Review: The Diary of a Bookseller, Shaun Bythell

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Star rating: 4/5

Synopsis: This is, as the title suggests, the diary of a bookseller at The Book Shop, Scotland’s largest second hand bookshop. Bythell refers to himself as the real-life Bernard Black, and his diaries reflect the customers, staff, and general life of a second hand bookshop.

Review: Despite being simple diary entries discussing the events of the day in the shop, I absolutely could not put this book down. Bythell is cutting in his wit and paints a completely un-glamorous picture of the life of a bookseller, stuffed with characters so bizzare they could be nothing but real. Between rants about Kindles and Amazon, the escapades of the Captain (an increasingly fat cat), book deals, and quips about particularly annoying customers, Bythell reminds us that bookshops, although still very much alive, are something worth fighting to save.

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Mystery & Thriller Recommendations

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It’s finally Halloween season, so to celebrate the nights getting darker and people’s book recommendations getting spookier, here are six mystery/thriller books that I’d recommend for your autumn TBR.

 

After the Funeral, Agatha Christie

No mystery list is complete without an Agatha Christie, but I thought I’d share one of my favourites that you may not have heard of before. This is a Poirot story, and he is called in to investigate the suspicious  sequential deaths of a brother and sister. Full of family mysteries, memorable characters and atmospheric settings, in her usual style Christie keeps you guessing until the end.\

 

Misery, Stephen King

Similarly, no list of thrillers is without a Stephen King novel. I read Misery while sat on a beach in Greece, and still managed to get the chills. A famous writer is recused by his biggest fan from a crippling car accident, but he quickly realises that she is not nursing him back to health, but keeping him captive in her house. Part psychological thriller and part horror, this book is heart-stopping and spine-chilling, with intelligent writing and horrifyingly believable characters.

 

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, Matthew J. Sullivan

I recently published a full review of this book, but in a nutshell this book is the story of a suicide, a code, a murderer, and family secrets, and if that weren’t enough to tempt you, it’s seemingly cosy bookshop setting might.

 

This is Where it Ends, Marieke Nijkamp

This is a multiple perspective YA novel set during a high school shooting. Nijkamp manages to capture the fear an horror of the situation as well as the personalities and stories of all the main characters, along with heart-stopping action sequences and a cry for gun control. I had to read this in one sitting because I couldn’t bear to put it down.

 

We Were Liars, E. Lockhart

Another YA pick, but rather than a thriller this is a fairly short mystery that slowly unravels into a huge plot twist at the end. It follows a girl through her summers on her families island, as well as the evolution of her friendships with three friends, the ‘liars’. This little novel is dark and atmospheric, exploring the secrets kept in rich families and how isolation and selfishness backfires with shocking consequences.

 

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle

Although everyone has heard of Sherlock Holmes, a surprising number of people have never read the original stories, which despite their age are extremely easy to read and are delightfully clever. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a volume of short stories, meaning they’re easy to work your way through and still manage to build tension and rich plots within less than 100 pages apiece.

Review: Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan

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Star rating: 4/5

Synopsis: Lydia, a bookseller at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, finds one of her favouritebut troubled patrons dead in the shop. After finding a photo of herself at her 10th birthday party on his body, Lydia has to revisit a horrifying event in her past, as well as try to solve the riddles Joey left for her between the pages of his books.

Review: A thriller set around a bookshop. Who knew? This book is fast paced and filled with suspense, but still has substance – with a great cast of characters, an intricate plot that slowly comes together, this book is both gripping and heartbreaking in the best possible way. Aside from one character (which, honestly, the book could have done without and the entire plot would have stayed the same) this was a near faultless book and a great blend of genres that I haven’t encountered before.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Taking a break from the bookish community.

Hi guys, today I wanted to talk a little bit about why I’m making the decision to step back from bookish social media.

I love books. They’re in every room in my house, I wax lyrical about recent reads to anyone who will listen, and obviously, love them enough to run two blogs around them. The issue is that recently I’ve been feeling a lot of pressure and a lot of FOMO from different streams of the community.

