General Posts, Non Reviews

Bookish Travelogue: Hay-On-Wye, Wales – “Book Town”! (& So Much Cool Stuff)

I’ve done quite a bit of book shopping and touring during this trip, which culminated in the “World’s First Book Town”. Last year a book blogger that lives in that region of Wales posted about the town and I was lucky enough to be able to go check it out and finally rest my fear of missing out on something like this.

All things considered we only went to a few of the many bookshops in Hay-On-Wye, but they were full of massive amounts of used books, artwork, old posters, and other oddities to check out. Here’s the ones we went to and I’d recommend all of them!


So the day started off at Brecon, a town on the way and a place I believe was called Brecon Books. I didn’t buy anything but they had a great used SFF area and I learned what the old UK Harry Potter books looked like. Apparently they have child and adult editions with different covers so that people don’t mind being seen reading a “children’s book”. That also said, I think Dumbledore was described a little better than this back cover. Either way, interesting stuff. I also saw the UK Narnia covers and like them a lot more


After that, it was on to the main event


These stores love their crazy old sci-fi and bookish ephemera.  Hay-On-Wye Booksellers had piles of old copies of Astounding and other magazines & things, plus rooms and rooms of non SFF books.  To be noted, the ones we went to all had large used SFF collections. I grabbed one for kicks from May, 1945.


This particular bookstore also had views surrounded by books so that was cool. Hard to see here but you could see an old church from one side and the castle from the other, plus out over the fields

I think the next stop was Addyman Books, which had a few specialized locations but the one we went to had some fun things and of course piles of books everywhere.  It also has cutouts of the star trek captains 🤣


Another store in which I didn’t buy anything but was shocked by the size of it, was Richard Booth’s. They also had some extremely cool old posters and just a ton of old magazines, collections, and “out there” sci-fi & fantasy books. Even if you don’t buy anything it’s totally worth a look-see

Look at those covers though, I almost bought Horses Asteroid just for kicks but I don’t have unlimited packing space 🤣

The last main stop was Hay Cinema Bookshop, which was not only huge and had another shockingly huge old books collection, but I found my real gems there which were 1/1 paperbacks of some Black Company books! Check out this haul!

They just had… Omg so many books. This is only part of one hallway from at least two floors of deep rows.


Some other honorable mentions were a bunch of outdoor but covered books called Honesty, where it was unattended but they asked for a donation of a pound. And located in the shadow of the castle!

One that we didn’t go into but looked awesome from the outside was Murder and Mayhem, which focuses on mysteries & crime and a link can be found here. I think most of the booksellers have their links on this site too so you can check them all out!

This is the link to all of the bookstore listings, with better photos and website links

Well – is this a place you’d like to visit? Where have you been where there are tons of bookstores??

If you’re looking for more bookshopping in the UK, I did a similarly surface scratching post for our Great London Literary Crawl here 😅

General Posts, Non Reviews

Bookish Travelogue: The Great London Literary Crawl!

I & we hit so many bookstores and literary landmarks this week, it was awesome!  Tomorrow we are off to sci-fi weekender which I hope will also be fun 😊

Here’s a few of the bookstores and landmarks we went to, and most of the book haul I ended up with this week!

Cecil Court is full of old books, antiques, maps, art stores, a few actual gaslamps, and so much more.  I’m sharing this one first because I found my coolest book acquisition in the Goldsboro Books discount bin…

How cool is that, a Tchaikovsky Arc!

I also found a few other paperbacks up around that area, including at Any Amount of Books, a great little used bookstore with a small but spicy SFF collection in the basement 😃


Besides that, I went to Foyles and found a bunch of Paddington books that I’m going to gift out to family and friends with young kids! I loved the Foyles store but the American History section was a joke, apparently they think our entire history is Trump 🤣


A cool store to roam around though.

I also went to both Hatchard’s and Blackfriars Bridge because of the Shadowhunters books, no regrets there at all.  Bride’s Church is the only landmark I didn’t bother tracking down!

Hatchard’s is a beautiful store with all the books ever, but I didn’t buy anything 

We also obviously saw at least four Waterstones, where I didn’t buy anything but my excellent book crawling buddy found a few new SFF reads to load up on.

Lastly, Forbidden Planet is absolutely deadly.  I say forever and ever that the UK has better editions than the US. I mean y’all’s covers are beautiful and if I had a million dollars and unlimited packing space I’d be in serious trouble! That said, I bought two signed editions from their lovely collection of books and have no regrets there. They won’t quite match my US editions but that’s ok!

