Book Banter: Hexed by Kevin Hearne

9595650Title: Hexed
Author: Kevin Hearne
Genre: Urban fantasy
Length: 309 pages
Where Stacie’s Copy Came From:  Oshkosh Public Library
Plot Basics: The Coven wants a non-aggression treaty with Atticus. Others want him to kill Thor. It’s another day in the life of the Druid.

Banter Points: I was pretty excited to see that Hearne addressed some of the issues I called out in my book banter for Hounded, specifically Atticus’ ability to blend into modern times and the number of magical people that he knows. The blending in was addressed in a clever way, I thought, by specifically pointing to one of his vampire acquaintances who doesn’t blend in at all, to the point where humans Atticus knows (but the reader does not) know that something is wrong with the guy, but not exactly what. I was chuckling at the formal, slightly archaic language, and proper sentence structure that was really a poke at grammar nerds.

The magical community was explained too, and by the witch coven this time. Their method of earning their living, the need for a well-populated city, and their own contributions are explained in a way that adds new details to the world building as well as contributes to the plot.

Bummer Points: Atticus is a little too much of a Puck for me to be comfortable with him as a protagonist. There was growth in this book, but I don’t know that I am going to develop any strong feelings for this character that keep me craving more. Maybe, but it’s unlikely right now.

Stacie’s Recommendation: I am going to hit up book three. There’s enough here to keep me interested, but developing a book crush isn’t going to happen.

Hucksters and Saints

Debut novelist Bryan Bliss (No Parking at the End Times) wrote a great column for the School Library Journal about honest questions in YA lit, particularly in YA books that portray religion.

He’s adamantly against YA books where faith is neat and tidy and there’s a hefty dose of salvation as part of the book’s resolution. As he says, “a book dealing with religion needs to highlight the cracks in the foundation. It needs to show both hucksters and saints, while never stooping to the knee jerk assumption that teenagers only want stories that mock religion.”

I think that goes for adult readers, too.

As a tween and teen, I read a fair number of those Christian prairie romance novels where the sheriff/schoolteacher/loner cowboy found religion so the schoolteacher/town nurse/young widow could safely fall in love with him. I was a voracious reader in middle school too and I knew my family was concerned about me reading books that were too old for me. So I when grandma gave me more of this kind of novel every birthday or Christmas, I dutifully read them. (And then read John Grisham novels at school where they couldn’t see me ….)

Somewhere in the middle of college (and the middle of the Left Behind series,) those stories all turned dry for me. There were no hucksters, no people like me who were trying and failing (oh how much failing there was) at being a person of faith.

Around this time, I took a fiction writing class and we read a great book of interviews with writers who did write less than perfect characters. Frederick Buechner. Barbara Kingsolver. Clyde Edgerton. They all talked about faith wasn’t easy for their characters. I started reading these authors too, and found myself in the company of exactly the kind of characters Bliss was describing.

Because I love novels like this, I asked Bryan Bliss and Anthony Breznican (who had retweeted a the link to Bliss’ article and got this things rolling in the first place and whose own novel takes a tough look at the culture of a Catholic school) who they considered to be writers of hucksters and saints. I suggested Buechner, Marilynne Robinson and William Kent Krueger’s “Ordinary Grace” as good examples. And then this happened:

huckster stream

“My Name is Asher Lev” also got the nod.

I admit, I roll my eyes at a lot of Christian fiction. I know that it speaks to some people. My derision really hurt a friend of mine who enjoys it and I had to ask her forgiveness (I am still failing at being a person of faith…)

I agree with Bryan Bliss that good fiction about religion needs Hucksters and Saints and these are all great suggestions if you want to see what we mean.

I know what you are

I know what you are

Hat tip to a writer friend on Facebook for this find.

You can find the Nerds mainlining the caffeine in our dark writing hovels…

Top 10 Tuesday: Childhood Favorites

read-under-blanketIt’s a Broke and the Bookish Top 10 Tuesday!  This week’s topic:  Top 10 Books From My Childhood (Or teen years) That I Would Love To Revisit.

