Friday, July 27, 2012

3 4 Friday: Daring Princesses, Bookgroup Places and Booker Prizes

Today (Friday July 27) is the last day to do your ‘Where's Wally’ hunt around Abingdon and to get your entries in to us for a chance to win prizes in our grand draw. On Saturday (July 28) we will be doing ‘Where's Wally’ activities all day at Mostly Books to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first book. And anyone coming in dressed as Wally (or Wanda) get's an instant prize. From 2pm we will be drawing prizes – including some fantastic prizes from the shops involved, and the ‘grand prize’ of a very special limited edition ‘Where’s Wally’ book.

Whether it was Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France, or the bell-ringing this morning (!), Mostly Books is definitely in the mood for the Olympics. Our collection of Olympics books cannot be missed (literally – it’s the first thing you see when you come into the shop) and includes Mark’s favourite ‘How To Watch the Olympics’ (“a book that will turn yourself into an armchair Olympics expert”) to the official guide to the games for children. Come in and take a look at our range that’s sure to take gold (no, can’t believe we wrote that either...)

Calling all princesses! Have you heard about the princessparty we are hosting on Tuesday August 7? Then read on...

If you were a princess, would you be content to spend all day doing your formal duties and practising the perfect curtsey? Or might you sneak out after dinner and enjoy some freedom playing on a zip-wire after dark? The ‘Rescue Princesses’ is a fab series for girls who are just starting out on chapter books. They feature lots of gorgeous dresses and are set in fairytale castles, but have a great mix of traditional story with a modern twist as these princesses don’t let duty interfere with friendship or fun.

If you like princess stories, or stories about saving animals, or just about girls being daring and having adventures, you have a chance to meet author Paula Harrison and join in some princess fun activities at our Rescue Princess Party on Tuesday Aug 7 at 10.30am. Tickets are £3 and include activities and refreshments – everyone can leave with a crown or tiara they have made. Dressing up is optional, but if you want to dress as a princess, or even the animal you think you’d like to save, we will be awarding prizes! Find out more more here.

And finally: Bookgroups

We get asked a lot about Bookgroups, and although we run three of them, we only seldom have free places. So for those of you would like the opportunity to join you will be pleased to know that we will have vacancies in our Thursday evening group from September.

If you think you'd like to join, or would like to find out more, please come along to our special Abingdon book group evening. We will be discussing the book 'My Policeman' with guest author Bethan Roberts on Thursday Aug 9 at 7.30pm – take the chance to meet us and see if you think our bookgroup will be for you.

The event with Bethan Roberts is being hosted by Abingdon library. Tickets are £4, which includes wine and, of course, is open to all, and we will be joined by members from several local bookgroups.

Finally – we were excited to see that the guest author at the last Abingdon 'Big Read' in the library, Rachel Joyce, is on the Booker longlist with her debut book ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ that we discussed earlier in the year:

Congratulations to Rachel and best of luck with the shortlist!

Friday, July 20, 2012

3 4 Friday - School's Out for Summer! Activity books from Lego, Barefoot Books and Klutz

Sticker books, activity books, craft ideas and games. Books with Lego pieces, origami shapes, puzzles and codes to decipher. Books that come with toys. Books with traditional games or cutting edge activities from the world of film.

Yes, we're talking about activity books.

Here in the shop, we understand only too well that the start of the school holidays can fill parents and grandparents with both excitement (the promise of holidays, quality time spent with your children, trips, projects) and also apprehension (boredom, weather, sibling fights over computer games). So all of us in the shop have made an effort this Summer to offer a fantastic range of children's activity books.

Great books don't need any activity component. A book that results in your child locked in their bedroom with the 'do not disturb' sign on the door might qualify.

It's been difficult, but we've picked three ranges and new arrivals for our Friday pick that we particularly love.

First up are the Lego 'Ultimate Sticker' Collections. £7.99 each or take advantage of our current offer: 2 for £10. Whether it's Lego Ninjago or the Star Wars Minifigures collection, it's a great offer and the match-the-scene-to-the-sticker is perfect for any Lego fans you may have:
Next up are some brand new books just in from one of our favourites, Barefoot Books. Amongst all the great games and story books, we've some particularly lovely origami sets – something that always goes down very well with young visitors to the shop.

