Friday, February 26, 2010

It's been a while...

I realized today that the reason I haven't hopped on to blog lately is the sad lack of books in my life. Not that I don't work around lots of books 24/7, what's really lacking is the actual reading of the books. With school taking over any free time I have outside of work (contrary to popular belief I don't spend all my time reading at work!) I haven't had a spare minute to pick up a book that's not required reading...
One reason I was thinking of what I have read recently is that I have a staff meeting coming up soon and one thing that we do at every meeting is review books being read! Egads! I haven't read anything! (facebook posts don't count, nor do school books!) And now I am trying to figure out, what's the balance between school, work, and pleasure?! I miss my old friends, books are such a comfort and happy escape for me. I love to find a story and learn about someone else's life, I enjoy living in someone else's world, and most of all, I just love turning the page and reading some more!
I am resolved to read more and the books I want to start with: The Art of Eating In, Left to Tell, and I really need to find a good, gripping classic! That is such a small list for a big reader like myself but I have to admit, it's daunting to even think about it with all the school work I have!
Wish me luck! I hope the same for you, let's all agree to read more! And if you have any recommendations- I would love to hear them!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Love your Local... no.... REALLY love your local

"Thank you for calling Old Firehouse books; This is Nicole; How can I help you?" That's how I answer the phone like 100 times a day when I work. And the weird thing is, no matter what the call, I really enjoy answering it. Every call is a problem to solve. I learn about new titles, take orders, give directions, and find books for people- all with my voice alone.
Not to get business-professional-sentimental on everyone, but I love working at a local business. I feel a connection with our customers as our community. What we order is what you read and what you read, we order. We're the best symbiotic relationship this side of the Mississippi! I believe this and I'm pretty sure all my coworkers feel the same.
By not going to Barnes and Noble or Amazon for your books you're doing a super duper good thing. For our relationship. It's almost like buying us flowers or chocolates. And in return we promise to be the best bookfriend you've ever had. We'll eventually remember how to spell your name, (Sorry Mrs. Abrems) and you'll stop trying to buy the same book 100 times (I agree, those covers are confusing.) And we will live happily ever after, just like we have been doing all along.

Check out our events below. We can get to know each other a little better. They're like... not a... date. But, we'll see you, okay. Great.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

March Events at your favorite bookstore in the whole wide world!!

Book Shop of Fort Collins, Inc.
Old Firehouse Books
232 Walnut St.
Fort Collins, CO 80521
(970) 484-7898

March Events at Old Firehouse Books

Event:  Open Book Club
When:  March 7, 1pm
Where:  Old Firehouse Books, 232 Walnut St
Contact Info: 484-7898,

This month we will be discussing Eudora Welty’s The Optimist’s Daughter.  This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is a meditation on the complexities of love and grief, written in spare, beautiful prose.  All book club selections are 20% off at Old Firehouse Books.

Event:  Untitled Book Club
When:  March 8, 6:30 pm
Where:  Old Firehouse Books, 232 Walnut St
Contact Info: 484-7898,

Join us as we explore the Amazon forest along with Percy Fawcett in The Lost City of Z.  The author of this book attempts to trace the lost Fawcett expedition in their hunt for a mysterious ancient Amazonian city which may or may not have existed. You’ll be captivated by the dangers and struggles of each expedition. All book club selections are 20% off at Old Firehouse Books.

Event: Strange Worlds Science Fiction Book Club
When:  March 11, 6pm
Where:  Old Firehouse Books, 232 Walnut St
Contact Info: 484-7898,

This month, we’ll be discussing Into the Storm:  Destroyermen by Taylor Anderson.  The story follows a rag-tag WWII era destroyer that is pulled into an alternate world where other species than humans have evolved intelligence.  Deadly warfare and great action scenes should keep you riveted. All book club selections are 20% off at Old Firehouse Books.

Event:  Traps and Trenchcoats Mystery Book Club
When:  March 15, 6pm
Where:  Old Firehouse Books, 232 Walnut St
Contact Info: 484-7898,

This month we’ll be discussing The Singing Sands by the incomparable Josephine Tey.  A dead body, a scrap of poetry, and a mystery all combine to send Inspector Grant into the Hebrides for one more case. All book club selections are 20% off at Old Firehouse Books.

Event: Book Signing with Kirk Farber
When: March 20, 12pm
Where:  Old Firehouse Books, 232 Walnut St
Contact Info: 484-7898,

Meet Kirk Farber, a rising star among Colorado authors. His quirky debut novel explores themes of love, loss, grief, and what they do to our psyches. The story is told via the darkly hilarious actions and musings of the hapless Sid as he tries to solve the mystery of a series of postcards from his dead?, missing?... or not, girlfriend. 

