Coffee and cake to go with your book?

Since the early part of this year we have been running our own coffee shop upstairs on the mezzanine floor.  It has been a learning experience for us all but, I’m proud to say, my cappucinos are really quite good now – our lead barista, Luke, has promised to teach me how to do latte art next.

I’ve never been a huge coffee fan myself (mine’s an Earl Grey…..) but I do like our blend. Apparently it is quite mellow and citrussy. And it keeps me going on a busy day. What I am a fan of, however, is cake. Which also keeps me going on a busy day. So it is possibly a good thing that we stock such a wide range of cakes and traybakes. I have been working my way through as many as I can as I feel it is my duty, as a conscientious bookseller, to be able to advise customers on which product is best for their needs. I think my current favourites are the Blueberry Crumble traybake and the Cranberry and Orange cake. With cream.

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The best thing is that we are going to be getting in lots of new products soon – for the autumn and winter season – so there will be plenty more to try. I reckon Bex will be going for the Spiced Hot Chocolate and an Amaretti Betty. Me? I fancy a Caramel Crunch Cappucino and some Cinnamon Shortbread. And then a days hard work to burn off the calories!

All the new products should be with us soon. You’ll just have to keep popping in so you don’t miss them…..

Jane

Kate Mosse – Lovely Lady

It’s that time of the year when we are spoilt for choice with so many fabulous new books out. But it also means are a lot of brilliant  authors hitting the road for talks and signings with booksellers displaying their true fan girl/boy status hoping to land their favourite authors.  ‘Sepulchre’ has been one of my all time favourite books since I first read it five years ago (time-slip, nineteenth century french setting – what’s not to love?) so when I heard that author Kate Mosse was in the area signing stock, I was very excited!  Although it was a very brief visit to sign copies of her new book ‘The Mistletoe Bride and Other Haunting Tales’ as well as her back catalogue,  I’ve got to say, Kate was absolutley lovely and happy to chat all things book.  We discussed how the Gothic Wool Exchange would be a perfect setting for a reading of her collection of atmospheric tales so fingers crossed we can persuade her to visit when the paperback is published this time next year.  In the meantime, as we are days away from Halloween, why not pick up a signed copy of the gorgeously illustrated ‘Mistletoe Bride’?   I’m racing through ‘The Boy in The Striped Pyjama’s’ to get to my copy!

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Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy – Helen Fielding (v.gd)

I’ve got to admit, after hearing the news about poor old Mark Darcy’s demise just a couple of days before publication,  I did a complete 360 going from ‘new Bridget Jones?  I can not wait’ to ‘oh my god, what has she done, I will NEVER EVER read this’ through to ‘well I might just give it a go when the paperback is published’ to actually seeing the book on the shelf and thinking ‘I’ll read the first few pages to see if it mentions the death…oh I’m hooked’.  Like many other loyal Bridget fans, I think I went through the full grieving process for our modern day Mr. Darcy and whilst some can’t get over it and feel that Fielding has jumped the shark,  I’m really glad that I decided to read the third installment.

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I was only a couple of chapters into the book,  when by chance I caught Fielding on Simon Mayo’s Drive Time and she was discussing how the only way to get Bridget back on the dating scene was obviously to make her single again. But she felt that there was no way Mark would ever leave Bridget which only left her with the option of killing him off. I completely agree that Bridget and Mark would never divorce and even though in reality many ‘seemabsolutleyperfectforeachother’ couples do end up divorcing several years down the line, nobody ever wants the fictional fairytale couples to do that.  They are supposed to ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after and I’m glad that Bridget and Mark get this. I briefly questioned why we couldn’t have a third book with Bridget juggling motherhood and modern life with Mark Darcy there in the background.  It’s been done before,  Sophie Kinsella married off Rebecca Bloomwood in Book 3 of the Shopaholic series with career, baby and house move providing enough material for further books.  Thinking about it though, I’m just not convinced there would not be enough of a storyline to bring Bridget back like this and as much as we love Bridget and Mark together,  we all first fell in love with hapless singleton Bridget.  Simply the advancements in technology and the knock-on changes in the dating scene makes bringing back a single Bridget worthwhile.

Onto the book itself, I’m not going to say much as I don’t want to give anything away however,  many of the favourite characters are back with Tom and Jude still looking for love,  Bridget’s Mum and Una still as bonkers as ever and Daniel Cleaver is still…Daniel Cleaver.  The plot itself, once you take away the children and Bridget’s disastrous attempt at being a scriptwriter, reminds me a lot of the original novel with Bridget going from sad singleton to having romantic prospects in two characters as opposite as Daniel and Mark and once again, it becomes apparent to the reader first which one she must choose…

Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy – ‘I heart you’

Chris Hadfield – An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

hadfield-book

First a confession for anyone who doesn’t know me – I’m a complete space nut. I love the science, the history, the human stories. On a clear night I’m the guy stood out there in the garden watching the International Space Station (ISS) fly overhead. So astronaut biographies are a dead cert for me – from the classic of Michael Collins’ Carrying the Fire, through Gene Cernan’s Last Man On the Moon, and now Commander Chris Hadfield’s new book about his own experiences in space.

