Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Age of the Coupon

The western world is sailing in turbulent economic waters. The salaries are going down, jobs are lost, the poor are getting poorer, and the rich are not getting richer as fast as they used to. Sometimes it’s really difficult to make ends meet, not to mention buying something or some things that are necessary for one’s home. And that’s exactly why I’ve decided to title this article The Age of the Coupon.

Coupons of course are nothing new; you could see them around for decades now; on products’ packages, on advertising material, in newspapers and magazines; and they, as much as everything else nowadays, have also taken a fancy to the internet.

At the beginning not many people would feed their buying habits with them. In the old days you could go to a supermarket or a mall, and watch elderly people using them or the very poor, but the middle-class people mostly shied away from them, as if they would get stigmatized if they were seen making a transaction with them. During the last few years though, things have changed dramatically. The recession have bitten people badly and they had to find ways to save money to make their lives a little bit easier; so as unlikely that would seem a few years ago, they started using coupons, if not for any reason because they could find them everywhere.

Now, most coupons have a short life span, but others don’t. In either case, their use is nowadays a must, whether you’re buying in person or through the internet. You know how people say that one should enjoy the finer things in life every now and then? Well, coupons do well when it comes to serving that purpose, whatever your vice may be. If you would like a new gadget or DVD box set, a new mobile phone or a pair of special gloves, a tablet or even a simple cap, coupons can help you realize your dreams without too much economic bleeding.

My own vice is books. I’ve been using Amazon to buy my books for years, especially since there never seemed to be any other alternatives out there, in my part of the world. I remember how I longed for the big packages to be delivered with my books neatly settled inside them; what a joy it was to get a new volume in my hands! But now I, just as much as the times, have changed. I’ve entered the electronic age, and, even though I hate to admit it, I’ve never looked back. The e-books come cheap and fast, and they can find me everywhere. And what’s even better is that they can come in cheaper yet, thanks to the coupons.

But of course the coupons can benefit you just as much, or even more, as they do me. My needs may be very specific but yours could be varied and demand a large amount of money; money that these days is hard to come by. I know people that spend a lot of time in the internet looking for bargains, whether they’re furnishing a home or buying an mp4player, whether they’re movie freaks or pure music fans. These are the people that could benefit the most from the digital coupon explosion. And if they don’t know where to look to find what they need, they should worry no more, since now there are websites created and operated exactly for this purpose. One of the best out there is Promo Code 4 Share which collects, among other things, the best offers that Amazon has to offer and serves them hot on your plate. Thanks to websites like this shopping, despite the economic meltdown, can still be a little bit fun, and interesting as well, since the coupon hunters can find in there, if they search hard enough, products that will surely meet their needs.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Book Review: Inca Trails by Martin Li

Sometimes reading a travel book can be an exhilarating experience; it doesn’t happen very often but when it does it can make your day. I have read many books of this genre in the past, since I’ve been a traveller for more than twenty-five years now, but none gave me such pleasure as Martin Li’s Inca Trails.

What I mostly liked about this book is the fact that it’s not a travel guide, but rather a travelogue. The author set out on a journey across Bolivia and Peru to retrace the ancient paths of the Incas, and during it he came to meet a lot of interesting characters, adopt a mule called Coco, taste the local cuisine, spent the nights out in the open or in dreadful lodges, and find his way across the land on packed-up buses.

Li does not, at any point, try to impress the reader, and he doesn’t seem to care if the people think that he’s brave or a coward; all he cares about is the journey, the stories he learns, and the new memories that form in his head day in day out. The people he meets, we meet as well, as he describes every character that has an important role to play in the narration in detail; the landscapes that capture his gaze, also capture ours, through his words and pictures. His journey is far from easy, but the way he describes it makes it sound so.

If I were a TV producer I’d use this book to film a series of documentaries that talk about the lands the author visited and the people he encountered, and I’d have someone narrate the history lessons he delivers as well, since this is one of those special books that can offer learning, adventure and bits and pieces of fun at the same time. I’d highly recommend it to everyone who’s not only interested in travelling, but also history and ancient civilizations.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Women's Prize for Fiction Longlist

The Women's Prize for Fiction (ex-Orange) longlist has been announced last night. Twenty books will compete for the prize which will be awarded in June. The longlisted titles are:

Kitty Aldridge - A Trick I Learned From Dead Men

Kate Atkinson - Life After Life

Ros Barber - The Marlowe Papers

Shani Boianjiu - The People of Forever are Not Afraid

Gillian Flynn - Gone Girl (Book review here)

Sheila Heti - How Should A Person Be?

AM Homes - May We Be Forgiven

Barbara Kingsolver - Flight Behaviour

Deborah Copaken Kogan - The Red Book

Hilary Mantel - Bring Up the Bodies

Bonnie Nadzam - Lamb

Emily Perkins - The Forrests

Michèle Roberts - Ignorance

Francesca Segal - The Innocents

Maria Semple - Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Elif Shafak - Honour

Zadie Smith - NW

ML Stedman - The Light Between Oceans

Carrie Tiffany - Mateship with Birds

G. Willow Wilson - Alif the Unseen

Friday, March 1, 2013

National Book Critics Circle Award Winners for 2012

The National Book Critics Circle Award Winners have been announced early this morning, and I'm not ashamed to say that I haven't been able to read any of these books yet. However, as I'm an avid fiction reader I'd guess that Ben Fountain and his book will get their chance. Anyway, here's the list of the winners:


Ben Fountain - Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk


Andrew Solomon - Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity


Leanne Shapton - Swimming Studies


Marina Warner - Stranger Magic


Robert Caro - The Passage of Power 


D.A. Powell - Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys