Tag Archives: reading

Review: The Word Exchange

The Word Exchange
The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon is a book that I have very mixed feelings about.
Let us start by imagining a world where our cell phones anticipate what we need before we need it. We begin to wonder what our grandparent’s birthday is and it springs to life with the information we need. All it required was a thought. That word on the tip of our tongue appears on the screen just before we need it so you can complete your thought without missing a beat. If you can imagine that, then you can imagine the power and obvious desirability of the technology in this book.
The Word Exchange is an online marketplace where words are bought and sold. Did you forget the definition of a word? Have the definition instantly available for mere change. A quick micro-transaction and viola, the word you intended. But we get pretty familiar with the words we use, don’t we? What if we became so dependent on technology that our brains no longer stored memories as efficiently since we have these nifty devices reading our thoughts and providing the data we seek?

The Word Exchange pulls a very clever trick here. The characters in our book write definitions for the NADEL, a dictionary. Their vocabulary is spectacular. I had to use the ‘word lookup’ feature of my Kindle Paperwhite frequently, especially during the first quarter of the book. It provided an incredibly unsettling feeling that maybe this dependence on technology is already happening to us. Maybe we are already forgetting these words that were once a part of our language.

This trick, in my opinion, was only clever because I was able to very quickly grab a definition. If I was reading a paper copy, I don’t think I would have spent the time looking up words. Although perhaps it would have been sufficient to drive a different point home. That point being that if we’re not using this language, we lose it. If it isn’t saved somewhere, it could be gone forever.

On this premise the book succeeds.
Then comes the Word Flu. The Word Flu is an illness that strikes and presents much the way the flu does that we’re familiar with. High fever, nausea, vomiting, etc. However, the Word Flu also presents in such a way that words in your vocabulary are replaced with others. Often times nonsense.

Since a condition of my early readers copy is that I not share any text, I will prepare my own example.
“Why is everyone oxbowing at me,” she wondered. “I did remember to kaneek my pants, right?”
And this example also serves to make one of the points of The Word Exchange. Words are powerful. They are functional. Is everyone looking at her? Is everyone shoving her? Did she remember to wear her pants? Or zip her pants? Words disappearing is problematic for society.

It’s also problematic for the reader. At least for this reader. I read to disappear into a story. I was never able to comfortably settle into The Word Exchange. These breaks would snap me back to reality while I considered what was actually trying to be said.
This is one of those instances where I think the author was making a point but that it also worked against them. The mechanic is beautiful and works. Unfortunately it works to a fault. I found myself hating to read this book.

The books pacing seemed glacial until about the halfway point. From there it seemed to accelerate to a snail’s pace. I think the author or editor must have known that because they occasionally dropped hints that certain parts of the story would pay off later. An example might be something like, “And I’d learn soon that it wasn’t so cut and dry.” They had to keep dangling a carrot. I considered walking away repeatedly and only the obligation to the review kept me hanging around. But I was miserable finishing.

The characters were good enough, I guess. Our character lead Anana was likable enough but also capable enough that I never really feared for her all that much. I guess that makes sense though since much of the danger was presented toward people she cared about, and not necessarily directed at her. Also, despite her being in near constant motion it seems like she’s more a victim of circumstance rather than actually moving the story forward. Honestly it feels like most of the book is just happening to her, she’s not manipulating her circumstances at all.

As for the other characters, Anana seems to care about them but I never saw enough to share in her feelings. I really found myself even struggling to care about anyone beyond her. Even when they set the stage for a romance, I couldn’t care less.

So I guess that’s probably enough. The things that work in the book work tremendously. I get the idea that in the future the Word Flu could really disrupt us due to our growing dependence on technology. I get the idea that words are powerful and losing even some of them could be disastrous. The story itself though, the meat and potatoes of The Word Exchange were just meh.

This one was a hard one for me, folks. And it kills me to dislike a book that executes its premise so well. But here we are.

Good alnox, my friends. Gritbaugh.

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What is on your bookshelf?

bookshelfIt’s been a while since I posted so I figured I’d better write something. I could write about school starting again soon – yay! I could write about completing my first 10-mile race last weekend; which I’ll cheer for only because it’s done. I could write about writing. I’m 8,000 words into my story. I read a couple of days ago that if I were writing a novella that I’d be almost halfway done!

But I’m not going to write about that stuff. Well, at least not anymore than I already have. I figured I’d write about the tiny little bookshelf in my desk.

