Tuesday, December 29, 2009

52 Books in 52 Weeks

I have a mild obsession with lists.

1. Making them.
2. Reading them.
3. Occasionally completing things on them.

Luckily, my good friend The Internet supplies me with all sorts of lists this time of year. Best of, Worst of...

And this one, though an older list, is still one of my favorites: What is Stephen Harper Reading?

This week, I'm finishing my list of 52 books to read in 2010, a la Largehearted Boy.

A few of those titles...

1. Western by Christine Montalbetti
2. Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
3. The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry by Alan Kaufman (Editor)

Are there any books that you might recommend I add?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

We're Thankful

In the spirit of the holiday season, I just wanted to take a minute to express how thankful we at Old Firehouse Books all are for the incredible customer support we've received this holiday season. We were frankly terrified at the idea of moving our bookstore in April. It's a risk, one that could have lost us a lot of regular customers. And it probably did lose us some people- those who didn't want to drive downtown, those who were afraid they couldn't find a place to park, those who think any change is bad change. But those who found us, helped us organize for our opening, and supported us with sales in the last months... you've made us a success. There's a lot of grim tidings out there about the economy, and small businesses certainly seem to be taking the brunt of it. We've managed to buck the trend and keep all of our marvelous employees. We've updated our website and e-newsletter, started Facebook, Myspace and twitter accounts. We've started more book clubs and done more author signings. We've grown and changed and looking back, it's been pretty incredible.
So for those of you who say, "I shop here because I want to support a local bookstore," it's WORKING!! You've helped us pay for our move and renovations and make a successful go of it downtown. We know you've been wanting a local bookstore downtown, and we plan to be that local bookstore far into the future. You've done something good. Your efforts have helped not only us, but everybody who now has the option of shopping at a local bookstore and getting customer service from staff who live and breathe books. You rock. Thanks- we'll do our best to live up to all you've done for us.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Book pictures!

We love books so here are some awesome collections of them.
Also, this first picture is of the Kansas City Library in Missouri. I might have to take a road trip out there this spring. ^_^

Review of Marian Keyes' "The Brightest Star in the Sky

Thanks to Kathleen Ivy, one of our customer reviewers (and friends)

Marian Keyes fans are in for a treat with The Brightest Star in the Sky. Full of the snappy dialogue and heart-hitting zingers Keyes is known for, this newest novel gives us a cast of heroines who are flawed in ways that make us relate to them all the more. Like the shoe hoarding, bed time story queen Katie who wants her own baby to read to and a man who puts her at the top of his list – not somewhere along the line, and Lydia who storms the castle of modern medicine to champion her unstable, ungrateful mother, and desires a cure for the common boyfriend. It is a mix of technology and myth with stolen identities, text messaging, and rampant (not always consensual) sex overseen and critiqued by a spirit seeking rebirth. Odd and yet compelling, death, despair, numbing banality, mysticism and rock-hard reality combine in this book that pulses with hope amid the wreckage of semi-failed relationships and the confusion inherent in living.

This title is due out in March of 2010. Be on the lookout for it!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Books That Make You Dumb

Ever wonder what book the "smart people" are reading? Well, thanks to Virgil Griffith your questions are answered. Using the joined powers of Facebook and CollegeBoard.com, he has created a graph showing us exactly which books are for smart people and which are for the less-than-bright.

Of course, all this information needs to be taken with a grain (or two) of salt. Facebook is never the most reliable source of information, and also the SAT scores he uses are out of date. And I don't think I even need to mention that these results on include college students who have a Facebook on which they listed their favorite books. You're all smart enough to figure that out, though.

So according to this, smart people read Lolita or 100 Years of Solitude and dumb people read Zane. (I haven't even heard of Zane, unless they're referring to Zane Grey books.) People who list their favorite book as "The Bible" are smarter than people who like "The Holy Bible." What this all means, I don't know, but I think it's pretty entertaining. He also made one about music that's equally interesting and equally skewed. I'm pleased to report that smart people listen to Radiohead and not Lil' Wayne, but that's just a matter of taste.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Tips for Holiday Shopping

Dear Book Fans,
It's time for holiday shopping! (Duh.) Okay, maybe I'm a little behind, but I'm sure I'm not the only procrastinator out there. This year, make Old Firehouse Books your one-stop Christmas shopping experience!

"What?!" You're probably remarking to yourself as you read. "Only buy books for Christmas?! OUTRAGEOUS!" How dare I even suggest it! But yes, you can do it! I double-dog dare you. Even those loved ones who aren't so crazy about reading can be wooed this year by your amazing book-choosing skills. After all, a scented candle never changed anyone's life.

The following are a few tips I've compiled for finding the perfect book for everyone on your list. I've been inspired by my mother for this one, who will never let a year pass without giving everyone at least one book. It can be done! Here's how.

How to Buy a Book for the Non-Reader:
-If you have access to this person's room, whether they are a family member or a close friend, start snooping. Don't be too invasive here, just scan the room for any book at all. Most people will have one or two lying around. This is a great place to start.
-Pay attention in conversation. Maybe name drop a book you've read recently and judge their reaction. They might even mention a few of their own favorites from the past.
-Try to stick with a familiar author. If you find a book in their room, or they mention someone in conversation, stick with them.
-If they've already read that author's collection, or if the other books don't look quite as appealing, don't be afraid to ask for help! We at Old Firehouse Books are not short of suggestions, in fact for most of us that's the best part of the job. If you can give us one author's name, we can usually find someone else that they're going to love.
-In case everything above fails, there are a few sure steps you can take. Depending on the age and interests of your subject, a comedy (like David Sedaris' Naked) or adventure (like Denis Lehane's Shutter Island) is a good call. A lot of people will be drawn in by books made into movies, and graphic novels as well.

Don't be afraid! We are here to help you find that perfect book for that special person, whether or not they even know they want it! Now go buy a book!

January Events at Old Firehouse BOOKS! (updated)

Here we are already! It's already the middle of December, and things have been flying by at a breakneck pace! This time we decided to send word out, of our events for January, early so that everyone has more time to prepare, what with all of the holiday shenanigans. So here you have it, and we look forward to seeing all of you in the store! May your days be merry and bright! And hopefully all of your book pages are white.

