Who am I?

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Mmm books - they taste good in my brain. So I decided to work in publishing and feed my habit. So now for a living I read wonderful children's books and tell everyone how great they are. It's called publicity! Many thanks to Oliver Jeffers for the name inspiration and header image.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

You probably won't find me giving too many in depth reviews here, because I suppose as a book publicist I generally have ulterior motives for recommending books! I know I won't be able to help myself sometimes, but in this instance as it's a book for grown ups and published by Vintage, I figured I could get away with it!

I received a proof of this book when I was still working at RHCB - it arrived in the internal post wrapped in black paper and shiny white ribbon, which prompted much excitement! Tucked into the book was a small business card, printed with the following:

"The circus arrives without warning.
No announcements precede it.
It is simply there,
when yesterday it was not."

Vintage do an absolutely beautiful job of everything they do - their books are beautifully published, so I was already very aware of the hype and creative marketing that was going into promoting this book. This particular proof was offered to encourage in house staff to photograph themselves with the book, wearing something red, to be posted on the intranet homepage - sadly I never got the chance to do this before I left!

The book tells the story of a mysterious travelling circus that appears from nowhere and opens only at night. Its illusions and entertainments are so enchanting that people lose themselves in amongst the black and white striped tents until dawn. But behind the glittering fairy lights and spinning acrobats, there is something keeping the circus together beyond any of its patron's imaginations. Two figures are locked in a dangerous wager, keeping the circus balanced as they discover the rules of their game.

I found this book impossible to walk away from. The descriptions were so sumptuous and detailed that I found myself desperate to visit the circus for myself. Every time I closed the book and stepped back into my carriage on the tube everything looked far too dull and muted compared to the dazzling world of the story. The plot itself weaves through time, cleverly moving back and forth to reveal the fates of the characters piece by piece. I was a little disappointed by the ending as I was anticipating something  little more dramatic. I also think it was probably too long - however if I had been editing this book I would have been loath to remove any one of the tempting scenes of caramel apples by the bonfire or glittering snow gardens, permanently frozen.

There is so much beauty in this book that perhaps it would be easy to overlook issues with the plot, or excuse them. Morgenstern is clearly a hugely talented writer and has plenty of respect for the real magic of storytelling. However, I think that someone even a smidgen less whimsical than I may have found the fantasy of the circus too insubstantial to cover the slow pace of the plot. There weren't many surprises in the direction of the story, as the reader seems to be aware of things that seem blindingly obvious but only become apparent to the characters some time later. In fact, the characters are generally rather thinly described compared to the lushness of their world. I think this is where the book really falls down unfortunately.

However - I am a girl on the high end of the whimsical scale. I do believe that within books, films, music and art we can really lose ourselves and it is a kind of magic. I think this is why I'm so drawn to children's books, because all those possibilities of fantastical worlds and events are still present. I am clearly the sort of person this book is therefore aimed straight for! I found reading The Night Circus immensely enjoyable. It is truly beguiling and sensory, drawing you into a world that would be so incredible to witness. For that reason I would still strongly recommend it to read - curl up by the fire with a mug of hot chocolate as the cold winter nights draw in and read it for the joy of it. In the meantime I will be looking forward to the arrival of Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland in the hope it will at least half way satisfy my craving for a magical circus!

The Night Circus is out now, published by Harvill Secker.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Life so far in the new job!

Life in children's book publicity is many things - the one thing you can count on, however, is the variety! If you really want to test this theory, start a new job in September! It's one of the busiest times of the year, with all the big Autumn blockbusters being published in time to get on the Christmas present lists. With big books, come big tours and public appearances. So I pretty much guaranteed myself a start in the deep end! So here, in photographic form, here is a brief catalogue of my first few weeks as a press officer:
Ok so technically this happened before I started - just wanted some photographic evidence that I had REAL CHAMPAGNE bought for me. Thanks bookboy :)
Day 1 at work - sneakily took a photo of the huuuge stack of the new Oliver Jeffers book Stuck - I am a huge fan and working at his publishers is WIIICKEDDD! Then of course, the next thing I did on day 1...
Oh who's that? Oh yes it's Oliver Jeffers, signing in Cambridge Waterstones. HC knows how to draw me in...

The on day... 3 I think it was, I was at the YLG conference a Goldsmith's college, setting up my stand next to the lovely Random House stand coincidentally! Mmm... look at all the books... tasty!
I was with the lovely Harriet Wilson from editorial, who also used to work for RH so we had a lovely old catch up and gossip with those on the RHCB stand next to us (I mean, it had been at least a week since I'd left).

 One day in my first week the post man came around looking confused at where exactly this mysterious Rosi was sitting - after waving my arms around frantically I found myself presented with these lovely flowers! These were a really sweet good luck present from Vogler and Burchett, the lovely Gargoylz authors - sooooo sweet! 

I have been really lucky so far in that I've been hanging out with several LEGENDARY kids' book people -  I spent one sunny morning in the super swanky St Pancras hotel with illustration royalty Judith Kerr and Tomi Ungerer.
They had some shared history in their experiences during the war which was fascinating to listen to. You can still hear the extended version online here.

I could go on and on but I think this blog post is already majorly long!!! The last thing I have photographic evidence of is the bizarre day I spent pretending to be Michael Morpurgo. I don't mean I actually donned a dusky pink suit and became an amazing author - in fact I was just accepting the Oxfordshire Children's Book Award on Michael's behalf. It was a lovely ceremony although I was very scared I had to stand on stage in front of 300 people, even if they were tiny children... Later though, I accepted my place a prize winner...
Ok... I'll give it back in the morning...

Monday, 10 October 2011

New Reading!

(OK I wrote this a week and a half ago, so imagine I know how to back date posts...)

It's been a week and a half since I started at a different publishing house - I've been reading through a mountain of recent and upcoming titles to try and get my head around a whole new list and it's been SO MUCH FUN. So I thought I'd share my thoughts on what I've read so far...

by Candace Bushnell

I snatched this one up as soon as I could - The Carrie Diaries was the first ever book I owned in proof form and I am a SATC nerd so I couldn't wait to read this one. This book was just as fun as the first prequel, with the added bonus of being set in NYC and all the glamour that brings! The storyline gives one or two satisfying references to Carrie's future in the city, but it's clear Bushnell wants to provide her own ideas of the characters' past. However, Carrie is very much the girl she becomes later - she's high maintenance and naive in her relationships, keen to seek advice from friends, and definitely after the best party invites. But she's also incredibly bubbly and has her particular morals and ideals.

by Will Hill

I had been seeing this book LITERALLY everywhere earlier in the year and had been super jealous of the campaign surrounding it. I'd heard it billed as a hyper-violent weapon fest, which I wasn't too sure about, but as soon as I started reading it I was totally hooked. As a major Buffy/True Blood fan I could see this was was bringing vampires back from the current sparkly incarnations and there was a real minimal focus on romance. It draws you in right away and despite how gory it is, I couldn't stop reading. There are several links with literary monsters and vampires which I loved and hinted at so much more back story yet to come from this series. I'm so excited that I get to work on this book and read more in the series!

By Maureen Johnson

This is another really fun YA title - super chilling and creepy! After reading D19 and then this straight away I was slightly worried for my life on the streets of London though! This book focuses on Rory, who has just moved to London to attend a slightly eccentric boarding school (and who doesn't love a boarding school story?) but as she arrives, she finds herself witness to a media frenzy. Around London, grizzly murders seem to be mirroring those of Jack the Ripper. Rory is drawn in by the story but soon finds herself closer than she would like to the murders. The story keeps you guessing with the supernatural elements and had a real Scooby Doo side to it. The best news is that's there's more to come from Maureen in the Shades of London series!

By Barry Hutchison

I won't say too much on the plot for this one as it's not out until next March, but sufficed to say this is exactly my kind of book. I'm a huge fan of the kind of dry British humour Barry uses in this book and the storyline is completely genius! I always used to hand my Terry Pratchett books on to my dad and I'm definitely going to be posting him this one back home for him to enjoy. It's one of those books you instantly want to pass on to someone to give them a good laugh - and believe me for the next 5 months I'm going to be telling a LOT of people to read it!

So that's all my reading so far - I'm onto Slide By Jill Hathaway now - only a few pages in, but love the concept of an American high school girl who has narcolepsy - but when she falls asleep she "slides" into other people and can see what they see - lots of potential for Goosebumps style murder mysteries! Hm.. Must stop using references to my teenage reading as a way of understanding modern YA books!!

Thanks for reading - and I'll try and keep the posting up here on my new shiny blog!!