The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

Publisher: Harper Voyager (Harper Collins)
Publication Date: 8th March 2018
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ .5
Goodreads

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles. 

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass?a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound. 

In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences. 

I have a lot to say about this book, but it’s really hard to not just pack it all in with a ‘fantastic!’ and then move on.

I’ve been reading this book for a long time, or at least picking it up and putting it down again. If you haven’t heard the story which I go on about constantly about how I got my hands on an early copy of The City of Brass, then I talk about it in detail in on my post about 2017’s YALC which you can read here (don’t forget to come back to this review!) but I’ll just say this. While I didn’t technically get handed this or sent this by someone from Harper Collins, I want to thank them no less for this glorious advanced copy that I will be telling everyone to read when it comes out!

The City of Brass was a hard one to rate just because it’s largest pitfall was the characters. Our main characters, Alizayd and Nahri, I absolutely adore. They’re sweet, smart, passionate, and they both go through so much development from their humble beginnings as a religious soldier and a conwoman and hustler, respectively. What I can’t wrap my head around are the rest of the characters.

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The story, for the majority of the time, takes place in the city of Daevabad, once a beacon of industry, diversity and development, has had it’s history of tribes and people overthrown to what it is now; a mixture of different people who live separate from each other and can’t stand one another. For a lot of the book, I was confused as to who was who and ultimately, who are the ‘good’ guys and the ‘bad’ guys. I assumed this is supposed to be the case and to show that no ‘tribe’ (the term they use for each community of people) is better than the other in our eyes. The city is mainly divided into three quarters (I think?), the Djinn, the Daeva, and the Shafit. The Daeva and the Djinn are pretty much the same people, except that many years ago a group of Daeva began calling themselves Djinn because the Daeva were too religious, puritanical, and hated humans. Djinn began calling themselves Djinn because it’s what humans called them, and they actually like humans, often ‘interfering’ with their lives and reproducing with them, creating a new form of Djinn, called the Shafit who are hated by everyone and have no rights.

This is how I see it: Daeva – Upper middle class, Djinn – Lower middle to working class, Shafit – The underclass. However, the ruling class (the monarchy), are a mixture of Daeva and Djinn, and the family that wear the crowns are Djinn but from a different country. They hold their history and prejudice against the Daeva, yet still accomodate them to the point where they neglect their own people and ruin the lives of Shafit…all for the Daeva. However, the Djinn are also horrible to Daeva, who are often outnumbered by the Djinn and Shafit who make their lives Hell. It’s…a lot to take in.

So when I say that different characters belong to different tribes, I found it difficult to find who I should root for and who I should want to see fall. This was especially the case with Dara, a Daeva Ashfin (soldier) who I consider a main character despite not having a POV. He is with Nahri for the whole book, being the only lifeline she has most of the time, and yet his views on the Shafit and the Djinn are so horrible I would reel my head back from looking at the book and just wish he would fuck off. And it was made worse when our hero, Nahri, one of two characters I actually liked, liked him and believed the things that he said. But, as the story progressed, I began to see that Nahri felt the way I felt, and it made me realise that Chakraborty purposefully wrote these characters this way to show that humans (or in this case, Djinn and Daeva) are morally grey, and yet that gret morality can affect others in devastating ways (the Shafit).

While this dominated my reading time and was a true mind-fuck (brought upon by myself), I genuinely loved this book. Any historical fantasy set in the middle east is going to catch my eye anyway, but The City of Brass is the cream of the crop. It’s political (as you can see from my word vomit above), beautiful in it’s setting and description of the culture, the food, fashion, and grand temples you can see from the horizon. At times it made feel warm and cozy, and other times I felt cold and my skin was riddled with goosebumps. A book that can make your body react like that is powerful. And that’s exactly what this book is.

The City of Brass comes out in the UK 8th March 2018, but is already out in the U.S. It doesn’t have enough buzz in my mind, and so I will be thoroughly raving about it this March.