Bethany and I had this as a Reading Challenge.  Reading the book was a snap.  Picking out the book was much harder.  Here’s a list of titles that I was considering:

  1. Tuck Everlasting:  This is what I actually read for the Reading Challenge and adored it.  Both times.
  2. Charlotte’s Web:  I love the story of Wilbur and Charlotte, and how life is the same, yet different.
  3. Stuart Little:  This story delights me in that a family would love a mouse.  I think I was a very skeptical reader through most of the book because it seemed so outlandish.  Once I “got” the story, I fell in love.
  4. Bridge to Terabithia:  I swear, I’ve read this book at least two times in my life and cannot remember the details.  I chalk up my selective memory to the fact that reading this book is a sorrowful delight, each and every time.
  5. The Giver:  Okay, I’m cheating on this one because I was at least 20 when I first heard about it, but a mere (mumble mumble) years later, I feel like I was a child then.  So, it counts.
  6. The Secret Garden:  This was taught me that the power to change is within and that you can do whatever you set your mind too.  I don’t mean that in the triumphant way, but the sad way of your brain can trap you in a situation too.
  7. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe:  This was another one that I didn’t understand until someone explained to me what a Christian allegory was.  Then I loved this series and devoured the titles.
  8. Little House on the Prairie:  I wore out at least one copy of this series because I read it more than a dozen times when I was in third grade.
  9. Any R.L Stine book:  I read a ton of these when I was a kid.  I can’t remember a single title, but I guarantee that if there was a new one in the local book store, I bought it.  It would have been fun to revisit as an adult.
  10. The Outsiders:  This was another one that I read so many times that the librarian got tired of checking it out for me.  I probably had my own copy that I wore out too.

What do you want to re-read?  What book did you love then, but would hate now?  (Me?  The Sweet Valley High or Sweet Valley Twins books.  Man, what was I thinking??)

Book Banter: Home

home coverTitle: Home

Author: Marilynne Robinson

Length: 325 pages

Genre: Literary fiction

Plot Basics: Covering much of the same ground as the Pulitzer-prize winning, “Gilead,” this story tells the tale of Jack Boughton’s homecoming, told from the perspective of his sister Glory, who’s caring for their elderly father. Jack left the idyllic town of Gilead more than 20 years ago in shame and now, returns, in just as much shame. He tries to reconcile his life with what his father and Reverend Ames want for him.

Banter Points: My book club read “Gilead” and I loved it, the quiet, powerful prose. One of the other gals recommended that I go on and read Robinson’s quasi-sequel. It took me a while to get into “Home” and I remembered the same was true with “Gilead,” but at the end, I found myself entirely caught up in the lives of the Boughtons. For a story that ties to her masterwork, Robinson did a great job of making the voice and the style different, even while capturing what makes this world so believable to inhabit. By the end, I had tears, and I wanted to stay with Jack and Glory.

Bummer Points: This book is very wordy and slow. I tend to like dialogue driven works, and the time to sink into the mostly narrative and descriptive prose will be a turn-off for some readers.

Word Nerd Recommendation: If you haven’t read “Gilead,” that’s a must. This one is like a homecoming, to return to her vivid prose and spend more time with characters you like.

Survivor

appendix

This Word Nerd has been living appendix-free now for eight years.

HT to @bethingten for sending this to me originally.

Gardening Anticipation

wet my plants

Somebody might need to revoke the Word Nerds’ “official adult” cards because of a pun like this.

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Book Banter: Hounded

9533378Title: Hounded
Author: Kevin Hearne
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Genre: The Iron Druid Chronicles
Length: 292 pages
Where Stacie’s Copy Came From:  Oshkosh Public Library
Plot Basics: Atticus O’Sullivan, the last Druid, is hiding in Tempe, Arizona, from a vengeful god. He has survived over 2,000 years due to his friendships, alliances, and avoidance of battles. But this time, Atticus is taking a stand. He likes Tempe. He has a fabulous dog, Oberon. He has a great neighbor, a successful business, and a life built for himself. Running only to start over again? Atticus would rather fight.

