Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Indie Advent: Eldritch Soda on The Friends of the Library bookstore in Rockville, Maryland

I'm delighted to welcome my wife, the wonderful Eldritch Soda (I tried to get her to change her name to Eldritch Dean, but no luck, sadly) to talk about her former workplace, The Friends of the Library bookstore in Rockville, Maryland.

The front of the store is crowded with piles and carts of to-be-examined book, movie, and music donations. The aisles between bookcases are narrow, with even more carts full of books for sale that won't fit on the shelves. It's been about a year and a half since I've been there, but in my memory I swear some of those bookshelves are so tall they touch the ceiling. And every bookcase is absolutely groaning, heaving, full of books. To a certain type of reader, the Friends of the Library bookstore in Rockville, Maryland, is heaven, full of unexpected treasures and community connections. I both volunteered and worked at the store, shelving books as a volunteer and then sorting and pricing donations and helping customers find what they wanted as a paid employee.

The store was divided into many different sections, and because of the small space, some unexpected juxtapositions occurred, enough that when I was in library school I considered writing a final paper on the store. The store's unusual layout (like a Warfare subsection that only went up to the Middle Ages, with more recent warfare materials shelved with their respective wars, or a Religious Studies section that included everything but Judaism and then a separate section entirely on Judaism) also let us highlight very specific subgenres and emphasize connections, as well as putting some books in multiple areas (like The Diary of Anne Frank in the Memoir and Judaism sections),which made these cross-genre books easier to find. We had evolved. We had escaped the clutches of Melvil Dewey and the Library of Congress to form our own paradigm.

We were usually so pressed for space that new additions to each nonfiction shelf were just put where they could fit rather than wrestled into any sort of order. (The same was not true for fiction, by the way--I think customers might have mutinied if we'd tried that.) The lack of any required order also allowed for some whimsy--I still remember amusing myself one day by putting James Surowiecki's book The Wisdom of Crowds directly next to a book called The Folly of Crowds. (Google claims the second book doesn't exist, which just demonstrates even more the magic of used bookstores--you can find books that Google hasn't even noticed there.)

In addition to these juxtapositions, I loved how the store, more explicitly than the Barnes and Noble a few minutes' drive away, was able to reflect the community it served, on a very granular level. For example, this part of Maryland is home to a large Jewish population (hence the separate Judaism section), and Judaism wouldn't get anywhere near as much room in most other bookstores or in libraries. As expected from a used bookstore located just outside Washington, DC, the store also received many political books. I never spent much time at our sister store, now in Wheaton, Maryland, and currently closed due to the pandemic, but given the varying demographics in different parts of the county, I can only assume that similarly idiosyncratic sections, ones which differ from Rockville's, can also be found in the Wheaton store when it's open.

The primary function of this bookstore and its sister store is to raise money for Montgomery County Public Libraries, but many US library systems as well as some libraries in other countries have a similar group. If you're interested, see if there's anything you can do to work with your local group.

BIO: Eldritch Soda is a writer, pop culture critic, and poodle enthusiast. Find her at her blog or on Twitter at @eldritchsoda.

Monday, 21 December 2020

Indie Advent: Chris Brosnahan on The All Good Bookshop

I was a huge fan of The Big Green Bookshop and was sad to see it move online, but delighted when co-owner Tim announced The All Good Bookshop! Sadly, COVID-19 stopped me visiting before leaving the UK, but I can't wait to get to it when we get back, and this piece by Chris Brosnahan has made me even more excited to visit. Over to Chris...

I love the All Good Bookshop because of what it represents. How many bookshops could open two weeks before the first lockdown and be carried through the year by the community they're part of? 

The All Good Bookshop is a community-owned co-operative in Turnpike Lane/Wood Green. After the much-loved Big Green Bookshop closed down its physical store and went online-only, it left the area without a bookshop. And the Big Green Bookshop had been a real cultural hub for the area - personally, I'd run a writing group and comedy nights there for years. This was a void that needed filling. Bookshops are amazing things for the local area.

A few of us suggested a co-operative to Tim West (the former co-owner of the BGB) and a massively busy kick-off meeting showed that other people were up for it. A committee was formed and shares started to be sold. The entire funding of the shop was done by customers. Some through small, low-interest loans, and some through buying share packages. Nobody’s expecting to make a fortune through the shares (although the lifetime 10% discount you get for being a shareholder could save you one).

Later in 2019, the first All Good Bookshop was a reality, in a small shed in the Blue House Yard (a temporary art and small business space that many of us hope will stick around).

In March 2020, the All Good Bookshop found new premises in Turnpike Lane. Members of the committee (including myself) turned up to empty, clean and decorate the former beauty salon, and turn it into a bright, colourful new bookshop. It opened its doors... and almost immediately closed them due to Covid.

Tim came up with the idea of local delivery on his bike. And books were a useful thing during lockdown, so everyone won. In fact, Tim was given an award as a 'Haringey Hero' during lockdown, helping to keep spirits up during a difficult time.

Once lockdown lifted, people started finding the new bookshop. Some small events even took place before that started to become more difficult again. But between orders, collections and deliveries, the shop has actually thrived in 2020, despite the worst possible launch timing.

All of this has only been possible because of the community. It's a wonderful new bookshop, entirely crowd-funded. Once the Covid times are over, we're looking forward to it becoming a cultural hub for the area as well.

