Thursday, March 31, 2016

Sweetwood Books - Fleming Island, FL

Sweetwood Books - Fleming Island, FL
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Readers, not only will this entry be about a perfectly delightful and charming independent bookstore, but it will also be a rant and a call-to-arms.  Independent bookstores are a part of the fabric of our culture.  It is imperative that they remain so in order for our grandchildren's children to enjoy the same experiences we do when visiting these wonderful places.  Sweetwood Books is just a baby, barely two years old.  You don't give birth to a baby and then kick it down the road.  It's the same with independent bookstores.  Baby bookstores need to be nurtured and nourished, they need attention and love just like a baby.  You need to support it even after the novelty has worn off.  Sweetwood Books is every bit as cute as a new-born baby, but Fleming Island and surrounding communities need to give it some love.  Some of you have been here (return with a friend) and some of you have never heard of it (not anymore!).  (Proceed to rant!).  People of northeast Florida and Fleming Island, do you know how many communities would love to have an independent bookstore?  Believe me, these places don't grow on trees and you have a great one that you need to patronize.  Heck, even if you're not a reader they have a variety of very nice non-book items and gifts.  Find something for the children in your life in their beautiful children's section.  Better yet, take one of the little ones to the store for a weekly story time.  If you're the parent of a high schooler, send them here to pick up one of their required readings.  They have them here.  Start a book club and bring them here to meet.  One of the nice things about Sweetwood Books is that they have a core group of regulars.  Ok regulars, you know how great this place is so SPREAD THE FRICKIN' WORD (end of rant).

Yes, this place is barely two years old but is going through growing pains like many new indies.  Heather L., the owner has put in a lot of work to make this an attractive and inviting bookstore (so go see it!).  The store is a one-level, small to medium sized bookstore that offers new books and a good variety of sidelines.  The books are very neatly organized and I think the selections offered are well-curated.  And if you can't find it, Heather will order it.  I think that women and children will especially enjoy the non-book items and gifts that are available here.  Heather is already making connections with the community in a number of ways, something that I see at many of the indies I visit.

Here's what else I like here.  The owner, Heather L., is just as charming and warm as her store.  You will thoroughly enjoy visiting with her, as I did, and if you're looking for a book recommendation she can help you.

So, Fleming Island, what will you do?  My hope is that you embrace this bookstore and make it a local treasure.  Spread the word people, and check this place out if you haven't been here.  Once you visit, you'll enjoy what you find and will want to return to this beautiful bookstore.  Kudos to Heather on her work and a great start!  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts.  Fiction that is loosely based on the author's life that included a prison break in Australia and going to Bombay and living in the slums.  It will give you a pretty good depiction of India.  Many people will name this as one of their favorite books. I struggled.  I thought it was overly descriptive and too many pages of philosophical discussions.  But YOU might enjoy this as many others do.

CURRENTLY READING:  Cuba Straits, Randy Wayne White.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls.

One of the front window displays.  

Even I can follow these directions! 

Looking through the store from the front entrance.  Apologies for the lighting.  

Looking to the right from the front entrance.  

Timely display for the Easter season.  

Looking to the left from the front entrance.  Yes, they have adult coloring books.  No, I don't get it.  

Some of the store recommendations.  I was obviously so excited to see this display that I couldn't keep still.  

A few of the greeting cards available.  

Display of recent best-sellers.  

I think women will really enjoy some of the non-book items here.  

If you have a Star Wars fan at your house, bring them here.  

Great places to sit and try out a book.  Or bring your bookclub in and talk about your next book.  

I love the name of the children's department.  

View looking from the back of the store toward the front entrance.  

Anyone who has a toddler will want to check out this display.  

Have Heather brew you a free coffee since you'll be browsing books for awhile.  

Find a great deal on your Tokyomilk items here.  

Beautiful mural in the children's section.  Ask Heather about the children in the mural!  

