Archive for April 29, 2008

2007 Nebula Award Winners

From the website:

Novel: The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

Novella: “Fountain of Age” by Nancy Kress

Novelette: “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” by Ted Chiang

Short Story: “Always” by Karen Joy Fowler

Script: Pan’s Labyrinth by Guillermo del Toro

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Damon Knight Grand Master for 2008: Michael Moorcock

SFWA Service Award: Melisa Michaels and Graham P. Collins

Books from the award-winning authors currently available on linked below:

Michael Chabon, Ted Chiang, Karen Joy Fowler, and Nancy Kress.

Book Review: The Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella

The Shopaholic series: the New Fashionista Bible

If I were to choose among my pile of chick literature for my favorite, I would say that the Shopaholic series tops the list. Rebecca Bloomwood, the series’ main protagonist, takes you to a never-ending ride of shopping trips and funny escapades that her spendthrift ways bring about. The books are as shallow as any chick literature would be, but the type of superficiality that Kinsella’s books offer differ from the usual nonsense blabbering of other chick literature protagonists. Confessions of a Shopaholic gives you a never-ending ride of shopping galore, with Rebecca’s sweet and exciting romance with Luke Brandon, the multimillionaire PR representative, as a bonus. The second installment, Shopaholic Takes Manhattan, portrays Rebecca as an even more avid shopper as she goes to New York for the first time. I have read four out of the five installments, and my favorite would have to be the third one so far. Shopaholic Ties the Knot is beautiful because we see a more mature (but definitely still an extravagant) Rebecca as her once-budding romance with Luke becomes permanent and even more enchanting. This kind of chick literature is a good break from the classics and other heavy reading, so it is perfect for the summer or for escaping the tiring demands of work. But its shallowness is not so that it will make you cringe at every page. The superficiality is served through witty writing that British authors are so famous for, and Kinsella does not exaggerate or fail in her insertion of humor throughout the stories.

The Shopaholic series is something I always recommend to my friends because it is a light read, yet it does not go overboard in its superficiality. Though Rebecca’s spending habits and her tendency to avoid and ignore her monthly bills might be a little too much, and irksome at its worst, there is still that sensible touch to the whole series that prevents me from dismissing it as a mere novel-version of Vogue. Personally, ever since I have read the book, I have developed a renewed sense of fashion style. Reading about Rebecca’s fashion predicaments, the constant name-dropping of high-end fashion labels, and the vivid depiction of shopaholic must-haves that Rebecca espouses indirectly made me aware of fashion what-nots and know-hows. Such examples would be the Hermés scarf that Luke gave her in Confessions of a Shopaholic or the Angel bag that she “just had to buy??? in the third installment. So, if you want some delightful chick literature to read, then the Shopaholic series is the way to go. Not only does Rebecca take you to a different level of fashion and sensibility as she traverses modern-day life with style and sophistication, but the series actually makes you realize the difference between an outfit from the ordinary jeans-and-shirt get-up.

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Book Review: Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Life As She Sees It: Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha

Arthur Golden’s debut novel is a fictional account of a geisha’s life. It narrates the story of Chiyo, who, as a child, was sold into slavery together with her sister. Chiyo eventually becomes Sayuri, as she is taken in and trained to become a geisha, while her sister is taken into a whorehouse and becomes separated from her sister permanently. I read this many years ago, and Golden’s skillful display of his exceptional knowledge in geisha culture and lifestyle woven with his main protagonist’s own voice narrating the accounts of her personal life cemented this book on my favorites’ list. The smooth prose adds depth to the rich narration and the poignant life story of Sayuri. The bittersweet memories of her life and the gripping prose style with which Golden wrote the novel combine into one absorbing and elegant must-read. If you have seen the movie, then there is all the more reason to peruse the book, in order for you to realize just how much the film failed to give justice to the novel’s beauty. Sayuri’s rivalry with Hatsumomo and her love affair with the hairman are just some of the delectable highlights of the novel, which is rich with facts about Japanese culture and art. The history and culture of a geisha in Sayuri’s time provides a rich social landscape apart from Sayuri’s personal story, so that when you read the book, not only do you witness the ups and downs of Sayuri’s life, but also a slice of Japanese history, and the culture that makes it worthy of remembrance.

