Thursday, January 28, 2010

When two loves combine...

My two favorite things in life are books and crafts and as you may guess, I go crazy for craft books. Traditionally I stick to the older craft books- compendiums by Better Homes and Gardens and the like. But lately, with the resurgence of knitting, felting, and other crafts, some really wonderful books have been coming out!
Some that we have here in the store:

How to Sew a Button
And Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew

by Erin Bried has EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW! There are super helpful tips in cooking, gardening, cleaning, dressing, nesting, thriving, loving, saving, joining, and entertaining. This book is essential to anyone moving out of their parents house or graduating college or needing to learn how to live on their own.

Yarn Bombing
The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti
By Mandy Moore and Leanne Prain is one of the coolest books-from-blogs out right now. See high quality images of super talented knitters leaving their knit graffiti all over the world. From sweatbands around statues to a giant cozy for a military tank, this book has it all.

Wool Pets
Making 20 Figures with Wool Roving and a Barbed Needle
by Laurie Sharp is the book you need to start needle felting. These simple little creatures will get you excited about wool in a way that is probably illegal in most states. Despite the numerous jabbings my left pointer-finger incurred, I enjoyed making these little critters more than anything else I did all day yesterday. (I get a little obsessed) Come into the store to see an example of a baby bumble-bee I made and pick up the book.

Handmade Nation
The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft, and Design

by Faythe Levine and Cortney Heimerl.
At first I was put off by this book because it didn't have any How-To directions. Useless! I thought. But then I gave it a second chance. The book is organized into regions of the United States (North East, Midwest, etc) and presents hand-made artists with well written articles and high quality pictures. So for inspiration, exposure, and "because sweatshops suck" buy this book!

The Sewing Book
Clothes, Home Accessories, Best Tools, Step-By-Step Techniques, Creative Projects
by Alison Smith.
Uh, hello, drool! I am not even GOOD at sewing. My bright pink sewing machine and I are barely on speaking terms (yes we speak) and still, this book gives me tingles in all the right places. The tips of my fingers mostly. The book is expensive ($40) but has so many clear pictures in the step-by-step processes that it is well worth it. From a basic hem to magnificent ruffles, you can learn to sew it.

Martha Stweart's Encyclopedia of Crafts
An A-Z Guide With Detailed Instructions and Endless Inspiration.
Have you SEEN the things Martha Stewart has done? Her mere presence on my television sends me hiding my crafts behind my back and turns my legs into a Gelatin-Based Cranberry Mouse. The lady is insane. She survived prison and still remains America's most awesomest crafter. Martha's stuff looks better than store-bought and I wouldn't want to compare anything I made to the pictures BUT when it says "endless inspiration" it means endless inspiration. Beading, framing, marbleizing (a paper-painting design process), glitter, and wreaths, this book has it all. Perfect for the perfect crafter.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

This Book's Not THAT Depressing

I've noticed a theme in my favorite books.
Not all by any means, but a noticeable amount seem to concern dystopian societies, or at the very least an apocalypse or something. I don't know what is attracting me to these books exactly, but whenever I find a good one I can't seem to put it down. And this isn't just some "Ultra-Dramatic-College-Intellectual" phase, either, I've been reading these kinds of books for a long time now. It's morbid, really, and the best ones are unbearably depressing. Or absolutely hilarious, in the case of Galapagos. Either way, I guess.
Maybe I'm just a dark person, or maybe there's something very human about wanting to picture the worst possible scenario. You can ponder that one for yourself, but in the mean time I've gather a list of "Kelsey's Top Ten Super-Depressing or At Least Really Good Dystopian Novels"!!! So enjoy it. No particular order is involved here because I can never choose a favorite book. A top ten is challenging enough.

1. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
This story follows Offred, a woman bound to the government by still being able to have children. After some unspecified disaster, many women become infertile. Some are sent to labor in colonies, others remain as Wives, who run the households of their husbands. The fertile women, like Offred, become invaluable to their country-- as long as they produce a child. Margaret Atwood has mastered dystopian novels in many of her other books, but this one stands out to me for its unique twist with feminist themes.

2. Blindness by Jose Saramago
I just finished this one last weekend and I was blown away. The story begins with a man going blind behind the wheel while stopped at a red light. Thus begins the unstoppable epidemic of blindness that ends up reaching the country very quickly. The first to go blind are sent to quarantine quickly after their infection-- this "haven" turns out to be an abandoned mental asylum which soon dissolves into anarchy. I became so engrossed in the horrors these people experience, at times I almost felt physically ill myself. Don't let this deter you, however, overall the book is a beautiful and (eventually) inspiring story.

3. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Of course this one is up here. I'm going to get the big two out of the way right now (this one and 1984.) If possible, read these (or re-read these) two one after the other because I think they work beautifully as a comparison. In Brave New World everyone is controlled by pleasure; in 1984 everyone is controlled by pain and fear. The citizens of Brave New World are hedonists, 1984's citizens are cowering in fear. So which do you think is more accurate? Personally, I think they both had it right (partly.) Television is the ultimate example. One channel has the news, visions of endless wars, poverty, crime, and hatred. Flip to the next channel and you get Jersey Boys and Tila Tequila.

4. 1984 by George Orwell
For those of you who never passed 9th grade English, or somehow slipped by without this one, read it now. Right now! Or eventually, whatever, I won't know either way.

5. Watchmen by Alan Moore
This one is an interesting example of a dystopia because it is pretty close to what we have going on right now, up until a certain shift in the book. It's a graphic novel and might fit better under the category "alternate history." In this version of the past, Richard Nixon never left office, the U.S.S.R. is still the #1 enemy of the United States, and masked heroes are more than just comic book figures. Don't discredit this one just because it's a graphic novel, the message is still there, just presented in a different way.

6. Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut
This is the funniest book about the apocalypse that I've ever read (and it should be obvious now that I've read quite a few.) It only makes sense that Kurt Vonnegut wrote it. This is the story of the apocalypse told one million years after it occurs, and by then it's really not that big a deal. The apocalypse didn't manage to whip out all human life. A group of shipwrecked misfits on the Galapagos Islands is spared the plague of infertility that swept all other countries. These character don't survive much too long, but they do manage to reproduce, causing humans to evolve into seal-like creatures, getting rid of the human's troublesome over-sized brains.

7. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
This is one of my favorites. Don't let the strange lingo get you down, a lot of editions have a Nadset dictionary in the back. Based on a little bit of a Russian and a little bit of common sense, this language only serves to heighten the reality of the book. Once you get going into the horrorshow ultraviolence of the whole thing, you find yourself swept up in a way you wouldn't imagine. This novel also has one of the best anti-heroes I've ever read. Alex is the kind of guy anyone would love to hate. Even your grandma wouldn't hesitate to give him a swift kick to where it really hurts. But by the end of the book the lines between hero and villain blur in unexpected ways.

8. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
This is another new classic. I'm yet to see the movie, but I've heard good things. What I do know for sure is that the book was fantastic. It takes place after some unsaid disaster that leaves the United States (and maybe the rest of the world-- it's never specified) in a complete state of distress. A father and son travel down the coast, trying to make it to the warm southern climates before Winter. Survival seems unlikely, at best, and pointless, at worst. More than anything this book conveys the intense love and trust between a father and his son.

9. The Giver by Lois Lowry
At the beginning of this book, one might think the community described is a more of a utopia than anything. No one feels pain, everyone seems contented, families spend plenty of time together. The opposite quickly reveals itself, however, when Jonas, the story's protagonist, excepts his role as The Giver. His job is to hold all the memories of the world before that the rest of the community has forgotten. Passed down to him through some sort of telekinesis, Jonas learns the beauty and pain of what we consider the real world. Along with these he learns the horrifying secrets of the place he calls home.

10. Feed by M.T. Anderson
This is the first book that really got me into the dystopian sub-genre. It seems to have proved itself to be eerily true as time has passed. By the time Titus (the protagonist) and his friends have reached their teenage years, the internet has evolved into something called Feednet. This system will directly feed images, music, and anything (and everything) else into the person's mind. Basically, everyone lives with a screen in front of their face all waking hours. How this differs from constant texting, tweeting, television, and internet connection everywhere you go I'm still searching for an answer. When Titus' feed deactivates because of an anti-feed hacker one day, the story really begins.


Event: Untitled Book Club
Date: February 8, 2010
When: 6:30 PM
Where: 232 Walnut St.

Cost: FREE!!

Contact Information: 484-7898,

In this time of mash-ups, what could be better for Valentine’s Day than a zombie black romantic comedy? We’ll be reading Breathers, a book about one man’s transition to the undead and how he finds love in the afterlife. Bound to make you feel better about your love life, no matter what state it’s in. Breathers is 20% off at old Firehouse Books.