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Books I’m Excited For In 2018

2017 has been a great year for books. I haven’t read as much as last year, and I think that’s partly due to not setting myself a reading goal, which was kinda nice and relaxing. Plus, the amount of books you read doesn’t matter, it’s about what makes you happy. And what makes me happy the most is getting way too excited about the books that aren’t even out yet.

So, without further ado, here are the books I’m most excited for in 2018!

Circe by Madeline Miller

I’ve been trying to get my hands on an early copy of this for a few months now – but it seems that our fates are not aligned and I will have to wait patiently…a word not in my vocabulary. The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller’s debut novel, is one of, if not my ultimate favourite books of all time. I absolutely adore it with all my heart, and I believe it’ll happen again with Circe.

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Bright We Burn by Kirsten White

So, this has become one of my favourite series of all time. Unbelievable, because I remember reading And I Darken, which I bought on a whim, passing the Penguin stand at YALC back in 2016, and enjoying it but also being super frustrated by it. It hadn’t much hype, and maybe that was part of why I bought it, but what some of the characters did for the people they loved, tearing themselves apart for nothing in return, grinded my gears. But actually, looking back, and then reading Now I Rise as an e-arc made me fall head over heels for this historical story which is a RETELLING OF VLAD THE IMPALER BUT AS A TEENAGE GIRL. This story is fantastic, and I cannot wait for the finale. Blurb for And I Darken (so you’re not spoiled) is here!

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novak

I read Uprooted on a long car drive from Bavaria, Germany back to England in one sitting. I was told by people that it’s generic, that it was boring, that it was formulaic. I can’t argue that it wasn’t a typical fairytale like fantasy, but boring it was not. It was fun, interesting, and I’ve come to realise that I love fantasies set in places that aren’t generic woods. I like my fairytale to have it’s setting and worldbuilding rooted in real countries and old stories with culture. Uprooted was set in an Eastern European/Polish feeling place, and I assume Spinning Silver will be a new place but with the same writing I hold dear.

Vengeful by V.E. Schwab

Look, all future V.E. Schwab novels should be on this list, but the next one up that actually has a set date is Vengeful, the sequel to Vicious, that tells the story of two best friends from college who gain powers; one becomes the hero and one becomes the villain. SOUNDS AMAZING DOESN’T IT? And finally, we are getting a sequel and I’m so excited to return to this world after giving my heart over to The Shades of Magic series. The blurb for Vicious is here!

Record of a Space Born Few by Becky Chambers

I seem to have a pattern here. All the books I’m excited for are either sequels, or novels by authors I already love. It seems there’s no difference here, but there’s a good reason for it.

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All of Becky Chambers novels are standalones. It means that her last two books, while set in the same universe, you do not have to read one to understand the other. You can go into Record of a Space Born Few without listening to me harp on about how I’m excited for ‘this installment’ without spoiling anything for you. Becky Chambers’ books delves into the understanding of humanity as another species with their human-like customs, as well as unpacking what we know as humans through fictional non-humans. It’s incredible and such an interesting way to question ourselves.

What books are you excited for this year? Let me know in the comments!

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Dear 2017

Dear 2017,

We both knew that you were going to start off a little differently than usual. I began January in one of the darkest places I’d ever find myself. I was alone, surrounded by people who didn’t understand what was going on, and so treated it like something unimportant and not worthy of attention, this included myself. I had recently become unemployed by my own doing, knowing something wasn’t right but still not wanting to face it head on. I think my family did the same, tried to lighten the mood and ignore all the signs and making it worse. And so, when you rolled around, dragging yourself into fruition, I wanted you to end before you started.

There was no way you, 2017, was going to be good with me feeling like this.

It took so many fights, so many arguments, with myself and with others, and eventually, a week where I just upped and left, to force me to put the first foot forward and in the right direction. I have no shame in saying I went on medication, some small at first and then a little stronger when they just made me feel numb. I think it’s very important to talk about mental health in a way where there’s no stigma. Mental illnesses are one of the most normal things in the world, and they don’t define who you are, despite my grandmother casually telling me that being miserable was a part of who I was (I almost burst into tears when she said this). I knew that I wouldn’t be on them forever, and if I was? That was OK. They weren’t taking away who I was, they weren’t changing me into something I wasn’t, they were helping me find myself again, and for that I will always be grateful.

