September Book Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything follows the story of a young girl named Maddie who, due to complex health issues, is unable to go outside. This means her visitors are few and far between and she is entirely confined to her house. She’s seen the comings and goings of neighbours in the house next door – they move in, they move out – but when Ollie and his family move in, something is noticeably different. As first love blossoms between them, the formerly rigid walls of Maddie’s existence start to blur and she finds herself contemplating things she never imagined. A whirlwind of events sends Maddie’s world spiralling through tumultuous changes that might just change her life forever.

This book is something else. It’s one of those novels that you just know is going to leave a lasting impression. It’s a masterpiece which effortlessly combines witty humour with intriguing characters and ground-breaking plot twists to leave the reader reeling. In short, it’s the perfect read.

It speaks volumes that the first details we are given are Maddie’s medical notes. Her identity revolves around her condition and it’s the first thing we learn about her as a character. It’s shaped who she has become but I love that, as the novel progresses, she doesn’t allow her condition to define her. It takes a struggle, but a big part of the narrative is Maddie’s search to discover who she is without her illness, and that makes for a very compelling read.

Mothering is an important theme in the novel, explored through two very different female characters. Maddie’s mother (who is also Maddie’s doctor) is often cold and clinical without meaning to be, and it becomes clear why as the narrative unfolds. Then there’s Carla, the warm, caring maternal figure to whom Maddie confesses her real feelings. Maddie confesses that she feels more comfortable talking to Carla because she doesn’t want to make her mother sad. As Carla’s backstory is revealed, we discover that she fled Mexico and left her family, believing she wouldn’t survive. Having experienced such difficulties, she’s able to better understand Maddie’s need to really live instead of simply leading a safe existence that isn’t really living at all. I found these two characters really interesting. On the one hand, I pitied Maddie’s mother, particularly when the big plot twist hits at the end of the book (I won’t spoil…), but I also felt a strong sense of betrayal for Maddie. Given her predicament and the emotional strain put on her after losing her husband and son, her actions are understandable, but still incredibly damaging.

I thoroughly enjoyed following the progression of Ollie and Maddie’s relationship throughout the book, anticipating their next encounter with the turn of every page. In particular, I found Yoon’s description of their bodies intriguing. Ollie is constantly in motion while Maddie is Zen and still, thinking and observing a world that doesn’t include her. With a simple sentence, she captures this beautifully: ‘His body is his escape from the world, whereas I’m trapped in mine’. Two opposite entities, almost at odds yet inescapably drawn to the other. Ollie, who has experienced physical and emotional abuse from his father is restless and, perhaps on a physical level, always ready to dodge some advance. Maddie, contained in her home, unable to physically leave, has retreated into her body, has become a very thoughtful character, with no use for constant movement because it doesn’t get her anywhere. There are some truly beautiful ideas in the book, like the chapter on skin. Yoon explores the idea that some cells renew while some don’t; we change the upper layers of our skin every two weeks while some don’t renew at all and that’s what ages us. ‘We can have immortality or the memory of touch. But we can’t have both.’ This is why I love literature. So many ideas that are so beautiful and complex and unimaginable; some are too big to wrap your mind around and plenty remind you how wonderful the world is. Yoon ties that in to her narrative, giving the novel an existential tone which is thought-provoking and entertaining in the same breath.

Among the banter and witticism that allows Yoon to maintain a light-hearted tone throughout, there are definitive moments in the book which carry a significantly darker undertone. The unfolding abuse inflicted by Ollie’s father next door is certainly one of them. I also thought Zach (Olly’s friend) was a key addition to the narrative, a kind of wake-up call – a reality check – a way of grounding the story in relevant contemporary issues. Zach is gay and wants to be a Rockstar – two things his parents absolutely loathe – so he pretends to be someone he’s not while his parents remain ignorant (or choose to ignore) how damaging this is to their son. This isn’t just a story about a sick girl falling in love with a boy. This is a story about the dark side to life; the ugly, the marginalised, the unspoken. Zach pinpoints the issue perfectly: ‘Maybe growing up means disappointing the people we love’. The adults in this book undoubtedly fail their children, regardless of intention. Maddie’s mother causes a lot of emotional damage for her daughter, Ollie’s dad is physically abusive to his family, and Zach’s parents force him to create a version of himself that is socially acceptable. This speaks to the emotional damage often inflicted on millennials and young people by a society that is often set in its ways and unwilling to welcome change.

