Saturday, July 23, 2011

So Long, Borders

I'm sure everyone has heard by now that Borders is going to close every store and go completely out of business.
This makes me really sad.  I remember when the Borders opened up near me when I was a child, and I LOVED it there.  I could stay there all day and not even realize I'd been there that long.  My family and I referred to this as the "Borders Time Warp," since we'd go in and not even realize we'd been there for four hours.
Later on, Amazon and Barnes and Noble came along, and we used those, especially when I had a job at Barnes and Noble.
But Barnes and Noble is NOT Borders.  There is no such thing as a "Barnes and Noble Time Warp," because it isn't as much fun to go to Barnes and Noble.
Borders was great because of the atmosphere and the selection.  It was relaxed yet organized, and you could get books, music, and movies there.  And they almost ALWAYS had what you were looking for.
Over the past few years, the one thing that made me want to use Borders over any other bookstore was their Rewards program.  Now, both Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million have rewards programs, but they can't compare to Borders Rewards.  With Borders Rewards, you could sign up for FREE and you got coupons every week for up to 40% off items in the store.  And for every hundred and fifty (or hundred, if you'd spent enough money there for an upgrade) dollars you spent, you got $5 in Borders Bucks to spend on anything in the store.  For $20, you could get the Rewards Plus which meant that on top of every other discount you got another 10% off, free shipping on the website for ANYTHING, even books bought from third parties!  Not even Amazon gives you free shipping from third parties unless they're fulfilled by Amazon.  Plus, you got a pack of coupons with the Rewards Plus and $10 in Borders Bucks.  I always managed to get spectacular deals at Borders.
The other bookstores' rewards program aren't as good.  You HAVE to pay for those and you only get 10% off.  That's it.
Another thing that made Borders a more enjoyable place to shop was the selection.  Remember the Wall Street Journal article about the woman who couldn't find a suitable book for her teenager?  Well, she went to Barnes and Noble, and their YA section leaves much to be desired.  Borders' YA section, however, was excellent.  I wonder if perhaps instead of going to B&N, the woman had gone to Borders, she would have found something for her daughter to read that was not "objectionable." I kinda think she would have.
A lot of times I feel kind of down and depressed, and a lot of times I know that if I go to Borders, it will help me feel better.  It's a nice place to browse and have a latte. And they usually had cool T-shirts.  I got a Hunger Games T-shirt there once.  The other stores didn't have those.
But now Borders is going away.  It feels like it's the end of an era to me.  The people at my local Borders loved me; a lot of times the cashiers had read the same books so we had good conversations.  I always had a good time at Borders and always left happier than when I came in.
I suspect that when I visit Borders over the closing weeks, I'll be a bit sadder when I leave the store.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Daughter of Xanadu- Dori Jones Yang

This is one of those books I got an ARC of ages ago and forgot about, but then when I remembered I had it, I wondered why no one I know ever mentions this book.
This book is awesome.  For one thing, it's set in Mongolia and the main character is the oldest granddaughter of Khubilai Khan.
Her name is Emmajin, and instead of wanting to marry some guy and live the boring life of a Mongol woman, she dreams of glory on the battlefield.
She and her cousin, Suren, are close in age and have spent their childhood practicing archery and fighting with each other.  Suren is about to be sent off with an army, and Emmajin wants to go too.
But before she can try to prove herself on the battlefield, she is given the job of spying on a certain foreigner in the court- Marco Polo. To do this, she must befriend him and ask about his home so that the Mongol army can find a way to subdue them and take them under the great Khan's rule.
This book was hard to put down.  I was fascinated with the Mongolian culture, especially from a Mongol's point of view.  Usually all we hear is that they conquered various people and the various people were not happy about it.  In this story, we hear about what the Mongolians think, as well as the perspective of others.  Marco Polo's ideals are not like those of Emmajin.  She thinks he must be weak and unmanly since he does not fight in battles.  After a while, she starts to see the value of his culture.  As her character develops, Emmajin starts to see other things she can do with her life.  She had thought that all she could do was either be someone's wife or be a warrior.  Being exposed to different cultures and people opens her mind in ways she never expected.
Historical novels can be hit or miss-- there's a lot of areas of history people tend to focus on and they often only give one perspective (i.e., the Holocaust is most often told by people who suffered from it), but this one is definitely a unique one.  While Emmajin is a fictional character, you can still learn quite a lot about Khubilai Khan and the world at that time.  It's also presented in a way that makes everything interesting, even what food they ate.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Lor Mandela- 400 Days- L. Carroll

