The Open Book

by Colleen Morrow in ,

Yes, Monday did end up drier and it was a busier day, with lots of people through and some excellent sales but the real interesting part of the day came when Renita came in and asked us if we knew Princess Anne was going to be in town later.

We did not.

She encouraged us to come down to the church to be part of the welcoming committee and shortly before 2, we put a sign on the door that we were hanging out with the princess and locked up the shop. She was, of course, late but the local school children had all been brought out of school to meet her so they kept us entertained with their antics and we chatted with an older couple from New Zealand who were also visiting Wigtown. Renita, who does storytelling herself, did a wonderful rendition of the Three Little Pigs that was worth the delay. Soon, Anne did arrive with much security but was whisked fairly quickly inside the church. We weren't sure if we had gotten a good photo or not. But we were told she would be saying hello on her way out and we were encouraged to wait so we did. And after some time inside and a tour of the cemetery, she said hello to quite a few people. She was very focused on the person she was speaking to at any time and spent a fair amount of time making her way back to her car. I had really hoped for a good royal wave from her but if she did one, I missed it. Then we were back to the shop and closed up for the day. Dinner was at a new place this time, Cobwebs, where mac & cheese and a steak & ale pie filled us up before heading back to the flat. Our internet connection hasn't been the most stable, we've had to only connect iPads and keep to the lightest of browsing - any kind of video will cut it right off and the router is down in the shop so it's a pain to reset in the evenings. Good thing we have our books. While hunkered down with said books, there was a knock on our door and the infamous Nanette was there with shortbread she had made us. She normally comes in the shop on Tuesdays but she was going to be away so she dropped it off Monday night to us instead. And it was amazing. Very similar to my family's shortbread recipe and we enjoyed it thoroughly!!

Tuesday came soon enough and I wasn't feeling great in the morning so I got some extra sleep while my sister manned the shop on her own. When I got down a bit later, we had a steady stream of customers and a steady stream of reading before closing up and talking a walk that led us out of Wigtown to a lovely treed path before wandering around the main road into town and then onto a side road. All the cows and sheep we saw turned to look at us but none were overly interested in chatting so we just kept going, eventually getting to the martyr's stone where two women were drowned for sympathizing with Covenanters.  The path took us along the old Wigtown harbor, which now is mostly just marshland. Then, it was back up to the flat, where I promptly went to bed since I was feeling poorly again. I can only presume that my sister hit up all the late night hot spots in the town and generally caused a ruckus.

Wednesday, I was back on my feet (butt? I did a lot of sitting) and with the sun shining, we opened the shop and kept the door open all day to enjoy the warmth of the sun.  We met Joyce, one of the local book sellers, who is also active in the festival organizing committee. She was excited about our Canada jigsaw puzzle that we had out as her daughter is a bit puzzle fan. We've also had some lovely chats with customers over our few days in the shop - some knew that the book shop was an Airbnb (one had been trying to book for some time) and others didn't but were delighted to discover how we came to be at the shop. Of course, all our customers through out the week wanted to know where in Canada we were from since it was pretty clear we had a connection to the country somehow. After closing, we hit up the bookshops we hadn't seen yet, including The Book Shop, which is the largest second-hand bookshop in Scotland. It also felt like it continued for miles. It's so big, they've built a little loft bed in one of the rooms, in case you need a nap. We also checked out Curly Tale Books, the children's bookshop and a couple of non-bookshop shops - they do exist!

Thursday was our last day in the shop. It was hard to believe it had flown by so quickly and we were nearing the end. We met Rosemary, who owns the building, and Jessica, who was the one who thought up the idea of turning the shop into the Airbnb. Rosemary was by in the morning for the flower boxes and told us a bit about the Bride of Lammermoor.She was from the late 1600s and had to marry someone she didn't want to. Shortly after the wedding night, her groom was stabbed in the groin in their room while she cowered in the unlit fireplace. He recovered but never said who stabbed him. She refused to eat and died a short time later. Rosemary researched the story and wrote a book about it so was excited to tell us all about it. Jessica is from the States but has adopted Rosemary as her Scotland mother. While we were chatting with Jessica, Rosemary returned and kidnapped us. Don't worry, all is well now. But the castle from the story she told us is not far from Wigtown so we jumped in her car (there's an exception for the rule about not getting in a stranger's car if they are Scottish, right?) and she took us off to see what's left of the castle from the story. It sits on a private farm but Rosemary has some connections so we were able to see the old gate and the back wall of the castle, which is all that is left now. Luckily for us, Andrew, the farmer was also there and he took us on the other side of the wall, where his lambs are penned so we got to see some lambs up close and personal. Some got quite close but none would actually come up to me. I think it's because they recognized my sweater as cashmere. 