Event: Book Signing  with Helen Thorpe
When: March 25, 7:30
Where:  Old Firehouse Books, 232 Walnut St
Contact Info: 484-7898,

Helen Thorpe takes a compassionate, thorough look at the complicated issue of immigration rights through the eyes of four teenage girls, two who are in the United States legally, two who are not.  Just Like Us is sure to provoke thought and discussion on both sides of the debate.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Kids Don't Read

It's not completely true. Kids read a lot of things- packages, text messages, words on commercials - but are they reading books? Are they reading books for fun? Maybe it's just me because I've always been a reader but it kills me to hear when kids say "I hate reading." Once I met a college sophomore who claimed he had never read a book.
"That's not true," I retorted, "What's the last book you read."
He didn't even look ashamed as he said, "The only book I've ever read was probably some Dr. Seuss book."
The guy had never read a book. At 19 years old, who can we blame?
My parents never said no when I wanted to buy a book. Unless I had a stack at home, books were the one thing I knew I could always have. Maybe it's not good to spoil your kids but if they're going to be reading, I think they should have the opportunity to.
I see so many parents say "no" to kids asking for books with the excuse "we're going to the toy store later."
I've had a coworker overhear the excuse, "You have books. You don't need anymore." Or, "you have a book."

One reason this really makes my blood boil is that there are so many great kids and young adult books out there. Books that rocked when I was a kid are still around and new ones are coming out all the time. When I was a kid books were a place I could escape to no matter what my parents were arguing about, what rumors my friends were spreading, or what was happening with the Colorado weather outside. I had a safe place to go and in the meantime, I acquired the very valuable skill of reading comprehension not to mention all the great things I learned about the world around me.

We know, the more you force a kid to do something, the more they're going to resist. And while there are so many electronic distractions, how can we expect our kids to read? So what can you do? You can buy a kid a book and you can hope for the best. You can read to your kids. You can donate books to schools. And you can suggest books that you liked when you were a kid to today's youth.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tasty Tasty Murder???

Jonathan Safran Foer is a young author known for his and unusual writing style. In Foer’s latest book, 'Eating Animals' he takes a break from his distinctive fiction writing and turns his attention to how we get animals from the now typical factory farm to our plate. Foer balances his research with personal accounts from his life as well as the ranchers, farmers, industry advocates and activists he speaks with. Eating Animals will make any reader examine where their meat comes from and realize the importance of a decision they make everyday. For some added info and hilarity, take a look at Foer's interview on the The Colbert Report.

Monday, February 8, 2010

E-Fair Trade and Taxes

I know, as soon as you read the word "taxes" this post became much less interesting. I have gotten a Soapbox into the Coloradoan on this issue.
You can just read the link, if you like, but I thought I'd say a few words on it here.
A theme of the past decade (or two) has been the big versus the small, the independent business versus the chain. Many people appreciate the low prices and wide variety that chain store bring. Our store certainly can't afford the floor space of a Barnes and Noble, and our business model is much different from theirs. Many big corporate stores actually make most of their money on opening new stores (the loans they get, the subsidies they get from the communities they enter) instead of their existing stores. They are like sharks- they must move or die. Our store has grown in space in the last year, but we aren't on the verge of opening another store or franchising. Just not our business model right now.
I find that our customers are looking for a certain experience in our store if they come here instead of Barnes and Noble, and we are happy to provide it. We don't kid ourselves that we have a huge effect on their business, but are happy with our niche and are grateful that our customers enjoy their experience in the store enough to keep coming back and keep us in business.
Amazon and other online retailers have a different business model than chain brick-and-mortar stores and independent stores. They have almost no overhead in the way of floor space (except for some warehouse space), payroll, etc compared to a brick-and-mortar. And that's their business model- again, not ours. You can go to our website and buy a book from us (no shipping if it comes to the store) for a 10% discount, but we do not have the leverage of scale to negotiate (some might say strong-arm) the discounts that Amazon does. Even so, we're getting by.
But there is still another advantage that Amazon has. It avoids paying sales tax, which all stores with a physical presence in the state of Colorado must pay. This may be an incentive to shoppers, who can avoid sales tax and pay even less on Amazon because of this circumvention. But it is not fair to all the retailers who are paying sales tax. Amazon has a physical presence in the state in all the small businesses who sell on Amazon. We do not sell there, but many private individuals do. Trucks shipping books from Amazon use Colorado roads and put exhaust into Colorado air.
We understand that as a small store, we have hurdles to jump that the big guys don't- like no subsidies from communities to build here, like the inability due to our size to negotiate steeper discounts which we can then pass on to the customer. This particular disadvantage, however, we feel is unfair, not only to us but to everyone in Colorado who does pay tax and does their fair share to fund our schools, police, firemen, and roadways. It doesn't just hurt us; it hurts all of Colorado.
So, promotion of tax collection is never a popular position. It hurts the wallet in the short run. But taking the long view, it hurts more when there is no tax revenue.
I used to work in the mental health field, so I've seen that it hurts the mentally ill when the one inpatient treatment hospital in the state is closed due to lack of funds. It hurts the mom with the developmentally disabled child, who is no longer able to find relief of any kind in her gruelling days of caring for one who cannot care for themselves. It hurts the kids who once got to eat at least one hot meal at school, when that program is shut down. That's who I think of when I think of lost tax revenue.
I'll climb off the soapbox now. Part of being an independent bookstore is making the store a community resource, and I suppose I see the taxes not being collected by Amazon as another community resource, if we only could use them properly. It seems a terrible waste.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Romances: When You Just Can't Take It Anymore

