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Archive for March 2010

A Boycott on DHL Express Philippines for Delivering Books

I am so pissed. I just need to post this blog out to share to the world how sucky DHL Express Philippines is!

Let me tell you the WHOLE story point by point:

- This March, I won a book giveaway sponsored by a publishing company in the USA.
- I have no clue when the package will be sent as the blog who hosted the giveaway was the one who got my details.
- Last March 26th, said publishing company sent over the book via DHL US.
- Yesterday, March 30th, the book arrived at my home, but guess what? They levied taxes on me. Not just any tax, but a HUGE amount of tax. So huge in fact, that the amount that was supposed to be paid was even larger than the amount of the book that I was to receive.
- Since I was not around to receive the package, our maid was, she was afraid to not pay the customs levy because she thought I might not receive the package.
- When I got home that night, I scoured the bill and lo and behold, I got billed for the following:

Informal Entry Declaration - 30  PHP
VAT for Informal Entry Declaration - 3.60
Import Processing Fee - 250 PHP [What the hell is this? Books aren't supposed to be taxed, right?]
Customs Documentary Stamps - 265 PHP

Now, I am against this taxing of books. Hello? If the Philippine Government doesn't tax me on books, then why should DHL? I received other books from other couriers and no, they don't tax the books either. I got them safe and sound with no extra charges.

So why did DHL Express Philippines tax these books? Are they not aware of the 2009 decree that Arroyo stated?

Calling their call centre, someone tried to explain that every package that is handled by DHL Express Philippines is billed an Import Processing Fee. Come on! Don't give me that BULL! What if I'm a receiver of some important packages, does that mean I have to pay my share of fees too when clearly, the sender has managed to pay them out before you send them???

I am annoyed. I've been contacting their call centres for an hour now and I've received the following feedback:
- Let me forward your phone call to so-and-so. Okay. But then again they are not in the office!
- They put me on hold but then the line was dropped. Hello? Talk about customer service?? You are making me more irate here! I just want an explanation on why these charges are levied, and how did they come to that! I want also a refund if needed if I could prove my point that the package should not have been taxed in the first place!
- I tried calling for the fourth time and they automatically transferred me to the contact person who was out of the office again. Don't they have another manager they could escalate the issue to?

Also, it is clearly stated that the book's unit value price was at $1 from the commercial invoice. So how did their personnel get those computations from above?

It's the Holy Week starting tomorrow and when shall I get a feedback on this case? On Monday? Come on!
I thought that DHL was supposed to be customer oriented and blah blah blah. NOT!

Use other couriers instead. This is definitely not worth your time, effort, money and hassle.

Yes, I am fuming about paying the P500+ thing to this company. Yes, I want a refund if they could score me a refund. If not, then let that be a lesson to me and the maid [will have a LONG chat with her about this later]. If such a thing arises again, I'll refuse to pay them. Hell, I'll let them return the book to the sender. I don't care! This is not right!

Gah. I hate this country's system sometimes!

See more articles below.

See: http://www.quezon.ph/2009/05/04/the-long-view-the-great-book-blockade-of-2009/
This issue has been already discussed in the Great Book Blockade of 2009 and this was already lifted late 2010 as well! Why in the world is DHL not informed that books for personal consumption are supposed to be tax-free? See article dated as of  May 25, 2009 from the Philippine Star:
Source: http://www.philstar.com/article.aspx?articleid=471074&publicationsubcategoryid=63

“President Arroyo ordered the immediate lifting of the customs duty on book importation,” Remonde said in a text message to The STAR.

“The President wants books to be within reach of the common man. She believes reading as an important value for intellectual formation, which is the foundation of a healthy public opinion necessary for a vibrant democracy,” he said.

Remonde said Mrs. Arroyo directed Finance Secretary Margarito Teves to revoke Finance Department Order 17-09 which imposes duty on book importation.

Review: The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King

It was the 1700s, and Emer Morrisey was on the brink of escaping her pirate life with Seanie, her first and true love. But before she could, her archenemy cursed her to live the lives of 100 dogs before being reborn again as a human. It was now the 21st century, and Emer is finally reborn as Saffron. Born with her memories intact, she is the genius of the family and is their hope for the future. However, she has other plans in mind: to turn 18 and sail off to Jamaica to retrieve the treasure she has left behind.

This book is very witty indeed. It successfully blends the historical and the contemporary, and presents a main character who is lovable and funny even though she is quite a bit neurotic at times. Saffron/Emer has this habit of trying to dismember, kill, or do other torturous stuff to people whenever she gets cross or annoyed with them. This is so funny that I can't help laughing! A.S. King has managed to capture the teenage female psyche - lost, rebellious, and well, bratty at times. She has also given us a powerful dose of girl power here. From what we know, most notorious pirates were boys but hey, here comes a girl pirate! Awesome.

