01 March 2012

If you're looking for us...

The Word Nerds have moved to a new home on the internet.

You can find us over at thewordnerds.wordpress.com.

It's a new address and a new look, but the Word Nerd content you've come to expect.

Bookmark it. Tell your friends.

We'll be porting over the old content from here in the coming weeks, so don't worry that you'll lose the archive of author interviews, etc.

27 February 2012

Book Banter -- The Enforcers

Title: The Enforcers (ARC)
Author: Joshua Grover David Patterson
Genre: urban fantasy
Length: ~300 pages (ebook ARC)
Where Word Nerd's Copy came from: @Groverdavid (AKA, the author)
Plot Basics: Spoiler Alerts...

Still newly-minted vampire Lucy Leary and her scooby gang (Emma, Wash, Charisma and Alex) are on the run from the Enforcers, the self-policing vampire hit squad. They've successful taken down two vampire baddies, but in this age of the Internet, their escapades are all over YouTube. Of course, the existence of vampires is a secret, and David, the head of the Enforcers, is determined to keep it that way. Lucy continues to wrestle with her new undead identity and how to protect her family. She's got a radical and dangerous idea, but if one domino in a chain of events falls wrong, it could spell her permanent death

Banter Points: This is the final book in Patterson's YA vampire trilogy (Blood Calling, The Misfits, The Enforcers) and it's a fairly satisfying conclusion to what he's set up throughout the books. The story arcs get bigger every time (personal problem, group problem, national problem) which provide nice rising action to make each book build in the series.

Bummer Points: The best book in the group is Blood Calling, but that doesn't mean it's not worth reading this one. The action is great in this one, but I was bummed to see that it didn't push the characters as far as they could have gone personally.

Word Nerd Recommendation: The trilogy is a nice and different entry into the vampire genre. Check out my review of Blood Calling to see why you should pick it up and why it's not the kind of vampire story you expect.

24 February 2012

Book Banter: Dreamfever

Title: Dream fever
Author: Karen Moning
Genre: Fantasty
Length: 512 pages
Where Stacie's Copy Came From: Oshkosh Public Library

Plot Basics: Mac has become what every sidhe-seer fears: pri-ya. Forced into sexual relations with Fae Princes should be enough to kill her. Only Mac survives, with help from Barrons.

Finding and containing the Book continues to be the focus and the obstacles and stakes are higher than ever.

Banter Points: I love how Moning puts her characters through the ringer. She really makes them work for every bit of what they do, what they earn, and what they achieve.

There's a side character in this installation in the series that I love. Dani is a feisty teen who is the sister that Mac wishes she had, that she wishes she could have had.

At the end, there's a massive cliff hanger. One that makes me thankful that the series is complete and I didn't have to wait the 18 or so months inbetween this title and the next!

Bummer Points: This is the second to the last story in the series. As great as it is to see the complexity, I know it's going to end with the next title. And this one went way too fast.

Stacie's Recommendation: Start with the first book, Dark Fever. Leave yourself plenty of time to devour the series quickly.

23 February 2012


Ever wonder what a character in a book really looks like?

Daisy Buchanan, The Great Gatsby
Artist Brian Joseph Davis is using art and criminal sketch software and coming up with "sketches" of famous characters in literature -- as if they were done by a police sketch artist. You can see growing collection of Composites online.

They are eerie, in a way, to see these characters brought to life in this medium.

They look like I think they do, sort of. Maybe it's the starkness of black and white pencil sketches. I think part of it is that none of them are smiling in the sketch and while I think physically, Daisy for example, looks the way she does in my head, I most often picture her grinning in her flighty, rich way.

The project is asking for people to submit other characters and their descriptions for future sketches as well.

If anybody puts one of these sketches in a "six-pack," it will hardly be the line-up of usual suspects at all.

22 February 2012

Author Answers with Stacey Jay

So thrilled to be back with an author interview this week and also super thrilled that our special guest is Stacey Jay.

If you missed it on Monday, I posted a review of her newest book -- Blood on the Bayou -- and I'm going back to catch the first book and get myself fully entrenched as a fan of this series.

Stacey Jay at the Voodoo Museum
But now, Stacey herself taking on some questions about writing, books and loving words.

Word Nerd:  Where did the idea for the Annabelle Lee series come from?

 Jay: When I first started brainstorming this concept three years ago, I was living in Arkansas where the mosquitoes are horrendous. You can barely go outside after sundown without getting swarmed. And, of course, being a horror-leaning writer, swatting bloodsuckers made my story-wheels start turning. The original premise was that mosquitoes were biting fairies and then biting people, therefore infecting people with magic and connecting the Fey and human worlds. I was going to call it the Catching Magic series, and it was going to be a young adult project.

But over time--as I continued to brainstorm character and plot--I decided it would be better if the fairies were the creatures doing the infecting. The story got progressively darker from there, and I decided it would be best for series to be written for adults. That gave me the freedom to explore themes I wasn't comfortable exploring in a young adult book. (At least not at that time.)

Word Nerd: What's different about writing for adults than writing for young adults (other than content?)

Jay: For me I'd say it's all about perspective. As adults we feel things deeply, but I think most of us have a sense of our life as journey, with road reaching out in front and back behind. We have good times and bad, but we know that the place where we are right now is only a small part of the journey, and I think that helps adults remain a bit more grounded. As teens, emotions are so immediate and all-consuming, and a dream deferred for a moment can feel like a lifetime. When I'm writing YA, I really try to connect to that part of being a teenager. The stakes are high, and the players are oftentimes not in control of their own destiny (because they are still legally children) and that can whip up some intense feelings.

