Friday, September 22, 2017

Team Reads: Cat

What book are you reading right now?
The Wardrobe Mistress by Patrick McGrath. 

What are you enjoying about the book?
Set in and around London's West End in the aftermath of the Second World War, there's a sense that victory has come at a huge cost. Instead of a country ready to rebuild and embrace happier times, the author conveys a grey, gloomy and bitterly cold London with skeletal bombed-out buildings and people struggling to get by on meagre rations. 

I'm enjoying the author's skill at describing the city and evoking historical details. London provides a wonderful backdrop to the sinister events of the plot, dangerous political ideologies, and secrets harboured by the main characters. The book is creepy and unsettling, full of haunting echoes of the past and raw grief, perfect for reading on an Autumn evening.

What book(s) that have arrived into the shop this week are you looking forward to reading and why?
I'm a fan of Robert Harris, and enjoyed Conclave earlier in the year so I've had my eye on the lovely signed hardback copies of Munich that came in this week. I'm also interested in reading The Growing Season by Helen Sedgwick after hearing her discuss her novel with such enthusiasm on Radio 4's Open Book.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Roald Dahl Day at Mostly Books

On Saturday 16th September, the team at Mostly Books donned some weird and wonderful outfits in celebration of the legend that is Roald Dahl.  Over the course of the day, customers were greeted with cries of 'Happy Roald Dahl Day' as they stepped into the shop to the sight of Willy Wonka, Miss Trunchball and Miss Honey.

Children arrived in fancy dress to participate in the fancy dress competition and the lucky winner won a copy of the
beautiful new hardback edition of Billy and the Minpins, illustrated by Quentin Blake, for her efforts.

Plenty of young ones whiled away some time finding the Roald Dahl characters hidden around the shop whilst their parents or grandparents browsed.  The children that managed to find all five characters left the shop with a goodie bag for their efforts whilst others amused themselves with the Roald Dahl colouring and activity sheets available in the children's room.

A fun day was had by all and it was living proof that the magic of Roald Dahl continues from one generation to the next.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Scarlett Thomas at Chandlings

On the afternoon of 12th September, 100 excited year 5 & 6 pupils piled into the Lantern Hall at Chandlings School to be greeted by acclaimed author Scarlett Thomas.

After a brief introduction by librarian, Elspeth Greig, and our very own Sarah from Mostly Books, Scarlett took to the floor.

After starting off with an introduction to all things magic and the characters in her new book Dragon's Green, Scarlett soon whipped the children into a frenzy when she started asking them questions such as whether they had magical powers, what those powers were and whether they would take the place of a friend who was going to be eaten by a dragon(!).

Scarlett introduced all of the Kharakters that exist in Dragon's Green and asked
the children to 
nominate one of their teachers to go up to the front to be analysed!!  Mr Hancock was the (un)lucky volunteer and after a number of questions were answered by the children (our favourite being 'Is Mr Hancock nice or scary?'), it was decided that he was a Bard with a smattering of Witch (yes, it's true, boys & men can be witches too).* 

The children were then asked a bunch of questions about themselves and the answers helped Scarlett identify five pairs of pupils to come to the front of the hall.  Based on the answers that they were given, each pair was aligned to one of the five main characters in Dragon's Green: Euphemia Sixten Bookend Truelove (otherwise known as Effie), Maximilian Underwood, Wolf Reed, Alexa Bottle (known as Lexy) & Raven Wilde.  All 10 children were given magic crystals to take away with them as a reminder of everything that Scarlett had talked about.

When Scarlett opened the floor for questions, the children interrogated her on a range of topics including the stories, the process of writing and what made Scarlett become an author. 

 After the talk was finished, a long queue formed for the children to meet the author and to give them the opportunity to have their book signed. 

It was a brilliant afternoon and a great way for the pupils at Chandlings to start their new school year.  A huge thank you to Scarlett and the team at Chandlings for making it such a great success.

Dragon's Green by Scarlett Thomas was published in paperback on 7th September.  

* If you would like to find out which Kharakter you are, you can take a quiz on the WorldQuake website (click here to go to the quiz).

