Magic at your Doorstep aka Independent Bookshops Rock!

The Magic Book Box

Last week I told you about how I collected a box of books from the children’s bookshop near my home with no idea of what was inside. This was a challenge I set the shop owner (Katie) because every book she’s recommended to me previously has turned out to be great.

Up until last year the majority of my books came from places like Amazon and The Book Depository and a large quantity of them still do now.  With a tight budget being able to buy 4 or 5 books for the same price as 3 makes online offers hard to resist. But the advantages of actually using a local bookshop are well worth the paying the RRP.

I’ve loved reading since I was 6 and made the mistake of telling my mum I was bored (she handed me my sibling’s old Famous Five books). Spending hours reading reviews and getting lost in the “recommend” section of online stores is a lot of fun. Yet the problem with “recommend” is that these are generated based on what you have read or previously looked up. Two of my favourite books this year, Geekhood and Pop! are books I never would have looked at in a shop and I highly doubt Amazon’s recommend tab would have picked them out either.

So my recommendation: If you have a bookshop near you – use it.

Once they get to know you they’ll probably start suggesting books you haven’t heard of and you never know what wonderful treasures you might discover. 😉

After original post Katie (shop owner) left the following comment:

“I’d be interested to know in your reviews whether you’d heard of it and then based on the cover/blurb etc whether you would have bought it otherwise. I guess you could do a separate post to answer that for all the books. And I’m DYING TO KNOW how you pick which order to read them. Not a hint. Don’t read Dying To Know You first. Or do. I don’t mind. It’s your box.”

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So here are the results!

I will be posting full reviews over the next few weeks but for now I can tell you that the very first and the last book read were my favourites. I would happily recommend all but one and I didn’t actually know 7 of the 9 books.

I have posted them in reading order, and in answer to Katie’s question I picked the first to cheer up after reading Code Name Verity and choose Dying To Know You last because I was sure I’d love it. Apart from that I just picked them randomly depending on my mood that day.

Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster

A trustee of the John Grier orphanage has offered to send Judy Abbott to college. The only requirements are that she must write to him every month, and that she can never know who he is. Judy’s life at college is a whirlwind of friends, classes, parties, and a growing friendship with the handsome Jervis Pendleton. With so much happening in her life, Judy can scarcely stop writing to the mysterious “Daddy-Long-Legs”!

Previously heard of the book? No
Would I have picked it of the shelf based on;
Title? No
Cover? No, though I’m starting to love it.
Blurb? Maybe.
Recommend it? Loved it.
Review: here

The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

On remote Rollrock Island, men go to sea to make their livings–and to catch their wives.
The witch Misskaella knows the way of drawing a girl from the heart of a seal, of luring the beauty out of the beast. And for a price a man may buy himself a lovely sea-wife. He may have and hold and keep her. And he will tell himself that he is her master. But from his first look into those wide, questioning, liquid eyes, he will be just as transformed as she. He will be equally ensnared. And the witch will have her true payment.

Previously heard of the book? No but have another title by the same author (which I have yet to read)
Would I have picked it of the shelf based on;
Title? Maybe
Cover? Yes
Blurb? Yes
Recommend it? Yes, I want to re-read it because I think it’ll be even better second time round.
Review: here

The 10 P.M. Question by Kate De Goldi

A warm, surprising, real and intelligent novel you will fall in love with. Frankie Parsons is twelve and has a rodent voice of worry nibbling in his head. His new friend – colourful, creative, talkative Sydney – has relentless, unavoidable questions of her own that force Frankie and his family to face up to things that have lain dormant for years.

Previously heard of the book? No
Would I have picked it of the shelf based on;
Title? Maybe
Cover? Maybe
Blurb? Not sure
Recommend it? Yes
Review: here

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, like the local grocery store, and they know whom to avoid, like the crazy guy on the corner.
But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a new kid for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then Miranda finds a mysterious note scrawled on a tiny slip of paper:
“I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.
I must ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter.”
The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows all about her, including things that have not even happened yet. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late.

Previously heard of the book? Yes, my friend recommended it last year.
Would I have picked it of the shelf based on;
Title? Maybe
Cover? Yes
Blurb? Yes
Recommend it? Absolutely
Review: here

Everybody Jam by Ali Lewis
Danny lives on a cattle station in the middle of the Australian outback, where everyone’s getting ready for the annual muster. But this year, everything is different: because Danny’s beloved older brother Jonny has died in a farm accident, and nobody talks about it: because his fouteen year old sister is pregnant, and about to be packed off to Alice Springs in disgrace: because his mother can’t cope, and has decided to hire a housegirl… and what they get is a wide-eyed English backpacker called Liz. She has no idea what she’s let herself in for. Neither do they.