But I think all of my characters are "coming of age," even the adults. They're just coming to different ages, growing and changing and learning about themselves as the stories progress. I don't ever want to stop growing and I don't want that for my characters, either.

Word Nerd: On your blog, you mention that you're getting back into ballet. How does a hobby like that inspire you as a writer?

Jay: I think art always feeds art. (Adventure feeds art too. I love adventures.) I can't paint or draw to save my life, but going to a museum always inspires me. It makes the words come easier and energizes my creativity. For me, ballet was my first love. I danced from age three until I became pregnant with my first son at twenty-four. Ballet is the first place where I experienced the way discipline and practice (building technique) can lead to increased freedom and creativity (being able to trust the technique and funnel your entire soul into a performance). Ballet was my drug of choice for a lot of years. The high I get from dancing definitely inspires me. My only problem is getting my butt in the chair when I'd rather be off taking another barre class!

Word Nerd: YA has exploded in the past few years. When you were a teen, what were your favorites?

Jay: I loved scary reads from Stephen King (and R.L. Stein when I was younger). I also loved romance and the classics and poetry and plays.

Word Nerd: What's your favorite word and why?

Jay: Maybe. (It leaves room for possibility and I like possibility.)

Word Nerd: What's next for you as a writer?

Jay: Well, after BLOOD ON THE BAYOU, my next young adult book, ROMEO REDEEMED, will be releasing from Delacorte Press in October of 2012. I'm really excited to get that in the hands of readers and see what they think.

Thank you so much for the interview!

You can find Stacey at her website with all kinds of other good stuff and a list of all her books.

21 February 2012

Book Banter: Shades of Milk and Honey

Title: Shades of Milk and Honey
Author: Mary Robinette Kowal
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 320
Where Stacie's Copy Came From: Oshkosh Public Library

Plot Basics: Jane and Melody are young ladies from a distinguished family without a fortune to attract a suitor. Instead they must rely on their best features; for Melody it is her looks, for Jane, her skills with magic.

Banter Points: The intro sounded like it could have been for a Jane Austen novel until the magic part. The charm of this story is how magic used as a household art. Like an Austen story, the characters are delightful in their own way. Jane is plain, and frets over her nose, but is determined that a suitor should be true and accept her for who she is. Melody is obessessed with looks, and reminds me of one of Austen's flighty characters.

The novel captures the world of Austen well.

Bummer Points: The novel captures the world of Austen well enough.

The characters are very reminiscent of several of Austen's, with minimal originality. The execution was good until the end of the novel when several story lines are dropped instead of answered.

I liked the idea of the novel very much. The closely modeled characters would have been delightful if the execution had carries through the second half of the novel as well as it did in the first.

Instead it felt hurried.

Stacie's Recommendation: Skip it. There's a sequel that I have trouble seeing how it fits in. Maybe start there? It could be a better book.

20 February 2012

Book Banter -- Blood on the Bayou

Title: Blood on the Bayou (Annabelle Lee, bk. 2) (ARC)
Author: Stacey Jay
Genre: Urban fantasy
Length: 413 pages
Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: ARC from Simon and Schuster
Plot Basics: Hard-drinking Annabelle Lee is barely recovered from her first big encounter with faeries and is called once again with her immunity to their venom and her magic to pursue truths she'd rather leave alone. This time, it's an ex-boyfriend doing the asking. Annabelle knows helping could bring relationship disasters -- especially when the gorgeous and sometimes-invisible-man Tucker keeps popping in and out of her life -- but friends are hard to turn down. But lies, she learns, can run far deeper than the swampy water of the delta...

Banter Points: Work recently sent me to the City by the Bay  for a conference and with a long plane ride ahead of me, I settled in with this ARC. I normally don't like jumping into a sequel, but the characters and the setting was so vivid that it didn't matter. While I missed some references, sure, the story of this book was intriguing on its own to keep me turning pages. Annabelle was a great new entry in the heavily populated world of urban fantasy heroines, her hard-drinking tendencies were a new twist on the girl-not-having-her-life-together trope.

And -- it was a new urban fantasy world! While others have done fairies (I'm thinking Laurell Hamilton's Merry Gentry series here) they were again, the objects of the romance, a human equivalent. But Jay's fairies are scary, swarming things that have had a real impact on the world since they appeared.

Bummer Points: At the beginning (or maybe from the first book), I missed character descriptions, so I spent a good deal of the book wondering what people looked like and then being surprised by the descriptions when they were finally referenced again.

Word Nerd Recommendation: I've gone back to find book 1 (Dead on the Delta) and I'm a fan of this urban fantasy series and pushing it on unsuspecting friends. You've been warned.

Bonus: Check back on Wednesday, when Stacey Jay will be "here" for a Q&A.

17 February 2012

What if Ghosts were Real? -- Guest Post

The Word Nerds are so pleased to introduce today's guest post from Sebastiene Elston about her book, Dead World. The Nerds read early chunks of the book and were enthused about it then and are delighted to showcase the finished product now.

This weekend, Dead World is free in the Amazon Kindle store. And to get you ready, we invited her to share some of how her thinking went to create this book.

