Book Review: The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

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Category: A Biography or Auto-Biography

Enter the world of The Bookshop, Scotland’s largest second-hand bookstore in Wigtown, Scotland’s Booktown. Owned and operated by Shaun Bythell, he records the daily happenings at The Bookshop. From his hatred of Amazon and Kindles to quirky shop assistant, Nicky, to the constant dysfunction of his online ordering service to regulars such as Mr Deacon. Bythell records in some hilarity the things customers do and say as well as the behind-the-scenes look at what will really happen to your beloved books when you die.

I was fortunate enough to see Bythell speak in Featherston, NZ’s Booktown, earlier in 2018. The first thing that struck me was how mild his Scottish accent was, aided in turn by his Irish mother (my guess at least). The contrast of this with Nicky’s Scots made her appearances in the book all the more hilarious, and the thought of seeing the two spar with words would be something worth watching.

Nicky, along with cat, Captain, and appearances from Mr Deacon keep the book ticking over and added entertainment to the text. His pessimistic view on life shines through in the book, which adds an odd sort of charm to the narrative, especially in the small quips and retorts to customers when they’ve made reasonably stupid comments. Little gems hidden amongst the book such as the comment about not having to interact with the man who spent more than enough time flipping through the pages of illustrated erotica before leaving without purchasing anything, the customer who phones to ask if they have an alternator for a Vauxhall or even worse, the customer who asked if perhaps they might sell… books?

There will be a second installation of this book, and perhaps after the success of the first there’ll be bound to be even more quirky characters to read about.

Two and a half/Five Stars

DDRR Reading Challenge Starting Prompts

If you’re anything like me you already have a stack of books on your bedside table in a ‘To Read’ pile.  I’m sure that most of them will somehow fit into at least one of the 25 categories in the Dance Dance, Ramble Ramble Reading Challenge.
If you haven’t checked the reading challenge out already, click the link above and see what it’s about!

The great thing about the challenge is that many of the books you read will fit more than one category, making it a little easier (or harder, depending on how many books you read!) to find a category to fit your book.
So, you want to do the challenge but… there’s so many categories! Where do you start?Need some help deciding what to read this year? Look no further.

There’s quite a few categories that will ease you into the challenge.
There’s no better place to start than A book you just want to read! 
Any book falls under this category. Perhaps it’s a trusted favourite, or a book you’ve been meaning to re-read for a while. Or maybe you recieved a book as a Christmas gift.

Take a look on your own bookshelf; A book you own but haven’t yet read.
If you’re anything like me there’s more than one or two books on the shelf that are waiting to be picked up and devoured!

Or perhaps there’s a book from a series you like that you need to start, or catch up on.
The Seven Sisters series has been increasing in popularity recently. Or you may like to fall back on an old favourite; mine is The Rizzoli & Isles series. I’ll be reading a Rebus or Strike novel for this category myself. I find Detective fiction helps me break up the space and time between more emotionally intense texts I’ve read. Retreating to visit old friends amongst pages can be just as comforting as discovering new ones. 

Looking to discover something new? A debut novel is perfect!
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine has been one of the more talked about debuts recently, and fits many of the #DDRRreadingchallenge categories! It’ll certainly make you laugh out loud and Reese Witherspoon has bought the rights to the film
This list of 31 Debut Novels from Bustle from 2018 has a good range of novels on it, with something for almost everyone.

Another place to start is A book recommended by a friend. Reading is such a personal journey that when you recommend a book to someone, it’s almost as if you’re telling them a little about yourself; ‘this book was excellent and I think you’d like it too’. Either that, or the book wasn’t your cup of tea but you think it might be someone elses! Regardless, if someone has thought to recommend a book to you; there’s a reason for it. Trust in that, and you may just discover something you didn’t know you were looking for! At least 1/4 of the books I read each year are recommendations from others and of those, half of them are books I never would have picked for myself.

Or perhaps you’re wanting to stretch your horizons right from the outset.
There’s a few categories which are specific to your location;

A book which includes language indigenous to your land
UNESCO has designated 2019 the Year of Indigenous Languages, which makes this a perfect category for 2019.
Being based in New Zealand, I’ll be looking for a book which incorporates Te Reo Maori.
In Scotland? A book with Gaelic or Scots. Wales? Welsh.
Australia? A text which includes Aboriginal language. USA & Canada; First Nations.
Do a bit of research, maybe you’re about to discover something magical.
Ask some friends if they know of any good books that might fit this challenge.

A book set in the country you live  & A book by a local author 
Here you’re just going to have to do a bit of searching.
Finding texts set in your country will be relatively easy. A local Author however, may be a slightly tricky if you live a little more remotely.
Visit or email your local library; they’re bound to know of local Authors, and they love giving recommendations.
Don’t forget… It doesn’t have to be modern fiction either!

