Harry Potter re-readathon: The Chamber of Secrets

The Chamber of SecretsHoo boy, I was supposed to post these every week for seven weeks, since I read the whole series in about 14 days. But alas, life happened, as it often does, but I have resolved to be more regular in my blog updates and book reviews and various other things. So I am posting this from the past. Hooray for queued posts! Anyway…

The Chamber of Secrets was never my favourite. Possibly because it sits between the first book (much excitement because it’s the start of the series) and the third which, until recently, was always my favourite. It’s pretty hard, then, for the book between those two to be quite as exciting. That said, it does have the joy that is Gilderoy Lockhart and his failure at life. (Or perhaps it’s not a failure, not until the obliviate mishap anyway.)

Though it was never my favourite, Riddle and the diary always fascinated me. I loved the idea of having a book that could interact with me, and I mean really interact with me, not a choose your own adventure or an enhanced ebook type deal. A really real book, which really did talk to me and respond to my words and actions. Who doesn’t want a book that tailors itself to them and them alone?

I often ignored the fact that the diary was evil. Or rather, I didn’t care that it was evil, I just thought it was cool.

Now that I am older, wiser, and more dashing (the crowd sniggers), I see it in a different way, even though I would  still like a really real interactive book. I can see now how creepy and twisted the Riddle in the diary is, and how much that scarred Ginny (especially when it is mentioned in later books). There are all sorts of mental manipulation techniques in the Potterverse and arguably this is the worst. Especially when you consider the life-sucking part.

Shudder.

I can now see what little-me overlooked, the ever so subtle setting up of the latter half of the series, though if older me hadn’t already known about horcruxes, I never would have guessed what relevance the diary would have had to future events. At first the series was seemingly less connected, the first three books had clear openings and endings and most things were left resolved, excepting the looming threat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, but once you go through them again, you see that it isn’t quite as cut and dry as it at first seemed. I like that. I like that a lot.

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Book Covers I Like: New Releases, November 2014

As ever covers and pub dates are from Twitter, Amazon, Goodreads and publisher websites.

Yes, the giant one is my favourite.

Book Covers I Like: New Releases, August and September 2014

Hello, lovely people. This is a bumper edition of ‘Book Covers I Like’ as I took most of August off, which was both planned and unplanned at the same time.

Never fear, though, for I have several book reviews coming (including the first three Point Horror read-a-thon entries!) and some pretty exciting photography/design to post. You may have noticed there are some new pages up there in the nav bar. Go forth and click for photography and design stuff, more of which is to come.

As ever, found on Twitter, Amazon, Waterstones, Publisher websites, Goodreads and etc so pub dates may be wrong… but, still pretty. The images appear in no particular order.

EDIT 30/09/14: I realised I have featured Flying Shoes twice and am assuming the publication date changed on Goodreads, whatever happened it proves I really, really like that cover.

Things I have learnt: from becoming a Design and Production Assistant

This is the first post in a series of ‘Things I have learnt’ – I have no idea where this series will go but this is the first post and therefore it is worth celebrating – cue Kool & the Gang.

It’s my workiversary! For the last year (wow, that went by quickly!), I have been working at Jessica Kingsley Publishers (and Singing Dragon) as a Design and Production Assistant. This is my first real job and my first official, really real paid job in publishing, and since I have now been there long enough to have had a little publishing baby (that didn’t sound quite as weird in my head), I feel I am ‘qualified’ to tell you things I have learnt from the experience so far.

1. Paper is possibly one of the best things ever invented

I realise how incredibly nerdy this is. But I stand by my guns. While I was doing my Masters, I may have casually scoffed at all of the lectures on paper, not because I didn’t find them interesting (I did!) but because to me paper was just that: paper.

In March, I was able to visit a printing press with my manager for a day’s workshop on paper and printing and ink and the effect light has on said ink – this, I think, was where it started. Even though I have been using (and unintentionally collecting) stationary for years, and reading books for the entirety of the remembered part of my life, I’d never really thought about the paper. Sure, I’d notice if something was thicker or felt different but that’s as far as it went.

While at the printers, we were shown various different samples and asked to guess what they were and what they might be used for. I got a few but mostly failed horrifically. After the subsequent tour of the press, and the return to work, I started to pay a lot more attention. (As well as bugging my co-workers with a lot of possibly stupid questions, sorry guys!)

I got a box of paaaaper

I got a box of paaaaper

Fast forward to now: I have been asked to gather paper samples from all of our printers and it’s stupidly exciting. I received my first sample pack a few weeks ago. There was squealing. Before now, I didn’t know how many possibilities there were, how many different looks and feels you could get, how what a book was printed on could drastically change the way people react to it. It feels powerful. Paper feels powerful.