Team Reads: Imogen

What book are you reading right now?
I’m reading The Usborne Illustrated Odyssey (9781409598930) at the moment, a slightly easier version of the classic that I can understand before I venture into reading the actual Odyssey.

I’m also reading Spellslinger (9781785761317), by Sebastien de Castell, which, while I’m only a few chapters in, looks to be an awesome story about magic.

MAGIC IS A CON GAME. Kellen is moments away from facing his first mage's duel and the start of four trials that will make him a spellcaster. There's just one problem: his magic is gone.

As his sixteenth birthday approaches, Kellen falls back on his cunning in a bid to avoid total disgrace. But when a daring stranger arrives in town, she challenges Kellen to take a different path. Ferius Parfax is one of the mysterious Argosi - a traveller who lives by her wits and the three decks of cards she carries.

She's difficult and unpredictable, but she may be Kellen's only hope... The first in a rich and compelling fantasy series bursting with tricks, traps and a devious talking squirrel cat.

It’s out in hardback at the moment, but comes out in paperback in two weeks time!

What are you enjoying about the book?
Currently, I’m enjoying the authors take on magic – and the characters own take on it as well. In the very first chapter, we get introduced to how he twists things around so he looks like a powerful spell caster, when the opposite is the actual truth.

What book(s) that have arrived into the shop this week are you looking forward to reading and why?
Warcross by Marie Lu (9780241321423) was unpacked from a delivery as I stood writing this, and I may have squealed slightly. Lu is the author of two previous series, Legend, and The Young Elites, and both are brilliant. 

Bloomsbury also brought out a series of Modern Classics this week, with beautiful matching covers, one of which being The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (9781408891384). While I have read this book before, I am now looking forward to a reread of it!

Friday, September 08, 2017

Book Reviews: 8th September

Franklin's Flying Bookshop by Jen Campbell is a charming story all about sharing the love of reading and books with friends.

All poor Franklin wants to do is talk about his favourite books with the people in the village, but every time he approaches someone, they run away – all because he’s a dragon!  Luckily for him, a young girl who shares his love of stories helps him hatch a plan to open Franklins very own bookshop – on his back!

We can’t talk about new books this week without mentioning that one of our favourite children’s series has a new book out. The Goth Girl series by Chris Riddell started back in 2013 and was an instant hit, and it’s back with Goth Girl and the Sinister Symphony.

There’s a music festival at Ghastly-Gorm Hall with musicians from all over the country, and Ada can’t wait for it. Unfortunately for Ada, it’s not the only thing going on, and she has to make sure everything goes to plan while dealing with a faun in her wardrobe, Maltravers up to his old tricks and her grandmother trying to find her father a new wife. Chris Riddell once again brings us a brilliant book with his beautiful illustrations (and a free mini book inside; Fable of Faun!)

Over to YA now, and Imogen couldn’t resist recommending Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End. Having finished one of Silvera’s books (History is all You Left Me) only a week ago, Imogen already knew that he is a wonderful storyteller who understands the nature of being human – from friendship to heartache to everything in between.

In his new book, Death-Cast call people to announce their deaths in the next 24 hours. There’s nothing you can do to stop it, nothing you can do to change it – it’s just a warning to help people live their last day properly.

Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emerterio have never met, but they have one thing in common; on September 5th, they were both called. Using an app called Last Friend, they meet for the first time and try and have one last adventure – living a lifetime in a single day.

False Lights by K.J. Whittaker is a fantastic alternative history, starting with the premise that Napoleon has won the Battle of Waterloo and invaded Britain.  With Josephine presiding in London, and the population of Cornwall in open rebellion against French rule, young heiress Hester Harewood and Wellington’s former intelligence officer Jack Crowlas are drawn into the plot to free the Duke of Wellington from his incarceration on the Isles of Scilly.

K J Whittaker draws the reader into a world full of adventure, romance, treachery, and espionage, with believable characters and wonderfully evocative settings of Scilly, Cornwall and London.

And finally, you’ve probably heard more than one of the team rave about this book in the last few weeks, is Adam Kay and his darkly hilarious This is Going to Hurt.  The book is a no-holds-barred account of Adam's time working as a junior doctor on the NHS front line.

