Saturday, May 23, 2020

Confessions of a Book Seller by Shaun Bythell Book Review

Follow up to The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell, owner of The Bookshop in Wigstown, the largest second hand bookshop in Scotland. We see first hand to the ups and downs of being a second hand bookseller, with a special light on the affect a certain online retailer has on small businesses. I love how blunt and wry Shaun is when it comes to customers and their questions and requests. Having worked briefly in a bookshop myself, you'd think I'd be well versed on some people's stupidity ('I'm looking for a book, can't remember the name but it has a blue cover') but reading this I couldn't believe the added cheekiness that comes with selling in a second hand bookshop! Haggling on already fair prices, spending hours on in shop without buying anything, swapping price tags on books.

The book is a diary that has an entry of some sorts for every day of the year, including the number of customers and the till taking at the end of the day. Not every day is a thrilling adventure, we see the every day mundane and regular chores (buying and listing stock, cleaning the shop, posting the book club books) as well glance behind the scenes at the Wigstown Festival (I particularly liked the story of the picture that Shaun bought years before at auction).

The stars of the book however are the people. We see the return of part time staff Nicky and Flo, with the new addition of the Italian woman that agrees to come and work for bed and board, nicknamed Granny as well as Shaun of course and Captain the cat. The book is funny but I found it tinged with sadness at times, which just added to the human element of the story and highlighting the fact there's people behind small businesses. Like most people who read and enjoy this book, I hope to one day visit the shop in person.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Grown Ups by Marian Keyes Book Review

Marian's latest book Grown Ups is a big family affair, involving the 3 Casey brothers Johnny, Ed and Liam, their wives Jessie, Cara and Nell and an assortment of children and how their lives connect and the secrets they share. We start at a family get together for Johnny, a few hours after Cara has suffered from a concussion, which causes her to start blurting out a bunch of secrets and being very blunt. This has a disastrous effect and we go back in time several months and work through everything that leads to the get together. We see the characters and their sometimes complicated relationships, their interactions and how these secrets grow and build.

Marian is so skilled at writing characters and family dynamics. It's one of my favourite things about her writing. Cara's storyline made me uncomfortable to read at times but I think it's because Marian is just superb at highlighting women's issues and really making the character's voice seem so authentic (something I think really applied well in Rachel's Holiday and The Mystery of Mercy Close). There was something about the book that I didn't connect to as well as those other books I mentioned and I think it's possibly because there's so many characters and some many events. I didn't find it confusing to follow but I felt with all the events and interactions, it slowed the pace a bit. I think if one of the events or story lines was dropped it might have felt a bit tighter. The book is steeped in Marian's signature wit, I especially liked some of the interactions of the younger children. Overall I did enjoy it and the idea and structure of the plot but it wouldn't be one of my favourites by Marian

Monday, May 11, 2020

If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane Book Review

Laurie's life comes crashing down when Dan, her boyfriend of 18 years, breaks up with her out of the blue. He says he doesn't want to get married or have kids and needs to find him. Getting over your ex is hard enough, though Laurie has to see him every day at the law company they work at. She's just about holding it together and getting over the pain when she's dealt two more blows: he has a new girlfriend. Who is pregnant. When she gets stuck in the lift with gorgeous womaniser Jamie and he proposes that they fake being an item, Laurie is hesitant. But the chance to make Dan jealous is too much to give up, so she agrees. She gets the satisfaction of causing Dan some of the pain he's caused her, Jamie gets the benefit of looking like he's settled down and is a good prospect for a promotion. With rules outlined and set end date for the 'affair', nothing can surely go wrong?

I love the whole 'fake relationship turns into a real one' trope and with Mhairi writing it you're in good hands! Laurie is such a great character to follow, she's smart, funny, kind and seeing her gain her confidence back just makes you want to cheer her on! Mhairi has a way of making her characters and situations so relatable, which just makes the book so heartwarming.  I loved it, I devoured it in a day!

Friday, May 8, 2020

The Cutting Place by Jane Casey Book Review

The Cutting Place is book 9 in the series Maeve Kerrigan series. Maeve is a murder detective in London who is investigating the death and dismemberment of Paige, a young journalist who had been working on a piece about the Chiron Club, a exclusive members only club. As Maeve works to find Paige’s murderer, she soon learns of the dark and seedy world of the club and the rich and privileged men who hide many secret.

This book had me hooked! I’ve been finding it hard to concentrate and read recently, something a think a lot of us can relate to. I thought this book might coax me out of this reading slump and that I’d finish it over the next few days. Instead I finished it in one day!! The murder and detective element of the story is sublime, Jane Casey always knows how to write a good solid plot. There were moments where I was almost too afraid to turn the page, the fear and tension feel so real. One of the best things about this though is Maeve’s relationships with her colleagues, especially Josh Derwent. While you could pick this book up, and any other from the series, in any order and read as a stand alone, I seriously recommend starting from the beginning and getting to know Maeve and the other characters. One of the joys of the series is seeing them all grow and seeing the changes in Maeve’s personal life. After saying all that, I want to reread the entire series and if this lockdown continues I might just do so!

