Bookstore Review: The Country Bookseller

Bookstore Review: The Country Bookseller

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Hello again! This is one of the latest reviews I’ve written in a while. I am just so behind and down to the wire! I visited The Country Bookseller yesterday, though I’ve been there many times before. It’s one of the closest bookstores to me geographically, though truthfully, it’s never been my go-to. Every time I visited, they didn’t seem to have things I enjoyed reading (which has evolved quite a bit over the years, but the first time I visited, I was definitely in that post-Hunger Games young adult phase). It felt more like a bookstore for those who vacation in Wolfeboro, NH (the oldest resort town in America!) than those that live around it (because trust me, it’s a very different vibe! We know when you’re not from ’round here). (Sorry for all the parentheses, y’all…).

For this visit to The Country Bookseller, I was looking for a few books to fill out my 52 Book Club challenge (be sure to read my December update next week for more info!). However, it was a very crappy day out – rainy, it had just snowed the night before, mushy and cold – the perfect day for reading. That’s what I’m going to blame my insanely high total at the register on, if anyone asks. The weather just drove me to buy more books, lol.

For being a small space, The Country Bookseller makes excellent use of their shelves, creating nooks and crannies as well as great spots to curl up and read a rainy day away. When I first arrived, I was the first one in the store, but in all the hidey-holes the bookseller surely could’ve misplaced me. But being small has its downsides, too, because their selection has to be perfectly curated, and they definitely don’t just hold multiple copies of this week’s fad book. I’ve always thought it’d be interesting to know the process behind selecting inventory at shops like these. How do you decide what will fly off the shelves, and what might still be sitting there, years later?

The shelf space being at a premium also meant that they don’t have tons of real estate for front-facing books, either. The fiction section is a large collection of spines – which can get hard to look at, truthfully. Even display tables were packed with spines out, not so many laid out to view covers. I find that to be a difficult way to shop, but I don’t think everyone does. It was well organized all the same, so if you knew the title you wanted, it was right where you’d expect it to be.

As the store started to fill up with people (surprisingly busy for a Thursday morning!!), it started to feel a little cramped, but I noticed the majority of the store’s customers were picking up special orders. Interesting! I knew most stores did this, but I think at least two of the customers in front of me were picking up. The bookseller was super nice, and signed me up for their awesome rewards program that essentially amounts to 10% off all my purchases. THAT was a score, especially if I can special order books.

I wish the cafe had been open – of all the times I’ve been to The Country Bookseller, I think it’s been open once. I’m unsure their hours, but I might have been inclined to stay a while longer with a hot cocoa in hand.

And lastly for my thoughts, the romance selection was minimal. I get that a lot of people don’t read it, but I think that feminist, contemporary romance is becoming a little more popular, and I had for sure read every one of the few that I found on the shelves there, except the one I picked up. I’d be happy to make a few suggestions on authors to keep on the shelves. 😉

So, on this visit to The Country Bookseller, I brought home: The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling (finally! and looks like a quick weekend read!), The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero (Meddling Kids has been on my tbr for several years now, but, and you’re going to laugh at me…my copy smells funny), A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw (The Wicked Deep is one of my favorite spooky witch books of all time), and The Therapist by B. A. Paris (I have yet to read a Paris for myself, but everyone I know says I would love the books and the twists, so I grabbed her newest). I’m actually really excited about this haul. I think I hit a lot of birds with one stone on this one.

And though you might not know what I’m talking about just yet (like I said, look out for next week’s monthly reading update!!), here are the prompts I’m thinking of using these for:

3. Title Starting with the Letter “E” – The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling

22. An Unlikely Detective – The Therapist by B.A. Paris

42. An Indie Read – A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw

And I’m not quite sure where to plot The Supernatural Enhancements. It doesn’t seem to fit any of the prompts I have left. Maybe I’ll just have to read it this calendar year… 🙂

This recent trip, and my awesome haul, certainly changed my perspective on The Country Bookseller a bit. I’m excited to go back and fill up that rewards card.

Bookstore Review: White Birch Books

Bookstore Review: White Birch Books

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hello again! Time for more adventures in book shopping!!

This time I ventured north, to White Birch Books in North Conway, NH. I was actually headed to Conway to get some tattoos, but figured I could hit two birds with one stone! But not literally. We like birds, don’t hit birds. I had added quite a few books to my TBR during Goodreads’ horror week, so I was coming armed with quite the list.

Unfortunately, this is another one of those times where coming armed with a list did not benefit me. I think shopping frequently with Gibson’s has spoiled me: they tend to have exactly what I need, nearly every time, no matter how obscure. I think that’s also something that comes with shopping in your own area. I live just outside Concord, but White Birch Books is in Conway, two hours from my home. Reading tastes and the books available in any given region has always been something I’ve enjoyed exploring. Conway did prove to have some things I hadn’t seen or expected, but also, naturally, lacked some of the things I was looking for as a reader from two hours away.

I found two out of five of the books I was trying to track down. Not horrible, and my wallet certainly appreciates it. The collection at White Birch is pretty small, so there wasn’t much in the way of browsing, either. Their choices for inventory seems to strike me as the choices of a vacation area bookstore, which is exactly what Conway is, really: they carry current bestsellers, good beach books or by-the-fire books, gifts, and that’s about it. I notice this about some smaller shops in the Lakes Region as well. It’s similar to an airport bookstore in that they only carry what they can get rid of quickly. I don’t think this a bad thing, so don’t take it as a criticism, but it’s an observation that I think distinguishes some stores from others.

That said, the staff at White Birch are clearly readers. Their staff recommendations were everywhere. And they had some great choices, too! I enjoyed reading recommendations for books I had read, too, just to see their thoughts. The bookseller who helped me check out had read one of the books I purchased, and their boss had read the other. They recommended both. That’s the kind of bookstore conversation I live for! 🙂

Okay, now this is going to be a really weird observation. Hold onto your hats. This is a big complaint of mine, even if it’s a silly, small thing: there was no music playing in White Birch Books. Not classical. Not light cafe music. Nothing. Nada. I was afraid to walk because YOU COULD HEAR MEEEEE. I hate going in places and having it be that quiet; I think it’s really anxiety inducing. I almost popped an earbud in while I browsed, like I do at my office when it’s too quiet. I would make the argument that maybe it was to help people concentrate, but this really wasn’t set up as the kind of store you linger in. There’s no cafe, and there’s very few tables or chairs. So why, I ask you, can’t we have some soft jazz?? I could hear my stomach digesting my Crunchwrap Supreme, y’all.

So these are my grievances. White Birch is a cute little bookstore, and if you need the world to tell you what to read on a weekend away, this is your place. Just, like, don’t eat Taco Bell before you go.

I left White Birch with Cackle by Rachel Harrison and My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones. Never mind the fact that I haven’t actually finished The Return or The Only Good Indians yet. Mind your business, stay in your lane. I’ll get there when I get there.

Hope you have a lovely weekend my friends. Happy November!

Bookstore Review: Innisfree Bookshop

Bookstore Review: Innisfree Bookshop

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Happy Friday!! And happy October!!

This week I got to visit Innisfree Bookshop in Meredith, NH. As my deadline to write this review crept closer, I realized I was running out of time and running out of energy to drive too far…and luckily, I ended up at a home inspection just minutes down the road from this lovely shop on a Friday night!

I had been to Innisfree once, many years ago, and had memories of not finding exactly what I needed that particular time. When I had first visited, I felt like the books they had on hand weren’t exactly what I liked to read, but luckily didn’t face that this time! I left with far more than I was looking to bring home… *facepalm*.

I’ve been really into houseplants lately, now that my boyfriend and I are finally in our own apartment. They’re decorative and lovely, but also make the place feel fresher. We’re in a stuffy converted garage of sorts, and I’ve had to be creative to make sure they get the light they need…but I digress. The point here was that I was looking for a copy of How to Houseplant, which I’ve been looking everywhere for. The library used to have a copy, but it got lost. Libby for ebooks didn’t have it, either. So I was thrilled to see Innisfree’s website said they had a copy!

But alas, I think I’m simply not meant to have How to Houseplant. Innisfree has the most wonderful, curated selection of gardening books, including a healthy amount on houseplants. I ended up unable to find How to Houseplant, but I did pick up Houseplants for All. But again, I’m digressing, because the point of my side note story here was that, when I got up to the counter, I asked about How to Houseplant, and the staff spent no less than ten minutes trying to track it down for me. The point was not that they didn’t have it. The point was that their staff was amazing and helpful and tried really, really hard to find me that book. And because their selection was so awesome, I left with the information I needed regardless.

Innisfree is in the cutest little building at Mill Falls Marketplace, with brick walkways and water views. They’ve made a lovely use of their space, with all the books a vacationer might need with plenty for us full-timers, too. The store had been rearranged since the last time I was there, and I felt like they had even more selection. Their displays were thoughtful, with staff picks, Hispanic Heritage Month reads, and more. This was the rejuvenating experience of going to a bookstore that I needed.

I ended up leaving with four books: Houseplants for All by Danae Horst, The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood, Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (seeing as I loved Mexican Gothic!), and The Very Nice Box by Laura Blackett and Eve Gleichman. I had seen The Very Nice Box at the Bookery, but wasn’t intrigued enough just yet…but I’ve seen it at every bookstore I’ve gone too since, so consider my interest piqued. We shall see.

All in all, I’m highly recommending Innisfree Bookshop! I’m glad I gave it another shot, because now I’m totally going every time I head through Meredith. Stop in and check it out!

Bookstore Review: Bookery Manchester

Bookstore Review: Bookery Manchester

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Hello again friends! I’m back with another bookstore review for you, this time of Bookery Manchester on Elm Street in Manchester, NH.

The moment you walk into this store you’re met with this hip, book-lovers’ heaven of decorating. They have incredible honeycomb shelves to highlight new releases and favorites, open tables of displays everywhere, light fixtures made of book pages, walls of windows, cozy nooks for kiddos, and tables everywhere to sit with your coffee and read – including outside on their patio. It’s a great use of the space they have, and it feels both clean and simple, but also cozy.

One big thing I’ve noticed about the Bookery is that you can’t come with a list in mind. The Bookery doesn’t tend to carry current bestsellers, or books you see on bookstagram – but I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. They’ve got a really cool collection of books that are well curated and fit the vibe. I definitely feel like if I pick up a book, the staff has put extra care into making sure it’s quality or indie, or maybe they’ve even read it themselves. I love that, and I love that it tends to highlight the kind of staff working in a store as well, based on their selections.

That being said, I don’t read like the staff at the Bookery, lol. I did find some books I wouldn’t have found otherwise, but not everything in the collection speaks to me and my reading taste. The books I’ve picked up at the Bookery over the past few years have been books I probably wouldn’t have picked up otherwise: not to say that they’re bad, but if you read like me, you might find yourself in the same situation.

I was feeling extremely blessed that Thursdays are my days off when I saw recently that the Bookery has a BUILD YOUR OWN PB&J BAR on Thursdays. Obsessed. I dragged my sister and my mom along for this excursion, and we were all very excited for sandwiches. The food I’ve had at the Bookery before was fantastic (bacon avocado wrap, anyone??) and their coffee is absolutely mouthwatering. This trip, I enjoyed a grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich with one of their specialty brews: a Fangirl iced latte in honor of bookstore romance day! It was STELLAR. Our sandwiches were so full of peanut butter, though, we could hardly finish them. No joke. Yummy, but filling!

Speaking of bookstore romance day, they had an AWESOME display out with some of their favorite romance books, all COLOR-CODED and marked with the corresponding trope!! Thought that was awesome. Some of my favorite book blogs over the years have broken down their reviews to their tropes, particularly of romances where it really matters to readers. It was awesome to be able to pick something up and already sort of know what I was going to get. I grabbed one off the table on my way to the register simply for this reason! I had read most of the books on the table so I was pretty confident they were all great picks. I’m super excited to read this one.

During my trip to Bookery Manchester, my book haul included Happy Endings by Thien-Kim Lam, and Gory Details: Adventures from the Dark Side of Science by Erika Engelhaupt. Stay tuned for those reviews!

So, to summarize: love the staff, love the thoughtfully curated collection, and of course: love the food and coffee. I think, for the store’s size, its thoughtful picks make more sense than stuffing it to the brim with bestsellers or “the next big thing”, but I do miss the ability to walk in and get exactly what I’m looking for. Bookery Manchester remains to be a book shopping experience I enjoy on occasion or for browsing, but I wouldn’t seek it out as my regular haunt. Hope that adds up!

Check out the Bookery online or in store on Elm Street in Manchester!

Bookstore Review: Gibson’s Bookstore

Bookstore Review: Gibson’s Bookstore

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Hello friends! I’m trying something new! Once a month on the first Friday I want to share with you a review of a bookstore. I love bookstores: love the smell, love the vibe, love being amongst friends (books, of course). And I want to share the love!

Gibson’s Bookstore is the obvious choice for my first review. It is a well-loved favorite of mine, being only 15 minutes away in Concord, New Hampshire.

I recently left my library assistant position in Barnstead after four amazing years working with the love of my life, books, beside my very best friends. Those very same pals got me a very generous gift card to Gibson’s as my parting gift, which I happily took there this past week.

I’m obsessed with Gibson’s front tables. Every Tuesday they refill them with that week’s new releases in hardcover and paperback. They’re my first stop when I come in and inevitably the thing that hooks me after I’ve paid and supposed to be headed out. They do an incredible job with this selection and I love the effort to stay current.

And speaking of the selection, Gibson’s is amazing. The books available are carefully curated, thoughtful picks by a staff that reads a really wide range of genres. Each and every area of the store contains a great assortment of incredible books.

The Laydown Podcast is an awesome project by some staff at Gibson’s. While I’m not a consistent listener, I have loved listening to some of my favorite authors talk about their books and the stories behind them. Lyssa Kay Adams’ episode was incredible and I love recommending it when I recommend her books. It adds something special to the reading experience, and I think that has a lot to do with Gibson’s staff being readers themselves, and knowing just what readers want to know.

Lastly, while it’s not the store itself: Gibson’s website has improved leaps and bounds. I actually love to peruse their site now, organized by genre, and get some ideas of what’s new or popular. They’re super efficient with their online orders, and their website was a life saver during COVID. I was more than happy to spend my money locally, with a business as involved as Gibson’s is.

So during this trip to Gibson’s Bookstore, my book haul included: The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary, The Burning by Tim Madigan (adapted for young readers), It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey, and Such a Quiet Place by Megan Miranda. Stay tuned for those reviews. 😉

Have a lovely week! Check out Gibson’s Bookstore this weekend, in store or online!!