'Origami Faces' and 'Origami Animals' come with fun paper and simple origami folding for beginners which children will have lots of fun making and finishing off with the stickers included. There is also an Origami Bird Game in which the origami fun results in a fab game to play at the end! We think these are perfect for 5 to 10 year olds:

Last up is a legendary publisher of endlessly innovative activity books – Klutz. They always come up with great ideas, from a book about marbles games (that come with a big bag of drawstring marbles!), a book on bubble blowing (with the bubbles) and books on activities ranging from the traditional (Cat's Cradle) to stuff that is bang up to date.

At the moment we particularly like the 'learn to draw' series sch as 'Draw the DC Universe Heroes and Villains' and 'Draw Star Wars The Clone Wars'. They come with all you need to get drawing these popular characters, with drawing tips and tricks from the pros, trace and sketch, pictures of 27 of the greatest super heroes and vilest villains, and characters from The Clone Wars - even the pens and pencils you’ll need. So there’s lots to get your kid creative today! Ideal for those boys or girls who love Star Wars or the DC comics or who just love to draw.
We have plenty of other great activity books - and events over the Summer - so do come in and ask us to make some personal recommendations!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Calmer, easier, happier parents all round

Parenting, and how to develop a parenting style that helps your children be more confident and want to cooperate (without complaint and without having to be reminded) was the subject of our evening event on Monday July 16.

It was a sell-out, and it took a while to move enough tables in the shop out of the way to make room for all the mums, dads and grandparents who came along to pick up some tips on how to take some of the difficulties out of looking after children.
Parenting guru Noël Janis-Norton has spent many years developing her parenting techniques, which are now collected in her book  ‘Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting’, which is currently one of the best-selling books on parenting.

In a mixture of good advice, questions, and even a little role play, the audience was taken through Noel’s strategies to help children want to do as you ask, the first time of asking.

Her approach is based on remembering to praise your children when they get things right. She explained why focusing on bad behaviour can actually have a negative effect and why nagging and reminding them when they are doing something wrong is a strategy that is stressful for both parent and child.

Constantly finding things to praise is often counter-intuitive and parents often have to work hard to succeed, but the result is that children are reinforced with positive images of the behaviour their parents would like to see and Noel said she has never known her strategies fail.

She also gave us the science behind it, explaining that in focusing on helping children picture correct behaviour you help to programme their long-term memories, which is what guides repeated behaviour.

Noel encouraged the audience - even if they were sceptical - to try her techniques, even if they found it difficult at first. She also encouraged sitting down with their children, making sure they knew exactly what behaviour is expected.

The final result is that children are more confident and self-reliant generally in their lives.
It was a fascinating evening and I doubt anyone went away without a resolve to try it out.
Noel’s next book will be about homework – and from the enthusiastic response to the evening on Monday, we are hoping she will come back next year and help us all take the stress out of homework! We may have to find a suitable with a bit more room...

Thanks very much to Noel, who travelled up from London on the day especially to attend the event. We sold out of the book on the evening - but I'm glad to say that more copies of her book have now arrived!

Update 2013 - Noel is returning to Abingdon on Wednesday May 22 to talk about the challenges of homework - find out more here.

(If you'd like to know a bit more about the evening, blogging Mum ChildLedChaos attended the evening and has written a fabulous blog on the event here, including more on Noel's approach, methods, and her extremely effective 'socratic' method of asking questions repeatedly to get to the root of specific problems raised by those in the audience!)

Friday, July 13, 2012

3 4 Friday: Summer Events with Noël Janis-Norton, Bethan Roberts and Ann Cleeves

We have a few events coming up over summer to tempt you away from the sport (or perhaps you need no tempting?). Anyway, we have assembled three golden authors over the Summer in our own version of a cultural Olympiad...

On Monday 16 July at 7.30pm we welcome Noël Janis-Norton, author of 'Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting'. This takes place at Mostly Books, and Noël will be discussing her own approach to reducing the stress of parenting - and improving the relationship with your children at the same time. We only have about four places left for this event, and you must have a ticket (£4 to include wine). So if you would like to attend, details on how you can book can be found here.

Following the success of our joint 'Big Read' event with Abingdon Library earlier this year with author Rachel Joyce, we welcome rising literary star Bethan Roberts, author of 'The Pools' and 'The Good Plain Cook' to Abingdon Library on Thursday 9 August at 7.30pm.

