Monday, January 24, 2011

Why Borders closing won't help anyone...

I can’t open my laptop and visit my normal bookish websites without hearing about the ever so near decimation of Borders. The facts aren’t a secret: they have amassed serious debt, a few publishers have stopped shipping books to them, and they have had more restructuring than Heidi Montag face! Now, me being an indie bookseller you might wonder why I’m about to write a blog AGAINST the closing of Borders. That’s easy. I’m a bookLOVER first and a book seller second. Borders may be my competition in the retail world but in the literary world we’re (forgive me) sort of kindred spirits. When I hear people talk about how wonderful it would be if Borders were to close, I want to hold them down and beat them like their name is Tina Rihanna Turner. It’s not just a corporate giant closing dumb ass; it’s a place that sells books.

Ask any teacher; the successful education of a student is directly impacted by how much or how LITTLE they read. The same goes for a community. Show me a community that could give a damn about reading and I’ll show you one that is docile, weak, and uneducated. Will Borders closing mean the end of society? No. But if it does close, it’ll be yet another place that sells books that our community will not have access to. Let’s also dispel an incredibly common and stupid misconception: just because one company closes does not mean that people will flock to their competition. IE: Borders impending doom does not mean that people will flock to Russo’s Books or Barnes & Noble. I’m so over this so called customer loyalty. Customer loyalty has gone the way of chivalry. Well all want to believe it, we’ve heard of it, and we love to wax nostalgia over it, but its gone man. Gone. Customers are loyal to their pocketbooks. Game. Set. Match. I know, I know there are your exceptions and I appreciate you. But for the other 98%… spare me.

The state of the book industry can probably be described as an overweight elephant trying to ice skate on frozen grease wearing dull skates. We are trying to figure out the happy medium between print books, e-books, e-readers, and real h-readers. Despite that, I truly believe that we (the book industry) would be able to weather this storm IF people would read more. But let me get back to my original post… Borders has partially created its own current beat-down by past bad business practices but even then; does that mean that people should throw a party because their doors might close? No. I hope Borders doesn’t close for a number of reasons. The first of them being I DO NOT want Barnes & Noble and Amazon to hold a monopoly on retail book selling. There is Books-A-Million but they are almost a non-issue when compared to Goliath and Goliath. They are the third largest brick and mortar retail book store but that’s like saying Chelsea Handler is the smartest blonde out of Jenna Jameson and Jessica Simpson. Publishers have proven they could give a two fucks about independent bookstores, so watching those two morons go at it to see who can sell a piece of intellectual property for less than $10 would be worse than watching fat-midget-amputee porn.

Independent bookstore have used the mantra of “support your local bookstore” for decades. It’s a nice Woodstock rallying cry but people don’t really care. I wonder if people will even bat an eye if Borders does indeed close. Oh you’ll hear the same clich├ęd bullshit lines of “I loved them”, “I shopped there all the time”. Don’t believe any of it. If people shopped bookstore as often as they THOUGHT they did, this would be a nation of bookstores. As it is, it’s become a nation of “how much does this cost? WHAT!?! $15!?! I’m going to Amazon”. You smile but I’m serious. It turns my stomach when people shop the price of a book rather than the subject, genre, title, buzz, or author.

In the next few days a monster in the indie bookstore world, ‘Mystery Bookstore’, in Los Angeles will close. You can read about it later but what’s REALLY sad is that there wasn’t another bookstore around them! There is the UCLA bookstore but that doesn’t even come close. No Borders, no Barnes & Noble, no Books-A-Million, and no other indie bookstore. What does this tell you? Despite their huge impact on the book community and their community in general they still had to close. Damn. The community figured they could get along just fine without them. They are more stupid than Congress. The community gave them a big phat middle finger and said “thanks, but no thanks”. (again, customer loyalty my high yellow ass). I’m sure the owners wouldn’t think that but they can talk about all how wonderful their customers were as they file for bankruptcy.

Borders has already started closing stores, some in major areas, and I can’t help but think… what the hell is wrong with people?! It’s one thing for A store to close. It’s a whole thing entirely for an industry to lose a major supplier. Again, I’m not here to debate the difference between indie booksellers and Borders booksellers. My point is that we/society can ill afford to lose another place that SELLS BOOKS! We’ve already lost the FREE use of the libraries. Isn’t that enough? Apparently not. Some of you won’t be happy until we have one online book retailer and one brick and mortar bookstore. (It won’t happen by the way so you can stop your wet dream).

Another reason I don’t want Borders to close; I still have friends that work there. I don’t want to hear about anyone losing their job but it’s even worse when it’s someone you actually know! The bigwigs of Borders have their protection and their money, but what about the inventory clerk? The music seller? The supervisors? The managers? If you don’t really care about the book industry because your dumb ass bitched out and bought a Kindle, then at least you should care about the PEOPLE that will suffer because of this. No, I’m not a bleeding heart liberal (quite the opposite if you really know me) but this country needs people working. And since I’m in the book business that’s where my interest lie. I’m sure the people that work at the Bakersfield Borders will be fine if worse comes to worse. They’ll struggle yes, but they’ll make it. But why even get to that point?

I truly believe that my book industry would be A-OK if people would do just one thing. Read. More. I just came from a weekend in Vegas (don’t worry I was good I was with my family) and one thing I noticed was the variety in everything that place has to offer. There is really something for everyone in that den of sin in the desert. I bet if I tried really hard I could find a place that sold pretzel bowling balls covered in whipped cream and carrots. And I bet there would be at least three other businesses that did the same thing! Competition is good. It keeps entrepreneurs fresh, current businesses on their toes, and people happy. Having only two book retailers doesn’t do ANYONE any good! Once it’s just Amazon and B&N how long do you think before they start price fixing, create more price wars, and the inevitable “who is going to buy whom”. Actually… I don’t think that last one would happen but you understand my point.

If you follow my FaceBook posts, my Twitter, and my blogs then you know that I’m an advocate for the love of books. I LOVE my authors, their work, and the people who read their work. My joy of books comes from many, many places and I love it when someone buys a book that I recommend. Of course, if you buy a book or an e-book I want you to buy it from my bookstore Russo’s Books, but that wasn’t what this post was about. There are plenty of things you can rejoice about. Free buffalo wings, a muddy Jeep, Toni Braxton in a teddy, the next iPad, a grocery bag full of steamed blue crab with enough Old Bay to make your eyes water. Toni Braxton in boy shorts, watching a James Bond movie with a rootbeer float, sleeping late, and a full body massage. Yes, there are a million and one things to be happy about. The closing of a bookstore should not be one of them.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Reading and Black America Pt. 1

This blog was inspired by a number of things: an e-mail I received last year about the spending habits of Blacks as it pertained to clothes, electronics, furniture, and books. A post on FaceBook by my favorite author, and my eyes as I see who shops the bookstore in which I work…

Why has reading gone down in Black America? (actually, reading has gone down in ALL of America but I want to focus on my people for a minute). Unfortunately, this has been a problem with us for a few millennia. I think a lot of the (early) reasons my people didn’t read was history and conditioning. When we were given a forced first class ticket on the wooden Titanics we weren’t allowed to bring anything with us except our language and our pride. We didn’t have time to pack up our iPads, notepads, and journals. And even if we did, we wouldn’t have had time to write because we were too busy with frivolous stuff. You know: like picking acres of cotton, running from the master trying to rape, trying to keep our family together, clearing hundreds of acres by hand… simple stuff like that. So when the day was over we were kinda tired and didn’t have time to boot up the computer and write a few chapters or do research at the library.

That standard practice went on for a few hundred years and certain lessons became ingrained. We were not allowed to learn how to spell, read, or write and to do so was punishable by death. And I don’t mean a nice pretty death like lethal injection, a single shot to the head, or even beheading. No, I mean DEATH! Being whipped while being hung from a tree, being chopped in half while hanging upside down, or being raped to death. Think I’m lying? Pick up a history book and read for yourself. Call me a liar again and I’m gonna get that mad midget Spike Lee on yo’ ass. So over the years, despite the efforts by our ancestors, our language was slowly and meticulously weaned out of us. You take away a person’s language you take away their means to learn. You take away a NATION’S language you take away their soul, their identity, their culture, their pride, and their uniqueness. That was done to us. Day after day. Week after week. Month after month. Century after century.

After a few hundred decades of this we pretty much forget about the language of our ancestors and only spoke English. We were not allowed to learn how to read or write. The only ones that did, and this changed from plantation to plantation and owner to owner, were the house slaves. Or the “house niggas”. I’m sure you’ve heard that derogatory term before, but if you haven’t… “house slaves” were the names given to the slaves that were allowed to stay inside with Master Charlie. Usually they were the younger girls (YOU figure out why) or the light-skinned offspring from the massa making his trips in the slave quarters. They were also the slaves that had special “talents”. The ones that caught on quick, the ones who knew how to help massa and his lazy ass wife, the ones who had the cooking skills of an Italian chef, and the ones who would sexually service the plantation owning couple; one or both. They were also the ones who would usually turn on their people to please their massa. They got to stay in the house when it was warm. They got to stay in the house when it was cold. They ate better food then the field slaves. They didn’t have to do the back breaking work that their other brothers and sisters did. What they failed to see was that no matter where you worked, a slave was still a slave. A slave who was at the whim of their master wasn’t any better or any worse than the slave that had to hoe the field. Each had to deal with their own piece of hell. Unfortunately when you treat someone a little better they start to think they are better. So when you have house niggas being treated better than field niggas…

So the house slaves were usually the only ones who learned to read and write. So the term “house slave” became a term that was almost as derogatory as nigger. So in a six-degrees-of-separation type thing: house slaves learned how to read and write ---> slaves that knew how to read and write looked down on slaves who didn’t ---> these slaves began to be looked at as “sell-outs” or “race traitors” ---> NOTHING is lower than being seen as a race traitor ---> if becoming a race traitor is what you become after you learn how to read and write… why bother? That mentality is then passed down from generation to generation for over 400 years. Somewhere along the time line we started thinking that being educated was only for the White people. No? Have you ever heard anyone ask a Black person, “Why are you talking white?” “Why are you acting White?” “Why are you saying that, you sound White”? As if being educated is only for White people! I know I’VE heard it! And I even went to a Black university!

Unfortunately there are some lessons that have become a part of our culture and this is one of them. Reading isn’t for us, it’s for them. Why should I read when it’s really not that important? There’s nothing in books for me and they aren’t written for me anyway. Books are too hard for me to read. I’ve heard every single useless, stupid, no good, worthless, idle, inept, lazy, and weak excuse there is. AND QUITE FRANKLY IT TURNS MY STOMACH! My enslaved ancestors had a pretty damn good excuse as to why they didn’t read…

What’s yours? What's. Yours?

'The Pussy Whispers' by Dean Jean-Pierre

OK, do y’all remember that scene in ‘Men In Black’ when the cockroach blew up and Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones were drenched with the creatures entrails? That’s how I felt as I was reading this book. The sexuality is so THICK that you feel as if you took a shower in it. Usually when I read erotic novels there is eroticism on every page, in this joint it’s in every sentence. I’m not kidding. You know how when you drink something so sweet it makes your teeth hurt? This book here is the sugar. I won’t ask Dean where he came up with some of these stories but I’ll give him a dollar if I can hang out in his brain for a minute.

Every book I read must have that “something” to keep me reading. Whether its violence, suspense, sex, dark humor or action. Obviously in this one it was the sex, but it wasn’t JUST the sex. Dean can tell a short story and that makes this a fun read. I don’t want to only read about a bunch humpin’ and bumpin’. WHY are they humpin’ and bumpin’, and what caused them to hump and bump? I don’t want to call this intelligent erotica because 1. that sounds stupid and 2. that sounds REALLY stupid. But hopefully you catch my drift. Dean is also a very heavy use of the metaphor. It flavors the story, colors the characters, and gives aroma to the air. In case you can’t tell I really enjoyed this short story collection.

A word of warning: do not try to read this book straight through. I’m not kidding here either. ‘Pussy Whispers’ is like sexual cocaine. Too much at one time will completely f-you up. I already have one book on my early list for ‘Best Books of 2011’, don’t be surprised if this one joins it.

(Personal note): The author was gracious enough to send me a copy of this book as I will not waste my money on the Kindle.


Friday, January 14, 2011

'Getting Close' By: Atilio Gambedoti

Graphic. Vivid. Sexual. Funny. Erotic to the “nth” degree times forty. Pink, perky, delicious and I’m just talking about the cover. This is a very sexually explicit graphic novel that will excite as well as arouse. You’ll want to skip through the dialogue because the art is about 75,000 calorie of PURE eye candy; but don’t. It is funny as hell! When reading books of this nature you know that there aren’t many things that off limits, but even I couldn’t believe they went there with the park scene!! Then they did it AGAIN!

My favorite character was ‘Fats’. He’s the loser that you can’t help but like and this guy is the proverbial fly-on-the-wall who (almost) has it pretty good. While he doesn’t get to sleep with the extremely hot women that pass through his life, he at least gets to watch them get down with other people. A comedy break in the middle of a non-stop orgy… what’s not to like? A bawdy, erotic perversion of a book this is.


'Real Wifeys On The Grind' by Meesha Mink

I bought this book on the strength of someone’s (I forget whom) recommendation. I have heard of the ‘Hoodwives’ series but have yet to get around to it. Nothing bad, but with so MUCH stuff to read it never found its way to my “read right now” pile. It will now. To be clear, this book IS NOT part of the ‘Hoodwives’ series. This is the beginning of a new series by Meesha, and what a beginning it is.

Goldie is the young lady we follow around as her life is unwrapped before us. She fancies herself smart and above it all. She ‘aint. She fine and fly and has a body that would make Michelangelo salivate. Problem was she was very young when she caught the eye of this punk named ‘Dyme’. When you read this book you’ll know why I call him a “punk”. Meesha goes through one teeter-totter of a situation to the next, all the while experiencing more sex than should be allowed one person. Meesha is that type of writer than can fit a lot of story into relatively short book. ‘Real Wifeys’ is a very quick, yet very good read. Definitely worth your time.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

'Gideon's War' by Howard Gordon

I know I’m probably the only other person in this world other than that Tibetan monk living in Africa to never have seen ‘24’, but I have heard of the show. So when I saw that a producer (executive no doubt) wrote a book… heck, why not check it out? Everyone else seems to be writing a freaking book. Actors, musicians, midgets (oops… little people), athletes, homeless folk, orange-skinned skanks from New Jersey, and prenatal babies. If those Darwin-reject yahoos that crashed the White House dinner can get a book (and TV) deal how hard can it be, REALLY!? Howard Gordon is exec. Producer for one of the baddest shows ON the tube, so what did he have to do? Put on his socks, grab his tall chai latte and say “I feel like writing a book today”? I doubt it but it’s a likely enough story and it IS Hollywood right?

My nonchalant tongue-in-cheek attitude was quickly put in check as I started reading. Cutting through all my BS, I was completely taken with this book. This is an ecstasy pill of adrenaline for us thriller readers. The main man, Gideon, couldn’t be more flawed and was actually getting on my damn nerves. A top negotiator on the world stage, Gideon is accustomed to using his words to get his meaning across. Usually he’s very successful, and because of this the President has him on his team. Unfortunately irony’s favorite bed mate is usually chaos, and their love child sprouts into Gideon’s life, placenta and all, to bring him some serious hurt.

Gideon’s brother is been accused of being a ruthless and severely bloodthirsty terrorist who is slaughtering his way across the Middle East. Gideon has some well placed misgivings but the amount of evidence leaves no room for doubt. His job: track him down and talk. If that fails? Well… Able, meet Cain. Be prepared for a journey as Gideon tracks down the only family he has left. We are taken us on a virtual peyote sit-n-spin of geographic locations, multicultural flavor, and “clinch it up” action. Blood, fighting, technology, villains to loathe, and some slight sexual tension is just some of what puts ‘Gideon’s War’ on my list (already) of ‘Jason’s badass novels of 2011’. (Yes I know it’s only January 5th, but just go with me here).

I mentioned earlier that Gideon was getting on my nerves. Dammit, that’s because he was! This fool was being chased, shot at, set-up, handcuffed, damn near blown up and he was trying to stick by his “I don’t use guns anymore” mantra. Lord help this fool! I’m not going to give away the story, but how long do you think he can keep up that ever so sweet motto while nine inch bullets are cutting him new sideburns? Whatever magic Gordon used for ‘24’ translates nicely in ‘Gideon’s War’. Everything about this book was just right. The tempo, the violence, the betrayal, and (of course) the male bravado with that fresh football locker room smell. Because this is a thriller and the main character is a guy who gets out of impossible situations, you’ll hear comparisons to past books/characters/movies. Ignore them all. This one totally stands on its own.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

'187: Victims' Revenge' by Wade J. Halverson

Let me first start off by saying that this cover is awesome! I know, as a book lover I shouldn’t care what the cover looks like. But as a person with, I don’t know, EYES, it grabbed me because it has a pure look of brutality. That being said, the contents of this book make the cover seem like child’s play. This is my fourth journey with Kane Silver and he delivers (again) with speed, violence, sex, and pain. This book opens with Kane, Si, and Valentino taking on a ‘Mission: Impossible’ type assignment infiltrating prisons and trying to find out who is behind a deadly spree of vigilante prison justice. Inmates who have robbed, raped, killed, and maimed others find these same horrors being visited upon themselves. Kane, Si, and Valentino volunteer to pose as bait to find out who is behind this, and Mr. Halverson (as usual) does not hold back on the raw, graphic descriptions of prison revenge.

Their reward? A much needed pardon. Is it worth the risk? For these guys, hell yes. I like Wade’s book because they fit the bill for the “escapism” I look for when reading. Following Kane from one adventure to the next, you can’t help but put yourself in his shoes and wonder… Of course, there is one adventure in this book that I wouldn’t trade place with Kane even if the reward was an eternity with a naked and horny Megan Fox. I will say that Kane’s sex interest in this book makes Megan Fox look like Michael J. Fox, but still. How much physical pain is one woman worth?

Kane is usually the one dishing out the pain and bloody mayhem, but this time he’s on the receiving end. The torture scenes that are described here are about as savage as you could imagine. But despite that, the daunting missions, near misses, and spilt blood, Kane and his friends remain tighter and closer than ever. This type of brotherly love, loyalty, and fierce bonding is usually found in novels about Rome. Mr. Halverson also puts teasers for the next book at the end of the current book and this one is no different. I look forward to more mayhem, more carnage, and more action. My 2011 reading season is off to a very good start!