Wednesday, December 21, 2011

OH MY GOSH YOU GUYS (Or: The Hobbit is coming out!)

Exciting news! (OH how this news is exciting!)

The trailer for The Hobbit is out! I have nothing but high hopes and great things to say about this movie. It's directed by the same person who was in charge of the Lord of the Rings, and it's The Hobbit!

Secretly--or, not so secretly now--The Hobbit was always my favorite Tolkien book. You can keep your Two Towers and your Return of the King, but The Hobbit is mine. My... precious.

(Actually, fun fact, I can recite the opening paragraph of The Hobbit from memory. It remains one of my favorite openings in all of book-dom.)

Anyway, you can watch the trailer on Youtube by clicking on this statement. Otherwise, you can check almost every entertainment/book-oriented blog on the whole of the internet.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Books are awesome.

Something that makes us jump up and down and throw our hands in the air:

"When you give a 'real world' book to someone you are saying, 'I am totally in love with this book and think you will be too,' or 'The sentiment in this book reminded me of you,' or 'Here, this is a journey you will never forget.' A book is a personal gift--something uniquely picked out, inscribed, and physically presented to another person. It has emotional and actual weight. I am not saying there are not other good gifts out there (a ukulele comes to mind), but with a book you don't have to: mortgage the home, guess bra size, learn to sing, or find out too late that they are allergic to nuts. That is why I think the book is the best gift you can give. It is economical, beautiful, hours of entertainment, thoughtful, and can last (both physically and in the mind) a lifetime."

-- Steven Salardino, manager of Skylight Books, Los Angeles, Calif., from the bookstore's latest e-newsletter.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Guest Post: Sarah Paige Ryan's Holiday Survival Guide

Oh, the holidays. The shopping lists. The paper cuts. The delayed flights. The family gatherings where Grandma reminds everyone that she thought you’d never graduate from high school. If you’re like me, then the season of giving is a source of both joy and dread. After years of holiday meltdowns, I’ve compiled the perfect survival guide to see you through the merry-making.

You might associate this classic cocktail with the likes of Don and Betty Draper, but I have my in-laws to thank for this hangover-proof mood enhancer. Every year, my relatives gather around the Christmas tree and get good and drunk on their own version of the Old-Fashioned: lemon-lime soda, brandy, a dash of bitters, a slice of orange, a maraschino cherry, lots of ice and, for good measure, a sprinkling of Sweet’N Low.

Bad Sex
Why waste your time on a furtive quickie when you can read other people’s half-baked exploits? On December 6, the British magazine The Literary Review will announce the winner of the Bad Sex in Fiction Award. According to the editors, “The purpose of the prize is to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel and to discourage it." Twelve authors from around the world are on the shortlist, including Stephen King, Haruki Murakami, Jean Auel, and David Guterson. Extracts are available online at The Guardian.

A Good Book
There’s no better excuse for retreating to an armchair with an old-fashioned and a warm blanket than a really good read. When the season strikes, I want to be transported to distant locales. I want to ooh and aah over the marvelous and strange. If you love novels, I recommend Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder for its fire and ice evocation of disparate locales (Minnesota and the Amazon) and love and nature. If you prefer to dabble, pick up a copy of The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities and enjoy a bizarre and horrifying collection in which parasites might hold the key to religious ecstasy and mechanical teachers are linked to the development of mustard gas.

Schadenfreude is the time-honored art of deriving pleasure from the misfortunes of others. It’s distinctly un-seasonal, but it’s also an invaluable source of relief at a time when there’s so much pressure to love one another. On Wednesday, November 30, at 7pm, the members of the Old Town Writing Group will share their tales of holiday mishaps during the Feast of Fools event at Bas Bleu Theatre in Fort Collins. The reading is free. The writers include Karye Cattrell, Dana Masden, Laura Pritchett, Laura Resau, Carrie Visintainer, and myself. Work off that Thanksgiving stress with stories of social disorder.

Sarah Paige Ryan is a local writer and blogger. Her memoir, Solar-Powered Sex Machine, is available online. Learn more at

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Feed by Mira Grant

It is very very rare that I feel compelled to write a book review. I did a few too many papers in college to get excited about the process these days. I'm a simple rate it from 1 to 10, and move on gal. That said, the book I just finished deserved a few words. I want to talk about the book Feed, by Mira Grant.

How do I talk about a book like Feed?
I'm not sure where I could possibly begin.
I suppose I should start with myself, because my experiences deeply colored how I read and felt about this book.

I worked for two years at a major newspaper, and believe me when I say I know the ugly side of the news media. When I left the paper the news was already on its slide toward what I call Infotainment, and away from the Truth. Don't get me started on how I feel about the reporting being done today. I also happen to be extremely political, something that stumps my more apathetic Gen X friends. I'm constantly on my soapbox begging people to get informed and get involved. So why is this important? Oh, didn't I mention? This isn't a zombie book. This is a wake up call.

Feed takes place in the years after the zombie Rising. Life carries on. And zombies are just a fact of life. And the book follows a group of bloggers as they cover a major political campaign. The traditional news has lost its pursuit of the truth, and it is in the hands of bloggers to do the real reporting. The bulk of the book is spent on explorations of the news and politics. It is methodical and somewhat repetitive, though I never balked at its surprisingly laid back pace. You join the campaign trail and get pulled in to a well constructed world, frighteningly familiar in its similarities to our own. The actual zombies take a back seat. Terror, on the other hand, does not.

Feed is a meditation on what it is like to live in a state of constant fear. This is a book where zombies are a clear metaphor for terrorism. Actually, not even a metaphor at times - in places it is even literal. This is a world wherein the people are afraid all the time. They shut themselves in their homes, and they fear their neighbors. It's terrifying. And after reading over and over and over again about blood tests being clean, to the point where it begins to grate, the tension has reached such a point that the payoff is as jarring as it is inevitable when one comes back dirty.

This book won't appeal to everyone. It's not action packed. It's not an all out zombie fest. The terror comes in the form of a creeping dread, and in wanting to believe things will work out when you know damn well that they will not. The fear is not in the moments where zombies are running toward you. It's in the moment you are pulling off your shirt, searching for holes, hoping against hope that you aren't dead and just don't know it yet. Or worse, when you are watching your loved one do the same.

- t

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.

You know that all of us here at Old Firehouse Books like to keep up on book to movie or television news. So we have to share the trailer for the upcoming film based on The Lorax by Dr. Seuss with you.

What do you think? Will you see it when it hits theaters in March?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A little too on-the-nose?

Stumbling across the internet, I found this comic strip that seems to sum up the current book-selling climate astoundingly well (though it is, perhaps, somewhat dated by the presence of Borders, may-it-rest-in-peace.)

Thanks to the original authors (and original wits! DOH hoh hoh) Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins. If you want to read more of their work, click on this sentence.


Monday, October 24, 2011

This Friday: Old Firehouse Books Halloween Bash!

