Friday, November 21, 2014

Book Review: Rosemary and Rue

Rosemary and Rue, by Seanan McGuire is the first book in the October Daye series.  It focuses on Toby, a faerie changeling with a human father and a faerie mother.  Toby is a private investigator who is trying to leave the faerie world behind her.  After building a life for herself with her human husband and daughter, she is kept from them for a period of 12 years by an enemy of her liege lord.  After her long absence, she is trying to put her life back together in the human world, and trying to avoid all contact with the faerie world that has caused her such pain.  The problem is, the faerie world isn't done with her yet.  She is dragged back in by the murder of her friend and a subsequent curse that causes her to have to find out who the murderer is or die herself.

This series, currently at 8 books, is just the right combination of fantasy and mystery.  It's great for fans of Jim Butcher or Kim Harrison.  It's good to see a strong female lead headlining a fantasy story.  I very much enjoyed McGuire's world building.  She jumps between San Francisco and the faerie knowes of California.  She creates vivid portraits of both worlds.

She also is very good with her characters.  They are both enjoyable, three-dimensional, and well thought out.  You will enjoy the world of Toby, Conner, Tybalt, Sebastian, and The Luidaeg.  You probably won't enjoy learning how to pronounce Luidaeg, but there is a handy pronunciation guide at the beginning of each book that will help inordinately.

We currently have the first two volumes of this exciting fantasy series available for $7.99 each + tax with the rest of the series on order.  Pick yours up today!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Book Review: Horrorstor

Horrorstor, by Grady Hendrix is a satire on Ikea and big box retail, but it is also a very compelling horror novel.  Something has gone wrong in the Orsk store in Cleveland Ohio.  Sales are down, even though the store is always busy.  There is a strange man who keeps appearing and disappearing from the salesfloor.  There are strange smells, and stains on furniture when the store opens, that weren't there when the store closed.

  In order to figure out what is going wrong at the store, three employees agree to spend an overnight in the store to patrol and catch the culprit.  So Manger Basil; young, directionless Amy; and perky, and upbeat Ruth Anne; all settle in for a long night.  It soon becomes clear that there isn't a person responsible for the trouble at all, but a malignant evil which has existed for centuries, just waiting for an opportunity to get out.

The story itself is sound, but the book is also nicely done.  It is set up to look like the Orsk furniture catalog.  It comes complete with descriptions or Orsk furnishings, a map of the store, coupons, and a home delivery form.  So in addition to being a captivating read, it is also a well designed book.

Overall Horrorstor is a very entertaining twist on the haunted house genre.  I recommend this quick and frightening story of dedication and redemption.

Horrorstor is available new in paperback for $12.95 + tax.  Come in and grab your copy today!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Book Review: Something From the Nightside

Something From the Nightside is the first book of the 12 book Nightside series by Simon Green.  If you like your fantasy a little darker, a little weirder, and a little more British this would be an excellent series for you.

The book starts with our protagonist, John Taylor, who isn't quite human.  He is a private investigator who is forced to return to the Nightside, a sort of hidden netherworld London, where it is always 3 am and always dark.  Taylor had been living in London, away from the Nightside.  He though he had finally left it for good.  The book focuses on his quest to return a runaway child to her mother.  Along the way we meet an interesting cast of characters, all various friends and enemies of our main character.

There is Suzie Shooter, the human bounty hunter who gets her name from her trademark weapon, and makes her money in very violent ways.  There is also Razor Eddie, the Punk God of the Straight Razor, also violent.   And something more than human, that cannot be killed.  There is also Alex Morrisey, the owner of Taylor's favorite bar Stangefellows, whose family has been attached to the bar for centuries, but can never leave.

One of the driving themes of this story and all the books, is Taylor's special talent for finding things, and what it allows him to do.  A theme that goes hand in hand with his abilities as a finder, is what he really is.  He is a product of a relationship between a human father and an inhuman mother.  What exactly his mother is is unknown to both Taylor and the reader.  Most creatures of the Nightside speak of her with both reverence and fear, but no one will reveal to Taylor exactly what she is or where she can be found.