With Heather L., the fine owner of Sweetwood Books.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Saturday, March 26, 2016

San Marco Books And More - Jacksonville, FL

San Marco Books and More - Jacksonville, FL
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For regular readers of The Indie Bob Spot, this entry will be a review or reminder of one of the best things I get from this journey I'm on.  99% of the people I meet in bookstores are some of the best people around anywhere (I find this thankfully redeeming during this political season).  Before I began this journey I didn't know anything about this wonderful side effect of visiting bookstores.  Readers, I can assure you in regards to this, San Marco Books will not disappoint.  I didn't get to meet any of the owners; Jan, Mike, or Desiree.  But the store was in great hands with Marissa, the staffer I met on this day.  Marissa is the picture of the typical booksellers I meet.  Friendly, conversant, and welcoming.  She was terrific to visit with and patiently took time to talk to me about the store, the owners, and the success of this indie.  Your experience visiting here will be a good one thanks to people like Marissa.

This store has a niche with definite strengths.  The one that jumped out at me most was its inventory of classics.  If you're a lover of the classics, you won't want to miss this bookstore.  You'll find them offered in attractive leather bound editions as well as hardbacks and paperbacks.  This was what I noticed first but San Marco Books is also very strong with children's books and classics, local and regional books, military and history, art, and cooking.  There are a great variety of sidelines, all mostly with literary themes.  Items such as scarves, candles, socks, matchboxes, and the Papyrus line of gifts are here.  There are also greeting cards and lots of sidelines for the kids too.

The store has been around for about 40 years, the entire time in its current location in a small historic business district of Jacksonville.  Jan, Mike, and their daughter, Desiree have been the owners for about 20 of those years.  It's easily accessible for foot traffic, making it a hit with locals and regular customers, and parking is free right on the street.  The small, picturesque park in the center of the district is the site of weekly story times for the kids, led by Desiree.  The one-level store offers new and used books, but most of the inventory are used.  They acquire their books in a variety of ways, including estate sales or on vacations to other parts of the country.  San Marco Books does occasional author events usually featuring authors with local ties.

Going to the Sunshine State?  Make sure when going to Jacksonville you swing through this attractive and historic business district and pay a visit to San Marco Books and the wonderful people you'll meet there.  You won't regret it.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Year Of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks.  A customer I met in one of the bookstores I was visiting raved about Geraldine Brooks.  This is my first by this author and it won't be my last.  As I look at her other books it seems she writes mostly historical fiction.  This one was about the plague in a small village during the year 1666.  Even though I enjoyed this one, I think some of her others may be even better.

CURRENTLY READING:  Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts.

One of the front window displays.  

View looking through the store from the front entrance.  

Looking to the left from the front entrance.  Lots of leather-bound editions.  

Lots of gift wrap to choose from.  

A timely display of Easter books for children.  

A portion of the children's area.  

There are lots of literary themed items here and these are just a few.  

Some of the local and regional selections.  

Always one of my favorite views in a bookstore.  

A few of the greeting cards available.  

View looking from the back of the store toward the front entrance.  

We could all use this sign!

These are only a few of the Papyrus line of items here.  

With Marissa, one of the fine booksellers at San Marco Books & More.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Patten Books - St. Louis, MO

Patten Books - St. Louis, MO
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When I visit used book stores, it can be a gamble.  Some are great and others not so much.  There's no gamble when you visit Patten Books in St. Louis.  This is one of the good ones.  Some used bookstores have that old book or musty smell that hits you the minute you walk in.  That doesn't bother me at all but if it bothers others you won't have that problem here.  This place is very neat, clean, well-organized, and well-lit.  All of which are some of the great reasons to visit this indie.

Patten Books has been around for about 23 years, the last 8 years in its current location on the very busy Manchester Rd.  There is an extensive inventory of almost any genre, approximately 50,000 books.  You can also find rare and collectable books.  If you don't come to the store, check out their website and place an online order.  There is a nice collection of leather-bound books and their section of military history is particularly strong.  In a far room of the store there are many titles of older children's fiction.  But if your bookstore visit needs to include things other than books, this is not your place.  Greeting cards?  Nope.  Journals?  Nada.  Whoopee cushions and fake mustaches?  Zip.  Books?  You better believe it!

The best thing about my visit was meeting Keith P., the owner, and talking to him.  He told me a lot about the store and the history of bookstores in general in the St. Louis area.  His book inventory is provided by customers who bring in their books in exchange for cash or store credit, a great deal for people who frequent bookstores.  Patten Books shares its location with a few other businesses and you'll be able to find ample and free parking.