The short chapters make the novel very easy to get through and also give it a scrapbook-feel thanks to the little drawings and document inserts. The episodic nature of the book makes it feel like you’re paging through a collage of Maddie’s life, filled with her whims, her musings, her observations as you flicked through snippets taken directly from her diary. I found some of them as erratic as the thoughts that flit through the human mind, and that was such an interesting way to consume a piece of literature.

To conclude, Everything, Everything is the first book I have EVER completed in a single day. If that doesn’t convince you to read it, I don’t know what will.

 

October Book Review: All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

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Life Update

If someone had told me that in the space of literally 3 weeks I could be fully employed as an Editorial Assistant and be about to rent my very own place for the first time, I would have laughed in that persons’s face.

Turns out, the idea is not actually all that ludicrous.

In all my wallowing about having a job I didn’t particularly enjoy and generally getting nowhere in life, I continued sending out CVs and cover letters. I was determined not to settle for another job just to make money, and told myself that my next job would be in publishing. At the time I didn’t really think that kind of motivational thinking would actually get me somewhere, but it turns out, it did.

Four weeks ago, I got an email from a Healthcare organisation, inviting me to complete an Editorial Assistant test. It was the first time I’d ever been asked to complete a test for a job, but then, I suppose I’ll have to start expecting more of them in publishing since it covers all the basic knowledge an Editorial Assistant needs to have. I had a week to complete the test and sent it off wondering if I’d even done it right. I had to stick to a style sheet and use the correct proofreading markups and, as it was my first test, I really didn’t have much to go on other than my common sense and my knowledge of grammar from uni.

A couple of days after submitting the test, I received another email congratulating me on completing the test and inviting me to an interview with one of the Hiring Managers. At this point, I was terrified. As more details unfolded, it turned out I was to meet with two Hiring Managers from two separate agencies who were both looking to recruit. Now, faced with the prospect of two interviewees, it began to dawn that I was outnumbered and suddenly feeling very under-qualified. It’s funny isn’t it, just how much we continue to doubt ourselves even though, in this instance, I’d received feedback that the managers had been ‘very impressed’ with my test, and they were ‘very eager to meet with me’. Still, looking at my CV, all I could see was a lot of retail experience, a couple of internships within small publishing environments, and my degree.

But anyway, I went to the interview and it all went really well. It turned out I was actually interviewing for three different agencies, so I was even more outnumbered that I’d originally expected, but I managed to keep calm and have a little banter with my interviewers. One thing I found was that they seemed to like that I didn’t take it all too seriously. I’m not saying I was cracking jokes the whole time, but when I kept linking a couple of my answers back to organisation, I tried to – tastefully – make light of the fact by saying something like: ‘You’re probably going to be tired of hearing this, but again I would say organisation’. This made the whole ordeal a lot less awkward for them and allowed me to relax a little more instead of stumbling over my words. I’d also prepped for the interview thoroughly which helped more than I can say. I knew the company’s ethos inside-out and had even scrolled through their Twitter feed to see what they were getting up to. When I brought up staff initiatives in the interview, like their staff sports day and their Bank Holiday pizza day, I could tell they really understood that I’d done my homework. Just by looking up the company on their own website, I was easily able to tackle the ‘So what do you know about the company’ question without embellishing or waffling. If in doubt, head over to Linda Raynier’s YouTube channel. I stumbled across her channel the night before my interview and it was a good job because in my interview, I was able to use her tips to answer the ‘Where do you see yourself in three years?’ question, and the dreaded ‘What do you think will be the most unappealing part of the job?’. Seriously, give her a look, you won’t be disappointed.

The same day, I drove home feeling a couple of pounds lighter and, not long after I’d been in the house, my phone rang. The lady who’d arranged the interview asked me how I thought it had gone and asked what I thought of the offices. Then she told me they wanted to offer me one of the positions! ELATED IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT AT THIS POINT.

