A life in books – The Storied life of AJ Fikry

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“No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World.”

Another cover of Gabrielle Zevin's books - is this not Island Books looks like in my mind's eye?
Another cover of Gabrielle Zevin’s books – is this not Island Books looks like in my mind’s eye?

If you don’t just take a book from a book case and start to read it, but take a moment to run your finger over the cover, read the blurb, feel the weight of it in your hands and even discreetly sniff the pages, then The Storied Life of AJ Fikry is for you.

For AJ Fikry is a heart-warming tale of love and how it shapes and makes people, how reading and books can be a haven and comfort in our lives – how we feel and how we live is often reflected in what we read –

My own life in books
My own life in books

A.J. Fikry gives his daughter advice in the terms of books. At the start of every chapter, there is a book title with a short paragraph of how AJhas used it to give advice to his daughter growing up. A kind of literary guide to life. A thrilling and lovely apt idea. For example the first chapter where he meets and reacts rather badly to a travelling sales rep by the story Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl and the arrival of an unexpected delivery to the shop by the tale of The Luck of Roaring Camp where a mining camp adopts a baby they call Luck. And Aj Fikry’s delivery is something that certainly acts as a good luck charm to him and all he knows.

Classic books with spines I can run my finger along
Classic books with spines I can run my finger along

The story in a nutshell –

A J Fikry owns a failing bookshop. At the same time he struggles with the loss of his wife and so starts to shut himself off from the outside world. One day a visitor to the bookshop leaves behind something he doesn’t quite know what to do with – something that will change him for ever.

This is quite a unique novel as it is not the plot which drives it but the characters – and not always the main character at that. It is about much more than plot and character – it is about books and the passion many people have for reading and the power that it can hold.

Nothing quite like the smell and feel of a good book
Nothing quite like the smell and feel of a good book

Talking about the necessity of encountering stories sat precisely the right time in our lives he tells us –

The things we respond to at twenty are not necessarily the the same things we will respond to at forty and vice versa. This is true in books and also in life.

Aj Fikry is quite the character – he owns a book shop but reels of a long list of books and book genres he doesn’t like as soon as the sales rep from a Knightly Press walks through the door to try and sell him some of their winter list. A funny moment and an insight into the life of a bookseller and a travelling book sales rep.

He rants that he doesn’t like certain genres, that he is repulsed by others – Literary should be literary and  genre should be genre and crossbreeding rarely results in anything satisfying.

It is a book for readers about readers and booksellers. The bookshop here is the central character and its magic weaves through each and every page. You immediately want to go there and buy as many books as you can in order to save the store from closure.

Why we read

Why we love

Why sometimes we need a second chance

How reading and books change a person for the better

People tell boring lies about politics, God and love. You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question; What is your favourite book? 

Book Narnia

The door to Book Narnia
The door to Book Narnia

This has been an amazing week as I finally got to go to Narnia. Well book narnia. I opened the wooden door, stepped in to a world covered in books.

Like Lucy, I was both nervous and excited to find myself in Narnia but I couldn’t wait to discover the land and its people. As soon as I entered the book by the magic doorway, I could sense a change in temperature and a wonderful scent wafting past my nose. It was the smell of old books – the best smell in the world. What visions would I see? What gems would I discover? I couldn’t wait to find out.

Suddenly a vision appeared. It said ' More books this way' I followed it straight away
Suddenly a vision appeared. It said ‘ More books this way’ I followed it straight away

I walked very slowly around the land of books, careful not to step on any little people or creatures that might be living here. I could be Gulliver to them after all. I would have to take care not to knock any books over. Who knows what damage I could do. I turned back in the direction i had come from eager to remember the path I had taken. Luckily I had a half eaten sandwich in my coat pocket which I took out and crumbled up in my hand. I scattered some of the crumbs behind me in an attempt to find my way back again. Well, it had been good enough for Hansel and Gretal I told myself. I then remembered where they had ended up so I told myself that I would keep my eye open for any nasty witch who might want to eat me.

The book tower
The book tower

I stopped in amazement beside a tower of books and held my breath as I heard a voice. Who was that? Dobby suddenly appeared from behind and smiled at me. Dobby asks if he can help the booktrailer. Dobby would like to assist you in showing you some books you might like in book narnia. I said yes I would love Dobby to show me round. He smiled at me nervously. Dobby has never been asked to show  book Narnia to a book trailer before. I smiled at him and asked him to lead the way.

books carpet the stairs
books carpet the stairs

The weather had suddenly changed in book Narnia so there now was a snowy carpet of books covering the floor and the stairs. We had to be careful as we navigated our way around. Watch out for the thriller books said Dobby. Some of them are scary and will jump out at you!

The thrillers - watch out for bad people and nasty surprises! Be Brave!
The thrillers – watch out for bad people and nasty surprises! Be Brave!

