Friday, 29 June 2012

My Random House experience

I recently finished two weeks of work experience at Random House in London, and it was amazing! It was my first time at a publishing company, and everything about it was so cool - the people, the fact that there were books EVERYWHERE, even the building itself. I felt like I'd infiltrated their building and spent the first few hours just staring at everything, completely starstruck.

I was in Ebury Publishing, and most of what I had to do involved mailing books out (which was cool because I got to write and sign letters on behalf of my mentors), filing book contracts, entering data, basic photocopying/printing, making spreadsheets of publishing contacts, and other lovely book-related things. I also got to see sample chapters of books that they're thinking of acquiring and publishing, which was pretty surreal.

My thoughts throughout the experience went something like this:

Day 1: The Random House building is the building in the Random House logo!!! Mind blown. 

Okay, so maybe this was obvious to everyone else, but I never noticed! When I showed up on the first day I was completely amazed by the fact that their main office in Pimlico actually looks like the one in the logo! I always thought that it was, you know, a random house. I find this unbelievably cool; like I'm a step closer to breaking the book/reality barrier.

Personal pic!

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (3)

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, where we showcase some of our hotly anticipated releases!

I have two WoWs this week. First up is:

Release date: 12 September 2013 
Publisher: Bloomsbury

The Bone Season begins in 2059. Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney is working in the criminal underworld of London, based at Seven Dials, employed by a man named Jaxon Hall. She works as an envoy between secret cells: she drops in an out of people's minds. For Paige is a lucid dreamer, a clairvoyant, and in her world, the world of Scion, she commits high treason simply by breathing. It is raining the day her life changes forever. Attacked, kidnapped and transported to Oxford, a city that has been kept secret for two hundred years, she meets Warden, a Rephaite with dark honey skin and heavy-lidded yellow eyes. He is the single most beautiful and frightening thing she has every laid eyes on – and he will become her "keeper".

This comes out in over a year and I don't think it's YA, but there's been a lot of hype for this book and comparisons to J.K. Rowling, so I'm really curious. Poor Samantha Shannon must be feeling the pressure, especially since this is her debut novel (she's a student at Oxford University), and I'm really hoping this book lives up to the hype and manages to carve its own niche in the book world. The blurb definitely sounds intriguing, so fingers crossed. 

(Summary from Goodreads)

Another book that looks AMAZING...

Goodreads | Amazon (pre-order)
Release date: 1 January 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse

Hannah Moskowitz's (author of BREAK and INVINCIBLE SUMMER) TEETH features a sixteen-year-old boy whose family, in an effort to cure his ailing brother, relocates to a remote island where legendary magic fish are said to have healing powers, and he discovers the island has terrible secrets, including a half-teenager, half-fish.

I don't even know what to say. There is so much potential for awesomeness in that tiny blurb + the added reassurance of knowing Hannah Moskowitz wrote this + a gorgeous cover! What more could you ask for??

(Summary + image from Goodreads)

What are YOU waiting on this Wednesday?

Monday, 25 June 2012

List Review: Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins

Rating: 3/5
Release date: 1 May 2012
Published by: HarperTeen
Goodreads | Amazon
Summary (Taken from Goodreads):

What if there were teens whose lives literally depended on being bad influences?
This is the reality for sons and daughters of fallen angels.

Tenderhearted Southern girl Anna Whitt was born with the sixth sense to see and feel emotions of other people. She’s aware of a struggle within herself, an inexplicable pull toward danger, but Anna, the ultimate good girl, has always had the advantage of her angel side to balance the darkness within. 

It isn’t until she turns sixteen and meets the alluring Kaidan Rowe that she discovers her terrifying heritage and her willpower is put to the test. He’s the boy your daddy warned you about. If only someone had warned Anna.

Forced to face her destiny, will Anna embrace her halo or her horns?

First, a shout out to Jennifer at Dream Reads for convincing me to read this through her great Dreamcast post, and her uncanny ability to match actors with characters! 

This was a fast-paced, entertaining read, and its title is apt: like candy, Sweet Evil is the kind of book you can't help but enjoy despite its flaws. A couple of thoughts:

1. WORLD-BUILDING:  Aside from Unearthly and Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I can't think of any other angel books I've read, so I'm admittedly not too familiar with what's been done before in the realm of YA, but Higgins has definitely written an interesting take on angels and demons. In Sweet Evil, Nephilim are half-demon, half-human offspring of the Dukes, who each represent cardinal sins. Kaidan Rowe, the love interest, is (of course) the son of the Duke of Lust. Without giving too much away, the Nephilim are meant to further each Duke's purpose by tempting those around them and driving them to sin. Kaidan's job is therefore to seduce people. Hence, "what if there were teens whose lives literally depended on being bad influences"? Higgins has created a really interesting demon hierarchy, and I was glad to see that she explored some of the tension that a hierarchy naturally creates.

