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!