So for the last three weeks I’ve been up to my eyeballs in paperwork and house viewings. Because the job is a ninety-minute car ride from where I live now, it means I’m going to have to move, but that was always going to be necessary no matter where I ended up. It’s been a tense week or so waiting to hear if my application had been accepted for an apartment five minutes or so from the office, but things seem to be moving more quickly now. In fact, for my first week (since I can’t pick my keys up until my second week there), I’ll be staying in a B&B, so as of this Sunday, I’ll be moving out.

I have to say, I’ve been so focused on making the career thing happen that I don’t think I ever really stopped to think about what I’d be leaving behind. If I could take my mum and my sister with me (and my two pups), I’d do so in a heartbeat. We’re so close that I’m going to miss them a lot, but I guess that’s all part and parcel of growing up. Moving out. Moving away. Becoming self-reliant. I’m looking forward to it, but it’s also the biggest thing I’ve ever done, so I have a feeling Skype is going to get a lot of use…

Until next time, stay tuned to see how I get on!

3 Must-See Films

This Beautiful Fantastic

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5/5 stars. This film is packed with wonderful weirdness, heart-warming relationships, and a quirky kind of comedy that immediately endears you to all the characters and to the story itself. A beautiful narrative with a tinge of sadness, the overall package leaving you with a smile when the credits roll in. No doubts that this is a must-watch.

 

Their Finest

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4/5 stars. War, love, frustration, betrayal, gritty determination; those are just a few things you can expect from this film. I thought it was a little slow starting, but once I got into the swing of things, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was touching and funny, a kind of emotional rollercoaster and utterly unpredictable. It filled me with pride for womankind and an appreciation for the resilience of the film industry during the war…and everything in between!

 

Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Men Tell No Tales

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5/5 stars. Hilarious. Thrilling. Jack Sparrow is one of my all-time favourite characters, so I was excited to see Johnny reprise his role as the infamous pirate. Between reunions that have been long-awaited for ten years, impressive action sequences, and terrifying villains, this was the ultimate Pirates movie experience that I’ve been craving ever since At World’s Ends came to the big screen. I would definitely recommend this film.

 

 

August Book Review: Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith by Shaun Hume

This novel follows the adventures of a young boy by the name of Ewan Pendle as he struggles to find his place in the world. As an unexpected twist turns his life on its head, Ewan begins to discover a place where he might just belong after all, with friends like Mathilde and Enid that he can count on. Between monstrous white wraiths, a possible betrayal inside the walls of his new home, and a training regime that threatens to break Ewan’s spirits, this is a heart-warming coming-of-age story with plenty of creativity to keep things interesting.

With moments that made me happily reminiscent of the Harry Potter series – the idea of a trio at the helm of a narrative woven with excitement, mystery, suspense, and a little comedy, Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith fits neatly into the kind of fiction all children love to grow up with. It’s the kind of tale to fuel imaginations which, I think we can all agree, is one of literature’s superpowers.

I enjoyed that the story started in media res, thrusting readers into the midst of the action without having to wait to be eased into this fictional world. Sometimes a narrative of this genre can take a while to unfold, but I didn’t find that here. Despite the fantasy element, there are some genuinely human themes that help to make the narrative more believable and authentic. Underneath all the fantastical details, at the centre of it all, this is a story about a foster child wondering why he isn’t good enough – why no family wants to keep him and love him as their own son. As a protagonist, Ewan has a kind of childish innocence which endeared me to him.

A lot of mature themes find their way into the narrative, and this is something which has always fascinated me about children’s fiction. Despite the young audience these stories often appeal to, adult themes are always prevalent. There’s something wonderful about that because it’s almost like a hidden meaning that you can come to discover later on when you’re older and wiser, even though you believed that you’d already extracted all the meaning from the story the first time around. I feel like this book offers that; there’s a possibility to return to the story to find that it holds new meaning every time you read it.

The idea of a world existing parallel to our own has always intrigued me and I think it makes a good premise for any story. A world that can include anything – where anything can happen and we can be anything we want to be – that’s always going to be a thrilling concept. Especially when that world is filled with creatures and swords and things altogether not of our world. That’s part of what makes this book so entertaining. There are so many good ideas that are really imaginative, like the brainic lamps at school…but I won’t say any more; you’ll have to read the book to find out what they do!

