Back in Bristol

For two weeks, anyway. Being the selfless friend that I am, I have agreed to look after a friend’s house and cat while she and her husband go tootling around in their car for a couple of weeks.

Due to not having bags of money to chuck around in an expensive city, I have to make the most of my time in slightly different ways to previous visits, but I am looking forward to it.

I will, of course, be visiting all my favourite literary places (largely bookshops). However, I will also be:

  • exploring the free places I have never been before,
  • attempting to find the perfect coffee,
  • reading for pleasure – always an exciting hobby for a teacher,
  • and (as this post attests) reigniting my love for blogging.

Three books have made the trip across England with me:

  1. The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson (already halfway through and thoroughly enjoying it).
  2. The Hollow by Agatha Christie (needs no explanation).
  3. Broken by Karin Slaughter (recently read Genesis by her and it reminded me of why I like her thrillers).

I am hoping to pick up some bargains in charity bookshops; rarely do they let me in this part of the country. In particular, I am hoping to add to my collection of To Kill A Mockingbird books. After recently reading a post on Bookriot about someone’s hoard of The Catcher in the Rye editions, I am on the lookout for interesting editions of my own all-time favourite.

For documenting my time and capturing those blindingly brilliant moments, I only have my trusty phone, but I don’t think the photo in this post is too bad – taken during a trip last August. I am not so delusional that I don’t think the weather will be somewhat of a barrier to my grand plans – this is England in the summertime, after all – therefore much of my reading will be done indoors, glumly staring out of rain-spattered windows.

Yet, when those windows are in Bristol, I don’t seem to mind…

All I want for Christmas (is a sack load of bookish booty)

The most wonderful time of the year is just around the corner and I am already feeling festive. One of my favourite pre-Christmas activities is searching the internet for the book-themed gifts I would love to find wrapped under the tree, addressed to me. Most of the time, I don’t even bother to tell friends or family about the delights I want; for me, looking is all part of the fun.

Below are some of the best gifts I have found so far, but as there are 38 days until Christmas, I’m sure I’ll stumble across more gems.

Who doesn’t enjoy a little whimsy with their books? This print is cute, whilst being a simple design. Look how smug that cat is… I have personally never built a book fort. A fort yes, but for some reason I have never stocked it with books. Shame on me.

Build Your Book Fort!

Out Of Print Clothing have already provided me with two of my most beloved T-shirts, but I already have my eye on several more, including this Frankenstein number:

Some people might take a peek at my jewellery stash and be so incredibly incorrect as to claim that I already have enough. Morons. With the popularity of the new adaptation of Sherlock still very high, 221B Baker Street swag is everywhere (quite a lot of it is terrible though, let’s be honest) but this necklace is a little different; it’s not often this quote is used:

Sherlock Necklace Sherlock Holmes Necklace Literary Quote Necklace Literary Jewellery Book Lover Gift for Bibliophile

Look. At. This. Ohh so pretty… *dribbling slightly* Honestly, I’d be happy to just own the book, but I also know that having it as a place in which I can store other books = win.

Taking another look at all of these has made me question my policy of secrecy. Maybe I should be sharing this link with my nearest and dearest…

B2 Boutique Hotel, Zurich

Ever since Callum found this place online, we decided we needed to visit. There are a lot of fancy hotels in the world, but not that many of them have fantastic displays of books.


We had a late lunch here (unfortunately at Zurich prices) but it was good food and nice coffee. There were hardly any other diners so it was lovely and quiet – although one couple had snagged what is clearly the best seat in the place; you can see it in the picture below, on the left-hand edge of the photo. Bastards. Putting my seat envy aside, I can really see the appeal of sitting here in the afternoon and escaping into a good book.


We spoke to our waitress about the hotel and the library; on the site of a former brewery, it’s still relatively new, and judging from the amount of guests we saw that day, not yet the busiest place to stay in the city – which in my opinion, is a plus point.


The hotel’s website describes the library as:

…the centrepiece of the hotel. With over 33,000 books, it is an inviting place to read, lose yourself in a good book, experience history at first hand and meet new people

Personally, I would have liked the space to be a little more enclosed; the entire lobby space is very open and you see into the library area from the moment you enter the hotel, but closing it off would lose this impact and I understand that. Additionally, guests can also borrow the books when they stay at the hotel, but I’m assuming you need to be a pretty good reader of German to get the full benefit.


If you’re thinking the light fixtures look a little familiar, that’s because they’re repurposed Grolsch bottles. Personally, I’m not a fan, but at least it’s an innovative way of recycling and adds to the uniqueness of the hotel. I can’t vouch for the quality of the hotel rooms, but library is nice place to relax, the food is tasty and the toilets were fancy – cotton hand towels, not paper like commoners use.

Bookish parting presents

It’s been a long time since my last post – roughly two months. Oops. Work has been dominating my life recently, but as my last day draws ever closer I’m beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel! This week brought some lovely surprise presents my way and a lot of them were books/book-related which is always guaranteed to make me happy.


I feel the title of ‘bossy’ is very undeserved!

I was especially pleased to get a book lamp as I’ve had my eye on them for quite a while but the high price has always put me off, so I’m glad there’s a benefit to being prudent and patient – eventually someone lovely will buy your object of desire for you:)


Taking my new toy for a test drive!


Love this! Just need to decide where it should be pinned…

I hope to be better with my posts in the coming weeks as I have three books reviews to write and post! Busy, busy, busy…

Just a quick look…

…for one book. Just one. Oops, I appeared to have bought three, none of which were the original title I went in for.

Yes, my local bookshop strikes again. I swear I only wanted the next novel of my book group but then I started to notice they’d had some new arrivals. While they didn’t have the two titles of his which are on my locked room mystery list, they did have three other John Dickson Carr books in the classic Penguin design.


I forced myself to choose between the three and plumped for the one in best condition. I don’t think its hyperbole to say that it felt like Sophie’s choice…


I was also very pleased to find Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis. It was recommended to me by someone at work and definitely sounds intriguing; it is the story of a man’s life, told backwards.


While I was browsing the shelves I found several other books which were clearly waiting for me to choose them, including a hardback, cloth-cover copy of Arthur and George by Julian Barnes, a book I really enjoyed. Maybe it will still be there in a couple of weeks??

Movies into books

Usually when the subject is books + films, it involves an argument of whether the cinematic adaptations did justice to the text or why a film hasn’t been made yet. I belong to ‘the book was better’ school of thought and there are very few examples which, for me, disprove that theory but I don’t want to discuss that today, instead I want to highlight the films I wish were books too.


This is one of my favourite films of all time; it’s funny, clever, touching and charming. I even think if it had originally been an English language production, I wouldn’t love it as much as I do now.


She enjoys all sorts of little pleasures… piercing the crust of a crème brûlée with the tip of a spoon

Who wouldn’t want to read about Amelie and her quest to enrich the lives of others? The small pleasures of each of the characters? The beautiful Parisian streets through which she and Nino chase each other? This story and the colourful characters in it would transfer so easily to text. (And am I the only one who wants her apartment?)

In Bruge

A shift in gear now, from the light-hearted French to the black comedic British. This film took me completely by surprise, with a beautiful Belgian setting and wonderfully sharp script. (And I know Callum particularly likes this one, as it stars the very attractive Clemence Poesy.)

It's a fairytale town, isn't it? How's a fairytale town not somebody's fucking thing?

It’s a fairytale town, isn’t it? How’s a fairytale town not somebody’s fucking thing?

Based around two hired guns, their boss and an assassination gone wrong, the trio of Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes give great performances and this film is endlessly quotable – perfect starter material for a novel, in my opinion.

The Royal Tenenbaums

A Wes Anderson film this time, which may seem an odd choice, as his works are always so exploitative of their visual medium, that maybe you think a transfer to the written page wouldn’t be wise. However, I think the collection of odd personalities which make up this fictional family are big enough to straddle such a gap.

You are invited to a remarkable family gathering

You are invited to a remarkable family gathering

This is one of the few Ben Stiller titles which I think is actually any good – and if you haven’t seen it, don’t let his presence on the cast list put you off. Gwyneth Paltrow is particularly effective as one of the three gifted siblings who excel in childhood and find disappointment in later life. Dealing with familial problems has always been prime focus for writers, so there’s definitely an audience for this book.