I found Tales From the Nightside very entertaining.  Think of it as a cross between Stephen King and Neil Gaiman.  It's dark, mysterious, British and a bit gross.  But at all times entertaining.  The characters are well drawn, and interesting, and there are enough different types that Taylor interacts with, that it is never dull.  Beware in the Nightside.  Nothing is ever what it seems.  We have book 1 and 2 of the Nightside series available new in paperback for $7.99+ tax.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Book Review: Wool

Wool by Hugh Howey is series of Science Fiction novellas bound in a single volume.  It tells the story of the Silo, an underground structure in which humanity has been forced to live, due to the poisoning of the environment on Earth.

The society in the Silo, while first appearing to be ideal, is eventually revealed to be politically corrupt.  The people who know the actual reason for the existence of the Silo are not the Mayor or the Sheriff, who are only titularly in charge.  There are others that know the real truth about the Silo, and are manipulating what goes on inside for their own ends, and the presumed good of the people.

Punishment for serious crimes in the Silo results in cleaning.  Cleaners are expected to clean the sensors and screens on the outside of the Silo, so those who remain inside can see what remains of the world outside.  The only problem is, the scientists inside the Silo have yet to develop a suit that can survive the rigors of the outside for very long.  Eventually the suits break down and the real sentence is carried out; death.

Wool starts out slowly, but once you understand the rules of the world, the stories grab on and don't let go.  You find yourself pulling for the protagonists to learn the truth, and rooting against the shadow authority that would have them fail.  The world Howey creates is one of social strata denoted by your role in the Silo, which is also signified by the color of your clothing, and on which floor you live.  Everything is controlled, from how many children you can have to whether you are allowed to own a pet.  But that does not stop the citizens from harboring a desperate hope that some day, a generation of humans will again live in the outside world.

Wool is very well done, and definitely worth your time.  It will appeal to those who read science fiction as a chosen genre, and those who don't really prefer it, as at its heart it is a story about people living their lives the best way they can.  It is available new in paperback for $13.99 + tax.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Book Review: The Power of Habit

In a first for me in this blog; non-fiction!  I don't think I have reviewed a non-fiction book before here, even though I do read them.  Admittedly my reading habits tend to skew towards fiction, but not entirely.

I really enjoyed The Power of Habit.  I typically will admit to being a creature of habit, but wasn't aware of how much habit actually guides our decisions.  And how if the same behaviors are repeated enough they become almost automatic.

In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg writes about a number of case studies that show how positive habits can lead to change, including football coach Tony Dungee's transformation of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from perennial losers into Super Bowl Champions.  He also writes of CEO of Alcoa Paul O'Neill and how making safety the most important metric in his company caused accidents to fall and profits to soar.

There are also many different and interesting studies of how Target does marketing, how radio play choices can make an unfamiliar song into a hit, how Alcoholics Anonymous works to help people quit drinking, and how Pastor Rick Warren built one of the largest churches in the nation.  At the end of the book there is even an appendix that shows you how to change bad habits into good habits.

The Power of Habit, is a helpful book if you are in business, or if you just have some pesky habits that need to be modified.  It helps show us the good habits of successful enterprises and how to identify bad habits in ourselves and change them for the better.   A must read for people in business.

The Power of Habit is available on sale for $14 + tax.

What is one habit that you have that you would like to change?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Book Review: Skin Game by Jim Butcher

Skin Game is the 15th book in the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher.  If you have not read the Dreseden Files yet I cannot recommend them more.  They are sort of supernatural noir detective stories.  With a lot more explosions.  If that description appeals to you, stop in and I can fix you up with Storm Front, the first book.  You won't be disappointed.

Skin Game picks up where we left our hero, living at Demonreach and struggling to keep the mantle of Winter Knight under control.  He is still in service to Mab, with Molly as her new Winter Lady.  Harry is assigned a task from Mab.  He needs to help Nicodemus Archleone steal something that is heavily guarded and supernatural in nature.  As Harry has faced off against Nicodemus before, and decidedly depises him, you can see where this would be a problem.

I really enjoyed Skin Game for a variety of reasons.  It seems like Butcher is taking the story back to its origins.  There are appearances from Michael Carpenter, and his family.  Karin Murphy also plays a prominent role in this book, as does Butters.  Those are all characters that began this journey with Harry and in the case of Michael Carpenter, haven't been used much in an adventury sense recently.  Nicodemus is also one of the better Dresden villains, and is stronger than Harry, so he's always a challenge.  His single-minded quest for power at any cost makes him a fantastic adversary.

