Tag Archives: New Books

The Diary of a Bookseller – Shaun Bythell

Hello lovely people!

I hope you’re all well and enjoying the best November is giving us. I’m really pleased it’s Friday evening I have to say. Today I want to share with you a delightful read that I found on one of my many pilgrimages to Waterstones. Two things caught my attention: the cover and the title. I’ve always believed that it’s quite romantic to own a bookshop. However, Shaun Bythell’s daily account has shown me the harsh realities of owning a bookshop.

What’s it all about?

Written by bookseller Shaun Bythell, this book tells the story of a year in the second largest second hand book shop in Wigtown, Scotland. Containing over 100,000 books, spanning a mile of shelving and nooks and crannies, this is a paradise to people like me. These diary entries provide the heart wrenching truth of the decline (?) of the physical book in a digital world. Shaun provides his readers an insight into this world: his eccentric customers and his ski suit wearing, bin rummaging member of staff, Nikki.

‘Every Friday she brings me a treat that she has found in the skip behind Morrisons supermarket…’

Centred around the daily takings and the orders through Amazon, we do meet an array of interesting characters who visit the shop. One of the more controversial decisions made my Bythell was to set up a Facebook account to share customers behaviour, questions and comments with the rest of the world. Whilst this can be seen as a risk, it has clearly paid off for the bookshop as Bythell notices that people are happier the ruder he is. I have to say, I too follow this on Facebook now!

‘One of the shop’s Facebook followers came in to buy books today. She and her boyfriend want to move here and I overheard her whispering “Don’t say anything stupid or he’ll post it on Facebook.” I will write something mean about her later.’

Whilst this can be seen as mean, I find that this brings the shop and the book to life. To be able to read some of the comments and questions from people from all walks of life is incredible really. I felt a particular fondness for customers like Mr Deacon, who see a book reviewed in The Times and then orders it through the local bookshop. One of my favourite parts from the beginning of this book is a customer who visited on Saturday 15th March.

‘He grinned and said, “You’ve got some stuff here, haven’t you? Some stuff. Some stuff.” He bought a copy of The Hobbit. I am putting a mental jigsaw together of what a hobbit looks like, based on a composite of every customer I have ever sold a copy to.’

Bum Bag Dave is also one of the notorious characters who visit the shop. He’s very knowledgable and is always adorned with one bum bag around his neck and one around his waist. Sandy the tattooed pagan also features, dropping off walking sticks to sell in the shop too in exchange for store credit. Jessie from The Picture Shop also features as another member of the community. However, not all customers are friendly or even quirky. Some are just plain rude. As a consequence of a rather angry email, an incident with a Kindle will forever stay in my mind.

‘After lunch I went to my parents’ house to get my shotgun and shoot a Kindle (broken screen, bought on eBay for £10), imagining it was the missing copy of Pomfret Towers. It was remarkably satisfying to blast it into a thousand pieces.’

The concept of a bookshop to me is absolute bliss. The anticipation of finding the next amazing read that will completely take over my life for a few days is one of the best feelings for me. However, to some people it is an alien thing, something which does create a rather negative response as from Bythell.

“So what is The Book Shop? Do you sell books or what? Do people just hand you the books in? What happens in here?”

Day to day life in a bookshop is a mix of customers looking for a book, customers ordering a book and people comparing the price on Amazon or eBay. For Bythell a number of journeys to view collections also feature. The constant battle to keep up with the digital world, to try and show the need for local bookshops in our towns, villages and cities features throughout in this honest narrative. Foodie Friday lightens the tone with the array of delights Nicky finds from the Morrison’s skip.

‘Nicky appeared just a moment after I had opened the shop and thrust what at first glance looked like something from a hospital clinical waste bin under my nose. It was fleshy and covered in what appeared to be blood. “It’s a jam doughnut from the Morrison’s skip.”

There are two things that I absolutely love. One is the fact that the shop receives a number of postcards which are pinned to the wall. These postcards are of various designs with a whole host of messages and sayings on them. Now I’m following the shop on Facebook, it’s really lovely to see that this is still happening. It creates a feeling of the novel is very much a living thing, a product of the shop. The second, also something which I am going to join in the New Year, is The Random Book Club. (More information here.)

