Monday, March 14, 2011

Taking a step back

Hi everyone

I've decided to take a bit of a break from blogging (I won't be gone for  too long, but just enough time to sort out some personal areas in my life that need attention).

I just realised that blogging has become such a central focus of my life that I have been neglecting other areas in my life. As much as I do love blogging about books, I just feel that taking a step back is something I need to do in order to "regroup" myself again.

I think this break will be good as it will give me time to pause for thought and will allow me to write at a more leisurely pace while also focusing on other things in my life that need my attention right now.

I'll surely be back and when I do, will focus on bringing some really great content to my blog as well as doing some serious catch ups!

In the meantime, if you want to chat, you're more than welcome to mail me or to follow me on twitter (I'm there quite often).

See you on the blogs soon again.
~Tammy ~

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Book talk: The fabulous girls from Pan Macmillan SA - Part 1

I'm very excited for today's post. I've wanted to do this for ages, but could not find anyone willing to do what I've been planning to do. And then I met bloggers Kelly and Tarryn and yay, my book blogging prayers were answered

And lucky for me, these two lovely, lovely bloggers were more than willing to be featured on my blog.

  They're not just any bloggers though - they're both in the publishing industry and work for Pan Macmillan South Africa.

In today's post (which is the first of 2-3 parts), they're here to talk about their jobs, publishing trends, up and coming books we can look forward to and all sorts of fabulous book related topics.

I've developed a great relationship with them as they are a bunch of bubbly and vivacious souls who ADORE chatting to their followers about books.

They also host fabulous giveaways, participate in memes (not many publishers do that) and are gluttonous book sluts who adore what they do for a living.

Without further ado, please welcome Kelly Ansara and Tarryn Talbot from Pan Macmillan South Africa to my blog.

Firstly, thanks for joining me on The Book Fairy's Haven today. I'm very excited to have you here. Let's kick off the interview by asking you both:

1. What position do you both hold at Pan MacMillan and what does your job description entail?
Tarryn: I am the Local Adult and Children’s Titles Publicist.  My job is to formulate and maintain relationships with the media to reach the reader.

This includes reviews; print, radio or television interviews; blog mentions; Twitter mentions; Facebook mentions, etc. Part of my position is also getting the author and his/her book out there through events, such as book launches. When successfully used, its effects are long-lasting in helping to build up a reputation for the book and the author.

Product Controller & Publishing Assistant

(Kelly elaborates a little more below)

2. How long have you been working in the book/ publishing industry?

I started at Pan in November 2009 as the marketing assistant so it will be two years this November

I started in the “Book industry” in 2008 (first year varsity) at Exclusive Books and started temping at Pan in 2009 on my off days then was hired when my degree ended in November 2009 and as they say the rest is history…

3.  Describe a day at the office.
In a word: busy.

(Tammy's meddlesome comments: Yes, just look at how busy they are. *grins*)
In a short paragraph: In order to at least be able to vocalize, I grab a coffee with Kelly at around 07h00. Laptop on, eyes   widen at the e-mails coming through *gulps big sip of coffee*.

My day is then a flurry of replying to e-mails, answering phone calls, running to meetings and smiling throughout. Every now and then, I take a break and look at our shelves full of books; stop to “smell the roses”.

Kelly: I start at 7h30 am, I check my emails and see if there is anything urgent then I work on our publishing schedule and assist in compiling the sales dept Order Forms and sales packs (which contain the Books cover and Advanced information). 

After am I post a status/Link/Photo on Facebook and Twitter for a relevant book or campaign we are running and this is checked every 1 hour and a half.  Then I move on to loading titles onto our system and categorising them by imprint, publisher and category. 

After lunch is Manuscript time – I sit and wade through as many as I can unless something else comes up that needs attending.  I also have to send Legal Deposits which are copies of every book we publish locally to the National Libraries so they have a record, this involves filling out extensive forms

 4.  What's the best part of your job?

Tarryn: That every day I get to not only do something that follows my passion, but help enhance the writing and reading fervour of book-lovers everywhere.

Oh, and make them jealous too, of course ;)

(Tammy says: Tsk. Tsk. Now that's just mean Tarryn)

Kelly:  Watching a book forming, hearing thoughts, and watching the process coming alive. 

There are days when I ask why and then I read Amanda Coetzee’s new manuscript or Chris van Wyk’s books and I fall in love with books again.

 5.       The worst part?

Realising that there are never going to be enough hours in a day.

No coffee when I have a pile of Manuscripts on my desk

 6.   What made you decide to venture into the publishing industry?

Tarryn: I was still doing my undergrad, been the student who needed to find a part-time job to fund her book-and-coffee habit when I received a call from Kelly who told me about a newly-available position at Pan Macmillan that she thought I would enjoy. 

I applied and voila! Here I am. Pretty sure there was a four-leaf clover or rabbit foot stuck to my dress that day…

I remember walking with Tarryn on UJ campus in our second year and I said to her “Imagine if we could be paid to sit and read books all day on a beach – How great would that be?” 

I have always loved books but never really knew about publishing until varsity. I worked in a bookstore and when my deputy manager recommended me to someone at Pan I decided to try it out and haven’t regretted my decision to go into publishing since.

 7.  Which genre do you consider to be huge in South Africa right now? And why? 
Tarryn: In my opinion, I think that political biographies always do well in South Africa. 

Our history is full of political colours that have gone so far as to create International interest.

We are a diplomatic country that wants the knowledge of our country so that we can make sensible decisions and have a say in the way South Africa is governed.

Kelly: Non-Fiction is a really big seller locally. 

Fiction does well (Deon Meyer is a great example) but local fiction doesn’t really stand out next to a Jodi Picoult, John Grisham and Stephanie Meyer. 

We have some really great non-fiction titles that tell stories of our history during Apartheid and great biographies of people in that error as well as books on improving SA (Moeletsi Mbeki is the top Must have in a genre like this). 

Conversations with Myself is proof that Non-Fiction is a huge seller locally.

8.  And worldwide?
Tarryn: Twilight anyone?

Kelly: Worldwide is definitely Young Adult fiction.  The Paranormal romance is the fad unlike any I have seen.  Thanks to the Twilight phenomenon the world has been bitten by the demon. 

It is really great to see older, pre-Twilight, “Vampire” stories standing their ground as well as local authors now taking charge of this genre, ie Deadlands by Lily Herne

(Tammy says: I'll be chatting about Deadlines very soon - it's a South African YA title that I'm very excited about. This one is going to be huge!)

Kelly continued: I have to admit Young Adult titles are not my personal favourite, but I cannot criticise a genre that is finally getting teens to read, interact with the books and finally get excited about books!

End of Part 1.

Hope you guys enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed interviewing them. Part 2 will be coming up soon, but in the meantime, please go check out their blog and their twitter profiles (Kelly and Tarryn) -they're chatterboxes. I promise :D

Don't they sound lovely?

Thanks Kelly and Tarryn - I've had a lot of fun doing this and hope to feature you on my blog on a regular basis. :)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Book review: You Against Me

You Against Me
A brother intent on defending his sister's honour, a sister intent on defending her brother's name and an unasked for love that could be the undoing of them all.

You Against Me by Jenny Downham (David Fickling Books)

When Mikey's sister claims to have been sexually assaulted, the world as he knows it, comes crashing down.

When Ellie's brother is accused and charged with the crime, the perfect family life she's always known slowly starts falling apart.

Of course, if you're any kind of man, the first thing you'd do is risk everything to try and take revenge right?

And if you're the sister of the boy who is accused of the crime, then surely your job (considering that you're the main witness) is to push aside your own emotions, defend him and banish any form of reasonable doubt, correct?

Yet, when Ellie and Mikey meet, 2 polar opposite worlds collide and set them on a path that will affect not only them, but those around them too.

Their journey and their story is a story that will not only test their loyalty, but it's a story that will affect the very choices that they need to make… choices that could bring restoration for one family, and tear another family further apart.