Her latest book - set in Brighton in the 1950s - has just been selected for the prestigious annual Brighton 'City Reads' and we have been encouraging bookgroups to read the book over the summer for discussion in the autumn. Whether you come with your bookgroup, with a friend or on your own, it promises to be a lovely event, particularly as Bethan was born and grew up in Abingdon and worked in Abingdon library for a short time!

The book is, in part, inspired by the life of EM Forster, and has been critically acclaimed by a whole host of reviewers and readers. Read Nicki's review here, and find out how to attend the event here. Again, tickets are £4 and include a glass of wine.

Ann Cleeves looks poised to be the latest big name in crime fiction and we are pleased that she will be visiting Mostly Books in August. Her successful Vera Stanhope series has already made her a household name since being televised with Brenda Blethyn in the title role.

In September Ann Cleeves's Shetland series will be making its television debut. This new murder-mystery series is set against the stunning Scottish backdrop of the Shetland Isles and centres on Detective Jimmy Perez (played by Douglas Henshall). If you want to discover these books before seeing them on the television, come along and meet Ann at Mostly Books on Weds 15th August, 7.30pm. Full details can be found here, but pop in to see our offer to try her book 'Raven Black' for 99p when you spend £20 or more.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

My Policeman by Bethan Roberts - review and the Abingdon 'big read'

This ill-fated love story focuses on the painful triangle between a naive woman married to a man who is having an affair with another man, set in 1950s Brighton.

It’s a sensitively told tale of people facing up to uncomfortable truths – and also the dangers of having any sort of satisfying relationship if you were a homosexual in 1950s Britain.

Marion falls in love with her best friend’s gorgeous older brother, Tom. A strong and muscular figure of a man, with the face and physique of a Greek god who joins first the army, then becomes a policeman. She never forgets about him, never meets anyone else who comes close to replacing him in her heart. And after several years they start a long friendship that leads eventually to marriage, ignoring her friend’s subtle warnings that Tom ‘is not like that’.

‘Tom’s father’s budget didn’t quite stretch to a sea view. Our room was at the back of the hotel, overlooking a courtyard where the staff gathered to gossip and smoke. Once inside, Tom wouldn’t sit down. Instead he stalked the place, plucking at the heavy crimson curtains that covered most of the window, stroking the liver-coloured eiderdown, exclaiming over luxuries (‘They’ve got a mixer tap!), just as he’d done when we were in your flat, Patrick. After a struggle with the catch and a terrible squeal of wood, he managed to get the window open, letting in the afternoon whine of the seagulls.

‘Are you all right’ I asked. This wasn’t what I’d meant to say. Come away from the window and kiss me, was what I’d wanted to say. I’d even thought, briefly, of saying nothing at all; of just beginning to undress. It was still early; not past five in the afternoon, but we were newly-weds. In a hotel. In Brighton. Where things like that happen all the time.’

Schoolteacher, Marion, is uneasy from the start about Tom’s close relationship with Patrick, an educated man who works at the town’s gallery. But Patrick has a way of sweeping them both along with glimpses of a different, cultured life of trips to the ballet and exotic home cooked dinners of foreign food.

But Marion, who has led a narrow life with little expectation and no-one to really talk about her hopes and her fears tries to believe that her love can change Tom.

It’s the undercurrents that are so well handled in this third novel from Bethan Roberts. In ‘The Good Plain Cook’ she explored sexual mores through the eyes of a naive girl who is brought in to work for a Bohemian household and tries to focus on learning how to cook the food they want to eat and ignoring the growing extreme antics of a careless mother and communist-poet lover.

‘My Policeman’ is underpinned with its period setting and the perils of choices faced by homosexuals of the time and is a novel of simmering tension as we watch the pressure mount. Marion’s grim determination explodes in both humiliation and shocking retaliation, which we only fully understand right at the end of the novel, even though it is told mostly in flashback.

What is particularly clever and intriguing about the way that the story is told is that although we get both Marion and Patrick’s perspective on the situation, we never see the action from Tom’s point of view, so are left to imagine how he is feeling, torn between his passion for Patrick and coming to terms with that irrepressible side of him, and his desire to fit in and be respectable and make a marriage work.

There is also a lot here about the consequences of not facing up to reality and how a whole life can pass you by because of not being able to look uncomfortable truths face to face, particularly in a marriage that isn’t working.