With Halloween falling on a Monday this year, we all get a premium amount of time to celebrate beforehand and we decided to take advantage of this at Old Firehouse Books.

We're throwing our own Halloween Bash in the store this Friday (10/28) from 6-8pm. You should come get your BOOk on!

We'll have a literary costume contest, for kids and adults, and trivia too. Winners will receive a gift card to use in the store - you can buy that new book you've been eyeing or stock up on the classics you've read and loved. Snacks and drinks will be provided as well.

And the best part? It's free.

So grab your costume, bone up on your book knowledge, and join us.

*Adults: Need some help thinking of a costume? Check out this Flavorpill post featuring 7 bookish pop-culture costume ideas: Flavorpill Book Costumes.

Monday, October 10, 2011

DC Comics pulled from Barnes and Noble shelves?

So, I just had a long weekend. Very relaxing. Full of fun. But then I come back to the store--glibly optimistic in my ignorance--to find that Barnes and Noble pulled one hundred DC comic titles from their shelves in retaliation against Amazon's exclusive E-book rights. Curious.

To quote Jaime Carey--Barnes and Noble's chief merchandising officer--in a response made to the New York Times,

"In a few isolated instances, exclusive publisher deals have prohibited Barnes & Noble from selling certain e-books, preventing millions of our digital customers from access to those titles. To sell and promote the physical book in our store showrooms and not have the e-book available for sale would undermine our promise to Barnes & Noble customers to make available any book, anywhere, anytime."

Does this sound silly to anyone else? They are pulling titles from their shelves because having them would "... undermine [their] promise to Barnes & Noble customers to make available any book, anywhere, anytime?"

They are pulling books.

Because they want them to be available.

Maybe I'm just taking this personally. I am, after all, what some would call a 'nerd.' When I hear that titles like Watchmen and Sandman are being pulled from shelves in a snit fit over e-book rights, I can't help but lament the fact that someone, somewhere, won't have access to them.
And maybe it's just me, but it always seems like anytime big distributors or big publishers fight over copyrights, or e-book exclusivity, or who-wronged-who in the profit-wars, the fallout always hurts the readers the most.
I can understand wanting to protect your livelihood. In light of Borders' perilous decline, I can see how Barnes and Noble would try to do its best to protect its investments. I mean, we've all got to survive, right?
But at the same time, when is it too much? If a bookseller takes a book off the shelf because another book seller has it available at a lower price or in a different format, wouldn't we all be out of business? Isn't it enough just to have the book for people to read, whether they buy it or not? Whatever happened to coming into a store to browse?
Because, see, that's why I go into book stores. It's not always a desperate quest to find the exact title I'm looking for. For me, it's an exploration. A walk in the woods, so to speak, to see just what's out there. And if we cut down all the trees, what's left to explore?

(I feel like I should point out that we stock DC's titles, regardless of who has the e-book rights. Come check 'em out!)


Thursday, October 6, 2011

REVIEW: Thirteen Reasons Why

Hoo. Wow. It's been a while since my last post. Quite some time, indeed.


Without further ado, a book review!

Last night, when the store was slow, I picked up a copy of Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why (Penguin, 2007.) In between helping the occasional customer, I leafed through the first few pages. Then, when it was time to lock up, I leafed through a few more. When I got home, I sat down on the couch and proceeded to finish the book.

And it was good. I mean, like, really good. That's my official first thought while reviewing this book: it was really good.

Thirteen Reasons Why revolves around Clay, a more-or-less typical high school student, who receives an unmarked package containing seven cassette tapes recorded by a recently deceased classmate. On each tape is two reasons that said classmate--Hannah Baker--committed suicide. The book follows Clay as he visits each location in Hannah's story, listening to how each person mentioned in the tapes influenced Hannah's decision and wondering all the while how he fits into the picture.

The immediacy of the book--one of the things I loved about it--comes from the narrative setup: Clay's story happens over the course of a single night, as he follows Hannah's tour of their town. It's a simple layout of a complex plot, following a map from point A to point B and so on, unfolding the significance of each location with an associated cassette tape.
That's precisely the word I would use for the way the book works, by unfolding. It is as if the book were a music box, or a wind-up toy that has been set in motion, and we've just got to sit back and watch as it plays through itself. In a way, it's a genius narrative setup: the character--and by proxy, the reader--is given steps that must inevitably follow one another, and over the course of the book each one is addressed in turn. If it feels like the story is being placed on track at times, it's because it is.

However good the book is, though, this narrative structure could be seen as both a benefit and a detriment. After all, if everything in the book has already happened, where is the tension? There are scant choices to be made after the story begins, and only a few ways for it to play out. And play out it does, from Tape 1 Side A to the silent Side B of Tape 7. So why should we care?

We should care, as it turns out, because Asher is an excellent writer. He takes an otherwise concrete narrative, and pushes it onto Clay to see what he does with it. How he reacts. If he does or does not follow the instructions on the tape. Even though the events of the story could be considered analogous to watching someone listen to a book on tape, it's handled so deftly and so vividly that I never once considered putting the book down.

The only real issue I had with the book was the fact that it was written as teen lit (Which sounds awful. I mean, why should I judge a book by its genre? It seems horribly unfair until you find out that I was an English major, and for a few years there being unfair to books was all I did.) This isn't to say that I have anything against teen lit in principle, but I've come to find that many teen lit books cling to a lingering sense of unreality regarding the functioning of the real world. This shows most tellingly in Asher's book through the presence of Clay's mother, especially when she lets him 'stay out late for a school project'-- I'm not sure if I was an anomaly, but if I lied to my mother like that and spent all night wandering the town, she would find out and I wouldn't leave the house for weeks (Which actually happened to me once. Fun times.)

This is an issue that I've seen come up in many stories aimed towards a teen audience: a magical parentless wonderland where you can stay out all night consequence-free. The most egregious offender that I've seen is the movie Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, where the titular characters spend all night in downtown New York without a single thought as to what their parents might say.

Luckily, however, Asher's book is nothing like that. It was only a niggling sense of 'But what would their mothers think?!' that I noticed. And Asher does address it, insofar as one can address the issues of parents in a teen book-- I'm just not sure if I really like how teen lit as a whole deals with grownups.

But, before this review is swamped in my gripes about the state of teen lit today, I would have to say that, overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was tense, well-written, engaging, and inevitable in a way that I think only Thirteen Reasons Why can truly be.

OVERALL RATING: A-minus, or about 9.2/10. A thumb and three-quarters up? Four stars? I'm really bad at ratings systems. You should read this book.


PS- Jay Asher is signing at the Council Tree Library in Fort Collins! October 20th at 6:30! Make sure you read this excellent book and attend!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Banned Book Week!!!!

Old Firehouse Books here. Hope that all of you fellow readers are doing fantastic. Today, we'd like to bring a very important week to your attention: Banned Books Week. This fantastic event has fallen on Sept. 24-Oct. 1 this year. If you are unfamiliar with Banned Books Week, allow us to fill you in on a little bit of the history.