With the three main characters, I really liked that they were all outsiders but also very strong. Enid and Mathilde are both feisty characters and exactly the kind of female role models young girls need to see reflected in literature today. They’re not just in there for decoration or to pad out the narrative, Ewan really needs these girls to help him along the way, just as they need his friendship.

All in all, the book has good pacing. There’s always something happening, and the reader is given certain chapters solely dedicated to revealing snippets of a character’s back story. I liked the addition of mystery and the unanswered questions which are purposely left unresolved as a teaser for the sequel which may just follow. If we do get another instalment, I look forward to reading about Ewan’s journey to embrace his own identity and start to value himself more as a young man who may have had to stifle his yearning for affection, but now no longer has to. When you think about it, the emotional damage endured by orphans and foster children is really heart-breaking, but in amongst all that, this story is funny and quirky and filled with plenty to delight the imagination. It’s a really good balance of reality and fantasy, enough to leave you thinking about the fate of the characters while picturing the world in your head.

 

If you fancy taking a look for yourself, you can get your hands on a copy right here: http://a.co/hwnPDVX

 

September Book Review: Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

 

Stepping into my Intern shoes: Week 13

It’s taken me a while to wrap up my Internship experience and write this post because it’s been a really sad end to a really great experience. I didn’t get offered a job, but that’s just the way it goes I suppose. At the moment they don’t really have the means to add to their team, and I fully respect that. I’m a little gutted, I won’t lie, but there’s no use in crying about it.

My last week was much like any. I was busy chasing up loose ends so that when my last day arrived, I wouldn’t be leaving anything up in the air. As a way of making sure this didn’t happen, I created a comprehensive handover document for the PR lady, with a list of everything I’ve been dealing with while she’s been away. To look at, it must have been pretty overwhelming, but I felt kind of proud reading through it because it showed just how much I’d done in my time there. So even though I won’t be the newest member of their team, I’ve been able to walk away from the office knowing that I’ve made a real difference, and that’s not something money can buy.

On my last day, I was kind of sad and excited and dreading it all at the same time. The night before I made some chocolate-y treats and wrote a little message in the thank you card I bought for the team. When I arrived that morning, I cannot tell you how much of an anti-climax it all was. In actual fact, it was kind of hilarious. Of all the mornings I’ve turned up to a full office, the only people there on that last morning was me and one member of the sales team. As the morning went on, more people trickled in, and my treats went down well. I’m pretty sure one of the freelance writers kept sneaking into the kitchen to get another, which made me smile.

The first goodbye was one of the sales ladies who has been really nice throughout my internship. She’s great at her job, and she’s just one of those people who can talk to anyone, so when she just said, ‘thanks for all your hard work and, well, thanks for being you!’, I may just have had a little lump in my throat. Then the Managing Director came in and handed me a present from the PR lady. She was still on holiday, but she’d left me a gift from Hong Kong – some chocolates with a sticky note on the box. The message was simple but touching and I may or may not have had another little lump in my throat.

As 1pm drew nearer, my stomach started churning. I didn’t want to leave because I was afraid I might cry, and that was not the impression I wanted to leave them all with. Still, I couldn’t exactly sneak out without saying thanks. When the time came, the MD walked me to the door and asked what was next for me. I told him I didn’t really know, maybe I would try and find something full-time in administration since that kind of experience is essential for editorial work. Then perhaps a move down South might be in order if I really want to give this career of mine a good go. He was more than happy to provide me with a reference, and even gave me some advice about finding work through an organisation for which he’s resident on the Board of Directors. Apparently they have some handy online training courses and they even advertise jobs on their website, linked directly to the publishing industry. I told him it was just a case of knowing where to look and getting my foot in the door somehow, and thanked him for the internship and all the responsibility he’d given me. He said the PR lady had told him I was an asset and thanked me for all my hard work.