I’m not saying that the community is toxic or bad or detrimental in anyway. Hell, discovering the bookish side of Tumblr five years ago is what made me rediscover my love of reading and introduced me to YA and a loving community of other readers. If wasn’t for booklr and booktube, I don’t think I ever would have kept up reading in the same way I have during my degree. I’ve met some amazing friends, discovered books I never would have picked up, and read more than I ever have before.

The issue, if you can call it one, is that the community is so vast, so diverse, and so varied that I’m finding myself constantly feeling under pressure. I watch booktubers who read more than ten books a month, which is just staggering to me, and people hauling upwards of twenty books in one go, talking about how exciting they all are, and all of them somehow find their way onto my Want To Read list on Goodreads. Having this giant, overwhelming TBR at all times that just keeps getting bigger has turned from something amazing to something terrifying, and not being able to read every recent release or recommendation makes me feel like I’m being left in the dust of other readers.

Goodreads itself has become stressful too – although I love having a record of everything I’ve read in any given year, and a place where I can check what other people thought of a book I’ve just finished, feeling like I can’t fall behind with my reading challenge is really affecting the way I read. I avoid long, difficult books, not because I don’t want to read them but because I’m worried I’ll fall behind. Being ‘ahead of schedule’ makes me feel like I’m winning, whereas being ‘behind schedule’ makes me feel like I’m losing – losing what? Reading and enjoying books has never been a competition, but with so many other people to compare myself to, it’s turned into one for me.

Also, because I’m getting so many recommendations at all times, I feel like I’m not discovering anything myself anymore. I go into a bookshop or onto a website with a specific list of things that I want, carefully curated based on other people’s thoughts, and checked against reviews. It’s been years since I’ve wondered into a shop and only bought books I’ve found by chance, going off nothing other than the blurb.

I want to spend some time to reset to zero, as it were, to enjoy reading a book not because it will put me towards my Goodreads goal or so I can post about it on my blog, but because I’m actually enjoying it. I want to feel like I can take the time, unrushed, to work my way through a tough classic, or not worry if I find an obscure antiquarian book that can’t be logged and shared with starred review. I want to get back to reading without obligation, and without stress.

 

Review: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

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Star rating: 5/5

Synopsis: A young woman falls quickly for a widower she meets in Monte Carlo, and accompanies him back to his estate in the west country, Manderley. There she struggles to fit into his world and feels constantly shadowed by the ghost of his first wife, Rebecca.

Review: This book is hands down a new favourite. The writing is very gothic in style and extremely atmospheric, with du Maurier’s use of repetition descriptive passages making it seem as though Manderley somewhere that I’ve visited many times. There’s excellents twists and turns in the plot, and the journey of the shy and awkward narrator is crushingly relatable. Definitely the kind of book best read under a blanket with a glass of whiskey.

February ’17 Wrap-Up

Books Bought:

  • The Year of Living Danishly – Helen Russell
  • The Ashes of London – Andrew Taylor
  • How to be Both – Ali Smith
  • White Teeth – Zadie Smith
  • On Beauty – Zadie Smith

 

Books Read:

  • The Year of Living Danishly – Helen Russell
  • The Ashes of London – Andrew Taylor
  • Ballet Shoes – Noel Streatfeild
  • 1984 – George Orwell

 

This month was a bit of a slow burner, with a few deadlines hovering at the start of the month meaning two weeks passed by with hardly any reading at all. It’s one of the main reasons why, unusually, I read a children’s book, a memoir, and a piece of historical fiction, rather than my usual mix of fantasy and literary fiction.

In terms of buying books, The Year of Living Danishly and The Ashes of London were books I bought specifically to try and force my way out of a reading slump, so unlike the majority of my other purchases which are slung unceremoniously onto my growing TBR, I ended up reading straight away. The other three I picked up at a sale in a charity shop, where I managed to get the three of them for £2. After everything I’ve heard over the last few months about Zadie’s Swing Time and Ali’s Autumn, I took the opportunity to get my hands on some of their backlist titles before I spend money on their new releases, which in the UK are only available in hardback.

 

Reviews:

The Year of Living Danishly – Helen Russell     4/5

The Ashes of London – Andrew Taylor    3/5

Ballet Shoes – Noel Streatfeild    4/5    (coming soon)

1984 – George Orwell    4/5    (coming soon)