I worked in a bookshop from 1994 to 1999. It was the most fun job I ever had probably because I loved books, my boss was eccentric and the customers were also a bit odd so it was pure entertainment mixed with a wealth of learning as well as getting paid to do it. I had some previous experience of books having been a great reader from a young age and also working part-time in my local library.
When I started work in the bookshop the owner was training me up and explaining all kinds of bookshop language, categories, descriptions of books and anything else I needed to know. I also went on a book-selling training course to Liverpool. I have a good memory so that made life very easy as I was good to remember authors and if we had a particular book in the shop. There was no computer in the shop at the start.
There was both new & second-hand (used) books in the shop. A lot of the second-hand books were bought from people who brought a bag of books in or asked for a house to be cleared out. In those days every book was worth something. The nice clean saleable books went in the shop and anything that was worn went into the bargain box outside the door which we called the coffin as it was shaped just like a coffin. People loved to poke it in and find a bargain.
Nowadays every book is not valuable. This is because of the flood of books on the internet and by what we in the trade call the dollar sellers. It is driving down the value of perfectly good books which is good for the customer but no good for the seller or the actual value of books. I have boxes of lovely books on all kinds of subjects that just aren’t worth listing due to there being a couple of hundred copies on and some from sellers offering free shipping. I just keep them all for when I have my own bookshop.
I do miss those pre-internet days when people were glad to go to their local bookshop and see a book and buy it and when they had books to get rid of they came back to the bookshop and traded them in. There is a home for every book but some days it’s a struggle to find the right person for the right book and vica versa.
When I worked in a bookshop back in the 1990’s I discovered Lesley Pearse and was instantly hooked. After reading the first book, I immediately ordered all her other books and loved them. They were the good old days when I was paid to read. Of course I argued that I had to have read books to be able to recommend them to customers. After leaving the bookshop I used to always look out for new books written by Lesley Pearse. She only releases one book a year on average but I always know when it’s due out and what it’s about.
This years book is called Forgive Me which tells the story of Eva Patterson whose Mum commits suicide not long before Evas 21st birthday. As Eva deals with the aftermath of the suicide and searches for reasons why her mother took her own life, she discovers many secrets from the past. The search for answers takes Eva on a journey to her mother’s past where she discovers things she never knew about her mother. The book has plenty of twists and turns so you want to keep reading to know where the story goes.
Lesley Pearse always writes stories that are emotional and you can feel the highs and lows with the characters. It is a gripping story and it’s one of those books that you just want to keep on reading. I read it over a couple of evenings and didn’t want it to finish which is a sign of a good book. I was pleased with this book as her last book was the first one to slightly disappoint me so I was afraid she was losing her touch. This book proves she still is a super writer.
I’m looking forward to the next book already. Reading Lesley Pearse always makes me want to be a writer myself.
Forgive Me – Lesley Pearse
My sister came home on holidays and was telling me about this great book she had been reading on the plane. She couldn’t remember the name of the book but knew the author was Sebastian Barry. On the way home, she had stopped off in London for work. She said she was dying to finish the book when she got to her hotel but couldn’t find it anywhere and realised she had left it on the plane. This made me laugh as it could only happen to her. She stayed at home a couple of days and then set off on a shopping trip to Cork and landed home with the book called The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry. She finished it and gave it to me to sell or do whatever I wanted with it. It was on the pile of books that was supposed to go down to my book store but I was curious as to what had got my sister so hooked so I decided to read it myself.
The book is the story of a nearly 100 year old woman, Roseanne, who is in a mental hospital. She goes back and tells her life story and how she ended up in the mental hospital. At the same time her doctor, Dr. Grene, is updating his records and trying to learn more about his patient so that he can move her to another hospital. The book is written from both Roseanne and Dr Grenes’ point of view. It is a well written book and it’s descriptive language gives a picture of what the author is trying to show. It covers back to the 1930’s in Ireland so there are the different social aspects through the years. Roseanne is an amusing character and made me laugh on a few occasions. At times I wished it gave some more information but I think they way it’s written makes you stay curious right to the end.
I did find myself drawn back to the book, wondering what was going to happen next and kept on reading until the end. It was also one of those books that I wished had a few more chapters. I can see why my sister had to go and buy another copy. We rarely read the same books so I was surprised to enjoy it.
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry
Last year I got Tarquin Blakes Abandoned Mansions of Ireland and it revived my interest in history but especially the history of the old houses and castles in Ireland. I then saw a gorgeous new book that came out before Christmas called Irish Country Houses: A Chronicle of Change by David Hicks. I had hoped someone would buy it for me but alas no one took my hints about it.
I finally got a copy a few weeks ago and started reading it straight away. It’s a large book, what we call a coffee table book as it’s so big it has to be read on a table. It’s a lovely book illustrated with beautiful photos. It covers houses in all provinces of Ireland but I was particularly interested in the Cork ones especially Castle Bernard in Bandon and Castle Freke, both in Cork.
What makes this book different from the rest is that the author and photographer have gone to the trouble of finding the old pictures and then taking a photograph of how the place looks now and how they were in the past for comparison. It’s sad to see the state of some of these gorgeous old houses but it’s a long and sometimes bitter history as to how some of them became the way they did. As I also work for a builder I was interested in the architectural details and cost of building at the time.
The book is very simply written but with a wealth of detail. I only read a chapter per night so that I could enjoy whatever house I was reading about and digest the historical detail. There is a lot of Irish social history in the book and makes me want to read many more books about people, places and periods of history. That is the best and the worst thing about these books. They make you want more.
I hope there will be a follow up to this book as it is one of the best presented books on Irish country houses that has come out with a while. David Hicks blog is certainly one to follow if you are interested in Irish country houses.