Chris Hadfield is a Canadian astronaut, veteran of two Space Shuttle missions and became a twitter celebrity last year, with his awe-inspiring photography from his six-month shift on the ISS and then with his version of Space Oddity, sung from space, a version which went viral and has been seen over 15 million times on his Youtube channel. His new book starts off at quite a pace too, with the opening chapter running the reader through his life and career before joining NASA at a rate that makes you wonder what the rest of the book will have left to talk about. At times I found myself unfairly resenting his sheer rate of achievement – one more anecdote of “… and then our paper won the top award…” would have had me flinging the book against the wall in a fit of inadequate pique.

Fortunately that didn’t happen. The book settles down from Chapter 2 onwards as he describes his years at NASA, and the real Chris Hadfield comes out, a very competent and professional astronaut, sure, but also a human being with a strong knowledge of his own limits, a good line in self-deprecation, who has a job to do but does it not for glory and heroism or individual ego, but because he believes what he does is helping lay a path to the future and those who will come after him. Because also, he is ultimately part of a very big team. Astronautics is more than anything a discipline – of “sweating the small stuff”, of preparing for every conceivable failure before it happens, of supporting your colleagues without being asked, all lessons which can be applied right down here in life on the ground.

More than any other astronaut biography I’ve read, Chris Hadfield makes it clear that an astronaut’s job is not ten years of waiting around on Earth for a few days working in space – the work really is down here. As he puts it, an astronaut is a “perpetual Student”, one who is always required to learn, to train, to anticipate, to support the people flying right now, whoever they may be. In half a century in space we have learned a lot, but we are still finding our way and in orbit there is no such thing as a “minor” mistake.

The crowning glory of Chris’s career is of course his stint on the ISS, and he describes his preparation, journey and time there with great relish and lucidity in what to me are the most engaging chapters of the book. Here he draws the threads together – the years of training to get to this point, the standing on the shouders of the giants who helped build this amazing orbiting station whose giant observation windows casually frame miracles. And in addition his genuine desire to find new ways to communicate the awe to the public, the social media success which did more for NASA’s profile than the last 10 years of press conferences, an achievement which he modestly credits to his son Evan’s vision and work behind the scenes.

I ended up really liking this book and Chris Hadfield himself. I’d recommend it for anyone with a sense of wonder, anyone who has ever looked up at the sky and felt dizzied by the promise and challenge of exploring space.

Chris Hadfield – An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth (Pan McMillan, 285pp)

http://chrishadfield.ca/

A little bit of excitement at work

ImageI work in this beautiful old building and this is, usually, a wonderful thing. It can be very inspiring in quiet moments to gaze at the marble pillars, the statue of Cobden, the arched windows and the carved kings in the roof (before leaping onto the next trolly of stock to be shelved). Customers frequently ask us what the building was as it looks as if it was a church or a Jewish temple (there are a lot of Stars of David around the roof) – in fact it was used for trading fleeces. Hence the name, the Wool Exchange.

Usually the late shift is leaving around 6pm but tonight we were expecting a delivery of new tables so a group of staff were still there when I was leaving at about 6. Just as well – as the beautiful old roof is a little unreliable in heavy rain which is just what we had this evening. One minute I was looking out of the window and thinking of the word ‘stair-rods’ and the next I realised that there was nearly as much rain falling in some parts of the shop as there was outside…

Luckily we were able to move all the stock out of the way of the deluge and when I left the shopfitters were starting to sort out the new tables. I’m really looking forward to getting in to work tomorrow and seeing what the new layout looks like.

Jane

Grumpy Old Menopause by Carol E. Wyer

ImageI saw this listed as an e-proof yesterday, applied for it, recieved it and now I have finished reading it.  So you could say this was a book which was written with me in mind…..And don’t look away – even if this isn’t happening to you/going to happen to you it will be affecting your partner/mum/sister/check-out operator at Aldi.

This is a lighthearted look at the pains and perils of the menopause. The author knows what she is talking about – she is a comedian, teacher and physical trainer – and I for one found it pretty funny yet full of useful advice. In fact, it is all the sensible things you know you should do (eating healthily, doing exercise, keeping a good sense of humour), but served up in a light and palatable way.

I’ve highlighted a few choice phrases – my favourite is probably ‘my inner goddess is more of a Medusa’ although I tend to live by ‘I have found the cure for hot flushes. Chocolate! Does it work? I don’t know and as long as I have chocolate, I don’t care’. But all of us could probably do with remembering the words of Lauren Bacall (who certainly looked pretty good at whatever age) ‘I am not a has-been, I’m a will-be’.

The book isn’t out until December but I reckon it could save a few fireworks on Christmas day so look out for it…

Jane