I am going to use this blog as an opportunity to play devil's advocate to Jacqie. This is not to say that I don't support romance novels. Granted, I've never been a big fan of the genre. Like Jacqie mentions in her last post, I'm one of those creative writing majors who are taught to believe that crying/shock/nudity is the only worthwhile way of ending a story. Romance novels are good because they serve to remind the reader that there are some beautiful stories out there, untainted by the horrors and sorrows that are so rampant in our literature section.
Some people love these romance novels, but some of us out here were disappointed to find out that Valentine's Day has come around yet again.

I'm not bitter, really, believe me!! (Am I convincing enough?) I've always been cynical about Valentines Day, even the one year where a boyfriend and the holiday happened to coincide. Every year around this time, expectations are set high, people desperately scramble to find a bouquet or tacky card, and my mom gives me a candy bar. This doesn't sound like love to me (except the part where my mom gives me chocolate.) Not that I am anything close to an expert on the subject of love, but I'd like to imagine it doesn't need a holiday to be beautiful. The little I do know about it tells me that it is nothing like the Valentines Day special episode of Saved by the Bell.

So I'll stop ranting now, and leave you with this. These are my two favorite Not-So-Love Books. They are two of the most beautiful books I've ever read, love story or no, but they deal with love in a way that doesn't make me feel like there's something wrong with me because I haven't yet been saved by a hunk in a kilt while traveling back in time.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
"A young woman in love with a man torn between his love for her and incorrigible womanizing; one of his mistresses and her humbly faithful lover-- these are the two couples whose story is told in this masterful novel. In a world in which lives are shaped by irrevocable choices and by fortuitous events, a world in which everything occurs but once, existence seems to lose its substance, its weight. Hence, we feel 'the unbearable lightness of being' not only as the consequence of our pristine actions but also in the public sphere, and the two inevitably intertwine."

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
"Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual obsession is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman. A magnificent blending of the mkusic, the mood, and the ethos that was the 60's with the story of one college student's romantic coming of age, Norwegian Wood brilliantly recaptures a young man's first, hopeless, and heroic love."

Both of these books can find right in the middle of my pick shelf at Old Firehouse Books!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Romances: When You Just Need a Happy Ending

So, I admit I can be a bit of a book snob. Romances, although they are purchased more than any other sort of book, rank low in the book genre hierarchy. They are looked down upon as trashy diversions that do nothing to elevate the mind- the literary equivalent of cotton candy. And I'll say that I've agreed with that opinion in the past, and still sometimes think so.
But several years ago I went to a romance writer's convention. I went expecting to sneer at the authors who write such dreck. I was surprised, however, to find that these authors are smart, dynamic, powerful women who see themselves as providing a great service to thousands of women. I came away agreeing with them.
So much "literary work" these days is so damn depressing. It seems like if you're taking a creative writing workshop or working on your MFA, you get trained to be dreary and hopeless in your work. That's deep writing. But I find that life can also be dreary and hopeless. I read to escape, entertain myself, and feel relaxed. How relaxing can it be to read about a mother who kills her child (Beloved), a girl who keeps two lovers apart forever (Atonement), or a daughter and mother at odd s over the treatment of another daughter, ill with leukemia (My Sister's Keeper)?
So, while I do read more literary works and bestsellers (my special weakness is historical fiction), I also read lighter stuff. It seems like the more stressed I get, the lighter I like my fiction. I think this is perfectly natural: why wouldn't I like to get away to a happier place for a while and emerge less stressed and more positive about life?
If you love romances, and yet feel embarrassed about reading a book with a busty, lusty cover in public, you're not alone. And keep it up: I bet you'll uncover a lot of other closet romance readers.
Here are some of my favorite authors, if you're looking for more romance in your literary life:
Kathleen Woodiwiss: She's passed away now, but she was once the queen of historical romance. Her Wolf and the Dove captivated me when I was 14 and my mother didn't know what I was reading. Aislinn and Wulfgar, Saxon and Norman, totally politically incorrect, and I loved it.
Jennifer Crusie: This woman actually wrote her master's thesis on the romance novel. She's got it down. If you want funny, screwball romances, she's my favorite.
Susan Wiggs: Her books feature more mature women, who often have families. I think she writes characters well, and her prose is less purple than others,more realistic.
Lora Leigh: She's new; she's hot. 'Nuff said.

So give some of these ladies a try- you might like them.