Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Project 24: Halfway!

Remember those naysayers, who said nay, and so forth? In fact, they said these sorts of things...
  • 'GOOD LUCK, Simon! I wonder how many days you'll last? ;-)'
  • 'Is that IN 2010 or AT 20:10? I think the latter is more likely.'
  • 'Hilarious. I'll watch and laugh.'
    'I simply could not possibly do this. And I seriously wonder if you can.
  • 'WOW. I look forward to seeing how this pans out.....'
  • 'I'm still speechless at Simon's decision to curtail book-buying, and if the resolution were made by anyone less sincere, I would suspect a Publicity Stunt! I can hardly imagine not buying books when you live in *England,* the *home* of books'
  • 'Will you keep this up now that I tell you Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters is in all good bookshops?'
  • (and perhaps my favourite...) 'what evs!'
That's what my faithful followers... well, I must be honest, lots of you lovely people were 100% behind me, cheering me and sending positive thoughts in my direction. And even, on occasion, forcibly dragging me away from bookshops.

But you'll be pleased to note that, at the halfway stage, I have bought (*drum roll, if you will*) 11 books! That's right - eleven. As in, one fewer than twelve. As in: I'm ahead of target!

And it's not been easy. Not by a long chalk. But I will persevere... and on December 31st 2010 I shall sit back, content, proud, and happy. And on January 1st 2011, I will empty my Amazon wishlist...

Here, in no particular order, are the books that have found their way to Stuck-in-a-Book's home in the past six months (remember that, as ever, you can click on the Project 24 picture in the top-right to see more details posts on all these books):

Waiting on Wednesday # 7

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking The Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

My pick:

Summary from
One happily-ever-after rocking chair…

And no sign of any forthcoming babies to rock in ol’ Georgebury, Vermont. For Callie Grey, turning thirty means coming to grips with the fact that her boss (and five-week fling) is way overdue in his marriage proposal. And way off track, because Mark has suddenly announced his engagement to the company’s new Miss Perfect. If that isn’t bad enough, her mom decides to throw her a 3-0 birthday bash in the family funeral home.

Bad goes to worse when she stirs up a relationship with the town’s most eligible — yet not so warm and fuzzy — veterinarian, Ian McFarland, in order to flag Mark’s attention. So Ian’s more comfortable with animals… So he’s formal, orderly and just a bit tense. The ever-friendly, fun-loving and spontaneous Callie decides it’s time for Ian to get a personality makeover. But, dang — if he doesn’t shock the heck out of her, she might actually fall for Vermont’s unlikeliest eligible bachelor…
Kristan Higgins
August 2010 by HQN

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Teasing over...

Well, that was a bit of a tease, wasn't it? And it feels a bit fraudulent, because the book in question has already appeared on a few others blogs... but I kept thinking of the Guernsey book and I think folk who enjoyed that will also enjoy this... right, enough hinting. Step forward... Mr. Rosenblum's List by Natasha Solomons!

Sceptre very kindly gave me a copy of this at an authors/bloggers party, but unfortunately I didn't manage to speak to Natasha Solomons whilst there, and now I wish I had because anybody who could write this novel must be worth knowing.

Mr. Rosenblum's List - or Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English if you're looking for copies in America - has the subtitle Friendly Guidance for the Aspiring Engl
ishman, which should give you a clue as to the book's contents.

Jakob and Sadie Rosenblum are German Jewish refugees, escaping Nazi rule and coming to England in 1937 for safety - armed only with While you are in England: Helpful Information and Friendly Guidance for every Refugee. Jakob is incredibly keen to assimilate, and starts off by changing his name to Jack. He tries to work out what it means to be English (yes, not
British, Dark Puss!) and how to fit in - adding his own bits of advice to the handbook. For example, to the rule that refugees ought always to speak English even if haltingly, he adds 'And do not talk in a loud voice. (Unless talking to foreigners when it is the done thing to shout.)' Of course, assimilating isn't easy - and Solomons very wittily manages to show the Rosenblums' difficulties without making either them or the English appear foolish. In fact, she is incredibly affectionate in both directions. It takes an intimate and thorough knowledge of the English to show these misunderstandings and misapprehensions, and Solomons (as a Dorset girl) is well able to provide.
When the Rosenblums were waiting anxiously in Berlin for their British visas, Jack had prepared for the trip by reading Byron's poems and a Polish translation of P.G. Wodehouse. He understood only a little Polish and read the adventures of Mr. Bertie Wooster with the help of a German-Polish dictionary. It all got rather lost in translation, and the novel appeared to him a very peculiar sort of book and had dissuaded him from sampling further the pleasures of English literature.
The bulk of the novel takes place eight years after World War Two. The Rosenblums have become wealthy through a carpet factory, and have relocated to Solomons' own county Dorset (which leads to Somerset-bashing which I'll tolerantly overlook!) Despite Jacks's best efforts, they have not fully assimilated. Sadie is content to remember her German roots, but Jack wants them forgotten - and wants to make his daughter Elizabeth, studying at Cambridge, proud. Having almost completed his list of English attributes, there is just one item he can't achieve: join a golf course. None will have him, once they see his surname. His solution? Why, to build his own, of course. It will be the best in the South West, and it will be in his back garden. Ignoring the unsuitability of the terrain - and the fact that he has never so much as swung a golf club - Jack ploughs all his energy, time, and money into creating this golf course... but the path of golf never did run smooth. And this is what most of Mr. Rosenblum's List focuses upon.

Although there is a lot of humour in the novel, like Guernsey there are moments which are moving. Perhaps not to the same extent as Guernsey, where tragedy is given its own story arc, but the following section I found poignant:
At the side of the house the garden reverted to scrub; the hedgerows crept forward and brambles and bright yellow gorse bushes made it impassable. The stinging nettles were five feet tall. yet butterflies landed on them effortlessly, somehow never getting stung. Sadie neither planted nor weeded; Hitler had declared the Jews weeds and plucked them out wherever he found them. She knew that a plant was only a weed if unwanted by the gardener, so she refused to move a single one, and they sprouted up wherever the wanted.
Moving, no?

The Rosenblums persevere with their golf course - or rather, Jack does, as Sadie remembers her past. There is a heart-breaking scene with some photos, which I won't spoil. Jack encounters resistance from many quarters, but also an unexpected and unusual ally in the most Dorset man in the village...

Although I often got frustrated with Jack for wasting so much money and being inconsiderate to his wife, it's impossible not to love him. He's a 5'3'' bundle of enthusiasm and determination, unquashable and passionate. Although I could have done without the Dorset Woolly-Pig, which seemed all a bit silly, overall I thought Solomons' debut novel was really delightful. Perhaps a little more light-hearted than Guernsey, but an interesting angle on post-war life nonetheless - and definitely something you'll want to be reading this summer. I'm often positive about the novels featured here, so when something really special comes along I don't know how to say "this is even BETTER than usual!" but, er, hopefully I just did... And word has it, on Solomons' blog, that she's been writing a screenplay...

Books to get Stuck into:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer: well, given the build up to today's review, this one is hardly a surprise, is it?

Watching the English - Kate Fox: although this is pop-anthropology, rather than a novel, it's the other book I kept being reminded of while reading Solomons' - because it has a similarly affectionate view of the Englishman's foibles and eccentricities.


Sorry, that wasn't going to be the only post yesterday, but I fell asleep at 9.30pm! And so missed the radio programme I advertised... oops.

More tonight, promise promise promise. In fact, tonight there will be a review of an essential summer read for anyone with reading taste even remotely like mine. AND it's a new book. Not often that happens. I'm going to call it the next Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which will either make you excited or unexcited or nonplussed....


Monday, June 28, 2010

Stone in a Landslide

A very quick last-minute post... I've just spotted that Stone in a Landslide is being talked about with author and publisher on BBC World Service at (according to Meike) 22.32pm. More here, and my thoughts on it here.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Too hot to blog...

I'm afraid I can't blog; I'm melting... I will try and do better soon. Here is a picture of me as a child instead. (I'm pretty certain it's me - we don't always know... one of the perils of being a twin.)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Stuck-in-a-Book's Weekend Miscellany

I thought I'd give you a couple of days to enjoy the photos - and to justify the time it took to gather them up and post them! And it's another review-free day (although there's a little pile waiting for my attention) because, of course, we're going to have a book, a link, and a blog post.

1.) The book - was mentioned to me by regular blog-reader Susan (I don't think you have a blog, do you Susan? I'll throw a link in later if you do!) It's called Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co. by Jeremy Mercer, published back in 2006. It's about Mercer's nine months living and working at the Shakespeare & Co. bookshop, and sounds wonderful.

Oo, I've just done a hunt and discovered that it's the same as Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs, just under a different title. This is an instance of the American publisher coming up with a much nicer title than the English one, don't you think? Time Was Soft There is much more evocative, AND, though both books have cats on the cover, it is more prominent on the American edition. Case settled.

2.) The link - comes courtesy of my fellow dove, Sarah. Here it is. Fancy living in a beautiful house which was once home to 'tangled lives of the Bloomsbury set'? (oh, Telegraph, what a way you have with euphemism). Well, Sarah and I have pooled our resources, so we're looking for another dozen or so people to help us take this place off the market...

3.) The blog post - is Hayley at Desperate Reader and her thoughts on the Flavour Thesaurus. Niki Segnit has done with flavours something akin to the colour circle - what goes with what etc., including some surprises. I'd seen a little review of it elsewhere, but they cited parsnips and banana as an example, which made me feel sick. This would be true of parsnips with (or, indeed, without) anything. But Hayley mentions that there is a section on lime, which is me sold.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Review: Crazy by Han Nolan

Title: Crazy
Author: Nolan, Han.
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books.
Release Date: September 13th 2010.
Pages: 352
ISBN: 0152051090 (isbn13: 9780152051099)
Age: Young Adult
Summary from
Fifteen-year-old Jason has fallen upon bad times—his mother has died and his father has succumbed to mental illness. As he tries to hold his crazy father and their crumbling home together, Jason relies on a host of imaginary friends for guidance as he stumbles along trying not to draw attention to his father’s deteriorating condition.
Both heartbreaking and funny, CRAZY lives up to the intense and compelling characters Han Nolan is praised for. As Jason himself teeters on the edge of insanity, Nolan uncovers the clever coping system he develops for himself and throws him a lifeline in the guise of friendship.
One word: Awesome!

I wanted to read this book so much, and when I received it through NetGalley I was very excited.

Jason is the protagonist. He spent his day at school, then comes back straight to his house, to take care of his mentally ill father. His mother is dead, and nobody has to know about his father, because they will take him, and Jason will be placed for adoption. So it doesn't matter to him that he has to take care of his father, sell almost every item in his house to get food and medicine, and that they live without heat.

Then, one day, he starts failing in school. It's very silly, but he needs the attention. So he has to talk a few days a week with Ms Gomez and other kids with problems....

Jason is amazing, one of my favorite male characters of all time. He's just like any 15 years old boy, but he has so much responsibilities. He loves his parents, and his mind is awesome. He doesn't have friends, except the ones that live in his head and talk only to him. But that doesn't mean he is crazy, right? Right?

Desperation, love, fear, anger. Jason has to deal with this everyday, but when he finally made some real friends, in a way, it becomes easier.

Wow, I loved this book. Couldn't stop reading it!. This is a very powerful book, and I cried a lot while reading it because it's exactly as real life is: very unfair. Very intense, but also funny, between a bunch of imaginary friends, real teenagers friends, and a crazy person, you can imagine!

Excellent writing. It grabbed me from the first line. It's not usual to start a book with the protagonist inviting you to his life, like a talk show. Very original.

Really, you must read this book. I recommend it to everyone! Teenagers and adults. Believe me, you will like it, and you will learn a few things.


More about this book at

I received this e-book through NetGalley.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Picture Paints A Thousand Books

I've been so surprised and delighted by the response I've had to this little idea, of posting a picture which summed up your reading tastes (the only rule being - no books allowed in the picture!) This is mine, which kicked it all off (and, as you'll see further down the page, I cheated and included another one for me):

It was taken by my friend Cath, and I'd actually put it up in the post before it even occurred to me that it partly represented my reading. I just wanted an excuse to post a pretty picture... but you guys have had such amazing thoughts, and great explanations! Although all the links I've found/been sent are here, I thought - since this is a visual challenge - I'd collect up everyone's wonderful images. The link above the picture is to the blogger in question. Not too late to get a response in, if you like... (I'm afraid it was too daunting to try and get permission from everyone - let me know if you'd rather your picture wasn't here, and I'll remove it. Oh, and if you put up more than one image, I've just picked one to represent your response. Hope that's ok!)

Without further ado...