What If Ghosts Were Real?
by Sebastiene Elston
Believe me. If someone could prove ghosts were real, it would change everything: how we view death, it would change religions, and it would change how we live each day. Immortality, in some form, would be proven. That knowledge would have a ripple effect that would eventually effect everyone and everything alive today.

Of course, it would be just our luck if it turned out the ghosts wanted to kill the living. Ever silver lining has a cloud, and every book needs a villain.

So, while other movie monsters like vampires and werewolves have had more movies made about them than anyone can count, I’ve never seen a ghost story that was... well, big. I have never seen a novel that dealt with the idea of ghosts on a national scale, which surprises me, because a "ghost" is a villain almost everyone understands.

So, I wrote that novel: Dead World. It’s the first book in the series of the same name. Just one book isn’t enough to contain this idea.

When people ask me what my book is about, I usually say, “It’s a really big ghost story.” They nod, but I know they don’t quite understand. It’s not a huge, doorstop of a book. (It’s a respectable 102,000 words, which is pretty standard.) What makes it big is that it’s about one family trying to survive while the entire country is slowly being killed by ghosts.

And just to be difficult, I didn’t make this novel an urban fantasy, either. The main character, Amber, isn’t gracing the cover wearing a cut-off shirt, carrying a sword/gun/knife/staff/ball of magic. She’s completely normal in every respect, except that she can clearly see the ghosts. That’s it. That’s the closest thing to a superpower she’s going to get.

The response I’ve been getting from readers is has been beyond anything I expected. I’ve had complete strangers writing 5-star reviews. How did that happen?

The good news is that you can get your own copy of Dead World free today at Amazon.com. Yes, the whole thing. Don’t have a Kindle? You can download the Kindle app onto your computer for free and read it there, if you’d like. But you might want to close your curtains, first. And take my sister’s advice. She won’t read it at night.

Apparently, if ghosts were real... it would be kind of scary.

And don't forget, this weekend, you can get your copy of Dead World for free through the Amazon Kindle Store.

16 February 2012

Blog cheating

I'm cheating on Word Nerd, taking up some blogging duties elsewhere.
Through my church, I'm co-curating content for a special blog project for writters and artists in the congregation to reflect on suffering and good things and growth through fiction, visual arts, essays. You name it.

I hope you'll check it out at http://www.injoythebleak.wordpress.com/. It's a project that's currently very important to me.

15 February 2012

Be Here Now

When I was in 7th grade, I had the amazing opportunity to attend a "girl empowerment" seminar with my junior high science teacher. I don't remember hardly anything about the day (it's been a while since 7th grade) but I remember two things.

1. My teacher picked me because she felt I was strong enough to make a difference in the world and she felt that this would help me. (What an amazing thing to hear! I still love that teacher for sharing this with me.)

2. Be here now. Don't wish away what you are doing, or worry about what needs to happen tomorrow. Focus on what you are doing, when you are doing it.

I'm not sure about number one. I don't know that I'm a good judge of what does or does not make a difference in the world. The verdict is out.

But number haunts me. In today's society, with the economy in the tank, it is SO EASY to wish way things:

  • I can't wait until Friday.
  • Isn't it the end of the day yet?
  • I can't wait for Spring/Summer/A Snow Day/Etc.

It's all too easy to fall into this sort of habit. And lately, I've done my fair share of it.

At the seminar, they recommended writing "Be Here Now" on a note card and place it near where you are working. Whenever you get off task, look at the note card.

Be Here Now.

And remind yourself what you are doing, why you are doing it, and stop thinking and worrying about things that are best done later or will arrive when they arrive.

This weekend, I'm going to buy some markers and note cards, and make up "Be Here Now" cards. A couple for me. A few for friends.

But now? I'm off to the next task for today. Not the one for this weekend.

14 February 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

It's no secret that the Word Nerds are lovers of many things that are not traditionally celebrated on Valentine's Day.

Why not? Let's challenge the system! Embark on a new meaning for Valentine's day! Who really needs three pounds of chocolate, a bottle of wine and bubble bath? (Okay, I'll take it if my husband gives it to me. I'm not too crazy, afterall.)

Instead, I challenge you to think of what you love and match that to the loved one in your life. It could be list of special words, books, authors, significant classics, whatever. The sky's the limit here, folks.

For me, I have two very wonderful boys. This Valentine's Day, I give them the following list of words:
  • Loquacious, for the wonderful stories you love to share.
  • The Gourmet and The Gourmand, for the picky eater and the bottomless pit.
  • Gregarious, for your fondness of people and friends.
  • Ubiquitous, for the state of your Lego creations, video games and movies.
  • Impish, for the way they make me laugh.
The hubby, however gets a list of books that remind me of our life together:
  • The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe by Douglas Adams
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  • Storm Front by Jim Butcher
  • Soulless by Gail Carriger

(okay, it's a little eclectic. but I think it represents. And all of the references will be lost on him. I love him anyway.)

13 February 2012

Can I get that "j" on a triple word?

I've succumbed.

You guessed it. Words with Friends.

I have no less than 7 games going right now with friends spanning both coasts and a nice cluster in the midwest.

The irony of ironies here is that it's my mom that got me started. This is the same mom who looked somewhat upset when she learned that the primary things I use my iPad (which she got me) for was books, games and streaming Netflix and not for work.