There were a few other bookstores, literary statues, a George Orwell themed pubs, and many other places to go and see too.  I would 100% recommend the British Library.  Obviously King’s Cross Station 9 3/4 is a must see for Potter fans, as well as the Mina Lina museum/store which is up near Foyle’s somewhere.  There’s so much to do literary wise in London that I could write three posts about it. 

Leicester Square was fun too, movie and literary statues all over!


Anyway, I barely scratched the surface here but off to a good start!

Where have you traveled or wanted to travel to that has good literary destinations??

General Posts, Non Reviews

So You’re Going to the UK for the first time? Here’s 11 Things I Wish I Knew

I used to write a lot of travel related blog posts and miss being able to do that. I also haven’t been travelling as much since COVID obviously. That said, I finally made it to the UK this month and there are a whole bunch of things I wish I had known prior to arrival. I had some hilarious mis steps and WTF moments that I thought would be fun to share and hopefully helpful to others who are planning their first trip!

#1 First off – Money! This is a no brainer for anyone who does a lot of international travel but I actually didn’t know that most local banks in America can order money from anywhere in the world and exchange it free of charge.  You have to give them 3-4 weeks notice but you’ll save the premium fees that an international exchange will charge you, and you’ll get the current exchange rate.  Good to know, right?

#2 Tipping! Tipping is confusing as hell because in the UK they don’t do it, it’s just already added into the bill.  Americans tip 20% on a good day but in the UK they’ll look at you like you have six heads.  They understand “keep the change” but conventional tipping, not a thing.  You won’t get full service either in restaurants but the norm seemed to be to go to the bar if you need something 😅

#3: Hygiene – WHERE ARE THE WASHCLOTHS! Oh, my goodness. This might just be local to England but no one knew what a washcloth was.  I got into the shower at the hotel and looked around, absolutely horrified to realize that there were no washcloths. I thought I was missing something and had to step dripping out of the shower to ask my friend where the washcloths were 😂🤣 I’m dying at this point and come to find, it’s not a thing in that country.  So for everything that’s holy, pack a loofa or washcloth or exfoliating soap, or whatever you use at home.  

#4 Toilets – the UK toilets are weird.  They’re super deep and don’t have much water in them but don’t be worried, they do work fairly well.  They were pretty filthy in the train stations though so I would literally try to go anywhere else.

#5 – Electronics – OK listen up because this one is important – I would have been well and truly fucked if my phone USB didn’t plug into my friend’s charger.  You’re going to need a converter for your device plug ins to fit into UK outlets. 

I had to spend a week with my hair up because I couldn’t straighten it 😭

You can get something like this fairly cheap and you 100% definitely need it

#6 ladies – the UK is trying to conserve plastic by not using trash can liners in a lot of places.  They do have them available at hotel desks or from cleaning services though so, you know, if you want a few just ask.  Don’t be horrified if you need a can liner.

#7) Slang: slang is a beast of its own but I’ll say two that confused the hell out me.  First: when someone says the time, if they say “half eight’, that means 8:30, not 4:00.  I got pretty confused for a minute there.  I also noticed my friend referring to legwear as “trousers” – Americans call these “pants”, or “jeans”, but in the UK apparently “pants” means UNDERWEAR so don’t tell someone they have nice pants 🤦‍♀️

#8) Transportation – the UK is apparently striking a lot and their train schedules get a little whack at times, and during the weekend.  Hotel concierges everywhere (not just UK/EU) are pros at booking taxis and helping with other means of public transport if you need, so definitely ask them for help.  Specifically for the UK they use an app called BOLT that is similar to Uber, and you can download it ahead of time. It seems pretty reliable but if you really NEED transportation at a certain time, obviously use a reputable taxi service.

#9) Coffee – oh my Lord don’t expect good coffee.  Americano was the closest I could find to normal American coffee, and it’s essentially instant coffee in water.  That said, they refer to it as espresso but it’s more or less instant coffee. You can get it with milk too.  They love to make lattes.  If you order “you know…plain regular coffee?” You get latte.  In some areas of Europe it’s all Sanka, so idk what would happen if you tell them Sanka, but that might be worth a try too because it’s along those lines.

That said though, I missed out on tea because I was trying to find good coffee so … Don’t pigeonhole yourself.

#10) alcohol– I noticed too that they have a totally different relationship with public alcohol than we do.  People can drink anywhere.  It’s totally normal to drink when eating out, even breakfast menus have their own drink specials and then it just  continues throughout the day.  Most people looked at me like I had six heads when I tried to show ID.  Here, we have to show it everywhere soooo it is what it is but I wouldn’t bother showing an ID unless asked.