In addition to one fabulous adversary there are also some great ancillary characters including Hanna Ascher, a wizard who is extremely well-versed in fire magic.  There is also the Genoskwa, a giant bigfoot-like creature that eats goats whole and hates Harry at first sight.  Finally there is Goodman Grey, a shapeshifter who can change into people and animals of all sizes.

Skin Game is a wonderful addition to the Dresden Files pantheon, with interesting main and complementary characters.  The story line is tight, and there's a nice twist at the end that you won't see coming.  You can buy the first book in the Dresden Files new from us for $8.99+ tax, or Skin Game new for $22.95+tax.  All of the other volumes are available new and used from us at various prices.  I can't think of a better way to spend the summer than reading the Dresden Files.

Friday, May 30, 2014

What Is Going On Between Amazon and Hachette

There has been a lot of rumblings in book world of late about the contentious negotiations between Hachette Book Group and  The publisher and the online giant are in the midst of renegotiating their terms, which happens from time to time between large sellers and the publishers they do business with.  Well things have become contentious, with Hachette attempting to protect their bottom line, and Amazon attempting to increase theirs.  This is not exactly an uncommon occurrence when terms are negotiated.  Both parties are trying to get the best deal for their side.  That would be expected.  But here is where this negotiation is different.

Amazon has started to throw their weight around.  They have decided to show Hachette what they can do to them, if they don't play nice and give them what they want.  By neglecting to list Hachette titles for pre-order, suggesting alternate titles at the top of the pages of Hachette author's books, or offering no discounts or smaller discounts on Hachette author's titles.  It seems as if Hachette is negotiating for terms with a mobster who is showing them exactly what kind of accident they could have if they neglect to pay up.  They are a company who can decide what they will or will not sell, but they are big enough and powerful enough to put publishers out of business if they decide that's the direction they want to go in.  And if they decide they just want to show them how it behooves Hachette to give Amazon what it wants during negotiations, they can do that too.  But that doesn't make it right.  It's estimated that Amazon controls 33% of the book market.  They have grown very large thanks to generous discounts and inexpensive shipping.  That's where the problem lies; generous discounts.

When a bookstore buys from a distributor of publisher, they they typically receive discounts between 40-55%.  A long time ago Amazon decided they were going to give most of these discounts away to their customers by steeply discounting their titles.  They were going to make their money by selling in a large volume on this new thing called the internet.  Now anyone who has ever been in business can tell you, that is an extraordinarily difficult way to make money.  Margin is everything in business.  Consequently it took Amazon many, many years before they were able to make a profit conducting business this way.  Their investors where not deterred and kept giving them money even though they had yet to succeed.  Now obviously most businesses would not be able to operate at a loss for years and still be allowed to continue on, so in this way they were blessed.  Their competitors were not however, and they went out of business in droves.   And now Amazon has decided they want to recapture some of that margin, by taking it from their suppliers.  You can see why the book world is up in arms about this.  That's not how the game should be played.  You were given a large piece for yourself, and decided to give it away, and now you want my piece?  That's not really how business should work.

Now one of Hachette's best-selling authors is James Patterson.  Patterson has been a champion of independent bookstores, and even though I haven't read much of his work, I respect him a great deal.  He has much to say about this situation, and I think when people this intelligent and in the know speak, the world should listen.  Here is something he said at Book Expo America, which is currently going on in New York:

Hi, I'm Jeff Bezos. I can't do his hysterical laugh.... Amazon seems out to control shopping in this country. This ultimately will have an effect on every grocery and department store chain and every big box store and ultimately put thousands of mom and pop stores out of business. It sounds like a monopoly to me. Amazon also wants to control bookselling, the book business and book publishing. That's a national tragedy. If this is the new American way, it has to be changed by law if necessary.
Perhaps it is time that Amazon thinks about Google's Mission Statement, one which would be best followed by all companies both large and small.  "Don't Be Evil."  It has a nice ring to it, don't you think?  I really would love to know what you think.  Please let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Book Review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

There is a genre of fiction/non-fiction you may not be entirely aware of.  These are the stories both true and imagined, of bookstores and booksellers.  The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is one such tale.  It is of the fictional variety, but written so well, you can easily imagine A.J., Amelia and Maya, and all of their friends and family being real people.