She was having some kind of software trouble and turned to an IT guy at her work for help. Said IT happens to mention the game since my mom's got a new iPhone. And then she's mentions it to me because we like playing word games when we get together.

So I downloaded the game too.

I knew a lot of my friends played, but I didn't really know how many. Turns out, most of them. Seriously.

I've been playing games with one of my journalism profs (the one who christened me as a "word nerd"), writer friends, nonprofit friends, pilot friends. I'm not winning all the games; maybe not even a majority of them.

My mom are probably the most competitve, taking tons of time to plot moves that will keep us within points of each other. Right now I've got an 11 point lead on her, but we've got no more letters to draw and by the time this posts, I'm sure we'll be on to another game.

So, wanna play? I'm BKWordNerd.

10 February 2012

Reading in 2011

Reading in 2011 was something that should have been reflected upon at the end of December (ahem...thanks, Bethany, for the lack of public flogging. :) )

Instead, I'll do a bit of it now instead because it was a fun conversation starter for my HRM class last Monday.

Just like Bethany's co-workers reaction to her reading habits, I tend to use the number of books I've read or pages or something like that for my ice breaker in groups. Only those that have been through that activity aren't surprised.

In the HRM class, we had to share one characteristic about ourselves and write in on our name plate. I drew a book and wrote "87; 35,294". Note the proper semicolon usage. We are, after all, Word Nerds with a passion for grammar.

(Any rules not followed were broken with cause. That should be a standard disclaimer here.)

Where was I? Oh, yes, numbers and books.

So one of my group members is suitable impressed while another says, "Oh, no, it gets crazier. Go on, show her."

What he meant was show her the Excel tracking spreadsheet that I use. It has loads of fun facts to those of us who like books. I track pages, titles, author, series name, and category. I've thought about tracking book format too, but haven't quite committed to it yet. What I'd really like to do is create an Access database so I can really get creative with my metrics.

And somewhere in the middle of that paragraph, non-readers stared to have glazed over eyes.

Same with my audience.

In truth, I'm passionate about reading. I like to collect things like number of pages, book titles, authors and series. I like to make up measurements so I can boast that I've read 1,139 titles in the last 11 years, and one month. I love finding people who feel the same way about books.

Or, at minimum, those that will tolerate my passion for it during ice breakers.

2011: 87 books; 35,294 titles, 61 books inside a series; 48 different authors; 409 pages per book (slightly longer than the average mass market paper back, the short one, not the one with the trade paper back height).

In all, a good reading year.

07 February 2012

Book Banter: Afterlight

Title: Afterlife
Author: Elle Jasper
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 336
Where Stacie's Copy Came From: Oshkosh Public Library

Plot Basics: Riley used to be part of the party scene in Savannah. Now she is a successful business owner (Inksomnia) and raising her 15 year old brother, saving him from the life she once lived.

So far she had been successful at that too. Until a prank unleashing an evil that had been entombed by the very people that helped save Riley from her destructive path.

Banter Points: Combining goth and vampires is nothing new. However adding in some Gullah magic and the tattoo world adds some new twists. Riley is the take charge heroine who refuses to be a victim and doesn't let much of anything stop her.

And while she should be a cliche overwritten character, she isn't. I can't quite put my finger on what keeps her from being a cliche. Maybe it is her sassy conversation. Maybe it's her determination to not let anything get to her. Whatever it is, I liked it.

Bummer Points: At what point should Riley have questioned the whole idea of using vampires to keep her brother from becoming a vampire? True, she was trying to wrap her head around the idea that vampires exist. True, she was pretty focused on rescuing her brother, no matter what. But really, what happens to her at the end wasn't really a surprise (no, she doesn't become a vamp. That would be a little too obvious.)

Stacie's Recommendation: Definitely worth the time spent reading it. Book Two is on hold.

06 February 2012

Book Banter -- Joe the Barbarian

Title: Joe the Barbarian
Author: Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy
Genre: graphic novel (deluxe edition)
Length: 246 pages
Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: IMCPL
Plot Basics: Joe is a loner middle-school student, picked on at school, and always needing to keep a can of soda in reach to keep his hypoglycemia at bay. His father lost in the war, he and his mom are in danger of losing their house. One rainy afternoon, Joe's disease (or is it?) sends him on a wild quest in a magical land where he's lauded as the promised Dying Boy who will save them all.

Banter Points: I found this title through Wowbrary and it's one of the best finds I've had through that service. Combining amazing art and an equally amazing story, Joe the Barbarian is the kind of graphic novel for people who don't think they read "comic books." The idea that Joe's quest may really be low-blood-sugar hallucinations feels like an idea that could get old after a few pages, but Morrison and Murphy make it work for page after page, bringing the reader back to one "reality" and then sending them crashing back into another till it's unclear which is really true.

Bummer Points: The story actually smooths out after the first couple chapters, if you can hang on through some choppy character transitions at the beginning.

Word Nerd Recommendation: I had to quick read this before it was due at the library and then, as I was dropping it in the book drop, I thought Whoever gets this next is one lucky person. Read it.

03 February 2012

A different sort of Writing Contest

One of my favorite writing podcasters is Mur Laferty aka The Mighty Mur. Over on her blog -- I should be Writing -- is a new sort of writing challenge:

Thanks to the movements of Mary Robinette Kowal, February is deemed the Month of Letters. She challenges people to hand write letters every day this month, and has created a site (see above) where people can exchange addresses.