From our point of view at Mostly Books, one of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of bookselling is when you have watched an author grow from a promising debut - and Bethan's first novels 'The Pools' and 'The Good Plain Cook' garnered impressive reviews and a definite 'most promising newcomer' status.

The fact that Bethan grew up in Abingdon is extra special for us, and she is most definitely one of the brightest new stars on the literary scene. Her recent move to publisher Chatto and the quality of ‘My Policeman’ makes us very excited about what might be yet to come.

So we are particularly delighted that Bethan Roberts is to be the guest author for Abingdon's second 'big read' (following the success of our event with Rachel Joyce and 'the Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry' earlier this year - and particularly as 'My Policeman' has been selected for the annual Brighton 'City Reads 2012' this year).

Bethan Roberts will be talking about 'My policeman' on Thurs Aug 9 at 7.30pm and we would love you to come along (click here to learn more).

And if your bookgroup would like to join in and read the book we would be delighted to welcome you along too. Please email us for more details about getting the book before the event.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Olympic Torch in Abingdon

We glibly announced a few weeks ago that we would be open for the Olympic Torch relay, but as the day approached we got slightly nervous. After all, our part of Stert Street was the narrowest part of the route - would we even be able to get in to the shop?

We decided to take our boys down at the crack of dawn and have breakfast in the shop. At 7am Stert Street had a few keen early risers...

But half an hour later it was a lot more packed. This was the scene about 15 minutes before the arrival...

We thought we were being dead clever by having the 'live' Olympic Torch feed on the computer in the shop. We were relaying where the torch was to everyone - as well as handing out cups of coffee to a few of our regulars as it tried very hard to rain.

Here's a video of the torch comng past the shop and up Stert Street...

It was all over in a flash!

And off to Wallingford!

We then had a very busy hour in the shop - and yes, we sold a few Olympics books as well. It was all jolly  exciting (the Torch, not selling Olympics books), the children seemed to really enjoy it, and there was a definite Olympic spirit in the air for the rest of the day...

Update 11 July: Backstreeter has a fab collection of photos of runners along the whole route here.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

The past is no longer a mystery...

"Gory stories, we do that..."

Well, there was no 'talking rat', but yesterday saw the grand re-opening of Abingdon Museum after an extensive (and fantastic) renovation. And it was very appropriate that actor Martha Howe-Douglas (star of CBBC's Horrible Histories) did the ribbon cutting. After all, Abingdon does have some gruesome things in its past...

Backstreeter has a great collection of photos from the opening ceremony here.

We were preparing for her signing copies of some of the Horrible Histories titles which took place straight afterwards. Most popular titles were 'Flaming Olympics' and 'Oxford', appropriately!

Despite some 'historic' downpours, there was a great turnout - and major kudos to the music performers who performed brilliantly despite heavy rain on the market square.
It was also the official opening of new cafe 'Buns in the Basement' - possibly the coolest place to grab a coffee in Oxfordshire at the moment - we urge you to go take a look soon...
Thanks to everyone - Friends of Abingdon Museum, councillors, and others - who worked so hard to make it a great day. It's not fashionable to say things like this, but yesterday made all of us who work at Mostly Books very proud to live and work in Abingdon...the Museum is a real jewel in the crown.

Friday, July 06, 2012

3 4 Friday - Costumed Capers, Urban Fantasy and Clonefiles Mayhem

To celebrate the launch of the Angry Robot Clonefiles Initiative our '3 4 Friday' this week are three staff picks from their fantastic science fiction and fantasy list. It's hard to believe that Angry Robot only launched in July 2009, but already have a huge and passionate fanbase, a reputation for some of the best new writing, not to mention scooping an Arthur C Clarke Award for Lauren Beukes‘ novel Zoo City last year.
So - in case you hadn't heard - anyone buying an Angry Robot title through Mostly Books will be able to get hold of an e-book of that title absolutely free. In whatever format you require. How cool is that?

Here are three staff favourites from the shelves:

The Damned Busters by Matthew Hughes

When mild-mannered actuary Chesney Artstruther refuses to sell his soul to the devil, the whole of hell goes on strike. And without the thought of hell to spur on mankind things begin to look serious for the planet and Chesney gets the chance to do a deal with the devil.  