At the start of the book, you get the impression that Saffron was just a typical girl. But as you read through the pages, you find out [as I did] that she is very misunderstood and what brought her to her current life was a very, very tumultuous past. From a very young age, she has been through a lot and has been forced to grow up and just be the way she is.  I'm sure if anyone of us had that type of experience, we would also be forced to grow up too. Saffron/Emer has a very strong personality that many of us aspire to have.

I loved the historical elements of the book. They were presented in a manner that intrigues and drives you to google. I googled them and yes, they are historically accurate. The chapters dividing the book were also mixed wonderfully where the contemporary is in one chapter, and a historical/flashback aspect the next, without confusing the reader.

This is a must read. I would never have picked up this book if it wasn't recommended to me and I'm more than happy that it was recommended. A friend of mine who I loaned the book to was asking if this was going be the next movie blockbuster. I just hope it will be, as the concept of the book was utterly awesome.

Published: 2009
Publisher: Flux
Available from: Amazon and perhaps your local booksellers
Read it if: You want something new and exciting!! Very, very good book
Book was acquired from: A.S. King [many many thanks for signing the book + for the other books too]. This was part of Lenore's International Book Bloggers Mentoring Program.
fickle fan/overall rating:

The review above is also featured in Cym Lowell's Book Review Wednesdays.

Review: The First Ever English Olympick Games by Celia Haddon

This non-fiction book is all about the first English Olympics that were supposedly played in 1612 in the Cotswolds. These games promoted camaraderie between the people, instead of them being involved in drinking and causing uprisals throughout the kingdom.

The facts were based mostly on a reference book, "the Annalia Dubrensia", a poetry book commissioned by Robert Dover to celebrate his games, we finally get a glimpse of the first English olympics. Seems like these games were known and enjoyed by the masses, and is more common to the modern olympics of today.

So, what do I think of the book? First off, it was written in a typical non-fiction manner -- quite boring. It's laden with facts that have been repeated several times all over the book and I got the distinct feeling that I was reading something for school, even though I'm not. It feels more like an academic paper too, a project that a student did as part of a school requirement. Nevertheless, the book is quite a good background on these English games. I initially picked it up as an introduction to the upcoming 2012 Olympics but it just left me quite disapppointed.

Published: 2004
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Available from: Amazon
Read it if: You want to do some back reading on the history of the Olympic Games in England.
Book was acquired by: myself. Mooched it from bookmooch.
fickle fan rating: [read more about my rating at my new blog fickle fan

Review: WOW - A Handbook for Living

Wow: A Handbook for Living is a self-help book that teaches you on how to be successful in your daily life. Filled with quotable quotes, cutesy little photos, enumerated steps and space for you to write your thoughts and actions on, the book is designed for you to remember what you have learned from the book and to write down your action points after every step.

Although you have the final say on whether or not you will follow these methodologies as outlined in the book, the authors do insist that you find out your own processes given their guide and master their basic principles to make your life more happy and fulfilled.

Thoughts: I love the presentation of the ideas in the book. I love the photos and all the little notes beside every chapter that summarizes a main thought. Since I have the ARC, I'm not sure if the finished copy would have coloured pages, which would be even better! I would love some colour in these photos! Would I use the book's principles in my life? Well, maybe yes, maybe no. Even before I read the book, I was already using some of the principles outlined in the book. Although not consciously, i think some of these are innate to us, we just don't know how to harness it. This book is just a great reminder to keep doing what I am doing, and for others to also be guided along and recognize those characteristics that are innate to all of us.

Some notable chapters that I love [won't type them all down, it'll be a spoiler then]:
  • "Say it with how instead of why"
  • When you plan for something, set an exact date and record the outcome
  • Where do you see yourself x years from now? 
And so, the summary of my points above:
Published: March 2010 [Paperback]
Publisher: One Peace Books
Available from: everywhere, i think!
Read it if: you need a bit of guidance on how to have a more positive outlook in your life or if going through a tiny bit of a crisis
Book was acquired from: Rebecca from The Cadence Group [Many, many thanks for sending this book over for me to review!]
fickle fan rating: [read more about my fickle fan rating]

This post is also featured at Cym Lowell's Book Review Wednesdays.

In My Mailbox # 12

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren and inspired by Alea of Pop Culture Junkie.  It features bought, borrowed, or received books as well as other cool stuff from the mail. Isn't it fun?

I haven't posted one of these lately, so I thought it's apt that I post again :) 
It's my first time to receive a package as huge as the one below. It was sent over by the lovely author A.S. King and was part of IBBMP [International Book Bloggers Mentoring Program] that Lenore of Presenting Lenore is hosting! Do go over to their site and show them some love! :) 

So, what's in the package? 

1. Sarah Dessen - Along for the Ride
2. The Opposite of Invisible - Liz Gallagher
3. Wish You Were Dead - Todd Strasser
4. The Dust of 100 Dogs - A.S. King [signed]

I am currently reading the Dust of 100 dogs. I started it during my holiday and I'm loving it! Dogs + Fantasy + historical elements + pirates = lots of fun! I would never have thought of picking up this book if it weren't recommended to me! Excellent stuff! I was actually hooked and surprised at the book at the same time. The review should be up before March ends so do watch out for it!