After our adventure, we headed back to the shop to do our final tally and tidy. It was sad to close up shop but it was a great week. I feel like we were just getting into the swing of things when it was all over, though. We boxed up the jigsaw to take to Joyce's daughter and then locked the door one last time. Then, it was off to one last fish & chips dinner before turning in for the night.  

Friday ended up coming with an unwelcome surprise. We had a fairly lazy morning as our flight to Rome wasn't until 4 so we got up and packed and tidied and then headed off. About 1/3 of the way to Edinburgh, we got a flat. We had no spare. So we settled in to wait for roadside assistance, because of course, we were in the middle of nowhere. Despite our best efforts, we just missed our Rome flight so had to reschedule and ended up in Rome about an hour later than expected. We were certainly happy to see our hotel and get some sleep before our big Saturday plans - the Vatican and Borghese Gallery!   

In all, our week at The Open Book was a delight. We met some great people and had a lovely time minding "our" shop. I know they are booked up until 2020 but it's really worth it, if you can hold out that long!


From the Big City to the Book Town

by Colleen Morrow in ,

We spent one last morning in Edinburgh on Saturday, visiting Craigmillar Castle, where Mary Queen of Scots went when she was depressed and where the plot to kill her husband was hatched. So you know, a very cheery place.   

The castle was left to fall into ruins in the 1700s but the ruins have now been restored and it's a lovely site to tour around. Much of the tower house is open to the elements so there were a lot of nesting birds and roofless rooms as we explored. It was also quite maze-like, it was hard to tell sometimes if we had seen a section or not, with the multiple staircases running through it. It drizzled for most of our touring time, turning to rain near the end and navigating with an umbrella was tricky at points. On more than one occasion, my umbrella was too wide for a passageway and I had to turn it to the side to get through. 

After heading back into the city centre, we picked up our bags and headed back to the airport to pick up our car and make the drive to Wigtown. The drive was on the rainy side, as expected in Scotland, and we were mostly on highways, instead of the motorway.  It was easy enough to adapt to driving on the left - though it took a while to adapt to the rear view mirror on the left. Aside from that, driving was smooth sailing, until I tried parking and ran into the curb. But that happens enough when I drive in Canada that I'm still calling the whole thing a win. 

When we arrived in Wigtown and found our bookshop (The Open Book), we met George, who showed us around the flat and the bookshp. It was late enough in the day that we didn't open but rather wandered around the little village. After an early dinner at the infamous Craft (fish & chips, obviously) we picked up a few necessities at the local co-op and settled in for an early night. 

Sunday morning rolled around soon enough and we got the bookshop open around 9, adding our Canada paraphernalia around the shop. It was a slow day, with only five customers and two sales - though we exceeded last Sunday's sales. We also met Renita and her lab, Bonnie. Renita is part of the organizing team for the annual book festival and runs the event in The Open Book during festival time. She and Bonnie were an excellent welcoming committee, with stories about The Open Book and some of the other bookshops and people in the village. Bonnie spent most of the visit looking for crumbs or leaning against us, demanding pets, which reminded me of someone else I know back in Canada (Penelope, I mean you...)

We closed up shop around 3 so that we could check out some of our competition (Byre Books, Reading Lasses, The Old Bank Bookshop, and Beltie Books.) Reading Lasses and Beltie Books had lovely little cafes as part of their shops and Reading Lasses had a room dedicated to female authors, which was lovely. The Old Bank went on for ages, I was beginning to think it was the never-ending bookshop!! They also made really good use of their high ceiling with bookshelves towering over us. And Byre Books was hidden in a back garden, making it such a delight to find.  

Then it was back home for some snacks before heading back to Craft for their Sunday Roast dinner, featuring turkey roast, so it felt like Thanksgiving. I left feeling like I had just eaten Thanksgiving dinner, too.  

Today, we're back in the shop and it seems like the rain may have let up for the day already. We'll see if it stays dry - I think we'll have more customers if it isn't raining! 


It's 24in48 Time Again!

by Colleen Morrow in

Time for another 24in48 readathon.  It's so nice when the date gets announced months in advance and then you realize you're free the entire weekend and can blissfully participate without any guilt :)  I've already gotten about an hour of reading in so far today but I want to get back at it so without further ado...  My intro survey:

  1. Where in the world are you reading from this weekend? Same as always - from my house in Southwestern Ontario in Canada.  I often read up in our finished attic but we're suffering a pretty big heat wave right now so while it's somewhat cool right now, I think I'll have to relocate to the main floor by late morning. 
  2. Have you done the 24in48 readathon before? Yes, this is my third time.
  3. Where did you hear about the readathon? I initially heard about it via a tweet from someone I follow but I now follow 24in48 on Twitter and subscribe to the blog's RSS feed.
  4. What book are you most excited about reading this weekend? The Year Of Yes by Shonda Rhimes, I think...  It's my audio pick for the weekend and the book I already started this morning.  I've heard amazing things about it and so far, I'm really enjoying it.
  5. Tell us something about yourself. Oh, I never know what to put here...  I'm travelling to Iceland in September to drive the ring road so if anyone has restaurant suggestions, pass them on!
  6. Remind us where to find you online this weekend. Well, I'll be here when it's time to update progress and I'll be on twitter, instagram, and litsy as janeycanuck in all places.  


  • Finished Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes (5 hours, 25 minutes)
  • Finished Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler (2 hours, 20 minutes)
  • Finished The Shunning by Marianne Paul (3 hours, 30 minutes)
  • Finished Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg (3 hours, 15 minutes)
  • Finished My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (3 hours, 45 minutes)
  • Progress on The Irrational Bundle by Dan Ariely (5 hours, 5 minutes)
  • Started Dear Girls Above Me by Charlie McDowell (40 minutes)

I made it...  I ended up doing just over 24 hours as the last 20 minutes I had planned on doing to carry me to bedtime turned into about 30 or so.  I had thought about only doing about 18 hours at one point but I stuck it out with the help of audios.  So now time for the closing survey:

  1. How many books did you read? Pages? (If you didn’t keep track, tell me that too!) So I finished 3 paper books (628 pages), 2 and a bit audios (just under 12 hours) and made really good progress on an ebook that has been languishing on my Kobo for a really long time (got it to 68% from somewhere around 30, I think...).  
  2. How many hours did you read? The full 24.  And about an extra 10 minutes on top of that.
  3. What do you think worked well in this readathon? I really like the check-in posts - every 6 hours is good, it doesn't make me feel like I need to always be checking in, gives me lots of time to make progress in my books.
  4. What do you think could be done to improve the readathon for next time? This is a purely personal thing but starting Friday night would be an improvement for me.  I could read late into the night on Friday, get up early on Saturday and have just a bit of reading to do Sunday.  I think I'd have better balance to my weekend if I did that cause the Monday morning after is always so hard!
  5. Will you participate in a future 24in48 readathon? Yes, I think so.  I love having an excuse to do nothing but read.

2016 Reading Challenges Update

by Colleen Morrow in

Well, here it is, 4 months into the year.  How's that ol' TBR you ask?  Well...  It's both good and bad.

For the good - I did REALLY well with the TBR Triple Dog Dare and managed to read only what was on my stack before the year started.  I made a great dent in the pile, reading over a dozen books from it.  That was pretty great.  In April, I've mostly read things that I've acquired since the start of the year or that caught my eye in the first three months of the year.  And I acquired more than I would have liked...

Some were purchases, some were gifts, some were from a Reddit gifts exchange.  And the result is that I have the same number of books on the TBR today that I did on Jan 1.  So it's time to buckle down again.

Estella's Revenge (the hostess of the #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge) is doing a #SmashYourStack challenge for May and I'm hopping on board in hopes that I can make half of my reading in May from my pre-2016 shelf.  

To that end, I'm going to try to get as much reading done as I possibly can during Bout of Books. This will be my first time taking part - and essentially, you just push yourself to read more than you usually do over the course of a week.  


Time for 24in48!

by Colleen Morrow in

A while back, I found the 24in48 readathon and participated in my first one.  It's back now and despite it slipping from my mind until late yesterday, I'm ready for another one today!

I've already gotten a good start on my 24 hours but it's time for a little break for the intro survey!

