Monthly Archives: February 2012

Everybody Loves Zombies

A lot of the conversations I’ve had lately have had the topic of zombies come up.   One recent discussion with coworkers involved debating what actions we would take, given the zombie apocalypse (My vote is to head for the Arctic, others thought staying on the move and raiding small towns… it got heated).

The Walking Dead tv series is possibly one source of zombies on the brain (either that or the Oscars, and thoughts of Joan Rivers).  The tv series is based on the graphic novels of the same name, which are definitely worth checking out, and have a depth of storyline to them that isn’t often found in zombie stories.

walking deadnulljoan rivers

In fact, there are a lot of books that can be classified as zombie lit, ranging from survival manuals to novels, and a few in between.  Here are a few I recommend, with some suggestions from fellow zombie-loving (in the story sense, no necrophilia here) friends.

Want to plan for the zombie apocalypse?  Here’s your go-to guide.

zombie survival

I have mentioned Pride & Prejudice & Zombies before… this book will create a whole lot of new Jane Austen fans.  Loved it.

prideprejudicezombies

World War “Z”  comes highly recommended by several of the staff at the bookstore – written as a nonfiction account of the history of the zombie war, the new perspective alone makes it worth checking out.  Apparently it is being made into a movie, too.

worldwarz

For those who like mixing reading about the undead with reading about kinky sex (and who doesn’t), the   Laurell K. Hamilton’s series is full of zombies, as well as vampires, werewolves, and assorted other creatures of the night.  These books are definitely not Twilight (and I’m not just talking about the sex).  The stories are pretty dark, and can be downright uncomfortable.  But they are almost never bland, at least.  This is the cover of the newest one, coming soon:

Anyways, enough from me… have a great zombie read to recommend?  Let me know!  Also, I’d love to hear what your zombie apocalypse strategy is.

C.

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Lamb: Something for everyone.

Anyone who has ever read a Christopher Moore book knows he isn’t easy to categorize.  With titles like You Suck, Island of the Sequined Love Nun, and The Stupidest Angel, it’s easy to categorize Moore as a writer of crude humor.  And he is.  But that isn’t all he is.

LambThe full title of the book I’m currently reading is Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal.  For those who read with the intent of being offended, I’m sure they will manage just fine.  For those looking for crude humor, it is here.  Making fun of multiple major religions, check.  Also contains insight, satire, literary and social references, and a lot of sex. And yak shaving.

All in all, this is a fun book – I especially recommend it to anyone who loves Terry Pratchett, Kurt Vonnegut, or Neil Gaiman.  I also highly recommend the trilogy that starts with Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story.  I learned new and amazing ways to insult people that made me want to find someone to yell at.  And shaved cats.  What’s with the shaved animal theme, anyways?

If my bookstore manages to sell the most Christopher Moore books (in our chain), apparently Christopher Moore will do a signing, so don’t be too surprised if you hear stories of people being forced to buy his books by a crazed bookstore employee in Toronto.

I will finish with a quote from Carl Hiaasen about Moore: “A very sick man, in the very best sense of the word.”

Amen.

C.

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Bookstore Confessional

Working at a bookstore, I have heard personal details of the lives of many strangers.  Small details are unavoidable, because they are looking for a book on grieving, or how to handle an unfaithful spouse.  Some customers, however, will pour out their heartaches, problems, battles.

On my very first day, there was a young woman looking for baby care books.  Having two children myself, we got into a spirited discussion of the merits of various books, and I left her looking through a stack of them.  The next time I passed by, she waved me over, and asked if I could help her find another book.  She was looking for a book on mending relationships, since three scant months before the baby was due, her boyfriend had decided that he really didn’t want a commitment right now.  I had some serious trouble not pointing out to her the book on how to get rid of *&$@%!%$#&@$$.  I also got her some tissues, and a glass of water.  Poor thing.

I had a man tell me the complete details of his battle with depression, and his hope that the book he was purchasing might finally help him win it.

On one particularly memorable occasion, I was concerned about a woman who seemed to be in a lot of pain.  She waved me off, saying that it would pass… and then telling me that truthfully, she wished she was dead.  This, as you can imagine, didn’t reassure, me, and I lingered, debating whether I should take further action.  She then spoke curtly to me, telling me to go away, and she didn’t need anyone hovering, and making her feel self-conscious.   I refrained from telling her that if she didn’t want people to worry, she shouldn’t tell them she wanted to die – obviously she was in great pain, and didn’t want pity, so I left her alone, wishing I could have helped somehow.