A.J.'s bookstore is failing, someone has stolen his priceless copy of Tamerlane, he wife has died, and he is slowly drinking himself to death.  Just when all seems lost,  someone abandons a toddler in his bookstore, and the little girl changes his life.  She slowly reconnects him to his customers, and other people as a whole, allowing him to live a life of love, instead of a life of solitude and despair.

I really enjoyed The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.  It is sentimental without being overly schlocky or corny.  And a bookstore plays a central role.  The main character is endearingly curmudgeony, and a bit of a book snob, but still charming in his own way.  The ancillary characters are well developed and a bit quirky, but quite believable.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is an enchanting tale about books and the people who love them.  It is a story about the redemption we can find in children, and how life may not work out the way we expect, but it can still be magical.

The Storied Life of A.J Fikry is available in hardcover, on sale for $21.95 + tax.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Book Review: The Circle

The Circle, by Dave Eggers, is a cautionary tale about Mae Holland, a recent college graduate who lands her dream job at The Circle, a Googlesque technology company.  She begins her job at the bottom, in Customer Experience, and quickly rises through the ranks.  She reaches the pinnacle of her importance at the company when she volunteers to broadcast her life for all of her followers to witness, rate, and comment upon.

The Circle, is a tale about what happens when everything in a person's life becomes watchable, searchable, commentable, and we essentially volunteer to give up all privacy so that we can share everything with others.  Is is a worse case scenario of social networking run-amok, and taken to the worst extreme.

It is about a runaway company, that to the outsider seems like the greatest place to work, and live.  As long as you are not critical of the company.  Something fairly incriminating will be found on your hard drive if you even utter the world "monopoly."  And once you're part of The Circle, it is a constant struggle to be the one who shares the most, rates the most, and interacts the most.  You are encouraged to participate in company events, and any slight, intentional or unintentional, can turn into an incredible emotional overreaction by the slighted party.

I loved this book, and read the over 500 pages in just a few days.  It was easy rooting for Mae to figure out what was going on, and use her incredible influence among her followers to put a stop to it.  It also makes you think about how much time we spend in front of one screen or another in our lives, and that we should probably endeavor to spend less time interacting on line, and more in person.

The Circle, comes out in paperback on April 22nd.  We will have a few copies here if you want to check it out.  I loved it.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Book Review: Hounded by Kevin Hearne

I picked up Hounded, by Kevin Hearne, because I kept hearing good things about it from other Fantasy writers.  Not personally mind you, but in blog posts and YouTube videos, and all sorts of different places.  It was a pretty good read.  It took me a little while to get into it, but there is a lot of very good mythology here.  Of course you start with the Irish Druid, so there is Irish mythology, there is also Norse and Polish mythology thrown in just for fun.

We have our main character Atticus O'Sullivan (please don't ask me to spell or pronounce his Irish name-I would undoubtedly mangle it beyond recognition) a 2000 year old Irish Druid.  For our purposes here, Druids are able to gain power from the earth, and shapeshift into several different animal creatures.  Atticus has attempted to change with the times (thus the name Atticus), and blend in with his surroundings so as to not be killed by the many, many dangerous creatures in his world.  He is particularly afraid of  Aengus Óg, a very angry Celtic God from whom he stole a very important sword many years ago.  He has achieved relative immortality by a deal he made with the Morrigan, an Irish crow goddess, who choose the warriors who die in battle.  He is also able to mix up a Druidic tea that prevents him from aging.  Thus immortal Druid human.

And now the fun part.  He owns a new age bookstore/tea house!  Knowing I have a weakness for both books, and tea, I became quite enamored.  Discovering he was a ginger only sealed the deal.  And he has a giant Irish Wolfhound named Oberon, with whom he communicates telepathically.  Given the shortage of literary gingers with giant telepathic dogs, I had no choice but to read this book.

If you are concerned about the myriad of unpronounceable words, don't be.  Thankfully Mr. Hearne has thoughtfully provided a pronunciation key at the beginning of the book, although I wish he had provided the same pronunciations in subsequent volumes, instead of assuming I had them down (I didn't).

