'Funny Girl' from Daunt Books, Marylebone



Daunt Books in Marylebone is a treasure trove of goodies spread over several floors consequently I could easily spend hours in there.  It is predominantly a travel book shop (yes, like the one from Notting Hill) with sections dedicated to various countries and continents.  They run regular events and are fully stocked on the latest fictions and non-fictions as well as plenty of lovely cards.

The first time I visited was in the store itself, located on Marylebone High Street I was surprised at how big it was given its Central London location.  I found the layout of the store fascinating as it allowed you to travel the world author-by-author: it's a great way to discover new and interesting writing.



The second time was an online visit where I ordered the 'Funny Girl' package and found the whole experience so wonderful I decided to share it with you guys.   There are lots of  different gift bundles offered by Daunt that would be the perfect gift for any booklover [whether that be you, or someone else you know! ;)]  The prices vary and seem to have gone up over the Christmas period from when I initially ordered this (it cost me £35-ish at the moment they're charging £45).  I imagine they will be reducing the prices once the present buying craze is over.

The Funny Girl:

 


Daunt offers over fourteen different packages, each coming beautifully wrapped in brown paper and blue ribbon.  If you're feeling particularly generous they also offer subscription services [I'm just waiting for someone to buy me one!] Every month the subscriber will receive a new book based on their individual tastes and preferences [if you're buying it as a gift for somebody they will send out a letter explaining the system, encouraging the receiver to get in touch to let them know what type of books they like].    The prices range from £135 - £312.




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'23' by Kalyn RoseAnne Livernois

Kalyn RoseAnne

Sometimes you’re 23 and standing in the kitchen of your house making breakfast and brewing coffee and listening to music that for some reason is really getting to your heart. You’re just standing there thinking about going to work and picking up your dry cleaning. And also more exciting things like books you’re reading and trips you plan on taking and relationships that are springing into existence. Or fading from your memory, which is far less exciting. And suddenly you just don’t feel at home in your skin or in your house and you just want home but “Mom’s” probably wouldn’t feel like home anymore either. There used to be the comfort of a number in your phone and ears that listened every day and arms that were never for anyone else. But just to calm you down when you started feeling trapped in a five-minute period where nostalgia is too much and thoughts of this person you are feel foreign. When you realize that you’ll never be this young again but this is the first time you’ve ever been this old. When you can’t remember how you got from sixteen to here and all the same feel like sixteen is just as much of a stranger to you now. The song is over. The coffee’s done. You’re going to breath in and out. You’re going to be fine in about five minutes. 


Discovering stuff like this just makes me so happy that the internet happened.


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Ulysses Rare Books, Dublin


First and foremost: Happy New Year!

Like many others, I experienced my first Amazon-free Christmas this year.  It was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be.  Thankfully,  when it came to looking for independent book shops I found that there were a lot more than I expected.   I'm starting off with this one because it was the bookshop (of the ones I have visited so far) that I loved being in the most.  I visited Ulysses Rare Books in the run up to Christmas and soon found that I was definitely susceptible to developing a 'thing' for collecting rare books.

It's located on Duke Street just off Grafton Street, right in the centre of the city.  A stone's throw from the National Library (which currently has an free-of-charge exhibition on Yeats which is well worth a visit).  It was originally called Cathach books - and the video below is from their website, it gives you a bit of an idea about the history of the shop and the kind of books they specialise in:



 
I am interested in Irish literature anyway as I study a fair bit of it on my MA course in Modern and Contemporary Literature.  In November last year I had an unforgettable seminar on Ulysses which mostly involved the tutor telling us the parts of the book which still didn't make sense to him, despite him having read it at least a hundred times.  Anyway, I digress.  My point being that whilst there are endless gems in there for somebody with an interest in 20th century Irish literature (lots of Wilde, Yeats, Joyce, Beckett - to name a few) there were also beautiful books from authors from all over the place.  I also discovered that rare books aren't as expensive as I thought they would be.  There were lots around the 20 - 50 euro mark. (It was around about this time that I had to forcibly remove myself from the shop). 




My only complaint would be that whilst I was in there I eavesdropped on a couple of customer enquiries and whilst the staff were very knowledgeable about their stock and friendly when a  customer enquired about creative writing courses in the area the staff hadn't got a clue.  Now, I appreciate that it was a book shop, but it seemed like there was a great opportunity being missed.  In a time when book shops are under threat I think a good way to drum up trade would be to establish connections between all stages of the literary process: writing, publishing, selling, and collecting - no?  What do you guys think?  Do you know of any book shops which advertise and show awareness of creative writing courses or do you think book shops should stick to selling books?  

Let me know what you think!

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Books Are My Bag: A Challenge


October 11th was Books are my Bag day: a nationwide campaign to celebrate book shops.

Yet, if I am honest, I don't really shop in book shops.  Yes, I will browse the book section of charity shops (and inevitably buy a couple) but when I want to buy a book the first place I look is online.  I have become so accustomed to being dependent on a certain website for books that it wouldn't occur to me to go to a bookshop first. 

I haven't always been like this, though.  I grew up with several book shops around me and every Saturday I would go and treat myself to a new one.  I would spend ages, knowing I only had my little pocket money to spend, debating which book to choose.  One week it all got too much and I ended up persuading my dad to increase my pocket money to allow me to buy two a week - one just wasn't enough anymore.  Yet, slowly these book shops closed, I became more and more dependent on sites like Amazon, and I forgot about the art of browsing book shops (for hours on end...)  Now, the nearest book shops to me are supermarkets full of commerical fiction and celebrity autobiographies.

I have gotten so used to depending on Amazon for my books that I have forgotten the art of browsing in a good book shop.  It never even occurred to me when I would get frustrated at not being able to find something suitable on Amazon to get up, leave the house, and find a book shop.  And yes, as a book blogger, I am feeling very ashamed right now.  But I don't think I am alone in this.  I don't think I am the only person who doesn't even really know where to begin on Amazon's vast database; it really just doesn't compare to having the books in front of you and being able to consult a friendly faced expert when you're stuck.

A much more successful #BAMB attempt last year

So, this is my challenge.  I am going to attempt to incorporate more bookshops into my life.  Which means going out of my way to find them; probably spending more once I have found one; and avoiding a certain website I have mentioned several times already, so won't again.  I will be writing monthly feature posts on the latest book shop I have found; so that by the next Books are my Bag day I can safely say I have discovered at least twelve new bookshops! AND I would also like to invite you all to join me!

Wherever you are in the world, go go go and visit those book stores, and report back!  I would love to have some guest posts from you guys about your favourite book shops and eventually, together, we can build a little community of bookshop gems and hopefully encourage anyone thinking of opening a book shop but scared that they'll be unsuccessful.  I will add a tab to the top of the page with info about how you can get involved - in the mean time, get out there and start looking for amazing bookshops!



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Recipe: Sablé Biscuits

 

SablĂ© biscuits are derived from the French term for 'breadcrumbs'.  They are so versatile; if you're looking for a simple biscuit to accompany a more complex dessert these can work well when cut into rectangles and kept plain. They can also be flavoured, I've recommended Vanilla essence but I think an almond essence would also work well; most importantly - they are very delicious!

If you attempt this recipe - let me know how you get on in the comments or tag me in a picture of them on Instagram; as ever, if you have any pearls of wisdom from your own baking attempts - be sure to share those too!

Ingredients:

250g plain flour (plus some more for rolling)
200g butter
200g icing sugar
2 free range egg yolks
4 tbsp jam
Vanilla essence (optional)

Method:



Step One:

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/ Gas Mark 3

Step Two:

Mix the very cold butter (100g) and the sugar (100g) together; then add the egg yolks

Step Three:

Slowly mix in your flour; adding a pinch of salt

Step Four:

Leave the dough to harden in the fridge for a minimum of an hour (some recommend leaving it overnight so the longer in the fridge, the better!)

Step Five:

Roll out the dough in between two floured sheets of cling film until it is quite thin (approx 0.5cm)



Step Six:

Cut out the biscuit shapes and place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.

Step Seven:

Cut out a hole in the middle of half of your biscuits.  Do this once they’re on the tray!  The dough is really delicate so it’s impossible to successfully transport a thin biscuit with a hole in the middle (trust me, I tried…)

Step Eight:

Bake for roughly 10-12mins until your biscuits are golden.  They’ll be very soft when they come out of the oven, so be careful when removing them from the baking tray.

Step Nine:

Leave the biscuits to cool for a bit.  Take a small amount of jam and spread on to the non-holey biscuit; place the holey biscuit on top. 

Step Ten:

Dust with icing sugar; make a cup of tea, and enjoy!
 



 


PSSST: As I approach the 10,000 follower mark (truly crazy, I know!) I am gathering a wonderful selection of goodies to giveaway to my lovely readers; I will be announcing the giveaway on twitter + instagram shortly so start getting excited!

National Poetry Day: Warming Her Pearls

Today is National Poetry Day. I have decided to share a poem which I was taught in school. I am inclined to think that the poets and poems we come across in school are more likely to affect us than those we encounter later on in life. Whether that’s because they’re specifically chosen because of their vivid imagery and memorable themes or because you remember English lessons more fondly once you’ve left them behind, I don’t know… I know that my mum still remembers all the words to the poems she learned in school (I think that was more to the nuns making her chant them repeatedly, though...) and to an extent I still remember mine, do you?
 
I would love to hear about the poets you learned about at school: the poems which made an impact on your younger self. Or perhaps your current self if you’re still at school! 
 
 
 
Warming Her Pearls 
 

 Next to my own skin, her pearls. My mistress
bids me wear them, warm them, until evening
when I’ll brush her hair. At six, I place them
round her cool, white throat. All day I think of her,

resting in the Yellow Room, contemplating silk
or taffeta, which gown tonight? She fans herself
whilst I work willingly, my slow heat entering
each pearl. Slack on my neck, her rope.

She’s beautiful. I dream about her
in my attic bed; picture her dancing
with tall men, puzzled by my faint, persistent scent
beneath her French perfume, her milky stones.

I dust her shoulders with a rabbit’s foot, 
watch the soft blush seep through her skin
like an indolent sigh. In her looking-glass
my red lips part as though I want to speak.

Full moon. Her carriage brings her home. I see
her every movement in my head….Undressing,
taking off her jewels, her slim hand reaching
for the case, slipping naked into bed, the way

she always does…And I lie here awake,
knowing the pearls are cooling even now
in the room where my mistress sleeps. All night
I feel their absence and I burn.

C A R O L  A N N  D U F F Y