The Story of One Girl and a $25 Gift Card

I have one of those credit cards that allows you to earn points which can, when accumulated, be exchanged for a paltry amount of cash or, more likely, a gift card.  It amazes me that for 2500ish points (which equates to $2500 in charges) you can elect to receive a mere $12.50 in check form, or a $25 gift card. I'm sure there are financial advisors who would tell you to turn that $12.50 right around and pay off some of the credit card debt, but come on. I tell myself that I am helping the economy when I click the little button requesting the gift card. Which is exactly what I did a little over 10 days ago.

Happily, yesterday, I received my $25 gift card in the mail, and I went shopping (at Barnes & Noble).  Usually it is difficult for me to decide what book warrants a trip home with me, but this time I wasn't really feeling the need to ferret out the perfect book.  I went through the motions, checking in with the New Fiction shelves first, then the bargain books, even sweeping (quickly) through the teen section.  I did end up with two books by the time I was finished (and a third when passing by the bargains). One of the books just got added to the Book Cover Gallery earlier this week.

So, from the New Fiction section I nabbed Villain by Shuichi Yoshida, an award winning Japanese writer. This is Yoshida's first novel translated into English. The cover is striking; a black background with a collection of skeletal bones arranged in the shape of a gun. Quite well designed (although the spine and inside covers are day-glow yellow, which I could do without). With the first sentence, "Route 263 runs north and south some forty-eight kilometers, connecting Fukuoka and Saga Prefectures and straddling Mitsuse Pass in the Sefuri Mountain range," Yoshida creates not only a setting but introduces a geographical character. Mitsuse Pass, famous and infamous for its robbers and ghosts, becomes not just the setting for a murder, but also a character that could easily be the murderer. I spent most of my time at the store, reading this book. The initial pace seems slow and steady, as Yoshida introduces the characters, but he throws in juicy morsels every now and then like, "She had no idea that this was the last time she'd ever talk with her parents."

From one of the display tables at the front of the store (over an arguing couple), I spotted Helen Grant's The Vanishing of Katharina Linden. Also a lovely cover (see the Cover Gallery). This is Grant's debut novel, published first in the UK (Penguin, 2009), and has garnered lots of praise.  The story, dubbed by Publisher's Weekly as a "charming horror novel," follows 10 year old Pia and her only friend "Stink Stefan" as they try to figure out who (or what) is kidnapping young girls in her small German town.  First sentence: "My life might have been so different, had I not been known as the girl whose grandmother exploded." Just sort of grabs you from word one. I can't wait to read this one.

And from the bargain section, because I just couldn't help it, Larry McMurtry's memoir Books, in which he writes "about his endless passion for books." The cover (which some people in my household do not like) is a color photograph of floor to ceiling bookshelves, filled with books. So you can see why, for the bargain price of $5.38, I HAD to get it. I mean, it's a writer writing about collecting BOOKS! First sentence: "I don't remember either of my parents ever reading me a story - perhaps that's why I've made up so many." To be truthful, I've never read a story by McMurtry (although I shelved plenty of his books when working at the library).

The overall cost exceeded my $25 (by almost double), but when it comes right down to it, I got three books for just under $8 each (not bad).  As excited as I am to start reading, I have about twelve books ahead of them in the queue. So stay tuned to the continuing saga of one girl and her ever-growing mound of books... (reviews to come).

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