‘The diary was written in 2014, and today is 1 November 2016: fifteen years to the day since I bought the shop.’

Overview

I found this book witty, wry and utterly enjoyable. Bythell has no sympathy for those who are ignorant or wish to waste his time. I really liked the fact that each month started with a George Orwell quote too, adding a nice bit of history to the novel. However, the beauty of this book is to highlight and reinforce the need for independent bookshops. For all of us to treasure what we have and use them. I’m absolutely going to join The Random Book Club as a reading challenge for next year. I also love going to bookshops. They’re magical places that we need to love, cherish and nurture for years to come.

I wish you all a lovely, restful week!

Big love all xx

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Filed under Book review, Independent Bookshops

The Toy Makers – Robert Dinsdale

Hi Everyone!

Happy 1st March and World Book Day! Today I wanted to share with you a book I’ve just finished reading. I have to say, I absolutely loved it. I cannot emphasise that enough. It was just so magical, so gripping, so enchanting. It’s become one of my favourite books ever. Therefore, I absolutely had to share this with you. A bonus: the cover is absolutely beautiful too.

What’s it all about?

Set in the early 1900s in London, this book is told mainly through the eyes of 15 year old Cathy Wray. It centres around a magical Emporium, owned by Papa Jack, which opens at the first frost and closes on the appearance of snowdrops. The toys are magical and awe inspiring. It’s a place where children’s dreams are fulfilled.

‘Come, go in after him. You would not be the first. Children are already tugging on their parents’ hands; a pair of young lovers hurry to make secrets of their gifts to one another; an old man unwinds his scarf as he hobbled in, if only to feel like a boy again.’

However, Cathy has a problem. She’s 15, pregnant and her parents are none too pleased. They arrange for her baby to be given away once it’s born. Until then, Cathy is kept in hiding at home. Her sister, Lizzy, brings her a newspaper as something to read and entertain herself with. Little did she know that this would be where her adventure begins.

‘Are you lost? Are you afraid? Are you a child at heart? So are we.’

When Cathy reaches the Emporium, she meets Papa Jack. It becomes clear he has a different name, a past life much more tragic than his life now. Papa Jack set up his extraordinary toyshop after arriving from Eastern Europe and Tsarist Russia. He is the father of two young boys he had not seen for many years. Originally a carpenter, Papa Jack crafts exquisite toys out of a variety of materials, such as pine cones and twigs.

‘The most terrible things can happen to a man, but he’ll never lose himself if he remembers he was once a child.’

His two sons, Kaspar and Emil, are also incredible toymakers. Each are thoughtful regarding the sibling rivalry about who will inherit the Emporium in the future. Each make amazing and magical toys; soldiers who battle, night lights with changeable scenes, toy boxes which deal with space, paper trees and my favourite in the Emporium, a complete Wendy House.

‘When you are young, what you want from toys is to feel grown up… Yet, when you are grown, that changes: now, what you want out of toys is to feel young again. You want to be back there, in a place that did not harm or hurt you in a pocket of time built out of memory and love.’

Both Emil and Kaspar take a keen interest in Cathy. When the end of the season arrives and Cathy has to leave, a decision is made for her to live in the Wendy house on the shop floor. Each realise that she’s getting bigger! Both brothers visit her as well as the patchwork dog (desperately wanting one of these now!) Cathy has her baby, a girl named Martha. Time to come clean. Papa Jack allows her to stay at the Emporium. He shows her, using the crank of a toy, the story of Jekabs Godman, his role in a war and how he survived. The tragic tale coming to life.

‘I’d found a kind of… a magic, if you will. A way of reaching the soul of a man.’

The next part of the book jumps to 1914 where the threat of war is more than possible. Cathy and Kaspar are the perfect parents to little Martha. The Emporium acts as a safety blanket for most. And yet, war is fast approaching. Emil tries and fails to sign up to serve his country but Kaspar succeeds. As promised, he writes to Cathy every day. However, the narrative is too positive and Cathy is suspicious. She speaks Papa Jack who reveals a magic book in which father and son have been communicating in. The harsh reality of war is revealed. The narrative here is tear jerking, heartbreaking with every description.

‘For the boys I travel with, tomorrow will be their first taste of foreign air. They ask me about the world as if I know anything of it, when the truth is, that, to me, those years before the Emporium are a dream.’

Rather accurately, Kaspar returns from war a changed man. He’s a ghost of his former self, rarely speaking. However, it is the change in the Emporium that bothers him most. The toys have lost a little magic, the shoppers are different, the men are broken in search of a simpler time. It is Emil’s soldiers that cause the biggest reaction in him.

‘And then he was back there. Back where his fingers were grimed in scarlet and black. Back in his uniform, with pieces of his second lieutenant’s brain smeared across his face. His ears were full of the sounds, his nose was full of the smells. He screamed and screamed.’

It was from this moment that the toys needed to change. The death of Papa Jack meant that there was no number one in charge. The sibling rivalry continued. Kaspar was working on something, something different, something big. Martha knew it too. She wasn’t a little girl anymore. Yet, when her father disappeared, more was left unanswered. All that remained were Emil’s toy soldiers, changed.

‘But Papa Jack’s Emporium must endure where I cannot, and so must you my darling.’

The novel ends with an older Cathy living with Martha as a nanny for her two children; the next generation of children to be wowed by tales from the Emporium. It’s pure magic to the last page. I don’t want to spoil the ending for you. But I completely didn’t expect it!

Overview:

Read it and love it. Experience your childhood again. Revel in the absolute joy of incredible toys. Worry and feel fear through the war years with the family. Feel like a child again. Dream in magic. I cannot praise or rate this book enough. I love it.

Big love all xx

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Filed under Book review, Literature, Magic

National Book Lovers Day 2017


Hey everyone!! 

Happy National Book Lovers Day! Being as so many of us on here are united by the love of books and reading, I wanted to send you my love and blessings for this wonderful day. To be honest, I didn’t actually know this existed until I saw something online. Nevertheless, we learn something new every day. Today I learnt this. 

According to the National Days Calendar, today is the day we are encouraged to spend the day with a good book. As if by fate, I finished my book yesterday which means that I can start a new book today, especially for this occasion. 

I did pick up some new books yesterday whilst on a day out. These miniature anthologies are super cute. As you know, I always keep my eyes open for new books. 


I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m a Bibliophile. 

Bibliophile Definition: a person who has a great appreciation for or collects books. 

Hmm. This sounds about right! Not that I want to shoehorn myself into a stereotype…

To observe this day I am doing two things: look for new books and read. The rain has been pouring all day so it’s the perfect weather to snuggle down with a good book. My next read is In A Strange Room by Damon Galgut. Again, I picked this up in a second hand book shop knowing absolutely nothing about it. However, I was taken in my the blurb. I’ll let you all know how it goes. If anyone has read it, let me know what it’s like please! 

So, Happy National Book Lovers Day, to all of you wonderful people out there! I hope you have a lovely day reading and absorbing yourself into another world. 

Big love to you all! Xx

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Filed under Books, National Book Lovers Day, New Books

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Hey everyone! 

I hope you’re all happy and well on this lovely Monday morning. August already!! I can’t believe it. One week into my summer holiday as well. Time really does fly. 

Well, yesterday the big day finally came, the day when the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play script was released, on Harry’s birthday nonetheless. 

I’m excited but apprehensive like everyone else I guess. When you grow up with something it becomes a part of you. When something gets changed or adapted or added to, you always wonder whether it will be as wonderful as you expect it to be. Yet, I’ve got no doubt I will fall in love with this. 

However, this is marred with some sadness. It is the end. I can’t believe this is really it. Rowling said herself: 

“He goes on a very big journey during these two plays and then, yeah, I think we’re done. This is the next generation, you know. So, I’m thrilled to see it realised so beautifully but, no, Harry is done now.”

Could this ever really be the end when so many live and breathe Harry Potter? 
Regardless, I’ll see you on the other side. Have you got yours? 

Magic is happening all over again. I can’t wait! 

Big love. Xx


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Filed under Books, Harry Potter, Play, Reading

Happy Tuesday

Hey everyone! 

The leaves are carpetting the ground outside, the nights are drawing in and it’s that time for a novel I’ve been waiting for since June. It is, of course, the publication date of the new Galbraith novel today. I am so excited! I let out a little scream of joy when I saw this by my doorstep after I got home from work. 

So pjs at the ready, hot chocolate on standby. I’ll see you on the other side my lovelies! 