Previously heard of the book? No but I seem to remember seeing the cover somewhere.
Would I have picked it of the shelf based on;
Title? No
Cover? No
Blurb? No
Recommend it? Absolutely
Review: here

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

Lee Fiora is an intelligent, observant fourteen-year-old when her father drops her off in front of her dorm at the prestigious Ault School in Massachusetts. She leaves her animated, affectionate family in South Bend, Indiana, at least in part because of the boarding school’s glossy brochure, in which boys in sweaters chat in front of old brick buildings, girls in kilts hold lacrosse sticks on pristinely mown athletic fields, and everyone sings hymns in chapel.
As Lee soon learns, Ault is a cloistered world of jaded, attractive teenagers who spend summers on Nantucket and speak in their own clever shorthand. Both intimidated and fascinated by her classmates, Lee becomes a shrewd observer of–and, ultimately, a participant in–their rituals and mores. As a scholarship student, she constantly feels like an outsider and is both drawn to and repelled by other loners. By the time she’s a senior, Lee has created a hard-won place for herself at Ault. But when her behavior takes a self-destructive and highly public turn, her carefully crafted identity within the community is shattered.

Previously heard of the book? No
Would I have picked it of the shelf based on;
Title? Maybe
Cover? Yes
Blurb? Yes
Recommend it? Not sure
Review: here

How the Light gets in by M. J. Hyland

Lou Connor, a precocious, gifted, and unhappy sixteen-year-old, is offered a place as an exchange student in the United States, something that she hopes will take her far away from her bleak life of poverty in Sydney, Australia. Having endured a childhood with an emotionally crass, deadbeat family, she welcomes the opportunity to live the middle-class life she has long dreamed of. But soon after she moves in with her host family, the Hardings – who live in a prefabricated mansion in a nameless Chicago suburb – Lou’s acute need for acceptance and love runs up against the Hardings’ suffocating pursuit of a particular form of suburban perfection.

Previously heard of the book? No
Would I have picked it of the shelf based on;
Title? Yes
Cover? Maybe
Blurb? Maybe
Recommend it? Yes
Review: here

Going Out by Scarlett Thomas

Luke is twenty-five and allergic to the sun. He is stuck in his bedroom, where the world comes to him through TV, the internet and Julie’s visits. Julie, meanwhile, is brilliant, kind and could be changing the world. Unfortunately she is too terrified of aeroplane crashes, road accidents and potentially life-threatening bacteria to leave her home town. When someone contacts Luke and claims that he can cure him, Luke and Julie have to deal with their fears and face the world outside. With four friends, wellies and a homemade space suit, they set off in a VW Camper van along Britain’s B-roads. It is a journey that might just change their lives.

Previously heard of the book? No but I have The End of Mr Y
Would I have picked it of the shelf based on;
Title? No
Cover? No
Blurb? Yes
Recommend it? Absolutely
Review: here

Dying to Know You by Aidan Chambers

Karl, aged seventeen, is hopelessly in love. But the object of his affections, Firella, demands proof, and poses him a series of questions regarding his attitude to the many sides of love. But Karl is dyslexic, and convinced that if Firella finds out, she will think he is stupid, and unworthy of her, and leave him.
So Karl asks a local writer to help him construct his replies – and an unlikely, but extremely touching, friendship develops between the two men. They both come to learn a great deal about about life from a very different perspective, and when an act of violence shatters their calm, they find their respective appraisal of life shifting in profound ways.

Previously heard of the book? Yes
Would I have picked it of the shelf based on;
Title? Yes
Cover? Yes
Blurb? Yes
Recommend it? Loved it.
Review: here

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I’d say that challenge worked out pretty well for everyone – what do you think? 🙂

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7 thoughts on “Magic at your Doorstep aka Independent Bookshops Rock!

  1. A lot of these look really good & like you I hadn’t heard of most of them. I love that you put whether or not you’d heard of it, if you would’ve picked it up based on different things, & if you’d recommend it. I will definitely be adding some of these to my wishlist & I can’t wait to see all of your reviews for them. =) Great post! (And thanks for stopping by my blog.)

  2. Pingback: How do you book shop? + Independent Bookshop wins again! | Luna’s Little Library

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