So, what did you get in your mailboxes?

Review: Extravagance by Gary Kirst

It was London during the 1690s. On his quest for his own fortune, William Tobias Merrick travels from his family's country home to live with his uncle in London, where various financial opportunities lay. He then meets his connections -- Ted Witherspoon, a cunning stock broker, Jack Petroni, an assistant to Ted Witherspoon, his two uncles, and several other people along the way. At the same time, William Merrick is also in New York. For some reason, the book happens in two parallel worlds, probably showing the differences or similarities between those times [300 years apart], where there is a tech stock boom, but still the same old story.

Did my synopsis sound confused? Well, I was confused with the story. The parallel setting for me as I was reading the book felt like I hit a wall and I had to retrace my steps again. The characters well dull, one-dimensional and undeveloped. The setting was confusing [I mean, having New York for one and then London for another?]. I mean, it would've been better if there were two parallel time periods shown [1690s and 1990s] but the author concentrated on just one city. But then again, that's just me. What's the saving grace of the book? Hmm... probably the financial part of it. I initially picked up this book because I was interested in the premise where there's two parallel places and time periods and the author is trying to make his mark in the financial world. I never expected it to be presented this way! I was thinking it more of a comparison of sorts. *sigh* I can't complain much now, could I, as I've already read the book and wasted my time on it?

Anyhow, let's just get on with the details and I do apologise - I believe this is the first book I've ever read which has gotten the lowest marks of all. It's currently at the top in the running for worst reads of 2010 and it's just March!

Published: 2003
Publisher: Broadway
Available from: Amazon's Affiliates. I dunno if Amazon really does offer this book too!
Read it if: Uhm.. I would say don't read it at all but if you want to try it then feel free to do so!
Book was acquired by: myself. Bought it in a used bookstore for $0.50. And it's a good thing I bought it for dirt cheap too, otherwise I would've wasted both my time and my money for it!
fickle fan rating: [read more about my rating at my new blog fickle fan.

Tag : ,

Review: Percy Jackson & The Olympians- The Lightning Thief

Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school. Again. Seems like this kid has been going through boarding school after boarding school year after year, causing trouble that he did not mean to do to other students. Every year, strange things have been happening to Percy, not that he takes special attention to it, though. Until one year, he realizes that his best friend is a satyr, his mother was taken hostage in the underworld, his father is one of the Olympians, and he finds out he's a demigod with a quest to fulfill. Everything changes for Percy: from a normal pre-teen boy with dyslexia, he has to step up and try to save the Western civilization from utter chaos by finding the thief who stole Zeus' master bolt.

Thoughts - I loooove to read and plus plus points await those books that will make me want to learn new stuff: to make me spend hours on end on Wikipedia or Google, trying to find out more about a specific topic. This book was definitely a good start: it made me interested in Greek mythology again! Let's see.. the last time I read something about Greek mythology, I was in seventh grade and we need it for school. Now, I want to dive for Bufinch's mythology and re-read it! Good thing my parents bought me a hardcover book -- it literally lasts so much longer!

Anyway, the way Rick Riordan writes about the gods makes me feel as if they are alive, walking around earth and not just names from myths, legends, and lore. He also writes about these characters in such an unconventional way -- I love the fact that he doesn't portray Hades as a bad guy. In fact, Rick Riordan never really portrays any of the gods as bad people, just moody little beings. After all, these gods have every right to. They rule the earth, right? The characters are also smart, witty, funny and three-dimensional [well, except for Smelly Gabe for me. Gosh, I hate him!]

The book is written in a humorous way to make the subject light while keeping the readers interested in the facts that the author is churning on about. Dang, now I wish these books had been written when I was a young adult. It'll make me remember more about these Olympians, quite useful if you have an exam or something! He even provides codes for you to remember the gods names alone - ie the formation of the gods in Olympus and in Camp Half-Blood, as well as numbers for each of the gods. Ingenius.

This novel is very, very excellent. Good start for the rest of the series. It kept me hooked! And yes, I want to read the next novel, but will probably get a copy when I find one on sale. The cheapskate in me strikes again [then again, I have a bazillion interests to fund too].

So, is this the next Harry Potter series? Maybe. Maybe not, but Riordan certainly provided a breath of fresh air to an otherwise aging lore!  This is very much worth your time and effort so do read it. The book isn't like the movie, don't be fooled!

And so, on to the rating & information:
Published: 2005  
Publisher:  Disney Hyperion
Available from: your local bookstore everywhere, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, maybe even your local used bookstore!
Read it if: You want a light YA read and something that tackles the greek gods.
Book was acquired by: myself. Bought it in a bookstore while my friend and I were browsing around and she said I had to read it before the movie comes out. And I did!
fickle fan rating [read more about my rating at my new blog fickle fan.

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