On top of that, it’s a damn good bookshop. Tim (and Carmel, who has also brought her experience from the Big Green Bookshop) have a great approach to building stock. They started off with a fairly small number of books, to see what sells. But, also, because orders are such an important part of the shop’s trade, they’ll regularly order extra copies of what people order – like a real-time version of Amazon’s ‘other people also liked…’ feature. So even the stock is crowd-sourced.

To me, the All Good Bookshop represents the best of local communities. And it shows just how important bookshops are to those communities.

I’ve bought more books in 2020 than in most years – more time at home will do that. I like browsing, because I see stuff I wouldn’t necessarily see otherwise.

Most recently, I’ve picked up a few independent graphic novels. Flake, by Matthew Dooley, was a wonderful read, and I’ve just ordered Adrian Tomine’s The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist.

Chris Brosnahan is a writer and film-maker in North London. He's run a writing group for 10 years this month, which you can find here. He can be found online at his website and on Twitter.


Sunday, 20 December 2020

Indie Advent: Amy McCaw on The Barrister In Wonderland Bookshop, Retford and The Rabbit Hole, Brigg

Really pleased to welcome my friend Amy, author of the upcoming Mina And The Undead - which I'm super-excited for - to talk about not one but TWO bookshops today!

The Barrister in Wonderland Bookshop

As soon as I walked into The Barrister in Wonderland Bookshop, I knew it would become a favourite. The décor is absolutely gorgeous, with a tea party on the ceiling and lots of other quirky touches that create a fun, cosy atmosphere. There are inviting displays of books as soon as you walk in, including a selection of signed books. I clicked with the owner, Helen, immediately and love talking children’s books with her!

The shop specialises in new children’s books from birth to YA, and there’s a small range of preloved books. I walked out with a huge bag of books and even more recommendations.

They provide a subscription service for either six months or a year. The lucky recipient gets a different book every month that is tailored to their interests. I signed up for my baby – it’ll be lovely for him to get a new book in the post every month!

Visiting The Barrister in Wonderland is a special experience, and I can’t wait to go back!

The Rabbit Hole

Another one of my favourite bookshops is The Rabbit Hole in Brigg. The children’s section is a bright, airy space that feels so welcoming from the moment you step inside. There are play tables and beautifully presented displays of books, with an amazing range of books for all ages from babies to YA. Further into the shop, there’s a well-stocked section of adult books, and you can find preloved books, CDs and vinyl on the second floor.

One of the things I love about this shop is the passion and knowledge of the owners, Nick and Mel. They are well known for working with local schools and connecting with authors, and have even set up a reading group that has followed a group of children from primary school to secondary. Through lockdown, they have found innovative ways to keep author visits going, allowing thousands of children to connect with their favourite authors.

The personal connection and amazing service are two of the many reasons why I’ll keep going back to The Rabbit Hole!

Amy McCaw is the author of the upcoming Mina And The Undead (UCLan Publishing.) She also blogs at YA Under My Skin and can be found on Twitter at @YAUnderMySkin.

Saturday, 19 December 2020

Indie Advent: Sophie Kirtley on The Rocketship Bookshop, Salisbury

I love the ingenuity of author Sophie Kirtley in today's Indie Advent post, a 10 step countdown of fabulous reasons to shop at Salisbury's Rocketship Bookshop!

Sophie Kirtley with The Wild Way Home in front of The Rocketship's stained glass window.

What makes The Rocketship so very special? Let the countdown commence:


10 – Children’s Books 

The Rocketship is all about books for children from newborns right up to big kids like me. (There are some carefully curated grown up books too – if you insist!)


9 – Expertise 

Lovely Jo Boyles is the mastermind and the heart behind this wonderful bookshop, and boy does Jo know her kids’ lit!


8 – Friendliness

Jo is very wise, and she’s also very friendly. From tiny tots to great grannies she and her team will welcome you so very warmly.


7 – Signings

And not only customers are welcome, authors are too. My debut novel, The Wild Way Home, came out in July and The Rocketship was one of the first bookshops where I actually saw my book on display. Feeling a bit shy and wally-ish I introduced myself and and asked if I could sign any stock; Jo and her partner instantly made my imposter-syndrome melt away! I think this lovely, kind-hearted, genuine welcome is why The Rocketship has so many lovingly signed books in stock. 


6 - Beauty 

And not only the books are beautiful - there’s even a stained glass window, as shown above!


5  - Labyrinthine Hugeness

The Rocketship looks teeny-tiny from the outside, but inside there are stairs and cellars and hidden rooms… and each one is full of glorious books… and each one is full of glorious pages… and each one is full of… (you get the idea!)


4 – Books-by-Mail

If you don’t live somewhere pop-in-ably close to lovely Salisbury then The Rocketship can even deliver. The website lets you buy online and your book will arrive all beautifully wrapped too – couldn’t be more perfect!


3 – Lockdown

The Rocketship launched just this year. Right on time for all the delights that 2020 has flung our way. I curse this ill-luck on The Rocketship’s behalf – not fair at all! Yet, no matter what, this bookshop has not let 2020 get the better of it. I’m sure it has been a real struggle for Jo and her team, but they have risen to the challenge with such style, grace and determination. (Round of applause please!)


2 – Inclusiveness 

Small-town Wiltshire is not exactly the most diverse place in the world! Yet The Rocketship is determined to tell every story and to give every young reader the chance to see themselves reflected in the books they read… and to read beyond their own existing world view. BIG Hooray!