2. NEPHILIM: These tensions were exemplified through Kaidan and the other Nephilim. They are teenagers who have been born with a considerable degree of power in their respective areas of 'expertise', yet these powers are also their greatest weakness. (Semi-spoiler) Toward the end of the book, there is a rather disturbing scene where we witness what happens when the Nephilim succumb to their Sin, and the punishment is severe. They walk a dangerous line, made harder by the fact that they are suffering for the mistakes of their fathers, and have grown up knowing that they are damned to Hell simply for being born to a Duke. I was glad that Higgins made these struggles evident, and it added a lot of needed depth to Kaidan, and set up backgrounds for the other Nephilim. When we meet the others we already know a little bit of their story, and so, when they act shallow or cruel, we know that there is at least this one thing that they are all plagued by, and they are automatically spared the label of 'one-dimensional'.

3. KAIDAN ROWE: Kaidan is a half-demon British drummer with intensely blue eyes. As the son of the Duke of Lust, he is indescribably hot and charismatic, and all the girls flock to him. I was admittedly skeptical of this absurdly clich├ęd description, but... Higgins really pulls it off. Kaidan is HOT, and him and Anna have a palpable chemistry. I found myself fangirling over their scenes and forgetting some his more ridiculous aspects: the whole drummer gig he has going on felt kind of thrown in there as a convenient way to get him and Anna to meet through a non-stop slew of band gigs and random house parties, and after they meet, it's sort of awkwardly dropped. I would have liked to have this part of him fleshed out a bit more and have him at least mention a love of music or something more often, but again, Higgins makes this very easy to ignore!

4. THE PLOT: What I didn't particularly like was the story itself, or lack thereof. Which is... kind of important. Higgins delivered great, original world-building and concepts, some nice internal struggle and tension amongst the demons, and a hot love interest, but when I think back on what this book actually is ABOUT, it's really hard to say. There are hints at a future war between the demons and the angels. There are hints at Satan leading an uprising. There are hints at the Duke of Lust punishing Anna  or coming in-between her and Kai in some way. None of these things actually happen, though, so all we're left with is a string of hints, threats, and build-up to what will probably be major conflicts in the upcoming books in the series. The Dukes and the Legionnaires (demon spirits) are scary, sure, but they don't actually DO much until the end. There is no obvious key villain or antagonist, just hints at one. So what was this actually about?

5. ANNA: Presumably, this should then be a story about Anna's inner struggle as she tries to find a balance between her conflicting sides (she is different from the other Nephilim in that she is half-Angel, half-Demon). This is certainly what the book's summary indicates: "Forced to face her destiny, will Anna embrace her halo or her horns?" What's baffling is that there didn't seem to be much of a struggle or choice to be made at all. It wasn't a problem for ANNA, it was merely an annoyance to the other demons, who constantly mention how Anna's 'starburst' is swirled with white, and (weirdly) how she's still a virgin and an embarrassment to the Neph. The one time she chooses to embrace her darker side in a bar, she feels a bit of guilt but continues the next morning perfectly undisturbed. It doesn't seem to affect her at all, and she is sweet and 'good' throughout the book with little internal conflict or emotional distress. Her main concerns are really her adoptive mother, Patti, and her separation from Kaidan. In the end, while we're meant to assume she has chosen a certain path, it is not really made clear, and we don't see the surely difficult deliberation that leads up to her choice.

Overall, I found this to be a really fun, entertaining read that lacked any distinct conflict and resolution as a story in itself but nicely set up the world and potential conflicts for the sequels. It felt like a prolonged introduction or first act that held my interest purely through Kaidan and Anna's addictive chemistry as we follow them and their friends as they go to parties, avoid their parents and try to make people do bad things. A total guilty pleasure.

Sometimes, this is exactly the kind of thing you want to read though, and I'll definitely be reading the sequels. Sweet Evil is a fast-paced, easy read, if you can overlook the bad! 

Side note: Is it just me, or does the name 'Kai' seem to be very popular amongst 2012 debuts? In the past few books I've read there is a weird amount of crossover in the names:
  • The Gathering Dark: Mal 
  • Cinder: Prince Kai 
  • For Darkness Shows the Stars: Mal + Kai = MALEKAI
  • Sweet Evil: Kaidan
A pretty cool coincidence... or conspiracy; who knows? :)

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Stacking the Shelves

Stacking The Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we share the books we are adding to our shelves each week.

I wasn't planning on participating on any one of the many book haul memes, because I generally don't buy books every week. I tend to buy in bulk about once a month. But since my blog is new and I've actually been buying books since it's Summer, I'll be participating for now!

Bought: Here are the books I've bought in the 3 weeks since my exams ended.

The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa 
The Gathering Dark by Leigh Bardugo
Eon by Alison Goodman
The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Stolen by Lucy Christopher
Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

(Digital copy) This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

Received: I just finished 2 weeks of work experience at Random House, and I loved it! I'll be posting about my experience soon. I was in the non-fiction department, and they gave me these lovely books to take home, including a cookbook that looks amazing. I don't read a lot of non-fiction, so thank you, Ebury! 

Far Eastern Odyssey by Rick Stein: a cookbook covering far East Asian cuisine! The recipes look soo good.

Charlotte Street by Danny Wallace: 'a heartwarming everyday tale of boy stalks girl'... one of the Random House employees compared it to Nick Hornby, so I'm really looking forward to reading it!

Our Garden Birds by Matt Sewell: a really adorable, tiny book filled with cute drawings of birds and descriptions! I didn't think I would like this but I do!

Shark's Fin & Sichuan Pepper by Fuchsia Dunlop: a travel/food memoir of Fuchsia Dunlop's experiences living and eating in China!

I Left My Tent in San Francisco by Emma Kennedy: a travel memoir that's supposed to be really funny of Emma Kennedy's 'disastrous attempts to cross the USA in the 80s'.

What books did you get this week? I'd love to see your book haul!

Review: This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

Rating: 5/5
Release date: 19 June 2012
Summary: (Taken from Goodreads)
Goodreads | Amazon

It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self.

To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live.

But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside.

When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (2)

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine, where hotly anticipated books are showcased!

My WoW this week is...

Goodreads | Amazon
Release date: 15 January 2013 (US + UK)

Since her untimely death the day before her eighteenth birthday, Felicia Ward has been trapped in Level 2, a stark white afterlife located between our world and the next. Along with her fellow prisoners, Felicia passes the endless hours downloading memories and mourning what she’s lost—family, friends, and the boy she loved, Neil.

Then a girl in a neighboring chamber disappears, and nobody but Felicia seems to recall she existed in the first place. Something is obviously very wrong. When Julian—a dangerously charming guy Felicia knew in life—comes to offer Felicia a way out, she learns the truth: a rebellion is brewing to overthrow the Morati, the guardians of Level 2.

Felicia is reluctant to trust Julian, but then he promises what she wants the most—to be with Neil again—if only she’ll join the rebels. Suspended between Heaven and Earth, Felicia finds herself in the center of an age-old struggle between good and evil. As memories from her life come back to haunt her, and as the Morati hunt her down, Felicia will discover it’s not just her own redemption at stake… but the salvation of all mankind.

(Summary + Image from Goodreads)

Okay, so part of my reasons for wanting to read this book so desperately may be completely misconceived. I got so excited when I read the first two paragraphs, thinking, "Oh, this sounds like a YA cross between The Matrix and Flight Plan! Amazing!" and then suddenly - BAM! Heaven and Earth, good/evil, potential love triangle. I was completely surprised. The idea's been planted though, and now whenever I think of this book I imagine a white, futuristic Heaven where Morgan Freeman is God... 


... and Julian and Felicia are Neo and Trinity. The cover and descriptions totally fit! "Stark white afterlife"? Rebels? Observe:

"Guns. Lots of guns."

Seriously though, what makes LEVEL 2 feel new and refreshing, and one of my most anticipated reads, is the futuristic element. I don't think I've read any YA books that have combined religious themes with a dystopian or sci-fi feel (or at least not so clearly), and I'm so excited to see how Lenore Appelhans merges the two. Of course, this could be completely off. The book may not focus on either at all, and I only really jumped logically to 'religious themes' from the mention of 'Heaven'. However, the fact that it has me considering all its possibilities after only a three-paragraph blurb is a really good sign, and the plot sounds fresh and exciting regardless!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

List Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Rating: 4/5
Released: 3 January 2012
Summary: (Taken from Goodreads)

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, the ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . . 

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Top 10: Books of my childhood (part II)

This is part II of my Top 10: Books of my childhood list! See part I here.


Curse you, Lemony Snicket. Snicket is possibly the expert at stringing readers along, but he also makes you love every second of it. He baits you with The Challenge, telling you very clearly in the blurb NOT to pick the book up; that it is the first in a long chain of depressing and wildly unfortunate events, so of course you DO just to prove him wrong. Then he hits you with The Story: It was just so appealing on a children-against-the-world level, and who didn't love that as a kid? Pure escapism. Snicket pits the three good, smart Baudelaire orphans against the evil, irrational Count Olaf, and every other adult in the story is seriously too incompetent to help. Finally, after you've accepted The Challenge and been reeled in by The Story, he claims you with The Hook: He leaves you with these awful cliffhangers, where Count Olaf has been seemingly chased away YET AGAIN. In the beginning of each instalment, the Baudelaires seem to have finally found happiness and peace at last with a new guardian, only to have Olaf show up EVERY TIME. That's the beauty of The Hook: you know it's coming, but you spend the next decade praying that something in their miserable lives will change. You would think this would get old eventually, and it did, but you just couldn't stop reading, and when you did find yourself complaining that they never seemed to get closer to solving any mysteries (VFD??? The sugar bowl? ...Who the hell is Beatrice??), you remembered that you were WARNED not to read the book from the very first page, and you bitterly shut your mouth.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Top 10: Books of my childhood (part I)

This is the first in a series of 'Top 10' posts that will hopefully help you understand me as a reader - my likes, dislikes, weaknesses - better! See upcoming posts here. First up: books of my childhood.

What are the books that shaped your childhood? Did you enjoy reading as a child? I was (still am) obsessed. The books that you read as a kid play a huge part in shaping you as a reader, as does every book you read. Sentimental value goes a long way. Sometimes I find myself re-reading a childhood book, realizing all the flaws in it, but loving it all the same just for the memories.

Here are the first 5 books (part 2 to come) that made me love reading as a child, up till about the age of 13. And yes, I counted a few book series, because it was too hard. 

1. HIS DARK MATERIALS series by Philip Pullman

Seriously, this blog would not be here if it wasn't for this book. I read this when I was 11, and feel as if I've been chasing a high ever since. And I'm not sorry for that creepy analogy. I'd always loved reading, but the His Dark Material series, comprised of Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, completely changed me. Northern Lights is hard to get into and starts slowly, and the movie was utterly disappointing, but it's so, so worth it. I cried at the end of the last book, and when my family went on holiday to Oxford many years later, I went to the Oxford Botanical Gardens, found a bench, and sat on it with The Amber Spyglass clutched in my hand. If you don't understand the reference, you need to go read these NOW.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Waiting on Wednesday

So, I know everyone does Waiting on Wednesdays (and by everyone I mean YA book bloggers; so really, not everyone at all), but it's such a huge part of what we as book lovers share - that crazy, unhealthy NEED that you feel - that I can't not take part! Waiting on Wednesday is a meme started by Jill of Breaking the Spine. :)

This Wednesday, I'm waiting on...


UK cover

I know a lot of people have read this already, but I honestly can't wait. I completely devoured the novellas:

The Assassin and the Pirate Lord (Goodreads | Amazon)
The Assassin and the Desert (Goodreads | Amazon)
The Assassin and the Underworld (Goodreads | Amazon)
The Assassin and the Empire (July 2012)

They were sooo good, and so much fun. It's been a while since I've read YA fantasy that just feels so natural. Her stories feel just like the fantasy I read when I was younger and really reminded me of Tamora Pierce. It doesn't feel forced at all. Celaena is so funny and so refreshingly girly for an assassin. I loved the world-building (especially the story of the spiders in The Assassin and the Desert). I loved the blossoming relationship between Sam and Celaena (why isn't he mentioned in the Throne of Glass blurb????). And this is just from reading the NOVELLAS. I can't wait for this book.

PRE-ORDER THRONE OF GLASS: Amazon | The Book Depository

US cover

Release date: 7 August 2012 (US) | 2 August 2012 (UK)
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Summary: (Taken from Goodreads)

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men—thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the kings council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.
Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Rating: 5/5
Released: 12 June 2012
Summary: (Taken from Goodreads)

Generations ago, a genetic experiment gone wrong—the Reduction—decimated humanity, giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology. Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot’s estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth—an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go. 

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret—one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she’s lost him forever. 

Inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion, For Darkness Shows the Stars is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Review: The Gathering Dark by Leigh Bardugo

UK cover/title of Shadow and Bone

Rating: 4/5 
Release date: May 2012 (UK)
Summary: (Taken from Goodreads)

The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.
Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?
The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfil her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.
But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?
 Glorious. Epic. Irresistible. Romance.


After months of lurking and a lifetime of reading, I've finally decided to join the book blogging community! I'm so excited to post my thoughts on books I've read, books I want to read, and everything else in-between. First up: a review of The Gathering Dark (a.k.a Shadow and Bone) by Leigh Bardugo.

June 2012
The Headless Owl
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