Event: Strange Worlds Science Fiction Book Club
Date: February 11, 2010
When: 6:00 PM
Where: 232 Walnut St.
Cost: FREE!!
Contact Information: 484-7898,

For our February meeting, we’re very pleased to feature the new novel Spirit Lens from Carol Berg, an award-winning Fort Collins science fiction author. Carol Berg will be here at our book club meeting to discuss and sign her work. Spirit Lens takes place in a civilization on the edge of the Age of Reason. It follows a young nobleman who becomes entangled in political and magical intrigue. This month, Spirit Lens is 20% off at Old Firehouse Books.

Event: Signing with Sandi Ault
When: February 13 at noon
Where: Old Firehouse Books

Join us on February 13 at noon to meet Colorado author Sandi Ault and get your copy of Wild Penance, her fourth book in the Jamaica Wild mystery series. If you enjoy the outdoors, the mysticism of Indian cultures, along with breakneck adventure, the WILD series might just get your heart racing.

Event: Open Book Club
Date: February 14, 2010
When: 1:00 PM
Where: 232 Walnut St.
Cost: FREE!!
Contact Information: 484-7898,

This month we will be discussing Red Glass, an award-winning novel by Laura Resau, a Fort Collins author. This novel is marketed as a teen book, but anyone can relate to its themes of identity, self-confidence, and growth. Teenage Sophie travels to Mexico to help her foster brother visit his family one last time. Along the way, she learns to trust herself and to reach out in love. Resau touches on the plight of illegal immigrants in an empathic way and also gives a fascinating glimpse into Mexican culture. Red Glass is 20% off this month at Old Firehouse Books.

Event: Traps and Trenchcoats Mystery Book Club
Date: February 15, 2010
Time: 6:00 PM

Where: 232 Walnut St.
Cost: FREE!!
Contact Information: 484-7898,

This month, experience post-Tiananmen China in Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong. The novel combines the beauty of poetry with the politics of ‘90’s China in an intelligent police procedural. It won the 2001 Anthony Award for Best First novel. Death of a Red Heroine is 20% off at old Firehouse Books this month.

Event: Three Adventures on a Winter Night
Date: February 17, 2010
Time: 6:30 PM
Where: 232 Walnut St.
Cost: FREE!!
Contact Information: 484-7898,

Three Adventures on a Winter Night features the opportunity to meet three great authors with three different adventures. You may enjoy award-winning Carol Berg’s Spirit Lens, the start of her new science fiction series of political and magical intrigue. Or perhaps you would prefer Soliloquy by Janet Fogg, a World War II time travel story with adventure and romance. Maybe the story that appeals most is Ashes of the Red Heifer by Shannon Baker, a thriller in which a prophecy may be fulfilled with the fate of the world at stake. Whatever your taste, you’ll find a book to cozy up to on a long winter’s night.

Review: Bernard Cornwell's The Burning Land

I always enjoy Bernard Cornwell. Whether he's writing about the Napoleanic wars, King Arthur, or this series, his Viking series, I can always expect a rip-roaring yarn with plenty of combat, political intrigue, and sly humor.
Burning Land contains all of these usual suspects. Uhtred still is fixated on getting back his ancestral home, Bamburg Castle, stolen by his treacherous uncle. Incidentally, Bamburg Castle is Cornwell's ancestral home as well, so the author has a personal attachment to this story. Uhtred has developed a grudging respect for King Alfred, but doesn't want to be tied to the royal heir, Edward. His vows, however, will come back to haunt him just when he thinks he has broken free.
If you're ready to know what it was like to fight in a shieldwall, the logistics of bringing an army cross-country, and are interested in the medieval struggle between Christianity and paganism, this is the book for you. Be warned; there are bloody bits. But if you're looking for history brought to life in all its glory and ugliness, then read on.
On a side note, this book premiered at #10 on the bestseller list. I think Cornwell has another winner on his hands.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Carol Berg at Strange Worlds Book Club!!

As you may or may not know, Old Firehouse Books has a science fiction book club called Strange Worlds. We've had a great time this year reading everything from Neil Gaiman to Dan Simmons. Anyone is welcome, and our selections are 20% off, just like all the book clubs we offer.
Anyway, we're extremely excited to have an award-winning Fort Collins science fiction author at our next meeting on February 11 at 6pm! Carol Berg has been publishing stellar fantasy novels since 2000. Her new series is called Collegia Magica, and features a Renaissance/Age of Reason setting, plus political intrigue. Please join us with questions for Carol- this should be a lot of fun.
Here's a review from Kathleen Ivy, friend, customer, and perspicacious reviewer:

In Spirit Lens Carol Berg takes us into a world familiar enough to walk around in, and fantastical enough to keep us from ever wanting to leave. Her main character, Portier de Savin-Duplais, soon ceases to be a mere character and becomes instead a fellow traveler, a crony to any reader who has ever pondered destiny. He is also an icon for anyone who has bumbled in confusion amid a conglomeration of powerful people who do not just have dangerous hidden agendas, but multiple layers of agendas and stratagems (such as high school or corporate America.) Accompanied by the flagrantly hilarious Ilario, and the broody, intense Dante, Portier traverses a world both achingly beautiful and deeply horrifying. They meet a multitude of well drawn characters so compelling that a reader feels nearly as if she has watched a cinematic epic instead of reading a novel. Though any fan of medieval history is familiar with the feudal and apprentice system used as structure in Spirit Lens, the juxtaposition of science and magic takes a new turn as the difference between formulaic magic and intrinsic magic are explored. Spirit Lens is a thoroughly satisfying read for those of us who love magic and the medieval. As Portier realizes at the beginning he, “needed a sorcerer” and so do we.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My Alter-Ego in Another Roadside Attraction

Books become my favorites in various ways. Some have plots that intrigue me, others have twist endings I never saw coming, or give me insight to places I had never before considered. I have a special love, however, for characters. The reasons I love them vary as much as the characters themselves do. I love characters who are nothing like me, characters who are exactly like me, and especially the characters who I wish I were like. These alter-egos give me inspiration for self improvement, but they also provide a very important sense of vicarious living one can only get through a book.

Last year I read Tom Robbin's
Another Roadside Attraction and found a new character to idolize. The story's protagonist, Amanda, is fiercely independent, stunningly loyal, and truly unique. She loves motorcycles, new age medicine, and butterflies (but doesn't "give a rusty goddamn what these butterflies are called in Greek.") The book is all around fantastic, but Amanda's complex character is what pushes it over the top for me. My favorite tidbit about Amanda is that she believes strongly in only five things: birth, copulation, death, magic, and freedom.

Robbins has a gift for writing women, one that not many other male writers possess. His heroines tend to be overtly sexual, but never in an exploitative way. Mostly, they are strong, decisive and intelligent role models for any reader, regardless of age or gender.

So read the book, and love Amanda just as much as I do, and you'll probably learn a little something about me along the way. Or even better, you might learn something about yourself. The characters we love and the reasons we love them say a lot about us as people. Think back to the last character who grabbed you and ask yourself why you were so attached to them. Did they have something you wanted or a trait you admired? Were they so delightfully wicked, so perfectly opposite of yourself that you were compelled to them? Finding myself reflected in literature is one of the best parts of reading, in my opinion, and I think it's important to give the story's significance extra thought. What we see, or don't see, in characters says infinite things about us.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The New Year

I don't make resolutions. I usually end up forgetting about them or bailing on them anyways so I skip the whole process in general. This year is a little different for me.
Let me go back. Last summer I hit a wall. I was working too much, I was stressed out, I couldn't enjoy things because I was always thinking of what was next...It was horrific. And after realizing it (it did feel like running straight into a wall!) I committed to having more fun in my life. I put up notes in my house to remind me to have fun. I sang songs, I danced, I acted silly and tried to smile a heck of a lot more while working, going to school, paying bills, etc. It was a challenge. Then this winter I came across a book that changed everything. It's called The Happiness Project. The writer decides to try to act out and be happier in her everyday life. Every month she sets different goals and projects and writes about how each work out. What got me really into the book was one of her first ideas, she wanted to work on having more energy. She had a couple of different strategies and projects but the one that caught my eye was to dance and skip in the low points of her day to raise her energy. Since I already do that here at work (it's true, come by some day at around 3 or 4 and I usually can be found in the aisles goofing off or dancing) I thought, "at last! a kindred spirit!" and then proceeded to devour the rest of the book.
One focus I really like that I am constantly trying to put into action in my own life is to find happiness where I am at. Without changing or altering much in my day to day hum drum boringness. I really appreciated the authors take on finding things to be grateful for, and working outwards to find happiness (volunteering, loving people, giving) without feeling that she was preaching or above anyone.
So, to sum up. This year I am making a resolution. Many resolutions to be exact. I have written out everything that was a "project" in the book and changed a couple of things to make them more specific to my life and voila! I have my own version of The Happiness Project! Feel free to come into the store and ask me how it's going! (although if you catch me on a day where I am forgetting to work on it...remember it's a work in progress! Also, one of my "projects" is to work on remembering things better so feel free to remind me about that!)
Hope to see you all soon in a HAPPY 2010.