In 1982, the first ever Banned Books Week was launched. This was a response to the many "challenges" that have occurred on several books. It still happens to this day. To elaborate on "challenge," it is basically another way of saying forced censorship. Here at the bookstore, we support the freedom of the written word. We have just setup a display in our front window that shows several books that have been banned, censored, or even in some extreme cases, burned. Banned Books Week exists to make the public aware of these issues. Here are a few titles from challenged books that may surprise you:

The Adventures of Captain Underpants- Dav Pilkey
The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins
The Sun Also Rises- Ernest Hemingway
The Lord of the Rings- J.R.R. Tolkein
Harry Potter- J.K. Rowling
Gone with the Wind- Margaret Mitchell
Fahrenheit 451- Ray Bradburry
The Grapes of Wrath- John Steinbeck

And this doesn't even skim the surface. Imagine how many classics would be lost to literature if we were to allow titles like these to be banned.

So this week, let your mind be open. Allow your thoughts to flow freely. And most importantly, respect others who do those things. Stop by the store to see our nice display, and possibly pick up a challenged book that deserves to be read. Thanks for reading the post and take care.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

De España

This is Kelsey posting! Even though I'm not quite exactly an employee of OFHB at the moment... For those of you who aren't quite hip to the bookstore gossip, I've taken a leave of absence from my book-slave position in order to study abroad in Alcalá de Henares, Spain for a semester!

I'll be back, don't you worry! And even though I'm not getting paid to talk books right now, I've had some awesome book-related experiences I just have to share here! First and foremost, I was elated when I got to Spain and found out that my host-mother, Pepi, also loves to read! A good portion of our conversations so far have been about that. She loves romance novels by Stephanie Laurens, Nora Roberts, and Lisa Kleypas, as well as thrillers. I was excited to hear that she's also read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series, but in Spain it's called Los hombres que no amaban a las mujeres. (The literal translation of that is The men that didn't love women... they also don't capitalize all of a title here.)

Pepi was also kind enough to hook my up with a little just-for-fun reading of my own! So in addition to Cervantes and the text books I'm reading for class, I just picked up Un ordenador nada ordinario (or... A computer that's never ordinary.) As far as I can tell so far, it's about a little boy who builds a robot that goes haywire and leads him on all sorts of hijinks. Oh yeah, and it's for 8-year-olds. But I've got to start somewhere!

I'll post again as soon as there's more book-stories to be shared! There's a few local "liberias" (bookstores) around that I'm itchin' to check out! I'll let you know how it goes!!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Just to Say Hello

Hey there folk of the written word. Summer is now nearing its end, and we here at the bookstore are looking forward to a little of that wonderful autumn weather around the corner. The bookstore is in fine shape and has been thoroughly cleansed of old books during these past few months. The things that remain in the store are what we refer to as "literary gold." This message is simply here to say hello. We are still around (even though we haven't been posting as much lately) and we are always excited to try and meet your book needs when you stop by to see us.

On another note, there have been a few changes here at the store with the faces you all are used to seeing. Some of our favorite friends might not be around anymore, but be sure to stop by and say hello to some of our older employees that have returned.

And finally, to make this post a bit more interesting, I'll leave you all with some fun info: Happy birthday Mary Oliver. Oliver is one of the most eminent figures in contemporary American poetry. Born in 1935, she has been writing for several decades, always working to refine her already dazzling poetic skill. Many have compared her work to that of Emily Dickinson. Come on down to the store and grab one of her books such as Red Bird. Hope to see you soon and take care.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Graphically Yours Debut!

So it has hopefully come to your attention that the Old Firehouse is about to host a brand new book club! Formed by the wonderful Keller, this new book club will be focused on reading and discussing graphic novels. Thus it is aptly named GRAPHICALLY YOURS. The first session is going to take place at 6pm on Friday, August 19th. As is usual with Old Firehouse book clubs, we'll be meeting in the back room of the store to enjoy some literary conversation, jokes, puns, and so much more. The first novel we're starting with is Watchmen by Alan Moore. A good chunk of us have read this in the past, so if you have as well, come on by and share your thoughts with us! And if you have time, read this great classic once again! So much excitement! So much fun! A brand new book club for us all to love! We'll also be setting up our reading list for the following months at this first meeting, so feel free to bring in suggestions of your favorite graphic novels. See you all soon.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Taming the Bookstore

For those of you who come into the bookstore a little less than frequently, and, honestly, even for those of you who come in every other week, you may notice that a thing or two changes between each visit. And if you only come in two or three times a year, you may even have a hard time recognizing us! Since the beginning of 2011 alone we've moved nearly every section in the bookstore at least once; some sections have been relocated two or three times already!

So what's the deal? I'm often asked by customers why we would move things around so frequently when it's just going to confuse customers. Being confused is never a very pleasant feeling, so please believe me when I tell you we're doing what is best, even inevitable, for the store.

What most people do not know is that a bookstore is very much a living thing. With each season, a new section inhales and expands as more books are demanded by customers. As that section grows, inevitably another exhales and shrinks as customers seem to stop caring as much about the contents. This is particularly true with the crafts and gardening section. Few people tend to want books on planting flowers when the ground is so cold even the pine trees are shivering, and by that same rule the craft section is more popular when the weather's cold and the holidays are moving in.

In order to keep the store healthy and happy, we have to groom and relocate sections in order to let the store breath and contract as necessary. When one section is getting a lot of attention, it demands room to stretch. When another section is shriveling or becoming bloated with unsold books, we squeeze it out and shrink it down.

So believe us, we're not doing this to confuse you. We are merely servants to the unpredictable whims of this insatiable beast we call Old Firehouse Books. But if you ever do come in and need a guide through the shifting sections, we are always more than happy to help!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Scary Books

FOR RENT: Top two floors of beautifully renovated brownstone, 1300 sq. ft., 2BR 2BA, eat-in kitchen, one block to parks and playgrounds. No broker’s fee.

Susan and Alex Wendt have found their dream apartment.

Sure, the landlady is a little eccentric. And the elderly handyman drops some cryptic remarks about the basement. But the rent is so low, it’s too good to pass up.

Big mistake. Susan soon discovers that her new home is crawling with bedbugs . . . or is it? She awakens every morning with fresh bites, but neither Alex nor their daughter Emma has a single welt. An exterminator searches the property and turns up nothing. The landlady insists her building is clean. Susan fears she’s going mad—until a more sinister explanation presents itself: she may literally be confronting the bedbug problem from Hell.
So reads the back of Bedbugs by Ben Winters, a book I finished not too long ago. A book that still has my skin crawling all day, and keeps me up all night with images of the ending still burned into my mind. Maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration... but not too far from the truth. My co-worker Keller can attest to how much this book freaked me out.

