Thursday, June 30, 2011

Book Review: The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg

Title: The Lonely Hearts Club
Author: Elizabeth Eulberg
Release Date: December 29th, 2009
Publisher: Point
Age: Young Adult
Love is all you need...or is it? Penny's about to find out in this wonderful debut. Penny is sick of boys and sick of dating. So she vows - no more. It's a personal choice...and, of course, soon everyone wants to know about it. And a few other girls are inspired. A movement is born; The Lonely Hearts Club (named after the band from Sgt. Pepper). Penny is suddenly known for her nondating ways...which is too bad, because there's this certain boy she can't help but like...
Penny is tired of boys, always cheating on her or treating her wrong, so she decides to created a club for the lonely people like her. Of course, she never thought so many girls would join her!

Penny was such a great protagonist. I admit it, while reading the first chapter I thought I wasn't going to like her, but she manages to became one of my favorites ya protagonists. She actually matures and grows up to be an amazing girl.

I couldn't believe some of the things that happened to her, as the principal's disrespect for her club and her or the people (like other girls) being mean to her. But in a way, it's very realistic. People is mean, and still exists people who don't accept girls have power (probably because they are scared). But I loved how Penny managed all of this with the help of her friends and parents.

Penny and her family are fans of The Beatles, and the club's name is based on one of their songs. Personally, I love some of The Beatles songs, so I actually enjoyed the references and lyrics on the book. Besides, it was really cool and original for the author to find the perfect song for each chapter.

Overall, I loved The Lonely Hearts Club. It's a quick, fun and light read, perfect for when you need a little bit of girl power!

More about this book at www.elizabetheulberg.comGoodreadsAmazon, The Book Depository.

The Time Will Come #4

The Time Will Come is a weekly meme hosted @ Books for Company, where you can spotlight those books that have been on your shelf for awhile and you really want to to read them.

The time will come for me to read....

How To Say Goodbye In Robot by Natalie Standiford

New to town, Bea is expecting her new best friend to be one of the girls she meets on the first day. But instead, the alphabet conspires to seat her next to Jonah, aka Ghost Boy, a quiet loner who hasn't made a new friend since third grade. Something about him, though, gets to Bea, and soon they form an unexpected friendship. It's not romance, exactly - but it's definitely love. Still, Bea can't quite dispel Jonah's gloom and doom - and as she finds out his family history, she understands why. Can Bea help Jonah? Or is he destined to vanish?
I already read one of her books (Confessions Of The Sullivan Sisters) and really liked. This one has excellent reviews, but they sad it's heartbreaking. I admit that is the reason why I haven't read it yet, I wanted to read something happy... But, I'm really curious about this book, and as I said, I like the author so I'm sure I'll read it.

Want to join in?
- Pick a book you have been meaning to read
- Do a post telling us about the book
- Visit the other blogs!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Blooming Smith

Following your recent advice and comments, tonight I'm going to blog about a novel which is very difficult to find at an affordable price, or indeed to find at all. Having re-read I Capture the Castle a while ago, I was intrigued to see what else Dodie Smith had to offer. I asked around, and general consensus was to look out for The New Moon with the Old or, failing that, The Town in Bloom. I can't afford £20-£30 for novels I know nothing about, and Oxfordshire libraries didn't have The New Moon with the Old, so I went for The Town in Bloom (1965).

The novel kicks off with a reunion between friends known as the Mouse, Moll Byblow, Madam Lily de Luxe and Zelle, reminiscing about their days living in a 'club' together in the 1920s, going through turbulent youthful events and trying to find work in the theatre. It's now over four decades later. But... Zelle is absent, as she has been at all their five-yearly reunions. But is the shabby old woman across the road, who reminds 'Mouse' (the otherwise unnamed narrator) 'of the crones said to have sat knitting round the guillotine during the Reign of Terror', actually Zelle? And, if so, has she donned a disguise, or have 45 years apart led her to destitution?

And suddenly the novel flings us back those 45 years, to Mouse leaving her aunt's house and arriving in London, at that club. We see her first experiences through the lens of her journal, which feels like we're in familiar I Capture the Castle territory...
I am here at last! I arrived this afternoon, at Marylebone Station so I only had a short taxi drive - I wished it could have been longer as it was thrilling to be driving through London on my own. And it was such a lovely day. The trees here are further out than they are at home. Home! I haven't one any more. That thought doesn't make me feel sad. It makes me feel wonderfully free.
Mouse, despite her nickname, isn't particularly timid, and isn't all that different from Cassandra of Smith's more famous novel. Both are young and inexperienced, but oddly confident and more worldly than they seem. Both are incredibly introspective, yet manage not to be annoyingly so - although Mouse gets rather closer to 'annoying' than Cassandra does. But while Cassandra is isolated in a highly romanticised setting in rural Suffolk, Mouse is flung into the maelstrom of the theatre. Oh, and the journal fades away after a few pages - being replaced with first-person narrative (so she is hardly ever called 'Mouse' in the book) but from the distance of 45 years.