I love this idea. I'm spending a bit of my weekend looking into to it and seeing what sort of letter I can contribute.

In fact, I may take Mur up on her offer and let her know what her podcast means to me.

02 February 2012

Book Banter -- Saint City Sinners

Title: Saint City Sinners (Dante Valentine, bk. 4)
Author: Lilith Saintcrow
Genre: urban fantasy
Length: 362 pages
Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: IMCPL e-book collection, Kindle version
Plot Basics: Dante Valentine is still on contract with Lucifer himself, but when her old Saint City friend Gabriele Spocarelli calls and is in trouble, Danny drops everything to help her. Only, she's too late, so sets herself on a course of investigation and vengeance for her lost friend. She pushes away Japhrimel -- her Fallen demon -- worried that he is not acting in the same interests she is regarding Lucifer's true plan. But what she finds in investigating for Gabe has the potential to change her whole world.

Banter Points: It's been a while since I read book 3 in this series, so it took me a while to get back into Dante's world. I love, love, love Saintcrow's world building, how Danny tosses around the new names for things and she never really stops to define them as a writer. It can be great fun as a reader to just have to learn the new lingo as you go and hang on and Saintcrow's pacing keeps the books moving like the slicboards Danny favors.

Bummer Points: Dante is rather whiny in this book. Several times (were she real and not infused with demon Power that could allow her to rip my arms off) I sort of wanted to slap her. Also, cliffhanger of the most serious kind.

Word Nerd Recommendation: It's a solid entry in the urban fantasy genre, but not a place where you can just enter into Saintcrow's world. Start at the beginning.

31 January 2012

Book Banter: Fae Fever

Title: Fae Fever
Author: Karen Moning
Genre: Fantasy
Length: approx. 350
Where Stacie's Copy Came From: A friend's library

Plot Basics: Samhain is drawing near. Mac finally has figured out the motives of three of the parties involved in the search for the Book, including a sisterhood of sidhe-seers like herself. Now, she needs to figure out how to help keep the Unseelie behind the Wall that is crumbling.

Banter Points: The sakes are rising. Mac is growing up and away from the naive southern bell she started as. I really like how she even starts to stand up for herself in this one, refusing to let Barrons be her only allegiance. She develops some other plans and plots, which raises her in my esteem and into the category of kicking ass heroines.

Bummer Points: None really. Completely enjoying this series. And I cannot wait to see the MacHalo in use against the Shades.

Stacie's Recommendation: In case you haven't figured it out, start reading this one!

30 January 2012

Book Banter -- One Shot

Title: One Shot (Jack Reacher series)
Author: Lee Child
Genre: thriller
Length: 462 pages
Where Word Nerd's Copy Came From: IMCPL Friends of the Library book sale
Plot Basics: In a small Indiana town, six shots ring out at the end of the work day, killing five passersby. The prime suspect -- an ex-Army sniper -- seems to have a slam-dunk case against him, all the forensic evidence the prosecutor could want pointing at him. But in his only jailhouse interview with a lawyer, he insists he's innocent and to find Jack Reacher.

Hundreds of miles away, Reacher sees the news and the suspect on TV and begins independently making his way to Indiana. When he arrives, he's convinced the evidence is too perfect, and believes that the former sniper may indeed be telling the truth. Teamed up with a young defense attorney and a Brigadier General from his past, Reacher begins pulling the threads of evidence apart and following them into corruption.

Banter Points: This Reacher book was about the only redeeming part of a recent flight home from a work trip (save for the fact that eventually, I did get home) but it's just proof as to why Reacher books are such great reading. Despite being stuck in airports, the story line was captivating enough to help pass the time and make it actually entertaining.

The Reacher series is flat-out fun, a taut combination of brains and brawn. It's great to know that Reacher will figure out who did it and then hang on through the generally violent end.

Bummer Points: I'm trying not to take it personally that Child set this murderous rampage in my state. I'm sure other readers in other places would have had the same thought if he'd set the violence there. Truth is, he kind of got Indiana right.

Word Nerd Recommendation: Great beach reads, airplane books, wherever you want pure escapist reading. And, supposedly there's a movie in the works for this book -- do yourself a favor and get to know Reacher on paper first.

26 January 2012

The end of a writing tradition

On Monday, the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper announced that it would no longer be endorsing candidates for president.

It will continue, it says to cover campaigns, and post candidate questions and the like. But as for endorsements, they say, "We have come to doubt the value of candidate endorsements by this newspaper or any newspaper, especially in a day when a multitude of information sources allow even a casual voter to be better informed than ever before."

I suppose that's true. Maybe an endorsement isn't going to really change anyone's mind in this deeply, divided, partisan time. But, as writing goes, the candidate endorsement is a staple, the most sought-after piece and anchoring opinion piece in a newspaper.

It is a statement by a organization that "This is what who we believe in, the course we think is right and best." Are we so worried about offending people that opinion pages aren't going to say "This is who we want?"

During my college newspaper days, we endorsed during the 2000 presidential campaign-turned-debacle. We went against the grain for the campus, endorsing the other guy because we really believed he was the better choice.