Here is the inventory from the picture you see here and the reason it’s on my shelf.

Red by Ted Dekker is the second book in the Circle series. I bought this book at a Barnes & Noble in Brandon, Florida. It was November 7th, 2011. We were down in the sunshine state cleaning out my dad and grandma’s place. My sister and I had a long drive home to Michigan in a U-Haul. I was still up to my neck in grief over dad’s passing and I needed something to read that gave me a picture of something larger than myself. This book will remain on my shelf as that reminder.

The Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Machart is an advanced reading copy book that I got from Barnes & Noble book club. The idea was that the participants of the club would get a copy of the book, read it, review it and get a chance to discuss it with the author before its official release date. It wasn’t the type of book that I would normally read but I thought it was fascinating. This book thrilled me because it was my first ARC book and I was geeked about seeing the notices on the back and inside of the book that it was not for resale. review only. etc. I felt like a member of a pretty exclusive club.

The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson is an ARC book that I won from a Goodreads giveaway. I read the book’s blurb and it sounded interesting. When I started to read it I just couldn’t finish it. I couldn’t get into it. It may have just been a case of the right book at the wrong time. I have every intention of giving it another shot when I have the time to do so.

CSS, DHTML & AJAX by Cranford & Teague is a college book that I held onto from my web design days. I don’t code anymore but I do occasionally find myself looking at code upon request and it helps to serve as a refresher.

Angst by David Pedersen is one of the first indie books I gave a chance to. I have no clue how I discovered this book or what led to me following David on twitter but I’m glad I did. I read it, reviewed it and then won a contest for an autographed copy. Inside it says: “Dusty, Thank you for the support and the amazing review!! Best regards,” It’s also a collectors edition as it’s sporting an older cover than the latest printing of the book.

Wild at Heart Journal by John Eldredge is a leather-bound journal to complement the book of the same name. I loved the book but only made it a few pages into the journal. Still it’s leather-bound and adds a touch of class to my shelf.

Scrivener for Dummies by Gwen Hernandez is a great resource for writers who use the brilliant Scrivener software. I admit that I haven’t had a chance to open the book yet for more than just a glance at a particular function of the software but I don’t know if most “for Dummies” books are meant to be read cover to cover. Perhaps this one is. I’ll have to look closer.

ESV Study Bible is a study bible. It’s definitely not as worn as it should be but I do use the online membership that came with it far more often than the actual printed copy.

Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy is a book that came highly-recommended to me and I can understand why. Just over halfway through and I’m seeing issues with my own story that this book has helped right. I’m eager to reach the editing phase so I can work on sharpening my scenes with the tips I’ve been given so far.

Latest issue of Wired.

Programming in Visual Basic .NET by Bradley and Milspaugh is another college textbook that I’ve hung onto. I haven’t done much VB coding since college but this book was fantastic. I thought it taught the content brilliantly. I’ve hung onto it for that reason.

And that’s it for now. I have a few laptop hard drives on the shelf, a Zune HD music player, an iPad smart cover, some papers, a deck of cards from Poland and my NOOK Simple Touch with Glow Light. That last item has a tens of dozens of more books I could share but that list would be a novel in and of itself.

What have you got on your bookshelf? Are any of those books special to you? And for what reason?

Review: The Concrete Blonde

The Concrete Blonde The Concrete Blonde by Michael Connelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one kept me guessing until the very end. On one occasion I really thought I had figured it out. In my own defense, I think Connelly steered us in that direction and when the characters in the book announced my belief I thought YES! I was right.. and then No! I wasn’t. This book has an incredible twist ending.

This book was also equal parts legal thriller as police procedural. This book takes place while Harry and the LAPD are on trial for the supposed wrongful death of an innocent man. The man’s widow says that her husband was not the Dollmaker, as Harry and the LAPD had determined.

The Dollmaker trial is a nice bit of continuity since we heard about the Dollmaker killing in at least one of the previous two books.

Harry and the LAPD are convinced they have the right man until another letter from the Dollmaker and a new body surfaces with all of the murderer’s characteristics. Has a serial killer been allowed to roam free while an innocent man took the blame? Did Harry kill the wrong man? All will be revealed.

