Friday, February 27, 2015

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores

by Jen Campbell

Thoughts: An absolutely hysterical, and kind of sad, compendium of quotes from real, live customers in real, live bookstores. Mostly taken from Jen Campbell's personal experience working in UK bookstores, but also from many examples sent in by other booksellers across North America.

You've got the simply funny, like the many items people somehow thought could be found in a bookstore, or the weird people looking for a portal to another dimension.

There's the actually kind of cool: "Customer: If I had a bookstore, I'd make the mystery section really hard to find." (pg. 20) It made want to design a really cool bookstore where every section was somehow themed.

There's the ones that make you despair of humanity's future, like the story of the person who had a tantrum over not being able to read Breaking Dawn (pg. 15), or the many examples of complete literary ignorance, or the mother who told her child, "I don't know why you read; it'll never get you anywhere" (pg. 54).

Some of it seemed so bad as to be actually unbelievable, but some I have experienced myself in my time in customer service, such as: "Customer: I read a book in the sixties. I don't remember the author, or the title. But it was green, and it made me laugh. Do you know which one I mean?" (pg. 57)

Summary: Short and sweet, and immensely entertaining.

Grade: 4 stars

Sunday, February 22, 2015

RED Book Awards 2014

Yeah, I'm REALLY late with this. No time these days, sigh.
But anyway, on to: celebrating the awesome! In addition to the Top Ten (Or So) lists of covers and books, I'm going to do some special other awards, to remember all the great stuff I was unable to properly cover in those lists. (Prepare for winners greatly dependent on my not-very-good memory, since I have no time now to be thorough--also note, the runners up are not in any particular order.)

Favourite Central Female Character: Ophelia from To Be Or Not To Be. True, this is a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book, and so she's really not the deepest of characters. But she's awesome. I really, really loved this book, and I wanted to honour the fact the Ophelia was immense amounts of fun to play.
Runners Up: >>Ekaterin from Komarr: Bujold writes women really well and each is completely unique. Ekaterin is quieter than most, more properly Barrayaren. More "Vor", in fact. But with her own whole set of issues and repression that make her very, very interesting. And as I discuss in the "Surprisingly Good Book" section below, Ekaterin suits Miles Vorkosigan perfectly. >>Triss from Cuckoo Song: much of why I like her is related to plot things that I really don't want to spoil. I loved discovering what was going on for myself, so I want anyone who read this to have that too. But she was a really interesting character in a really interesting (and creepy) book.
And I'm highly disappointed that there aren't more, and that I don't like the ones there are enough. None of these characters thrilled me as much as Cordelia, Kat, Saturday, Seraphina, or Alexandria from last year. It was a rough year this year. Sigh.

Favourite Central Male Character: Mark Vorgosigan from Mirror Dance. Garrrrrr. What he has to go through in this book... He is so terribly complex a character. And a clone of Miles, none-the-less, so that automatically makes him fascinating. Brilliant, brilliant character development in Mirror Dance, making it a new favourite book.
Runners Up: >>Odd Thomas from Odd Thomas and Brother Odd: These are thrillers, with not necessarily the deepest of characterizations, but I still love Odd. Fry-cook with great heart. Who can see ghosts and monster-demons. I especially enjoyed his emotional journey after the spoilery events of the first book. >>Miles Vorkosigan from the Vorkosigan Saga books: He won this category last year, because he's just so awesome. I've gone on about him in every review from his series, and I'd like to go on about him some more, except Mark needed his chance in the spotlight. So I'll keep it to this one statement, showing just how awesome he is: Miles and Eugenides*. They are they guys. Yep. >> Ivan Vorpatril from Captain Vorpatril's Alliance: Finally, a chance for Ivan to have a whole book in which to be his smarter-than-he-pretends-to-be, but-also-kinda-dumb, lovable self. Plus he gets a wife. And a bevy of chaotic and unusual in-laws. And awww, the poor guy. I love him. >>Horace Altman from The Ranger's Apprentice series, especially The Icebound Land: He has a slightly more interesting introduction than some of the other characters, since he's kind of a bad guy at first. Or at least a bully. But he grows up wonderfully. In The Icebound Land, he got to train his fighting skills a lot and get super epic. It was awesome.

Favourite Secondary Female Character: Allison from Silence and Touch. I do so love the nerdy ones. She made a great best friend, a great character in her own right, and the whole thing with Chase has many interesting sparks and angles. (Since she won this category, I really wanted to describe more why I liked her, but it's been too long since I read the book and I can't think up any examples. And this post is so darned late now that I have to just put it up regardless.)
Runners Up: >>Wyatt from Catalyst: She was my favourite from last year, so I thought I'd give someone else a chance this year. But she's still so awesome that I almost put her first. I love her awkwardness and loyalty and likely Autism Spectrum Disorder and great programming skills. >>Medusa from Catalyst: brilliant, damaged, and surprisingly sensible for a book character (she caught on to Tom lying to protect her, in a way almost no fictional heroines seem to--I was most pleasantly surprised). >>Cordelia Vorkosigan from the Vorkosigan Saga books: Man, I love those Vorkosigans. And Cordelia's one of the best, even though she only has a small part in Miles's books. But a great small part, nonetheless. She has so much fascinating, understated, influence on, well, everything, really.

