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Griffin Books in Penarth #IBW2017

Today’s Independent Bookshop Week post features Griffin Books in Penarth. It takes its name from its lovely, calm and gentle owner, Mel Griffin, and is a cool haven on the busy high street of this seaside town just south of Cardiff.

At the front of the shop, there are carousels of pretty greeting cards and postcards which are as hard to resist as the tempting top table. This is directly in front of you as you step inside and is regularly updated with titles which Mel and her customers put forward as recommended reads. She also asks one customer a month to give their top three reads to be included in a regular What’s On My Bookshelf? feature in Penarth View magazine.

Mel gives everyone space and time to browse and even makes coffee to sustain you through it! (Or squash if you prefer.) As you can see, Squizzey and I took breakfast along for us all to enjoy during last year’s Independent Bookshop Week.

The shop’s well-stocked and has a good mix of titles on offer including authors local to the area. It’s easy to find your way around, fiction is to the left, non-fiction to the right, reference books in the middle and the children’s section is at the back of the shop by the counter. And if there’s a particular title you need, Mel can generally order this in for you very quickly.

Mel (centre) and customers celebrating Griffin Books 2nd birthday
Mel (centre) and customers celebrating Griffin Books 2nd birthday

Once a month, Mel runs a late night opening event at the bookshop where you can browse in the evening and enjoy a glass of wine, and sometimes has a guest author or local poet, like Fran Smith, there to showcase their work.

Together with running the Penarth Literature Festival, Mel puts on a great range of author events throughout the year, which range from lunches to afternoon teas to evening readings and signings and venues for these range from the local tea rooms to a church to a hotel overlooking the sea and even the local rugby club. I’ve got Mel to thank for being able to meet and chat with Welsh rugby heroes Eddie Butler and JJ Williams for which I’ll be eternally grateful! But I’ve also enjoyed lunch with Jessie Burton, afternoon tea with Belinda Bauer, and evenings with Julia Forster, Kate Hamer and Emma Donoghue. Okay, yes, there may have been some other people there, as well.

This year’s Penarth Literature Festival is being held in July and the programme’s focus is on authors local to the area. There’s something for everyone, young and old, whatever genre you read. I’m looking forward to getting to events with Miranda Emmerson (Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars) and Natalie Haynes (The Amber Fury and The Children of Jocasta). You can get tickets in the shop or online (subject to a booking fee) through Ticketsource. For more details on the programme or to book tickets, click on the logo.

For more info on Griffin Books, check out their Website, Twitter feed or Facebook page

Cover to Cover bookshop in Mumbles #IBW2017

My second post this Independent Bookshop Week (IBW) is a bittersweet one because the bookshop in question is closing this Saturday, 1 July, and my squirrel sidekick and I will miss our trips there very much.

Run by Sarah Rees and her friendly staff, who always give us a warm welcome and sound book suggestions no matter how busy they are, Cover to Cover is a gorgeous little bookshop in Mumbles.

Squizzey and I first discovered it when we included it in our inaugural IBW bookshop crawl. Since then, we’ve seized every opportunity to add it to a Swansea or Gower-bound road trip itinerary. It’s a real treat to head round Swansea Bay, parking up overlooking the mud flats of Mumbles and climbing the hill past Oystermouth Castle to visit Sarah’s shop on Newton Road.

Cover to Cover always has great window displays to entice you in after spending a proper amount of time admiring them. I especially like this one featuring The Girl in the Red Coat, or the coat at least, which was done for a Kate Hamer event.

The shop entrance is off to the right-hand side which always made me feel as if I were sneaking in. That first sight of the interior is magical and a little overwhelming; here is an Aladdin’s cave filled with bookish treasure and pretty gifts to tempt you.

From children’s books and soft toys at the front of the shop, it progresses from young adult to adult to crime fiction along the side wall on the left until you reach the till. I can understand Sarah and her team wanting to place the crime section right in front of where they’re working, so they can keep an eye on things! New releases and hardbacks are behind the counter and in the middle of the front of the shop, gift ideas. A narrow passageway lined with bookish totes and maps and notebooks leads you through to poetry, nature, travel and other non-fiction sections.

It’s a lively, friendly shop with people popping in for book chat and recommendations, to place or pick up orders, and to put their names down for an author event. I particularly enjoyed going to a nearby beach cafe for a Kirsty Logan event where she read from and talked about her wonderful floating circus book, The Gracekeepers, while we munched on Gracekeeper character cookies and mobiles spun about above our heads. And afternoon tea with Susan Fletcher in a small hall was really fun and entertaining when she was there to talk about her novel featuring Vincent van Gogh, Let Me Tell You About a Man I Knew.

So, this is my THANK YOU to Sarah for always being so welcoming, and especially for being so squirrel-friendly. (I know it’s not always easy!)

Thank you for making us feel as if we were your only customers even when the shop was busy with others.

Thank you for somehow remembering small things said on an earlier visit.

Thank you for always making time to chat and recommend books to us.

Thank you for all the books, cakes, chocolate and cookies, and tote bags.

Most of all, thank you for being there. We’ll miss you!

For more info, go to the Cover to Cover website or their Facebook page or Twitter feed.

UPDATE: Since writing this post, Sarah’s been in touch and while the shop is closing this Saturday, it will reopen in August under the ownership of Tim Batcup which is wonderful news. We won’t miss her any less but it’s good news that this marvellous Mumbles bookshop stays on our road trip itineraries.

Book-ish in Crickhowell #IBW2017

It’s Independent Bookshop Week this week, so I’m posting about some favourites in my part of Wales, starting today with Book-ish in Crickhowell, run by the energetic and lovely Emma and Andrew.

It’s not exactly my local but as it’s only about 45 minutes away by car and close to where my in-laws live, I often wangle a bookish stop off on the way to or from there. And in between those visits? Well, Book-ish is always worth a special trip of its own, if you’re even remotely close to the area.

Crickhowell is a pretty town on the banks of the river Usk, just south of the Black Mountains. Apart from the wonderful walking and beautiful surrounding scenery, Crickhowell has managed to keep independent shops on its high street and that one of these is a bookshop makes it especially appealing to me.

Earlier this year, Book-ish moved a couple of doors up from the corner shop it started life in and now has more room for books, stationery, gifts and toys than ever before. It has a well curated book choice and I always find something new when I’m browsing the shelves and either come away with an exciting find or a previously unknown (to me) author. There’s usually a good selection of books signed by the author as well, largely thanks to its programme of events. I lust after their stationery selection, have sent quite a few of their greetings cards to friends, eye up a new Lamy fountain pen every time I visit and crave bookish gifts for myself from among their totes and mugs. Read more

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