Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Chance to win Neil Gaiman schwag!

Hey my Firehouse friends! Today is a special Saturday blog update because we have an exciting opportunity for all you Neil Gaiman fans! 
We just so happen to have some awesome Neil Gaiman schwag at the store right now. And we are giving it away! 
The awesome schwag includes:
Five Neil Gaiman books, including a signed copy of FORTUNATELY, THE MILK, and a poster for THE GRAVEYARD BOOK (also signed!)
If you would like to enter to win, just e-mail with the subject line I LOVE NEIL GAIMAN and put your name and phone number in the body of the email. 
Entering this contest will sign you up for the Old Firehouse e-newsletter. This part is very important as the winner will be announced via the newsletter. 
Contest ends October 31st so don’t delay! 
(Yay silly pictures!)


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Review of Kurt Vonnegut's 'Cat's Cradle'

Oh, Kurt, how I love you.

Last night I finished my third Kurt Vonnegut novel. I’ve attempted once before to write a review of a Kurt Vonnegut novel.

I’ll be honest; it was a bit of a challenge.

I feel like this attempt will be a bit easier as Cat’s Cradle doesn’t jump around quite as much Slaughter-house Five does. Also, this review isn’t for a grade…unless there’s something Justin and Kelsey aren’t telling me…

When I was about halfway through reading Cat’s Cradle I had a realization. That realization was what it is about Vonnegut’s writing that I love so much. Vonnegut is well known for his satirical commentary on a broad array of events. But what I realized about his commentary is that it is so subtle you barely even notice it. If you’re not paying much attention you can straight up miss it.

I found myself doing this on occasion while reading Cat’s Cradle. The first line of the book jacket description is, “Cat’s Cradle is Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical commentary on modern man and his madness.”

Before I go on, I’ll give a brief synopsis of the book.

Jonah, the voice of the story, is gathering information for his book, which is all about the day the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. His endeavor leads him to meet a grand assortment of people, including the three children of Frank Hoenikker, father of the atom bomb, each of whom posses a particle of the deadly ice-nine.

Each supporting character in Vonnegut’s book plays a part in giving some insight to the madness of man the author is attempting to highlight. The Hoenikker children are mad enough to flit away bits of ice-nine in order their obtain their own personal wants. “Papa” Monzano, President of San Lorenzo, perpetuates a government in a place that neither needs it or really wants it.

There is an apparent futility and self-indulgence in many of the actions of the characters. I found myself thinking on multiple occasion how silly all these people were, how foolish. But then I realized that I am not so different. No human really is.

In the book the reader is also introduced to Bokonon, a calypso singer who creates his own theology, a theology that every citizen of San Lorenzo prescribes to. Bokonon understood that the truths people had to deal with were terrible. So instead he made up wonderful lies for them. But the curious thing is, there is an awareness of the lies.

There is a couplet, taken from The Books of Bokonon that Jonah describes as, “…capturing…the cruel paradox of Bokononist thought…”

            Midget, midget, midget, how he struts and
            For he knows a man’s as big as what he hopes
and thinks!

How do we know what we believe is true? Perhaps some of life’s greatest truths are lies we tell ourselves. But maybe sometimes it is our awareness of the lie, our acknowledgement of the harsh reality and our choice to turn away from it, that makes the lie come true.

Since it is Banned Books Week and Cat’s Cradle is my banned book pick, I figure it would be smart to tell you why this book is banned.

It was first banned by an Ohio school district in 1972. The reason, you ask? Well, the best explanation I could find is that Cat’s Cradle was banned in tandem with Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater after a board member had read part of the latter and found it to be “completely sick” and “garbage.” It seems likely that none of the board members opposed to Cat’s Cradle had even so much as looked at it. It has also been speculated that people might have taken issue with Vonnegut’s apparent anti-war stance.

Don’t let someone else make your decisions for you.