1 – Did I mention the glorious, varied, delightful BOOKS?!


The Rocketship Bookshop - We have LIFT OFF!

Sophie can be found at her website and on Twitter. She is the author of The Wild Way Home.

Rocketship Bookshop

Bridge Street





01722 237172

Lu Fraser, Dashe Roberts, Kirsty Applebaum & Julie Pike signing their books

Display of Chitra Soundar's books You're Safe With Me, You're Snug With Me and You're Strong With Me.

Sophie Kirtley and Jo Boyles

Display of books

Friday, 18 December 2020

Indie Advent: Holly Rivers on Housmans Bookshop

The Twelve Radical Days of Christmas (AKA support Housmans Bookshop this winter!)

 by Holly Rivers

(Picture credit:


“On the twelfth day of Christmas, Housmans Bookshop gave to me...


12 Progressive magazines

11 Peace diaries

10 Inclusive kid’s books

9 Protest badges

8 Bags of Zapatista coffee

7 Inspiring memoirs

6 Radical zines

5 Tote Bags!

4 White poppies

3 LGBTQ+ stories

2 Online readings


And a.... ‘Pits and Perverts’ T-Shirt!


Holly Rivers is a queer children’s author who’s debut book Demelza and the Spectre Detectors (a story of a young female inventor who can communicate with the ghosts of the dead) was published by Chicken House in Feb 2020. She’s currently editing her second book for Chicken House.

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Indie Advent: Charlotte Eyre on Booka Bookshop, Oswestry

Thrilled to have the wonderful Charlotte Eyre talking about a bookshop really close to my heart today. Oswestry's Booka Bookshop is the closest indie bookshop to my parents' house. They visit it significantly more than I do and always tell me how fabulous events they host are; I've always been incredibly impressed by the selection in the shop whenever I have managed to get there.

When I was teenager I thought Oswestry was a boring town. There was a Tammy Girl and a Woolworths, a small-ish park and a nice café-cum-gift shop, but that was about it. There certainly wasn’t enough to do when looking after French exchange students, as I once had to do, and Oswestry’s attractions paled in comparison with Shrewsbury, which was only half an hour down the road. 

So I was pleased learn that many years later (in 2010, I think) Oswestry was getting its own, independent bookshop. It soon became a place my family and friends all raved about endlessly. The coffee! The books! The Christmas shopping events! You must come Charlotte, they said, let’s make a trip and go. So even though I have never lived anywhere near Booka (I now live in Croydon) Carrie and Tim’s bookshop has quickly become my favourite indie. I’ve gone for coffee and cake, joined a mum and baby reading group, seen Sathnam Sanghera and Damian Barr speak about their books, and bought endless presents for other people. Carrie and Tim’s inventiveness is astounding – from book clubs and events to this year’s At Home With Four Indies, they do so much more than sell books.


What have I bought from them? Everything and anything, really. Children’s books for my kids. Novels for my parents. Books about current affairs for my sister. And they have bought things from Booka for me: as I type this I can see a gloriously illustrated version of The Divine Comedy my mum bought me after I spotted it on the shelves. I’m also fond of some jokey mugs that mix classic novel titles with the names of local villages. You have to be from Shropshire to appreciate it, I think.


Oswestry isn’t boring. It probably wasn’t that boring in the late 90s (I was a teenager after all) but Booka has certainly added to its charm. Carrie and Tim demonstrate what independent bookshops do best and that is create a community around books in their town. I used to worry that Waterstones would open a branch in Oswestry and kill Booka’s trade but now I think that even if they did it wouldn’t matter. Booka is so beloved by the community it will keep going for a long time.

Charlotte is the children’s editor of The Bookseller, where she writes about the children’s book market for the magazine and interviews authors and illustrators. She programmes the annual Bookseller Children’s Conference and runs Pitch Your Story, a newsletter for aspiring authors and illustrators. She can be found on Twitter at @CharlotteLEyre.

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

Emma Perry on Oldfield Park Bookshop, Bath, UK

Really happy to welcome author Emma Perry to the blog for the latest Indie Advent post, to talk about Oldfield Park Bookshop in Bath!

It’s been a bonkers year for all sorts of reasons. However, I think one of the most positive things to come out of this has been a growing sense of appreciation for independent shops, and the people who run them. Because… they care.

Take a stroll down Moorlands Road in Bath, away from the bustle of the busy Bath town centre and you’ll find a vibrant street filled with a great variety of independent shops. And they all go that extra mile.

Nestled proudly in the middle, with its iconic red shop front is The Oldfield Park Bookshop.

Pop inside the light filled space and you’ll find shelves and tables heaving with carefully curated books – a browser’s delight. If you’re not too sure what to pick, chat to Harry. Always chat to Harry.

Harry is the owner of this bookshop, and he KNOWS books. He knows the local authors who always pop in for a chat (thanks Harry!), he advises local schools looking to expand their libraries and gives top tips to book groups. He loves books and his customers.

People passing by in the street, will always wave and call ‘hello’ to Harry. This is what a local business feels like. Friendly. Community. Caring.

Caring… because during lockdown Harry could also be found delivering not only books, but medicine and other essentials to those in the community who needed them.

I realise there may be a problem with this article… what if you live MILES AWAY from Bath?? Never fear dear reader, Harry and his fabulous booksellers are just a phone call away, 01225 427722. Phew!

Indie Booksellers are fabulously creative, hardworking and knowledgeable human beings.

