5 Dreamy Book Towns

5 Dreamy Book Towns, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Book lovers are dreamers. We dream of other worlds and other lives. We dream of what we just finished reading and what we’re going to read next. We dream of homes crammed with our book collections, libraries that never close, and cozy local bookshops where we can spend massive quantities of both time and money. And some book lovers dream of entire towns devoted to books and then make them a reality. Did you know there are dozens of book towns around the world (enough that one writer even wrote a book about them)? At a time when so many events have been cancelled and travel is difficult, if not impossible, for most of us, dreaming is more important than ever. Here are five book towns to dream about (and where one day, hopefully, you’ll be able to live your dreams).

Have you been to any book towns? Which are your favourites? Share in the comments…

Hay-on-Wye, Wales

5 Dreamy Book Towns, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Probably the best known of all the book towns, and credited with inventing the concept, Hay-on-Wye is home to numerous book and antiques shops. It hosts the Hay Festival, a literary event that (normally) travels to other cities throughout the year (click the link to watch this year’s events online). There’s also a castle.

St. Pierre de Clages, Switzerland

5 Dreamy Book Towns, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

A Medieval village, St. Pierre de Clages is Switzerland’s only book town. The town specializes in antiquarian booksellers, but that’s not all you’ll find there. They also host an annual book festival that’s described as a must for “book lovers, amateur readers, history buffs or fans of comic books.” (No word on what’s happening with the festival in 2020, but it’s probably safe to assume it’s cancelled.)

Featherston, New Zealand

5 Dreamy Book Towns, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

One of the newer book towns, Featherston has already established itself as a place for book lovers. Its annual Featherston Booktown Karukatea Festival, usually held in May, was postponed, but a Words in Winter event is currently taking place until August– key features include author talks and book signings.

Hobart, USA

5 Dreamy Book Towns, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Located in the Catskills (New York), Hobart was essentially a ghost town not too long ago. Now it’s a dedicated book town with stores featuring books on topics ranging from American history and feminism to vintage cookbooks and craft books. Massive book sales are held on Memorial Day and Thanksgiving weekends, and Hobart also hosts their Festival of Women Writers (currently postponed but there may be virtual events).

Sidney, Canada

5 Dreamy Book Towns, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Sidney is Canada’s only book town, as far as I can tell (something they’ve apparently been claiming since the 1990s). Located on beautiful Vancouver Island, Sidney bookstores include new, used, and antiquarian books on everything from military history to classic children’s fiction. There’s a special focus on local authors and culture, and many stores hold regular events. Most books are in English, but you can also find a good selection of Japanese and Chinese titles. There’s also the annual Sidney LitFest (returning in 2021).

These are just a few of the dozens of book towns that exist around the world (although most seem to be in Europe, hopefully this concept will catch on). You can find out about more book towns here and here.

Aspasía S. Bissas book covers png
If you’re looking for something to read until you can get to the nearest book town, download my books FREE…

Love Lies Bleeding: SmashwordsBarnes & NobleKoboApple Books
Blood Magic: SmashwordsBarnes & NobleKoboApple Books
Tooth & Claw: SmashwordsBarnes & NobleKoboApple Books

If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

 

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag

Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Polina Zimmerman on Pexels.com

 

Those of us staying home the past couple of months have probably had more than enough of our living spaces. I know I have (especially since we were ready to move before everything shut down and left us stuck). Spring cleaning is usually a good time for a fresh start, and we could all use a fresh start right now. In that spirit, I snagged this book tag from Bookmark Your Thoughts, who got it from Between the Shelves.

1. Getting started: A book series you’ve been wanting to read

Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Just some of the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett. Image found here.

I’ve been wanting to read the Discworld series for ages and finally started. So far I’ve read the first three; put in an order for more– which are taking forever to be shipped as books have been de-prioritized; and realized I already have one of the books but packed it and will never be able to find it until we move and unpack. Fun! At least I have something to look forward to…

2. Cleaning/organizing the closet: The best way to organize books

Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I always have been, and ever will be, a proponent of organizing alphabetically. Other systems might work for other people, but this is what works for me. I group non-fiction by subject and then alphabetically by title. Fiction I organize alphabetically by author. When I have multiple books by the same author, I organize the titles alphabetically (except for series, which are kept in chronological order). People who organize their books by colour (or worse, don’t organize at all; or still worse– put them on the shelves backwards for “aesthetics” are agents of chaos and should be avoided).

3. Getting rid of unnecessary things: Book/series you no longer need

Marion Zimmer Bradley was a well-regarded fantasy author, and I had a few of her books. Last year I found out some disturbing things about her (I won’t share them here, but they involve serious allegations by her daughter). I decided I really didn’t need her books anymore.

4. Get some air: Your favorite light-hearted read

Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas  Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

I was doubly crushed when Douglas Adams died (RIP) in the middle of writing a third Dirk Gently book, and then when the Dirk Gently TV series got cancelled after the second season (sigh). At least we have two seasons and two books. If you’ve never read them, you’re in for a treat (watch the show too, if you dare).

5. Clean out the kitchen cupboards: Favorite food-themed read

Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

This is a tough one. Do I go with non-fiction, like The Omnivore’s Dilemma, The Fruit Hunters, Tender at the Bone, or pretty much anything by Anthony Bourdain? Should I try to choose a novel that revolves around food, like The Confectioner’s Guild or Chocolat; or go with one where food isn’t the focus, but adds so much to the story, like The Hobbit or the Harry Potter series? And what about cookbooks, many of which are surprisingly readable and entertaining? If you can’t tell, this is my way of not having to choose 🙂

6. Dust the shelves: What’s the fifth book on your bookshelf?

Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Sadly, my shelves are all packed (if only I’d known…) I do have a small TBR pile, and the fifth book down is Gods Behaving Badly, which will be a re-read when I get to it. I liked it the first time I read it, but I’m not so sure it will have held up (TBD).

7. Wishing for the end: A 2020 release you’re really excited about

Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Photo by Ksenia Chernaya on Pexels.com

I’m not looking forward to any particular new release, actually. If something comes out that catches my eye, I’ll pick it up or add it to my wishlist, but I’m happy to read all the books I already have. Besides, 2020 isn’t a real year and nothing that happens during 2020 counts.

8. Long but satisfying: The longest book series you’ve read

Book Tag: Spring Cleaning Book Tag blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

The Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews isn’t the longest in terms of total number of pages (that would be the series I hated and refuse to name), but it’s the series with the most books (including novellas not pictured here), and one I actually enjoyed.

 

What do you think? Feel free to answer the questions in the comments, or share the link if you post it on your blog (and make sure to link back to the original post) 🙂

Aspasia S. Bissas's books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw
Looking for something to read right now? Download my books FREE

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, order Love Lies Bleeding from Bookshop – a portion of each sale goes directly to independent bookstores, as well as to myself. Thank you for supporting indie! ♥

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day via Aspasia S. Bissas

Stay safe…

Aspasía S. Bissas

Aspasia S. Bissas's books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw
Distract yourself from terrible reality with free books…

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, then order Love Lies Bleeding from an independent bookshop and support small businesses when they need it most. Click here and scroll down for the full list of available online shops.

Baking Bread

Yeast in the Time of Corona

Baking Bread: Yeast in the Time of Corona, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas

Somewhere among all the COVID-19 updates in your feed you might have noticed that people seem to be baking a lot of bread these days. It makes sense– bread is one of those things that are suddenly in short supply in shops, but is easy to make at home (especially if you have a mixer with a dough hook). As soon as I realized our local store was out, I broke out the flour (and was grateful that there was still one pan I hadn’t packed yet). Although bread is now easier to find and yeast is selling out, baking is still a good distraction– and there is seriously nothing better than fresh bread from the oven.

Have you been baking lately? What else are you making while you’re stuck at home? Share in the comments…

(Pictures and recipe are originally from an old post on my other blog.)