I love books about the theatre, fact or fiction, especially if it's about theatre of the 1920s or 1930s. So I lapped up the first half of The Town in Bloom - which is set in a theatre run by actor-manager Rex Crossway, last in a line of theatrical Crossways. Dodie Smith was herself both an actress and playwright (it was as pseudonymous playwright C. L. Anthony that she first found fame) so she writes this section in an informed and entertaining manner. Mouse launches herself into his world through an impromptu audition for The School for Scandal, playing both Sir Peter and Lady Teazle.
I played both of them. First, as Sir Peter, I looked to my right and used a deep, rich voice. Then, looking left, I became Lazy Teazle and used a lighter voice than was natural to me. Backwards and forwards from right to left I went, speaking fast because I feared Mr. Crossway would stop me. I particularly wanted to reach what was, for me, the high moment of the scene, when Sir Peter tells Lady Teazle she had no taste when she married him. Lady T. then goes into fits of laughter - that is, she did in my interpretation. And never had I laughed better, louder or longer than I did for Mr. Crossway. I checked my laughter with some very amusing gasps and continued the scene. Still Mr. Crossway did not interrupt me. So I went on until Lady Teazle's exit when I sketched a pert curtsy to Sir Peter - and then made a very deep one to Mr. Crossway.
It was a brave, and a delicious, decision on Dodie Smith's part to make Mouse no prodigy - she is an appalling actress, and no amount of advice from Crossway can make her anything else. So, instead, she starts working in one of the theatre offices with Eve Lester, a kind, sensible, and wise woman in an environment of those who are often kind, but rarely the rest.

The backstage goings-on of a theatre fascinate me, and I loved all the minutiae of rehearsals, editing, understudies etc. - and a very amusing scene where Mouse takes it upon herself to replace the ill leading lady halfway through a play, completely changing the interpretation, and rather ruining the whole affair. All written rather cleverly, and Mouse's combination of naivety and knowingness make for a fun read.

But then...

Yes, Mouse falls in love with Mr. Crossway. Of course she does. At which point The Town in Bloom becomes significantly less interesting, while she repeatedly tries to seduce Mr. Crossway into an affair. I know there are plenty of real life relationships with big age gaps which work well, but I find them almost universally disturbing in novels - even up to and including Emma and Mr. Knightley. This is the sort of affair where Mr. Crossway laughingly calls her 'my dear' a lot, and she pontificates on how she will never love anybody else, not as long as she lives. And so on and so forth.

There are a few more twists to the tale, and her flatmates do play more significant roles than this review suggests, but I'm afraid The Town in Bloom turned into a rather tedious novel. There is enough momentum from the first half - and the lingering question from the prologue of what happened to Zelle - but the re-focus upon a rather tawdry romantic storyline is significantly duller than the theatrical focus of the earlier section to the novel.

In this respect, as in several others, The Town in Bloom is something of a pale shadow of I Capture the Castle, and I can quite see why nobody has bothered to reprint it for a while. I wish Smith had had the courage to leave out the romance/affair/adultery storyline altogether - this would have been an infinitely better novel without it, and would also have been rather further away from I Capture the Castle territory, and thus easier to appraise on its merits, not judged on its comparative demerits.

And not a dalmatian in sight.

Waiting on Wednesday # 53 - Forever by Maggie Stiefvater

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

My pick: Forever

Summary from Goodreads:
The thrilling conclusion to #1 bestselling Shiver trilogy from Maggie Stievater.
In Maggie Stiefvater's SHIVER, Grace and Sam found each other. In LINGER, they fought to be together. Now, in FOREVER, the stakes are even higher than before. Wolves are being hunted. Lives are being threatened. And love is harder and harder to hold on to as death comes closing in.
Maggie Stiefvater
July 12th, 2011.

