Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nothing beats excellent customer service

Today I had a severe longing to read the John Carter of Mars series by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I figured that, since the movie will be shown next week here in Manila, I might as well read the first volume of this series and see for myself what the fuss was all about.

So I went down the office and headed to the nearest bookstore, which is Bibliarch, a branch of Fully Booked. Damn, the store only has the second and third volumes of the collected series. That simply won't do. I need that first volume like cocaine. And I want to read it, like, now.

Now Bibliarch is such a small store that, once you're inside, it only takes a few steps to reach their customer service which also doubles as the cash register. I asked one of the assistants if he would call the other nearby Fully Booked branches if they have the first volume.

Maybe there's something wrong with their inventory tracking system, for it's taking him so long to check the store's online database. Both my lunch time and my patience are running short. And I had to restrain myself from talking loudly out of irritation. I have a very short temper and my friends keep telling me that I probably have the shortest one.

But this assistant, his name is Miles Mission, was very patient and determined to help me. He called every nearby bookstore branch to look for that elusive copy. He even went out of his way to find a chair from their back office and bring it to me. I don't mind standing of course, but to refuse it would be insulting, I think.

Alas, a copy was located at a nearby mall. Miles even offered to have that book transferred to the branch we were in. But ever the impatient one, I said there's no need. The next store's just a few minutes away, and heaven knows that I could use the exercise.

So now I have the beautiful first volume of Burroughs's sci-fi/fantasy epic, all thanks to Miles's diligence and his extra effort. Kudos to the people at Fully Booked for the wonderful customer service.

Now I shan't be disturbed, for I'll be on my way to Mars.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The bookshelf project #31

This week's picture of a bookshelf is from, ta-dah, my mom. And the picture below, with its modest but growing collection of books, was taken in our other house in Antipolo.

My mom loves her paperbacks. She's a fan of suspense novels and thrillers -- John Saul, Karin Slaughter, Ken Follett, and David Baldacci. She's the person who introduced me to Stephen King. My first Stephen King read, The Dead Zone, I read when I was 11.

Recently, I introduced her to the Pendergast novels of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. She can't have enough of this enigmatic hero!

What do you think of my mom's books, dear reader?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A series of bookmarks

It's been the tradition of the book club to come up with a bookmark in line with the monthly discussion. But sometimes, moderators go all out and give away not just one but several bookmarks to mark the occasion.

When I moderated the discussion for The Woman in Black in October last year, I couldn't help but give 4 bookmarks to the participants. I asked R, the designer, to come up with a black and white color scheme.

R also designed the bookmarks for the discussion for the Asian Man Booker Prize-winning novel, Ilustrado. Iya wanted two bookmarks for the event, each showing a funny comic piece relating to the novel.

There was one time when a bookmark served as an invitation for the next month's discussion. Here's the bookmark invite for the discussion on urban fantasy, which was moderated by R.

And being a huge fan of The Hunger Games, we came up with 12 bookmarks for the discussion, one bookmark for each of the 12 districts in Suzanne Collins's YA series.

Last January during our traditional discussion on our best and worst reads from last year, Gege came up with personalized bookmarks. The six bookmarks below show my best read for 2011, my favorite classic, my all-time favorite author, my all-time favorite works of fiction and nonfiction, and my worst read for 2011.

Last Saturday, when we discussed George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones, R again designed the series of bookmarks, with each bookmark showing a house sigil.

But the piece de resistance during the discussion moderated by Shani was the Westeros map printed on a huge piece of thick paper. It's not technically a bookmark as it's almost a meter long!

I love the details of the Westeros map! Any fan of the series is sure to want one.

Friday, February 17, 2012

When a series changes its cover designs

It's not a good thing when the series that you're into suddenly changes its artistic direction on the covers. It can mess up your bookshelf. I hate it, hate it.

Take for example Yancey's YA series The Monstrumologist. When the first book came out, the cover was a bit vague, showing a beaker with something misshapen inside it. I liked it. It connoted the unknown and the mysterious.

Of course, the publishers had to change it. Now it's imperative to have that Printz seal (though well-earned, I believe) and come up with something cartoon-ish. Also, this same aesthetic is now employed in books 2 and 3. As far as I know, the original design has been totally abandoned.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

And so I begin, again

Back in 2003, I bought an innocuous little work of fantasy titled A Game of Thrones. Little did I know that I would be hooked and would be constantly pushing this book to my friends' faces.

Nine years later, my book club chose this book for the February discussion. No problem, I thought; I will just Google to refresh my memory, or I could always watch the TV series, which seems to be faithful to the book, as my friends would say.

I know, this book and those pretty flowers are an unusual combination in a photo.