Baking Bread: Yeast in the Time of Corona, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas (ingredients)
For those of you not from Ontario– yes, that is bagged milk in the pitcher.
Baking Bread: Yeast in the Time of Corona, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
The dough is still too sticky at this point (it shouldn’t be adhering to the hook like that). Time to add more flour…
Baking Bread: Yeast in the Time of Corona, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Once the dough sticks to itself but not to the bowl, hook, or you, it’s ready to  rise.
Baking Bread: Yeast in the Time of Corona, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
After rising for about an hour.
Baking Bread: Yeast in the Time of Corona, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Aluminum loaf pans I inherited from my mom. These are the best for baking bread, but you can use any loaf pan or baking dish. You can even just shape the dough and put it on a greased baking sheet.
Baking Bread: Yeast in the Time of Corona, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Loaves shaped and left to rise. Use the next hour to read, message a friend, or contemplate the nature of existence (Netflix is also an option).
Baking Bread: Yeast in the Time of Corona, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
Ready for the oven. At this point you can brush the top of each loaf with a little milk or beaten egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds or whatever else catches your fancy.
Baking Bread: Yeast in the Time of Corona, blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
You might not have toilet paper, soap, or faith left in humanity, but you have delicious, sustaining bread, and that will take you pretty far.

Basic White (or Semi-White) Bread

This recipe came with my mixer and has quickly become my favourite bread recipe.

½ cup low-fat milk [I use 2%–you can use whatever you have on hand, including non-dairy milks]
3 Tbs sugar [you can use honey or whatever sweetener you have on hand, but not sugar substitutes]
2 tsp salt
3 Tbs butter [you can also use oil or margarine or any fat that will melt]
2 packages [or 2 Tbs] active dry yeast
1 ½ cups warm water [105F to 115F, or in other words, warm but not hot enough to burn you]
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour [You can replace 1 ½ to 2 cups of all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour if you’d like your bread to be more nutritious but not too heavy.]

Place milk, sugar, salt and butter in a small saucepan. Heat over low heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Cool to lukewarm.

Dissolve yeast in 1 ½ cups warm water in warmed mixer bowl. Add lukewarm milk mixture [Tip: if the milk mixture seems like it’s still too hot, you can cool it down by pouring it against the side of the mixer bowl in a thin stream instead of dumping it all at once into the yeast mixture.] Add 4 ½ cups flour. Attach bowl and dough hook to mixer. Turn to speed 2 and mix about 1 minute.

Continuing on speed 2, add remaining flour, ½ cup at a time, and mix until dough clings to hook and cleans sides of bowl, about 2 minutes. Knead on speed 2 about 2 minutes longer or until dough is smooth and elastic. Dough will be slightly sticky to the touch.

Place dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover. Let rise in a warm place, free from draft, about an hour or until doubled in bulk [the time it takes depends on your yeast, as well as the temperature in the room].

Punch down dough and divide in half. Shape each half into a loaf and place in greased 8 ½” x 4 ½” x 2 ½” loaf pans. Cover again and let rise again, about an hour or until doubled in bulk. Before placing the loaves in the oven you might want to add something on top. I’m partial to sesame seeds but you might prefer poppy or sunflower seeds or chopped herbs. Just gently brush the tops of the loaves with milk or egg white and sprinkle with your toppings of choice.

Bake at 400F for about 30 minutes. Remove from pans immediately and cool on wire racks. [Tip: the standard test to see whether bread is fully cooked is to tap on the bottom. If it sounds hollow you’re good to go. I recommend using a spoon to avoid burned knuckles.] Try to resist the fresh bread long enough to let it cool down a touch before slicing and slathering with decadent amounts of butter.

You can halve the recipe if you want, although extra dough is ideal to use in recipes such as Tiganopsomo (fried bread) and Wrapped Sandwich Loaf. You can experiment with add-ins too: try adding raisins and cinnamon to the dough for raisin bread, or add herbs and grated cheese. It also freezes well.

Makes 2 loaves

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Aspasia S. Bissas's books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw
Don’t forget to download your FREE copies…

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books
Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, then order Love Lies Bleeding from an independent bookshop and support small businesses when they need it most. Click here and scroll down for the full list of available online shops.

Quote of the Day

Quote of the Day blog post by Aspasia S. Bissas
–Stephen Colbert

 

A reminder that all my ebooks are currently FREE. Lose touch with reality for a while…

Love Lies Bleeding: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

Blood Magic: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

Tooth & Claw: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple Books

 

Aspasia S. Bissas's books: Love Lies Bleeding, Blood Magic, Tooth & Claw

If you prefer a good paperback to an ebook, then order Love Lies Bleeding from an independent bookshop and support small businesses when they need it most. Click here and scroll down for the full list of available online shops.

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas