Welcome to the first in a series of book subscription reviews. I’m starting with The Barrister in Wonderland Bookshop in Retford, which is a children’s bookshop owned by my friend Helen.
The first time I met Helen, she punched me.
Although I probably deserve a bit of a slap now and then, this punch wasn’t a wilful act of violence but an act not only encouraged but almost compulsory as part of a boxercise workout at a fitness event I’d been invited to.
At the time, we both wrote fitness blogs and, although I’d never met Helen in real life before and had no idea whether she’d be fun to hang out with or a complete knob, I only ever went to blogger events if they involved alcohol – either before, during or after but preferably all three – and therefore needed someone to go to the pub with after.
The event was a preview of a new workout devised by a certified personal trainer who, to be honest, should have been certified because she was very orange and very shouty and Helen and I spent the entire time glancing at the door to see if we could make our escape to the pub. Unfortunately, the PRs stood guard all night, blocking our exit route until the end of the session.
I won’t bore you with more details of that night but, if you want to, you can read the post I wrote about the event here.
The Prime Minister of Retford
As far as I know, Helen has now stopped punching people and is now a respectable pillar of her local community and, as well as owning a bookshop (jealous much?) she’s also Prime Minister of Retford or something like that.
Book subscription reviews
Now I’ve waffled on about fitness events I no longer go to, a fitness blog I no longer write and alcohol I no longer drink, I’ll get onto the main point of this post, which is book subscription reviews.
A few months ago, I saw a Facebook ad for a book subscription review. It was a particularly girly subscription and contained girly stuff apart from books and, while I’m most definitely not particularly girly, something about the book subscription appealed to me and I sent off for a one-off box.
Then Facebook kept sending me targeted book subscription ads (I am a sucker for targeted Facebook ads, as my ever-growing collection of cat-themed t-shirts will testify) and I decided I’d buy a new book subscription each month and review them here on this blog.
The Barrister in Wonderland Bookshop Book Subscription
Although Helen’s shop is primarily a children’s bookshop, I knew she offered monthly book subscriptions for children and adults, so I had a look on her website and saw she offered three-monthly, half-a-yearly (that’s ‘six months’ in English) and yearly book subscriptions.
So, because Helen a) still owed me for punching me; b) might appreciate the business and the publicity; but mostly because c) she’s a nice person and not likely to say no, I asked if she’d do me a one-off subscription. Unsurprisingly, she said yes. She also said I didn’t have to pay for it.
See, I told you she was a nice person.
When you take out a monthly book subscription with The Barrister of Wonderland Bookshop, Helen will send you a form to fill in so she can choose a brand new book she hopes you will like. Although I wasn’t officially taking out a subscription, Helen asked if she could send me the form so I got the whole book subscription service experience and I said yes, send me the form, so if it’s a really shit form, I can say in my review it’s a really shit form.
It isn’t a shit form.
The form asks for the age of the recipient (if the recipient is a child – you can just put ‘adult’ if you’re an adult), the authors they like and whether there’s anything to avoid and if there’s anything else Helen should know in order to help her choose each month’s book.
I dutifully filled it in with some books I’d recently enjoyed and said if she sent me any Jane Austen (I’m more of a Caitlin Moran fan) I’d be making a trip to Retford to have words, and waited excitedly to see what she chose for me.
The parcel arrived and inside was a beautifully packaged book (Helen reuses the packaging the books arrive in from the publisher to wrap the book subscriptions in. Helen is a nice person and environmentally friendly.), postcard and bookmark, tied up with string. Helen had also included the book journal that is usually only included with a purchase of the yearly book subscription. I can only assume this is because she’s still feeling guilty about punching me.
I unwrapped the parcel to see what she’d chosen and was delighted to see she’d chosen Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata – a book I’d picked up in various bookshops many times (because it has a yellow cover and I love yellow) but never got round to buying (mostly because I thought it was rather a short book for the price. I appreciate this is a really shit reason for not buying a book. Then again, buying a book because it has a yellow cover is probably a shit reason for buying a book.)
Thank you, Helen!
If you’d like to know more about The Barrister of Wonderland Bookshop or to purchase a book subscription for yourself or someone else (in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s Christmas soon and a monthly book subscription is a fab gift) you can visit the website here.
You can also feel good about yourself and give that well-known tax-avoiding online bookshop and purveyor of cheap Chinese shit a swerve by ordering books either direct from Helen, or from her bookshop front at Bookshop Org.