Awesome Facts About London Hotels | Katy Birchall

I’m excited to welcome the lovely Katy Birchall, author of Secrets of a Teenage Heiress, to Pretty Books. I read her hilarious novel recently – the first in the Hotel Royale series, perfect for fans of The Princess Diaries and Geek Girl – and Katy’s here to share awesome facts about three London hotels (she says: YES, AWESOME. NOT BORING. THESE FACTS ARE COOL. TRUST ME.). I’m also giving away 2 copies of the book on Twitter, so head over to be in with a chance of discovering more about Flick, Fritz (the sausage dog, obvs) and the wonderful Hotel Royale.

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The Hotel Royale series was inspired by the beautiful grand dame hotels in London (a.k.a. hotels so famous and old, they’ve become important institutions!). I am completely fascinated by these beautiful, elegant, perfectly-run hotels, all of which have some pretty cool history (and secrets) behind them, just like Hotel Royale does in my books (there’s a ghost and everything). There is just something MAGICAL about these hotels.

Maybe it’s all the chandeliers and gold leafing… hmmmmm…

Anyhoo, there are lots of amazing hotels in London that I love which I could bore you about (The Dorchester, Claridge’s, Brown’s, The Savoy, The Connaught to name a few) BUT… I won’t. Instead, I’ll bore you about my top 3. (It was HARD to narrow it down to just 3 but I did it just for you. You’re welcome.)

So, here are some COOL facts that you might not know about three of London’s most famous hotels…

THE RITZ

Staying a night at The Ritz was what sparked the idea for my new series, so it’s only fitting that we start with it first, and the history at this beautiful hotel is unbelievable… talk about celebrity fans…

Famous guests include Charlie Chaplin, Noel Coward, Sir Roger Moore, a few Prime Ministers, throw in a couple of world leaders, not to mention several members of the royal family—Prince Charles and Camilla made their first ever public appearance there as a couple.

In 1951, famous actress Tallulah Bankhead came to The Ritz for a press conference and drank Champagne FROM HER SHOE. Seriously, she just took it off, poured the drink in and had a good glug. In front of all the journalists, no word of a lie. It was such a famous incident that The Ritz named a cocktail after her, The Tallulah.

So, that was weird. But also…kind of cool, right?

If the shoe thing is not enough to impress you, scenes from Downton Abbey have been filmed there. But really, if we’re going to talk about screen time, who can forget the hotel’s most famous starring role in Notting Hill? Julia Roberts’ character Anna Scott holds a press conference there and we have Hugh Grant’s hilarious Horse & Hound moment. A piece of iconic film history right there.

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2018 Goals

I don’t particularly enjoy making New Year’s Resolutions. I hate the way it makes me feel if I don’t accomplish them, but this year I’ve set a few goals that are super achievable and will make me feel great at the end of the year.

My TBR

    • Read 52 books and save £1 for every book read

Like most booklovers, I’m doing the Goodreads Reading Challenge, as I’ve done every year since 2011. Back then, I read 100 books but these days I aim to read 52, one per week. But it’s less about the number for me and more about the joy of seeing all the books I’ve read over the year (it also aids my terrible memory!). I saw people tweet about Aoife’s idea to save £1 for every book read, so I’m going to pop a coin into my ‘What happens in book club, stays in book club’ mug for every book I finish.

    • Visit two new countries

I’ve travelled a little over the past couple of years (and I hope to blog more about my travels, both around the UK and abroad) and this year I’d love to visit at least two new countries: Hungary, the Czech Republic, USA, Norway, Australia… or somewhere else!

    • Visit 10 new places in London

I’ve lived in London most of my life but there’s still so much left to explore. Whether a new museum, borough, coffee shop or park, I want to visit at least 10 new places in London this year. I really enjoyed doing this last year, from visiting Highgate Cemetery for the first time to discovering amazing new brunch places to go to with friends.

Stockholm, Sweden

    • Acquire fewer material things and reduce the amount of stuff I own

This is something I tried to do in 2017 and would love to continue this year. Last year, I decided that I wanted to spend my money on experiences, rather than on stuff. This includes buying fewer but higher quality clothes, frequent book-culling, frequent spring cleaning, buying new toiletries only when others are empty, and being aware of eco-friendly packaging.

    • Go to exercise classes every week and complete Couch to 5k

At the end of 2017, I joined the gym for a 6-week trial and really enjoyed how motivated it made me feel. I plan to renew my membership once my awful chest and throat infection disappears. I loved doing Body Combat (a mix of yoga, tai-chi and pilates) classes and I was also training for Couch to 5k until I suffered from ankle pain. Once I get myself proper running shoes, back onto the treadmill I go!

    • Make lunch and buy fewer lunches/hot drinks

I’m guilty of spending a lot of money on food. It’s probably my biggest expense after rent. I love eating out, but I know that it’s not necessary to buy lunch and a hot drink every day, so I’d like to limit those to once per week. Even so, I’ve swapped to a KeepCup to be more environmentally friendly, which does make it tricky (I get 25-50p off each drink when I use it!). It’ll also encourage me to get back into cooking and being organised with my food shop.

Berlin, Germany

    • Learn to crochet

I bought a little crochet set a while ago, but fear of failure is stopping me from giving it a shot. I’ve been told that crochet is super easy, so I need to just give it a go and make that damn bunny.

    • Take driving lessons and pass the theory test

As a lifelong Londoner, I can’t drive because I’ve never needed to. But a chat with a friend recently spurred me on to try. I’d love to acquire a new skill in 2018 and learning to drive is a big one. I passed my theory test nearly 10 years ago now, so it’s back to square one, but if I pass my driving test this year it’ll be a huge accomplishment. I love the idea of the independence that being able to drive gives someone.

    • Learn to be kinder to myself

And finally, it’s an important one. 2016-17 were tough years for me, in different ways, and I didn’t help much by not being kind to myself. I’m not perfect, but I don’t deserve some of the things that happened, and I need to stop being so hard on myself. If I’m kinder to myself, I’ll have more confidence and energy to do what makes me happy… learning, new experiences, exploring, spending time with friends, and making new ones.

Are any of these your 2018 goals?

Added to My Bookshelves: December

Here are the lovely books I added to my shelves in December!

For Christmas, I was super lucky to get the Harry Potter illustrated books. I’ve wanted them ever since I worked at Bloomsbury Children’s before they were published, so as soon as Foyles announced they were selling them for half price, I quickly added them to my list. I’ll definitely be starting a Harry Potter re-read this year, accompanied by Jim Kay’s beautiful illustrations. My lovely friend Cathy also bought me a copy of Craig Taylor’s Londoners, which I read and loved more than five years ago. I read the eBook, so I’m really looking forward to picking it up again – it’s even more relevant now.

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I also received a bunch of surprise review copies: Orphan Monster Spy, The Astonishing Colour of After, The Unknowns, The Truth and Lies of Ella Black, Bad Girls with Perfect Faces, The Nowhere Girls, Contagion, and Not Yet Dark. Most of these books are completely new to me and I am most intrigued by Orphan Monster Spy – a Jewish girl-turned-spy must infiltrate an elite Nazi boarding school – and An Astonishing Colour of After – Leigh Chen Sanders is sixteen when her mother dies by suicide, leaving only a scribbled note, and she finds herself travelling to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time.

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In December, I also picked up Nevermore: The Trials of Morrigan Crow, The State of Grace, Seven Days of You, Songs About Us, Out of Heart, Spellbook of Lost and Found, It Only Happens in the Movies, and Moonrise. I recently raced through Sarah Crossan’s Moonrise, a poignant novel written in poetry from the point of view of a young boy whose brother is on death row, and Holly Bourne’s It Only Happens in the Movies was my first book of 2018. I started off 2017 reading ...And I Happy New Year? so it seemed fitting! I’ve also heard absolutely amazing things about Nevermore, which is said to be fans of Harry Potter and His Dark Materials, so I’d love to pick that up soon, too.

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Have you read any of these books?

Top Ten / Books I Read in 2017


Here are my top books of the year!

The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee
I’m so glad I chose this brilliant audiobook. I loved Monty and Percy – they’ll sit comfortably amongst my favourite characters ever. The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue genuinely gave me the giggles. It’s also a much-needed read, featuring LGBT romance, racial diversity, and politically active women during a period of history that ignored them.

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Dimple and Rishi are geeky. They’re smart, funny, talented and interesting – and lovely. I really enjoyed seeing a girl passionate about STEM subjects and a boy passionate about art. When Dimple Met Rishi was a perfect YA contemporary read, for me.

