Laura becomes somewhat of a matriarch to the fledgling band, while at the same time, striking up a relationship with Sean, the group's mega-talented guitarist. As the group's popularity grows, Sean's talent leads to self-destructive behaviors and Laura's efforts to keep the band together may either save or destroy them all.

Banter Points: Reading book is like watching a train wreck in the absolute best way possible.You know going in with a story about a rock band that the band is doomed to break up and the whole story is the build-up to that. It's so formulaic of a plot that at first, I wondered how in the world it was going to work.

Enter Tyler McMahon's prose and deftly created characters and use of flashbacks. Laura's voice as the maligned narrator was the compelling hook that got me to keep turning pages, as well as her flashbacks to the 1980s and her time in her brother's punk band. The stories parallel so well and you have to wonder as a reader if she will learn the lessons from the past or not.

Bummer Points: It's not really a happy-ending sort of book. To me, this is actually OK, but for some readers, the schmaltz-free ending could be kind of a bummer.

Word Nerd Recommendation: I'm predicting that How the Mistakes Were Made will be in my top 10 for this year, so you might want to check this one out.

01 November 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011

Good luck to everyone participating in National Novel Writing Month out there.

I don't think either of us here at the Word Nerd team are jumping on that bandwagon this year, but we've both done it in the past and know what you're in for in the next 30 days.

There are a zillion of great links out there on how to make the most of NaNoWriMo. Of course a chief practice is to not get hung-up reading posts but to actually write. Some of the best encouragement is over at Pbackwriter's blog, so I'd point you there if you need a boost.

Hope the words flow freely for you.