Sunday, May 28, 2006

Returning to the Fold

I'm sorry folks - I know I spent a lot of time not posting on this blog, or updating, or reviewing, or anything of the sort. Well, now I'm back, and I'll try to be a more diligent writer.

I'm enjoying my job at the bookstore. I've had my share of long, eight-hour shifts - and the fact that I still look forward to going to work is proof enough that I'll be able to handle this job for the long-run. I've already been rewarded for my superb membership-selling skills twice, and in three weeks I've already made more than a quarter of what I earned working at the movie theatre for two and half months.

I finished Prep, by Curtis Sittenfeld. It was not what I expected - it was more than I expected. It was very introspective, and the hero of the story, Lee Fiora is the type of person whose adventures related to me very closely. She is a scholarship student at Ault Preperatory School, and she finds that going to a boarding school was not even close to what she expected. She finds herself isolated, and is always worrying about every little move and decision she makes and what people might think about it - even though, as it turns out, not many people care. I've felt that way in high school - and while there were many parts of this novel that I didn't enjoy, there was a lot that I sympathized with, that I personally understand that Curtis Sittenfeld was able to describe so aptly.

Now, I've started reading Fitzpatrick's War, and it's off to a very good start - it's written like a pseudomemoir recovered by a scholar from the future, who makes a great deal of humorous footnotes.

Also, I've become involved with an internet writing project. My other efforts have stalled, for the most part - the main reason of that being laziness. Writing under a deadline, or at least for the scrutiny of large amounts of people, might inspire me to be more productive then I usually am. The internet project is located on the messageboards of, and it's a Virtual Season to coincide with the actual first season of Heroes, which premieres on NBC this fall. The premise of Heroes is that a small group of people spread out over the US suddenly develop superpowers - flight, foresight, magic mirror powers, etc. Well, for this project, each participant creates their own character and proceeds to write a script detailing their particular storyline in the Heroes mythos. I think it will be good - I'll be able to share my writing with people who share my interests, and I'll have the opportunity to try my hand at screenwriting, as all of our contributions will be in script format. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

New Books!

As you can probably tell - my reading list has been interrupted by a new shipment of books for review, for The Green Man Review. Goodies! The pile of "books to be read" is getting so large (or tall, more accurately, as I stack them on my desk to provide visual encouragement to read faster) that I despair of ever finding the time to read them all, or to ever have the opportunity to make use of my bookstore's Books on Loan perk.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

It's Official! I Love My Job!

It's true!

I know what you may be thinking - oh, she's just started, she's liked all her jobs at the beginning, it'll only be a matter of time before she quits for the summer and blogs a hilarious "Things I Hate About the Customers at [My Job]" post. Well, that could be true, I suppose - but for now I am revelling in the glow of enjoyment I get from my employment (see that? I'm so happy I'm rhyming!).

For one thing, the store has a wonderful manager and a small, tightly-knit staff. The small staff is probably going to be actually beneficial for me - according to one of my coworkers, this means I'll be trained in everything, whereas in the bigger bookstores I'd only be trained in specific tasks. So, I'll be getting a more well-rounded training at this store.

I like it. It's quiet, and the customers are (for the most part) great. I like merchandising the books (a fancy word for "arranging them in pretty ways on the shelves"), and stocking out ("putting books on shelves"), and selling the books - we have a very cool, up-to-date computer till that makes everything very easy and fun to use.

Oh yeah, and did I mention the fact that I'm VERY GOOD at my job? All my other jobs were kind of banal - take the order, sling the popcorn, fry the fries, rip the tickets. Not a lot of room for improvisation. At the Bookstore, though, I've found I possess a near-miraculous talent at selling Membership cards. You know - those cards that give customers discounts on books in the store.

When I first arrived at the job, I was told that everyone had a quota to make regarding the number of Memberships they sold or renewed. On the day's Task Diary, beside the person's name would be a dollar amount of memberships that they had to sell. It usually came to about one Membership a day, but my coworkers said it was usually expected to be only two a week. Now, I was worried about this. It wasn't commission or anything, but it was a quota I would have to meet by SELLING it to customers. That meant I had to up my personal communication and social skills and sell people something very specific, instead of just suggesting books for them.

However, just like my fear of my Japanese classes that turned out to be extraordinarily easy, I appear to have an almost supernatural ability to sell Memberships, record amounts of them. Yesterday, I sold seven Memberships! In one day! A few days ago, as it happens, the VP of our Bookstore paid a visit to our branch in order to do an inspection, since our branch has been having great progress and tip-top sales despite being small and sharing a mall with a larger bookstore at the other end. And my manager complimented me to the VP on my great membership sales, and the VP also complimented me on the way I engaged customers.

