Bookish Happenings

Adventures at McKay’s Books (Nashville, Tennessee)

You’ve never been to a used book store quite like McKay’s.  If you’re in Tennessee or North Carolina… or if you’re visiting Tennessee or North Carolina… or if you’re nowhere near Tennessee or North Carolina… you should check this place out.  It’s quite the experience.

My friend Kristine and I are on a quest to conquer all the bookstores in Nashville (even if she doesn’t know it yet).  Our first stop on this bookish tour was Parnassus Books and we took a strong detour to McKay’s.  Where Parnassus is an expert in the new and bestselling, with plenty of author meet and greet opportunities, and chic, trendy, bookstore design, McKay’s is like a thrift shop on steroids.

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We walked in and immediately it was major sensory overload.  People were grabbing shopping carts… in a book store.  I thought to myself, “Is that really necessary?”  Turns out it is.  Imagine rows and rows and rows… and rows… of bookshelves from floor to ceiling jam packed with used books.  Kristine got there before me and when she texted me to say she was in the Bargain Fiction section, I figured it would be pretty easy to find her.  Wrong!  My first thought when I walked into the building was, “Um, how the hell do I find Bargain Fiction?”  Luckily, McKay’s is pretty smart and puts laminated cards on the end of each aisle with a list of genres and the corresponding aisle in which you can find that genre.  Thank you for that!

When I found Kristine she had a couple of books in her hand.  Bestsellers.  Each for $1.50.  That is not a typo.  Ridiculous.  I found myself perusing the shelves of Bargain Fiction with my head permanently tilted to the right, neck craned, reading every spine in the hopes I would find some steals.  Folks, Bargain Fiction included titles like Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris,  Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah, and One Day in December by Josie Silver (all for $0.50 to $1.50).  It was not your typical “bargain” section that has beat up Danielle Steel mass market paperbacks.  Although it had those too…. for $0.25 a piece.

I picked up this luxurious haul of books by authors Diane Chamberlain (author of The Dream Daughter), Elin Hilderbrand (author of The Identicals and The Perfect Couple) and Tatiana de Rosnay (author of The Rain Watcher).  Four books for $5.46.  You cannot beat that.

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Now… I know this is a blog about everything books.  But McKay’s is in the business of so much more than that.  Think board games, toys, puzzles, DVDs, electronics, comic books… the shelves go on for miles.

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And one thing that I find super unique at McKay’s is how organized it is.  You can walk into most thrift shops and expect to see shelves of junk that have been picked over and are in disarray.  These shelves are borderline immaculate, organized alphabetically by author, and very well maintained.  If you’re allergic to thrift stores, I would consider this place the exception to your allergy.

If you’re looking for fantastic books at a low price, you need to check this place out!

Bookish Happenings

Read Across America Day 2019

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!  You would have been 115 years old today!  And in honor of your birthday, we celebrate Read Across America Day, a celebration of reading and literacy to encourage our children to pick up books and enjoy!

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I was lucky enough to participate in the Read Across American celebration at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt (the incredible place that I work) which we celebrated on Thursday.  When the email came through asking for staff and faculty volunteers to read books to children, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity.  As we all know, I love books.  And I love the chance to share that love with others, especially kids.

I will admit that I signed up with no frame of reference for what I would be doing.  I just knew I would be reading in a 30 minute time slot.  I imagined a flock of children huddled around me as a read a classic book, excitedly kneeling closer and closer to get a glimpse of the pictures.  But when I showed up at 2:30 PM there were no children.  Imagine my surprise when I walked into Seacrest Studios, the radio studio within our hospital donated by the Ryan Seacrest Foundation, and was told I would be broadcasting to all the rooms in the hospital!

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I scurried over to the stack of books from which I was to choose: Hop on Pop, The Very Clumsy Click Beetle, Where the Wild Things Are…

And what did I choose?  Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day!

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I didn’t realize how short the book was until 10 minutes later, I was done reading!  It went by in a flash.  And although there weren’t any kids in the studio with me, I hope I put a smile on their faces and the faces of their families from the comfort of their rooms.

What are you doing to celebrate Read Across America Day?

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Bookish Happenings

Five Best Places to Win Book Giveaways

I often see questions on social media from fellow book lovers wondering how they can get their hands on advanced copies of books, particularly if they aren’t dedicated book reviewers.  While there are many answers to this question, giveaways are probably the easiest way to snatch a book before it hits the shelves.

Giveaways are also a fantastic way to discover new authors and push yourself outside of your typical reading genre.  I personally have found myself a new fan of several authors I’d not previously heard of after winning giveaways for their latest novels.

So, you ask, where are the best places to win these giveaways?  Well, let me tell you!