Looking for a good used book at a bargain price?  Looking to visit a bookstore with a large selection and many genres?  Looking for a knowledgeable and friendly owner?  This is your place and it is a very browser-friendly store.  Add this place to your list the next time you're in St. Louis and enjoy visiting an enduring and successful independent bookstore.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

CURRENTLY READING:  Year Of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks.

JUST FINISHED:  Light Between The Oceans, M. L. Stedman.  Outstanding.  This novel presents a moral dilemma and you'll understand all angles, but how do you decide?  A young couple living alone on an isolated island discover a new born baby washed ashore in a boat.  What should they do?  This would be a great pick for book clubs.  Highly recommended.

RECENTLY PURCHASED:  The Darkest Hour, Tony Schumacher.

Another exterior view from the parking lot.  

View looking to the right from the front entrance.  

Nice collection of leather-bound editions near the front entrance.  

Looking through the store from near the check-out counter.  

Need an audio book?  Lots to pick from here!

This store has a good selection of older children's books, these are only a few.  

A portion of the books of local interest and local authors.  

With Keith P. on the right, the fine owner at Patten Books.  Thanks for a great visit.  

Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Novel Neighbor - Webster Groves, MO

The Novel Neighbor - Webster Groves, MO
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This is one of the new kids on the indie block.  The Novel Neighbor in suburban St. Louis has only been around for about a year and a half.  This is a great sign on many fronts including the continued resurgence of independent bookstores.  And The Novel Neighbor truly embraces the indie spirit of shop and buy local.  Everything from partnerships with local artists to numerous in-store events and activities.  All of which are wonderful ways to bond with the local community and bring people into the store, offering a gathering place with a pleasant atmosphere.

For only being open a year and half, I think Holland S., the owner, has done a fantastic job embracing this independent philosophy.  I'm most impressed with the many activities and events available to children and adults.  Of course, they have author events held in the store or off-site if needed.  But in addition to this bookstore staple, they offer cocktail nights, wine and coloring book nights, art classes, and book clubs.  For the kids, you can reserve the space for birthday parties and you can even have a theme.  If your kid is a Harry Potter fan, consider throwing a Harry Potter themed party at The Novel Neighbor.  There are also story times for the younger children every Tuesday and Saturday.  And these are just the events I know about and can remember!

I love the name of this store, The Novel Neighbor, and the word "novel" serves a dual definition.  Of course, you'll find book novels here including all the recent releases and bestsellers.  There is also a fine children's section of books.  "Novel" is also an indication of the many novelties you'll find.  For example, most of the greeting cards are created by local artists.  There is also jewelry created locally and any number of other unique and NOVEL items.  My advice?  If you see something you like, buy it because you won't find it anywhere else.

I had a wonderful time visiting with Holland and finding out about the store and its great start.  At this time, the majority of customers are local.  I'm expecting that to increase as more people find out about this fine bookstore.  It has a great corner location on a very busy road making it highly visible.  You can take advantage of free parking in many areas around the store.  But the tourists haven't dialed this place in yet.  St. Louis has a healthy bookstore scene and now locals and tourists alike need to find out what a great place this is.  Go to an indie and buy a book.  Bonsoir.

JUST FINISHED:  Jesus Boy, Preston Allen.  An African-American boy grows up in a community of strict Christian believers and is at a crossroads between his musical talent, preaching, and a secular world.  He is soon with a woman 25 years older and the inter-relations of all the characters is, well, interesting and chaotic.  I enjoyed this book and can recommend it.

CURRENTLY READING:  Light Between The Oceans, M. L. Stedman.

Another exterior view.  

Very nice front window display.  

I love this pillow!

View looking into the store from the front entrance.  

A few of the greeting cards available.  

Recent and popular.  

A great place to sit and try a book.  There are more places to sit in the rear of the store as well.  

A few of the sidelines, including jewelry.  Most items are made and created locally. 

Only available at an independent bookstore!

Great display of new releases.  

You might as well start them early!

A portion of the beautiful children's section.  

View from near the back of the store looking toward the front.  

I don't think you can go to an independent bookstore without finding adult coloring books.  

Nice view of the bookshelves near the back of the store.  

Another great view of the bookshelves.  

Need a game?  Look here!

Book-themed earrings. 

With Holland S., the fine owner at The Novel Neighbor.  Thanks for a great visit.