January Book Sale – Give a book a home

It’s time to help me clear some of my clutter and for you to help me give a book a new home.

All books listed on our website can be bought for 50% off the marked price.  Please enter coupon code JANSALE in the coupon box at checkout to get your discount.

We have thousands of books on many subjects that really need to move to a new home to make way for us to buy more. You see this book buying/book selling thing really is an addiction.

On our website you can search by author, title, keyword or just browse categories you might be interested in.  There are many categories including art, history, biography, music, books of Irish Interest and much much more.  6500 books listed online at the moment and range in prices from €2 to €800 so there really is something for everyone.  Have a look!


Books, Books & More Books

Sometimes it has to get bad before it gets good


Should I Read The Great Gatsby?

I went along with the hype about The Great Gatsby film and went to see it with a friend on Wednesday night. It was a big display of splendid houses and glamorous lifestyles.  I did find the first hour was a bit long building up the story line but when it got going it was very good and held my attention.  I did enjoy it and it was a good plot.

I rarely go to see films based on books, as the film is never as good, but in this case I haven’t read the book of The Great Gatsby so now I am wondering should I read it?  I think the film missed some key details but at the same time I hate reading something that I know what happens in the end.

So what I am asking is should I read it or not?

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

Bookselling in a time when every book was worth something

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.


Book Review: The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry

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

The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry

Irish Country Houses – Books & TV Programmes

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.

The Time Travellers Bookshop – a new sister shop

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.


Book Review: The Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson


The Paper Dolls


The Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson Illustrated by Rebecca Cobb
ISBN: 978-0-230-74108-9

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.

Fiction Versus Non-Fiction

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.

My First Reading Experiences

I can’t remember when I started reading but my mother said I always had my head stuck in a book.  Books have always been part of my life.

One of my earliest memories is running up to the library most nights.This was before I decided running wasn’t for me but that’s another story.  The library was only up the street from where I lived and used to open at 5.30 and I’d be waiting outside the door. The librarian was a little grumpy and used to say you can’t have your books read already but I used to have them read.  I’d get new books most nights and come down home and sit and read them.

Enid Blyton Books

Enid Blyton was a favourite author of mine and I read my way through many of her books from The Secret Seven series, The Famous Five and many others. I remember going on a school tour and I got spending money for the trip and I bought 3 Famous Five books that weren’t available in the library. I still have them, among many more, and hope my children will read them some day.

I read many books including girls and boys adventure stories.  I loved mystery stories and as I got older read Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. Our library was small so you couldn’t have the snobbery of saying the book was for a boy or a girl. The childrens section was only about two bookcases in size so I read anything I could find that I could read.  What a thrill it was when the library van came and bought a few new books.

Reading is such a learning experience from learning new words to learning about new places and experiences.  I also found that with books set in different places it broadened my mind to travelling, the world and cultures.

I am bringing my children up to love books and while I am a bookseller I take my children to the library as it’s a lovely experience to chose from such a selection of books and try all different genres.

After I started writing this blog, I looked up the full title list of Enid Blyton books. I can’t believe how many of them I have read and I am really looking forward to reading them all again with my children.  This amuses me greatly as I am one of these people who only reads a book once as I think there are so many books to read why read one twice.

Reading has always been part of my life. I find great comfort in a good book and am never bored when I am reading.  I don’t have as much time for reading since I had my children but I’ll get back to it as they get bigger.  Just because I can’t read them doesn’t stop me buying them.

Re-launch of Darkwood Books at Bantry Book Fair

After a break from doing book fairs Darkwood Books will be at the Book Fair at Bantry House, Bantry, Co. Cork on 8th July as part of the West Cork Literary Festival week events.

This may seem like an ordinary piece of news but to us its a bit like getting ready for our debutante dance.  Like all debutantes preparing for their night ranging from dress to fake tan to jewellery we are just the same.  We are busy choosing what books to take and display. We haven’t done a book fair in 7 years due to personal circumstances but are now ready to re-launch ourselves back on to the book-selling scene.

It is with a degree of uncertainty that books are being chosen.  Book selling has changed so much in the last few years. A lot of bookshops closed when internet selling became an easier way of life and in due course internet sellers are getting pushed out by the rise of the e-reader so it’s hard to pick what books potential customers might want to buy.

We have two tables which can take four bookcases so we can display a broad range of our books.  We always like to have one bookcase of books of Irish Interest as there are some collectors who like Irish history, literature, art, poetry and anything to do with Ireland.  We also like to cater to all people so take books priced from 5 euro to 500 euro.  We like to see regular book buyers there as well as serious collectors.  It’s always nice to see a book going off to a new home with a new owner and a bit like a pet we hope the book gets a good home.

So, a few hours of sorting books and choosing which ones get a day out and more annoying wondering which ones will have to be packed up and brought home again.

If any of you are in the Bantry area on 8th July, please call and see us.  Admission is free and with a lot of book-sellers there, there is sure to be something for everyone.

A PDF catalogue is available also with some books that will be on offer there. If you’d like one please email me and I’ll forward it to you.