I read the last one hundred pages of the book alone in my apartment. My roommate had been out for a while and the place was eerily quiet. I even had to go and sit out on the balcony just to hear some human noises and remind myself I wasn't inside the book. Just as I had reached the crux of the book, when the poop hits the fan and everything falls into its horrifying place, SLAM!! Keller (who's also a friend of my roommate) slammed his hands against the sliding door. I jumped out of my seat and into defense position (which in my case is just getting ready to run away or cry) and my heart pounded my ears. Keller, obnoxiously pleased with himself, laughed at my shakiness. I was tempted to take my book and shove it up Keller's nose, but then I wouldn't be able to finish it, so I didn't.

Was I overreacting? Yes. But there is nothing that makes me more tense than a scary book. Scary movies might shock me or make me nervous, but whatever images they throw at me are nothing compared to the freakish terrors stored in my imagination.

So the question that comes to mind-- what makes these books so scary? I know my imagination plays a big part in making a book scarier than a movie, but what sparks that imagination? For Bedbugs, the answer lies in the ordinary. This book reads like a modern haunted house story, but with all of the elements like iPods and cell phones that make the setting immediate and relevant. The horror of this book also lies in the ordinary. Upon first reading the description on the back, I thought the book would be a bit creepy, at best. Maybe it was the suprise that scared me so much, too. When expecting nothing special, I found something that terrified me way beyond expectations.

What exactly makes something scary is different for all of us, but I applaud anyone who can write something genuinely frightening. Fear is a difficult emotion to pull off, with most scary movies these days resorting to just grossing us out instead. So, what's so scary about Bedbugs? You'll have to read it yourself to find out, just make sure Keller's not anywhere nearby when you do.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fairy tales to Film

Check this out for some fresh ideas for taking fairy tales to film. Some great stories, some I'd forgotten. I for one would love to see Tam Lin as a movie, after reading the modern adaptation of the story by Pamela Dean. I also love the legend of the swans adaptation by Juliet Marillier, Daughter of the Forest.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Style vs. Story

Recently, a favorite author of mine, Jonathan Safran Foer, released a new book. It had been so long since he last released a fiction novel that I had forgotten to keep tabs on him and the book slipped onto the shelf without my knowing. I was surprised and enthralled the second I saw it nestled next to his other novels (Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close). The title-- Tree of Codes-- immediately intrigued me as it sounded whimsical without stepping too far into fantasy. Before my mind was even aware of it, my hand was reaching for the book, nearly shaking with excitement. As the tips of my fingers made contact, however, I was distressed not to feel the firm paper texture of a normal cover, but the slippery slickness of plastic wrap.

DENIED! My heart sank. Furthering my frustration even more, the covers of the book contained no useful information as to the contents, and the steep $40 cover price (for a paper back!) made even the purchase of the book out of reach.

Quick! To the internet! I made a mad dash to the nearest computer to discover why my dear Jonathan Safran Foer would betray me so! The findings were intriguing:

I was shocked to find that the book looked more like a a child's craft project than a normal book. The insides were too delicate for me to run my sticky fingers over without handing over the money first. Foer had painstakingly dissected another book, Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz, in order to produce Tree of Codes. I flew into outrage.

Why produce a book so delicate that it can't even withstand the daily handling of a bookstore? And could this book even really be all that good if it's not Foer's original words?

I cannot answer these questions. Like I said before, the $40 is out of my price range, even with the employee discount, and as much as I love Jonathan Safran Foer, I can't bring myself to purchase a book I can't flip through first. But this leads me to my main question: When does the style of a book begin to get in the way of the story? And can the two ever work together?

I think the best examples of the Style vs. Story dilemma come from Mark Z. Danielewski, author of House of Leaves and Only Revolutions. House of Leaves uses stylistic choices like colored words, one-word pages, upside down pages to enhance and work alongside the unique and creepy story. Only Revolutions tries the same thing, only amplifying the techniques to the point where the book becomes convoluted and nearly impossible to read. While the former uses style to add a new element to an already excellent story, the former supplements with style where it lacks a cohesive story entirely.

So which category does Tree of Codes fall into? Is the $40 and plastic wrap worth the treasure inside, or do both serve to mask the fact that no story actually exists? I don't know. You fork over the $40 and then let me know.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bestsellers or Off-the-Beaten-Path?

So, obviously, we get a lot of people looking for book recommendations. Helping people find a book they will love is one of my favorite things. I have noticed, in my book-recommending career, that there are two main types of people who will ask for my help. The first type is looking for that hidden gem that they will fall in love with. I have lots of those books- some are on my picks shelf right now. If you love historical fiction and aren't afraid of a complicated plot, then The Witch of Cologne is for you. Protestants versus Catholics versus Jews, and a royal succession scandal, and a star-crossed lovers story for good measure? Perfect. Prefer more modern literary stories? Maybe you'd like The Tricking of Freya, about a young Icelandic immigrant girl who loves her vibrant yet unstable aunt and old stories, but ends up in a frightening adventure.

I can go on all day. I read a lot of science fiction/fantasy and mystery too, so those genres hold no fear for me- they are old friends. If you're looking for a book, I like to ask about the books you've enjoyed most recently, find out what you loved about them, and find something that speaks to the same style or subject that intrigued you.

There is a second type of person too. This person does NOT want a recommendation that they have never heard of. They only want me to recommend them books that they already know about. Perhaps this is a way of staying safe. Maybe they don't trust me? Maybe they don't know that at our bookstore, we're not just going to hand them the most expensive book in the store to make an extra buck.

I haven't read everything on the bestseller list. That's partly because there's no way to keep up with it, partly because I actually distrust the bestseller list. Maybe it's because I wasn't one of the popular girls in high school, but I distrust popularity for its own sake. This goes for books, too. I wasn't the biggest fan of Water for Elephants or of The Da Vinci Code. However, I passionately love The Help and The Tiger's Wife. So, part of what I like to do with recommendations is promote things that aren't bestsellers, because you already know all of them by looking at the display shelves. Has anyone missed that Little Bee, Room, and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks are great books? Those titles are all over the place. But what about my shy wallflowers, Mistress of the Art of Death, Possessing the Secret of Joy, or The Tea Rose? They deserve good homes, too.

So, do you peruse the bestsellers or the farthest corners of the bookstore? I confess, I do both.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Harry Potter for Sports Fans

Harry Potter fans everywhere can hardly wait for this Thursday at midnight, when the final installment of the Harry Potter series makes it to the big screen. What can they do to make the time go faster?

So, ever wanted to try quidditch? Some intrepid souls have brought this game to life in the world of the Muggles. No flying brooms, but you may want to try it! Apparantly, there's a league in Greeley. For more information, look here.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Do your best to pronounce the title of this post. And be sure to do it out loud (while making an attempt to kind of scream it). Good. Very good. This is the sound that I am expecting myself to make a few times as I embark on a journey to read "House of Leaves" by Mark Z. Danielewski. I'm excited, but also scared. It gives me flashbacks of trying to read "Ulysses," which may have been one of the most disastrous reads I've ever attempted. I barely got a 100 pages through it to give you some idea... Summer is a good time for a college student to try and tackle these types of books though, so I might as well give my brain some real work. There are many other books that have reputations for being notoriously difficult (War and Peace, Moby Dick...) but I'm curious to hear from you blog reader: what books are you afraid to read? Post some comments, and if you, like me, are in the mood to brave dangerous literary waters during these summer days, then I wish you luck.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Call the plumber, we've got a Martin leak...