Support them.


Check out Emma's website or catch her on Twitter.

Sunday, 13 December 2020

Indie Advent: Sara Gray on Queen Books and A Different Booklist, Toronto, Canada

Back to this side of the Atlantic today, with Sara Gray telling us about Queen Books and A Different Booklist in Toronto, Canada. Catch Sara on Twitter!

I used to work near Queen Books, at a job I hated, and most weeks I would buy myself a book as a reward for making it through another five days in the office without quitting. It was a haven, a cozy place with good lighting and a group of booksellers who cared that I left with the right book in my hands, whether I was buying for myself or trying to find baby books for a new mother.

Queen Books is located in Leslieville which, for all you non-Torontonians out there, is packed with small businesses and cool people. Located right beside an ice cream store, before the pandemic, I could often be found browsing – carefully – with a cone of rum raisin ice cream. The store isn’t huge, but it is well-curated, with a generous children’s book section and an eerily prescient selection of back-list titles. 

Queen Books is exactly what an indie bookshop should be, warm, welcoming space for the community. An LGBTQ+ friendly space, they hosted Drag Queen story-time for young readers. They also recognize the importance of uplifting Indigenous, Black, and brown authors and their new online ordering system is categorized not just by genre but also by type of read (“Dirt Bag and Hot Messes; Indigenous Stories from Turtle Island) which makes it easy to find your next read without being physically in the store. 

I would also like to highlight ‘A Different Booklist’, which is an African-Canadian book store that specializes in books from the Afro-Caribbean Diaspora and the Global South. Unfortunately, I just moved near to them when COVID-19 started, so I haven’t had the pleasure of shopping in their store. I have only ordered from them online. That being said, their online ordering system is seamless and they have curated booklists for children and young adults (and easy browsing for adults), so if you’re looking for more diverse titles to add to your bookshelf, this is a great option. 

What one book would you buy from there: I am going to cheat and pick a few books, because one should always buy multiple books from an indie bookstore. For 2021, I have set myself a goal of reading books I have wanted to read for ages, but have not gotten to for one reason or another. I am most excited to start with Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day, Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend, and I’m Afraid of Men by Canadian author Vivek Shraya.

Saturday, 12 December 2020

Indie Advent: Patrice Lawrence on Pages Of Hackney

Really excited to have a favourite author of mine, Patrice Lawrence, talking about a favourite bookshop of mine, Pages of Hackney!

Why I Love It?

Until very recently, it was my very local bookshop, at the top of my road, next to my bus stop. (The original and thoughtful window displays almost made me miss my bus a few times.) Clapton, in Hackney, east London, has a reputation for being a bit hipsterville. And, yep, it is. But that’s just surface. It’s home to diverse communities in every sense of the word, including many social housing estates among the million pound-plus terraces.

Pages opened in 2008, when there was less sourdough, oat milk and shops displaying goods with no prices on them. It has always reached out to locals. They snagged a Paul Beatty event when he was promoting The Sellout and offered free tickets to a local sixth form. Free tickets have been offered to young people for other events too even though I’m sure the income from ticket sales would be welcome. As a local writer, I have been well-supported even though they are not primarily children’s bookshop. (Check out the Eight Pieces of Silva promo in the Xmas gift guide!)

Oh, and Jo, the manager, has a heart-melting puppy to aid and abet in the shop.

What would I buy?

The joy in going there is not knowing what I’ll come out with. All the staff are passionate about books, so I completely trust their recommendations. I’ve just bought Caleb Femi’s Poor for me and Dan Hicks’ The Brutish Museums for my daughter. (During lockdowns, books bought by locals are being delivered by courier bikes.) Last year, I bought many, many Xmas presents there, ranging from Candice Carty-Williams’ Queenie to a book about the Wu-Tang Clan. They have always been big on books exploring racism (long before Black Out Tuesday) and, I think, Reni Eddo-Lodge has popped in to sign a few copies of Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race in the past. Likewise, Lemn Sissay is a local and tops up signed copies of My Name is Why now and again. There’s always a fantastic selection of work by women of colour, trans writers and a nifty little shelf for Japanese writers in translation.

The basement is home to secondhand books, though, rather surreally, my daughter once picked up a Peter Gabriel album in German for a fiver.  I raid out the London shelf for mid-20th century guidebooks. As you do. Well, I do.

Patrice Lawrence is an award-winning writer of stories for children and young people. Orangeboy, her debut book for young adults was shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award, won the Bookseller YA Prize and Waterstones Prize for Older Children's Fiction and has been shortlisted for many regional awards. Indigo Donut, her second book about young adults, was published in July 2017. It was book of the week in the The Times, Sunday Times and Observer and one of The Times top children's books in 2017. Both books have been nominated for the Carnegie Award.

Read: I am a writer with privilege

Blog: The Lawrence Line

Twitter: @LawrencePatrice 

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Indie Advent: Ali Palmer from Book Clubs In Schools on Barter Books, Alnwick, Northumbria

Back to England for today's #IndieAdvent post, and I'm really excited that we're getting so many posts about shops I wasn't familiar with. A huge thanks to Ali Palmer, co-founder and director of Book Clubs In Schools, for this great post about Alnwick's Barter Books.

Over lockdown I found it difficult to read and in fact concentrate on anything. It has been very strange as reading is my thing, my go to escape, the mechanism to take me to other places. I thought I would be reading lots of different books but in reality, all I wanted to read  was classic children’s books, where there may be adventure, but all will be well in the end.