Friday, May 1, 2020

Tips and Tricks to Beat a Reading Slump

Hello! Yes, it's been a very long time since I've posted on here. I started some posts in February and then the world went to hell in a hand basket. And all good intentions went out the window. It's a very strange time at the moment, having to stay socially distant and it's been a struggle. Reading is great for escape and losing yourself but to be honest I've been going through big waves in my reading habits over the past 2 months or so. I'm keeping up the pace with my Goodreads challenge but I'm finding I'm reading loads over a few days or a week and then I don't read anything for a long gap and struggle to want to even read. Which is completely understandable, given the circumstances. My concentration isn't what it was at the beginning of 2020!  But I decided to write up some of my tips and tricks for breaking out of a reading slump, partially to help me break out my own slump but also in the hopes that it might help someone else!

1. Read an old favourite

When in doubt, pick up a book you've read before and loved! It's the book equivalent to a childhood blanket, it can be very comforting and if you've already enjoyed the book, then it's unlikely you'll lose interest half way through.

2. Pick up the genre or book series that gives you the most comfort

This isn't necessarily your favourite genre but it could be. For me, I find YA contemporary novels to be quite comforting. And I'm partial to reading some women's fiction, my favourites are from Lindsey Kelk, Jenny Colgan and Mhairi McFarlane. They're usually funny, light and quick to read and have feelgood vibes which give me a pick-me-up!

Copy of The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson on some grass with a bottle of water to the right

3. Try rearranging the books on your shelves

It'll give you a fresh perspective on what's in front of you, plus pulling out the books and rearranging them means you're looking at what titles you have easy access to and maybe get you excited for the reason you bought the book in the first place. All the fun of shopping but none of the expense!

4. Change the format you consume your book

If you usually read physical books, try an audiobook, especially while you're out walking. If you like ebooks but have been using screens a lot more recently, picking up a physical book can be good to give yourself a break from screens. If you've not used ebooks or audiobook before, give them a chance before you knock them! They're very handy and if you're in Ireland you can set up a free BorrowBox account through your library. At the moment with the libraries closed you don't even need to go into the library to set it up. Download the app to set it up or follow the guide from the Libraries Ireland website.

Kindle Fire with cover of Normal People by Sally Rooney and some tulips to the right

5. Change from a genre you usually read to another genre

It can be anything like a small change (if you usually like contemporary fiction, then trying something similar in historical fiction) to a more drastic one (sci-fi to contemporary fiction). A change can be good, sometimes reading too much of the same thing can blur everything into one, similar to how you can be full up from eating too much at dinner. Changing your palette can work with reading, just like no matter how full you are from dinner, you always have room for dessert!

6. Try a buddy read

Having a friend read the same book at the same time can make things more interesting! You have someone to chat to and discuss the book. I recently read Idaho by Emily Ruskovich as a buddy read on Instagram and it was great having a bunch of people to discuss and dissect the book with after we'd finished

Audiobook of Idaho by Emily Ruskovich on an iPhone with a earphones plugged in, on a floral patterned background

7. Give non-fiction or fiction a chance

Sometimes I need to swap from fiction to non-fiction or vice verse. If non-fiction seems a bit daunting or boring, a good place to start is with a memoir by someone you like. Even better, I love an audiobook narrated by the author. One book I loved recently was Me by Elton John, I listened to it and it’s fantastic. It’s not narrated by Elton but by Taron Egarton who played him in Rocket Man

8. Read something shorter like a graphic novel or poetry book

If I feel like I’m picking up stuff and half reading them or putting them down, reading something shorter like a book of poetry or a graphic novel helps. Especially because they’re easier to finish and gives a sense of accomplishment on finishing it and motivates me to read more.

Paper Girls Vol.5 by Brian K. Vaughan being held in front of street art

9. Read a book that’s a reworking of a classic

There’s loads of these recently, like the Hogarth Shakespeare series or The Austen Project series. Sometimes reading something that’s familiar but you don’t fully know what’s new in the rewrite can help. Some people reckon that if you know there’s a twist coming in a film you enjoy it more as you’re not distracted looking for a twist. I’m sure there’s plenty that disagree with that but sometimes for books it help.

10. Look up new and upcoming books

Podcasts on books can help, as can looking up what’s coming out in the next few months. Goodreads has a section under Browse New Releases that shows you new releases upcoming from the authors you’ve already read or by genre

Goodreads new releases screenshot

11. Let it run its course

Sometimes none of it works and it’s best to just try not to force it too much. Your reading mojo will always comes back eventually!

Let me know if any of these helped you or if you have any other tips of your own. You can also find me on Instagram for more book related content.
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