Being the book nerds that we are here at Old Firehouse, we came across some interesting information out there in the book world. As many of you may know, the fifth book called "A Dance with Dragons" in the very popular series called "A Song of Fire and Ice" by George R. R. Martin is finally due to be released on July 12. After a period of roughly six years, people are craving themselves a hunk of fresh Martin! This craving has apparently overpowered a certain distributor (who won't be mentioned, but if you're curious, they are big and powerful and just Google "A Dance with Dragons leak" to get their name) in Germany who has been rumored to release 180 copies early to the public. From what the blog world is saying, Martin is extremely angry. Or to take a guess at words that are more fitting for the famous author, the storms of a thousand years of hatred and anger have all gathered and been released by Arc Bishop Martin! All this as a result of a leak. This type of situation is common in the music industry these days, but it isn't your every day event to have a book with this much anticipation behind it randomly leaking. So just a reminder, if you for some reason come across a copy of "A Dance with Dragons" in the next few days, Mr. Martin would like to slay you and take back what is his. He said you can't have it until July 12. And apparently, he really meant it. Soon enough book lovers, there will be plenty of copies for all. Be patient though, Martin wants it of you. For more random and interesting things about books, scan through our blog and check for new posts. We are working on keeping it current and leak it out to every living soul you know. Thanks, and talk to you soon dear Old Firehouse companions.

Monday, June 27, 2011

When was Frank born again?

Hello loyal Old Firehouse compatriots, this is Justin. I recently started working at the bookstore, and now I will also begin adding posts to this wonderful blog alongside my fellow coworkers. Today, on June 27, I would like to bring attention to the "birthday" of one of the twentieth centuries greatest writers, Frank O'Hara. It was widely believed for a long time (even by O'Hara himself) that Frank was born on the fateful day of June 27, 1926. However, this eventually was revealed to be a lie. Frank was actually born on March 27, 1926. His parents lied about the date of his birth because he had been conceived out of wedlock, and they attempted for many years to hide the shame this act had brought them. Can you imagine finding out that you had never actually known your real birthday? Anyway, despite O'Hara's true birthday, I would still like to celebrate today as Frank O'Hara's "birthday," and call attention to the great work he did for the literary world. O'Hara was a lead figure in the New York School of poetry, a style of writing that attempted to capture aspects of Surrealism and avant-garde art movements A piece of particular importance that he wrote is called "Personism: A Manifesto." In this mock manifesto, O'Hara calls for an end to structure and form in poetry. This work received mixed reviews as several took it far too literally, but it merely allowed for a type of writing that was loose and emotion based. Several collections of poems were produced by O'Hara, but a great book to start with is "Lunch Poems." If you aren't much of a poetry reader, then maybe today, on O'Hara's infamous "birthday," you can pick up just any poem and give it quick read to commemorate O'Hara and his craft. Thank you all for taking the time to remember an important writer with me today, and don't forget to come down to Old Firehouse to see what's in stock if you haven't been around for awhile. We love seeing you. For now, I bid you ado, and take care brave readers.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The "F" Word Part 2

Feminist has become a dirty word. Somewhere along the line the popular connotation switched from a civil rights activist to a man-hating bra-burner. I resent this transition. While we have come a long way from our feminist ancestors of the 1960s and before (see my earlier post "The 'F' Word") there is still quite a lot to be done for gender equality as a whole.

Women are given more opportunities than ever before in American history, but the death of some issues has only given birth to others. Tina Fey addresses these new issues (albeit indirectly) in her memoir Bossypants. The book goes into her issues with being "fat" and "unattractive" in show business (this was the only topic I semi-resented, since her standards are obviously the unrealistic criterion of Hollywood, and even there she seems to do alright.) Bossypants talks about the jerks who claim women can't be funny, and the attitude of Fey's early improv troupe that no one would want to see a skit with two women in it. Throughout these anecdotes, however, she never uses the word "feminist," being the dirty word that it is.

There is only one chapter where Fey directly mentions feminism: in relation to her memories of portraying Sarah Palin on the now infamous Saturday Night Live sketch. In the sketch, Fey (as Palin) and Amy Poehler (as Hilary Clinton) confront the press for their sexist representation of women in politics. While the sketch exaggerated the characteristics of either woman, in reality both Clinton and Palin had been diminished in the media through descriptions of them physically, something unheard of among male candidates. In retrospect, the feminist themes are obvious, but the first time I watched it I was only laughing. Fey puts it best in Bossypants: "You all watched a sketch about feminism and you didn't even realize it because of all the jokes. It's like when Jessica Seinfeld put spinach in kids' brownies. Suckers!" Feminism has become so scorned-- among both men and women-- that if the skit were to directly reference it, the popularity would've dropped tremendously.

Bossypants works the same way as the Palin/Clinton sketch. Fey puts the feminist spinach in the comedy book brownies and you'll eat it up just the same.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Cover Problem

I’m new to the Old Firehouse staff, so to everyone reading, HELLO!! I haven’t blogged before, but I feel its past time to start, especially since there is something that is seriously bothering me.

I recently read The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. It’ll be coming out in September, and it was a fantastic read. It follows a young woman who is being married off for the sake of two kingdoms to form a military alliance against a forming threat. She also is the bearer of something called the Godstone, which shows that she will do something in service of their God.

The story was fantastic; I loved the evolution of Elisa and of her world view. She became a much stronger character as the story went on, and her strength was needed badly in order to save herself and the countries from the approaching army.

Nothing inside of the covers bothered me; it was the cover itself that infuriated me. The cover features a fit white girl, which in itself wouldn’t be a problem if not for the fact that not a single character in the book fits that distinction, least of all the main character Elisa.

Rae Carson based her fictional culture off Spanish/Mexican cultures (as far as I can tell), and most of her characters are darker skinned because that fits her culture. The only light skinned people are in the attacking magical army. Another problem with the cover is that Elisa starts off the book rather overweight. She had lived a sheltered life, and she sought comfort in food, as a result, she was fat. This is a less serious issue I had with the cover, because as the story went on, Elisa lost weight as a result of a rather rushed, and forced, trip across a desert and through mountains.

This cover issue is not new. Justine Larbalestier, author of Liar, had the same issue with the American version of her book. Her main character was black, and yet the cover originally designed for it featured a white girl. Understandably there was quite a lot of outrage, from the author and from her fans, and under all of this heat, the publishers did the right thing and redesigned the cover to feature a black girl. (Here's the full story here: and here:

Publishers defend this process in a rather twisted way. They say that since most books with people of different ethnicity on their covers are typically about overcoming racial prejudices, it prevents books in other genres with people who aren't white on their covers from selling, since most people will assume the book is about overcoming stereotypes, which means that only books about that issue will have those covers. Talk about a catch-22.