#11) Let’s also talk about pedestrian right of way: oh, no we can’t because it doesn’t exist. Americans treat sidewalks and staircases like roadway traffic usually so there’s a flow that makes sense.  The UK does not, it’s a total free for all.  I had many collisions including an unfortunate coffee to the white jacket mishap 😳

I’ll also add that flights and layovers are their own total can of worms now.  I would recommend any international layover to be at LEAST two full hours long, as you’ll have to go back out through customs and security in most countries and you will be lucky to make a shorter layover than that.  I don’t care what the airline says, give yourself time during international layovers because most are as stressed and short staffed as America is.

So friends, was this helpful at all? Did I miss anything? What did you wish you knew when travelling?


Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction

Far Sweeter Than Honey (Book Thoughts) by William Spencer

Thank you so much to Dart Frog Books for the finished copy of Far Sweeter than Honey: searching for meaning on a bicycle by William Spencer.  All opinions are my own!

I was so excited to read about Spencer’s trek from England to India via bicycle.  This is the perfect book for someone itching to travel right now and I thought that it had all the elements of a good travelogue – interesting people to meet, descriptive scenery, food and culture, and of course personal reflection.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Far Sweeter than Honey
  • Author: William Spencer
  • Publisher & Release: Dart Frog Books, December 2020
  • Length: 302 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for fans of travel, culture, memoir

Here is the synopsis:

This is the true story of a young man’s epic bicycle journey from England to India. Traveling more than eight thousand miles, he encounters all manner of adventure, from the curious company of a butterfly in the wilds of Iran to the aftermath of a coup in Kandahar, Afghanistan—from navigating the foreign yet welcoming Muslim world, where he learns the basics of Islam, to the journey’s end in mystical India, where he arrives at an understanding of what it means to be free.

William Spencer establishes himself as a writer to watch in his debut book, weaving masterful storytelling and cultural insights in a page-turning adventure.

Spencer gives detailed and immersive descriptions of the countryside and cities, including weather, wind, and road conditions.  Whether a bucolic French countryside or the middle eastern desert, I thought he took excellent notes.

The journey originally happened in the late 1980s, and I wonder what was changed since then! Even though some elements may now be outdated, it was extremely interesting to read about the culture and culture shock, customs and people that Spencer encountered.

I heavily enjoyed the Turkey through Pakistan chapters the most.  Spencer met, for example, a college student at Damascus university taking an English lit course – and when talking about “popular authors”, none were familiar! The culture shock also came through as Spencer and his friend, Rudy, had to navigate different customs and hospitality norms, from how to act towards women to how much skin to cover.  Another image that stuck with me was the author sitting on the bank of Sea of Galilee, where Jesus walked on water in the bible, and someone was waterskiing on Christmas eve!  I can see where his expectations and reality would have totally clashed in those situations.

Spencer was struggling to reconcile the western ideal with the eastern reality, and it gave me some things to think about too.  I liked that he could say like OK, my impression on these locals is adding to their impression of Westerners, and that’s important.  Especially in those middle eastern chapters, I found the author becoming more likeable in my mind as he started accepting things as they came.

I also really, really liked the longer Pakistan chapter at the end. I had a doctor friend from a northern region (I forgot where) and he showed me tons of videos and told stories from home, and I could definitely feel some of that regard from the expats that Spencer wrote about, even in the 80s or early 90s.

The last thing to mention is that photos and sketches from the journey are included! The photos are mostly of people, while the sketches are of scenery, trees and such, and I think they added a lot to the story.  The only thing that mystified me was how long it took for Spencer to just accept the fact that there is both good and bad in every culture! One cheating merchant or unruly group of kids would sour his mood towards an entire region, even where most experiences were positive, then he would swing back again when the next good thing happened.

That said though, the book was a great mix of hardship, positive and negative, and I think a great portrayal of the journey.  There is absolutely no way in today’s day and age that one is going to visit half of these places and I loved getting a glimpse of the foreign countries.

Definitely check this one out if you like travelogues, memoirs, new ideas and cultural exploration.  It’s a slow ride but totally worth it

General Posts, Non Reviews

A New England Literary Tour, Plus Some Cool Books

Title says it all, right? I spent the past week with mom driving from WNY to Boston, seeing the sights, cheering on the Patriots in peace, and of course hitting some literary landmarks.

Here are a few things that I hope book nerds can appreciate!

Our first stop was in Middlebury, VT, at Monroe Street Books! The largest used bookstore in Vermont! The shelves were towering almost to ceiling height and there were ladders to reach the high shelves! Great prices and dollar bins outside with plenty of great titles. Verdict: a must visit, bring a friend in case you need your ladder held!