2. There is a certain sense of pride in wandering around a book shop and knowing what the books you are looking at are made of

I am pretty sure I drive my friends mad when we visit book shops together. Or elicit the ‘nod and smile, nod and smile’ response. Where I used to just pick up a book because it looked pretty or interesting, read the blurb, put it back (or hold on to it because I really had to buy it and it was necessary to my continued existence), I now pick up books which look like they have been produced in an interesting way (or have hand-drawn waves on the cover but that is an entirely different blog entry) and react accordingly.

I pore over the paper, look on the copyright page at the type face if it’s listed (and try to guess what it is if it’s not), work out which finish is on the cover and which fun things have been done to it to make it look more pleasing (my current obsession is uncoated covers with foil details, yummy!), and then, naturally, shove the book in the face of whoever I’m with and tell them all about it, adamant that they should be just as excited as I am. (My best friend tends to pat me on the head, smile and move on to the next interesting book she finds – unless the one I’m shoving at her looks really interesting or has a super matt cover.)

Book shop experiences, for me, are so much better now. I connect with the books in a more material way and I think that is amazing.

3. Nothing is better than seeing a book you have designed in print

This point does not require much commentary – I remember how I felt when my first bit of typesetting arrived in the office, my first cover. Heck, every cover and every bit of typesetting. The reason I wanted to work in Design and/or Production in the first place was so that I could truly be involved in how a book was made. I’d thought about Editorial, or Marketing, but nothing quite appealed as much as being able to work on the book as a physical thing. (By this, I mean creating the physical thing.)

4. Production is the best department

I am horrendously biased. I should say that right now. Absurdly biased. However, there are several reasons that Production is the best and a few of these are as follows:

  1. As I said above, you get to work on the book as an actual, physical thing.
  2. Presents! We get sent things from our printers every so often (the most recent was a box of post it note books, I was perhaps a little too happy about it).
  3. Adobe CC. Beautiful.
  4. Occasionally getting to work on things outside of Production – we have been known to work on things for marketing, I have been known to work on videos. I have no idea if other departments get to do this but we do, so it’s a valid reason.
  5. Gloriously nerdy ‘field trips’.

5. You probably won’t get mentioned in the book

BUT, if you designed the cover, your name will probably be on the back. Woohoo!

I didn’t sign up for the publishing life with the want or expectation that I would be thanked in the books I work on – I get paid to do what I love, it’s awesome. But if your dream is to have your name printed on the acknowledgements page of a book, the designing side of Production is probably not for you.


So, there you have it. Five things I’ve learnt in my first year as a Design and Production Assistant. All images are from my Instagram.

The Mime Order – Advanced Preview

If you’re following my Twitter and it did not get lost in your beneath all of the inevitable post-World Cup tweets, you will have seen that I was fortunate enough to receive an early sampler of the sequel to Samantha Shannon’s bestseller The Bone Season, intriguingly named The Mime Order – a title which I am dying to discover the meaning of. I have concluded, upon reading said sampler, that January 2015 is too far away. I need that book. 

As you may have seen, the publication date was originally a more close and inviting October but to enable the production of the best book possible, it has been moved back to allow more time for the writing and editing stages. While sad, it promises to be a beautiful January.

If you want to learn more about voyant politics in SciLo, The Mime Order (at least the small portion that I have read) generously complies. I definitely have high hopes for the rest of the novel and am itching to know more about the different Mime-Lords and Mime-Queens – I have a very strong case of grabby hands.

Paige and the rest of the Seven Seals return on top form, and we are introduced to a host of new and intriguing characters. (Insert more grabby hands here.) I can’t wait to get to know them come January.

Even the sampler packs a punch with a twist which made me squeak – out loud – on a commuter train. I cannot imagine what excitement awaits but I am most definitely looking forward to it.

I am completely addicted to this series and intend to be for the duration and beyond. If you haven’t read The Bone Season, do so. Right now. If you have, you definitely need to pick up The Mime Order  when it is released in January. It is a book that already demands to be read.

Review: The Twistrose Key by Tome Almhjell


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Something is wrong in the house that Lin’s family has rented; Lin is sure of it. The clocks tick too slowly. Frost covers the flowerbed, even in a rain storm. And when a secret key marked “Twistrose” arrives for her, Lin finds a crack in the cellar, a gate to the world of Sylver.

This frozen realm is the home of every dead animal who ever loved a child. Lin is overjoyed to be reunited with Rufus, the pet she buried under the rosebush. But together they must find the missing Winter Prince in order to save Sylver from destruction.

They are not the only ones hunting for the boy this night. In the dark hides a shadow-lipped man, waiting for the last Winter Prince to be delivered into his hands.

I was drawn to this book because of the stunning cover artwork and the word ‘key’ and I am so glad that I was; The Twistrose Key is visually stunning, complete with maps, and illustrations at the start of chapters. It may have been the visuals that pulled me in but it was most definitely the writing that kept me interested. It took me two days to read and part of me is still pawing for more. 