Publishers have the power to change this, and they should, like Larbalestier’s publishers did, so that the book industry can overcome the catch-22 it created and set an example for other entertainment industries to do the same.

Books and your Brain

I've been reluctant to take a side in the e-books wars. I don't own an e-reader myself, but I can see the purpose of one. Wouldn't it be nice to leave for a vacation without my suitcase's weight allowance being half taken up by the books in my bag?

However, there's been something about books being read on a screen that niggles at me. Here's a piece that expresses my incoherent feelings beautifully.

I love reading for some of the same reasons I love cooking, and playing hockey. Cooking gets me to slow down and concentrate on the step by step process. You can't rush baking a cake. It takes as long as it takes. When I play hockey, I'm wholly present. I'm not multi-tasking or thinking about the list of things I've got to do.

When I read, I am wholly involved in my book. I'm not distracted ( I hope) by what's going on around me. That concentration and ability to submerge myself in print is something I value, and I want to keep that quality. I've been reading studies recently that say that doing internet work or watching TV right before you go to bed hinders your brain's ability to relax and allow you to sleep. I'm certainly guilty of doing both of those things. Maybe I need to return to my old habit of reading just before bed. My only problem there will be gathering the willpower to put my book down!

So, read a book. It's good for your brain.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


So I just finished March, the current Fort Collins Reads pick. I have to confess, I wasn't sure I would like it. I had heard that it was epistolary, and I don't like books that are a series of letters. I hadn't especially liked Year of Wonders (I know; I'm the only one) and wasn't sure about basing a book on a character from a classic like Little Women.
Well, I have now changed my opinion. What a great book! There are some letters to introduce chapters, but the entire book isn't written that way, which was my fear. Mr. March comes across as a real person, with morals, weaknesses, wisdom, and errors in judgement. I think the book might have been fine on its own, without referencing Little Women, since there are some differences in character, for Marmee especially. Much of the book is based on Louisa May Alcott's own family, which was vegetarian and part of the Trancendentalist movement. So there is a bit of blurring between the March family and the Alcott family.
The writing is beautiful. The look at war and slavery unflinching and appalling. I highly recommend this book for book clubs- there will be no shortage of things to discuss. It will be a real treat to see Geraldine Brooks in November. And now I'm excited to read her newest historical novel, Caleb's Crossing! Its subject is the first Native American to graduate from Harvard, in the 17th century.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Kevin Hearne is Cool!

We recently had the fantastic fantasy author Kevin Hearne stop by the store to do a signing for his new books Hounded and Hexed (which you should read!) It was an excellent experience! He even gave us a shout-out on his blog: (which you should also read!)
And a good time was had by all!

Monday, June 6, 2011

The "F" Word

A couple weeks ago I decided to pick up a copy of Gail Collins' When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present. This is a somewhat unusual choice for me, as I tend to stay away from nonfiction for the most part. I was inspired to grab this one, though, after reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Being just barely 22, I was shocked to find the racist and sexist attitudes that were so prevalent in the United States only fifty years ago. While The Help is a work of fiction, it is set in a world that was very much real not too long ago. There is so much that I, and my entire generation, take for granted that our forefathers (and foremothers) have paved the way for.

This brings me to the big fat F word. That's right: FEMINIST. Growing up, my mother taught me to see feminism as a good thing, even giving my sister and me non-gender specific names in order to avoid preconceived notions about our sex. This was why I was so shocked recently to hear a co-worker (from a different job-- no one from the bookstore!) say "I HATE feminists." This did not compute. How could a civilized person possibly hate feminists? Didn't everyone support equality? When did "feminist" become a dirty word?

Somehow, many people (including my co-worker) have begun to see feminism as an extremist idea where men are inferior to women. While there are some feminist movements like this (they're called Radical Feminists-- and covered in Gail Collins' book,) they DO NOT make up the majority of feminists. Many people also see feminism as a finished battle. When I questioned the feminist-hater's motives, he claimed: "Feminism is done. You can wear pants and get equal pay, what else do you want?" Well, first of all, pay isn't all that equal yet, but I'll spare you that rant. And second, I acknowledge that feminism has come a long way. That's what When Everything Changed is all about. The book begins with the backlash from Rosie the Riveter, in a time when women needed their husbands' permission to get a credit card. It ends with Hillary Rodham Clinton running for president. This massive change should not be taken for granted, and reading When Everything Changed has connected me with the sacrifices made before my lifetime that have allowed me so many opportunities.

Gail Collins' book is about studying and appreciating those who have come before us, yet it never claims that the battle has been won. Pay is still not quite equal, small minded people exist all over the world, and inequalities still run rampant. Social equality is a generational process; it cannot happen overnight. If we so soon forget the steps taken by those who fought for us before, we fail in the pursuit of a more accepting future.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How to Make a Difference

A couple of months ago, I wrote a piece in our newsletter expressing our concerns with weathering the lean spring we were having at the store. We cut back hours, apologizing to our incredible and understanding staff, and hunkered down. I also asked everybody who reads our newsletter to consider buying just one more book per month.

I’d like to thank all of our customers who took me up on that challenge. We have been doing better and better, and it’s all thanks to you!! We have always known that we have wonderful, loyal customers, and that Fort Collins is one of the best places to have an independent bookstore. You really proved it to us, and we couldn’t be more grateful. Thank you for taking the time to shop with us- it really did make a difference.

We do our best to give back to you and our community, as well. Here are the things that we are doing to try to make a difference for you:

  1. We frequently donate books to the many community causes that ask, to help at fundraising raffles and silent auctions. Sometimes we run out of books that we can donate! But we are always happy to help if we can.
  2. We give you a free membership program that gives you back a $5 Reader’s Reward- all you have to do is give your name! We don’t charge a membership fee for our rewards program, unlike some other stores. We want to give back to our customers.
  3. We give a 20% discount to book clubs that let us know their reading list. You can call or email it to us, and we’ll make sure to stock your selections and give you your discount.
  4. On the hunt for an elusive used book? We can put you on a list and call you as soon as that book comes in used.
  5. We sell e-Books! All you have to do is go to our website: and you can buy our e-Books directly from us. Google e-Books work with all types of e-readers except the Kindle, which is proprietary.
  6. We take your used books in trade! Any books that we are unable to take may be donated to the American Association of University Women. We are their biggest donor! They hold a book sale for scholarships every February in Foothills Fashion Mall.
  7. We are now offering a Book Bounty for our most sought-after used books. If you bring in one of these books, you can use 10% of the book’s price, same as cash, in the store on new books, used books, candy bars, cards- whatever you like.
  8. Do you have a lot of credit built up? We are letting customers with more than $100 in credit (you know who you are!) convert that credit to cash at 10% of full value to use in the store. $100 in credit gets you $10 in cash to spend in the store, for example. On the weekend on June 11 and 12, we are offering this to our customers to help them use up credit and start over, if they like.
  9. We do lots of community events- local authors like the photography book launch on June 3, for example. We also bring in great authors like Sandra Dallas, Diane Mott Davidson, and C.J. Box, just to name a few. Our events room is open for rental if you have a class or event for which you need a space. And book clubs get the room for free!
  10. Speaking of book clubs, we have four of our own which anyone is welcome to attend! Plus, we’ll be starting a graphic novel club in the next few months- keep an eye out.
  11. Finally, everyone who works here is a member of the local community. Buying your books at an independent book store puts 40% more of your dollars back into the community than spending money at a chain. And it puts 99% more back into the community than online sales do.