  1. Where in the world are you reading from this weekend? From my bed and sofa and other sofa.  And maybe a chair.  All of those things are located in southwestern Ontario in Canada. 
  2. Have you done the 24in48 readathon before? Yes, this is my second time.
  3. Where did you hear about the readathon? I initially heard about it via a tweet from someone I follow but I now follow 24in48 on Twitter and subscribe to the blog's RSS feed.
  4. What book are you most excited about reading this weekend? I haven't picked anything out - I'm just going to pick up whatever strikes my fancy.  So I'm pretty excited about seeing where the weekend takes me.
  5. Tell us something about yourself. I'm wearing my Books are in my Wheelhouse t-shirt today and have set aside my library stamp t-shirt for tomorrow.
  6. Remind us where to find you online this weekend. Well, I'll be here when it's time to update progress and I'll be on twitter and instagram at @janeycanuck on both.

Progress Updates:

  • Finished Ten Good Seconds of Silence by Elizabeth Ruth (3 hours, 25 minutes)
  • Finished The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su & Kate Rorick (3 hours, 7 minutes)
  • Finished Orphan Number 8 by Kim van Alkemade (4 hours, 51 minutes)
  • Finished Afterimage by Helen Humphreys (3 hours, 12 minutes)
  • ¾ of The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman (9 hours, 38 minutes)

2016 Reading Challenges

by Colleen Morrow in

For the last two years, I've been participating in Roof Beam Reader's TBR Challenge.  For the last two years, I've failed miserably.  Okay, maybe not miserably - each year, I've gotten 8 out of my 12 books read.  RBR isn't running the TBR Challenge this year so I went off to hunt for something new to try to keep me in the spirit of reducing the shelf space that the books I haven't read take up.  And I found three that I'm going to take on.

The first I found is James Reads Books' TBR Triple Dog Dare challenge.  In this challenge, you only read books that were on your TBR as of December 31, 2015.  This one shouldn't be too troubling for me, I'll just have to watch that I don't put myself down for any holds at the library that'll come in for me before the end of March.  And really, if I can't read what's in the house for three months, I'm not sure there's any hope for me.  

The second challenge I'm trying is My Reader's Block's Mount TBR Reading Challenge.  This is the closest of the three challenges to RBR's TBR Challenge but I don't have to pick the books out in advance.  I think that's been a big part of why I haven't been successful - what piques my interest in January doesn't generally still have my attention in August.  With this challenge, I can just grab whatever interests me at the time instead of feeling like I have to pick up a particular title.  I'm signing up for the Pikes Peak level, which is 12 books from my TBR and I think I can do it!!

The third and final challenge I'm taking on is Estella's Revenge's Reading My Own Damn Books challenge.  This feels more like a support group than a challenge, which feels very promising to me.  In this one, the goal is to just read your own damn books.  Andi has a couple of rules for herself - the first being to read her own damn books.  She's trying to knock 100 books off her pile of 210 so I'l also aim to reduce my pile by about a half - which is somewhere around 25 books.  And the other rule that I'll also adopt is not buying a new book until I've cleared 5 of the current ones out.  

So, wish me luck.  I'm heading into 2016 with somewhere around 50 books on my TBR, including the books I have on hold at the library.  Maybe I'll try to knock that down a book or two before the end of the year :)

24 in 48 Readathon!

by Colleen Morrow in

So on Thursday, I saw a tweet about a 24 in 48 readathon.  I had to investigate.  I used to do the Dewey Readathon with fair regularity but it's just not the right readathon for me.  But this 24 in 48...  Now here was something I could work with!  The aim is to read for 24 hours over a total period of 48 hours.  And that is perfect.  Because it means I can sleep and I can spend some time on SM seeing what other people are doing and it doesn't cut into my reading time.  So I signed myself up.

I picked out an armful of books last night plus two audios and I'm going to get cracking.  I'll be posting mostly to instagram & twitter with the hashtags #24in48 but will update this post periodically.  If you want to find me at either site, I'm @janeycanuck on both.  

Progress updates:

  • Finished Slow Food by Carlo Petrini (total of 2 hours, 37 minutes)
  • Progress on The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender (3 hours so far)
  • Finished Eat More Better by Dan Pashman (total of 4 hours, 5 minutes)
  • Finished The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn (total of 4 hours)
  • Finished All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew (total of 2 hours, 55 minutes)