But I recently swapped my yellowing mass market paperback with a hardback from Iya, a fellow member of the book club. Somehow, this book keeps calling my name, beckoning me to the world of Westeros with all its treachery, gore, and brutality.

And so I find myself unable to sleep at 3 am on a Sunday (I normally wake up at 4-ish, every day even on weekends), turning on the lights and flipping to page 1 of Martin's AGoT. Next thing I know, I finished the book and found out that I read for 8 straight hours.

I don't normally reread, but I'm happy I reacquainted myself with A Game of Thrones. For one, Martin's work is so rich in detail, making me feel that I'm in Westeros for the first time. Also, the number of characters Martin introduced in this book felt less daunting during my reread.

Of course I already know the characters who'd end up dead and those who'll figure more prominently in next books. But somehow, this knowing didn't seem to matter that much. It's the journey not the result that made it more satisfying the second time around.

I forgot how blunt Martin's pen is. Characters, major and minor, get killed instantly, some characters copulate in public, and children are never made to believe that their world is all sugar and spice. Uttering just one offensive word is enough to get yourself beheaded.

Will I be rereading the second book, A Clash of Kings? Probably not anytime soon. Martin writes beautifully, but I think I need to take a break from reading all that betrayal, bloody murder, rape, and mutilation. Winter can wait.

Did GRRM originally conceive the series as a trilogy?
Author bio above says that the 2nd book is
A Dance with Dragons.

Thanks, Iya, for the first edition hardback. I owe you lots.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Loving Lois Duncan (2)

Finally, I've completed all 8 of Lois Duncan's suspenseful young adult novels, which have been completely updated for this generation. I've started reading Duncan this year, and her books have always given me hours and hours of good thrills. Even though these books were written in the late 70s and early 80s, there's still a freshness and relevance to them, which still make the books satisfying reads.

Perhaps her most famous work is this, I Know What You Did Last Summer, which have been made into a movie in the early 2000s. The book though is just as fast paced (perhaps even more so) than the movie. Teenagers really do some crazy shit, and Duncan knows her teenage characters very much. You know something bad happens when people just cover up the mess they find themselves into.

Another of Duncan's more famous novel is Don't Look Behind You. Think of the movie "Cape Fear" crossed with a teenage slasher flick, that's what you get in this YA novel. It's about a family who is forced into the witness protection program. However, a hit man is out to get them, and that hitman is one creepy guy who has a very uncanny way of learning the family's whereabouts. In this novel, Duncan allows the reader to get a glimpse of the many challenges a family faces in that particular circumstance -- being unrooted from all their friends and family, living under assumed identities, and having that constant paranoia.

Daughters of Eve has been criticized as being overly feminist. In fact, some feminists have called the book as damaging to the feminist movement. The main characters are a group of high school female students who decide that they have had enough of living in a very patriarchal society. Of course, their methods of dealing with these problems tend to become violent, from vandalizing the school laboratory (with pig shit) to abducting and humiliating a two-timing high school jock, who happens to be a brother of one of their members.

Stranger with My Face is my favorite of the 8 novels though. The idea of having a doppelganger has always creeped me out, and this book, at first glance, seems to delve into that concept. But Duncan again surprises the reader when she injects elements of native American mysticism into her story. It's the kind of novel that makes you think about the possibility of an esoteric belief such as astral projection. I also think that it's one of Duncan's novels that has a very strong fantasy element. I guarantee you that you'll be creeped out as well.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The bookshelf project #30

This week's pictures of bookshelves are from Joko, a good friend and a fellow member of the book club. Joko's interests lie in a lot of things -- she's a surfer, a big fan of the paranormal romance genre, and a foodie!

Joko went to culinary school, so we all go to her for restaurant recommendations and for food prep tips. It's but natural for one of her shelves to be occupied solely by books about food. Just look at this wonderful shelf!

Let's look closely at her shelf, shall we? In top shelf, I see two books from one of my favorite food writers, Jeffrey Steingarten: The Man Who Ate Everything and It Must Have Been Something I Ate. Both books are wonderful essays about all things foodie -- from the simple table salt to the caviar at your fine dining table. (I'm not so sure about the dieting book though. Ho hum.)

In the middle shelf, there are cookbooks written by famous chef (Oliver, Emeril, etc.) and the , Larousse Gastronomique. I've always wanted one, but I'm still on the hunt for the first edition.

At the bottom shelf are more books written by chefs. And I see Anthony Bourdain's now classic A Cook's Tour!

Just looking at Joko's books is enough to haul my lazy ass out of bed and head to the nearest deli. How about you, dear reader? What do you think of Joko's "culinary" bookshelf?