Event: Signing with Terry Kroening and launch of Teacher Appreciation Discounts!

When: January 9 at 12pm

Where: 232 Walnut St.

Contact Information: 970-484-7898, oldfirehousebooks.com

Old Firehouse Books is now going to offer all teachers with school ID a 10% discount. We admire teachers and want to show our appreciation for all the hard work that they do. To kick off this new program, we have two kids’ events at the store. We’ll be featuring the authors of Artsy Fartsy, a great new book for kids who loved Diary of a Wimpy Kid. It will get your kid more interested in creativity, too! We will also have Terry Kroening, author of Brimstone and Lily, another wonderful imaginative book for kids who have moved past Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Expect lots of fun for your kids to watch and do!

Event: Open Book Group

When: January 10 at 1pm

Where: 232 Walnut St.

Contact Information: 970-484-7898, oldfirehousebooks.com

This month we will be discussing Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. The book is a story within a story: a French journalist and her marriage, as well as the Holocaust story that she is researching. This heartbreaking book is a very different take on World War II and the Holocaust.

Event: Untitled Book Group

When: January 11 at 6:30pm

Where: 232 Walnut St.

Contact Information: 970-484-7898, oldfirehousebooks.com

Interested in the local food movement? Come join us for a discussion of Plenty by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon. Find out how the authors of this book managed to eat completely locally for one year even in the chilly environment of western Canada. If you liked Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, you’ll love this book!

Event: Strange World Science Fiction Book Club

When: January 14 at 6pm

Where: 232 Walnut St.

Contact Information: 970-484-7898, oldfirehousebooks.com

You’ll want to read this month’s selection next to a roaring fire with a hot beverage. The Terror by Dan Simmons is a fictionalized account of the true story of a British expedition that went missing while searching for the Northwest Passage. Hugo-winning Simmons is at the top of his craft in this terrifying yarn of ships locked in ice, mutinous crews, and a terrifying creature that has all the advantages in the frozen North.

Event: First Meeting of the Traps and Trenchcoats Mystery Book Club

When: January 18 at 6pm

Where: 232 Walnut St.

Contact Information: 970-484-7898, oldfirehousebooks.com

For our first meeting, we will be discussing Postern of Fate by Agatha Christie. This classic is the last book that Christie wrote before her death. She is the world’s best known mystery author, with over 80 novels to her credit and one of the most prestigious mystery novel awards named after her.

Event: First meeting of Cooking the Books Cookbook Book Club

When: January 21 at 6:30pm

Where: 232 Walnut St.

Contact Information: 970-484-7898, oldfirehousebooks.com

This book club can only accept a limited number of members due to its nature, so please contact the store to let us know you’d like to join. For our first meeting, we will do a recipe swap, so bring some copies of a favorite recipe of yours that you’d like to share. We’ll get to know each other and go over the ground rules for the club. Each month, we’ll be sharing delicious food and getting to know some great new cookbooks!

Event: Poetry Reading with Constance Stadler

When: January 23 at 12pm

Where: 232 Walnut St.

Contact Information: 970-484-7898, oldfirehousebooks.com

Pushcart Award nominee Contance Stadler will be doing a reading from her latest work, Responsorials, as well as signing her book. Come be intrigued and challenged by her poems exploring male and female duality.

Event: Book Signing/Reading with Ray Martinez

When January 30 at 12pm

Where: 232 Walnut St.

Contact Information: 970-484-7898, oldfirehousebooks.com

Join Ray Martinez and the subject of his new book, Mai Tran, for a reading and talk about From Darkness to Light, Mr. Martinez’s new book. This book details the amazing journey of a man determined to make his way in a new country in order to provide a better life for his family.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Shopping time!!!

Christmas is just around the corner! Up until this moment I have been running like crazy trying to keep up with my mostly busy life and get all my school stuff done for the year. It's been wild and I haven't even thought of gifts yet. Until now that is...( I just finished my last class!)
Never fear procrastinators! There is still time! Even to special order a book! We can special order a book and have it in by Christmas if you place your order by December 16th. We also sell gifts certificates in the store and we can increment them for as much (or if you are a student like me! or as little...) as you want. Gift certificates make excellent gifts for that hard to shop for someone or that person in your life that has read everything!
Our staff here at the bookstore excels in giving recommendations and helping you find a book for that special someone. Each of us is well read and we all have different tastes and ideas so ask around! We are here to assist you.
We also have a holiday catalog that you can pick up and any book out of it is 20% off when you use the coupon on the back! Check out our display shelves with all the awesome books from the catalog just as you walk in the door.
Here at Old Firehouse Books we are prepared for the holidays-even if you aren't! Stop in, talk to the staff, check out our displays and get that shopping list out of the way! We can't wait to see you!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


It's cold!
If you must leave the house today, come into Old Firehouse Books to stock up because it's only going to get colder.

Monday, December 7, 2009

"I'm the one thing you can't kill...I am hope."

That quote is from the book I'll be reviewing: Mistborn (a.k.a. The Final Empire) by Brandon Sanderson.

This book is a truly awe-inspiring fantasy epic. Its setting is a wholly original world with a mix of Gothic and Victorian influences, some Kung Fu/Matrix-style battle scenes, very believable (and almost worldly possible) systems of "magic", and very relevant philosophies/morals peppered in, resulting in it becoming my #1 favorite sci-fi/fantasy novel.
The story takes place in "The Central Dominance" of "The Final Empire", which is ruled by "The Lord Ruler" who is supposedly immortal, and a sliver of God. The first twist is that the oppressive, tyrant Lord Ruler was the "Epic Hero" who saved the world from an intangible, destructive, evil force. He obviously, however, used his power for evil as he currently dominates all the land, and along with his nobility enslaves the "lesser" race of people, known as "Skaa". Sanderson's story begins with a mysterious living legend named "Kelsier". He survived a death sentence from the Lord Ruler, and now is out to seek revenge, and a changed world for the Skaa, by putting together a crew of the best Skaa outlaws and overthrowing the Final Empire. A task regarded by most as utterly impossible.
The leading lady of this book is "Vin": a 16-year-old, scrawny, timid Skaa thief who is rescued by Kelsier and made part of his crew. They soon realize, however, that she possesses the same intrinsic abilities as Kelsier, so he begins training her in the powers of a "Mistborn".
The primary system of "magic" is called "Allomancy", and it has to do with ingesting flakes/beads of pure metals (pewter, tin, steel, iron, copper, etc.) and then "burning" them-using up their energy for the powers they grant. The most noticeable & powerful power of allomancy is the ability to push/pull metal objects. So they carry around bags of coins, and throw them on the ground in order to push themselves off of the coins and essentially "fly" around the city.

Honestly, I saw very few problems with the story, and those that I did observe were so minute that others might not even see them. Overall this book is almost perfect! It has well-crafted characters, well-written dialogue, well-thought-out plots, scams and intrigue, amazing battles and plenty of jaw-dropping twists to leave the reader feeling as though they're a part of the story and good friends with the characters. I personally found myself very attached, and caring greatly when things happened to them. All in all, this book is AWESOME!

There are two more books in the "Mistborn Series", and Brandon has stated that he would really like to write an offshoot of the Mistborn series set in more modern times. I would recommend this book/series to anyone who enjoyed "The Lies of Locke Lamora" by Scott Lynch. While definitely not as gritty, graphic and vulgar, they do have some things in common. If you're looking for a very original world, with characters you can feel and plots you certainly won't expect, then this book is for you!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Our Revised Graphic Novel Section

Maybe you've been to The Book Rack or Old Firehouse Books and looked through the graphic novel section with a broken heart.

Well, comic fans, cry no more! We are upping our anti, filling our shelves, and supplying you with all your alternative literature needs!

From Batman to Sandman, The Book of Genesis to Jesus vs. Vampires, we can find something you'll enjoy.

We even have some classics-turned-graphic!
From Pride and Prejudice to Crime and Punishment, you can get your classic literature in a picture book.

So Come on Down to Old Firehouse Books and read more comix!

Monday, November 23, 2009

December events at your favorite bookstore!


EVENT: Book Signing with Bryan White

Time: December 5, 12pm to 8pm

Location: Old Firehouse Books, 232 Walnut St.

Contact Information: 970-484-7898, www.oldfirehousebooks.com

Join us in exploring Bryan White’s fascinating and beautiful 3-D photography. During the day, he will have special viewers set up that show the science behind the photos. Pictures of the Aurora Borealis will come to life in his slide shows that take place at 6pm and 7pm.

EVENT: Open Book Club

Time: December 6, 1pm

Location: Old Firehouse Books, 232 Walnut St.

Contact Information: 970-484-7898, www.oldfirehousebooks.com

This month we’ll be discussing the bestseller Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Called “At once a strikingly original thriller and a vivisection of Sweden's dirty not-so-little secrets”, this book has been topping the charts for over a year. Come find out why everybody’s talking about it!

EVENT: Strange Worlds Science Fiction Book Club

Time: December 10, 6pm

Location: Old Firehouse Books, 232 Walnut St.

Contact Information: 970-484-7898, www.oldfirehousebooks.com

As December’s days get shorter, escape with a fantasy novel about sun-drenched Spain during the days of the Reconquista. This month, we’ll be discussing The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay, one of the most lyrical writers of fantasy today.

EVENT: Untitled Book Club

Time: December 14, 6:30 pm

Location: Old Firehouse Books, 232 Walnut St.

Contact Information: 970-484-7898, www.oldfirehousebooks.com

Join us for a discussion of Chuck Klosterman’s Killing Yourself to Live, which expands on an article he wrote for Spin about driving cross-country to visit several of America's most famous rock and roll death sites.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Books for kids (of all ages!)

I hear from people that it's often hard to find books to give kids or to get kids interested in reading. I have so many recommendations it's hard for me to know where to start! And as with most recommendations there are a lot of variables to fill in to really give a good title that fits well (age, reading level, boy or girl, interests?...etc.) but I wanted to post a few good titles that are across the board great reads for kids. My passion is to see people love reading and if you can get a kid to love it they will grow up reading everything and learning lots (see myself for an example!).
The following is a personal list of fantastic books to give kids, read with your kids or read by yourself!

Teen Reads

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

Maximum Ride by James Patterson(J. Patterson wrote this for his son, he said he couldn't get him to love reading anything so he wrote a book that he knew his son would love!)

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Comet's Curse by Dom Testa (Denver radio host that is working hard to get kids excited about reading!)

Books for Pre-Teens

Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg (and anything else by this author, my personal favorite from my childhood!)

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Engalls Wilder (you cannot go wrong with this book series, it is fun and interesting and full of history all in one!)

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

Early Readers

Guardians of Ga'hoole by Kathryn Lasky

Harry's Mad by Dick King-Smith
(Again, anything by this author!!! He wrote Babe the Magnificent Pig as well and he is just a great young reader author!)

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Connor

This is just a tip of the "great books for kids, pre-teens, and teens" iceberg. There are so many more I would bore you to death typing them all out here...Come on in to the store, browse the kids sections and ask for advice! We love finding good fits for each reader, whether you are young or old, buying for yourself or someone else, boy or girl we want you (or them) to be reading books you will love (or at least really enjoy!).

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Our Mob-Free Guarantee

Black Friday is coming! This means major discounts at chain stores, and unfortunate crushing mobs. Wal-Mart is trying to keep last year's events from repeating themselves by staying open all night on Thanksgiving instead. And what better way to celebrate this holiday than shopping at your local retail giant? Forget pumpkin pie, forget enjoying the company of loved ones, Thanksgiving night is time to SHOP!

Or... How about this year, instead of joining in on the Wal-Mart mob, you come to Old Firehouse Books instead? We may not be able to offer the mega-discounts that Wal-Mart provides, and we close down for Thanksgiving, but we do give 20% on anything in our Winter Catalogue (find this at our store or check the Coloradoan!) along with other deals on various items. On top of this you'll be helping to keep Fort Collins unique and saving your local economy, plus we offer a mob-free guarantee!

To read more about the Wal-Mart fiasco, see the links below. If ravenous mobs don't convince you to shop local, I don't know what will.



Saturday, November 14, 2009

Find it on my pick shelf...

The Squirrel Machine by Hans Rickheit is an eerie, beautiful, and concerning graphic novel. Two fictional brothers grow up comfortably on their dead father's inheretance. They become inventors and dreamers, creating controversial musical machines out of animals. Among dream sequences and strange meetings with other characters, The Squirrel Machine is weird, weirder, and weirdest. I reccomend this book to the curious, eccentric, and queer readers among us. The art is detailed and moving. While the characters and plot remain less developed than I'd like, Rickheit makes up for it with the boys' found and made attempts at art.


Friday, November 13, 2009

A Reading Predicament

School is well under way for us studying at CSU. In fact, it is so under way that we are nearly done with the first semester. This leaves me in a reading predicament, or maybe two predicaments. The next four weeks of my life will most likely be spent in a crazed stupor of text book reading and test studying and paper writing. The first predicament is that this leaves little time for fun reading. I find it difficult to motivate myself to read for pleasure after hours of Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse. The second predicament is that after these crazy few weeks are over, I will suddenly have a relatively massive amount of fun reading time on my hands. This in itself, I suppose, is not a predicament, but rather that I will surely be overwhelmed by the amount of time I have off and end up spending most of it in a stupor watching bad movies I've already seen. I am not very organized.

It is time for this to change. The following are my five tips for how to cut corners in order to have more time for fun reading now, so that hopefully I won't feel so overwhelmed once winter break is upon us.

1. Don't match socks. Time spent matching socks is time not spent reading. No one can see my feet anyway, unless I'm not wearing my shoes, in which case I'm usually surrounded by people who will never notice.

2. Stop speaking in full sentences. Ev sec counts. Waste no time. READ.

3. Don't leave the house. Any time I leave my apartment, I'm in transit for at least five minutes. Sometimes even fifteen! And forget about going to Denver, I do not have that hour to spare. So no more leaving until they invent teleportation. Teleportation you can accomplish while reading.

4. Wash myself in the sink while doing dishes. Save on water, save the environment, read more.

5. Stop flossing. Okay, this one's a lie. I only tell the dentist I floss so I don't feel guilty when I go in for an appointment... This is time I have been saving all along.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thanks to Veterans and Their Families

In honor of Veterans' Day, we are offering a 20% discount for those who are serving or have served in the military, as well as their spouses. Thank you for your service!

Where do you take your books?

So here's an article that I found sadly amusing today: Going to the Emergency Room? Bring a Book. It's especially apropros for me this week; my husband ended up in the emergency room in Las Vegas for a locked-up back( really, that's all it was; he's as straight an arrow as you'll find) and I winged it down there to make sure he was okay. I didn't have to go to the emergency room itself-he'd been discharged. But even as I frantically called work, his mom, all the obligations I had that day to make arrangements for a replacement (it happened to be the day that T.C. Boyle was doing his big event), packed and made it to the airport within an hour, I made sure to pack a couple of books. Once I was on that airplane, my book kept me calm and distracted instead of worried and fretting.
If I had gone to the ER I would have had a book in my purse. I always keep several books in my car, just in case I've got to wait somewhere for awhile, or end up eating out alone. Without a book as a backup plan, I feel naked. I remember one plane flight when I absent-mindedly checked my bag, forgetting that my book was stashed in it. Panic! By the way, those airport bookstores do NOT have much in the way of selection. They stock the bestsellers, sure, but I usually want something a bit more offbeat, being pretty familiar with the usual top ten stuff. I picked a book from the airport bookstore nevertheless, an author I hadn't tried but thought I might like and should at least know more about, and was disappointed.
I guess the feelings of panic that I get without a book should disturb me, but they don't. Books comfort and soothe me, and let me slow down my brain and distract myself from the myriad of things that can cause stress during the day. Some people like TV, some people like drugs, some people like food, I like books. (Well, food's not so bad either; hence my cookbook addiction.)
The longer waits in the emergency room described in that article worry me too, but that's a whole different kettle of fish and probably not an opinion you're interested in.

Where do you take your books? How have you used them to comfort yourself?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Those Wacky Price Wars

So you might be aware that Walmart, Amazon, and Target are all trying to kick the sh#! out of each other by undercutting already ridiculously low pricing. Suddenly books are the hot new loss leader, I guess. Here's an article from Shelfawareness, an online newsletter for booksellers and publishers:

The book trade experienced its own version of "scoreboard watching" yesterday as the retail price for John Grisham's newly released Ford County fluctuated, thanks to price maneuvers by Amazon and Wal-Mart.

"It was a weird day in the book price wars," the Associated Press reported, noting that the price of Grisham's short story collection "moved up and down like stock market shares as rivals Amazon.com and Walmart.com extended, then rescinded, their high discounts for top-selling pre-orders."

While Amazon was offering the book for $9, "Walmart.com was selling Ford County for $12 early Tuesday, then cut the price to the pre-order discount of $8.98," the AP wrote. "By Tuesday afternoon, the cost was back up to $11.99 for both online sellers." Target.com's price was $15.

A blow-by-blow account of the price standoff was also featured in the New York Times, which tracked three Tuesday releases--Grisham's Ford County, Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna and J. D. Robb's Kindred in Death.

As of Tuesday morning, "Amazon still had those titles priced at $9 while Wal-Mart, which had offered them on pre-order at $8.98, and Target, which had offered pre-orders for $8.99, had raised their prices. At Walmart.com, for example, Ford County was selling for $12, while The Lacuna was $13.50. At Target.com, The Lacuna was on sale for $18.89 and Kindred in Death was $17. But by late morning, Amazon had raised its prices--The Lacuna and Kindred in Death, for example, were offered for $13.50--while Walmart.com had cut them again. All three novels that went on sale Tuesday were on sale at Walmart.com for $8.99, but by the afternoon, Walmart.com had raised its prices to just one penny lower than the price for the three titles on Amazon."

This morning, Amazon and Target were selling Ford County for $11.99 and Wal-Mart offered the title for $11.98. Lacuna and Kindred in Death were priced in the $13.49 range, give or take a penny.

I think the lesson here is that none of these businesses really have any clue what they want to accomplish. They're flailing around reactively instead of having any sort of coherent plan. I feel really lucky that we have customers who understand that offering books for below what they cost to produce will only drive more publishers out of business, make authors unable to earn a living wage for their art, and not allow publishers to take a chance on a new author who may or may get a bestseller with their first book. It makes me sad that the discounts we offer in our store (10% on new books with trade credit, 15% on hardback bestsellers, 20% if you print a coupon off our website or use your Be Local book) look so paltry compared to those of companies who aren't afraid to sell at a loss just to get a customer. We'd love to do better, but we just can't and pay our rent or our employees.
However, our customers really seem to understand this. They see the depth of the stock we offer (not just the top 3 bestsellers) and the expertise we have. Our customers really contribute to the great atmosphere we've got in the store. I've seen two customers (who are also friends of mine) meet each other and promptly start giving each other recommendations about the paranormal romances that are their favorite. It's pretty awesome to see the community we've got going here, thanks to them.
Here's a quote from Boulder Bookstore on the price wars:
In Boulder, Colo., 9NEWS checked in with Arsen Kashkashian, head buyer at the Boulder Book Store, for his take on the price wars.

"It's never really happened like this before," he said, noting that he had planned to buy extra copies of the hyper-discounted titles. "From the publishers, a $35 book is going to cost us $18 or $19. So if Target or Amazon wants to sell it for $9, then maybe I can buy 20, 30, 40 copies for the store, he said. "It would have lowered our cost by $500."

Unfortunately, Amazon, Target and Wal-Mart quickly installed rationing policies to discourage such plans. "I don't think they wanted to be the wholesaler," said Kashkashian. "They're looking to capture that piece of the market. But they're not willing to stand behind the price."

Review for "The Surrendered"

One of our customer reviewers, Kathleen Ivy, did this for us. The Surrendered will release March of next year. Look forward to it!

In The Surrendered, Chang-Rae Lee gives readers a gift of lucid prose exploring how individuals cope with the ravages of war and violence. Refusing to either romanticize the subject, or demonize the characters, Lee writes with fluid grace. He provides enough detail to allow a reader to have some substance to base their opinions upon, without giving so much as to lead readers to any particular conclusions. One can find both hope and despair within these pages, and each fully developed character contains the seeds of both hero and anti-hero, just like true human beings.

One of his characters, Sylvie, is a shining example of this. She is both a tireless worker, an adept comforter, a devoted wife and a woman who stumbles with cravings and caves into desires. One of her mentees, June, is also terribly flawed and achingly sweet. She worships Sylvie, works to please her, and finds herself adrift amid her own torn desires to live and to destroy herself. At one point she brings dinner to Sylvie, who is ill. She urges Sylvie to eat, but is convinced to share the meal, consuming most of it in her own natural hunger generated by self-deprivation. When June realizes what she has done she is so ashamed that she vomits her dinner, and feels more like the self she has become accustomed to –hollow and empty. It is a poignant moment, among hundreds of such moments contained in this masterful work.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

November Events at Old Firehouse Books

Event: Open Book Club

Time: Sunday, November 1 at 1pm

Location: Old Firehouse Books, 232 Walnut St

Contact Information: 970-484-7898, oldfirehousebooks@gmail.com

This month, we’ll be discussing The Likeness, a brilliant mystery. Ever wonder if you have a double? Irish detective Cassie Maddox finds that she does, after her likeness is murdered. The only way to find the killer is to go undercover as her double. Join our discussion as we try to unravel this dark-edged book’s twists and turns. The Likeness is 20% off at Old Firehouse Books this month.

Event: Untitled Book Club

Time: Monday, November 9 at 6:30 pm

Location: Old Firehouse Books, 232 Walnut St

Contact Information: 970-484-7898, oldfirehousebooks@gmail.com

If you haven’t yet read Persepolis, now is the perfect time to pick up this stunning graphic novel. The book traces the Iranian revolution through the eyes of a young girl. The powerful images and wry humor of this work of art will make for a great discussion. Persepolis is 20% off at Old Firehouse Books this month.

Event: Strange Worlds Science Fiction/Fantasy Book Club

Time: Thursday, November 12 at 6 pm

Location: Old Firehouse Books, 232 Walnut St

Contact Information: 970-484-7898, oldfirehousebooks@gmail.com

Oceans Eleven meets the Borgia family in The Lies of Locke Lamora, this month’s selection. Join us for a great discussion on all the con games, fight scenes, and ancient magic packed into the book. The Lies of Locke Lamora is 20% off at Old Firehouse Books this month.

Event: Book Signing with Cricket McRae and Patricia Stoltey

Time: Saturday, November 7 at noon

Location: Old Firehouse Books, 232 Walnut St

Contact Information: 970-484-7898, oldfirehousebooks@gmail.com

Come and meet two local mystery writers as they sign their newest work. Whether you’re a mystery buff or a homecrafting enthusiast, you’ll be fascinated by these two talented ladies.

Event: Book Signing for Broken Links, Mended Lives

Time: Saturday, November 14 at noon

Location: Old Firehouse Books, 232 Walnut St

Contact Information: 970-484-7898, oldfirehousebooks@gmail.com

Broken Links, Mended Lives is an anthology featuring the work of the Rokcy Mountain Fiction Writers, including Carol Berg and Mario Acevedo. Come meet the writers gathered to sign their work- you may be surprised at who will be here!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Books you can't put down

Have you ever found a book or book series even that you can't put down? That not only grabs your interest but also makes you invest something of yourself in it's characters? I fall prey to this easily, I often read and become so involved in a book I am literally living it out in my head. It's one reason I read so fast and so much- I have a hard time just reading a little bit out of a book, once I start I really have to finish it in order to return to my normal life! Otherwise I am walking around with a funny feeling like part of me is still in the book's world. Growing up my mom always told me to take some time after finishing a book or putting one down to be by myself. In other words, I was kinda cranky about coming back to reality and she didn't want to deal with it! I am not as bad as I used to be about it but I did want to share a couple of really good books and series that have captured me and let me live in their reality for a while. Because, who doesn't occasionally need to escape and go live in a book?

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The Chronicles of Narnia (the whole series, even as an adult they will capture you)

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

The Shack by William P. Young

The Indigo Notebook by Laura Resau

Sookie Stackhouse Series by Charlaine Harris (currently in this series and it's fantastic!)

And I am a little embarassed to admit this but... Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyers (I couldn't put them down!)

I encourage everyone to read one of these books if you haven't already and see if I am right! Also, I would love to know what books you have read that capture you-feel free to leave a comment! Now go read some books!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Kara's Book Review...it's about time!

It's been a while since I posted anything on here. My main excuse is the start of school for me. Reading textbooks and doing homework in all my spare time doesn't leave a lot of room or even desire to read all that much. But when I do read I have concentrated on reading really enjoyable books. Whether they are memoirs or fiction I am looking for something to grab my attention and keep my interested. I guess I am looking for authors that are good enough that their books are true "escapes" from my reality!
One of my favorites that I have read is Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen. It's a memoir, and at first glance it doesn't seem like a light or easy book. It's the story of Rhoda's divorce and her "recovery". She ends up moving back in with her parents, who are Mennonites and live in a Mennonite community. I can't put my finger on why this book was so funny but I found myself laughing out loud so often I had to start reading it in private. You may have seen me around town, I would have been the girl doubled over laughing while reading... at one point I did have a waiter (I was reading during my lunch break) ask me if I was ok since it looked like I was crying! Rhoda's story is not necessarily funny itself but her way of handling it and looking at it and even writing about it will definitely make you laugh.
This book was just published and is worth picking up, come on in to the store and ask me about it or other books I recommend for a good laugh!

Through the Writing Glass!

A carnival? Celebrating reading and writing?

We're there!

No really, we will be. And we'll have books available for purchase at the event at a 10% discount!

Read more about the fun below:

Bas Bleu Theater opens its doors Saturday, October 24 from 1:00pm to 4:00pm to the youth of Northern Colorado with an afternoon of writing games, food and prizes, to celebrate new books from beloved authors. Book-loving kids 9-14 and their parents are invited to join Victoria Hanley, Todd Mitchell, Laura Resau and Teresa R. Funke for a carnival of reading and writing.

Each author is known to local school children not only for their award-winning books, but also for their energetic and educational school visits. Through the Writing Glass is the first time all four will come together to give readings and guide kids and parents alike through writing games.

Sponsored by Bas Bleu Theatre, Through the Writing Glass is part of the organization’s continued effort to support literacy, storytelling and local youth. Authors will sign copies upon request. The Indigo Notebook by Laura Resau is published by Delacort; V for Victory by Teresa R. Funke is published by Victory House Press; Violet Wings by Victoria Hanley is published by Egmont USA; The Secret to Lying by Todd Mitchell will be released by Candlewick in June, 2010.

No tickets are required; this is a free event!

Bas Bleu Theatre is located at 401 Pine St. in Old Town Fort Collins. For more information, please go to www.throughthewritingglass.com.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Well the snow has come early this year and you all know what that means!
It's time to curl up with a good book under your covers and ditch out on all your other obligations.
Some cold-weather reading I suggest:
The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-Time by Mark Haddon

It's been a while since I've read this book but from what I remember, it's a compassionate, logical account of a kid with autism. Like, I said it's been a while but the book has stuck with me for years not and I have to suggest it. You'll love the characters and the story.

A series of fire and ice by George R. R. Martin
which starts with the book A Game of Thrones

I know I constantly rave about this series but I tore through it and it is very dear to me! Now would be a fabulous time to read it because "Winter is coming." Hahahaha
- oh, you don't get the reference? Read the books! Not only are they a killer series with rich characters and situations, but HBO is shooting the pilot to make it into a show. You can follow the fanfare HERE.

Friday, October 9, 2009

More cover thoughts

Those dark, mysterious, sexy paranormal covers just keep coming! You are meant to judge a book by its cover, and clearly editors think readers want leather, tattoos, and bad-ass babes. Here's a link to a cover montage in case you just can't get enough- have fun watching!

On the Kindle, Amazon, and monopsonies

Here's a post by a man who's much smarter than I am: Charles Stross. He writes speculative fiction which pushes both technical and economic boundaries, His latest blog post is on the Kindle coming to the UK and what it means for publishers and authors. He is less than flattering to Amazon. Check it out- your new word for the day is : monopsony!
I don't usually worry much about getting into the Amazon debate. However, a post by an author that I'm asking to do a signing with us (he may decline since we're still kinda small fry) discusses the problem of getting people to actually buy the book they want signed in the bookstore doing the signing. Read the third and fourth paragraphs under "The Tour" heading.
It never looks good when small bookstores complain about Amazon, Walmart, or any of the big boys. The fact is, we can't discount our books as steeply as they can. However, it's worth bearing in mind that these discounts come out of the pockets of authors and publishers, never mind booksellers. Walmart and Amazon can negotiate discounts of scale because of their buying power, and have publishers over a barrel. If they refuse to buy from a publisher because they don't like that publisher's terms, then no Amazon or Walmart for that publisher- can you imagine the lost sales? Little guys don't have that kind of negotiating power, and publishers have to make profits somewhere. Customers don't know what's going on with the discounts and vote with their pocketbooks, and why shouldn't they? I know my budget is tight right now.
We try to provide value for our customers. We discount books you order from us, book club books, bestsellers. We also provide a stellar staff who can give you great recommendations for gifts, a good Mexican place to try, or just chat with you about your last purchase and how much you loved it. Please remember us when you're shopping, and realize that we're doing our best to give you the most bang for your buck and the best deal we can.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Buying Books

As those of you reading this blog know, we at the store not only love books, but also bookstores. When we travel the invisible list of things to do is to visit any (preferably independent) bookstore we happen to stumble across.

I recently went on vacation to Europe and throughout my trip I tried to look for bookstores.I saw a few interesting ones. In Paris there was one called “Silly Melody” that only sold used books and vinyl records. I kept looking for others but I went to 7 countries in 12 days so finding the time to really explore any bookstore didn’t happen.

