London always amaze me. Just when I thought I see it all, there are always something or somewhere I haven’t been. Staying close to this city (approx 80km, 60 miles) does make me tend to take things for granted. I don’t read a guide book or bring a map or plan an itinerary in my home ground. It sounds plain silly to do that, but it certainly make sense to organise a structured tour for a big city like London.
I have been to London an umpteenth time, even when I was living in Manchester. All for official visits or business trips. Since my family and I stayed over at Wimbledon at friend’s barbeque party 2 weekends ago, we took the opportunity to look around London a little bit.
I visited some independent English book stores at Charing Cross Road in Soho. Koenig, Francis Edwards, Foyles, Quinto conjure in mind if you are familiar with these bookstores who hold second hand and antiquarian books. Once upon a time Charing Cross Road was famous for it’s collection of book stores selling out of print and niche books as well as mainstream bestsellers. If you want a first edition classics novel then this would be the place to get it. However with increased rent and intense competition from online vendors, the book shops have begun dying a slow death and many are now boarded, closed or turned into restaurants or food outlets.
I checked out a few which sells books so rare that the titles just got lost in the muddle of my mind. Edward Francis however sells contemporary fiction novels. I found Rushdie’s The Moor’s Last Sigh, Stieg Larsson’s The Girl who kicked the hornet’s nest and many other hardbacks that are priced at £10 (Amazon UK sells them new for half of the listed price of £16.99 or lower). It does appear like the independent bookstores have lost touch of the real world, and stand out more like a book museum than bookstores that are expected to churn out profits to keep open. I do genuinely want to buy something from the shops, but my home-based (in Reading) charity bookstores and Amazon.co.uk have done such a great job in meeting my expectations that I thought if I were to buy anything from these bookstores, they would have to register themselves as charity for a cause.
I would like to venture down the basement and check out some crime fiction and thrillers, alas! my 5-year-old (yes, I have two under 5 little boys) was pestering me to visit the loo as he has to go. This is one of those moment when I think maybe my boys should wear their diapers up till they are 10 years old when go outdoors…. 😦
I next visited the Chinatown at Leicester Square.
This is the first time I went behind Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus (The West End) to explore Chinatown and West End since 1995. There weren’t any remnants of Chinatown that I remembered then, now. We had buffet lunch and spent quite awhile at the basement of a bookshop looking at the Chinese brush, exercise books, Chinese art books and fabric notebooks. There are calendars and Chinese paintings, also lanterns. I could write decent Chinese calligraphy but can’t draw any Chinese brush paintings. There are little shops that sell bric-a-brac of cute adorable pouches or stationery items too.
Earlier this morning we visited the venue for the stars’ red carpet walk on London’s movie premiere. Truck loads of James Patterson’s YA novel Witch and Wizard were given away for free that day. Two booths were set up at both ends of the square and I wonder which part of the planet I am living in that I didn’t know James Patterson wrote Children Books??!!
This is what Wikipedia and Suite 101 says about James Patterson and the book:
Witch and Wizard is a novel by James Patterson with Gabrielle Charbonnet, released on December 14, 2009. It chronicles a dystopian future in which Whit and Wisty Allgood are arrested, imprisoned, and sentenced to execution during the uprising of a new totalitarian government named the New Order, for unknowingly possessing outlawed magical abilities.
To date, James Patterson has had nineteen consecutive #1 New York Times bestselling novels, and holds the New York Times record for most Hardcover Fiction bestselling titles by a single author (56 total), which is also a Guinness World Record. The world’s best-selling author, his novels account for one in seventeen of all hard-cover novels sold in the United States; in recent years his novels have sold more copies than those of Stephen King, John Grisham and Dan Brown combined. He has won awards including the Edgar Award, the BCA Mystery Guild’s Thriller of the Year, the International Thriller of the Year award, and the Children’s Choice Book Award for Author of the Year. He is the first author to have #1 new titles simultaneously on The New York Times adult and children’s bestsellers lists, and to have two books on NovelTracker’s top-ten list at the same time. He holds the New York Times bestsellers list record with 56 New York Times bestselling titles overall. He appeared on the Fox TV show The Simpsons (in the episode “Yokel Chords“) as himself.
Patterson first crossed the boundary between adult literature to teen fiction in 2005 when he released the first installment of his bestselling Maximum Ride series. Since then he has also begun a new series titled Daniel X.
According to my free copy, James Patterson started to write children book to encourage his son Jack to read more (it must be frustrating to be a writer and yet your son needs the extra push to read!). The free book also enclosed £5 voucher for “The Gift” at Tesco supermarket. It all sounds so mysterious I’ll check out at the supermarket to see what the gifts are when I’m free. If you’re a Patterson fan, you’ll recognize his signature short 2-5 page chapters that keep the book moving at a rapid pace.
The average rating of Amazon readers, both in America and the UK rated the book at a disappointing 2.5.
I haven’t read any of James Patterson’s books and these freebies certainly piqued my interest. Have you read any of his books? If so, what do you think of them?
And… if you are a fan of the Paddington Bear series, here is a picture of the bronze statue of the Paddington Bear at London Paddington train station:
That’s what I mean by London offering something new every time I am there. I went up and down London Paddington station for hundreds of time and this is the first time I noticed my favourite childhood book character. 😉