Freshers by Lucy Ivison & Tom Ellen
Narrated by Luke and Phoebe, Freshers captures the first year of university perfectly. They’re two of the most realistic teenage characters I’ve come across (as we’ve all come to expect from Lucy and Tom!). It also covers topics that are vital to talk about, from sexual harassment on campus and one-night stands to ‘laddish’ behaviour and homesickness. I wish I had it when I was a student.

This is Going to Hurt: Section Lives of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay
Now a writer for film and TV comedy, Adam turned his compulsory doctors’ notes into a book. It opened my eyes to what it’s like to be a junior doctor. This is Going to Hurt is hilarious, honest and heart-breaking. As a woman, Adam’s field of expertise (obstetrics and gynaecology) is particularly relevant to me. Even so, This is Going to Hurt is a must read for everyone.

History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
Griffin and Theo are best friends > boyfriends > ex-boyfriends > best friends. And then Theo dies. A heartbreaking story, The History is All You Left Me is a wonderful exploration of relationships. I adored seeing Theo and Griffin take part in a pub quiz, complete with Harry Potter and Star Wars questions. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
After more than 10 years since I first read it, I picked up this popular trilogy and quickly became entranced by Lyra’s world, the characters, and the clever, twisty, exciting story. I’d lie in bed – the perfect place to listen to audiobooks, in my opinion – not wanting to fall asleep. I found myself eager to get back to Lyra’s Oxford, thinking about the stories even when I wasn’t reading them.

La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust) by Philip Pullman
I was super lucky to attend the midnight launch for La Belle Sauvage. At the event, we sat on a boat and ate stew, listened to Gyptian music and partook in a quiz, before heading upstairs at the stroke of midnight to pick up my copy. I finished the story within a few days and now I’m eagerly awaiting the next one, The Secret Commonwealth

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
Everything Leads to You is one of the few novels I’ve read that features LGBT+ characters but isn’t about being LGBT+. It’s an important part of the storyline, of course – and there’s a super sweet romance – but it’s not the main part of the story. Beautiful, cinematic and a joy to read.

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
Very little happens in We Are Okay in contrast to the drama and mystery of Everything Leads to You, but Nina does feelings really well, especially those that are difficult to describe: grief, loneliness, immense sadness. I adored the relationship between Marin and Mabel. I can’t wait to read more from Nina!

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
Alice gets teenagers. She gets what it’s like to be a teenager (or a millennial, let’s say) on the interwebz. She understands how online communities work and how they can go from making you feel part of something to suffocated. I loved Frances and Aled – they have an incredible friendship and I adored their funny and relatable Facebook messages.

Are any of these in your top ten?

Added to My Bookshelves: October & November

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At the beginning of October, I went to the launch of Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage (I blogged about it here), involving lots of Gyptian festivities, and picked up a beautiful stamped copy of the book at midnight. After listening to the original trilogy on audiobook, I also pre-ordered the newest, read by Michael Sheen. Once I’d finished these, I needed more, so I bought Lyra’s Oxford, which is a fun but I wouldn’t say essential addition to the series.

I’ve really been loving audiobooks over the past six months, so I bought Adam Kay’s This is Going to Hurt, the poignant and hilarious memoir of a junior doctor – and one of my favourite books of the year.

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Nearly six years after The Fault in Our Stars was published, I bought John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down and, after hearing lots about her poetry, a copy of Rupi Kaur’s The Sun and Her Flowers. I didn’t expect to love Turtles as much as TFiOS, but I did enjoy it a lot.

Thanks to lovely publishers, I also received some review copies in the post: Nick Lake’s, Satellite, Sara Barnard’s Goodbye, Perfect, Connie Glynn’s Undercover Princess, Alex Bertie’s Trans Mission and Robin Benway’s Far From The Tree. I’m reading Goodbye, Perfect now and throughly enjoying it – Sara really knows how to write teenagers!

Lastly, I attended my first Lush Book Club and got to hang out with lots of bookish people, eating cupcakes and chatting about the lovely Lush bath bombs we were given. It was for Rowan Coleman’s The Summer of Impossible Things – about sisters, secrets and time travel – and I’m really looking forward to it, and to more Lush Book Clubs next year.

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