Favourite Secondary Male Character: Simon Illyan from Memory. Yes, I love the Vorkosigan Saga. Illyan has always been one of my all-time favourites, and I was so happy to have a book that focused on him so much. Quiet, intelligent, loyal, dryly witty, nondescript and in the background and yet so central to everything.
Runners Up: >>And for more Vorkosigan goodness, Gregor from all the books, but especially A Civil Campaign: Gregor has so much hidden depth that seeps through at just the right moments. A Civil Contract is where he falls in love, which was a delight to witness. (Ivan Vorpatril would be on here too, but he got a Central Male Character runner up mention for Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, so I think I'll leave him with that.)>>George Cubbins from Lockwood & Co: The Whispering Skull: grumpy, smart, ugly, funny, and surprisingly loyal. He's the best. >>And putting two characters together because they're from the same books: Peter Waylock and Azrael de Gray from The Last Guardian of Everness and Mists of Everness: They were both complex and towed the line between hero and villain (Peter falling mostly on the hero side, Azrael on the villain). Plus their interactions together were quite interesting, due to Azrael impersonating Peter's son. (The scene with the ride home from the hospital was quite amusing.) >>Chase from Silence and Touch: I just like him. He was really fun to read about. I can't really explain any better than that except to say I find characters who are energetic in his particular way rather attractive.

Favourite Ensemble: The gang from Silence and Touch. I liked every one of them. Loyal, funny, and each individually interesting. They reminded me just a little bit of the Buffy gang, which is a huge compliment.
Runners Up: >>The fighters of evil from The Last Guardian of Everness and Mists of Everness: So epic. Two of them were in my Secondary Male Characters runner up list. (They were somewhat lacking in interesting females, unfortunately.) >>The diverse and varied cast of Cast in Shadow: so many different (fictional) races with all their various customs and politics--it makes for fascinating reading. >>The trio of heroic ghost fighters in Lockwood & Co: The Whispering Skull: only three, so not much of an ensemble, but they are so awesome and funny and have rapiers and research books. >>The large group of awesome demigods from The House of Hades: so many cool powers! so many awesome individuals! And when you get them altogether, it's quite something.

Favourite Romance: Allison and Chase from Silence and Touch. Firstly I like them both as individuals a lot (Allison won her category! Chase was a runner up!). Secondly, it was pleasantly unexpected to find the sidekick romance to be the most primary in the book (fully expecting it to be major Emma/Eric stuff; also a reason why the first book won the "Surprisingly Good Book" award). Thirdly... I dunno. I just liked it. Romance is hard to analyze for me. Probably something to do with it being a slow(ish) build, with unexpectedly compatible characters. Slow and unexpected is generally appealing to me.
Runners Up: >>Sheldon Vanauken and Jean "Davy" Davis from A Severe Mercy: You could pretty much read my review of A Severe Mercy to know what I think about this one (amazing, beautiful, wonderful), because it was all about their relationship. In some ways. In other ways it was all about something much greater. Which is why they didn't get first place, because it wasn't exactly their romance per se that I loved the most. >>Odd Thomas and Stormy Llewellyn from Odd Thomas: normally I'm not much into the "destiny" kinds of romances, but this one was actually interesting. There was a twist or two I was not expecting. Also I just enjoyed their interactions. >>Tom Raines and Medusa from Catalyst: Medusa is just so cool, and Tom is lots of fun and clever and goes through so much. They make an awesome pair. This isn't my favourite romance on the list by any means, but I'm really glad things worked out well for these two.

Favourite World-Building: A Canticle for Leibowitz. I'm not sure if "world building" is the word I'm looking for here, but I couldn't think of any other award to give the scope of this book. It covers three distant eras of the future, following small threads of ideas through each. It's fascinating.
Runners Up: >>The Maze Runner: You're put smack in the middle of all these weird things without having any idea what'g going on--just like the main character. I love it. Plus I love mazes. >>The Last Guardian of Everness and Mists of Everness: So fantastical. So full of myth. >>Cast in Shadow: So many interesting different fictional fantasy cultures!

Favourite Surprisingly Good Book: Silence. I expected this to be standard young adult fare. I'd even heard such good things about it that I bought it myself, and yet I didn't read it for years due to this expectation. But then, finally, I just sat down and read the thing, and discovered... that it's pretty much made for me. You can see that by the fact that it's taken three of these awards already. The group of awesome characters, romance I actually liked, intriguing world-building. It reminded me just a little bit of why I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer so much. I can see this book wouldn't be for everybody, and they might be thrown off by the writing style, or even the lack of romance between the central two characters. But I loved every bit of it.
Runners Up: >>Komarr: Yes, it should not have been surprising that a Lois McMaster Bujold book was good. But I'd disliked all of Miles's romances so far, and I just couldn't imagine the love of his life being actually interesting and well-done. But I was completely wrong. Ekaterin is fascinating and perfectly suited to Miles, and the book was most enjoyable.

Favourite Book Not Getting Enough Awards: Warchild. Intense and gripping--definitely one of the better books I read this year. And yet... nothing quite stood out to me enough to give it many awards here. Very possibly my not-so-great mood when I read it (life was being really tough at the time). So because of this, and because in the end, it was a book I flew through, enjoying every moment, this definitely wins the Not-Getting-Enough-Awards award.
Runners Up: >>The Road: This was a very, very bleak book. In many ways, I didn't enjoy it at all. But still, it's an impactful and memorable book, with surprising moments of light that make the rest seem worth it. >>Lockwood & Co: The Whispering Skull: this series is loads of fun and I'm greatly looking forward to the next one. The first in the series seems to have more awards last year, and I wanted to recognize that the sequel was pretty awesome too.

*Comparing someone favourably to Eugenides is pretty much the highest compliment I can give. Eugenides is from The Queen's Thief series: The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia, and A Conspiracy of Kings. Miles is like Eugenides-in-Space! Or maybe Gen is Miles-in-a-Greece-like-fictional-historical-place! Yeah, let's stick to Eugenides-in-Space... But they both have this... quality... that I've been trying to pin down and not been able to. (Sigh. I obviously couldn't my resolve to not talk on about Miles. I blame it on Gen.)