My sales have resulted in me getting rewards at work, which is great, but I feel just a little nervous because I have no idea what I'm doing better than anyone else to get the Memberships, especially considering I've only been working here for a week. Yesterday, I tried to tell the Manager that I had no idea how I've managed to sell so well, but was interrupted when a few more customers came in, and I ended up selling two more memberships right in front of the Manager! -_-;; She laughed and said, "You should be teaching us!" or something to that effect, but I only felt embarassed, because I wouldn't know what to teach!

Anyway though, I'm come through several long shifts with a smile on my face. I spent the whole day at a job, and I've left it still happy about my job, and not dreading the next time I'd have to go and do it - unlike my jobs at the movie theatre and McDonald's. The only hitch in my whole plan was that my feet hurt like HELL during the eight-hour shifts. I wore these really comfortable heels. They hurt a little on a shorter shifts, but I just figured that was because I hadn't stood up for so long since working at the theatre a year ago.

Turns out, though, that spending eight hours with the majority of my considerable weight on the balls of my feet is almost enough to give me a stress fracture. Which means, I'm going to have to clean off my theatre all-black sneakers and give those a go instead. However, for now that is the ONLY hitch in my otherwise fantasic job.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

"Crown of Stars", by Kate Elliott. B-

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This is an interesting review in that half of what I find disappointing about this novel, I'm not sure whether it's because they were oversights on the author's part, or because I've forgotten something that's happened in previous books. It's been a while since I read the first five books of the Crown of Stars series, I remember the main plot points, but some of the tinier details do continue to escape me.

Either way, here goes - and as a warning: if you haven't read the first five books, go out and do so before reading this review, or else read on and be spoiled, or confused, because I don't have the space to explain every last detail to newcomers.

Anyhoo - continuing on. In the final novel, things come to a head. Sanglant and his army, Conrad and Sabella and their army, Stronghand and his warband, the evil Hugh of Austra all come to meet by the city of Kassel. Battle will be joined, and at long last the throne of Wendar will be decided. Allow me to list the things that disappointed me in this book:

1. What happened to the elf-like Ashioi? Under the banner of the new, warlike Feather Cloak (who happens to be Sanglant's mother), they have decided to wage a war of annihilation against mankind in retribution for all that they have suffered over the centuries. The Church of mankind doesn't like the Ashioi any better. However, after one Ashioi warcamp is decimated by Hugh's weather spells, their rampage is cut short. No more war parties, no more attacking with poisoned arrows and attempting to blame it on King Sanglant. I couldn't understand what made it stop so suddenly.

2. What happens to Queen Adelheid? She married Henry, plotted to have him controlled by a daimone (with Hugh's help), then moved to the background after Henry died and Sanglant claimed the crown. In the first half of the book, she's plotting to gather forces to her aid in order to press her claim and the claim of her children, but after she and her new husband kill the Biscop Antonia (which is, by the way = YAY!), she also abruptly vanishes as a threat.

3. A lot of the revelations that people have have no corporeal proof to support them, and are imparted by visions that, to me, seemed out of the blue. For instance, the idea of the Phoenix, of their religion's Redemption of Daisane (aka Jesus), is decided to be th real thing, without so large a religious debate, even though there's not a lot of proof on it. Same thing for the creatures - like lions - that just drop random objects at certain characters' feet, giving them visions about the truth about their ancestry or some such tidbid of information.

4. We never find out who, or what, Alain is. He's something special - perhaps even supernatural, given the way people react to him. He begins as a flawed, but pure-hearted character, but merges in these last two books into a kind of resigned, sad saint. The end of the book suggests that he spends his days wandering around like a kind of medieval superhero, righting wrongs and fighting injustice with kindness. Hmmm...also - the concept that the Lady of Battles (who started Alain on his journey in the first place) turns out to be Satan came WAY out of the blue for me. I thought she was a good guy! When did that change?

Still, the ending wasn't completely unsatisfactory. Happy endings were doled out all around, and the final chapter jumps ahead an astonishing forty years to show us a brief glimpse of how the children and grandchildren of the main characters are getting by in the new world order. The characters are the reason this book didn't get a C. Kate Elliott rights really well, and I enjoyed reading the book despite the number of questions and loose ends I was left with.