Joining James Clyde’s Adventure

“James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra” is a fast-paced fantasy adventure novel that will keep you engaged from start to finish.

James Clyde is not your typical 11-year-old. His obscure past is full of mystery. James’ grandfather, Wilmore, left James as a newborn at a children’s home.  He was later adopted by Ann Brown along with his friends (and partners in adventure) Ben and Mary.

Although Wilmore left James mysteriously, he looks forward to spending each Christmas with him—Ben and Mary also find Wilmore to be a strange character.  Little do they know that this Christmas will be one of the greatest adventures of their lives. When an ill-intentioned man persues James—he learns about his true identity as the chase leads them to Orchestra.  Orchestra is a majestic, fantasy-world in which James feels “invincible” and “he feared nobody.”  He describes Orchestra “as though he had entered a beautiful painting and was enjoying at first hand the wonderful use of Colour.”As he finds his place in the kingdom and fulfills his role in saving it—James falls in love with Orchestra and feels at home, although he is in danger.

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This story will appeal to all who root for the underdog; and who doesn’t?  It really is a page-turner while the palaces, magic, royalty, and battles hold your interest.  The short chapters make it easy for readers to remain glued to the story to discover what will happen next. Colm McElwain carefully crafted each chapter to reveal new insights to keep the story moving.

Every character has a story to tell. I like James’ character development growing from someone who doubts himself to a young man determined to fulfill his mission. Ben and Mary were both entertaining in their own way, as cool sidekicks that pick up the slack where James lacks. Ben’s pessimism was balanced by Mary’s optimism. Wilmore’s dedication to protecting James was a crucial part in building his own back story. The villains were cunning, relentless, and vicious. The malevolent Queen Abigail of Darken, her sorcerer, and her renegade right-hand man made James’ journey every bit intense and challenging.

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This novel is a treat for adventure-seeking readers within the young adult crowd. Reminiscent of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, this novel is embedded with lessons on loyalty, friendship, honor, love, and sacrifice. I’m looking forward to the next addition in the series, the journey of James Clyde is definitely far from over. I’ve read a lot of young adult books and I must say that this is one of the best in my list. It has the perfect balance of fun and suspense, making it a real treat!

Overall this is a very fun read; I really do hope that book two is in the pipeline!

Working with a Legend

Working with a Legend

Not everyone gets to work with an icon. And not everyone gets to work with a business icon who doesn’t act like one. I was a twenty-year-old fresh grad when I first met National Book Store’s matriarch Mrs. Socorro Ramos or “Nanay Coring” as we fondly call her. She was around 80 years old back then. I didn’t know what to expect from the founder of the country’s leading bookstore. I was pleasantly surprised to see a tall charming old lady who sauntered her way into our department, carrying with her a warm yet commanding presence.

Nanay Coring

Nanay Coring

During my first meeting with her, I knew that I wanted another grandmother. She was beyond nice and extraordinarily humble. She laughed heartily, even playfully nudging me once in a while during meetings. 🙂 She had no pretentions, serving others first before serving herself. I remember that every time we had a meeting, merienda would be served. She would give the mamon or burger first to the rest of us, distributing it quickly before getting her share. Little did she know that small gestures like that leave a huge impact in the people she worked with.

I was introduced to her as the new girl in-charge of the books for Powerbooks branches. Like any granny, there were times when she remembered my name and there were times when she simply called me “the little girl.” She taught me the secrets of the trade—how to negotiate and how to always end up in a win-win deal. I learned by example, watching her talk to foreign publishers with respect coupled with her natural charm and spontaneity. Publishers gave into whatever she asked without much effort from her. She was every bit sincere and irresistible. 🙂

First pic with Nanay Coring after nine years in the book industry!

First pic with Nanay Coring after nine years in the book industry!

With every presentation, she showed genuine interest and asked questions. She was an engaging listener and communicator. She is naturally generous and thoughtful. She gave gifts to every visiting publisher and even noted their favorite food or fruit! I remember this one US publisher who loves our mangoes. Every time he visited, huge ripe mangoes would be served (much to my delight because I love mangoes, too! Haha!).

When I celebrated my 22nd birthday, I brought food for our department and gave her some. I didn’t know she was coming to the office that day but I was secretly happy that she did. It made my day extra special. 🙂 Much to my surprise, she called me in the conference room, asked me to sit down, and gave me a gift! I will never forget that day. 🙂 I wanted to hug her but I was too shy to do so. I guess my body language betrayed me and it prompted Nanay Coring to give me a beso and a hug. I never felt kilig in receiving a lola hug ever except from her!

One of my favorite moments with her involved listening to her stories from World War II (my own lovable granny will narrate war stories to me, too!). She would share how business was difficult, how she strived and thrived, and eventually became successful. Even though she would tell this story repeatedly, I never grew tired of it. Her animated eyes and gestures made each retelling new to me. I also enjoyed listening to her conversations with publishers as they recalled how they used to do business back in Rizal Avenue with their feet soaked in knee-deep flood.

