January 8, 2012

The Reading Files - Come away with me

I started into the new year with zombies chasing me ... alright, maybe not real zombies, and I haven't been running much either, yet I've managed to read five books within five days, so it seems like the book fairies put a spell on me! Oddly enough I haven't been reading any horror/fantasy/paranormal stuff which might explain why I mention both zombies and fairies in this intro.
Anyway, after Day Five I went on a short reading hiatus, spending two days typing away as if a hoard of ... so I spent those days writing instead of reading. Got a head start with my reading anyway, and no one died of spending their days writing only. Of course it would put an interesting perspective to this blog post if yours truly was poltergeisting around on the keyboard. Long story short - here's what I read this week!

A Week At The Airport (Alain De Botton)
Source: bought used
Genre: Non Fiction / Travel / Philosophy

In the summer of 2009, Alain de Botton will be invited by the owners of Heathrow airport to become their first ever Writer in Residence. He will be installed in the middle of Terminal 5 on a raised platform with a laptop connected to screens, enabling passengers to see what he is writing and to come and share their stories. He will meet travellers from around the world, and will be given unprecedented access to wander the airport and speak with everyone from window cleaners and baggage handlers to air traffic controllers and cabin crew. Working with the renowned documentary photographer Richard Baker, de Botton will produce an extraordinary meditation upon the nature of place, time, and our daily lives. He will explore the magical and the mundane, personal and collective experiences and the interactions of travellers and workers all over this familiar but mysterious site. Like all airports, Heathrow (the 15th century village of Heath Row lies beneath the short stay car park) is a 'non-place' that we by definition want to leave, but it also provides a window into many worlds - through the thousands of people it dispatches every day. "A Week at the Airport" is sure to delight de Botton's large following, and anyone interested in the stories behind the way we live.

Title & Cover: *stifling a yawn*
Story: An impressionistic and philosophical contemplation on the nature of travel!
Narrative: Wonderful and unexpected! As delicious as a rich chocolate cake!
Characters: The author shares his literary - sometimes serious, often amusing, always dramatic - view on the individuals he meets.
Thoughts: I never liked airports. Especially Heathrow! Now I've come to the understanding that actually it's the flights that I detest. People watching at the airport? Count me in!

Checkout (Anna Sam)
Source: bought used
Genre: Non Fiction / Memoir / Humor

Can you scan 800 barcodes an hour? Can you smile and say thanks 500 times a day? Do you never need to go to the toilet? Then working at a supermarket checkout could be just the job for you. Anna Sam spent 8 years as a checkout girl. Checkout - A Life on the Tills is a witty look at what it s really like to work in a supermarket: the relentless grind and less-than-perfect working conditions, along with people-watching and encounters with every kind of customer from the bizarre to the downright rude. Sam's story has won her fans all over Europe, turning Checkout A Life on the Tills into a huge international bestseller, published in 10 languages.

Title & Cover: Like a 5 year old's art class project. I've seen worse though!
Story: Checkout girl shares it all - from annoying buyers to malfunctioning conveyor belts. Nice (or pathetic?) touch how she mentioned on the last page that now her book would be sold in supermarkets too.
Narrative: Pretty much fits the cover!
Characters: I'm sure the folks she met sitting at that till were quite, uhm, colorful ... not as though she really brought that point across.
Thoughts: A very light read, and that's putting it mildly! If you want a really hilarious and well written book on the topic, go for Retail Hell (Freeman Hall) or Malled (Kelly Caitlin).

The Secret Shopper's Revenge (Kate Harrison)
#1 Secret Shopper Series
Source: bought used
Genre: Chick-lit

New mum Emily wants revenge on the stick-thin assistants who laugh at her post-baby tummy and post-baby budget. But frumpiness has its advantages when you're wielding a secret camera - and sending the damning footage straight to head office. Store manager Sandie has a lifelong love of the world of retail - the glitz, the glamour, the stockroom. Then she's fitted up by an ambitious assistant and secret shopping is the only way to keep her one passion alive. Glamorous widow Grazia can't leave behind the high life, despite her chronically low bank balance. The more she's buying - and spying - the less time she has to mourn her husband or her fair-weather friends who've dumped her. They're Charlie's Shopping Angels, controlled by a mysterious figure who sends them assignments. But when they're sent to stitch up a doomed shop owned by Will, the angels begin to feel divided loyalties . . .

Title & Cover: I kinda like that pink glittery ribbon thingy, but the dotted blue background? Yikes!
Story: Three women, each with their own struggles, find themselves as Charlie's Shopping Angels, and soon enough, as friends too.
Narrative: The story is being told from three angles/POVs which works well in bringing out the individual characters.
Characters: They're all as different as they get, my favorite being down-to-Earth Sandie. The chemistry in their friendship is ok, but I've read better.
Thoughts: A light and fun read! Certainly not all that deep, but definitely entertaining!

The Secret Shopper Unwrapped (Kate Harrison)
#2 Secret Shopper Series
Source: bought used
Genre: Chick-lit

Christmas is coming, and while the bells are ringing, the tills aren't. But Sandie - the rising star of the retail spying world - is busier than ever, rooting out the best and worst in festive customer care through her company. The former Charlie's Shopping Angels are helping out, too. Glamorous widow Grazia is going undercover under the duvet at boutique hotels, in between dating a succession of toyboys and trying to remember which lie she's told about her age. Meanwhile, not-quite-yummy mummy Emily investigates the child-friendliness of the high street with the help of three-year-old Freddie, when she's not working flat out with her partner to save their fledging village shop from the un-festive credit crunch. The shoppers are back, but is the happiness they've worked so hard for, about to disappear faster than a Louis Vuitton handbag in the Harrod's sale?

Title & Cover: Now that cover's more like it (especially compared to the one of the first book in the series) - simple yet wonderfully Christmassy!
Story: The three secret shoppers are back, this time though a fourth girl is thrown into the mix as well. And Charlie's back with a vengeance!
Narrative: Instead of three POVs there are now four in this second book in the series, which is a tad too much for my taste, but oh well!
Characters: There is more of an emphasis on Sandie and the new girl Kelly. Admittedly that was alright by me seeing how Sandie turned out to be my fav character already in the first book.
Thoughts: It's good as far as sequels go, yet I would have wished for more secret shopping and less "personal problems", but that's just me.

Dispatches From Bitter America (Todd Starnes)
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Non Fiction / Journalism / Politics

FOX News Radio reporter Todd Starnes is a self-professed “gun toting, chicken eating son of a Baptist” whose Dispatches from Bitter America is “a collection of stories from my travels across this country (and) conversations I’ve had with regular folks who have deep concerns about the direction we are going as a nation.”
In his award-winning, satire-meets-serious writing style, Starnes jumps headfirst into the current culture war, taking on the topics that are dear to every American: religion, health care, freedom, country music, barbeque, and so forth. Along the way, he shares exclusive interviews with political commentator Bill O’Reilly, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, cooking sensation Paula Deen, and pop singer Amy Grant, always hoping to go from bitter to better.

Title & Cover: That must be the best about the book! No joking!
Story: Mr Starnes and a whole lot of other "bitter Americans" against pretty much everything that's going on in the government courtesy to the 44th President of the USA.
Narrative: He's being described as a mix of Paul Harvey, Lewis Grizzard and Erma Bombeck. I love Erma! And this comparison really hurts.
Characters: Americans. Bitter ones. With guns. You get the idea.
Thoughts: Honestly? After reading the book and checking out Todd Starnes' Facebook page I wasn't surprised he "likes" Sarah Palin. Let's just say, if you like Sarah Palin, you'll like that book too! What am I saying? You'll probably put this book next to your Bible!!

Today I'll get started on my next book, a chunkster for my Tea & Books Reading Challenge. Seeing how many pages I read in total this week, I should be able to plow through The Passage (Justin Cronin) by the end of next week. May the book fairies be with me and the zombies keeping me on my toes as well! With heavy tomes you need to take any help you can get, right?


  1. I also read a lot these past few days, but I wasn't in the mood for anything else...

  2. Ha, I knew you'd come around to my view of airports. I hate flying as well, but I love airports. His book is great! Thanks again for getting it for me.

  3. It's not airports I hate, it's the hassle involved when you want to fly somewhere. I've always found airports to be great people-watching platforms. It isn't as great now that only ticketed passengers are allowed past security, but it's still fun. Sadly, most times if I'm sitting in an airport with a book in front of me, I'm just using the book to hide the fact that I'm watching everyone else!