I walked out of there with tears in my eyes and actually had a little cry as I walked back towards the city centre. Not to be dramatic or anything, but I can’t tell you how hard it was to walk to work that afternoon and go and fold jeans for four hours, knowing that I was officially back to square one. If there’s anything I can’t help but take away from this whole experience, it’s that getting a job these days feel almost impossible. Everything seems to stand against you – you either have not enough experience or too much. Employers want to know why you have such a mix of employment history – retail and admin and blogging work – and how it’s relevant to the position you’re applying for, without considering that maybe we just try and get whatever work we can to earn money. Sometimes that’s as simple as it is.

I’ve found it really hard not to be disheartened about the internship coming to an end and not leading anywhere. When you put so much effort into something in your free time and it doesn’t quite pan out how you wanted it to, it’s heart-breaking. Now, a week later, I’m finding it difficult to adjust to going back to just having my retail job. It was nice to have something in the mornings to look forward to. To have something to do that I knew was actively contributing to my future. Now, I’m spending those mornings searching for jobs in admin to try and get out of retail. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned a lot, but it’s not the job for me. It’s time to put my degree to use and start enjoying working again. I’m twenty-two. I have nothing to lose at this point. As much as I’d love to just up and move to London where all the major publishing houses are, I have to be tactical and practical about this. My head is telling me to get an admin job, build up those skills for a couple of years until they become almost second-nature, and then consider the London move again when I’ve actually had the chance to save for it. It makes sense that when I finally get that Editorial Assistant role, being familiar with the admin side of things will make it so much easier to acclimatise to the newness of the job.

For now, all I can do is keep applying and hope that I find something soon. The aim is to be out of retail before Christmas, because I really don’t know if I can hack another Christmas in retail. I don’t know if that will actually happen, but feel free to keep your fingers crossed for me!

Stepping into my Intern shoes: Week 12

This, the penultimate week of my internship, has been pretty steady, as weeks go. The last couple of weeks were slightly hectic as we worked towards the deadline to get the festival programs off to the printers, and this week, they came back. I got to keep a copy, and I was really surprised and kind of humbled to see that my name preceeded the other staff members in the ‘written by’ acknowledgement section. I wrote a lot of the content because the main writer for the magazine was away from the office for a couple of weeks due to unforseen circumstances. At the time I didn’t realise I was writing most of the content because I thought I was just laying the groundwork, so to speak, but apparently not! This is a really good thing. I’m so proud. It’s really quite overwhelming to see your name in print, to see your hard work acknowledged that way. 

This week I spent most of my time chasing people from venues in several parts of the country to try and get photography booked in for the next two cookbooks. It’s been slow going, but when people are trying to run businesses, it’s always going to be tricky. Slowly but surely, my appointment spreadsheet it becoming more green than yellow and red, so I’m starting to get somewhere, and I’m really enjoying having so much responsibility. It makes me feel like they trust me to deal with their clients, and that’s such a fantastic feeling.

I’ve also been trying to turn my attention to their social media pages to get some coverage, and when I haven’t been doing that, I’ve been trying to re-jig their contacts database. It’s a little old, so it needs updating and laying out a little bit better. I think I’m making it easier to navigate, and I get a nerdy kick out of monotonous filing, so it’s a win win for them and for me! 

Truth be told, it’s really hitting home this week that I only have five days left in this office, with these people, doing this job that I’ve been wanting to do since high school. So much has started to come together and it’s gone so quickly that now I’m really not ready for it to end. I’m choosing not to think more than a day ahead to keep myself from going crazy; I’ll let you know how that’s working out next week! 

Stepping into my Intern shoes: Week 11

This week has been significantly less stressful given that everything related to the festival program is finished. Done with. No more. The deadline has passed, and all is well, which means that I’ve finally had time to go through my to-do list and get some things ticked off for the PR lady while she’s on holiday.

As of last week, I was only handling one photographer’s diary, but this week, I’ve been handling three. Yes, three. At first, it was a little overwhelming. Two of the books have the same photographer shooting them, so I was hyper-aware that I was going to have to keep double-checking that I didn’t double-book anyone. As the week developed, I decided that it might be a good idea for me to really get on top of it to make sure that didn’t happen. So I printed myself off a table, and blocked out the slots that had been booked. Now, when I come to book in more venues, I can clearly see which slots are available, and that I haven’t double-booked anyone. That made me feel a heck of a lot better about things. At the moment I’m managing to book quite a few people in, which is really good. It means we should be able to keep to the book’s schedule to get it printed on time.

In between managing three photography diaries, I’ve been writing news stories for the magazine’s website, and working on gathering social media handles for one of our regional books. Mostly just so we can tag the book’s contributors in any new posts about the book. I’ve also been chasing after press coverage for our mostly recently published book. A lot of newsrooms haven’t responded, which is always annoying, but I’m persistent. A few new contacts agreed to do some features and post about us on social media. I had to drop this task for a while given all the festival stuff, so I’ve been kind of aware that I needed to get back on top of it, because press is vital for sales. When you’re dealing with a small regional area too, though, it’s difficult to find as much press as you’d like. After all, there are only a few newsrooms and magazines, so I’m trying to find bloggers, vloggers, and even online websites that have blogs. They have actually proved the most fruitful route for me to go down. One of the things I was really happy about was that I managed to bag one of our Sales team another press interview – this time over the phone for a local newspaper.

I’m still keeping up with their Amazon orders, and I’ve even been asked to do purchase orders from retailers. It’s quite a big responsibility, and I’m still a little surprised that they’re trusting an intern with such important tasks, but I’m really loving the hands-on experience, and it’s nice to see all aspects of the job.

One thing I will say, is that I’ve been really surprised how comfortable I feel there. Like I’ve been there for years, and I actually feel like I know what I’m doing. I’ve got my routines down, and the MD knows I’m just happy to get on with the things on my list. I kind of feel like I belong at that desk, and I’m starting to feel like I’m doing an okay job stepping in for the PR lady. Maybe one of the best things this internship has afforded me has been a little more self-belief in my abilities.

This week it’s really hit me that I only have two weeks left of this internship. TWO WEEKS. I honestly don’t know where the time has gone. It’s given me so much in such a relatively short space of time, that part of me really doesn’t want to leave. The other, logical part of me knows that it can’t last forever (unless they give me a job), and that I have to move onto the next chapter of my career (whatever that may be). I’ll definitely take away everything I’ve learned. It’s been invaluable for the experience I’ve gained, seriously invaluable.

Stepping into my Intern shoes: Weeks 8, 9 & 10

These last three weeks have been crazy, so yes, this post is going to cover three weeks instead of just the one or two that I normally post. A lot has happened, so let’s waste no more time…

 

Week 8

Last week I got to manage the photographer’s diary, and that has fed into the last three weeks now as I continue to book in more people. To be honest, I know it’s better to call people and chat to them as much as you can to give your contacts that personal touch, but all the people I’ve been trying to get booked in are too busy to chat on the phone. So this week has been all about the emails. I’m slowly but surely finding the best way to manage this mammoth task, making sure that the photographer has enough time to travel from one venue to the next since he’s relying on public transport. So far so good.

I’ve also been dabbling in a few more news stories for the magazine. A new Krispy Kreme store just opened in Sheffield, so I wrote a little something in preparation for the grand opening, and I’ve also been posting out books for press purposes. But to be honest, the biggest thing I’ve had to deal with this week has been the upcoming festival in Sheffield that we’re writing the program for. Towards the end of the week, the MD gave me quite a list of things to do for this, so it’s been full-on in a way I really wasn’t expecting. I’ve had to compile all the listings for the different bands detailing when and where they’re performing, write up a profile for each venue that will be taking part in the festival’s fringe events, and write up some band bios. In the end, I have to admit, I was getting a little stressed that I was going to forget something, so I put on my organisation-cap, and made up a spreadsheet. This made it so much easier to keep track of what I needed to do, so that each day I could have it open and tick off things as I went along. I was pretty proud of this, and even emailed the MD and his business partner to let them know that I’d saved the spreadsheet in the folder with everything else so they could see how much progress we were making and how much there was still left to do.

 

Week 9

Going into week 9, I was blissfully unaware of how much crazier things were about to get. The PR lady who I work alongside would be going on holiday for 3 weeks, meaning that I would have to try and keep things ticking over until she got back. But anyway, I’ll get into that soon enough…

This week was all about getting things done for the festival program. But I also had to juggle this with keeping on top of the photographer’s dairy. So I made myself a Word Document, listed every appointment I’d made so far, and recorded on which day I needed to send them a reminder. Again – SO. MUCH. EASIER. I must have countless lists, but it really does help because it makes me feel organised and keeps me from letting anything slip through the cracks accidentally.