To start off with FOUR HUNDRED DAYS, I think we need at least a brief synopsis of Destruction from Twins. This book is more than just a pretty cover (but isn't it beautiful?  I love it!) and in fact has a very complex and unique story.
Now, we start out with someone who wants to gain power at all costs, and in so doing, she pretty much destroys the planet (but slowly, so it takes a while for people to notice).  The hierarchy of power on Lor Mandela is full of fun terminology, such as "vritesse," "atoc," "Trysta," and "Brashnellan."  If you decide to get into the world of Lor Mandela, there is a glossary at the back of book one to assist you in your understanding of this foreign world.
This story also takes place on Earth, and a seemingly unrelated teenage girl is in the middle.
What is cool about this book is that there is a richly detailed fantasy world, but also humdrum Iowa, and the two interfere.  Four Hundred Days also takes place in both worlds.  To get from one world to the other, you usually need  a Squanki to open a portal.  A squanki is a lovely little bug eating creature, and both books are infested with them.  The magic of Lor Mandela is unlike magic in many fantasy novels in some ways; for instance, they can transform people into other people.  And they can do it permanently.  Not like a fey glamour.
One thing I found amusing was that when Lor Mandelans try to fit in on Earth, they kind of . . . act like idiots.  One in particular adopts this 90s Surfer speech which is particularly hilarious.
There are so many characters in the first book that it takes a while to figure out who is more important.  The second book is more centralized around young Audril, who has lived on both planets.  Since she's had certain types of magic preformed on her, she doesn't always know how to do things.  She knows she has to do things, figure things out, but just like it is for any teenager who has to save the world, she doesn't always get it right. In the words of a specific Iowa teacher, "if at first you don't succeed, that's what I expected;" because honestly, hardly anyone gets it right the first time.
Oh, and let's take a look at the cover of Four Hundred Days again:


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Four Hundred Days Cover Reveal!

And you thought the cover for Destruction from Twins was awesome! I think I'd like a poster of this one; it's just so pretty!
Lor Mandela: Four Hundred Days will be released on July 15.
In case you haven't read Destruction From Twins, you can order it from Amazon.  It's one of those big, pretty books that are hard to put down. Lor Mandela is a planet full of interesting creatures and people who can do amazing things with magic, such as turning a two year old into an infant.  The path of Lor Mandela and Earth cross when someone important (or at least, they think she's the important person; the girl in questions has no memory of ever being on another planet) is found in Iowa, trying to make her boring life more interesting.  Of course, all that happens next is a little more than she bargained for . . .

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Lost Voices - Sarah Porter

Do you remember being 14 and alone?
Did you ever feel like it was hopeless to go on?
Did you ever wish you could get revenge on everyone who hurt you?
Do you know what it's like to feel human?
Sarah Porter's debut novel, Lost Voices, features a 14-year-old . . . human.  Her name is Luce.  And she thought she gave up.
Instead of dying after jumping off a cliff, she became a mermaid.
And this is no Ariel, and no Emily Windsnap.
This is the dark side of mermaids. These mermaids sing sailors to their deaths.  These mermaids sink ships.
But can you really be alone when you're surrounded by others like you?
All these mermaids have suffered.  They've all been hurt, abused, damaged, torn apart by the human world. And so they wreak their revenge on those who sail by.  Their voices are so beautiful, they inspire people to jump off ships and drown themselves.
Luce understands suffering, but her beloved father drowned on a boat nearby.  That was the real beginning of her trouble. She doesn't know if she should sing people to their deaths, no matter what atrocities they've committed.  She wants to know if maybe she can do something else with the power of her voice, but none of the others are interested in anything but killing the evil humans.
Luce retreats more and more from the others, especially as new mermaids join them, trying to find her voice.  The voice she lost as a human, but gained as a mermaid.  All mermaids have enchanting voices, but some are more so than others.  Some, however, do not understand what it means to be human or mermaid.
The mermaids Luce is surrounded by are ruled by a queen, Catalina.  She is the most talented singer, and therefore their natural leader.  She has them stick to the timahk, the code of mermaids.  There are certain rules, such as 1) never hurt another mermaid, and 2) never let a human who sees you stay alive.  These are the most important.
None of the mermaids are very old.  They're all young, some so young they cannot survive.  Those too young are referred to as larvae; they usually get eaten by orcas.  I would imagine quite a few mermaid larvae around the coasts of places like China, where baby girls are often left to die.
Catalina's tribe, however, thrives off the coast of Alaska.  Everything seems to be going fine, until they sing Anais from death to her new life as a mermaid.
Anais hasn't suffered.  Her life has been shiny, full of designer clothes and yachts.  She thinks life as a mermaid is boring, and convinces many of the others to sink ships solely to gain the human's loot.  Soon they have all sorts of things they can't use, such as sandals and a flat-screen TV.
Luce retreats more and more as Anais gains influence and finds solace only in her voice.
But maybe her voice is all she really needs. Her voice, and the music of the ocean, the rocks, the wind, and the waves.
So many girls die unwanted; so many voices are lost.  Maybe all you need to feel real is to find your voice, even if it is only echoed by rocks and wind.