You weren’t looking so bad anymore, 2017. The sun felt like it was coming out; I was travelling for the first time with just friends. Planning everything myself, visiting places I didn’t think I could visit. Not because of distance or money, but because I thought mentally, I couldn’t achieve something like that. But it meant my bond with friends grew stronger, it meant I could meet new friends, it meant I could be a little friendlier to myself and enjoy things like walking around new cities, trying to speak new languages, and taking as many pictures as I possibly could.

And then, I found myself in a position to get a small, part time job. It was a two minute walk away, without the horribleness of big city customers but instead in a bakery with gorgeous smelling bread and cakes. It was baby steps into, yet again, the right direction.

But, 2017, you weren’t done with me yet, and it turns out it wasn’t the place for me, and I was so afraid once again of this set back that I thought; what if I can’t work again? But so help me God, I was gonna do it, and I landed the work experience of a life time, where the commute nearly killed me and the hamster who I was sharing a room with made sure I got no sleep. In the same month, I wrote 50,000 words of a novel that I’m so persistent on publishing that it sometimes feels like it actually might see the light of day. One day. One day.

It seemed a good thing would happen, and a bad thing tagged along. I came off my meds, but my ex got engaged. I couldn’t handle working in a bakery, but I could handle working at one of the biggest publishing houses in the U.K. 2017, you were full of so many ups and downs that felt like incredible highs and harrowing falls. It all seemed a lot. I learnt how to use social media to learn and to listen, but I also had to cut myself from it because of the amount of information I was receiving in one go. My mental health got a lot better, but my physical health took a hit for it. It seemed like you were taking me across choppy waters with bouts of thunder and lightening above, quite possibly with a broken ore.

But, I want to thank you for getting me here safely, to where I am now. I have better mental health, with better job prospects, burning with creativity and the need to travel.

2018, I want you to be bigger. But please, be gentler.

And Happy New Year Everyone!

Love, Hollie x

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The Best & Worst Books of 2017

2017 is coming to an end, and while I’ve had a fantastic year filled with fantastic books, there’s always that select few that let the whole class down. These are the best and most disappointing books I’ve read in 2017.

Best

Godsgrave (The Nevernight Chronicles) by Jay Kristoff

I’ve been excited for Godsgrave since I finished Nevernight, sat on a balcony in Bavaria Germany, back in June 2016. I couldn’t wait for it to actually be released, and entered every competition, giveaway, and even emailed the publisher to get my hands on it early. But to no avail. Thankfully, the Netgalley gods blessed me and finally provided a UK e-arc online and when I received that email saying I was approved to read it, I dropped everything to start it. Of course, it was fantastic, and I loved every minute. I then bought a signed hardback and am now sat here waiting for the third book. As you do. My review is here.

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The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes

This one did not exist in my life until I saw it as an ARC while perusing through stalls at YALC. There was no queue, no competition, there was just a pile sat there which you could take if you just provided your email address. It was a floppy paperback, which instantly made me want to own it, and I’m so glad I read it. It’s such an epic story that spans generations that no one seems to be talking about. I love it when a book that I knew nothing about surprises me. My review is here.

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

Of course a V.E. Schwab book is going in here. For every year I’ve been blogging, I’ve had a V.E. Schwab book wriggle it’s way into a favourites. I adore her writing, her characters, her magic systems. It’s all so elegant. So, you bet your ass I cried when the finale to The Shades of Magic came out. I bought it at Waterstones, just a few doors down from my then-work, on my break, and snapped a picture of it to mark the occasion. My review is here.

Now I Rise by Kirsten White

I think I gave And I Darken, the first in this series, four stars, which is a bit strange because I absolutely adored Now I Rise. I don’t think I knew what to expect when it came to this series and grabbed And I Darken at YALC last year and have become hooked. It’s a retelling of the story of Vlad the Impaler as a young girl named Lada and her childhood and how she becomes a bloodthirsty ruler, along with her soft boy brother, Radu. My review is here.