It was our stand, against a tide of sentiment on campus that leaned the other way. Did it matter to the candidate that a small, weekly, college paper endorsed him. No, not really. Did we change any voters minds? I don't know. I hope somebody read it and gave it some thought. Twelve years later, I'm still really glad I wrote it, that it was our mark of belief.

This makes me sad, as a writer, to see this bastion of journalism starting to disappear.

It's unfortunate that the editors have so little faith in their readers to find it useful and so little faith in themselves to stand for something.

24 January 2012

Book Banter: Blood Fever

Title: Blood Fever
Author: Karen Moning
Genre: Fantasy
Length: approx. 350
Where Stacie's Copy Came From: A friend's library

Plot Basics: Mac was thrust into a war between Dark and Light. The Lord Master knows she exists and has the same sidhe-seer powers as her deceased sister Alina. Now Mac wants to learn more about her bloodlines. Her life, and that of humankind, depends on it.

Banter Points: I really am getting a kick out if this series. It has a great balance between light and dark, between Seelie and Unseelie. The good guys cannot always be distinguished from the bad guys. The tensions between Mac and Jericho Z. Barrons (or at least that's his name this time) are more than the sexual tensions typically found in novels. Mac knows that there is a very real possibility that Barrons is one of the bad guys. But he is a connection to her sister's killer. Barrons views Mac as a means to finding the Fae Objects of Power, specifically the Book known as the Sinsar Dubh.

And Mac has to wonder which side she is on.

Bummer Points: The story speed picks up in this book. The writing is good. The one thing that is distracting me from the story and throwing me out of it are the out of date references. Not a big thing, but it can be jarring. And since the rest of the story is somewhat timeless, it makes me wish the editors had thought of it. The story is dependent on the setting; I cannot imagine it taking place anywhere other than Dublin. The rest of it is not dependent on a specific time.

Stacie's Recommendation: Definitely an entertaining story and while turning off the television for.

23 January 2012

Readers are weird

I spent several days last week with my new-ish co-workers during a three-day planning retreat. We had a chance to pound out fundraising strategies for the next few months, and get to know each other better.

At some point, we were discussing some past-time activity about which I was ambivalent (swimming, I think), and one co-worker turns to me and says, "What is it that you do like to do, Bethany?" (Somehow, I think they think I'm ambivalent about everything...)

"I read books." No questions about what my favorite book or author was or anything. Just quiet. I thought about adding that I read in the neighborhood of 85-100 a year, but decided in the silence that maybe I should just keep that bit of information to myself.
Cut to the next morning at breakfast.

I was in the hotel cafe, already up and having eaten and was working on writing things. I checked my email one more time before we switched gears and I saw an email from Simon and Schuster.

"Yes!" I said. "They are sending me galley copies." Blank looks around the table. "Galleys," I explained. "Review copies of books that aren't out yet."

Nope, nothing.

The meeting started then, but I was just struck anew with how weird we readers are to the rest of the world. Getting excited about books. Some that aren't even published yet.

I know one of my co-workers at least reads on airplanes -- we talked about Michael Connelly's Lincoln Lawyer series and I promised I wouldn't give anything away. But... I guess for those that aren't so bookish, those of us proclaimed Word Nerds really are a bit obsessed.

What about you? Any times you've been struck by how odd it is to the rest of the world that you like to read?

19 January 2012

Book Banter -- Queen of Swords

Title: Queen of Swords (Wilderness series bk. 5)
Author: Sara Donati
Length: 546 pages (ebook version)
Genre: historical fiction
Plot Basics: The adventures of the the Bonner family continue, picking up right where Fire Along the Sky ended. Hannah Bonner and her half-brother, Luke Scott, are pursuit of Jennet who has been captured by pirates. In a desperate trade, Jennet has given her and Luke's new baby boy to a seemingly-prominent New Orleans family to care for, hoping it will keep the boy safe. Reunited with Luke and Hannah after a rescue attempt, the three go to New Orleans to get the boy back. But, the city is on the cusp of war and racial tensions also run high. It will take all the cunning the family and their allies posses to keep together, stay safe and hope of returning to their beloved New York Lake in the Clouds home.

Banter Points: Finishing this series is one of my reading goals for the year and I decided to get with it right away. The book, like the others in the series, is sweeping in scope, bringing life to what could otherwise be a dusty history lesson about the War of 1812. Coming back to the characters is a bit like seeing distant family, people you are glad to reconnect with once a year or so and everybody's got great stories to tell of everything that's happened in the interim.

Bummer Points: Several times in the narrative, Donati broke away from the main characters and wrote whole chapters in italics from the points of view of minor characters or people who can witness the action when the protagonists couldn't. While once might have been effective, the multiple uses of this device just felt cheap and like the author got stuck in how to move the plot forward any other way. The whole book seemed to be a lot more "showing" instead of "telling." I don't think I envy historical authors, because this has to be a hard pitfall to overcome when there's so much about the activities and actions that are foreign to modern readers.

Word Nerd Recommendation: I still like the series and fans of big history series books should pick this up. It's also nice to see the setting in a different period (not Revolutionary or Civil Wars.)

17 January 2012

Book Banter: Dark Fever

Title: Dark Fever
Author: Karen Moning
Genre: Fantasy
Length: approx. 350
Where Stacie's Copy Came From: A friend's library

Plot Basics: Fun, pretty, MacKalya has life brutally thrust upon her when her sister, Alina, is murdered while study in Dublin. Alina's final message reveals that her death is more than what the Garda believes it to be. Mac is determined to figure out what the cyrptic message means and heads to Ireland to investigate.