The romantic fiction tribe lives here said Dobby. These are special books who love for you to take home and sit them on your knee in front of a roaring fire.

The romantic tribe live here in these hallowed walls
The romantic tribe live here in these hallowed walls

These books will transport you away from Narnia and away to distant lands. You can climb the Magic Faraway Tree, learn languages and meet people like Pippi Langstrump from all over the world.

The_Magic_Faraway_Tree_1st_edition

I thanked him but decided to stay in Narnia for now although we did visit the little mini bookshop in Narnia where the Lilliputians, the oompah loompahs and the hobbits live

 

The mini version of book narnia
The mini version of book Narnia

It was nearly time for me to leave Narnia but before I did, I managed to collect a few books that I knew would take me on many more journeys once I had left Narnia and was back on the other side of the door.

Apparently I would soon be off to Wimbledon Common, back to school with the World’s Worst Witch and stop off to see Horrid Henry. Dobby said he would teach me some tricks to get my own back if I did see Henry.

I thanked Dobby and followed the trail of breadcrumbs to the door and out of Narnia

I leave Narnia but know that I will be back one day soon
I leave Narnia but know that I will be back one day soon

Back in the real world, I turned and smiled to myself. It looked just like a bookshop from the outside but in fact it was a Narnia of books that I just knew I would be going back to very soon.

I have the secret passageway that will take you to Book Narnia – you can enter it here- http://www.keelrowbookshop.co.uk/  – but careful! you enter at your own risk. You will probably come out with more books that you can carry and the booktrail can not be held responsible for any book emergencies or book accidents. Once inside hours can pass by without your knowledge and you may never get out….

Happy Usborne Day!

usborne-Balloon

Usborne is 40 today

I would like to share why I am celebrating Usborne day today and what this publisher means to me-

I struggled as a child with language so my mum used to buy me books and read them to me all the time so I could learn words and enjoy reading. I had sticker books that we would use together to create stories and imanginery worlds

My favourite cartoon ever was Willy Fog who had adventures with his friends in a hot air balloon. I thought that the Usborne balloon was the one that Willy Fog must have travelled in so I asked my mum to buy me even more books. I wanted to have adventures too!

I bought some books in French and loved looking at all the pictures alongside. Such a fun way to learn new words! This helped with my English too so that was even better! I remember looking at the illustrations and the people in the pictures became my friends on my desire to learn new words and learn about them

usborne

But there were more books to read. What about Spanish?

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Even when I use certain words now I have the pictures of the words in my eye
As an adult, I became a translator and have been able to work abroad. I will always be grateful for Usborne for publishing such fun books and for helping me to discover language and for making English less of a mystery to my 4 year old brain….

So as an adult, learning Chinese, what is the first book that I bought?

First-100-Wrds-Chin-L

This weekend I am taking a walk down memory lane and am going to buy an Usborne book. I spotted this one this week which looks like an awful lot of fun……

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and just take a look inside – stickers, a blank canvas and a little bit of imagination is all you need…

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and just look at all those books!!

My perfect Usborne world – multilingual and one which I never intend to leave

What books do you remember as a child?

Any books helped you to read and write or to have adventures?

Leave a comment please. I’d love to know!

A new addition to my book family

Well, if ever there was a day where I was so overcome with book dizziness that I nearly fainted, this was it. It was the launch day of books are my bag – a genius campaign to highlight not only the good work but the great and invaluable work that local bookshops do for the literary good all over the country.

So, in order to show my support, I got up early and left my literary friends in the house chattering away to one another in the excitement of not knowing which new friend I would be bringing back to live with them that night. They knew that it would more than likely be a multiple delivery – I never do things by halves!

So, taking only one literary friend with me – to be there with me during the waiting and wondering period – before knowing which literary baby would be coming home with me, wrapped up in a brown blanket of paper – well it’s nice to have some support during what can be a testing and challenging time, I made my way towards the delivery room –

 

The Forum book 'nursery' - where bookish adventures are born
The Forum book ‘nursery’ – where bookish adventures are born

 

Aaah as I looked through the glass I saw all the newborns waiting for their parents to come and collect them –

 

The window of opportunity
The window of opportunity

 

My heart melted when I saw my book looking up at me – the bookseller hadn’t pointed her out yet but I knew as soon as I laid my eyes on her that she was mine.

 

Getting the new addition to the family nicely settled in
Getting the new addition to the family nicely settled in

Then I had some wonderful cake to welcome all this new addition to the literary world

Bless the little books xx I hope many of their parents came to collect them that day and will continue to go to their nearest place where books are born so that they might find a nice new owner and a nice new home. xx

 

Books are much more than my bag

I am preparing to celebrate the one week anniversary of this blessed event on Saturday but until then, I just wanted to share with you what I have been doing when not reading……

My beautiful books are my bag cushion!
My beautiful books are my bag cushion!

