Saturday, February 28, 2009

Come one, come all, come on Monday!

Carrie Vaughn, an ultra-cool Colorado science fiction author, will be at our little store on Monday, March 2, at noon. She will be here to chat, sign, and read from not one, but TWO of her latest books! She'll be discussing Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand and Kitty Raises Hell. If you're not familiar with Carrie, she writes about a girl named Kitty who happens to be a werewolf. She also has a radio show called The Midnight Hour, in which she discusses the supernatural. Needless to say, she has quite a few interesting adventures. Here is her latest review in the Denver Post (you might have to scroll down a bit to get to it). Here is Carrie's own website and blog.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Polygamy Review! by Kara

Apparently I am the resident expert at the Book Rack on least within the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints sects. And so I am here to review some of the books I have been reading on the subject. 

I started my readings with Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall. She was a major player in bringing Warren Jeffs in and in his convictions (Warren Jeffs was the prophet up until recently when he was arrested and jailed.). Elissa was married at 14 to her 18 year old cousin against her will. She left the church at the age of 18 with a jack fundamentalist Mormon that she was in love with. This book talks about her own struggles within the church, growing up with a father that had plural wives and the anger,  jealousy and animosity that came along with that. 

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff is a fictionalized account of two different plural wives. It tells the story of Eliza Young, Brigham Young's "19th" wife and a modern day "19th" wife. Eliza Young actually wrote a pamphlet back in the 1800's about her life as a 19th wife and how she left. David Ebershoff just embellishes and expands on the pamphlet while weaving in the completely fictionalized account of the modern day wife. The interesting thing you learn in this book is that neither of the women are actually the 19th women either man married. Eliza Young was really more like the 48 wife, and no one really knows how many women Brigham married since there is so much secrecy surrounding plural marriages. He referred to Eliza as his 19th wife because when she married him that what number she was within his current rotation. Once a wife is "retired" due to menopause, disinterest, or even the wife leaving, the number changes for everyone. Very confusing! 

Escaped by Carolyn Jessop is just an amazing story in my opinion. Carolyn Jessop was married at 18 to a man in his 50's that already had 3 wives. While she was married to him he married 4 other women. Carolyn herself had 8 children before she left. And the amazing part of her story is that she took all 8 of her kids with her and kept custody of them. Most women when and if they leave the church are not able to take their children, or are only able to take the youngest. The husbands have complete right to the children according to the church. An interesting (and bothersome?) part of Carolyn's story is how she reveals the abuse of our national welfare system. She says it's called "bleeding the beast". Since the women are not legally married they apply as single mothers of sometimes 13 or more children and receive state support. Basically, a lot of the communities and areas with polygamists are using our welfare system to stay afloat. 

Church of Lies by Flora Jessop is a really hard book to read. She was abused sexually growing up, mostly by her father. She also writes about the abuse she saw in her friends families and it's a tough, tough, story. Flora left polygamy early on and has been an activist against it ever since then. She frequently has girls or women living with her that are on their way out on the "underground railroad". Her story is difficult but worth reading because it really opens your eyes to the over sexed mind set of the polygamous males and the lack of knowledge or awareness on the females part. Ignorance is key to polygamy working, the children are brainwashed early on and completely uneducated and the women are told that this life style will bring them salvation. 

I am currently reading Shattered Dreams by Irene Spencer. She grew up in a 3rd or 4th generation polygamist family. Her mother left the FLDS along with a number of her kids when Irene was in her early teens. Against her mother's wishes (and even those of her heart-she had fallen in love with a monogamous man) she married a man from a Mexico branch of the FLDS that had already married her half sister. Irene had 13 children while married to Verlan LaBaron. Much of her life was spent down in Mexico and South America in very impoverished situations trying to eek out a living in whatever random town they lived in. Her husband married I think, 6 other wives while married to her. Part of the wedding ceremony includes asking a wife's permission to marry again and even requires the current wife to "give" her husband to the new wife. Irene also talks about all the jealousy and grief experienced in the lives of plural wives. She really tells how hard it is to share a man and all of his love and attentions. Even the finances. It's a fascinating read so far and I like finding out more about polygamy in the 1950's or so, it gives a little bit more of a background and history of the FLDS. 

Overall I think this is a fascinating lifestyle and religion. The idea of plural marriage is just so crazy to me and I think that is why I have become a little bit obsessed with it. It is full of abuse, jealousy, and desperation. 

Feel free to comment or come in to the store and talk with me about this review!

What Are We Reading?

If you've ever asked yourself that question, I have an answer. Simply head over to to find out everything you ever wanted to know about each of our literary habits. If you'd like, register and tell us about your bookshelf while you stop by and say hi. 

For those that don't know, Goodreads is an awesome social networking site that revolves around books and everything to do with them. Chances are you'll even be able to find and add your favorite author there to see what they're reading as well. Very cool.