See the cat? See the cradle?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I read banned books

 Hello my Firehouse friends. Let's talk about Banned Books Week.

I feel like Banned Books Week (BBW) is something nearly every book-lover has heard of and knows about. I'm sure many people have read banned books in their life, whether they were aware of it or not. But I think many of us lack a deeper understanding of BBW, where it came from, when it started, and what people are fighting against by participating.

The first BBW was held back in 1982. That's just over 30 years ago. It was a response to the sudden increase of challenges being made against books in schools, libraries, and bookstores. Over the course of those 30-plus years, more than 11,300 books have been challenged. Just in 2012 there were 464 books challenged. And every September, BBW sends its own challenge right back.

People from all over the nation and from all different kinds of bookish entities come together in September to bring awareness to the problem of censorship. Libraries and bookstores create displays highlighting banned books, some published years and years ago and some published within the last year. Publishers, journalists, teachers and readers all play their part in advocating the freedom to read.

Banned Books Week, at its very core, is about freedom (ugh, I sound like I'm about to segue into a bad political ad). It's about upholding the right of the reader to have absolute choice in what he or she decides to read. It's about exploring and learning and sharing new things. It's about encouraging growth, in many ways: growth of an individual, a family, a community. Things should not be censored just because they may be unpopular or against the norm. In a world that has near unlimited access to information, banning books seems like a very foolish practice indeed.

Okay, enough preaching. Let's get to the books!

Here are a few books us bookstore employees are reading for BBW:
Justin: 1984 by George Orwell
Kelsey: Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Teresa: Native Son by Richard Wright
Rebecca: The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Paxton: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K Rowling

Yours truly is reading Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut.

If you're interested in seeing what other books have been banned or challenge in the last year, click here to see a list.

If you want to see what classic books have been banned, you can click here.

Banned Books Week will take place from September 22-28 this year. Stop by the Firehouse for all your banned book needs!

Keep reading my friends, no matter what anyone else says.



Thursday, September 12, 2013

Review: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Remember how in my last blog I promised I wouldn't be forgetful and/or lazy in my future posting attempts?
Well, obviously I lied.

I'll try and make it up to you all by telling you about this great book I just read.

The book is called Two Boys Kissing. It is written by the brilliant Mr. David Levithan (other books by David Levithan include Boy Meets Boy and Will Grayson, Will Grayson with John Green).

The book follows several different sets of characters: Craig and Harry, who are attempting to break the world record for the longest kiss, Ryan and Avery, who are trying to figure out just what it is they're doing, Peter and Neil, who have been a couple for a time now but still have their ups and downs, and Cooper, who feels hopelessly alone and soon will feel nothing.

Craig and Harry's world recorded breaking kiss acts as the central hub around which all the other storylines are rotating and playing off of. For Avery and Ryan, they are a beacon of hope. If these two boys can kiss for the whole world to see, maybe they could have a chance. For Peter and Neil, they are brothers in arms. And for people all across the world, they are an inspiration.

The entire novel is narrated by a generation of gay men lost to AIDS. I think this gives the book even more power than just the individual stories being told.

There is a great deal of beauty in this book. The beauty of love, of finding someone new who makes your life seem less empty, the beauty of doing something for a cause that is greater than yourself. But this book also filled me with a lot of anger and despair.

The past and present treatment of homosexuals disgusts me. This kind of blind hatred is a character in much of human history but it doesn't make me any less angry to see it and know that it exists. It is unfair, so unfair that gay people are treated with such disdain. For what? Loving someone? Any rational person would find that statement mind-boggling. I certainly do. Love is just love. What does it matter who you direct your love to?

I won't go on and get myself all worked up, but really, the dislike of gay people is unwarranted and unjustified.

Two Boys Kissing is Levithan's newest book. I highly recommend you pick it up. It gives great insight, is beautifully written, and perfectly captures many emotions anyone can experience.

Until next week, (you know, because I totally won't forget again) happy reading!