Banter Points: I’m always in search of a new series to read while waiting impatiently for the next Harry Dresden book. This series was recommended by Amazon based on my lust fondness for Dresden, so I went for it. It was reasonably close in genre, had several titles to its name, and Amazon’s algorithms have done well for me in the past.

Lots of action in this book. Atticus is always getting into fights, arguments or fending off some sort of intruder — even if it’s a verbal banter instead of one involving swords. The writing was good too. I could visualize the fights, understand the banter and the nuisances that could have resulted in Atticus’ demise.

I also appreciated how Hearne clued the reader into what was similar about this urban fantasy compared to others in the genre. Yes, there are vamps, weres, witches and Tuatha Dé Danann (those who became the Sidhe or the Fae) living and interacting in the world, but there are differences too. The information on similarities and differences where shared in a way that was integrated into the story and non-info dump like. (A couple felt a little awkward, but it’s a first book. I’ll give it a pass.)

As a character, I liked Atticus.  He was fun to tag along with over the course of the book.  He has some interesting allies and, more importantly, some fascinating potential enemies.  Tempe, Arizona, was an interesting choice for the setting.  It has some natural barriers for things that the Fae normally want; Atticus and the other supernaturals take advantage of that.

Bummer Points: There was lots of action, but little conflict. There is a difference between the two. Even though Atticus was worried about his ability to fight the Celtic god that has been tracking him, I wasn’t, not even the first time it was mentioned. It wasn’t just because there are several more titles in the series. No, it was everything to do with the difference between action and conflict in novels. Atticus craved the fight, welcomed it even. The preparations were minimal, every ally was readily available. There was no way he was going to lose.  On the plus side, reading this book helped me understand how that was different and why it wasn’t working for me.

It was frustrating to me that Atticus did not have any “normal” humans in his life. I get it, he is a druid that is more than 2,000 years old. He doesn’t have to have human friends. But every character was Fae, god or goddess, vampire, were, witch or some other mythical creature. I didn’t find it realistic, actually, that Tempe, Arizona could be that much of a hot bed of mythological activity. It’s a town of less than 200,000 people plus a college. Atticus also has some serious understanding of what it means to be early to mid 20s. It didn’t pass the sniff test, especially if he doesn’t have any human friends this age. How does he interact, study and know how to blend in?

Stacie’s Recommendation: Overall, this was an okay book. I’m interested and will give the series until book four to make a decision. None of the negatives were terrible and there’s a potential future conflict that could be really good. The set-up is there.

Mispronounced

Compound words are easy to say, right?

Sunshine. Milestone. Crossword.

Not so fast, according to this great article from “The Week.”

English in all its wisdom has moments when it’s like French with an overabundance of silent letters, or at least, letters that one mashes together into one nasally syllable. As words have fallen out of common usage, we’ve forgotten how to say these words, or when we say them, we have no idea about the companion spelling

Not all of these examples are compound words, but many of them are which leads to the trip-ups.

Like “boatswain.” We know how to say “boat.” Depending on what we read, we might even know “swain” (sweyn… n., a male lover or country gallant.) So it should figure that this word would be “boat-sweyn” but instead we get the lovely pronounciation of “bosun.”

As the article notes:

Sailors were generally not famed for their high levels of literacy. It was a lower-class, lower-paying job. So they didn’t really keep the spelling of the words they said in mind. And when they said them often, the words would get worn down, as often happens in language. It’s a bit of a bother to have to say “boat swain” every time you’re talking about the ship’s officer in charge of equipment. So even before the time of Shakespeare, this word had gotten trimmed to “bosun” — and sometimes written that way. But it was very important for some language pedants at that time, and for a couple of centuries after, to show the origins of words in their spelling. So this one was preserved as boatswain.

Thanks to a series of adventure stories I wrote a good decade ago, I knew some of these (waistcoat and forecastle… they were having a well-dressed adventure on a tall ship in one part)  but others like Worchester will always trip me up.

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