  
Have you got yours yet? 

Big love everyone! X 

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Filed under New Books

Go Set A Watchman – Harper Lee

 
Morning!!

I realise that there’s been a lack of books on my blog recently, so it’s time I fixed that by posting my review of one of the most anticipated novels of this year. Go Set A Watchman has littered the newspapers, lined bookshelves and generated discussion, both positive and negative, all over the globe. 

I’ll be honest, I was incredibly worried when I first saw the headlines discolouring my beloved Atticus. As a lover of To Kill A Mockingbird, like many others, I didn’t want to read a book which changes my perceptions of characters I’ve had a long relationship with. So, I tried to read this book as a stand alone, to take it at face value and judge it as an individual piece of writing with some smiled character names. 

The novel centres a 26 year old woman, Jean Louise Finch (Scout), who travels from New York to Maycomb, Alabama, to visit her family. The beginning of the novel deals with her return journey and different recollections of incidents around the town as Jean Louise tries to reconnect with her Aunt Alexandra, her Uncle Jack and her father Atticus. Uncle Jack is still being portrayed as a retired doctor in this novel, and Atticus is still a lawyer, and a former state legislator. Henry ‘Hank’ Clinton is a key figure in this novel. Jean Louise reconnects with him as he is a childhood friend, and now works with her father. The controversy in the town now is the NAACP.

“Go away, the old buildings said. There is no place for you here. You are not wanted. We have secrets.” 

On a return trip from home, Jean Louise and Henry are passed by a car of Negroes who seem to be traveling at a dangerously high speed. Henry informs her that negroes in the county have more money now for cars, but they fail to get licenses and insurance. Whisked away in a moment together, Jean Louise and Henry decide to take a swim. The next morning is spent dealing with the the mini scandal this causes. Aunt Alexandra is less than impressed! It is here we see flashbacks to Jean Louise’s youth, time spent with another friend, Charles Baker ‘Dill’ Harris, and her older brother Jem, who has since died of a heart condition that killed her mother. The loss of Jem in this novel is vital for what happens later. I admit, I missed that brotherly bond the two shared in TKAM. But, I appreciate how significant this loss is for the development of is novel. 

As Jean Louise rests in her father’s chair, she finds a pamphlet entitled ‘The Black Plague’ among her father’s papers. With a growing sense of unease, she follows him to a Citizens’ Council meeting, where Atticus introduces Mr Grady O’Hanlon. He delivers a passionate yet aggressive racist speech. Being as she snuck in, Jean Louise watches in secret from a balcony. She’s horrified. As is the world reading this novel. Why is Atticus involved? In another flashback, Jean Louise sees back to her father defending a Negro against a rape allegation. She struggles to comprehend what she’s seen. She cannot forgive him and feels betrayed and flees the meeting. 

“It happened so quickly that her stomach was still heaving. She breathed deeply to quieten it, but it would not stay still. She felt herself turning green with nausea, and she put her head down; try as she might she could not think, she only knew, and what she knew was this:

The one human being she had ever fully and wholeheartedly trusted had failed her; the only man she had ever known to whom she could point and say with expert knowledge, “He is a gentleman, in his heart he is a gentleman,” had betrayed her, publicly, grossly, and shamelessly.”

Jean Louise then has a dream about her old family maid, Calpurnia, who Jean sees as the closest thing to a mother she’s ever had. As Jean Louise has breakfast with her father, they learn that Calpurnia’s grandson killed a drunk pedestrian the previous evening, while speeding in his car. Atticus agrees to take his case in order to prevent the NAACP from becoming involved. (A glimmer into the TKAM Atticus we all know and love?) Jean Louise decides to visit Calpurnia. However, despite being treated politely, she was cold with her, leaving Jean Louise devastated. 

The fact that Jean Louise saw her father at this meeting eats away at Jean Louise. She decides to ask her Uncle Jack about it, whilst lunching one day. He tries to explain to her that Atticus hasn’t become a racist or changed his views, but he is trying to slow federal government intervention into state politics. Her uncle lectures her on the complexity of history, race and politics in the South. He tries to get Jean Louise to come to a conclusion, at which at this stage, she struggles to comprehend. 

“Prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, have something in common: they both begin where reason ends.” “That’s odd, isn’t it?”