I just love the covers of this series. And I really want to know how it will end.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I'm currently reading two different volumes of letters, and have recently finished another - Sylvia & David: The Townsend Warner/Garnett Letters edited by Richard Garnett; Dearest Jean: Rose Macaulay's Letters to a Cousin edited by Martin Ferguson Smith; The Element of Lavishness: The Letters of William Maxwell and Sylvia Townsend Warner edited by Michael Steinman. Gosh, writing out titles, subtitles, authors, and editors is quite a lengthy process.

Anyway, it got me thinking about footnotes. Never let be said that I avoid the high-octane topics here at Stuck-in-a-Book. I have a love/hate relationship with footnotes and endnotes. If they're not there - as they weren't in the otherwise wonderful A Truth Universally Acknowledged collection of essays about Jane Austen - then I get frustrated. If they are there, I get easily annoyed. Something like Hermione Lee's biography Virginia Woolf went so hugely over the top with footnotes that reading it was exhausting. For scholarly works, they are essential. But often biographies or collections of letters have both scholarly potential and the possibility of being read for pleasure - so, what to do with the paraphenalia of academia?

(you might have to click on the sketch and enlarge it, to read it all!)
(and spot the deliberate mistake... oops.)

I'll write proper reviews of all those letter collections at some point, probably after I've actually read them, but I've been intrigued by the way they've approached footnotes. The Garnett/Warner letters have very few, and those only when significant reference is made to someone so vaguely that a footnote is absolutely necessary to make sense of an anecdote or opinion. The Maxwell/Warner letters had scarcely more, although they did often fill in the gap when a story was being discussed. Martin Ferguson Smith, on the other hand, has so many footnotes - and such thorough footnotes - in his collection of Rose Macaulay's letters that he actually has written more than Macaulay has in the book.

I suppose they're not actually footnotes - not sure what the correct terminology is, but his notes come after each individual letter. Macaulay will write 1.5 pages to Ferguson Smith's 2, perhaps. Which I thoguht would irritate me, but actually - and unusually for me - I love it! I am not reading them all; I just read the letters as though there were no footnotes - and if I'm interested or intrigued or confused by one of Macaulay's comments, then I'll look at the footnote.
Which is a much more liberating reading experience than feeling obliged to read each note laboriously - I think I've found the perfect reading compromise.

Perhaps notes feel more helpful here because only one half of the correspondence is present? Or perhaps Macaulay is just more off-at-tangents than Maxwell, Warner, or Garnett in her writing, and needs Ferguson Smith's guiding hand. Either way, he has done an astonishing amount of research. Every reference is tracked down; often he doesn't merely give the details of a mentioned book, but an outline of the plot - or, rather than just fill in the name of a figure alluded to, he will pop in an anecdote or two. It's a truly humbling amount of research - and I love it when Ferguson Smith's personality sneaks into the footnotes, usually in the form of an exclamation mark in brackets; which is one of my own favourite modes of punctuation(!)

Over to you. Do you like editorial notes to abound or, erm, not abound? Footnotes, endnotes, or end-of-section notes? I know it's a small thing, but I bet quite a few of you have opinions on the topic. In fact, I know Lyn does, for a start...

Whether a dove or a seagull

I thought I'd pop out a quick post, to test your knowledge (/actually I have no idea, and hoped someone else would.) I've been reading a bit about Sylvia Townsend Warner of late, mostly letters, and footnotes in a couple of different volumes have mentioned Whether a Dove or a Seagull. It's a poetry collection she published in 1934 with her partner Valentine Ackland - a joint-collection, but none of the poems were signed, so the authorship of each was left unknown. Which is an intriguing thought - and a brilliant title.

But in the footnotes it has simply said 'This experiment was not a success'. And no more info. Does anybody know any more about the collection, and in what manner it failed to succeed? Simply in terms of sales? Or was it critically panned? Or was one poet so evidently inferior to the other that anonymity was pointless? Anybody in the know, do shout!

Book Review: Only the Good Spy Young (Gallagher Girls #4) by Ally Carter

Title: Only the Good Spy Young
Author: Ally Carter
Series: Gallagher Girls #4
Release Date: June 29th, 2010
Publisher: Hyperion Book CH
Age: Young Adult
When Cammie Morgan enrolled at the Gallagher Academy, she knew she was preparing for the dangerous life of a spy. What she didn’t know was that the serious, real-life danger would start during her junior year of high school. But that’s exactly what happened two months ago when Cammie faced off against an ancient terrorist organization dead set on kidnapping her. Now the danger follows her everywhere, and even Cammie “The Chameleon” can’t hide. When a terrifying encounter in London reveals that one of her most-trusted allies is actually a rogue double-agent, Cammie no longer knows if she can trust her classmates, her teachers—or even her own heart.
In this fourth installment of the New York Times best-selling series, the Gallagher Girls must hack, spy, steal, and lie their way to the they go searching for answers, recognizing that the key to Cammie’s future may lie deep in the past.
The Gallagher Girls series is one of my favorites, so of course I was excited to read this one!

At Only the Good Spy Young, we already know Cammie is in danger. Her life is very controlled now, and things are changing not only at her school, but with her family and friends as well.

I loved this book. It was darker and serious than the previous, but it was perfect that way because Cammie is older and in a very dangerous position. I was very happy with her relationship with Zach, not only because they are very in love, but because finally Cammie learned about him, his finally and which side he is.

It's still a mystery for me why she's in danger, but I believe the next book will give me more information about that. I loved the spy missions, and the ending was really surprising and frustrating, and at the same time so exciting!

Overall, Only the Good Spy Young may be my favorite book from this series. As always, the author managed to surprise me and I can't wait for the next book!

More about this book at, Goodreads, Amazon, The Book Depository.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Journey through a book

I've just finished reading Edith Olivier's The Triumphant Footman and was pondering whether or not to write a review of it here. I love Edith Olivier's novel The Love-Child, as you might know, and thanks to various reprints (including one by Virago in the 1980s) it's quite easy to find at an affordable price. So I don't feel bad telling everyone that they really should read it, cos it's brilliant. The Triumphant Footman, on the other hand, isn't as good - but it is worth reading - more importantly, it is impossible to find in England. In the US there are a handful of copies available surprisingly cheaply (my edition was printed in the US, actually) but it's still fairly scarce.

So, instead of telling you much about The Triumphant Footman (although do ask if you'd like to know!) I shall merely tell you that it includes the wonderful character description of someone being "invincibly vague". And instead this will be a meandery post on obscure books, and such-like. I love these sorts of posts on other people's blogs (Rachel and Simon are especially good at them), so I hope you'll indulge me. Whenever I go off the book-review beaten-track, you lovely folk never fail to provide with great comments, so... now you're under some pressure!

Having a look through the books I've read in the past couple of years, there are quite a few which I deliberately decided not to write about on S-i-a-B because of their scarcity. There are also quite a few I simply forgot to write about, but that's a different matter. I'm never one to shy away from a list, so here they are:

Nothing is Safe by E.M. Delafield
Flower Phantoms by Ronald Fraser
A Harp in Lowndes Square by Rachel Ferguson
The Seraphim Room by Edith Olivier
Dwarf's Blood by Edith Olivier
Economy Must Be Our Watchword by Joyce Dennys
Birds in Tiny Cages by Barbara Comyns
The House in the Country by Bernadette Murphy
An Unexpected Guest by Bernadette Murphy
Which Way? by Theodora Benson.

Some were brilliant (Dennys); some were pretty poor (Fraser); some were disappointing (Comyns) and some were so-so (most of the rest) but nearly all of them are more interesting to me than the latest hardback or shortlisted issue-novel. But I don't see the point in telling you about a book that you then won't be able to find for less than £50... hmm. (If you do want to know about any of them, just let me know in the comments!)

Every now and then I get the urge to sideline all the esoteric, slightly eccentric reading choices I make, and settle down with the classics. While I find I have read a surprisingly high number of classic authors, I certainly read more non-classic authors. Of course, we could get tied in knots trying to work out the difference between 'classic' and 'non-classic', but even by the most generous criteria, only about twenty of the 115 books I read last year could be considered classics. Nobody is ever going to come up to me and say "Oh, just wondering, have you read An Unexpected Guest?" nor would I really have felt the lack from my reading life had I never done so. The opposite is true of, say, Middlemarch.

And yet... how unpersonal it would be to read only Austen, Eliot, Joyce, Lawrence... how uninteresting it would be to have a conversation with (or read a blog by) someone who never veered from the paths of canonical literature! I think most blog-readers agree that it's far more enticing to find a little-known gem uncovered, or even less popular Virago Modern Classics etc. Which can work alongside reviews of classics too, of course - as bloggers we tend not to discriminate that much in how a review is written, do we? My review of Howards End by E.M. Forster, for instance, appeared in between posts on Gay Life by E.M. Delafield and Saplings by Noel Streatfeild. As with most things, a mixture is the most interesting - but I'd always rather a blog leaned to the eccentric...