I have to say it was pretty good, which is enough to get me to continue with the series as first books are really hard to make fantastic, due to all the necessary exposition contained therein.  As long as they manage to establish some characters that you actually care about, and put them in a place with the possibility for dangers and fun, I'll go on to the second book (which improves on the first by the way).  If you enjoy the Dresden Files, or the Libriomancer Series, you should give the Iron Druid Chronicles a shot.  You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

I Don't Care How Many Bats I Have Tattooed on My Person, I Still Do Not Have to Read Dracula

It's kind of a mantra.  I struggle with this deep doubt of my worth as a bookseller, because I read almost exclusively for pleasure, and almost always out of the often shunned genres of: fantasy, young adult, and graphic novels.  I seldom find other things that call to me, but there is this tiny voice that whispers that I'm a bad person for refusing to read non-fiction, or even classic literature.  So I repeat to myself that I don't have to read Dracula.  My goth card will not be revoked if I don't.

Here's the thing.  In the second year after Borders closed, I pledged to read one classic a month for the entire year.  I kicked it off with the most bookseller friendly classic of all time; Fahrenheit 451.  We booksellers love the First Amendment.  Since Fahrenheit 451 is pretty much all about the power of books and not losing them to censorship, I really couldn't think of starting any place else right?

And then I hated it.  I finished it and was pleased with the ending, and was glad that I made it all the way through the book, but it took me almost three weeks to read.  I could read six Jim Butcher novels in that time, and not feel bogged down by a sense of moral obligation to pick up a book.

I kind of imagine this is how non-readers feel all the time.  "I'm not enjoying this, but if people see me holding this, they'll think I'm some sort of savvy intellectual type."  Make no mistake, I definitely felt intellectually superior to everyone walking around with Fifty Shades of Grey (that's when this experiment took place), but I wasn't a very happy reader.

So like 90% of the population, I guiltily abandoned my New Year's Resolution.  I then spent the next 49 weeks reading 83 additional books, including nearly everything Jim Butcher has written (hence the earlier math-those were not random numbers).

So, I learned a lesson.  Classics are not really my thing.  Most of the time I feel okay about it.  I have my handful of go to non-fiction books (I love you Simon Winchester), and I have my token regular fiction book (The Bean Trees).  I also have a trove of recommendations based on the 50 hours a week I spend selling books to other people ("What are the last three books you loved," isn't just to help you find your next favorite book.  It's also to help the person who has read it already.).  But there's this voice that whispers (usually after someone gives me a scornful "oh," sometimes with accompanying eyeroll, when I answer their inquiry as to what I read), that tells me to put on my big girl pants and read some literature.  It's typically not a very positive voice, so I have decided to continue to repeat my reader mantra: "I don't care how many bats I have tattooed on my person, I do not have to read Dracula", and I am a happy reader.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Book Review: the Fault In Our Stars

The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green is not what I expected.  I won't tell you exactly what I expected, because that may ruin it for you when you read it.  What's that you say, you weren't planning on reading it?  Well you really should.  It is an excellent book about young love, loss, and how you need to live and love now, regardless of your situation, because it is the love that is important, not how long it lasts.

Hazel has thyroid cancer, which has metastasized to her lungs, she knows she will not live to a ripe old age, but for right now a drug is preventing the tumors in her lungs from growing any larger.  So it has arrested, but not cured her condition.  She still needs to use an oxygen tank.  Certainly not a life anyone would want as a sixteen year old, until she meets Augustus Waters at her cancer support group.  Augustus is in remission from a cancer that resulted in an amputated leg.  Hazel tries to keep Augustus (fantastic name Augustus) at arms length, because she doesn't want to hurt him when she dies.  "I'm a grenade and at some point I'm going to blow up and I would like to try to minimize that casualties, okay?"  Fantastic line, although all for naught, as they fall in love anyway.  These characters are well written, and it is a great young love story.

The book makes some fascinating observations about what it means to be a terminally ill child, and what it means to be the parent of a terminally ill child.  It is an important book for both parents and their teens to read.  It is interesting to see what happens to teenagers who have lost their sense of immortality.  They know they will not live forever, but are determined to live while they can.

In the end, The fault In Our Stars, is an epic love story that stretches on to infinity.  It just happens that, "some infinities are longer than others."