Latterly I have picked up adult fiction again, starting with The Sound Mirror by Heidi James and just like that I am back, reading, it’s a huge relief.

I am missing visiting book shops and browsing the shelves to find random suggestions by the book shop staff or interesting covers that might tempt me to buy.

It has made me think about my favourite bookshop and wondering when I can visit again.

The rambling Barter Books in Alnwick, Northumbria. It’s inside the old station so along with the glamour of journeys from a bygone era, think the Railway Children, Agatha Christie, Brief Encounter; there is the musty, fusty smell of books combined with coffee and cake or Kaffee and Kuchen as Jo in the Chalet School books (one of my re-reads). There are sections for everything you can imagine a great bookshop would have including, local history from all over the UK. I found some interesting ones about Manchester; I always look for books about my hometown when I go into a book shop. Alongside the books about Manchester I always look for old school stories of the Angela Brazil type or vintage Puffin classics.

Most books are in sections with secret places to read and some are hidden in glass cabinets which adds to their allure. So many books you didn’t know you needed until you saw them here. There’s a train set running around the top of the shelves and somehow this adds to the feeling that time stands still inside the shop – it feels like you can spend all day in here lost in other worlds, but outside only a moment would have passed. It’s a place to linger, wander and discover, without a set book purchase in mind.

In Alnwick there's also a cool castle and amazing garden, with a fairy tale treehouse - if you can tear yourself away from the books...

Ali Palmer is a Co-founder and Director of Book Clubs in Schools. Find her on Twitter.

Monday, 7 December 2020

Indie Advent: Hannah from A Cup Of Wonderland on Typewronger Books, Edinburgh

Latest of our #IndieAdvent posts sees us go to Scotland! Really grateful to Hannah from A Cup Of Wonderland for this awesome post on Edinburgh's Typewronger Books.

January 2020

It’s cold, the air is crisp, and it’s my first time visiting Edinburgh entirely on my own. A whole week stretched out in front of me to explore this beautiful city and most importantly, it’s numerous bookshops that are hidden throughout. 

My hands are cold despite wearing gloves when I spot the steps leading to Typewronger Books, and almost immediately upon my stepping inside the bookseller behind the counter offers me a cup of tea. An easy way to get to my heart, books and tea. 

Although it was smaller than I first expected, Typewronger is filled with a wide variety of books and packed with interesting trinkets and most importantly typewriters too. 

I look through the shelves before selecting a few that are of interest to me and nestle myself away in the corner - thankfully, there were a few chairs to sit in and a couple of books. In a comforting way, it felt like home. 

After I finalised my selection of books and made my tea, I went back to the counter to return the now empty cup and purchase my books and faced with a surprising decision of what origami animal I would like. It’s a tough choice between frog, butterfly and dragon but the dragon still wins out. 

November 2020

Now it’s almost the end of November, and after being stuck in the house for nearly eight months now, I’m yearning to go back and maybe get another origami dragon too. 

Back in January, I selected a couple of Japanese penguin classics along with some short stories too. But if I could return to Edinburgh right now, I think I would be on the look out for some science fiction and fantasy as well as contemporary works and translations too. 

I never enter a bookshop with a clear mind of what I want. I like the surprise and the chance to find a new, unexpected favourite that I have never heard before. After all that is the magic of a bookshop and if that bookshop offers tea and origami animals, a comfortable place to sit and read and most importantly warm as well. Then that bookshop may have captured my heart, and I look forward to shopping at Typewronger again. 

In addition to her site, A Cup Of Wonderland, Hannah can be found on Twitter and Instagram.

Saturday, 5 December 2020

Indie Advent: Molli Moran on Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN

I was really hoping we'd go global again with Indie Advent this year, so I was especially thrilled when Molli Moran - author of some of my favourite small-town romances - offered to contribute a post on Nashville's Parnassus Books!

Hi, fellow book lovers! I’m Molli, a lifelong Southerner and self-proclaimed book nerd, and I’m here today to talk to y’all about my favorite indie book store: well-known Parnassus Books located in the heart of Nashville, Tennessee. 

Nashville is a wonderful, thriving city full of so many hidden treasures. When I was growing up, it was a treat to get to go to places like the Nashville Zoo or the now-closed Opryland theme park. As a kid, I loved to read but had no idea what an important role books would play in my life, or that I would one day become a romance author. I just knew my biggest adventures in those days happened in the pages of my favorite books. 

Fast-forward to my adult years, where I was a book blogger for several years before I transitioned away to become an author. I learned so much about publishing and the highlight of my book blogging days were getting to go to author events, especially if they were at Parnassus Books.

Parnassus is a small bookstore, but one that can’t be overlooked. Stepping inside, you’re immediately at home in the little shop, with its warm and beautiful shelves, comfortable chairs to sit in while you read, and friendly booksellers. There’s an alcove dedicated just to children’s books for little ones to lose themselves in, and a stage area for visiting authors to sit on while they read from their books or converse with their fans. 

Everyone who works at Parnassus wants the same thing: to help each reader find their perfect book. The booksellers are knowledgeable on new and upcoming releases, trends in different categories, and have great book recommendations. 

I think my favorite moments at Parnassus have been author events. The setting is intimate, which brings readers and authors closer together. I’ve participated in some thoughtful and insightful discussions with authors like Tamara Ireland Stone, Andrew Schvarts, Cora Carmack, and others. My inner shyness disappears in those moments!