I hadn’t long finished reading Irish Country Houses when the TV3 series The Big House started on television. This was more country house history but more from the servants side of things. Again, it’s great social history and very well researched. There are three more episodes to air and I don’t think they will disappoint me.
I’m embarrassed to admit it took me two months to read the book I have just finished. I really enjoyed it though and would have finished it a lot faster if I had time.
Capital by John Lanchester
I went to London in February to celebrate my birthday with some new friends and one of the girls gave me a book called Capital by John Lanchester which is set in London. It is about the residents of Pepys Road who are all getting the same postcard which says We Want What You Have.
It has very short chapters which makes it a very easy read. It moves through the different houses and introduces us to the characters which are a broad range of ages and backgrounds. They all have in common the postcards they are receiving and how they react to them. We spend a lot of the book wondering who is sending the cards and it is interesting how the mystery is unravelled and holds the reader until the end. The cards are the common theme but we learn so much about the different house owners.
It is a well written book and the use of descriptive language paints an image of London that you could picture. It is humorous in places and brings a smile to your face. What is always a test of a new author for me is whether I would read another book by them and the answer this time is yes I would.
Yesterday I went to see a lovely new bookshop that has opened in Skibbereen, Co. Cork. It’s a second shop as a sister shop to the already established Time Travellers Bookshop which has been in Skibbereen for a few years and has a gorgeous array of books on all subjects.
The new shop is specialising in books on music, poetry and the art of illustration. What a fantastic display of books. The art books are so colourful that they decorate the shop. It is a pure paradise for a book lover, especially those interested in rare books.
The shop is also doing records and music accessories like guitar strings as well as many books on musicians, bands and all kinds of music genres.
I wish Holger and Nicola much success with this new venture.
The Paper Dolls
The Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson Illustrated by Rebecca Cobb
A cousin of mine bought this for my little girl, who is nearly three, for Christmas. From the first reading both my girl and my 5 year old boy loved it. I have lost count of how many times I have read it since getting it.
It’s a simple story about a girl whose mother makes her paper dolls – “They were Ticky and Tacky and Jackie the Backie and Jim with two noses and Jo with the bow”. The story is all about the adventures of the five paper dolls. It’s a lovely story and the children loved the repetitive rhyme with the names of the dolls. The dolls have quite an adventure and encounter lots of things which are great to make children think and talk about a book.
The first day we opened it I had to read it about ten times in a row. Over the days during the holidays it was presented to me numerous times for reading and after a few days my little girl came with it and said Ticky and Tacky to me. That’s what she calls the book. My 5 year old boy has learnt the story and now tries to read it to his little sister.
I would highly recommend it for the 3 to 5 year age group and I must say I enjoyed it myself too.
I have always read fiction. Years after leaving school I was still sure that I didn’t like non-fiction. Over the last while I have been reading non-fiction books and I’m hooked.
I have been selling books online for 13 years and while I have thousands of mainly non-fiction books I found I haven’t read many of them. In 2012 after a few quiet years while I had my family I devoted more time to my book selling business. This involved sorting through many boxes of books that I had bought. I was amazed at how many I wanted to read and they were nearly all non-fiction. While I still have a big pile of fiction books to read I now find I have a bigger stack of non-fiction. I don’t know if it’s life, motherhood or age has changed my taste in books but whatever it is its a change for the better. Now my problem is I don’t have enough time for all the books I want to read. Due to my very limited time for reading I find I am currently reading a few books together which I know some people don’t understand how people do it but it’s really easy.
Some recent non-fiction reads:
Dewey – The Small Time Library Cat Who Touched The World by Vicki Myron
Abandoned Mansions of Ireland by Tarquin Blake
Con Cremin – Ireland’s Wartime Diplomat by Dr Niall Keogh
Chicago May by Nuala O’Faolain
I am also going to a book club which is make me read fiction that I normally wouldn’t chose to read like
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Serena by Ron Rash
Lies of Silence by Brian Moore
Now winter is here I hope to have a bit more time for reading.
This book is a biography of May Duignan who was born in Longford, Ireland. She stole her family’s savings and ran off to America to start a new life. Her new life was a life of crime and she soon earned the name Chicago May. Her adventures took her to Chicago, New York, Paris and London. Her crimes and jobs varied from theft, prostitution, showgirl and outlaw.
Within the first few pages of reading this book, Nuala O’Faolains devotion to writing a correct account of Chicago Mays life was clear. Because the time covered is from 1890-1929, some details are missing but O’Faolain is quick to fill in what she thinks happened. May kept using different names which must have made research hard. O’Faolain has done an amount of research into re-creating Mays journey from Longford to America and her new life and events that happened including visiting the places herself which makes the book so good. I liked that she went to the places May lived so she could paint a true picture of the time.
There is so much detail in the book it is easy to picture it all. It is a great social history of Ireland, America and London at the time. It covers an escape from rural Ireland to America and then various moves to cities in America. May had bad taste in men which led to a lot of her troubles. She did end up in prison in the UK. This was a very interesting chapter as it was during her time in prison that she met Constance Markieviez, one of the famous women in the 1916 rising in Dublin.
While some of the things May did are not admirable she is still a likeable character. She lived a life full of experiences, some good and a lot bad but this was all part of her character.
It is a great book. It is so detailed. It’s not one that can be quickly scanned over as there is information in every line. I really enjoyed it as there was a broad range of life experience, history and tales of crime. I can highly recommend it as something different to read. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting. I picked this book up as I wanted to read something different from what I usually read and this proved to be an exceptional choice. It also makes me want to read other books on events raised in this book.
The Story of Chicago May – Nuala O’Faolain