Once again, thank you for supporting us. We intend to stay here for many years to come, providing a great community space, exciting events, and, of course, a great book selection with a knowledgeable staff to help you with your shopping. You are the reason we’re here!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Why I'm mad at George R.R. Martin...

George R.R. Martin, as many of you know, is the creator of the series A Song of Ice and Fire, which consists of four of the best fantasy novels I've ever had the pleasure of reading. Due to the impending release of his next book, I've been inspired to write about why I'm really, really mad at Martin.
To begin, I'll quote Martin's blog entry:

"As for me, I am getting back to work. There's good news on that front too -- A DANCE WITH DRAGONS is half-done!!!"
-George R.R. Martin, May 29th, 2005

Let me just point out that this was written just after A Feast for Crows was released. In 2005. In 2005, the next book (A Dance with Dragons) was, to quote, "half-done"(!!!) Through my expert use of math, I've deduced that it has taken around six years to write the next book. It has taken six years for the next installment of this book. And I take issue with this.
Which isn't to say I'm not going to read it, because I've been looking forward to it for at least four of those six years (The first book was recommended to me by a friend my freshman year of college.) I understand that it's quite the process to write a book, especially one as monstrous as Dance with Dragons. I don't really even have a problem with his work ethic (which author Neil Gaiman defended quite eloquently and succinctly in his blog:
No--my only issue with Martin is that, deep down inside, I'm still five years old. And like any five-year-old, I enjoy a good story more than anything else. To my five-year-old self, a good story is like a playground; I can spend hours swinging from the monkey-bars of syntax, playing tag with the characters and winding my way through the Plot Pipes. George R.R. Martin's series is no different, except for the fact that it's bigger and better than most other playgrounds. It's like one of those playgrounds that covers a good quarter of a city block, from the days before brightly colored plastic and rounded safety-corners. One of the playgrounds that rises above the gravel like a mountain, where you can get lost for hours climbing through the scaffolding or exploring the concrete tube tunnels that wind their way for what seems like miles beneath the splintering wood and scorching-hot tin of the best gosh-darn playground ever.
And, like any other self-respecting five-year-old at the best playground ever, I never want to leave. My parents could be promising three pounds of mint chocolate chip ice-cream and clawing at my ankles as they drag me bodily from the covered slide, but still I would hang on until my skinny arms were reduced to limp noodles.
To extend this metaphor far, far beyond the point at which it maintains coherency, George R.R. Martin is like the curator of the playground, who has decided that it would be so much cooler with an ultra-double-super-slide. So he's closed down the playground for renovation. And now all I want to do is go back and play on that playground.
This is where the metaphor breaks down: see, unlike a playground under construction, I can still go back and re-read the previous books in the series. And I have. At least twice. But I keep hearing so much about this ultra-double-super-slide that the rest of the series just makes me want to experience it firsthand that much more.
These books are like candy. These books are like waking up on Christmas morning to a living-room full of presents. These books are awesome.
What I'm trying to say with all of this, is that George R.R. Martin has created something that I enjoy so much that I find myself angry he's taken so long to give me more of it. The story that Martin has created in A Game of Thrones and the subsequent books is so viscerally real and so much fun that the world has been twisting its hands for six years waiting for the next one to come out. And, like any five-year-old hiding in a college graduate's body, it is very difficult for me to wait for that long.
But! The good news? The next book comes out on the twelfth of July.
And I am so excited.


Friday, May 13, 2011

FREE AT LAST- Continued Tales of an English Major

For those of you who pay attention, I (your wonderful bookseller, Kelsey) haven't been posting too much lately. This task has been left to my co-workers over the past few months as I let myself get distracted once again with school. One day, maybe I'll graduate and move on in the world, being able to focus solely on blogging for you. The irony of this is that when that day finally (hopefully) comes, I'll lose much of the material I blog about. If I hadn't gone to school this semester, for example, how could I tell you about reading almost 20 plays in three months?

That's right. 20 plays, 3 months. Just about a play and a half a week. Half of those plays were Shakespeare, and the other half were contemporary plays from all across Europe. The Fall semester's theme was adolescent lit (about 4,000 pages of it in 3 months) and this semester we focus on plays! Only plays! I picked up The Help the second I finished reading The Tempest and was so relieved to see that old familiar narrative style again.

Immersing myself in scripts has had an interesting effect, though. Reading a play presents many challenges that you don't find in normal narrative styles. For example, while a normal book certainly calls on your imagination, a script does so in ways you might not expect. Not only do you imagine what the character/actor would look like, you have to imagine the set, set dressing, props, and all of those other little things. This is still not too different from reading a normal book. Where the difference lies is that a play is intended to be performed in front of a live audience. No CGI allowed. This means when the character hangs himself or chops off someone's hand (we read a lot of violent plays,) this has to be performed in a semi-convincing way. This pushes the imagination to an entirely new level because the reader must consider not only what things would look like, but how they would be accomplished in a real-life setting.

And now my challenge to you: Read a play! We have a great selection of dramas in the store, and most of them are used! You don't necessarily have to go with Shakespeare, but if you do, remember that there is no shame in Spark Notes as long as you're reading the original text, too. You might want to read a script of a play set to come to Fort Collins in the next year! To check out what the local theater companies have planned, you can start at or among others. Then call us up at the Old Firehouse and we'll order a copy of the script for you!

It's like reading the book before the movie comes out, but it makes you even cooler.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Book Club Picks

One of our favorite things to do is to help book clubs make their selections for the year. We'll be meeting with the AAUW (American Association of University Women) next weekend to give a book talk for their book club. We've done this in the store a couple of times, and are happy to do it for your book club, too!