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So I guess I’m reading again

I used to read all the time. It was no big deal for me to visit a bookstore once or more a week at one point. I got my nook and since then it seems like I’ve been reading a lot more lately. It’s hard to read anywhere close to as much as I used to due to have responsibilities beyond paying my bills on time, but I’m still happy about the fact that I made it all the way through The Stand is roughly a month in a half. That bad boy was 1100+ pages. And for the record, I thought it was pretty good. In fact, I left a review over at goodreads.com and it’s on my blog right now. No spoilers, naturally.

Today I picked up my ARC copy of The Wake of Forgiveness and am already 84 pages in. So far it’s a pretty good story. I mean, I have to keep reminding myself of the years the story takes place. It’s a little hard for me to imagine 1910 or 1920 something. So I find myself imaging a scene and then they mention lighting a lantern to check out a noise and I’m like, oh yeah – no flashlight. Or they are in their house and mention lighting the stove to heat the house and I go – oh yeah, I guess they mentioned them being cold and I just assumed they were outside. If I do have a complaint about this book so far it’s that the writer writes in these ridiculous run-on sentences. I’ve literally noticed a single paragraph in the book that was once sentence long. And it’s not like it was a short paragraph. It was five lines of text on the page. Not like I’m fit to critique anyone’s grammar but still!

Randomness

  • Nothing was on TV tonight so I decided we’d give the TV show Dexter a shot. My Xbox RROD’d about 15-20 minutes into the show. If the Xbox doesn’t recover I’ll be able to say that a serial killer killed my Xbox.
  • Addison has been pretty bossy lately and had been adding “RIIIGHT NOW!” to the ends of her sentences. This is sometimes hysterical. Today we heard “You don’t hit-uh me, riiight NOW!!”
  • Samantha continues to do whatever she darn well pleases. She decides she wants a cup of water, she’ll go the dishwasher, grab a cup, go the fridge, get some water, add some ice and give you a dirty look and growl when you tell her no. It’s a lot of fun bit frustrating.
  • I’m working on being more patient when Josh and I are practicing his reading. It’s hard when I’ve taught him a word several times and yet each time he comes across the word it’s like he’s never seen it before. Still, I’m trying to not make it harder on him. That’s a work in progress.
  • Cynthia’s computer is driving me bat shit crazy with it’s frequent blue screens. I swear I have diagnosed and treated at least six problems that would absolutely cause that to happen. So far I fix one problem and it seems another rears its head. On the bright side, I’m getting to press into Windows 7 troubleshooting. And it’s been a while since I’ve done a deep dive into anything so I guess it isn’t so bad. Except for Cynthia who probably thinks I don’t know as much as she originally thought I did.

What I’m reading

Barnes & Noble Nook I have a little confession. I love technology. I also love having stories told to me. I don’t care if they are in books, word of mouth or on the television. I just love a good tale. When you combine more than one of those loves together you get a recipe for much happiness. To those who know that about me it should come as no surprise that I love my Barnes & Noble Nook. It has to be my favorite electronic next to my Motorola Droid and computers themselves.

I’ve been reading so much more since getting the nook but that’s help add a little difficulty to my life. Since I’ve been reading more I’ve been paying more attention to the books that are out there and which books are hyped and which books have been released in series that are familiar to me. For example, when I was reading all the time I was reading a series by Terry Brooks called Shannara. It’s basically fantasy, druids, magic, etc. But they are quick reads and he writes really fascinating characters. And just last week a new book of his came out. Just one more book to add to the pile.

So here’s what’s on my reading to-do list. Comments and recommendations welcome, but please no spoilers.

Currently Reading:

The Stand: Complete & Uncut by Stephen King The Stand by Stephen King – Of course I’d want the edition with an extra 400 pages. What was I thinking?

To Read (in intended reading order):

The Wake of Forgiveness by Bruce Machart – This one would be on the back burner for sure if I hadn’t committed to read it. If I don’t participate in the group I’ll be excluded from future early look book groups.

Bearers of the Black Staff by Terry Brooks – I’ve read all the other Shannara books to date and this one sounds really fascinating. I like how he’s drawn his two series together: Shannara and Word & The Void.

The Passage by Justin Cronin – I’ve heard it described as The Stand with vampires. So you know I’m going to check that out.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson – It’s one of those huge book series that people are talking about. It’s also being made into a movie. I’m interested in finding out if it’s all hype because the author died or if it’s legitimately good. If it IS good, there are two other books that follow it.

I’m pretty sure there is more but that’s all I have off the top of my head and honestly that’s enough to keep me busy for a while. Until then, there is no doubt my list will continue growing.

nook fan sticker from getglue.com