  1. Goodreads

Goodreads is probably the easiest place to start.  They run hundreds of giveaways every week and you can organize by Featured, Ending Soon, Most Requested, and Recently Listed.  My game plan is usually to sort by Ending Soon and scroll through to find the books that catch my eye.  You are able to see how many copies the publisher is giving away, how many people have entered so far, and when the giveaway ends so you can get a good idea of your odds of winning.  In the last year I’ve won 19 Goodreads giveaways for the books below and have reviewed 8 of them so far.

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2. Bookish and BookishFirst

I don’t have as much experience with entering Bookish giveaways but I’ve heard great things from other people.  Bookish has a Giveaway Central page that lists tons of new, upcoming titles.

Now, BookishFirst is something a little unique.  You have to do a little work to earn your spot in the giveaway by reading a mini-excerpt of the book that’s up for grabs and responding with a short review giving your initial impressions.  But my guess is that there are less people entering these raffles so your chance of winning may be a little higher than your average giveaway.

3. Join Book Groups/Follow Reviewers on Social Media

Interacting with the reading community is one of the best ways to learn of new giveaways.  The admins running the pages often partner with publishers to host giveaways on their social media sites, and sometimes authors drop by to do Q&A sessions with their fan base and raffle off a book or two in the process.  I’ve won one book through my favorite bookish Facebook group, In Literary Love (shh, don’t tell the others)!

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Some of my other favorites who frequently host giveaways are: A Novel Bee, Rebecca’s Book Reviews, and Suzy Approved Book Reviews.

I am not a huge participant in the “Bookstagram” world but if your preferred social media platform is Instagram, here is a list of the 12 Bookstagrammers you should be following in 2019.

4. Join Author Mailing Lists

Have a favorite author (or several favorite authors)?  Many have their own mailing lists and newsletters where they post giveaways for their upcoming books.

Some of the authors I subscribe to who run giveaways are Laura Griffin, Christina McDonald, and Hank Phillipi Ryan.

But, I don’t know of any author that hosts giveaways like Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke.  They frequently host giveaways for huge piles of books and you can sign up for their newsletter here!

5. Follow Publishers on Social Media

Listen, it’s no secret that my lovelies at St. Martin’s Press are my favorites.  So, of course I’m going to put a plug in for following them on social media.  You can join their Facebook page here to find giveaways for some of their upcoming titles.

I also love Flatiron which is another extension of MacMillan Publishers and subscribe to the Simon and Schuster newsletter which has giveaways from time to time.

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I guess what I’m saying here is there are SO MANY opportunities to win giveaways for new books (I haven’t even scratched the surface here).  You just have to know where to look.

Now, before I go, let me just say something.  Publishers give books away to generate buzz prior to the book hitting shelves to hopefully boost sales.  So if you win a giveaway, you should try your hardest to read it (or at the very least plaster the cover on your social media accounts).  I do not enter giveaways for books that I would never read.  I just don’t.  So use your judgment and please be kind to our authors and publishers!

Now get entering, and good luck!

Bookish Happenings

Adventures at Parnassus Books (Nashville, Tennessee)

So we are doing something a little different on the blog this month.  I have typically just used this as a space to share book reviews (which is still the case), but I’d like to branch out to other bookish topics as well.  And there’s no finer way to start than documenting my recent trip to Parnassus Books in Nashville!

Co-owned by Ann Patchett, author of books Commonwealth, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, and many others, Parnassus is a book lover’s dream.  Walking in, the first thing you notice is the earthy and soothing smell of books.  And then you look around!  Floor to ceiling shelves covered in colorful paperbacks and hardcovers, festooned with decorative notes and tidbits, Parnassus is a sight to be seen.  I adored the way the books were displayed sporadically in both parallel and perpendicular orientations on the shelves, giving the store a less clinical and more homey feel.

The selection of books was superb, with so many outstanding authors represented.  From fiction to biography to children’s to young adult to romance, this store had it all.  I even came across a shelf displaying the month’s picks from local book clubs in the area and a display of books written by local authors, which added some small town charm in a big city bookstore.

Oh and did I mention, I made a new friend!  Since I’ve started this book reviewing journey I’ve engaged in several different social media groups teeming with fellow book lovers.  Imagine my surprise when in one of the smaller groups I’m a part of, I came across a gal who said she lived in Nashville and was hoping to check out some of the local bookstores.  Cue Kristine, fellow book lover and brave-random-stranger-meeting soul.

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I’m always amazed to think of all the people out there I’ve met that still enjoy reading.  It’s not dying people!  It’s thriving!  You just have to know where to look.  Put down the video games and join us in the stacks.

Speaking of stacks… I obviously had to buy something while I was visiting.  So I picked up a signed copy of Parnassus co-owner and author Ann Patchett’s This is the Story of a Happy Marriage which was Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club pick in November 2017.

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Since I’ve recently joined the Hello Sunshine train (the name of Reese’s book club for those who aren’t familiar), this seemed like the obvious choice.  Now just to find the time to read it in between the other 50 or so books I have on my list.  So I better get to reading!