Kay now works as a comedy writer for the BBC now, and you can tell why from reading the book;  even in the saddest of moments inside the book, his way of seeing the funny side will make you laugh out loud.  It shines a light, not only on the way our hospitals are run, but the people that deal with the darkest of moments in everyday life.

Team Reads: Julia

What book are you reading right now?
I’m reading Do No Harm : Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh which is about the life of a neurosurgeon.

Do No Harm (ISBN: 9781780225920) is the multiple award winning biography that answers the question: What is it like to be a brain surgeon? How does it feel to hold someone's life in your hands, to cut through the stuff that creates thought, feeling and reason?

How do you live with the consequences when it all goes wrong? The book offers an unforgettable insight into the highs and lows of a life dedicated to operating on the human brain, in all its exquisite complexity. With astonishing candour and compassion, Henry Marsh reveals the exhilarating drama of surgery, the chaos and confusion of a busy modern hospital, and above all the need for hope when faced with life's most agonising decisions.

What are you enjoying about the book?
I love the fact that it goes into the intricacies of brain surgery. It’s interesting to understand how delicate the brain is and how easily it can all go wrong.  

What book(s) that have arrived into the shop this week are you looking forward to reading and why?
Godsgrave (ISBN: 9780008180034) by J Christoph because I have just finished the first one and absolutely loved it.  

I really want to read The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James (ISBN: 9781406375473). Imogen described it to me and made it sound amazing!

Borne (ISBN:9780008159177) by Jeff Vandermeer,  the author of the Southern Reach Trilogy is also on my list because I really enjoyed his other books.

Thanks Julia!

All of the books that Julia talked about can be found in the shop and if you find that they have been snapped up by another eager reader, we will be more than happy to order you another copy.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Meet the Team: Sarah

What's your full name?
Sarah Dennis

How long have you worked at Mostly Books?
I started working in the shop in January, legally took ownership at the end of May and was handed the keys to the shop in an official ceremony on 24th June.

What's your favourite genre of books and why?
I like a bit of everything, ranging from crime fiction to autobiographies.  I really enjoy books that make me think and those that introduce me to places or information that I haven’t previously encountered.

Name your favourite book.
I’m going to have to stick with the common theme from all of the team – it’s impossible to choose just one!   I absolutely love Khaled Hosseini’s books; The Kite Runner is most well known but A Thousand Splendid Suns and And the Mountains Echoed are brilliant as well.  

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is a phenomenal piece of literature and has the ability to transport the reader to an entirely different place and time.  Michael J. Fox’s autobiography - Lucky Man: A Memoir moved me to tears; although it has been years since I read it, his strength of character still resonates.  When I’m looking for something lighter, I’m a huge fan of crime fiction with Lee Child and John Grisham being two authors that I regularly go back to.

What's your favourite thing about working at Mostly Books?
Absolutely everything!  I have spent a lot of my career working in offices so having the freedom to run my own my business in such gorgeous surroundings is a complete privilege.  Every day I learn more about the book trade and how to keep the business running smoothly.  I’m lucky to have a great team to work with who make each day so much fun and it’s lovely to chat to all of our customers, both regulars and visitors alike.  The best part is that I get to be surrounded by books all day, every day.  It’s an absolute dream come true and I can’t quite believe that this is my job!

What are your main responsibilities at Mostly Books?
In addition to recommending and selling books to our customers, I spend a lot of my time on back office activities.  I make the final choice on stock selection and am responsible for maintaining relationships with publisher reps and wholesalers.  I largely manage the events that we run (although the team are becoming more involved as time progresses) and liaise with the publishers to secure authors for those events.   All aspects of running the business are my responsibility including finance (e.g. invoices, staff payments etc), system maintenance and writing the weekly newsletter.  No two days are the same and it’s up to me to make sure that everything works!
What upcoming books are you most excited about?
This is going to Hurt by Adam Kay is going to be amazing.  I’ve had a sneak preview and can highly recommend it - I can’t wait to hear people’s reactions to it.  The new Dan Brown, Origin, should be a fun Christmas read too.

What do you like to do in your free time?
I don’t have a lot of free time at the moment but, when I do have a minute to myself, I try to keep fit by running, swimming and doing yoga.  I’m a massive foodie and love eating out as well as enjoying delicious food at home.  I love going to the cinema and enjoy any type of live event, be it a music concert, sports event or theatre.   