I've found that good book club books have a couple of characteristics:

1. It needs to have something to discuss. This might seem obvious, but several times we've selected perfectly lovely books that everyone has enjoyed reading, only to have the discussion go something like: "Well, we all liked it." Blank looks as everyone wonders what to say next. So a good romance novel, unless you like gossiping about fictional characters, is probably going to leave you at a loss for discussion unless it deals with other issues, like mother-daughter relationships, adoption, the hardships of uprooting a family for a move, etc. A novel like Baking Cakes in Kigali,on the other hand, opens up discussion about rebuilding after the Rwandan genocides, the differences in African culture, how people help each other, and, of course, cake. Speaking of which...
2. Food is a plus. That's both within the book and at the book group. It's fun to hang out with your buddies and nosh on some treats while you talk books! So a book like The School of Essential Ingredients, set in a cooking school, can give you a springboard to talk about what foods were important for you growing up, and why. What is familiar and comforting, and how do you take a bit of risk?
3. Too depressing is just too depressing. We started our first book club as a way to get away from the "Oprah books" that were sweeping the nation. Nothing against Oprah, but she sure does like downers. One memorable book dealt with the Indian partition and showed in graphic detail all the misery, disease, poverty and filth of India. A dog was even run over by a bus at the end, just to make sure that depression escaped no reader. I just don't have it in me to read that all the time. Deep doesn't have to mean depressing. Isn't hope a powerful emotion? Aren't redemption and wisdom worthy topics? For example, The Help certainly deals with a weighty topic, but manages to do it in a way that won't make you feel like downing a bottle of Jack Daniels in order to deal with it.
4. Change it up. Try books by men and women, of all nationalities and cultures, in order to get that different perspective that can make for a great discussion. Recently, I've loved Tea Obreht,who hails from the former Yugoslavia, and her book The Tiger's Wife. I also am a big fan of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell, set in 19th century Japan. Or how about Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth for a perspective into the Indian immigration experience?
5. Think about length. We usually cut our book selections off at about 400 pages unless we've got a really good reason to want to read, say, Anna Kerenina. Everyone's lives are busy, and many people want to read more than their book club selection during a month, so we try to be respectful of their time. We also usually go with paperbacks, to be sensitive to the costs of books. We do offer a 20% discount to book club selections for your book club if someone lets us know what the selection is at least 1 month ahead of time.
6. Ask a bookseller! Want something different than what everyone else is reading? Need a jump on the next book club blockbuster? We are happy to help with off-beat books, up-and-comers, and whatever you need for a great meeting. I think The Paris Wife is going to be a huge book club book, for example, and I love recommending Garden Spells (a great little book which somehow got overlooked) for folk hunting for good suggestions.

I hope this gave you some thoughts for your group, and hopefully some great books to read!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Beating the Indie Drum Again!

So, today I happened on this piece on how South Carolina and Amazon are getting along these days. The short answer: not well. When you read the following piece, notice all of the perks that Amazon was getting before they raised a stink about having to pay state taxes. Small businesses don't get any of these advantages, and they certainly don't get much understanding about pricing either.

Even George Will felt compelled to weigh in on business taxes this weekend, after a Chicago newspaper wrote an op-ed piece about how nationally, it is time to pay attention to sales tax on internet sales. Will, naturally, is against any such thing. But, in this tough economy, doesn't it make sense to tax profitable businesses just as much as it makes sense to tax individuals? Again, all brick-and-mortar stores are paying their fair share. Amazon deliveries take place on Colorado roads, don't they?

Here's South Carolina:

A Tale of Two States: Sales Tax Incentives in S.C. & Tenn.
Speaking at the Free Enterprise Foundation awards luncheon Thursday, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley contended that the proposed tax break for Amazon--which was defeated in the House of Representatives last Wednesday--would have destroyed her economic development message, the Charleston Regional Business Journal reported. When she talks with companies about coming to the state, Haley tells them, "We are going to give you a fair, competitive marketplace to do business, and we are always going to take care of the businesses we already have. By allowing Amazon to get a tax break, when you are not giving it to any other business in our state, destroys what I am saying and immediately disputes everything that we say South Carolina is."

While she wanted Amazon to build a distribution center in the state, she noted that the company already had received competitive advantages: "They got free property, they got tax incentives, they got plenty of things. Don't ask us to give you sales tax relief when we're not giving it to the bookstore down the street, when we're not giving it to the other stores on the other side of town. It's just not a level playing field."

She added, "You will not see an Amazon situation in the Haley administration. We don't want that. We don't want to be known as the state that is desperate to grab anybody and anything at the sake of the rest of our businesses. That's what that was about. Retail in general is very different from manufacturing. Retail by nature has a high turnover, retail by nature is a lower priced job, and retail by nature is not solid and invested. It is not a Boeing, it is not a BMW, manufacturing, high technology is very different."

Brian Flynn, a spokesman for the South Carolina Alliance for Main Street Fairness, told WLTX-TV the decision was "a victory for small businesses and retailers across the state. It's a shame that Amazon is choosing to leave the state and it's obvious that they wanted this special deal and if they didn't get it they were going to leave."

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Book: It's Not Dead Yet

Here's a link to a great little piece about how our current technology, e-books, etc may or may not be affecting those old school printed books. Take heart! They can play nicely together!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

And on a Lighter Note...

Here's something fun from Flavorwire: the 10 most badly bungled book-to-movie travesties. Because it's Wednesday and we could all use a laugh, right?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Three Cups of What?

You may have seen some reporting done on Greg Mortenson and his organization the Central Asia Institute. 60 Minutes, supported by Jon Krakauer, is accusing him of some unsavory doings: namely, that not all the schools that the CAI claims it built were either built by the CAI or exist at all.

Mortenson's publisher states that it plans to extensively review both the accusations and the book with him. CAI denies all charges.

Here is a quoted tidbit from Krakauer's statement: Using CAI funds, Mortenson has purchased many tens of thousands of copies of Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools, which he has subsequently handed out to attendees at his speaking engagements. A significant number of these books were charged to CAI's Pennies for Peace program, contrary to Mortenson's frequent assertions that CAI uses 'every penny' of every donation made to Pennies for Peace to support schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Rather than buy Mortenson's books at wholesale cost from his publisher, moreover, CAI has paid retail price from commercial outlets such as Borders, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. Buying from retailers allows Mortenson to receive his author's royalty for each book given away, and also allows these handouts to augment his ranking on national bestseller lists. (Had he ordered the books from his publisher, Mortenson would not have received a royalty, nor would bestseller lists reflect those purchases.) According to one of Mortenson's friends, when he learned that Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love had bumped Three Cups of Tea from number one down to number two on the New York Times paperback nonfiction list, 'Greg was furious. He started buying books like crazy, with the CAI credit card, to try and put Three Cups back on top.' "

Here is a link to the full 90 pages of the Karakauer piece:

I'm not sure what to think. It's always sad to hear that someone you admire for their humanitarian works has feet of clay. I do think that Mortenson's book has raised awareness of the educational issues in that region, and that his point about educating girls and providing an alternative to religious indoctrination is a good one. It is a viewpoint more likely to induce long-lasting change than bombing is. I don't think I can form an opinion at this time about the money management or lack thereof, or the possible ego involved. I'm sure we will find out lots more in the near future.

Regardless of possible financial shennanigans, I think that Three Cups of Tea has done good in the world. I would be sad to find that charitable dollars have been mismanaged. That's often the way of things, I guess. The important thing, though, is to continue to have hope for change. Without that, we are powerless to change anything.