 

I’m so chuffed with it as the last time I sewed was at high school I think and to be honest it’s not rocket science is it? A couple of stitches etc but I am still dead proud as now I will be able to cuddle up with it when I read my next book. I bought another three the other day so I have plenty to read as my TBR pile is so big I can’t seem to leave the house in order to find the front door, so until I find it, I will snuggle up to my lovely cushion and read. At night, I will use it as a pillow and at mealtimes I will use it as somewhere where I can rest my tray and continue to read hehe

Yup a multipurpose produce if ever I saw one!

Why Books are my Bag

 

Books take you places
Books take you places

 

Like friends, they hang out in my bookcase with each other
Like friends, they hang out in my bookcase with each other
Classic books with spines I can run my finger along
Classic books with spines I can run my finger along
Books in multiple languages
Books in multiple languages and books that have taught me languages
A book from my childhood - battered but much loved
A book from my childhood – battered but much loved
a children's book I bought for myself just recently
a children’s book I bought for myself just recently as I never want to lose my inner child
A bookish work of art
A bookish work of art
The smell of old books is the only comfort I need
The smell of old books is the only comfort I need
The book that means so much to me
The book that means so much to me
The book friends I meet
The book friends I meet
the book fairs I go to
I get to travel to book fairs far and wide
the local bookshops that make all of this possible
the local bookshops that make all of this possible

 

So to say thank you to books, booksellers, librarians, bookshops, authors and everyone who works to get books out there…….and to all fellow readers and aspiring writers like myself who eat, breathe and sleep books, always remember and repeat to yourself often

stickers!
My mantra in life

 

So on September 14th  – go out and buy a book, or two or three. Swing your books are my bag canvas tote with pride and remember that you are never alone when you’re with a good book.

 

A Bookstore in New York…

Ooh those books
Ooh those books

This is exactly where you should judge a book by its cover – for it was this that would make me pick it up and take it to the till with only having glanced briefly at the blurb – for this was a novel about books. And it was called The Bookstore. Enough said really.

I am happy to say that The Bookstore did not disappoint. I had made a special effort to get this book as although I was lucky enough to receive a copy via NetGalley, I was away at the Edinburgh book festival at the time so by the time I got back it had been archived. Arrrrgh! So ironically, off to The Bookstore I went.

I enjoyed several things about this book, namely the numerous literary references and my discovery of The Owl Bookstore and its customers. How I pictured myself in The Owl Bookstore looking for the main character, Esme so I could go and say hi.

Esme is someone I identified with on many levels as she struggled to settle into living in New York. I was about Esme’s age when I moved to Toronto, Canada and the struggles that come with moving away from home really hit a chord with me. I also spent many a happy hour, lost in an old bookshop in New York on my frequent visits there so totally lost myself in these descriptions too.

The book has been described by some as Chick lit but although the central story is one about Esme, a young British woman who finds herself studying art history in New York and her emotional journey, the chick lit label may prevent some from reading it and that would be a real shame.

The Bookstore is a unique debut novel about a young woman who finds comfort and a home from home while working in a quirky used bookstore in Manhattan. Her boyfriend has just dumped her but not before she finds out that she is pregnant.

I loved the descriptions in The Bookstore, and  felt like I was strolling around New York like I once had. the memories came flooding back and that definitely made the book come alive.

If you want to loose yourself in a Manhattan bookstore, then The Bookstore is an interesting find.

Secrets in Corbridge…

In a sleepy Northumbrian village, the evening sun glistened on the windows of the nearby houses

Everything seemed calm. Apart from a dog barking, there were no other noises. No-one in sight.  Yet, something was different. something was very different. The empty square was in complete contrast to the sea of cars which flooded the main square. Suddenly, an outsider, a lone car passed by the village bookstore. Its driver peered out the window and then quickly drove past and around the corner out of sight. Minutes passed. There was no other movement and the car didn’t come back.

A woman however had made the decision to slip out of the house that night. She had told her flatmate that  she was just going to ‘see a friend’  but she knew she was going somewhere else. She nodded to herself as she saw the cars dotted along the street, leading all the way to the square and she quickened her pace. The two people who she recognised from the car made their way ahead of her. Were they going to the same place in such a hurry she thought?

Five minutes later, she’d arrived. The door in front of her opened and a man came to greet her. Hi he said. Come on in. Would you like a glass of wine?

She nodded in agreement and stepped inside. A sea of faces greeted her and she started to mingle, glass in hand with the men and woman chatting happily inside. She hadn’t told her flatmate about tonight as she wanted this moment all to herself. She knew she had an addiction  – her flatmate told her often enough but she wouldn’t understand she needed just one more fix. At least she was amongst friends this evening. People that understood what it was like.