When I asked people on Twitter (I know, I know...) whether they'd ever chosen not to post about a book because it was scarce, all the respondents said no - because they might be able to revive interest, which in turn might help encourage publishers to reprint. I can see the logic of that for fantastic scarce novels - which is why, in retrospect, I really should have written about Joyce Dennys' Economy Must Be Our Watchword - but I probably wouldn't think it worthwhile to write about a book which nobody would be able to find if it was only mediocre, or even just 'quite good'.

This post has got even more meandering than I intended, since I've written it in instalments on different days. And the heat has addled my brain, so I'm not entirely sure what it was I wanted to say when I started this post. But do enjoy pictures of the lovely edition I have of The Triumphant Footman - and I thought it might be fun to include a sample of what happens when I read books. I tend to just write page numbers, in miniscule pencil writing, on the reverse of the title page - and then indicate the bit I'm interesting in on the page in question. If the book is too lovely to desecrate too many pages, I'll just make notes on that one page. Usually it's for review purposes, but these are actually in case the novel can be useful for my thesis. Make of them what you will....

Right. I'm off to write some of that thesis... or collapse in a melting heap on the floor. Undecided.

Book Review: Glimpse by Stacey Wallace Benefiel

Title: Glimpse
Author: Stacey Wallace Benefiel
Series: Zellie Wells #1
Published: May 9th 2010
Pages: 262
Age: Young Adult
Zellie Wells has a devastating crush on Avery Adams, the son of her mom’s high school sweetheart. At her sixteenth birthday party, held in the basement of her dad’s church, she finally finds the courage to talk to him. Turns out, the devastating crush is mutual.
As Avery takes her hand and leads her out onto the makeshift dance floor, Zellie is overwhelmed by her first vision of his death; shocking because not only are they both covered in his blood, but they’re old, like 35, and she is pregnant.
Afraid to tell anyone about the vision, (she’d just be labeled a freaky black magic witch, right?) Zellie keeps the knowledge of Avery’s future to herself and tries to act like any other teenager in love. When they get caught on their way to a secret rendezvous by her mom and his dad, they are forbidden to see each other.
Convinced that their parents are freaking out unnecessarily, Avery and Zellie vow to be together no matter what. They continue their relationship in secret until Zellie learns that their parents are just trying to prevent her and Avery from suffering like they did. The visions are hereditary, they’re dangerous, and if they stay together the visions will come true.
Now Zellie must choose between severing all ties with Avery, like her mom did to prevent his father’s death, and finding a way to change Avery’s future.
Most of the reviews I read from Glimpse said it was a great book, so when I won it, I was very excited to read it.

Zellie is a young girl who has visions. She's very in love with Avery, and when they finally get together she has a vision about them, an awful vision where she's pregnant and he's dead.

I thought Zellie was ok. She was the typical teenager and as many YA books, her romance with Avery was very rushed and unrealistic. One day she was too embarrassed to talk to him and next they are in love and will do anything for each other lives.

The rest of the characters, as Zellie's family weren't for me. Specially her mother and Avery's father, which I thought they were very unfair and immature. Really, I just didn't want to read about them.

The plot was interesting and that's the main reason why I read this book. I like characters with "powers" as Zellie, who can decide if they want to do something good with them, and it was refreshing to see that she actually made mistakes while tying to save everyone.

Overall, Glimpse wasn't a book for me. It was ok, but I think some of you may enjoy it more, specially the ones who likes paranormal.

More about this book at staceywb.webs.comGoodreads, Amazon.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Winner of my 1st Blogoversary giveaway is...

Emma R!

Winner of the Midsummer's Eve giveaway hop is...

Congratulations to all the winners! You have been emailed :)

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox is a weekly bookish meme hosted @ The Story Siren

S and S:

FuryThe UnwantedsWitchlandersSometimes It Happens

Fury by Elizabeth Miles
The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann
Witchlanders by Lena Coakley
Sometimes It Happens by Lauren Barnholdt


Ashes (Ashes (Hardcover - Trilogy))

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick


HourglassThe Forest of Adventures (The Knight Trilogy)Blood Red Road (Dustlands)HereafterCoffeehouse AngelMiss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Hourglass by Myra McEntire
The Forest of Adventures by Katie M. John
Blood Red Road by Margaret K. McElderry
Hereafter by Tara Hudson
Coffeehouse Angel by Suzanne Selfors
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ramson Riggs

Stolen from my sister (just kidding):

El Cuaderno De Maya

El Cuaderno De Maya by Isabel Allende (I don't know if there is an English edition)

It was an excellent week for me. How about you, what did you get this week? :)