I’m sure there are others I’ve watched and wished I could read, but these are my top contenders. If anyone read this and is feeling very literary today, please feel free to get started knowing you already have at least one reader waiting for your books…


Paramount Perspectives: Part 1

Let's be honest. if there's one narrator you want for your life, it's this guy.

Let’s be honest. if there’s one narrator you want for your life, it’s this guy.

Narrators are our avenue into the fictitious worlds mapped out by authors. Their choice of words, phrases and imagery; their take on events; their prejudices and opinions skew everything we see, feel, smell, experience. Therefore, I think there’s a pretty decent case for arguing that the narrator is the most important element of a book.  And that’s what I want to discuss in these posts: good narrators, bad narrators and the down right irritating.

What started me on this path was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, which, as many of you will know, is narrated by death. I’m only 28% of the way through so I don’t know how the choice of narrator will impact the story further on, but so far, after the initial focus on death and its role in the world, there has been little. In fact, it seems superfluous to bother mentioning that death is the narrator; once the main plot takes over, the voice could be anyone’s, meaning that when the odd reference does appear, it almost seems jarring and ill-fitting.

bookthiefYet, I like the idea as a concept and understand why it would appeal to a writer; your choice is omnipotent, does not need to match existing accounts or facts, thus allowing for full creative licence. I just wish that Zusak had actually exploited his choice a little more. However, I cannot dwell on this too long – I am yet to finish the book.

So which narrators in fiction do I find effective? The first that springs to mind is Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird. This may surprise some readers as there are many who find her to be the crucial flaw in this best-selling book because she is a child – six years old, to be exact. But I wonder if many of these critics have missed a crucial aspect? Scout is actually looking back at the events in the novel and in the second paragraph we have this line:

When enough years had gone by to enable us to look back on them, we sometimes discussed the events leading to his accident.

This instantly changes how we should judge and interpret what is to follow because now we know that not only has a significant amount of time passed, but Scout’s scoutown remembrances have been mixed with those of others who were there. This distance will have had two significant – and seemingly contradictory – effects. The first is that certain parts will have been dulled and others will have been highlighted, thus altering how the story is presented to the reader. One cannot help but suspect that Jem filled in many of the spaces for Scout, as he was present for most of her experiences and being that little bit older, would have much fuller recollections. This interval will also have created fuller perspectives for the protagonists. Who is capable of objectively judging their actions six seconds after the event? Everyone needs time to gain that ability and rationally understand what happened, and why.

The trial of Tom Robinson in particular benefits from having a child’s narration, as it is so steeped in the politics of its time. Scout’s lack of full understanding of the politics at play and Jem’s outrage at what he does understand, allow Atticus to explain the world in which they are living and underline what the modern readers see as ludicrous levels of prejudice and racism.

As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it – whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.

Adult characters would be conscious of the racial factors which underpinned American society but no one can realistically expect such a young girl to have knowledge of her family history, nor the societal, cultural and political elements of her world. To Kill a Mockingbird is a story of multiple discoveries and understandings, so it is fully fitting it is through a child’s eyes the reader experiences this exploration.

I want to end this post with some Atticus, because, well, Atticus:atticus

I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.

The Book Exchange

One of my favourite bookshops – favourite places even – is The Book Exchange in Amsterdam (for more pictures and information, see this page). This place is proof that if someone wants to take all my money and not get arrested for it, setting up an independent, used book shop is the best way to go about it. I have recently moved house and am only ~10 minutes walk away from this little literary haven. Therefore I will probably end up going a little too often from now on, which is possible as these places rely on donators/sellers to provide them with new additions for their shelves.

We were sellers ourselves recently and it felt good to not only give something to a local business, but also to add to the life cycle of some of our unwanted books; hopefully they will find nice, new homes. (Although now I wish I’d left a note or two hidden in between some pages.)

On my most recent visit I found two fantastic gems. The first, is a great hard cover, first edition of The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides.


The second was a Penguin edition of The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh.


Both of these I got for Callum; it is almost as nice to give books, as it is to receive them. Almost. So make someone happy today by buying them a book – and maybe you’ll receive one in return…