She took her seat. There were three stools at the end of the room. The three men on them looked nervous. But once they’d stood up and introduced themselves to the crowded room, their faces visibly relaxed. Everyone understood why they were here. And more importantly why these men were here. They had written books they said. They wanted to talk about their stories to inspire and entertain. They hoped their stories would bring enjoyment to people’s lives.

The first man, Gavin,  told his story about an unlikely friendship and an improbable journey. His words were endearing and heartbreaking in equal measure. He nodded at the applause and then the second man, Matt,  took the stand. His story involved not only humans but aliens. A few gasps around the room were heard and the sound of more nods of agreement and giggles. Glasses chinked but were smothered with tears of laughter and outbursts of applause.

The night was going well. Obsessions were celebrated here.

Well if this were a book about obsessions, literary obsessions in particular, this is how I imagine it would begin. As some people think I am a bit obsessed about books and reading and meeting authors. But then I guess I am.

Here I was, sitting in the Tea and Tipple cafe in Corbridge, to meet Gavin Extence, writer of The Universe versus Alex Woods and Matt Haig, author of The Humans. I’d read the first book but had heard so much about the second, I just had to come and see them both. And I mean had to. A whizz up the motorway and I was there. Once I’d found a parking space, I felt a bit calmer. I mean I wouldn’t want to miss this would I?

Our host for the evening from Forum Books, Gavin Extence and Matt Haig
Our host for the evening from Forum Books, Gavin Extence and Matt Haig

I chatted, I had a glass of wine and I ate a meteorite (If you haven’t read The Universe versus Alex Woods then I won’t mention why this made me laugh). The wonderful people at Corbridge’s independent bookshop FORUM BOOKS had made this all possible. Thank you FORUM BOOKS:

Forum Books
Forum Books

and thank you to two great writers:

Reading, laughing  and crying all at once
Reading, laughing and crying all at once
The Humans by Matt Haig
The Humans by Matt Haig

For the fantastic literary setting, thanks to the brilliantly named TEA AND TIPPLE:

Have a tea and tipple in Corbridge
Have a tea and tipple in Corbridge

Thank you also to all the people who came to this event. Fellow book obsessives. I chatted to a lot of you and we had a great evening. May there be many more like it! I started reading The Humans in the car on the way home. I didn’t get to sleep until 3am. I mean seriously, books this funny and enjoyable should come with a health warning that they prevent you from going to bed and as for sleeping. PAH! I’d forget it.

My name is literary imprint and I am a bookaholic. And very proud of it I am too.

A thank you to independent bookstores – Forum books, Corbridge, Northumberland

I am a regular to Forum Books so it was with some surprise that I hadn’t written about this lovely little bookshop before.

Forum Books
Forum Books

Its a literary gem in the village of Corbridge in Northumberland and it champions everything that is good about writers and writing.  I loved the local publishing stand dedicated to Myrmidon as I walked in the door and was pleased to overhear an animated discussion between two elderly customers ‘arguing’ over the merits of buying one book over another (they ended up getting both in the end!)

I myself had a lovely chat with the most welcoming bookseller I had met in some time. We chatted about the book I was buying and the event I was interested in and I left with a brown paper bag containing a book and the words, Eat Sleep Read on the sides and thanking me for buying local. It made me smile and the brown paper took me back to how bookshops years ago must have packaged a new purchase.

But why I wanted to mention this bookstore is its writers events. There will be a talk – a kind of tea and biscuits session with Gavin Extence  – he of ‘The Universe versus Alex Woods’ fame and Matt Haig, writer of ‘The Humans’.  I for one can not wait to meet both of them and am currently reading the first book in time for the event. The second I will buy on the day.

Ooh a literary event! I like these
Ooh a literary event! I like these
Reading, laughing  and crying all at once
Reading with a cuppa to hand. Em I seem to be making a habit of this…hehe

I love meeting authors of  books I’ve read or am going to read. I love reading books by authors I may not have come across had it not been for events such as this one. It’s a literary night out and the fact that it us being held in the local tea shop makes it particularly perfect. A cup of coffee, piece of cake and chats with two authors about their books?

The event will be held in the Tea and Tipple cafe. Love it!
The event will be held in the Tea and Tipple cafe. Love it!

Perfect, perfect, perfect

Is this lady looking for a great local bookshop? Turn to your right!!!
Is this lady looking for a great local bookshop? Turn to your right!!!

That’s why it makes me sad to think little literary gems such as Forum books are a dying breed. Independent bookstores are what keeps reading and enjoying books so accessible to many. They offer a personal and local service and provide a haven for book fans such as myself. Together with libraries, they are the unsung heroes of the literary world

So thank you Forum

Thank you independent bookstores

Thank you libraries

I for one will continue to support you and really appreciate what you represent