However, the night before I left London, I noticed something that caused me to do a double-take. Next to the elevators in the hotel lobby was a book vending machine (picture above).There were about 30 selections of paperbacks that ranged from Stephanie Meyers to John Grisham.I don’t know why, but I feel that would be an odd way to buy books.I guess can buy food and rent movies via vending machine, so why not books? I think I was put off by purchasing books this way because it automatically limits the customer. To someone aware of the wide variety of books available (with hundreds of thousands being published every year) the meager 23 to choose from was just painful. I don’t this mode of books sales will catch on, but keep your eye out.

Monday, September 28, 2009

October Events at Old Firehouse Books!

Event: Open Book Club
Date: October 4
Time: 1 pm
Place: Old Firehouse Books, 232 Walnut St.
Contact Information: (970) 484-7898, oldfirehousebooks.com

Get into the Halloween spirit with Good Omens, a humorous look at Armageddon written by award-winning authors Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. This book group is open to anyone who loves books and talking about books.

Event: Strange Worlds Science Fiction Book Club
Date: October 8
Time: 6 pm
Place: Old Firehouse Books, 232 Walnut St.
Contact Information: (970) 484-7898, oldfirehousebooks.com

Join us for a discussion of The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. This book won the Hugo, the Newbery, and the Locus Award in 2009. It’s the perfect book club selection for Halloween.

Event: Untitled Book Club
Date: October 12
Time: 6:30 pm
Place: Old Firehouse Books, 232 Walnut St.
Contact Information: (970) 484-7898, oldfirehousebooks.com

This month, we’ll be discussing The Book of Other People, an anthology featuring some of the hippest and most brilliant writers of the new century. Anyone who loves to read is welcome.

Event: Signing with S.C. Lang
Date: October 17
Time: 12 pm
Place: Old Firehouse Books, 232 Walnut St.
Contact Information: (970) 484-7898, oldfirehousebooks.com

S. C. Lang’s Original Sin is a thriller that enters the fascinating and highly seductive realm of online chatrooms. The author hails from Craig, Colorado.

Event: Graveyard Book Party!
Date: October 23
Time: 7-8:30 pm
Place: Old Firehouse Books, 232 Walnut St.
Contact Information: (970) 484-7898, oldfirehousebooks.com

Join us for a themed Halloween party recapturing the spirit of Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard Book! Drop by the store before the party to get the materials to participate in our gravestone creation contest. The winner will receive a copy of The Graveyard Book. We’ll also have food, games, and a good scare or two.

Event: Brown Bag Lunch Signing with Mike Dunbar
Date: October 24
Time: 12 pm
Place: Old Firehouse Books, 232 Walnut St.
Contact Information: (970) 484-7898, oldfirehousebooks.com

In The Last American Cowboy, Mike Dunbar has written a story about a young man who dreamed about being an old-time cowboy who was just born one hundred years too late.

Event: Diana Gabaldon Discussion Group
Date: October 27
Time: 7pm
Place: Old Firehouse Books, 232 Walnut St.
Contact Information: (970) 484-7898, oldfirehousebooks.com

If you’ve just read Diana Gabaldon’s new book, An Echo in the Bone, and need a place to talk about all the things that transpired, we’ve got the perfect place for you! Join us for a lively discussion of all things adventurous, romantic, and oh yes, Scottish.

Banned Books Week 2009

A friendly public service announcement about your freedom to read...

Book to Movie Adaptations

The other day I was just sitting in a theatre with my friends, minding my own business, waiting to watch District 9 when WHAM! Out of nowhere there's this trailer that seems awfully familiar... It turns out it's Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane, an old favorite of mine that I had completely forgotten until I saw Leonardo DiCaprio's giant familiar face.

We're all familiar with this book adaptation phenomenon. We just saw Angels & Demons, My Sister's Keeper, Twilight, and The Time Traveler's Wife among dozens of others come out in the last few months and we already know we have The Road, The Lovely Bones, and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs on their way. This gets pretty controversial. Any English teacher will tell you that the movie is no substitute, but for the most part the movie tends to be a hell of a lot more successful.

Personally, I believe these book/movie combinations usually don't tend to work out for the best, but I've come up with a list of my top 5 adaptations that made the transfer right. These are some of my favorite books and why I think they've been able to switch over to the silver screen so well.

1) Watchmen by Alan Moore
Really, it's only logical that one of the most critically acclaimed graphic novels of all time would take the next step into becoming a movie. I loved seeing how Zack Snyder (the director) lined up exact frames from the comic book, but also allowed himself the creative license to cut where needed. The graphic novel itself was more impressive because of the layers the characters developed in each chapter, but it would have been impossible to include all of those in a film. A warning to those yet to see it, though: they changed the ending. When I first heard this, I thought it spelled automatic doom. I was wrong. They kept the most important aspects, but because of certain subplots cut from the story for time, they had to change one thing. It worked out for the best.

2) Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
In this case, it may have helped that I saw the movie first. The novel is a collection of short stories, following the lives of several different struggling characters in Scotland, mostly having to do with heroin, written in an almost impossible Scottish dialect. The movie, while sometimes difficult to understand, is not as challenging as the book. The movie chooses to focus on one character, Rent, and sometimes gives him life moments given to other characters in the novel. This ultimately simplifies the whole thing, plus they have an awesome soundtrack.
And Ewan McGregor is the only man alive who can make heroin addiction look sexy.

3) Jesus' Son by Denis Lehane
This book is also short stories, but the movie strings them all together into one continuous plot. They tack on a love story, which usually pisses me off, but in this case it makes the whole thing a lot sweeter which it sort of needed. The love isn't perfect, because in the characters aren't perfect, and it doesn't end up taking over the entire thing, so I can accept it. Jack Black plays Georgie in possibly his funniest role ever.

4) A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
I don't think I could have accepted this movie if anyone but Stanley Kubrick had directed it. The movie turns out just a creepy as the book. Like Trainspotting, it's a lot easier to understand the strange dialect when you can watch the scene unfold rather than translating it yourself. True, something is lost in the process, but the unnerving atmosphere Kubrick develops makes up for it.