Hope to see you there.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Other Literary Musings

On the sidebar of our site we have a section called "Other Literary Musings". This links to other blogs that have some pretty cool stuff relating to the world of books in all aspects, and some of them may be unfamiliar, so I thought I would give each a quick rundown. Careful, there's going to be a lot of links:

The first two blogs, Janet Reid and Nathan Bransford, are both written by literary agents. Ms. Reid talks about what it's like to be an agent, things that interest her in the literary world and how to get yourself an agent if writing is your thing. Equally interesting is Mr. Bransford's blog, which often features news from the publishing world and awesome, writing-related conversations.

Pat's Fantasy Hotlist is a (hugo nominated) online fanzine for the speculative fiction genre. He often has really cool contests for new books, reviews, and everything cool related to the field. 

Ryan Holiday's own description of himself: 

I'm 21. I run five days a week. I am constantly reading. I think Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is the greatest book ever written. I've always believed that if you don't define yourself, other people will gladly do it for you--this blog is my attempt at that. I live in Los Angeles while trying to spend as little time there as possible. This is my rebellious puppy, Hanno.

Ryan reads a lot and writes quite a bit about philosophy and other interesting things. He's very smart, and I can't recommend his blog highly enough. 

Finally, there's the Harper Studios blog, which is the blog of Harper Collins. They often talk about publishing in a new, digital medium and link to news in the literary world. A good all around site.

Are there any sites you regularly visit to sate your literary thirst? Throw them up in the comments!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Upcoming Book Review: Fragment

Fragment is the debut scientific thriller of Warren Fahy (pronounced Fay-Hee) that follows in the tradition of Michael Crichton. The prose is brisk yet unremarkable, but the book has a single, shining ace in the hole: imagination.

The premise: humans have (often) precipitated harsh ecological disasters by introducing foreign species to stable ecosystems. But what if an isolated ecosystem was discovered that was so alien and so deadly that, should it be introduced to any other ecosystem on the planet, would eradicate all other forms of life? And, of course, such a place is discovered while filming for a reality television show. I know what you're thinking too, that this sounds both lame and cliche. But it's not. Fahy makes it both clever and cool.

For instance, most of the animals discovered on the island are descendants of the mantis shrimp, a fascinating animal with several unique features, such as the most advanced eyes in the animal kingdom (they're able to detect colors the human eye can't see, for instance) and claws that pack the punch of a 22. caliber bullet. They hit so hard that Australian divers have dubbed them "thumb-splitters". Did I mention they're beautiful? They are:

Descendants of the Mantis Shrimp aren't the only creatures on the island - there are several others, each of them oozing with both creativity and lethality, from ant to behemoth. My personal favorite animal was the Spiger, which is exactly like it sounds: spider meets tiger, with a little mantis shrimp flavor tossed in for good measure.

However, the book isn't without flaws - despite an interesting prologue and short introduction to the island, the plot merely trudges along for the first fifty or so pages. The author relies on the compelling nature of the book's subject to keep readers interested in , but surprisingly poignant developments in character will keep them hooked for the conclusion.

My other, very minor gripe with the book was its use of esoteric science and rock climbing lingo. Though I don't have a science background, I do enjoy reading books about science, and I needed to consult the web to understand parts of the book. I do rock climb, so the lingo there didn't confuse me, but words like "chimneyed", "dynoed" and "bouldered" may confuse others. The scientific ideas presented aren't incredibly complex, but none of them are toned down, which might will put off some readers as much as it puts on others.

Still, the book's main strength, a surprisingly unique and powerful story, far overcomes its comparatively minor flaws. The plot briskly leaps from survival to an incredible ending I don't dare spoil, and the more you read, the better it gets. By the end I may or may not have had a tear in my eyes. Run-of-the-mill scientific thriller this is not. Highly recommended.

Fragment is slated for release on June 16th, 2009.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Here we go! I'm cutting the ribbon on our spanking new blog. Visit here for all your Old Firehouse book needs, information, etc.

Let's start with a bit of background. Old Firehouse Books is a new incarnation of a venerable Fort Collins institution, the Book Rack. What's the Book Rack, you say? Where is it, why haven't I heard of it? We've been around since the 80's in one place or another- for the last seven years, we've been next to the Dairy Queen on College. We are moving on up to Oldtown in April, and that's what I'll be cataloguing on this blog, among other things. You can also check here for recommendations and rants from our staff, pictures of how our construction is going, and cool events.I can't tell you how excited we are about this move! Fort Collins already has some great independent booksellers downtown: Matter, Old Corner (maybe it will return), and Al's Newsstand. We hope that our wide variety of books , including our awesome science fiction/fantasy section, mystery section, and book club recommendations, will be a draw. We're a used and new bookstore, and our wide range of books and our staff (hippest of the hip, helpfullest of the helpful) should be of interest to just about anybody who's a bibliophile. Enough of the advertising. Since I don't want to write a book for a first post, I'll leave you with another picture of the outside of our new digs. I'll follow up with pictures of the mostly-gutted inside, and give you pictures of progress as it happens.