We’ve covered eight of the 25 categories in the challenge.
Hopefully you’ve found a starting point for your #DDRRreadingchallenge for 2019.
If you have any recommendations for any of the categories don’t forget to use the #DDRRreadingchallenge hashtag on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, or you can email in on this website. I can’t wait to see what you’re all reading!

I’ll post more prompts for the remaining 17 categories as we progress throughout the beginning of the year.

But for now, wherever in the world you may be; snuggled up inside under a blanket, or on a beach in the sunshine… happy reading!

DDRR Reading Challenge 2019

With 2018 coming to a close it’s time we start thinking about goals for next year.
Last year I made myself a promise to read more books because I like reading and wasn’t doing it nearly enough. There really is nothing quite like getting yourself lost in a good book!
Part way through the year I learned my local library was doing a reading challenge for residents. I signed up, and as I’d already read a bunch of books by the time I joined, I wasn’t too far behind those who had started the challenge at the beginning of the year.
I was looking forward to participating in 2019, alas, they have decided not to run the challenge next year.

So… I came up with my own.
And you are more than welcome to join!
(Come and visit us in the Facebook Group!)

I liked the variety the categories in the challenge afforded me; new books, old books, books from here, books from there, fiction, non-fiction (something I usually never read!). I liked that it pushed me towards genres and texts outside of my comfort zone, texts I previously wouldn’t have considered or picked up. And not surprisingly, I enjoyed (most of) them.
But it’s also important to read for enjoyment. Read for fun. Read something you’re interested in or something you just want to read! I’ve kept some of these broader categories in the 2019 challenge, as they allow for a bit of ‘easy reading’, reading for fun.

2019 is going to be a time when it is increasingly important to be aware of inequality in the world, the struggles people from all walks of life face. A time to learn about people and stories which are vastly different to your own experience. This is why there are several ‘feminist’ categories in the challenge. Categories specific to Women of Colour, culture, indigenous language, disability. Things we need to bring to the front, put a spotlight on.
I wish to broaden my knowledge outside of my own lived experience. I hope you do too.

So, how does it work?
The challenge has 25 different categories.
The challenge grid itself, and a recording sheet.
Feel free to print both off so you can keep track of your challenge.
Choose how you want to go about completing the challenge for yourself – This is your challenge!
Set yourself a goal; Read them all. Read only a few. The choice is yours.
I am aiming to read 18/25 books from the challenge. If I read more, great.
If I read less, oh well.
When you finish a book, tick it off on the record sheet and write the title/author down.
Your book may cover a few categories, but you can only mark it off against one!
(This step is purely for you. It keeps the motivation going!)
Each time you finish a book post a picture of it to instagram, twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #DDRRreadingchallenge, the category it fits under, and tell us what you thought about it; this way we can share books with each other that we may not be aware of!

So without furthur ado, let me introduce to you the
Dance Dance, Ramble Ramble 2019 Reading Challenge.

2019 Reading Challenge

2019 Reading Challenge Checklist

So to that end, go forth and enjoy!
I can’t wait to see what you end up reading across 2019!

Book Review: The Colour by Rose Tremain

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Category: A Book Set in the Country Where you Live

Newlyweds Joseph and Harriet Blackstone, along with Joseph’s mother Lilian, emigrate from England to New Zealand. Determined to make a name for himself outside of his late Father’s shadow, Joseph makes a string of poor choices that leave him and his family unprepared for the harsh realities of life in the wilderness of New Zealand.
His fortune, however, may be about to change after he finds gold dust in the creek bed on his land. Consumed by greed and his need to be successful, Joseph sets off towards Hokitika in search of The Colour.

I enjoy historical fiction, especially those set in the Victorian times. The Colour was recommended to me by a colleague who said it was beautifully written; which it is. New Zealand is described in vivid detail, the scenery, the bush, the mountains and oceans coming alive off the page. It was easy to imagine Tremain’s version of Aotearoa. However, this was where the brilliance ended for me. The storyline fell flat. I couldn’t relate to Joseph and Lilian’s motivations even though I could empathise with their situations and the poor decisions they made.

Being English herself, Tremain attempted to add Te Reo Maori into the novel, but there wasn’t enough. It didn’t flow naturally throughout the story and there were passages where the writing would have been improved with the Te Ao Maori view, especially during the second half of the book when Maori secondary character, Pare, has her own story line. The book is saved by the tenacity, bravery and determination of Harriet, who against all odds manages to survive the harsh realities of Victorian New Zealand in the winter mostly on her own.

Three/Five Stars