Banter Points: I actually picked up this title several years ago when it was first released in paperback. I thought it was weird and didn't finish it. Fast forward to 2012 (and several fantasy novels later) and I really liked it. It does require some knowledge of fantasy, even though Mac does not actually have any either. For example, one of the Fae she meets during the course of her investigation is gorgeous and the sort of Fae that a woman will die to have sex with. Literally die. In most novels with Fae, this is a normal convention and part of their story. To someone who hadn't read any Fae based novels, it seemed weird.

Amazing how knowledge changes perception.

Bummer Points: The story is a little slow and has a cliff-hanger ending. Thankfully, the series is complete and I have novel number two in my possession.

Stacie's Recommendation: Try it out. It reminds me of Laura K. Hamilton's series Merry Gentry Series.

16 January 2012

Books as Commodities, part II

I'm still thinking about the "books as commodities" argument and our attitudes to volumes of the printed word.

On Friday night, I went to my first ever "Friends of the Library" bonus sale event as a new Friend of the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library system. The doors of the sale were scheduled to open at 5:30. I pulled into the parking lot about ten minutes early and there was a line snaking back from the door. In the dusk and about 20-degree temperatures.

Most of the participants carried either plastic milk crates or reusable grocery totes to carry around their finds. As the doors opened at 5:30, the line poured in, veering in to the sale room and their favorite sections.

I don't want to say chaos ensued, because it was slightly more organized that that, but only slightly. I'm not sure I've ever seen such a rush for books, not even the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Unfortunately, in this sense, the books were commodities. People wanted to find the best thing they can, at a used price, because they didn't want to pay the full retail for them. Yes, they are probably regular library users and all are donors to the library, putting financial support behind their use. But, in light of the commodities argument, they were proving it true.

I only bought three things -- A Jack Reacher novel in paperback for an upcoming trip instead of checking it out in hardback, a YA hardback that I'll likely read and pass on to my high school student mentee, and an "important" book -- The Magnificent Ambersons -- which is a feat in itself, me buying a classic. When I reached the checkout line, the volunteer almost couldn't believe it that I was only getting three things, especially since everyone around me was acting out of a scarcity model.

Maybe books are changing formats. Maybe ebooks are making the publishing landscape different. But so long as we don't pull a Farenheit 451 and start burning them, books aren't scarce.

Even when we have the opportunity to pick up copies for cheap, we need to remember why the printed words is worth valuing and not devalue them to commodities.

12 January 2012

How do you pronounce "Karamazov" ?

 Since I've said I'm going to read this book this year, I figured I should look up how to pronounce it.
There are long discussion boards about it (like this one) where Russian and non-Russian speakers weigh in.

It also makes me remember an old Square 1/Mathnet episode where they made jokes about the last name... is the Brothers KARE-a-ma-zaf or the Kare-a-MAHH-zof? (Anybody else remember this show??)

It seems like the consensus is "Ka-ra-MA-zaf" and now that means I can't delay figuring out my reading schedule for this book.

This is the Komsomolskaya metro station in Moscow. Since Dostoevsky
was exited to Siberia, an "underground" photo seemed appropriate.
Also, I've been there. This metro station. Not Siberia.

The Barnes and Noble Classic edition (for Nook) has good product reviews, so I'm likely going that route. It's far easier to do long classics as ebooks so I don't have to lug around the giant, physical tome. Some say it's not the best translation ever, but I know that I'll do better with it than 1000 pages of paper.

I started Anna Karenina last February and read two sections of it each month through May. BK is also divided into four parts, so I'm thinking the same kind of schedule unless, of course, I can't put it down.

11 January 2012

Books are not Commodities

The Digital Reader posted an interesting article about how Amazon has turned books into a commodity.

Their argument is that with the prevalence of eBooks, readers now search for better and cheaper alternatives.

I know that many of you will clamor to say that I am wrong, but I ask you to consider this: Once you have bought and read the latest release from your favorite author, do you stop buying and reading books until that author’s next release in 2 or 3 years or do you continue to buy and read books within that genre? And if you do continue to buy and read books, do you continue to be entertained by them or are you only entertained by books written by your favorite author? Finally, do you rush out to buy your favorite author’s newest release or do you wait for a less expensive edition to appear?
If you answer yes to the latter parts of each question (at least the first two questions), then books are commodities and substitutable.
Books may be commodities for some, the casual fans or sometimes-readers. But for those of us who are bibliophiles -- answering yes doesn't lead to the right conclusion.

I continue to buy and read books in my favorite authors genres because I enjoy the genre. I am entertained by the books of my favorite authors and look forward to them immensely and am happily surprised when new finds are just as entertaining, if not more so! I rush out and buy new releases, sometimes, and sometimes wait for less expensive editions. This is more about budgeting and whether I started collecting the series in hardcovers or paperbacks.

Books aren't really substitutable to me. While both Harry Potter and Harry Dresden are wizards operating in a magic world pushed up against our own, they are hardly substitutable for each other. Just because Michael Connelly and Tess Gerritsen write novels based in police procedure, Harry Bosch and Jane Rizzoli aren't the same as detectives. There's no substitute.

