Friday, April 26, 2013

3 4 Friday - Planes, Cranes and Autobiographical Fiction

For today’s 3 4 Friday, here are some some special books to take a look at next time you are in the shop .

We're very pleased to have signed copies of the latest Julian Barnes. Levels of Life’ is an intense – and intensely personal – story, written in part as a response to the death of Barnes’ own wife in 2008. Barnes tries to get to the very heart of love and grief, and opens his heart in the process.

A deeply moving book by the Booker-prize winning author of ‘A Sense of an Ending’. Email us to reserve a signed copy at £10.99.

Patrick Ness is best known for his ‘Chaos Walking’ trilogy of sci-fi novels for older children and for his Carnegie Medal winning ‘A Monster Calls’ about a boy dealing with his mother’s cancer. He has an adult novel now out ‘The Crane Wife’, a beautiful tale of life-changing love and forgiveness, with elements of fantasy and fairytale woven in. 

Both sensitive and imaginative, the ever-creative Ness brings his brooding style to this tale of the arrival of a woman from nowhere who transforms everyone's lives for the better. But Kumiko is hiding dark secrets and there is a wonderfully doomed atmosphere to this bittersweet tale of the transforming power of love.  We think this is a a great summer read...

Finally in Barbara Kingsolver’s ‘Flight Behaviour’ Dellarobia Turnbow thinks she has seen a miracle. Her life is soon part of a media circus and scientists with reputations to make clamouring for the story. She was witness to the unexpected migration of the monarch butterfly, but why has it suddenly become erratic?

Dellarobia ekes out a living in the Bible Belt – a life dependent on the seasons and where unpredictable and unreliable seasons are already making her precarious existence more perilous and leaving her son with no future. The explanation is there for everyone to see, but still everyone seems to grapple with the evidence.

An absorbing and entertaining story as well as a timely novel on climate change and the nature of belief. Anyone who enjoyed her much-loved ‘The Poisonwood Bible’ will recognise the brilliant way Barbara Kingsolver conveys blind belief and the inability to face up to reality...

Friday, April 19, 2013

3 4 Friday: Celebrate Abingdon this weekend - its gardens, its history and...its homework?

Mostly Books are delighted to be hosting the launch event of a fantastic new history of Abingdon, one written with both children and adults in mind.

Sixty Spooky, Strange and Surprising Stories about the History of Abingdon’ is a book ghost written by local author Judy Stubley on behalf of a mysterious 14th century monk named “Brother Cedric”. He approached Judy in Abingdon Library with his amazing tales of Abingdon’s history, and who could possibly turn down the opportunity of ghost-writing a book for an actual ghost?

The launch event will be at Mostly Books on Tuesday, 14 May at 7.30pm. The event is free, and there will be refreshments (more details here), but as space is limited, you will need to let us know you are coming on the night. And you can pop in and get a sneaky look at the book as we have early copies in the shop...

Improved weather goes hand-in-hand with the National Gardens Scheme (NGS), and the famous ‘Yellow Book’ of gardens available across the UK to visit during the Spring and Summer (available in all good bookshops!).

In Abingdon, internationally-renowned artist Janet Boulton not only opens up her garden on Spring Road, but has this year published a book all about how it was created: ‘Foreground, Background: About Making A Garden’. 

Janet Boulton specialises in watercolour and paper relief works and was artist in Residence at Edinburgh College of Art. Her garden – the location of her studio – has evolved into a symbiosis of plants and poetic objects. Come and look at the book in the shop – and be sure to visit the exhibition of her garden which will be on at Abingdon Museum from May 1st.

OK – if you have kids, particularly teenage kids, homework is something you look forward to with relish, yes? Mmm. Wouldn’t it be great if you could transform homework battles in a very short space of time and help your child grow in confidence?

Parenting guru Noël Janis-Norton – author of ‘Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting’ – is coming to Larkmead School on May 22 to talk about her new book ‘Calmer, Easier, Happier Homework’. The book addresses all the typical problems associated with homework, and with Noël Janis-Norton's advice you will learn how to make your family life much easier. Tickets are £4, include a glass of wine, and a discount off the book on the evening. Find out more about the event here.

And don't forget the Abingdon Spring Cycling Festival this Sunday...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Any colour as long it's not Orange: the Women's Prize for Fiction 2013 shortlist

The Women's Prize for Fiction shortlist was announced today, and a mighty list is looks too. 'Heavyweight' isn't the word; you can almost feel the gravitational pull of the authors from here:
  • Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel
  • Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  • May We Be Forgiven by A M Homes
  • N-W by Zadie Smith
  • Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
So what can we recommend from the list?

Well, Mantel, obviously. I'm having a slow-mo love affair with 'Bodies' (i.e. I'm still reading it and trying to make it last). The book trade is apparently worried about 'Mantel fatigue' but it has to be a favourite because of its sheer quality.

The paperback is released on May 7 - so this will feature prominently in our holiday reading recommends this year...

