Wednesday, December 21, 2011
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
"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
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.
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 www.sarahpaigeryan.com.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
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.
Sunday, November 6, 2011
What do you think? Will you see it when it hits theaters in March?
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
If you want to read more of their work, click on this sentence.
Monday, October 24, 2011
Monday, October 10, 2011
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
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
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
Saturday, September 10, 2011
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
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
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
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
Saturday, July 23, 2011
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
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
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
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Monday, June 27, 2011
Sunday, June 26, 2011
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
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: http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2009/07/23/aint-that-a-shame/ and here: http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2009/08/06/the-new-cover/)
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.
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
And a good time was had by all!
Monday, June 6, 2011
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
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- We sell e-Books! All you have to do is go to our website: www.oldfirehousebooks.com/search/gbook 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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
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: http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2009/05/entitlement-issues.html.)
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
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 http://www.openstagetheatre.org/ or http://www.basbleu.org/ 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
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
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
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
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: http://byliner.com/
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.