If I was there right now, I would honestly do some serious damage to my bank account, let’s just have some real talk. I’m never happier than when I’m in a bookstore. Nashville is a little bit of a drive for me but Parnassus Books is worth it!

Here are a few books that I’m dying to read, but don’t currently own, and will likely order from them:

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong. Romeo and Juliet inspired! Sign me up. 
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas. Who doesn’t want a book that sounds this good?!
The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert. Voting is more important than ever and Brandy’s books are always amazing. 
Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles because ALL of my favorite reader people loved this one. 

Comment with if you’ve read any of these or if you have a favorite indie bookstore you frequent. Stay bookish! 


Bio: Molli Moran was born and raised in the South, and brings a love of all things small-town to her romances. She grew up with her nose in a book and her head in the clouds, and not much has changed since then. Molli found her own happily-ever-after on the West Coast. Give her Kay and coffee, and you've never seen a happier person. Other things she loves include road trips, the ocean, and Captain America. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram, and at her website.

Thanks for a great post, Molli! I'm intrigued by the sound of Where Dreams Descend and was already desperate to read The Voting Booth and Cemetery Boys - and I can confirm These Violent Delights is INCREDIBLE!

Check back Monday for more from #IndieAdvent, everyone.

Friday, 4 December 2020

Cover Reveal: The Case Of The Smuggler's Curse by FS Dawson

I'm not really doing cover reveals these days, for various reasons, but sometimes a book comes along that I'm so excited for I can't really resist! This is one of these cases - Allan Boroughs, author of the fantastic Ironheart and Bloodstone books, 2 favourites of mine, contacted me to say that his new book was co-written with bestselling author Mark Dawson (under the pen-name FS Dawson), and would I like to do the honours of revealing it? I was VERY happy to say yes!

So, without further ado, here's Stuart Bache's GORGEOUS cover to MG adventure The Case Of The Smuggler's Curse!

Lucy, Max, Charlie and Joe are looking for each other… they just don’t know it yet

Lucy, Max, Charlie and Joe aren’t looking for new friends – they have too many of their own problems to worry about.  But when the four of them, and Charlie’s faithful dog, Sherlock, spot a phantom figure on Southtown beach one winter’s night, they are thrown together to unravel a mystery that none of them expected.

Just who is the ghostly spectre that walks the sands of Southtown with a lantern in his hand?  What is the connection to the ancient curse that hangs over the town?  And is the respectable Quentin De Havilland everything he pretends to be?  

The deeper they dig, the bigger the adventure becomes – motorboats and tracking devices, bedroom breakouts and daring sea rescues are all in a days’ work for the ‘After-School Detective Club’.  But when their investigations lead them into trouble with the police, there is only one thing left to do – they must go undercover for a final showdown with a ruthless gang of smugglers who will stop at nothing to get what they want.  

If the five friends can learn to work together, they might just solve the mystery – if only they can stop arguing with each other first.

The ‘After-School Detective Club and the Case of the Smuggler’s Curse’ is the first in a brand-new series of middle grade adventure stories from FS Dawson that brings together the best traditions of Enid Blyton, Jaqueline Wilson and David Walliams.

As a bonus, check out these awesome interior illustrations, also by Stuart Bache!

Mark Dawson is the author of the John Milton, Beatrix and Isabella Rose and Soho Noir series.   
Allan Boroughs is a writer and traveller and the author of the 'Legend of Ironheart' and the 'Starless and Black Mysteries' series for children. 

The book is available to buy for Kindle and as a paperback.  

Thursday, 3 December 2020

Indie Advent: Jim Dean On Tales On Moon Lane

I should declare here that I'm biased, because I spent a wonderful couple of years working for Tales On Moon Lane running their Teens On Moon Lane website, but I was madly in love with the shop from the first moment I walked in, so it was the obvious choice. 

For me, the best part about any part of a bookshop is the staff, and absolutely every Tales staff member, past and present, has an absolutely incredible knowledge of children's and YA books and a real love of discussing them with customers. Back when I was working for them, I'd go there pretty much every week to pick up post and discuss books and have had hundreds of wonderful recommendations over the years. A couple of highlights - first, Kate DiCamillo and KG Campbell's delightful illustrated MG Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, recommended to me by my friend Jen Rose Bell - amazing MG author who I first met when she worked for Foyles, and got to know better over so many great conversations at Tales. (Which lead to the formation of one of my favourite ever pub quiz teams.) The friendship between cynical Flora and superpowered squirrel Ulysses is one of my absolute favourite relationships in children's books.

Second, Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans, which I'd seen a couple of times and was already interested in but which Tereze Brikmane hand-sold me in a matter of moments with her phenomenal enthusiasm for it. She told me she was sure it would become a favourite of mine, and she was absolutely right. This quest story, about an angry girl and her annoying cousin trying to escape a bizarre world, is incredibly inventive and has two pitch-perfect character arcs for Fidge and Graham. Other staff members over the years like Jo, Kath, Julia, Lucy, and of course shop owner Tamara Macfarlane, have always been amazing people to talk to about books.

In addition to the superb booksellers, I also love the way the shop looks. As so many bookshops are, it's relatively small, but the staff use the space so incredibly well, creating gorgeous displays, beautiful tables, and - of course - the incredible windows which always capture the attention of potential customers. I don't think anyone could possibly walk past a shop looking as inviting as Sophy Henn's display does in the below tweet and NOT want to walk in! 