Does this mean that some fiction isn't just a cheap, derivative copy? No. We all know that exists and are terribly disappointed as readers when in our quest for something new, we run into something borrowed. It's the plague of a writer too to twist the conventions just enough that their new idea won't be that derivative offering.

I like the prevalence of eBooks. I appreciate that it's changing publishing and hopefully, eventually, for the better, opening the faucet of work out there.

Books have been becoming commodities ever since Gutenberg invited the printing press. We can hardly blame ebooks for making books into something that we can buy more of. And technology is only fueling the hearts of readers, not extinguishing them.

09 January 2012

Book Banter -- A Visit From the Goon Squad

Title: A Visit from the Goon Squad
Author: Jennifer Egan
Length: 275 pages
Genre: literary fiction
Plot Basics: Egan takes the reader on a journey through time in this collection of loosely-associated chapters, rife with music and the forward progression of time.
Banter Points: Reading this knocks off one of my "important" books for 2012 since it won the Pulitzer Prize.

The best part of the book, which I was expecting to be highly pretentiousness, was the section written as a PowerPoint presentation. While ostentatious, to be sure, the content was some of the most poignant in the book, as a young girl tried to use the medium to order her feelings and her world. 

Bummer Points: This book was more a collection of somewhat interwoven short stories than a real novel and as such, left the reader with no character to really care about. The plot -- while all dealing with the passage of time -- were disparate and hard to get excited about. The characters were often over-the-top and inaccessible to me as a reader, as very little in my life related to theirs.

Word Nerd Recommendation: It seems like this is one of those books that people either love or really disliked. Unfortunately, I'm in the latter category and just don't get why it won a Pulitzer. Read at your own risk.

05 January 2012

Word(s) of the Year

Every year, Word Nerd posts the words featured by dictionaries and linguists as the Word of the Year.

This year, according to Dictionary.com, the word of 2011 was "tergiversate." According to the Huffington Post article on the pick, "tergiversate" means “to change repeatedly one's attitude or opinions with respect to a cause, subject, etc.; equivocate.” They picked it to sum up what happened in 2011, and it's a pretty good pick. The whole article is here

In hunting up this year-defining word, I found this great list at M-W.com of the Words of the Year, providing a little bit of context of why this word became a flash-in-the-2011 pan.

It's a little bit like a Word a Day calendar, because theses words and phrases are all good ones. Hopefully, you too will recognize many of them from 9th-grade vocabulary quiz days, and if not, learn a few.

03 January 2012

2012 Reading Goals

I really enjoyed having reading goals during 2011. I like that sense of accomplishment, of purpose and of challenge. Given that, I'm going to set reading goals for 2012 as well.

Here we go:
  • Read a total of 90 books in 2012. I got through 92 in 2011 and with my current interest in graphic novels, I think 90 is do-able, though a bit of a stretch. Mathematically, that's 7.5 books a month, or about 2 a week. Phew. Maybe this means less TV (not a bad thing in the least.) 
  • Read another book by a Russian master. Though I didn't love Anna Karenina, I got through it and now feel like more of a "real reader" because of it. I'm going to do another Russian masterpiece in the moody winter. I'm not taking votes this year. It's Brothers Karamazov. Don't try to talk me out of it. 
  • Read 4 important books. I'm upping this by one from 2011, and hoping that I don't end this year in a crunch to finish like I did last year. One of these will be Catcher in the Rye. A friend gave me a copy years ago, and I've been a terrible friend and haven't read it yet. This year, I will. 
  • Finish both Sara Donati's "Lake in the Clouds" series and Lauren Willig's "Pink Carnation" series. I'm part way through both, and it's silly to not just plow forward and finish. All told, I think this is 5 or 6 books, total. 
  • Read one book from my bookshelf or a loaner every month. This was the goal I dropped last year, so I'm trying again. 
I think these goals are pretty do-able, but a stretch. Good thing I got two more loaner books last night from a friend....

    02 January 2012

    2011 Reading Goals -- Accomplished!

    Back at the end of 2010, I set some reading goals for myself for 2011 and now that the year is over, it's time to see how I did. 

    Bethany's 2011 Reading Goals
    • Read a total of 85 books in 2011. The grand total was 92. 
    • Read one book by a Russian master. I will gladly take recommendations. Pushed my way through Anna Karenina back in the first part of the year. Done. 
    • Read the remaining 6 of Michael Connelly's back list (and the new one coming out in April) to be totally caught up with everything he's written. Done and done, with the bonus of also having read the newest, new one that came out in November. 
    • Re-read either Lord of the Rings or C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy. It was a decade ago that I last read them both. If I get through both, I'm awarding myself bonus points. No bonus points here, as I only made it through Lewis' Space Trilogy. That such a good series, it's a win. 
    • Read at least one book a month that comes from my bookshelf instead of the library to get caught up on things I've borrowed or purchased. I completely lost track of this goal. I know in the last few months, I've failed, so sigh... missed this one. 
    • Read at least 3 books considered to be "important" books that I've never read. Despite taking advanced or AP English through all of high school and two lit classes in college there's an alarming number of really famous books I've never read (for example,Catcher in the Rye.) I think it's high time that I tackle of a few of these classics. Just don't make me read Jane Austen unless it also involves zombies or sea monsters, OK? And the three were: "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien, "Finding Alaska" by John Green and "Foundation" by Isaac Asimov. 
    And now, to create 2012's goals... tune in Thursday.