Move past Hilary and - in terms of how we feel about it and what our own customers are telling us - Barbara Kingsolver's 'Flight Behaviour' would be an extremely worthy winner. Beautifully written and touching on important themes, the paperback is published imminently as well...

Thrilled that Kate Atkinson's on the list. Nicki really loved 'Life After Life' and you can read her review hereAnd a ruthless dissection of life in modern America with 'May We Be Forgiven' by AM Homes (I just wish they'd published the paperback with a slightly bigger font!). Marie Semple and Zadie Smith finish the list...

Slightly sad that 'Marlowe Papers' by Ros Barber didn't make it onto the shortlist - one of Ellie's favourite books of the year, but we're very much enjoying recommending this to customers at the moment...something fresh and different. Here's what Ellie thinks: "a remarkable novel of art and imagination. A rare find of beautiful writing and compelling drama and deserves to win awards."

I think for the first year in it's new guise, the Women's Prize has put together a really strong list - come and take a look in a good bookshop near you...

Friday, April 12, 2013

3 4 Friday: Quiz question number 1: What shall we do with the kids this weekend?

It's a week until our annual Mostly Bookbrains Literary Quiz for charity - the questions are now set, prizes have been collected and the infamous bookswap table is being prepared. This year we are raising money for Abingdon-based national charity 'The Pelvic Partnership' who will also be running a bar and providing food on the evening.

There are still places available for both teams and individuals - so learn more about the quiz here.

I wonder if there may be any clues in today's 3 4 Friday?

As we approach the end of the Easter holidays, if you’re looking to get out and about with children this weekend ‘The Usborne Big Spotters Sticker Book’ and ‘Spot the Bird’ are two sticker books that are ideal introductions for children to start spotting and taking a keen interest in the nature around them. And the Usborne ‘Illustrated Book of Nature’ also gives a more detailed insight into the world around, from the biodiversity of woodland, where flowers get their names, to fossil hunting.

Nature books are the perfect way to make walks more interesting and fun for children – and helps adults with all the background they need to know for any questions en route!

Of course if you’ll be trying to keep the children busy indoors you may like to know that the fabulous Jonny Duddle (famed for being the main illustrator behind the Aardman ‘Pirates’ film) has two themed activity books, ‘Pirates Activity Book’ and ‘Pirates Colouring Book’, bursting with pictures to draw and colour, dot-to-dots and word searches to name just a few of the activities children can do. These books are based on the three action-packed picture books that bestselling creator, Jonny Duddle, has written.

And just in from those craft-masters Klutz we love ‘Clay Charms’ a kit to design charms, clay to make them and all the bits and pieces you need to make charms at home, all in one fantastic book.

Klutz do these things marvellously - and if you want any other recommendations, you know where to come this Saturday...

Friday, April 05, 2013

3 4 Friday: Whatever the weather, we have Richard Mabey, the truth about snails...and an allotment

Waiting for Spring to arrive this year has been a bit like being in a Samuel Beckett play, but for today's '3 4 Friday' #fridayreads we take an optimistic view of things - and have three books which, in their very different ways, tap into our unique relationship with the outdoors, and our obsessions with weather, wildlife and gardens.

Let's start with the weather shall we. England - you will not be surprised to learn - is a country notorious for bad weather, and for people always *talking* about said bad weather. In 'Turned Out Nice Again' author Richard Mabey examines just that; people's preoccupation with weather. This intriguing book looks at some of the strangest weather the country has ever experienced as well as the cultural and emotional effects weather can have.

Mabey is one of our finest - and most profound - writers about our relationship with nature, and whether it's the great storm of 1987, or a violent electrical in Norfolk in the 1500s, Mabey evokes the terror, wonder and effects such weather has on us - and on our psyche.

Mabey says, rather reassuringly "We should never apologise for our obsession with the weather. It is one of the most profound influences on the way we live, and something we all experience in common.". Couldn't agree more...

Talking of obsessions (or rather, passions) Ruth Brooks love of gardening led to her winning BBC's 'Amateur Scientist of the Year'. Plagued with snails, but compelled to find a solution (humane) she started investigating whether snails had a homing instinct. What resulted from her investigations is told in 'A Slow Passion', and it's a revelation: sweet, funny, unexpected, Ruth's story makes this unusual tale a hugely enjoyable read.

Food, what's in it and where it comes from is a growing concern for many people, and there has been a boom in recent years of people wanting to grow their own on allotments throughout the country.

Dorling Kindersley's 'The Allotment Handbook' is the perfect guide for allotment gardeners that have just started out. Full of easy-to-follow advice for help with problems such as pesky slugs (and snails - see above), growing and storing vegetables, to exactly how to prepare your plot, this brilliant handbook covers all the issues budding gardeners will have - and looks to become a future classic for all allotment owners.

So three books to inspire you, get you outdoors, and perhaps give you a different take on our sometimes capricious climate and what it can offer...