And in addition to the books, there's a small but perfectly curated selection of other things they sell, from stationery to cuddly toys. Moontrug The Mouse, named after the Twitter handle of my friend - and outstanding MG author - Abi Elphinstone, is maybe my absolute favourite non-bookish bookshop purchase ever - so cute! 

While they're delighted to have reopened, they're aware that not everyone's currently comfortable shopping with others, and they're offering private browsing slots on Sundays at the moment - such a great idea. And, of course, you can also order from them online if that's better for you. 

Sadly, having recently moved to the USA, it'll be a while before I get back to Tales! But if I was there, I'd be asking one of their wonderful booksellers for a recommendation for myself, and I'd also be buying several copies of Kacen Callender's gorgeous MG novel King And The Dragonflies as presents. This is a stunning book about grief, abuse, homophobia, and finding your identity. Callender is always wonderful and they bring their characters to life so, so vividly here. This is one that I know a lot of my MG-reading friends will adore.

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Indie Advent: Martin Griffin On Chorlton Bookshop, South Manchester

 Six years after I originally ran the feature, it's the return of Indie Advent! I'm really happy to be able to do a tiny bit to help promote amazing indies after such an incredibly tough year for them, and thrilled that I have people signed up to write about shops from England, Scotland, the USA, and Canada. There are a few spaces left if anyone else is interested in writing something - leave me a comment on this post or tweet me @yayeahyeah.

But no more delay, let's get things started! First up, Martin Griffin, fabulous YA author, tells us about Chorlton Bookshop in South Manchester.

There are a thousand things that indie bookshops offer over and above online retailers, but the foremost for me? The front window. I’m not going to give you a childhood sob-story or indeed any of that David Copperfield crap, but I did spend a lot of time as a teenager and young adult – the early nineties, no internet – looking at books through windows. They were a treasure as unattainable as the stuff on display in the jewellers back then, but the window at least meant I knew that they existed. Nowadays if you’re struggling for cash, you might be doing so in a neighbourhood with no physical representation of art at all – just a main drag of shiny gewgaws. High Street front windows are a display of possible future purchases on the one hand, but they’re also a symbol of the culture we aspire towards on the other.

My favourite bookshop – pictured above – has lovely ironwork, presumably a throwback from those days when joyriding Manchester thieves used to ramraid them and make off with Jeffrey Archer novels, but behind the grille it also invariably has a wonderful display, particularly at this time of year. Things shimmer and glow and rotate. Books are displayed like they’re polished gems in the snow. You can even see the publisher-specific carousels; Picador, Paladin, Virago. Inside the modest space, every available square foot is used to display and promote beautiful books. It’s got a lovely homely vibe. There’s even a Victorian fireplace in the back corner of the children’s section.

I’ll be through those doors as soon after reopening as I can. I’ve got an eye on a few choice items that will brighten the winter. There’s a new Tana French novel called The Searcher. Now that French has left the Dublin Murder Squad sequence behind, she’s exploring place and culture in a different way and this new one looks like it will be is intricately constructed as her other work. If you’re just starting out with French, may favourite is Broken Harbour, a taut psychological tale of paranoia and murder. I’ll also be bagging Alma Katsu’s The Deep, a ghost-story set on the Titanic and its sister ship. Katsu writes creepy historical-supernatural superbly and I loved The Hunger. A few more, you say? OK then – let’s talk about Chris Hammer. I enjoyed a fascinating interview with him recently, an insightful dive into his writing process, and I feel compelled to check out his work. I’m going to begin with his first, Scrublands, which I’m excited about being a sucker for anything set in the outback. And I want to dive into some exciting writing for younger readers too, so I’ll be checking out Orion Lost by Alistair Chisholm, Dan Smith’s Invasion of Crooked Oak and a timeless classic for all ages that I haven’t yet read – Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet.

So many plans, so little time. Roll on December the 2nd eh?    


Martin (M.A.) Griffin writes fiction for teens and adults. His debut, The Poison Boy, was published under the pseudonym Fletcher Moss. It won the Times Children’s Fiction Competition and was shortlisted for the Branford Boase, the North East and the Leeds Book Awards, among others. Lifers and Payback, two YA thrillers, were shortlisted for North East, Cheshire, Wirral and Leeds Book Awards. He is also a writer of best-selling non-fiction.


Monday, 30 November 2020

100 Must-Read YA Releases Of 2020 In The US

This post - which I'm really proud of - is now live for ALL readers, not just subscribers (who got it a week early) over on Patreon! Check it out, and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Book Review: In The Role Of Brie Hutchens by Nicole Melleby

In The Role Of Brie Hutchens by Nicole Melleby (Algonquin Young Readers) - Brie is horrified when her religious mom walks in on her just as she's accidentally looking at inappropriate pictures of an actress she has a crush on. To distract her, she blurts out news that she knows will delight her mother, telling her she's been chosen to crown the statue of Mary in a big ceremony at school. It works - but Brie's lying, and the job only ever goes to a top student, which she certainly isn't. Can she somehow get out of this mess, and will star student Kennedy, who's suddenly looking a lot more attractive than Brie ever realised before, be able to help her?