First National Book Store

First National Book Store

I also witnessed some of the cute quirkiness of Nanay Coring. She had this penchant for repeatedly eating something that she recently liked. There was a time when she grew fond of coffee crumble ice cream. So for months, we had coffee crumble during our afternoon meetings. Then came bibingka and so it was bibingka bonanza for weeks! Then came Jollibee hamburger (not even cheeseburger just the plain one) which she found really delicious and we had it for weeks as well. I’m not sure if she still has these cravings up to now because I haven’t been in a meeting with her in a long while. Nonetheless, that was really cute of her to saturate herself with her newly discovered food until she grew tired of it. 🙂

Nanay Coring lived by example and because she walked her talk, I saw the influence she made directly to her family. When I worked with two of her grandchildren I saw the ripple effect of her kindness and humility in them. I had a privilege of working with Gabby full-time in Powerbooks for four years and with Trina as a book consultant for five years now. Trina, my boss, doesn’t act like a boss. She works as a team player. She knows how to handle her people in a way that unites them together. I admire her the way I admire her grandmother. She is also a servant leader much like Nanay Coring. 🙂

With Ms. Trina and my friend Bea

With Ms. Trina and my friend Bea

I have to mention that Nanay Coring’s dedication to her work is unbelievable. She still goes to work full of energy at 90 years old. She reads the newspaper from cover to cover to keep her updated. One time she shared to me that she wakes up around 2:00am just to watch the news. It’s amazing how she can even keep up with the fast pace of the retail industry!

I also learned that for her, owning National Book Store is not just a mere business. It is also her way of making books accessible to every Filipino. I will never forget her answer to one foreign publisher when she was asked why she had to ask for huge discounts. With much conviction she said, “I want our books to have the most affordable price so that Filipinos can buy them.” She would go on to say that books are not really part of a Filipino family’s basic needs since we are a third world country. If books are expensive, people won’t buy it all the more. She believed that with the best price, people will still buy books and be encouraged to read.

The matriarch of the country's national book store.

The matriarch of the country’s national book store.

Behind the more than 140 stores you see all over the country is a matriarch with a big heart. I’ve been with her in several branch visits before and I saw how she talked to the sales personnel. She didn’t limit herself talking only to managers, she talks to everyone. She’s the type who would randomly ask how you’re doing when she passed by your table. In a survey done some time ago, customers said that they perceive National Book Store as a reliable store. It was even compared to a mother and a grandmother who is able to provide what they need at any given time. I would like to think that the way Nanay Coring nurtured the growth of her business had something to do with that perception. Like any mom or lola she wants to provide everything her children need. I guess that translates to her customers as well. She wants to have every book, paper, pen—anything we need to be available in her store.

Nanay Coring's 90th birthday

Nanay Coring’s 90th birthday

This year is a remarkable year for Nanay Coring as she celebrated her 90th birthday and the 70th anniversary of National Book Store. She deserves every blessing she’s receiving right now. It is my prayer that God will grant her more years because she inspires so many people, including myself. Through her, I saw that rags-to-riches stories are true. Through her, I learned that you don’t need a college degree to be successful. Through her, I learned that little acts of kindness to your co-workers go a long way. Through her, I fell in love with books even more.

I saw her recently in a store opening, had a short chat with her, and saw once again how she can light up a room with her presence. I am beyond grateful that God allowed me to work with someone like her. It’s a great blessing to learn from the best. Nanay Coring is a living legend in the truest sense of the word and I have to say the most adorable one at that. 🙂

Nanay Coring book

Nanay Coring book

Two Noteworthy Young Adult Books

As a reader, I am easily drawn to teen characters because they remind me so much of myself when I was younger. The stubbornness which can either bring out the best or the worst in you, the innocence that shows your naivety, and the courage that comes from a young spirit that knows very little fear or none at all.

I recently read two compelling young adult novels. One is “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs and the other one is “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green. The former is magical and quite disturbing while the latter is realistic and surprisingly humorous albeit dealing with a serious topic. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that these two authors have been best friends for a long time! Talk about kindred spirits! Now I’m more excited to share with you these two remarkable books! 🙂

The Story of the Peculiar Children

In “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”, author Ransom Riggs created a world where children with special abilities were kept safe in another part of the world. This is the story of 16-year-old Jacob and his search for the real cause of his grandfather’s death. His pursuit led him to an abandoned orphanage on a Welsh island where a door to another realm is found. Here he discovered children with extraordinary abilities. It was then when he realized that the childhood stories that his grandfather told him were all true. The disturbing part of this book was the vintage photographs of the children. It really gave the necessary plausible factor of the enigmatic orphanage.

With elements of fantasy, mystery, and adventure combined, readers will be engaged in this eerie world of the uncanny. A sequel is currently in the pipeline and the movie adaptation of this book will be shown in 2013 with Tim Burton directing it and Jane Goldman writing the screenplay. 🙂

Love and Death with a Dash of Humor

Award-winning author John Green tackled tragedy with a touch of comedy in “The Fault in Our Stars”. Everything about this novel was bold, raw, and intense. The story is about Hazel, a 16-year-old thyroid cancer patient whose life was only extended through the help of an “experimental drug”. Since the drug was still on its testing phase, her recovery was uncertain and a relapse was likely to happen anytime.

When her parents saw that she was suffering from depression, they forced her to attend a cancer support group where she met Augustus. Gus was on remission although his leg had to be amputated due to Osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. Drowning in uncertainty, these two brave souls tried to keep themselves afloat with the only lifesaver they know—their love for each other. To give you a preview of how beautifully written this novel was, let me share with you this quote.

“I can’t talk about our love story, so I will talk about math. I am not a mathematician, but I know this: There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. A writer we used to like taught us that. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I’m likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”

Hazel, from John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars”

I’ve never been moved by a quote I read in a book in a long while. I had to stop and read this over and over again to savor the poignant words of a lover fighting for whatever time she had left with her beloved. But this is not your typical Romeo and Juliet story. It’s a story of survival and courage in a battle where no one knows who will emerge victorious. Aside from the prolific dialogues, humor was another gem I found in this novel. I’ve never read a tragedy blend so well with the brilliant sarcasm and comical wit of the characters. Just when I was almost moved to tears, one character blurts out something funny that would throw me completely off guard. Reading this novel was quite an emotional ride and I loved every part of it. 🙂

So, what are you waiting for?! Hit the shelves and reward yourself with these two great books! 🙂