I also get to be the first to hear good news occasionally.  Women buying books on pregnancy, who haven’t told anyone yet because it’s very early.  Men looking for ideas on the best way to propose.   A man who returned his books and do-it-yourself guides on divorce, because they had worked things out.  One woman, in her mid-fifties, who looked like the stereotype of the prim spinster librarian, who was picking up a copy of the Kama Sutra for her new boyfriend.

I sometimes wonder why  the impulse to share is there.  Is it sometimes easier to talk to a stranger?  Is it just a sympathetic ear at the right moment?  Perhaps it’s just that with so many people coming through the store, one or two are bound to want to talk?

In any case, the people in the bookstore often have stories just as fascinating as the books themselves.

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Book Carving – Art or Sacrilege?

Book CarvingThese book carvings by Brian Dettmer are incredible.  Using a scalpel, he slices and carves books, adding nothing, only taking away.  The results are like the image you see here; beautiful, impossible works of art.  I keep trying to imagine how you would do this.  How you would plan this ahead of time.  Looking through the books, planning these sculptures in your mind’s eye.  I certainly couldn’t do it.

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I think part of the reason I couldn’t do it, other than the fact that I’m nowhere near this talented or precise, is that these are books.   It would feel… wrong, somehow, to slice books up, even as works of art.  I wouldn’t hesitate to have one of Dettmer’s works on display, but if I tried to do it myself I would feel like a murderer.
bookcarving3

According to a February 2011 post by Karanora (http://karanarora.posterous.com/insane-art-formed-by-carving-books-with-surgi) , Dettmer uses tweezers, knives, and surgical tools to create these pieces.  He may reshape or roll the books, or use multiple books, but the books are the only source of carving material.  So what do you  think… fabulous art, or wanton book destruction?
bookcarving4
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Retail Hostility

The other day, a homeless man came in to the bookstore where I work.  He settled in to a chair, and started looking through the shelves.  I asked if I could help him find something, and he said yes, he was trying to figure out ways to make his diet healthier while homeless, since it was really hard for him to have a balanced meal.   We went through a few book ideas, and found a couple of possibilities.

He thanked me.  And then thanked me again.  For not pretending he was invisible, or escorting him from the store.  For treating him like a human being.  He said our store was always great, letting him get cleaned up in the washroom, letting him stay as long as he wanted.   He told me that he used to be a teacher, but circumstances had left him homeless.   He was so happy, just because someone had been willing to have a conversation with him, treat him like a person.

He made my day.

And then there was the couple who came in, having issues with their e-reader.  The return date had passed, with us, and it was now under manufacturer’s warranty.  I offered to try to help them solve the issue, but they refused.   They yelled about customer support at the e-reader company.  They yelled at me, yelled at my manager.  There was swearing.  Everything we tried to say, they talked over.  Apparently they were having an issue with their treadmill,  that was our fault too.  We were thieves, it was a conspiracy.  We were horrible people who were knowingly selling bad products.

They ruined my day.

The contrast between these two encounters is ridiculous.  The homeless man was the soul of courtesy.  The well-off couple were horrible.   Why do people feel they can treat retail workers like dirt?  I can’t imagine someone behaving this way at a bank, but maybe they’re horrible there, too.   I’m not sure what lesson to take from all this.   If my kids behaved like that couple did, they would be in deep, deep trouble.

With other customers, I have taken hours to try to help them with issues they’ve been having with their e-readers, or to teach them how to use them.  I like helping people.  That couple, though, I will not exactly be going out of my way to help.  I’m guessing if I told them that, it would just be one more reason to shout at me.

Obviously, courtesy and respect are not tied to your bank balance.   The upstanding citizen?  The homeless man.

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Good Omens

Good Omens Now, two of my favorite authors are Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, so when they wrote a book together, there was no way I wasn’t buying it.    Especially when the title was Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of  Agnes Nutter, Witch.

This book is dangerous.  It makes you laugh out loud on public transit.  You force friends and family members to read it.  You quote it.  I’m sure that somewhere, there’s not just a cult following of this book, but an actual cult.

Those who are familiar with Terry Pratchett know that his satire is endlessly on target, always hilarious, and full of truly bad puns (which I love).  Neil Gaiman is truly talented at turning the supernatural and fantastic into something you can easily imagine, characters you would recognize on the street.  Together, they have used their powers to neatly skewer the various apocalyptic scenarios that feature the progeny of Satan.

It’s really difficult to describe why this book is so amazing without giving too much away.   The four horsemen are in it.  There are Tibetan monks coming up in people’s gardens like groundhogs.   Atlantis rises.   There are prophecies.  There are angels and demons (neither of whom have much conviction about their jobs, but quite like humans).

I take no responsibility for anyone who becomes a Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman addict because of this book.  I will not be held liable by family members who have it quoted at them regularly.  I will, however, happily take full credit if you love it.

Read this book.  Now.

And if possible, get the American version, because it has extra content.

Christie

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Amazon Boycott – Vive la Resistance!

The boycott of Amazon by refusing to stock their books on the shelves, now includes Barnes & Noble, Indigo, Books-A-Million, and IndieCommerce, the venue for the American Booksellers Association (ABA).    To meet customers’  needs, the books continue to be offered for special order, but the companies will not be ordering any stock on hand, in stores or warehouses.  I don’t know how much this will hurt Amazon, since the majority of their business is done online, but a publishing company that doesn’t have books on shelves is necessarily limited.  Not every book-lover shops online, and it will definitely limit distribution in Canada, where Indigo and Books-A-Million have a strong presence.

I have never been a fan of Amazon’s policy of publishing their e-books only in their own format, as opposed to the industry standard of ePub.   Now, their publishing house won’t allow their authors’ e-books to be sold by anyone but Amazon.  The response of the other book-sellers is that they won’t be used as Amazon’s bricks-and-mortar, and prevented from selling the electronic versions.

I have included links to two more articles on the subject, and will be watching developments with interest.  Even if this has no impact on Amazon at all, I’m still glad they’re doing it.

http://thenextweb.com/media/2012/02/09/the-anti-amazon-revolt-continues-as-the-aba-boycotts-its-books/

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/arts/books/indigo-joins-growing-boycott-of-books-published-by-amazoncom/article2326088/?utm_medium=Feeds%3A%20RSS%2FAtom&utm_source=Home&utm_content=2326088

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Great Bookstore Flash Mob

For Valentine’s day, I’d like to share a little video with you that was posted by Indigo Books.  Wish I worked at this store!

Happy Valentine’s Day to all the book-lovers everywhere.

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Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

I read Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride, Prejudice and Zombies, and thoroughly enjoyed it in all its ridiculousness.   So when Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter came out, I immediately snatched it up, looking forward to something in the same vein.  The plot is great – a vampire tragedy in his youth turns young Abraham Lincoln into a fanatical vampire hunter, and almost every decision he made was motivated by his desire to exterminate the race (including the civil war, who knew?).

The book is written in the format of secret diaries, but I found the writing a little plodding, a slow read despite a plot that feels like it should be racing along.  I suppose  Grahame-Smith is writing it in a form that is supposed to have the feel of a journal from that time period, but I kept waiting for it to become the book it should have been.  There were great elements, for sure, but it just did not live up to his first work, in my eyes.

There is, however, a movie on the horizon, produced by Tim Burton, so I am looking forward to a format that will hopefully make the book’s story shine.   The movie looks like a lot of fun, and features a hand to hand battle between Lincoln and a vampire on top of a moving train – this I need to see.

Here’s a link to a review/trailer:  http://entertainment.time.com/2012/02/13/tim-burton-abraham-lincoln-vampire-hunter-trailer-exclusive/

It might also be my own prejudices towards writing from that time period, which I find dense and generally annoying, so take this review with a grain of salt.   I will unequivocally recommend Pride, Prejudice and Zombies.

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Thoughts on literacy

Here is something to keep in mind, of why reading, and sharing our love of it, is so important.  This is from the UN’s UNESCO site as it relates to literacy:

Why is literacy important?

Literacy is a human right, a tool of personal empowerment and a means for social and human development. Educational opportunities depend on literacy.

Literacy is at the heart of basic education for all, and essential for eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable development, peace and democracy. There are good reasons why literacy is at the core of Education for All (EFA).

A good quality basic education equips pupils with literacy skills for life and further learning; literate parents are more likely to send their children to school; literate people are better able to access continuing educational opportunities; and literate societies are better geared to meet pressing development .

 

 

Christie

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