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

I mean, is it really an Adam Silvera story if it doesn’t make you cry? History Is All You Left Me is by far my favourite Silvera novel; I cried on the first page. Every line, every part of this book is so beautiful and emotional and so real, I think that’s why I cried a lot. I couldn’t read this in public out of fear of bursting into tears. I don’t know if this will persuade you to read it but hopefully my review will.

Worst

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

This book was such a shame. The hype and marketing for this book was incredible. I saw it everywhere; in ads, in interviews, in people’s tweets just going crazy for it. The amount of people who had already added it to their TBR was incredible. Proofs had been sent out and people were glowing about it. So, I asked for it for my birthday, and read it, and gave it two stars immediately. This book was TERRIBLE. It was boring, poorly developed, and annoying. My review is here.

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Love and Gelato by Jena Evans Welch

Love and Gelato was just a flop. It definitely has the appeal; about a girl who, after her mother dies, goes to live with her estranged father in an Italian countryside villa and learns about the past of her mother. It gave me The Arsonist vibes, but a cutesy summer version rather than a harrowing war-torn country version (like The Arsonist was). But actually, it was just a lot of blah. It was luke-warm porridge left out too long. However, I feel like others would enjoy it, but not for me. And it’s in this list because I was stuck in Italy with it. That’s right, I bought set in Italy while in Italy because I thought I would be all cute but instead it did this to me.

All The Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

This book was also a shame, but I’m not surprised. I love The Raven Cycle so much. I love how, you may think this an urban fantasy that’s plot heavy, I found it to be an in-depth character study that kind of allowed me to ignore the plot if I so wished. I think that’s what All The Crooked Saints was trying to be too and of course; this is Maggie Stiefvater’s writing style. But it was her writing style x100. It was super confusing. There was so much purple prose and going off on tangents that I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t even review it because what would I review? They were just a bunch of words strung together that I didn’t understand.

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

Now if we’re gonna talk about shame, then this book takes the cake. Oh my God what a SHAME. Most of the time, if a book has LGBT focus, I’ll pick it up. I gotta rep my community and honestly? They just make for better reading, in my opinion. I got super excited about The Love Interest because it was a twist on the spy genre. You know, the spy genre? Coated in misogyny and heteronormativity. But this book was going to be different; about two boys tasked with seducing the same woman only to fall in love with each other. DOESN’T THAT SOUND AMAZING?

Thing is, I read the first page and knew this wasn’t going to be as fun as I thought. I explain why extensively in my review but to sum up my feelings: very, very bad writing.

If you’re looking for more books I’ve adored throughout the years, I have a category on Goodreads called ‘faves’ which you should definitely check out! As for my most hated books? Here’s the category ‘just awful’.

Happy reading!

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Publisher: Walker Books
Publication Date: April 2017
Rating:  ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ .5
Goodreads

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life. 

I hate to say what almost every single review of this book has said, but I’d rather say it now than talk about it at length. This book is important. I’ve used it to describe books before and I’m kind of getting sick of it. It does it’s job, but at the same time, is that all this story is good for? Of course not. Stories are important, of course, but I don’t think people should feel like they have to read it because it’s important. It should be read to have a better understanding of what’s going on in the U.S. today, and why it needs be written about.

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I loved The Hate U Give, for many reasons, but none of them were because this book is important.

I loved this book because it was different. I love looking for new stories to devour that aren’t the same old same old that we see cover the shelves at Waterstones. This was a story that I had only seen in the news; twisted and manipulated by the media to only show us one perspective. While this story is a work of fiction, it’s very real and and no doubt accurate. It was a change, and refreshing.

I loved this book because it was entertaining. I loved Starr’s family dynamic and the relationships she had with her parents, her siblings, her boyfriend, and her friends. The community she lives in that, while riddled with crime and neglected, still gave me a warm, familial feel that showed us that family stretched further than the walls of your house. Starr’s personality shone from the page, even when she was going through such devastating events. She wasn’t a ‘strong female character’, she was a real female character.

I loved this book because of the impact it will have. As a white woman who hasn’t even set foot in the U.S., I’ve seen my fair share of black stereotypes, and often it was odd for me to read depictions and passages and dialogue and not think it racist. I think, if this were written by anyone else, it would have been deemed questionable, but you cannot question the experiences of a black person about black culture. This was one depiction, but it was a true and experienced depiction (obviously not word for word, The Hate U Give isn’t an autobiography). But the thing is, I was thinking about it along the lines of ‘white people are going to read this and think all black people talk/act like this in this ‘ghetto way’ oh no’. But to be honest, this book isn’t really for them if they’re going to read it and come away with that rather than any of the other very explicit messages in this story. And plus, this story was written to inform yes, but mainly, to represent. There are so many young POC who love to read and yet all they get to read about are people they cannot relate to, about people who wouldn’t listen to them if they tried to share their story. So to have The Hate U Give depict one of the frank and honest and accurate depictions of being black in the U.S. today to black teens who are living this shit is by far a better thought to come away with than what white people may think about it.

You may be wondering why I’ve only given it 4.5 stars after raving about it for so long. I’ve literally just taken away half a star just because this wasn’t a book that I was glued to. I was easily taken out of the story because a lot of the dialogue I had to go back and read because I wasn’t sure if I’d ingested it correctly. I’ve had this with other books before that are either written with a dialect or even in phonetic speech (damn you Trainspotting!) and so that was a pain. But thankfully, it didn’t take away from the story and I was still able to enjoy despite being a slow reader!

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Hollie’s Favourite TV Shows 2017

Gosh, TV is great isn’t it?

Every year I compile a list of my favourite shows of the year. They could be new, they could be old, but what groups them all together is that I found them this year and I love them and I want to share them with you. If you want to see last year’s list, click right here.

Merli (2015 – )

Merli has been on my radar for some time but, since my entire being was consumed with SKAM at the time, I thought it best until the show was over and I could invest my time in a new foreign language show, this time, Catalan.

Merli is about a philosophy teacher who, in a similar vein as Dead Poets Society, has a class of students whom he inspires and teaches the ways of the world. Of course, Merli is not perfect and we follow his daily dramas along with his son, Bruno, a member of the class and his classmates at a college in Barcelona. While there are definitely serious topics in the show, it’s far better to watch for the harmless drama and romantic entanglements of the classmates, rather than looking for serious messages.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a trailer for Merli in English, so instead, here’s a wholesome photo of the cast together.

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SKAM (2015 – 2017)

Of course, would it be a Hollieblog post without mentioning my favourite show of all time? But alas, this year SKAM broadcasted it’s final season with Sana, a young Muslim student at Hartvig Nissen who struggles balancing her faith with a typical Norwegian teenage lifestyle. It’s got romance, friendship, drama, and important topics that you rarely see in television at the moment. But SKAM has revolutionized that, depicting characters of different faith, sexuality, and with mental illnesses. It is truly one of the best television shows out there, and I implore all of you to give it ago. (Plus, the Norwegian language is gorgeous!)

The Good Place (2017 – )

This was a show I had no intention of getting into. It looked too American; cheesy and full of weird dialogue and bright colours. But of course, this was a bit of a stereotype. I started watching when my parents started, and then carried on watching the whole of season one by myself. It’s hilarious, and very self aware. I love all of the characters (which doesn’t usually happen for me) and it perks me right up whenever I’m feeling down. Yes, the trailer is also super cringey but I promise, just give it a go!

Stranger Things (2016 – )

Guys, I did it. I caved. When it comes to shows, while I accept recommendations (and certainly give them out like they’re candy and I’m Willy Wonka), I’m not great at actually giving in and watching the shows I’m recommended. Especially when I’m constantly told they’re amazing. It’s why I haven’t watched Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad…I haven’t even watched The Great British Bake Off because people won’t shut up about it. But something was a little different about Stranger Things. It seemed the whole world was watching it, and I thought maybe I would like it. A rag tag group of kids trying to defeat the monster that’s invaded their town? Set in the 80s? It sounded perfect.