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Book Review: Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho

More Than Eleven Minutes of Sense and Sensuality

The novel is far from the contemplative atmosphere of By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept and the bestseller The Alchemist, but the beauty of the book is derived from the strong yet tender, and poignant life of Maria, who was tricked into leaving her hometown in Brazil to become a prostitute in Switzerland. The book borders on the erotic, what with Maria’s love for masochism, and the hints of pessimism as Maria’s life as a prostitute unfolds. Like all the other literary works of Paulo Coelho, this book tackles another road to self-discovery– sexuality. However, the book delves on the matter of sex in the context of love, which makes this book different from the soft porn usually found in romance novels. The idea of sacred sex is treated with renewed freshness. The sensual subject matter of the book, and the way Coelho dealt with this sensuality through his writing style, even give Maria’s story a peculiar charm that entices you to keep on reading until the end. Maria’s life as a disillusioned prostitute takes a wild turn when she meets a painter whom she falls in love with. Upon meeting him, her life has inevitably changed from one that is headed towards self-destruction to a life that hopes for a bright future. Towards the end of the story, she is compelled to choose between the life in Brazil she has always dreamed of returning to, or to a new and yet-unknown life that she could have with the person she undeniably loves. If you are a fan of Coelho, then this book demands to be read. It veers away from the writer’s usual overly optimistic book-forms of Hallmark cards. The dark subject matter and the different approach that Coelho takes on this novel are two main things that make this book a definite must-have for bookworms who want an alternative from all the chick literature or the heavy readings.

The novel is far from the contemplative atmosphere of By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept and the bestseller The Alchemist, but the beauty of the book is derived from the strong yet tender, and poignant life of Maria, who was tricked into leaving her hometown in

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Book Review: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

A Horror and Mystery Novel Rolled into One

This novel is mainly for those bookworms who are allured by the enticing richness of reading histories. What makes this book unique is it actually gives an account of how the Dracula evolved into how it is seen today. The historical fiction narrates the beginning of ruthless Vlad the Impaler, who impaled hundreds of people during his reign in Wallachia, and down to how Bram Stoker romanticized the image of the vampire for commercial appeal. On top of all these interesting little stories is one main plot of cat-and-mouse as Paul and Helen travel from Istanbul to Budapest as they try to solve the mystery of the old, vellum-bound book with a dragon carved at the cover’s center. Personally, I loved the interesting mix of history and adventure in the novel. There were moments when I would get all hyped because of the thinking that the letters and the riddles evoke. On the other hand, seeing the other side of the concept of the Dracula is a refreshing alternative from all the sensationalized appeal it got from Hollywood movies. The constant flight from one place to another while the protagonists deal with the elusive traces of Dracula is set against an atmosphere of eerie mystique, giving the plot just the right amount of ghostly spooks. The culmination and resolution of the plot at the end is one of suspense because apart from the truth, it is then that Paul and Helen finally discover what they have long been searching for. This book needs a lot of attention, so this is the perfect companion during a long flight or when you are stuck at home. But for those of you who want to see the other side of Dracula or to simply experience one hell of a ride, then The Historian beats all other lengthy reads!

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Lonely Planet “fake” books

Mr Kohnstamm, whose book is titled Do Travel Writers Go To Hell?, said yesterday that he had worked on more than a dozen books for Lonely Planet, including its titles on Brazil, Colombia, the Caribbean, Venezuela, Chile and South America.

In one case, he said he had not even visited the country he wrote about.

“They didn’t pay me enough to go Colombia,” he said.

“I wrote the book in San Francisco. I got the information from a chick I was dating – an intern in the Colombian Consulate.

More details here.

It’s raining books at Instituto Cervantes

Although it’s only summer, Instituto Cervantes is already getting ready for the rainy season as a deluge of books arrives on April 19 at the third edition of Día Internacional del Libro (International Book Day).

Instituto Cervantes celebrates Día del Libro or International Book Day, an event that aims to promote the love for reading and the written word. Regularly celebrated on the 23rd of April, World Book Day was inspired by a tradition from Barcelona, Spain that celebrates St. George’s Day, where men and women exchange a rose for the gift of a book.

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