Tag Archives: beautiful books

Travel-The-Globe Thursday: Topping & Company Booksellers, St. Andrews

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In August 2015 I did some travelling around Ireland, Scotland and England, and naturally, I visited all of the bookish places I possibly could in that time. Compared to Australia, Ireland and the UK have many, many, MANY more physical bookstores and it is a much bigger industry over there than it is here in Oz. Out of all the bookstores I visited (and that’s quite a lot!) my absolute favourite was Topping and Company Booksellers of St. Andrews in Scotland.

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My favourite thing about it is the fact that it looks EXACTLY like my ideal movie-style bookstore – wall to wall, floor to ceiling timber bookshelves, sliding bookshelf ladders (a book lovers dream!), comfy couches and chairs, little cosy nooks and just every surface covered in bookish goodness! I could have spent HOURS just basking in the glory of this gorgeous store!

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Another thing that really stood out was the genuine friendliness and helpfulness of the staff there. When I mentioned to one of the staff members that I work in a bookstore in Sydney, Australia, she told me how she got her start in bookstores in Sydney! She then proceeded to invite me to make myself comfortable on one of their couches and she went and got me a cup of tea and a plate of biscuits so I could sit back and enjoy the store (it all came out on a tray complete with matching teacup, saucer and teapot).

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One of my favourite things about bookstores in the UK generally, but especially at Topping and Company is the sheer number of signed editions of books! Compared to how many we get in bookstores in Australia, it was a little overwhelming trying to only pick a few to buy. As most authors – especially UK and US authors – tend to tour the UK when promoting their books, it stands to reason they would have more signed editions than us poor little forgotten bookstores in Australia.

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Topping and Company in St. Andrews still remains my favourite bookstore that I have ever visited.

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Must-Read Monday: The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

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I love a good historical fiction novel as I find it a really interesting and engaging way to learn more about periods and people in history. While The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is an historical fiction novel, it is one with a difference. There is a touch of magic in this one, which really appealed to me.

The story takes place in Victorian London in the 1880s. We are introduced to Thaniel who one day inexplicably finds an intricately and beautifully made gold pocket watch in his small rented apartment. Fast-forward six months, and this pocket watch mysteriously and inexplicably saves him from a fatal bomb blast that completely destroys Scotland Yard. Wanting answers, Thaniel goes in search of the maker of the watch. He discovers its maker is Keita Mori, a solitary Japanese immigrant. He forms a close friendship with Mori, although Thaniel feels as though Mori is deliberately keeping something from him. When Thaniel meets Grace Carrow, an eccentric physicist, he starts to question his friendship with Mori.

This novel was an absolute beauty to read. The atmosphere the author creates really puts you right into the heart of the story, and she expertly blends real historical happenings with little bits of fantasy and magic. The biggest strengths in this novel are the two main characters, Thaniel and Mori. They end up not feeling like characters, but like real people from an age gone by. Thaniel starts out as the typical polite, proper Englishman, and Mori the quirky, odd foreigner. As the story progresses, and as their relationship develops, each of them reveals more of their character, and soon they start to change and affect one another. They jump off the page with their complexities and their personalities.

I listened to this novel as an audiobook, and it was definitely they best way I could have consumed this story as it made everything seem so much more alive and realistic, despite the magical element in the tale.

This novel felt like what a steampunk-style novel done right should look like. I normally do not enjoy reading steampunk, but this book was right up my alley. A light hand and restraint from the author definitely made this a trope-free, Victorian fiction novel that has quickly become one of my favourites. Ultimately an examination of how much chance, coincidence and luck play a part in our lives, this novel is charming, beautiful, profound and simply a joy to read.

Screen Version Saturday: The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Australian author Markus Zusak tells the story of Liesel, a girl who is sent to live with a foster family near Munich during the Second World War. With the guidance of her foster father, she learns to read and develops an intense love of books and stories. They become irresistible to her, and whenever the opportunity presents itself she steals books from around her small town. She shares her stories with Max, a Jewish man that her foster parents are hiding from the Nazis. The book itself was brilliant and has been a best seller all over the world. I especially loved the fact that the novel itself is told from the point of view of Death and not from the point of view of Liesel, the main character. This creates a sense of foreboding and darkness in the novel, balanced out by the innocence and guileless morality of Liesel.