So I would constantly ask people; is it scary? Are there jump scares? I loathe jump scares, and more often than not they’ve given me panic attacks. But the only thing I could do was watch it myself. And thank goodness I did. Turns out, it is scary, but the jump scares were so obvious from a mile off that I could watch them without hiding behind the sofa. I have to admit, season one is better than season two, and I do have a bone to pick with The Duffer Brothers (the creators and writers), but overall, it’s an incredible show with some fantastic acting in it.

 

Please Like Me (2013-2016)

This is a terrible thing to say, but I almost forgot about Please Like Me. I can’t for the life of me remember if I watched it late 2016 or early 2017, and yet I didn’t put it in my 2016 favourite shows which I definitely would have otherwise. Did I watch it so early in 2017 that it feels like a year ago? Who knows. But it’s here now, and you should all give it a watch.

Set in Melbourne, Australia, Please Like Me explores serious and often sad themes through humour and a realistic plot. Josh is a twenty-something gay man, living with his best friend and figuring out what he wants to do with his life. His father is recently re-married, and his mother’s mental health is spiralling. While sometimes fairly dark and miserable, I found Please Like Me both realistic and hilarious at the same time. The awkwardness of some scenes reminded me of British shows like The Office, while still remaining a dramedy rather than a sitcom. The opening theme is also super infectious.

All of the trailers that I could find for this show have weird voice-overs and call suicide an ‘awkward moment’. But don’t punish the show for the trailers it clearly had no involvement in – the show is good. The trailers are bad.

Let me know what you’ve been watching, and let’s see if I actually watch it!

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My Two Week Work Experience at Penguin Random House

One day, whilst working my last shift at a small bakery in my hometown, I received an email.

Usually, when it comes to the industry I work in, you’re not allowed to go on your phone. Hell, I’m not even allowed my phone on me just in case I even think about looking at it. So, bless the job Gods that it was my final day and that my manager let me look at my phone. This email is an email I’ve been crossing my fingers for for years. I began applying for work experience in every publishers I could think of back when I graduated university in 2014. It would have been great to do work experience during my course, but I hadn’t even thought about it; I had no idea what I wanted to go into. But, now that I knew that publishing was a thing and it could be a thing I would enjoy, I wanted to try work experience to see what it was like. I hadn’t the foggiest what it was like in a publishing house and I hadn’t even thought it could be a valid option for me to go into. So, I set off, applying my arse off for everything that I could that wasn’t a placement that started the next day (which happens alot…who can drop everything like that?), and now, 2017, is finally my year.

 Dear Hollie,

Do you remember applying for work experience with Penguin Random House?

YES. YES I DO.

Que me jumping around our large bakery kitchen and my manager not really understanding what this meant. I would be living in London for two weeks, working within the very walls that publish Phillip Pullman, John Green, Jeff Kinney, and so many more amazing children’s authors. I was working in Children’s PR and Marketing. Oh my God. OH MY GOD.

I packed my bags and headed to my friend’s house (who lives near London); my heart in my throat and my legs all wobbly. I’ve never even set foot in an office, let alone a very important one in the centre of London. I was ready but also very unprepared, and had no idea what to expect from this experience. I watched so many videos about it, read so many blog posts, but I still couldn’t figure out what was going to happen. I hate not knowing how to do a job before I do it. I like to know immediately. But with this, it seemed a little impossible to find out other than to actually just go and do it.

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The morning walk over the jubilee bridge to reach The Strand.

Penguin Random House is huge. It’s huge. Only part of the company is at The Strand, where I was based. The other part is in Ealing, and then all the other parts are in other countries across the globe. While I felt like a teeny tiny person walking into the biggest building I’d ever seen, I tried to remember that this was just a small part of the company; an imprint, a department within an imprint, just to make it small enough to handle.

I was welcomed, shown around the whole floor and introduced to the other work experience. I was shown to my desk, helped with a log in situation, and then…left. This was a large part of the experience that felt a little wrong. I had points of contact, sure. I had another work experience colleague who had already been there a week who could have helped me. But instead, I sort of just sat there for two hours, reading and re-reading the introductory notes that made little sense, until I kept badgering the other work experience to give me something to do because no one was emailing me anything.

Nothing really happened until Wednesday, when I was tasked with Instagram market research. It meant I could work all day, answer emails, feel like an adult in the workplace for once and not ask to go to the toilet and take breaks whenever I wanted. I had hot chocolate on tap, could eat at my desk, and leave two minutes early so I didn’t have to run for my train. All of these things sound a little bit ridiculous, but retail man, they let you do nothing.

I spoke to few people in my first week save my colleague, Aliyah, who couldn’t not talk to me because I asked so many questions. It was a strange environment; everyone seemed to be on good terms with each other and there was definitely a friendly atmosphere, but for some reason it didn’t stretch to me and Aliyah. Throughout my two weeks I barely got any “Morning!”s or “Goodbye!”‘s apart from a few people, despite speaking and doing work for the people who didn’t say it to us. At first, I knew they wouldn’t engage in small talk too much because everyone was busy. The office was abuzz with busy-ness. But saying hello and goodbye? I assumed and still do, that it was because forming a bond with the work experience is futile; we change so often, having a new person each week, that they might not even be able to keep up with our names. There were brief moments during mailouts in the second week where they would ask us questions, especially Lily, The Scheme intern, who was lovely and who we helped out on a campaign that meant 700 books needed to be wrapped and packaged, as well as one of our points of contact, Beth, and my desk neighbour, Clare (in which we never spoke about what her role was but I think it was important!). But other than that, I found the experience in the first week pretty lonely.

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Look, I like views ok? Overlooking the Thames from the seventh floor.

It was only in the second week where I felt two strong emotions; extreme negativity towards the experience, and extreme joy over it.

The second week meant a new colleague as Aliyah went off to smash the world of PR and events (the industry she was going into), and I was met with Aislin (who had flown from Ireland for her w/e!), in which we got on super well and I was able to teach her everything I had learnt over the past week. Meaning she would not feel how I felt in my first few days. We worked on most of our tasks together, including sourcing book jackets on software called Biblio, take instagrams for an online competition, and of course, mail outs. SO MANY MAILOUTS. This was a negative for me in the moment; it was tiring and I think I have permanent back damage from the booths we had to sit in while doing it. But looking back, while I didn’t enjoy that experience nor did I feel I was learning anything from it, I understand that it was a necessity when it came to marketing and PR. Everyone got stuck in when they had free time, and they will continue to do more long after I had finished my two weeks. It was a part of the job, and gave me an insight into the nitty gritty of the department, realising that the work didn’t get shipped off to a distribution centre or onto a production line. It was their work. It was something they had come up with for an event, for a campaign, to advertise and market the books they loved. And their ideas were being implemented. For all the work I did mailing things out, sending competition winners prizes, and packaging 1000 goody bags for children at an event, that was definitely a lot of people I was making happy.

So while I would crawl back to my friend’s house, tired and hungry with all of my joints in pain. I knew it was worth it. It may not have been exactly what I thought it would be, but it was real, and it was accurate. I expect that actually working there, there would be a little more guidance and a lot more interaction with others. I was just an office junior, but going into marketing at entry level, or going in entry level at any other department; they understand that in all other places, things are a little bit different, that a big publisher will be different to a small indie one. Even the publisher a few tube stops down will have a different system. They would train me, and I wouldn’t turn up to the job not knowing what to do.

Or, at least I hope I wouldn’t.

For all of you wondering whether to apply for work experience with Penguin Random House; do it. But don’t let it be the only work experience you do. It was one of the easiest to apply for, with the most preparations in place, but it is just one example of working in a publishing house. I’ve talked to friends about their experiences in smaller publishers and what they have said has been way off from what I’ve experienced. I have loved it so much, and I felt a little lost when it was over. It was so worth it, and it’s a great thing to put on my CV.

So thank you Penguin Random House!

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If you’re thinking about applying for Penguin, or just want to know about my work experience in general, feel free to leave questions in the comment section and I’ll answer as many as I can!

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