5) Adaptation (Based on The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean)
Charlie Kaufman is a genius. This one works out so well because while the movie ends up being about Susan Orlean's novel, it is also about Charlie Kaufman. This movie really is the quintessential adaptation because it makes you appreciate how hard it is to write a movie based on a book without ruining the whole. Kaufman doesn't ruin it. He chose to write himself in as the main character of his own movie, and it ends up being his personal reaction to the book that sells the whole thing. After all, isn't that what reading is all about in the first place?

As I wrote this a dozen other titles came to mind, including (but not limited to) Perfume by Patrick Suskind, Sin City by Frank Miller, Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, Battle Royale by Koushun Takami, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, Everything is Illuminated by Jonathon Safron Foer, etc. These books, and these movies, are classics and somehow they didn't collapse on collision. I would highly recommend reading all these books, and then seeing the movies. Or seeing the movies and then reading the books. It really doesn't matter to me, just as long as one or the other happens because they're all worth your time.

I'd love recommendations, too. Or opinions. What is your favorite book/movie adaptation? Do you think a good adaptation is even possible?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Happy Banned Books Week!

Today marks the start of Banned Book Week. The sloagan this year is "FREADOM!"
Come into the store and get your $1 button, free bookmark, and a book to challenge The Man!
Here are just a few examples of Banned or Challenged Books:

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
6. Ulysses by James Joyce
7. Beloved by Toni Morrison
8. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
9. 1984 by George Orwell
10. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
11. Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov
12. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
13. Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
14. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
15. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
16. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
17. Animal Farm by George Orwell
18. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
19. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
20. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
21. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
22. Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
23. Their Eyes are Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
24. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
25. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
26. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
27. Native Son by Richard Wright
28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
29. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
30. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
31. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
32. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
33. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
34. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
35. Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
36. Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
37. The World According to Garp by John Irving
38. All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren
39. A Room with a View by E. M. Forster
40. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
41. Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally
42. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
43. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
44. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
45. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
46. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
47. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
48. Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence
49. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
50. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
51. My Antonia by Willa Cather
52. Howards End by E. M. Forster
53. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
54. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
55. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
56. Jazz by Toni Morrison
57. Sophie's Choice by William Styron
58. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
59. A Passage to India by E. M. Forster
60. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
61. A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor
62. Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
63. Orlando by Virginia Woolf
64. Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence
65. Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
66. Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
67. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
68. Light in August by William Faulkner
69. The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
70. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
71. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
72. A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
73. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
74. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
75. Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence
76. Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe
77. In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway
78. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein
79. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
80. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
81. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
82. White Noise by Don DeLillo
83. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
84. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
85. The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
86. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
87. The Bostonians by Henry James
88. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
89. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
90. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
91. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
92. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
93. The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles
94. Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis
95. Kim by Rudyard Kipling
96. The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
97. Rabbit, Run by John Updike
98. Where Angels Fear to Tread by E. M. Forster
99. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
100. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

There are 100 good books on that list! Pick up a banned book and protect your FREADOM!

*The images and lists were provided by the American Library Association

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bleak History by John Shirley

Bleak History



Subject: Gabriel Bleak. Status: Civilian. Paranormal skills: Powerful. Able to manipulate AS energies and communicate with UBEs (e.g. "ghosts" and other entities). Psychological profile: Extremely independent, potentially dangerous. Caution is urged....

As far as Gabriel Bleak is concerned, talking to the dead is just another way of making a living. It gives him the competitive edge to survive as a bounty hunter, or "skip tracer," in the psychic minefield known as New York City. Unfortunately, his gift also makes him a prime target. A top-secret division of Homeland Security has been monitoring the recent emergence of human supernaturals, with Gabriel Bleak being the strongest on record. If they control Gabriel, they'll gain access to the Hidden -- the entity-based energy field that connects all life on Earth. But Gabriel's got other ideas. With a growing underground movement called the Shadow Community -- and an uneasy alliance of spirits, elementals, and other beings -- Gabriel's about to face the greatest demonic uprising since the Dark Ages. But this time, history is not going to repeat itself. This time, the future is Bleak. Gabriel Bleak."

First of all, I'll set forth a disclaimer that this is a very lazy blog on my part, because mostly I'm quoting the book, and a review of it.
My opinion, after reading this book, is that it's a page turner, but definitely not deep or heavy reading. It is at times humorous, dark, action-packed, etc. And, if you were previously at all knowledgeable in the occult/metaphysical/paranormal, then it is apparent that Mr. Shirley has done a fair bit of research in those fields, which means certain of his ideas make plenty of sense, while others are just entertaining.
There are a few negative points however, (with which I agree) which are touched upon quite succinctly in the following review by Publishers Weekly.
There are two primary negative points with which I agree. First: That the book reads like the script of a movie. Absolutely correct. While I definitely enjoyed the book, I feel it would do better as a film, which makes perfect sense considering that John Shirley has spent a considerable portion of his career writing screenplays.
Second: There simply weren't enough pages in the book to further flesh out the protagonist and supporting characters. Also, the plot rather hurried along, leaving the story with too many loose ends, which can add up and become frustrating.

"From Publishers Weekly
This urban occult fantasy from cyberpunk author and screenplay writer Shirley (Black Glass) reads like the script for a bloated summer blockbuster, loaded with action, expository dialogue and stock characters. Like other members of the Shadow Community, army ranger–turned–bounty hunter Gabriel Bleak can tap into the Hidden, an invisible metaphysical realm, and conjure magical weapons and allies. After a devastating terrorist attack on Miami, the Pentagon funds a search-and-capture initiative to neutralize the entire Shadow Community. Bleak runs from government agents and heads into battle against the mythical Moloch, which threatens to throw our world into utter chaos. Steeped in its own detailed mythology, Shirley's fast-paced romp through the occult is clever in concept but awkward in execution, with one-dimensional characters (including a painfully caricatured voodoo priestess) and telegraphed plot points that shout when they should whisper. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved."

All in all, I feel like this was a good book. Anything that keeps me turning the pages, while generally not the deepest of works, will get a good score from me. Sure, it had a few flaws, and I think it would make for a good series rather than a standalone, but I've already recommended it to fans of urban fantasy.
...abrupt ending of blog...