"Chock full of humour, this is a fantastic romp with superheroes, Satan and a strike in interesting concept and a mismatched duo of costumed, crime fighting hero and demon sidekick make for an hilarious novel. This book is perfect for fans of Tom Holt and Robert Rankin." - Ellie 
Dead Harvest by Chris F Holm

Sam Thornton is a collector of souls. When he goes to collect the soul of Kate, a young multiple murderer, he becomes convinced that she is innocent and refuses to do his duty. He is soon on the run from the forces of both Heaven and Hell, trying to prevent a calamity of apocalyptic proportions. With its retro cover it’s not surprising that although this is gritty, urban fantasy, it is also owes a lot to the noir crime genre and is a good twist on both genres.

"One of my favourite Angry Robot titles, simply because of the excellent first-person writing and characterisation that places you at the heart of the tale - not to mention loads of great references to . And that cover is retro, and very desirable - just the kind of book that you want to own, and read digitally, so made for the Clonefiles initiative!" - Mark

Sixty-One Nails by Mike Shevdon

When Niall Petersen suffers a suspected heart attack on the London Underground he is healed by a woman who tells him the incident has woken latent Feyre powers. He learns of the hidden world of the Feyre, an uncanny place of legend that lurks just beyond the surface of everyday life. The ancient peoples are at war - but is Niall really the one who can wield the dark magic of the Untainted, and save them all?

"This is a great myth-based urban fantasy series that will appeal to Neil Gaiman fans. A new, fresh voice in the genre!" -Julia

To order Angry Robot titles, pop into Mostly Books - or view a larger list of titles which can be ordered online here.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

50 Shades of Bookselling

One of the most maddening things in the booktrade must be dealing with Independent Bookshops. Everyone seems to want to help us. Everyone - at some level - understands that independents deliver more value into the book supply chain: collectively we allow different books to be discovered and championed, we do 101 different things both in and outside the shop with events. Some work, some don't - but all create communities around books.

But it's so frustrating. Independents refuse to be neatly pigeonholed. They are all so, well, independent.

Which is why this week's Independent Bookseller's Week is such a great initiative. With fantastic support from publishers and authors (and, judging from this week's response, the wider public) it offers up a selection of initiatives, limited edition books, authors for events - even a bookshop song - which provides an umbrella under which we can do our crazy, independent activities which suit our shops.

Our big contribution this week has been a Where's Wally Hunt around town involving ten other local retailers - and we've had people discovering shops in Abingdon they never even knew existed. Hopefully a great example of local bookshops supporting their shopping ecosystems - a word used a lot with digital devices, but far more applicable when talking about the High Street...

All this week Malcolm Boyden on BBC Radio Oxford has been inviting indie booksellers on his show to talk about initiatives around Oxfordshire. I was very pleased to be invited to talk about Mostly Books - and Wally - on Tuesday. Until July 10, you can listen to me talk about the daily miracles wrought by independent booksellers here (you'll need to fast forward to 1 hour 19 minutes into the show).

Malcolm gamely posed for a shot with bookseller, shameless IBW T-Shirt and Wally:

On Wednesday we joined in with 'Independent's Day' - a countrywide retail initiative, which had us talking to shoppers, and tweeting their purchases online.

And we also announced our game-changing (we hope!) tie-up with Angry Robot - the Clonefiles Initiative. Basically, buy the book - get the eBook free. Read the book in whichever format you want. Very exciting and we'll see what the response is over the coming days...

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

eBooks - the indies strike back?

We are always getting excited about things in this shop - mostly it's about books (of course), or events or possibly a conversation we've had with a customer, or even an author.

But the conversations we have with publishers are often the most exciting. Months later, when a book is doing particularly well, or we are basking in the glory of a big event, it can be traced back to a conversation we've had with a publisher months earlier.

But a few weeks ago an ad hoc chat with publisher
Angry Robot has yielded an initiative that in some ways is the most exciting thing we've ever done. It's certainly one of the most innovative - and allows us to start playing in an area that, hitherto, we have been a rather anxious spectator. eBooks.

It's called the 
Clonefiles Initiative and, with a few specific details involving timings, basically you buy an Angry Robot title at Mostly Books - you get the eBook free. And that's for *any* reader.

Pretty exciting, huh? We think so. More over on the Angry Robot website, or read our
 full press release here...

We'll have plenty more on this over the coming days, but we'd love to know what you think, and we hope other indies will follow suit...

(Update - we now have a curated collection of our top ten Angry Robot titles, as chosen by the Mostly Books staff)