Tell us something that the Mostly Books customers don't know about you.
I’m a huge fan of travel and really enjoy exploring different parts of the world.  I have been lucky enough to do two extended backpacking trips, one when I first left University where I explored India and South East Asia and, more recently, when I went across to South America and continued my exploration of Asia.  The second trip took place during 2014 / 15 and I blogged throughout the travels.  If you’re interested in reading about it, my blog can be found here

Thanks Sarah, it's been good to chat!

Sarah is usually in the shop on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday & Saturday.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Meet the Team: Jenna

What's your full name?
Jenna Washington

How long have you worked at Mostly Books?
Just over a year. I started off as a work experience girl and luckily everyone here liked me- so they decided to keep me!

What's your favourite genre of books and why?
I enjoy a good crime and thriller book occasionally, but I generally read YA books. Nothing can beat the satisfactory feeling of working out who did a crime, or who killed who, and getting inside the mind of a criminal, policeman or even innocent bystander and seeing their point of view always makes a book more interesting. Any books with seriously crazy plot twists make me so happy, and YA books generally have quite a few of those. Quirky characters always surface too, and the fact I am a teenager means that I find some books heavily relatable and can relate them to my life- something that is not always a good thing.

Name your favourite book.
Without meaning to sound cliché, I don’t have just one favourite book. The Morganville vampire series by Rachel Caine will always have a special place in my heart as it was the first ever series of books I finished, and I feel completely and utterly head over heels in love with one of the main characters. I must have re-read the entire series about four times because of him. “First Love” by James Patterson is another one of my favourites, as I loved it so much I did a book review on it in order to get my initial work experience here at the shop. Sandra Brown is an amazing thriller author I loved, with her book “Sting” being one of the best thriller books I have read this year.

What's your favourite thing about working at Mostly Books?
How unpredictable the shop is. Honestly, literally anything can happen here. For example, I walked in last Saturday morning to find the entire back garden full of building work and supplies, and the sink to have disappeared into thin air. Hearing stories from the week is always an interesting thing to listen to on a Saturday morning, and having children yelling the word “UNDERPANTS” randomly throughout the day keeps the atmosphere lively and exciting.

What are your main responsibilities at Mostly Books?
Working Saturdays is very different to working weekdays  - the shop is so much more hectic. So, I spend the day running around helping people find books, coming up with recommends and manning the till. I generally have the job of changing around posters and making sure the reviews are around the shop and on the books. Little jobs that don’t get done through the week, like making up goody bags, I do if we have a spare moment. Recently I have been doing things a bit out of the ordinary, like helping out with redecorations and helping out at the Harry Potter Quiz, taking photos and running the stall.

What upcoming books are you most excited about?
I am SO excited about “Top Ten” by Katie Cotugno which is about two very unlikely friends reminiscing on the top ten moments from their friendship. I feel like a lot of books that are written are about the future of characters, not many go back and inspire readers to think about their own friendships in this way. There is also “My Sister's Bones” by Nuala Ellwood, which is about the bond between two sisters and how that is tested when something tragic happens.

What do you like to do in your free time?
I am just about to start year 12 to do four a-levels: Maths, Further Maths, Biology and Chemistry. In between doing my GCSE’s a few months ago and the upcoming workload, I don’t actually have much free time. However, I have spent the last couple of weeks doing the National Citizen Service, where I’m meeting new people and learning new skills like how to canoe and gorge walk, as well as more useful day to day skills like first aid and budgeting food.

Tell us something that the Mostly Books customers don't know about you.
Before I worked at Mostly Books, I used to take dance classes on Saturday mornings. I can dance street and freestyle, Latin and ballroom! My Foxtrot is pretty good, if I may say so myself.  

Thanks Jenna, it's been good to chat!
Jenna works in the shop every Saturday. 

Harry Potter Quiz

The date was Thursday 17th August, the location was R&R in Abingdon and the event was the much anticipated HARRY POTTER QUIZ!!!

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first Harry Potter book being published, Bloomsbury released 20 official Harry Potter Quiz sets to a set of lucky bookshops and Mostly Books were chuffed to pieces to be one of those shops!

Imogen was beside herself with excitement because she had pitched the idea of a Harry Potter quiz as a potential Mostly Books event just a couple of weeks previously.  Given her level of enthusiasm and the fact that a lot of our customers are clearly huge Harry Potter fans, we had already agreed that we would be doing a quiz - we just had no idea that we would be doing it with direct support from the official Harry Potter publishing house! 

After releasing the tickets on July 14th, we sold out pretty much immediately - all 60 tickets were sold in less than five days - and excitement started to mount.  The official quiz pack, including questions and the all important answers, appeared at the shop and we had to store it under lock and key.  Our wonderful neighbours at Oxfam popped by with a whole load of goodies for us to decorate R&R with and many a discussions took place around costumes.

When the 17th finally arrived, Draco Malfoy (AKA our very own Imogen) took centre stage to host the quiz.  Participants arrived in droves and excitement started to mount as they settled down at their tables and ordered some yummy refreshments from the R&R team.  Wands were brandished and costumes compared as each team chose a suitable Potter-esque team name before the event kicked off.

Seven rounds, each containing seven questions then ensued with plenty of banter between Draco and the teams.  A break halfway through enabled the quizzers to replenish their dwindling supply of refreshements and to browse the selection of Harry Potter goodies on offer. 

Once all questions had been asked and the answers were checked and verified, the winners were announced.  The first set of prizes were for the best costumes of the evening with three quizzers each winning a handmade wand kindly donated by Charlie & Elijah (Also known as the Cross Eyed Cat Wand Makers) and the team with the winning name (Two radishes short of a bunch) each won a voucher to spend at Mostly Books.

Then it was the all important results!  It was a tight run race with the decision about second and third place being decided by the tie-break question*.  The team coming in in third place each won a Mostly Books voucher, the team in second place received a set of the 20th anniversary Philosopher's Stone paperbacks - and the great thing was that each member of the team was linked with each of the four houses so they all got the copy that they wanted!!

A huge congratulations to Simon, Jeanette, Anna & Tom for winning first prize with a staggering 45 questions right out of 49!!  The members of the winning team each won a whole stack of goodies, courtesy of our friends at Bloomsbury:

  • A copy of the Illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
  • A hardback copy of the 20th anniversary 'House Edition' of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
  • A Hogwarts House Bookmark
  • Some Harry Potter Bunting
  • A Harry Potter doorhanger 

After a prize-giving ceremony and some more Harry Potter related banter, the quizzers started to drift off, happy and relaxed after a brilliant night out. 

This was our first joint venture with Rob, Rachel and the team at R&R and I hope that it won't be the last.  Having the opportunity to use such a wonderful space for one of our events worked really well and both teams enjoyed the evening.  We'll be looking forward to more collaborations in future.

Check out our Facebook page (here) for more  pictures of the event.  In the meantime, we will all enjoy memories of an enjoyable night out and the fact that Abingdon was lucky enough to give Harry Potter fans a great quiz!

* In case you're wondering, the question was 'How many words are there in the Philosopher's Stone?' and the answer is 76,944......You know what they say - every day's a school day!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Meet the Team: Karen

What's your name?
Karen Nicholls

How long have your worked at Mostly Books?
Since it first opened - 11 years!

What are your main responsibilities at Mostly Books?
I call myself the 'Mostly' of Mostly Books as I deal with the ordering and display of all things 'non-books' i.e. cards, gift wrap, mugs, puzzles and other miscellaneous items.  

What's your favourite thing about working at Mostly Books?
I love choosing a variety of stock and creating effective displays.  I am
particularly proud of our amazing range of cards!

What's your favourite non-book item that we have in stock?
I like the Banana mug and the pencil shaving cards.

What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to keep fit with Zumba and tap dancing and I sing in a choir.

Tell us something that the Mostly Books customers don't know about you.
I've been here since the beginning of Mostly Books because I am Nicki's sister (the former owner).  Also, if you're wondering why you have not seen me before it is because I am quite shy and prefer to work behind the scenes!

Thanks Karen, it's been great to hear the 'Mostly' perspective of Mostly Books!
Karen works in the shop every Tuesday and Wednesday.