I tried to make some phone calls to the venues that weren’t really answering my emails about the photography appointments, but it was difficult because most people are on holidays at this time of the year. It’s holiday season, after all. But anyway, between calling and emailing multiple times and feeling that I was generally bugging them all to death, I’ve managed to get pretty much everyone booked in. All my reminder emails have been sent out, and all my confirmations too. I only have 4 venues left to book in, and that’s because one’s having a refurb and wants to wait until it’s all finished, and 3 have only just been added. All in all, I’m feeling pretty good about this. To say it’s been my first time handling someone else’s diary, it’s been a very scary but rewarding experience, and I’ve impressed myself with how well I’ve handled it.

When I wasn’t trying to get in touch with people about the photography, I was plodding my way through my to-do list. More listings were slowly coming in, and there were magazine stories that needed writing. I was finding it difficult to juggle so much, but I think you start to get used to it when you’re doing it all week. Again, keeping annoyingly long lists really helped, and I actually managed to get all the listings done. Woo!

 

Week 10

Week 10 has definitely been my most difficult week so far. On Monday morning, I was so eager to go in and do a good job of filling in for the PR lady – making myself stand out by proving to them that my shoulders were strong enough to take on so much responsibility –

Oh how things did not go as I’d planned.

I’ll tell you this: the PR lady deserves every penny she earns. One of her responsibilities is to process and take care of any book orders, so this is one of the things I had to take over. And let me tell you, I have never been so stressed out in my life. I was worried because I was actually dealing with customer orders – with wholesalers and retailers and handling cash. I didn’t want to do it wrong, so I took my time and it pretty much took me all morning. I told the MD that I hoped he didn’t mind me taking my time because I just wanted to do it right, and he was really supportive and said it wouldn’t always take this long, it’s just when you do it for the first time, it can be pretty daunting. Anyway, I muddled my way through, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I did it right. They’re incredibly trusting, but I’m happy to report that on Tuesday, when I came to process some more orders, it was so much easier. I found myself finishing it pretty quickly, so I felt better for that.

The rest of the week has been a mix of so much. I managed to get the artist bios finished, along with everything else for the festival program. I can’t tell you how glad I was when it was all finished. I knew they were working to a deadline, so I was trying to work as quickly as I could, but they also had a lot of staff off for various unforeseen circumstances which couldn’t be helped, so it was actually pretty lucky that I was there to lend an extra pair of hands. Despite the pressure, I’m glad I was able to help.

So this pretty much left me to start working through the task list the PR lady left for me. Chasing after venues to get more photography appointments booked in, posting out books to competition winners and press contacts, and covering social media. Plus a lot more that I still have my way to work through over the next two weeks before she returns. This week I also had to cover the mammoth task of compiling all the contacts from all of their previous publications into one master file. Again, I had to work to a deadline, and managed to get it done by Friday despite hitting a couple of speed-bumps.

Finally, I started to book in photography appointments for the next book they have in the works. I feel more comfortable going into this one after doing the previous one. I definitely feel like I have a better idea of how to go about it, I just have to leave more time for travel between appointments this time because all the venues are based in a place which is pretty busy. On Monday, I’ll be booking in photography appointments for a third book, so it’s going to be interesting juggling three different diaries at the same time, but as always, I look forward to the challenge!

Until next week.

July Book Review: The 5th Wave series by Rick Yancey

*There is a film adaptation of the first book starring Chloë Grace Moretz, Alex Roe, and Nick Robinson. It was released in 2016 and there were speculations about a sequel making it to the big screen, but nothing has been confirmed (I suspect because the film may not have made enough money at the box office).

 

The 5th Wave is about a teenage girl named Cassie who finds her world invaded by aliens known as The Others, and must fight to save herself and her family as five waves of invasions ensue. The first wave: no power. The second wave: a swell of natural disasters. The third wave: a deadly plague. The fourth wave: Silencers – the Others assassinating survivors. The fifth, they have yet to figure out. In a world of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness, Cassie strives to hold on to her humanity and save her little brother, Sam. Along the way she has to figure out who she can trust, if anyone is even left.

I read these novels a couple of years ago now, and enjoyed them enormously, which is why I decided they were worthy of a review. The way Rick writes kind of reminds me of John Green – the way he crafts such beautiful sentences and has such a wonderful rapport with language.

…‘The Hum of all our things and all of us. Gone. This is the sound of the Earth before we conquered it. Sometimes in my tent, late at night, I think I can hear the stars scraping against the sky.’…

It’s enough to make anyone jealous.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this series was that I went into it expecting a conventional end-of-the-world story, and I got so much more than that. Yes, Cassie’s world is ending, and yes, her family is in danger and she’s terrified. But the only way I can describe this story is that it’s unapologetically human. It throws all our faults and discrepancies right at us. It calls us hypocrites and shows us everything we’re still doing to cause damage to the Earth. It shows us just how selfish we are. And yet it gives us hope. One of the things Cassie struggles with the most is her loneliness and her fear of losing her humanity. As she scours a deserted gas station one day, she ends up shooting a man out of fear that he’s about to shoot her. From that moment on she carries around the guilt of what she did, and begins to question what the invasion is really doing to the humans left. And then she puzzles it out: How do you rid the world of humans? You rid the humans of their humanity. Fear turns people into impulsive kill-or-be-killed creatures, and Cassie fights against letting them succeed with her. Sam is the thing she clings to throughout the novel, and I think he’s the reason she doesn’t crumble because of her actions. The thought of fighting for her brother is what makes her put one foot in front of the other each day.

Something Rick handles really well in the series is the idea of corrupting a generation. Sam, along with Ben and so many other surviving children find themselves being trained up as soldiers to fight the Others, and in the process, are robbed of their childhood innocence. Sam’s transformation throughout the series is, arguably, one of the greatest, but also one of the most unnerving. He’s been hardened by his military training and acts out against Cassie, gradually distancing himself from her. I found this loss of innocence a really intriguing part of the narrative. In a dying world, the remaining humans have no qualms in corrupting younger generations if it means their survival, and I think this really speaks to the way we as a species often sacrifice things in pursuit of bigger goals. Arguably, the children are the only people left to fight the invasion, but still, there’s something troubling about the way Sam changes. Perhaps is speaks volumes about the way our world today expects children to grow up too quickly.

I was slightly disappointed by the ending to the series. As an eternal optimist, I had hoped that Cassie and Evan would have the happy ending they deserved just as Ringer and Zombie do, but I also (annoyingly) understood why not. Even though he proved himself to the humans, Evan was still part of the invasion, and had to make up for that by sacrificing himself to destroy the ship. But still. I found his and Cassie’s relationship heart-breaking and heart-warming and frustrating, and it was honestly one of the reasons why I finished the series so quickly. I like that they didn’t have a perfect relationship. Instead it was filled with betrayal and confusion and uncertainty and resentment and compassion. It was a real relationship, and it didn’t feel like the typical star-crossed lovers tales I think we’ve all grown so accustomed to.

As a protagonist, I found Cassie to be quite grumpy, for which she obviously had a very good reason. She’s heroic – not because she was born brave or selfless – but because she’s afraid and uncertain and guilt-ridden, and despite all of this, she still gets back up and keeps fighting. She has a very strong sense of loyalty, to her family but also to the survivors, and she’s really well grounded. I found I could picture her quite clearly in my mind because she seemed so ordinary like the rest of us, so I suppose that’s why I liked her so much; a good protagonist always makes you feel like you could be them or know them.

Most of all, I loved the philosophical aspect of the series. What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be me? What does it mean to love? I love all these big, unanswerable questions, and I love it when writers weave them seamlessly into their narratives. It helps to give clarity to this thing we call life, and it also helps to keep the narrative grounded in the midst of an alien invasion. Rick has a wonderful way of fashioning scrumptious sentences, complex characters, a genius plot, and a series of life questions in a stunning series of novels that I have already re-read several times.

I don’t think I have to give a recommendation for these books. They sell themselves.

 

August Book Review: Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith by Shaun Hume