And in between, they'll need to discover whether a love so seemingly impossible is a love still worth pursuing.

The synopsis of this book sounds as if it's just another run-of-the-mill, been-there-done-that before concept doesn't it? And yet, Jenny Downham's You Against Me is anything but that.

Is it a love story?

Well, yes it is, but my recommendation and review of this book is not going to be based on telling you that you should read the book because it's a forbidden love story about 2 people from 2 opposite sides of the spectrum who are not only divided by their different social spectrum, but also by an accused crime tearing both of their families apart.

Rather, what makes this novel so incredibly moving, powerful and really worth reading is how choices are made and how the backdrop of their love story forms and shapes the decisions that Mikey and Ellie make based on their situation.

And what really struck me about this novel is that Jenny Downham has an effortless knack for conveying this throughout her novel.

 The story starts at the point where a crime has already been committed and charges have been pressed.
When we're introduced to Mikey, we get an immediate sense that while he's popular boy with plenty of girls at his beck and call, he's also weighed down by the knowledge of his sister's assault. 

From the poorer side of town (he and his family live in a council house), he's left with the burdensome task of taking care of his family.

Karen, his younger sister drops out of school and refuses to leave the flat because of the assault, his mother has resorted to numbing the pain and escaping reality through alcohol and he's left with:

a) taking his youngest sister to school every morning,
b)cleaning the house,
c)buying the groceries and
d)trying to hold onto his job at the local pub.

In between all of this, his rage against Tom Parker for what he's been accused of doing to his sister dominates his thoughts so much that he and his friend spend hours trying to come up with a plan to hurt Tom.

Then he decides to gate crash a party being hosted for Tom. And it's here that he meets Ellie Parker.

Ellie's family in comparison have all the wealth to speak of, yet there's no denying that the fact that the accusations against Tom are affecting her family in more ways than one.

Surrounded by a father who is hell-bent on throwing parties for Tom in order to convince the town of his innocence and flanked by a mother who is quietly as desperate as he is to prove his innocence, Ellie is the one who left feeling out of place and burdened by the responsibility her parents place on her for her role as impending witness for her brother.

When Ellie and Mikey inevitably find their way to one another, they are like 2 pieces of driftwood moving together.

Both with the knowledge of what they're doing is wrong, but unable to pull away from one another. Inevitably, their moving together, changes mindsets and changes alliances... and when new events come to surface, the families both find themselves in a new kind of hell.

This novel is such a wonderful read. As mentioned before, it's not just a love story, but a story based on and influenced by their love story.

What adds to the beautiful complexity of this novel is the notion that truth is often a concept that's blurred, suppressed and hidden between the groves and left to fester until a wrong moment avails itself in order for it to be revealed.

Is Karen (who has a bit of a reputation with the boys) lying about the assault?  Or does Tom Parker hide a far more darker side to him than his family is aware of.  It's these questions that will run through your mind as you read this novel.

And what's more, Jenny has a remarkable way with creating characters that are so easily accessible that when you're reading the book, you can see yourself or anyone else in their situation.

Her writing is powerful and exquisite in its simplicity and through a mere thought, gesture and suggestion, she manages to convey a sense of guilty desperation between the main protagonists.

The interactions between the characters and their reactions to the drama that surrounds them are incredibly realistic and definitely something that I could see happening between families. This book may be a work of fiction, but it's written with a deep and psychological insight into families that are torn apart by real events such as these.

Some incidents that come to mind stand out quite vividly: Mikey for being questioned about hanging out with the sister of his enemy and Ellie being targeted on a daily basis at school by Karen's friends. 

The repercussions of the crime, both families' reactions on how they each deal with the assault and accused crime respectively are handled in an achingly authentic manner that makes this book more than just a forbidden love story.

I did have one issue though and that is that are a few loose ends that I would have liked to have seen tied. But this, perhaps, is me simply being subjective.

Perhaps Jenny wanted to leave certain situations open to interpretation and if you as a reader prefer being open-ended situations, then you'll love it even more than what I did.

And goodness knows that I already do.