Jean Louise decides she needs to see her father, and heads towards the law office. Instead, she finds Henry. They go out for a coffee. Jean Louise, rather honestly, informs him that she doesn’t love him and will never marry him. Aunt Alexandra is also quite opinionated regarding Jean Louise’s choice of future husband. She screams at Henry with disgust about seeing him and her father at the council meeting. Henry tries to explain that sometimes people have to do things that they don’t really want to do. Jean Louise screams that she could never live or love a hypocrite, only to notice that Atticus is standing behind them, smiling. 

Henry leaves and Jean Louise goes into her father’s office. Atticus argues that the Negroes of the South are not ready for full civil rights, and the Supreme Court’s decision was unconstitutional and irresponsible. Jean Louise tries to comprehend, and shows agreement that the South is not ready to be dully integrated, commenting on how the court was pushed into a corner by the NAACP and had to act. Jean Louise is confused and devastated by her father’s position, as they are the opposite to everything he has ever taught her. 

Jean Louise flees the office and returns home to pack her things. As she is about to leave, her Uncle Jack comes home and tells her to think of all the things that have happened over the past two days and how she has processed them. When she claims she can no stand them, he tells her that it is bearable because she has become her own person now. He shows her that at one point she had fastened her conscience to her father’s, assuming that her answers would always be his answers. He informs her that Atticus was letting her break her idols so that he could reduce him to the status of a human being. 

“What would Atticus do?” passed through her unconscious; she never realized what made her dig in her feet and stand firm whenever she did was her father; that whatever was decent and of good report in her character was put there by her father; she did not know that she worshiped him.” 

Jean Louise returns to the office and makes a date with Henry for that evening. I enjoyed the development of their relationship throughout this novel. Jean Louise admits that Maycomb has taught him that’s that she’s missed out on being in New York. Then, she goes to apologise to her father, only to be told that he is proud of her. Atticus wanted his daughter to stand for what she thought was right. Jean Louise admits that she didn’t want her world disturbed, but in this process, was crushing the man who was trying to preserve it for her. Jean Louise admits her love for him and follows him to his car. She silently welcomes him to the human race, seeing him as just a man for the first time. 

I really enjoyed reading this book. It’s what I would describe as a challenging book. It’s also journey through life as a young adult reflecting back onto their childhood. It challenges all our previous preconceptions and thoughts. The father/daughter relationship for me, is incredibly realistic. I’m also only a year younger than Jean Louise in this novel, so I can relate to her feelings well. Most girls have their fathers as an idol, I sure know I do. The family relationships are well developed and poignant. The loss of Jem meant that we see Jean Louise in her head more. The questioning aloud replaced by flashbacks and her own inner thoughts. 

My heart ached for Jean Louise throughout this novel. It’s a process of life realising that times, people, places all change. The critics are divided about this novel, but I’m glad I read it. Will it replace TKAM? No. Does it ‘tarnish’ the reputation of TKAM? I don’t think so. Should Lee’s writing style be respected and praised? Yes, absolutely. This book is well worth a read. For me, it sits proudly on my bookshelf next to TKAM. 

“Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience. There is no such thing as a collective conscious.” 

Big love x

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Filed under American Literature, Book review, Literature, New Books

Present From The Postman – Go Set A Watchman 

So, today I received my highly anticipated and eagerly awaited copy of Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman. 

I’ve been patient and good, I haven’t read the first chapter that has surfaced the internet. I want to experience the novel as a whole. I’ve waited this long, like the rest of us, so I can wait to read it as a whole piece. 

As I’m sure you’re all aware, there’s been a huge amount of press attention over the past few days, both positive and some quite critical responses. I must admit the snippets I have read have worried me. I adore Atticus Finch. He is a character I grew up with, one I respected and admired. What if my impression of him changes? Can he really have changed and become this ‘awful’ character I’ve heard about in some reports? Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see exactly what the novel teaches us. 

I’ve decided to read this book as a stand alone novel, or try to at least. I feel this could bring about some difficulties (I’m an avid Mockingbird fan after all). But, I don’t want to write off the novel before even reading it and basing this on speculation in the press. 

What do you think? Should To Kill A Mockingbird fans be worried? I’ll review this as soon as I’ve read it (like everyone else!) 

Big love x 

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