The story follows Lin, who is spirited away to Sylver in order to go on a quest only a human child could complete. Reunited with her pet, Rufus, alongside wilders and petlings alike, Lin is off in search of a Winterfyrst and I am all too happy to follow. I couldn’t help but feel like a child again while reading but this book is not to be mistaken with simple, whimsical kid-lit. The Twistrose Key explores darkness and revels in what it finds there, travelling to darker places than you might think when reading the blurb. It’s definitely worth picking up, no matter what age you might be.

As world-building goes, Sylver is complete. I found myself completely immersed and wouldn’t mind jumping inside the book to explore the streets myself (not to mention trying a plate of waffles!) but I definitely wouldn’t want to cross the Palisade.

The only thing I would have liked to have seen more of is the Nightmares and their mysterious leader, who could have been explored further. All in all, this is a really nifty little book and well worth the read. If you like stories like Alice’s Adventures in WonderlandThe Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, you might find a soft spot for this.

Happy reading!

The Motion Book

This is not a mirage, you are truly seeing this blog entry. I would use this paragraph to apologise for my absence but instead of blogging I have been working incredibly hard on university work and job applications with intervals of The Walking Dead with the other half and Game of Thrones on my lonesome. So I shan’t.

However, my blog will be heating up very soon; with The London Book Fair next week and  two events the week after I will have a lot to write about. (The events, for those who are wondering, are: Samantha Shannon talking at Waterstones Oxford on World Book Night and a talk on Fairy Tales at the Oxford Story Museum. Excellent stuff.)

Now, on to the actual entry which I shall introduce with this appropriately atmospheric video:

Recently, while looking on DeviantART for texture stocks, I noticed the new Motion Book section and was suitably intrigued. What is a Motion Book, you ask? (It is at this point that I wonder whether you watched the video.) A Motion Book is a moving comic/graphic novel, made by new company Madefire.

I enjoy comics and graphic novels alike, particularly the work of Dave McKean whose style is delicious, so I find the idea of moving comics very appealing. The comics are available for free on DeviantART and via the Madefire APP. (Just another of many reasons for me to get an iPad, oh, to have money to burn.) I’ve not read as many as I’d like and as many as I perhaps should have to write this entry but the ones I’ve read I’ve loved. The art is phenomenal and the storytelling is just as good, I had thought that the motion could have been distracting but it blends perfectly and only serves to enhance the atmosphere. Fab.

There are those who worry about publishing now that technologies such as the iPad exist but it is technological advances such as the motion book that perhaps proves those worries unfounded; publishing is changing, yes, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. Well, perhaps it’s a bad thing for the bank balance, especially mine as my urge to buy an iPad grows, but what’s bad for the consumer bank balance is good for publishers, should the consumer be inclined to consume ebooks/motion books/book apps.

The way we read is changing too, it’s been changing for a long time and journalism especially has taken this change in its stride with online versions of all of the major tabloids among other things. Book publishing has been slower on the mark but recently there has been an explosion of intriguing digital book products. I am eager to see how the motion book develops and whether illustrated novels follow suit.

Major Projects and an Apology for Slacking

So, it’s been a while and I am not blogging about what I said I was going to blog about and I am not currently reviewing what I said I was going to review in the future. I am a terrible person and I shouldn’t attempt to plan blogs in advance. In truth, there has been a lot of work going on and a lot of stress and I simply haven’t had the time.  I will get to everything, possibly in January. Until then, hello, it is nice to see you again.

As suggested in the title, this is not just about my failure as a blogger. No, it is a whirlwind of thought processes about the monster that is and will be my Major Project. Today, we were shown some previous Major Projects to make us aware of what constitutes as enough. Each of them were highly illustrated and, from what they said, took a lot of work in terms of image and text creation. I began to worry. My idea up until this point was to simply redesign an old text with the possibility of some illustrations. Now I am wondering if that is enough.

During my wondering (and also wandering), I came to the conclusion that using my strengths would definitely be worthwhile here and by strengths I mean my photography. After a quick search on Amazon, I discovered that the text I am redesigning/reworking has been released semi-recently as low cost paperbacks and kindle editions. Again there was worry but then I realised how, to put it bluntly, ugly they were. From what I have seen there is not a single beautiful version of this book, and during a wider search, I found that books on the same subject (here I am being cryptic again until I am definitely sure of myself and my project – sorry about that) were also a little frail on the design side of things.

There is only one, produced by the Folio Society, in which the design seems worthy of the beauty that is the content. One in all that I have seen so far. Could it be that I have found an angle for my analytic report? Could it be that simple? We shall see in the next episode of Elou and the Major Project. Coming to a blog near you.