This is a gorgeous coming-of-age story and as a fellow soap fan I loved the way Brie turned to soaps to prepare for a drama school audition, as well as figure out things about her own sexuality. I was especially impressed by the way that Melleby portrayed the conflict between Brie and her parents - most coming-out stories I can think of seem to include family members who are either supportive pretty quickly, or really terrible. This goes for a middle route, and is no doubt going to be useful and reassuring to teens finding themselves in a similar position. (But I loved that Brie had a really supportive friend and two teachers who were brilliant at backing her up.) It also looks at financial insecurity - Brie's father has recently lost his job and both parents are struggling with this - and does a great job of exploring that too. Massively recommended.

Sunday, 22 November 2020

100 Must-Read YA Releases Of 2020 In The US - Preview

My much anticipated 100 Must-Read YA Releases Of 2020 In The US post will be going LIVE here a week today.

If you want to read it a week early, subscribe to my Patreon at any level and you'll be able  to read it from November 22nd. Is it worth paying for? I thought I'd share a preview, showing what I've written about 4 books, to help you decide.
A couple of disclaimers - firstly, the idea here is to go for books which people can pick up and read with no prior knowledge of previous books. That means I've gone for standalones and series starters, rather than continuations. I had to use my judgment on a couple of books which are companion novels to earlier ones rather than direct sequels; I've noted where this is the case.
Secondly, not everything here is something I've read myself. However, everything which I haven't read has been recommended highly by multiple people whose opinion I trust.

This Train Is Being Held by Ismee Williams (Amulet Books) - Romance between two teens - a Cuban ballet dancer and Dominican baseball player - who fall for each other at a time when both have their own problems. Dancer Isabella's life is falling apart as her mother and brother struggle with mental health issues and her father loses his job, while Alex's father is pushing him into a baseball career he's unsure he wants for himself, and being hard on his younger brother, and a friend is being dragged into a gang.
This is utterly gorgeous, with a great central romance seeing the pair get together after a few subway meet-cutes, and support each other through difficult times. Perhaps even more so than the incredible chemistry, though, it's Williams's superb handling of tougher issues like the bipolar disorder that Isabella's mother and brother have, and the racism which Alex - darker-skinned than Isabella - suffers from to a much greater degree than she does which make this one of the very best contemporaries of the year.

Grown by Tiffany D Jackson (Katherine Tegen Books) - With her family struggling for money, being discovered by R & B star Korey Fields seems like a dream come true for Enchanted Jones. Not only can the 17-year-old help support her parents, but she can find fame - and possibly even love, because the older man seems to see her as more than just a protégée. Except, when we first meet Chanty, before we see what led up to this moment, she's finding Korey's dead body. How did it come to this?
Tiffany D Jackson is phenomenal at writing books with layered MCs, twists and turns in the plot, and gripping action, and this is no exception. Fields is a repulsive villain but it's easy to see just why Korey falls for the charm which he can turn on so quickly, and how hard it is for her to extricate herself from the situation when things inevitably go downhill. The 'did she or didn't she kill him' plotline had me guessing right until the end, and, as ever, Jackson delivers a satisfying conclusion. A masterful thriller which has a lot to say about exploitation, grooming and rape culture.

The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones by Daven McQueen (Wattpad Books) - In 1955 Alabama, biracial teen Ethan Harper has to spend the summer with his white aunt and uncle. While most of the town, unused to seeing Black people, eyes him with suspicion, town oddball Juniper Jones - already unpopular amongst the locals - becomes a firm friend and the pair adventure together.
While I've cried numerous times reading books over the last few years, this was one of the most heartbreaking that I can remember. The strong friendship between free spirit Juniper and the much calmer Ethan was wonderful to read about. Daven McQueen moves between the highs of their joyous adventures and the lows of the problems they face with expertise which would be impressive in an experienced author and is even more so in a debut. Massively recommended to fans of incredibly emotional reads.

Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer (HarperTeen) - Alyssa Farshot would much rather continue to have adventures exploring different planets than follow in her uncle's footsteps as emperor. But since his dying wish is for representatives of each of the empire's prime families to compete in a crownchase to find the hidden royal seal and win the throne, she feels obligated to take part. When the chase turns deadly, it becomes clear it's not just the fate of the empire at stake.
I don't have this yet and I really need it! The most common thing I'm seeing in reviews is people talking about how incredibly fun this book is, along with praise for great representation of various sexual identities (the lead is pan, and there are numerous other queer characters). Both the lead and her himbo love interest are getting a ton of love and the relationship between them sounds like it's fabulous. Despite the generally light-hearted tone, I'm also seeing lots of people saying great things about the way it explores topics like colonialism and responsibility.

If you'd like to read my thoughts on another 96 must-read YA releases, plus 100 MG releases, and a bunch of UK books not released in the US yet - then subscribe at any tier to get early access over the next week! (Or, if you're happy to wait, they'll be right here a week later.)

Upcoming Patreon Schedule
Sun November 22nd - 100 Must-Read YA Releases of 2020 in the US - Patrons get Early Access! (Won't be available publicly until Sun November 29th.)
Wed November 25th - 100 Must-Read MG Releases of 2020 in the US - Patrons get Early Access! (Won't be available publicly until Wed Dec 2nd.)
Fri November 27th - 50 Must-Read YA and 50 Must-Read MG Releases of 2020 in the UK - Patrons get Early Access! (Won't be available publicly until Fri December 4th.) Please note - there will be overlap between this and the previous two lists, as some of my favourites have been published both sides of the Atlantic, but it will also contain UKYA and UKMG books which haven't made it to the US yet.