The 2013 film, starring Sophie Nélisse, Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson, was welcomed with a very split response from critics. Regardless, I really enjoyed the film version. This was another book-to-film adaptation that I think was done really well. Geoffrey Rush was excellent in the role of Liesel’s foster father and, in my opinion, stole the show. I thought Liesel’s foster mother in the books came across as rougher, more forbidding and more disgruntled than she did in the film. In the film I thought she seemed positively cuddly in comparison to her book character. The character of Death still narrates the film, but I felt he doesn’t have the same presence in the film that he has in the book. These are minor issues that I have with the film, and it is still a great adaptation of the book. I loved both the book and film for the fact that while the setting of Germany during WWII was important in the telling of the story, it wasn’t the central storyline itself, which is unusual for stories set in this historical period. I highly recommend everyone see this film.

 

Rating: Book screen-shot-2017-01-07-at-1-24-07-pm/ Movie screen-shot-2017-01-07-at-1-24-14-pm

Wishlist Wednesday: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

This book will be the first in a new duology from best-selling author Laini Taylor. I absolutely ADORED her Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, so naturally I am very excited about new material from her.

One of the things I loved most about Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series was the way she writes and her use of language. It is so beautiful to read, and her descriptions are very vivid and very realistic (when it came to the real world locations!).

Much like The Song Rising, Strange the Dreamer had a delayed publication date. It was originally slated for a September 2016 release, but it then got pushed back to March 2017, the reasons for which are outlined here. Naturally, as soon as someone says I can have something and then makes me wait even longer for it, the more I want that item!

Mostly, I am putting this book on my wishlist because it has intrigued me. The title itself had grabbed me; Is ‘Strange’ a name? Is it just an artistic, incomplete sentence? What meaning does the title hold to the story? And then there is the plot summary on Goodreads:

Strange the Dreamer is the story of:

the aftermath of a war between gods and men
a mysterious city stripped of its name
a mythic hero with blood on his hands
a young librarian with a singular dream
a girl every bit as perilous as she is imperiled
alchemy and blood candy, nightmares and godspawn, moths and monsters, friendship and treachery, love and carnage.

Welcome to Weep.

 

WELL! If that isn’t mysteriously tantalising enough to grab your interest, then I don’t know what is. Personally, the addition of a librarian just increased my interest! This sounds to me like more fabulous YA fantasy goodness!

 

The Australian publication date for Strange the Dreamer is 28th March 2017.

Review: The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

The Little Paris Bookshop - Nina George

“The bookseller could not imagine what might be more practical than a book…”

[The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, pg. 1]

The two things I love most in the world are books and travel. Without getting into a long philosophical spiel about how the two go hand in hand, I’ll just say that they both let you experience new people, new cultures and new places. So when I was perusing our pile of advance reading copies at work, this book immediately grabbed my attention because it combines my two loves – travel and books.

Jean Perdu runs a bookshop out of a converted barge on the Seine River in Paris. He calls it La Pharmacie Litéraire – the literary apothecary – for he has an unusual gift for being able to see into his customers’ souls for what they most need. For according to Jean Perdu, there is a book for every ailment of the soul.

“Perdu reflected that it was a common misconception that booksellers looked after books.

They look after people.”

[The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, pg.19]

However, for the past twenty-one years there is only one person that Jean Perdu has been unable to successfully prescribe a book for – himself. For twenty-one years ago, the woman that he loved abruptly left him; no goodbyes, no forewarning, just a letter that Jean Perdu has not been able to bring himself to open. However, the sudden arrival of a mysterious new neighbour in his apartment building may be just the thing Jean Perdu has been waiting for. And so, one not so special day, Jean Perdu unmoors his literary apothecary and sets off for Provence in search of answers, closure and the ability to heal his own soul.

I am not one who normally finds literary fiction all that riveting, but I absolutely adored this book. It is, in a word, beautiful. The two things that struck me the most were the vivid descriptions of the French countryside, and the wonderfully eclectic and quirky cast of characters, all of whom are so well defined and written, that I half expected them to come leaping out of the pages.

Typically, as in all novels where the main protagonist needs to find themselves to gain closure, Jean Perdu gets more than he bargains for on his impromptu trip, but it doesn’t feel clichéd or cheesy in any way. As Jean Perdu’s second greatest love is books, this novel has lots of literary and book references, each one treated with the reverence it deserves. It gave me a little thrill every time I recognised a literary reference, and every time Jean Perdu mused his feelings about literature, books and life in a way I could completely relate to.

Whilst reading this book, I tried to keep a list of the quotes I loved, but in the end, it just became too impractical because there were so many that I loved, and that resonated with me. This is definitely one of those books where you try to explain to people why you loved it so much, but end up saying “You just have to read it, trust me”.

I would definitely recommend this book to those readers who like to read beautiful books, and to those who have a book addiction like myself. If you have ever looked for closure, called yourself a bookworm, been bitten by the travel bug or simply enjoyed quirky literary characters, then this book is definitely one for you.

Rating: 10/10

This book is due out in Australia on 14th April 2015.