What’s on my shelves?

Here are some of the new books I’ve added to my shelves lately!

Gifted: I’m so proud of my friend Lucy who’s first book, The Paper and Hearts Society, is out next month. It’s all about about books, friendship and anxiety, and I reviewed it recently here. I thought it was amazing and I can’t wait for everyone to join Tabby’s book club. Team BKMRK sent me a review copy – plus Lucy sent me a PDF earlier in the year to get me out of my reading slump. (It worked).

Ironically, these two books were *actual gifts*. I asked for The Roasting Tin and The Green Roasting Tin for my birthday. I’ve been trying really hard to cook food that can be frozen and reheated, so I don’t have to buy lunch every day or spend money on microwave meals. I’ve not been doing amazingly lately, but I’m excited to get started again. I’ve discovered some really tasty meals – especially veggie meals – through batch cooking, in particular this lentil ragu.

Gifted: Earlier in the year, I went to a publisher event at Scholastic, where they told us all about their 2019 titles. One of them was Simon James Green’s LGBT rom-com, Alex in Wonderland, so I was super excited to be sent a copy (along with some gummy flamingo sweets!). It’s about shy teen Alex who works at amusement arcade with a boy called Ben… and he starts to develop feelings for him. It sounds so cute and funny – I’m planning to pick it up next!

Gifted: I’m currently reading A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson. I’ve heard so many people raving about it and I’m only a few pages in so far, but really enjoying it! Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered by Sal Singh. The police know he did it. Everyone in town knows he did it. But Pippa Fitz-Mobi isn’t so sure. My copy was sent to me by Electric Monkey with a blueberry muffin, perfect for bribery (but really, I ate it).

I bought Laura Steven’s A Girl Called Shameless from West End Lane Books at their 25th birthday party. My friend Charlie and I popped in for some birthday cake and bookish celebrations – it was great to see so many people turn up! The first book, The Exact Opposite of Okay, is about Izzy, who parties, drinks, dances and… sleeps with a boy. A slut-shaming website is set up and she becomes the centre of a national scandal. I’m really looking forward to reading about Izzy’s next (mis)adventures.

Are any of these books on your TBR?

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Mini Reviews: The Paper & Hearts Society, Proud & The Weight of Water

The Paper & Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie

I was in a really bad reading slump at the beginning of the year. You know, the kind where you watch Netflix, scroll through Twitter, or do nothing at all, instead of picking up a book. Lucy kindly offered to send me her book, The Paper & Hearts Society, to help – and it worked!

Tabby Brown doesn’t fit in. She’s anxious and unhappy, and just wants some friends to hang out with who get her… and then she discovers a piece of paper tucked into a book inviting her to join a book club. It’s here that she meets Olivia, Cassie, Henry and Ed, and embarks on a summer of bookishness and friendships.

Lucy’s approach to anxiety – something that affects a lot of us in the bookish community – was great, and she includes LGBTQ+ characters (something that I haven’t come across in a young teen book before). As well as a Jane Austen-themed party, a literary road trip (visiting one of my favourite places, Bath), and the downside of social media. I also loved spotting titles of books that I knew!

I raced through The Paper & Hearts Society and loved it from start to finish – it had me in tears at the end. I was always going to support Lucy as she’s one of my best friends, but it makes me so joyously happy that I can shout about something I genuinely love. I cannot wait to pop into a bookshop and buy my own copy.

Proud by Various

My first publisher event of the year was Stripes’ EqualiTea. I was excited to be given a copy of LGBTQ+ anthology Proud, edited by Juno Dawson. It’s full of stories, art and poems from authors and illustrators who are part of the community, including Tanya Byrne, Moïra Fowley-Doyle, David Levithan, Simon James Green and many more.

Proud is such a diverse collection of stories – of genres, characters, narrative styles and illustrative styles. I enjoyed discovering which stories would be my favourites (as someone who doesn’t usually get on with short story collections!), from Simon James Green’s Penguins (illustrated by Alice Oseman), a contemporary about coming out (and gay penguins!), to fantasy tale The Phoenix Fault by Cynthia So (illustrated by Priyanka Meenakshi), about two girls who fall in love, as well as many other stories you should read with pride.

I’m really looking forward to reading more from the authors featured in Proud.

The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan

Sarah Crossan’s One is one of my all-time favourite YA novels, but I hadn’t yet picked up her first verse novel, The Weight of Water. It’s about 12-year-old Kasienka who moves from Poland to England with her mother, searching for the father who left them.

The Weight of Water is immensely honest, and doesn’t sugar-coat what it’s like for a migrant to move to a place that feels cold and unwelcoming. Kasienka deals with loneliness and isolation; her mother’s broken-heart and poverty; and her schoolmates don’t make her feel any better – swimming is the only thing they can’t make fun of her for, because she’s better at it than all of them.

As with all of Sarah Crossan’s novels, The Weight of Water is powerful, moving and unsentimental, and I can’t wait to read her next book, Toffee.

#gifted: The Paper & Hearts Society and Proud were obtained for free in exchange for an honest review.

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Mini Reviews: Normal People, So Happy It Hurts & The Quiet at the End of the World

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Who hasn’t heard of Normal People?! It has been nominated for, or won, every award going, and everyone has been talking about it.

Connell and Marianne grew up in the same small town in Ireland, but they see the world in different ways – Marianne is rich, and emotionally abused by her family, who employ Connell’s mother. Connell is poor, and one of the most popular, likeable people at school, and is super smart. And they fall in love.

Normal People follows the two through adolescence and early adulthood, as they drop in and out of each other’s lives, trying to communicate, but never really managing it. It’s a sad love story. I became completely wrapped up in Marianne and Connell’s lives, relating to both the joys and loneliness that can accompany growing up in the 21st century.

But I can’t help but think… two young people who meet at school and fall in love. It’s a YA story, it’s just not written like most YA. It does make me sad that young adult fiction never receives as much acclaim and attention as Normal People. But this doesn’t mean that I won’t be reading Conversations With Friends!

So Happy It Hurts by Anneliese Mackintosh

So Happy It Hurts crept up on me unexpectedly. I came across it in Foyles Waterloo when it was their book of the month. I was approaching 30 and the back said, “Ottila McGregor is thirty years old and has decided it’s time to sort her life out.” It sounded perfect for me and I wanted to buy myself a little treat, so I did.

I loved So Happy It Hurts so much. It’s told in alternating chapters between Ottila and Thales, a man at work that she begins dating. It’s an epistolary novel; a scrapbook of emails, receipts, tickets, letters, Snapchats, texts, therapy transcripts… Through these, we see Ottila’s relationship with Thales grow and watch as she deals with her sister Mina’s bad mental health (which Ottila thinks is her fault). Ottila is struggling with her own mental heath due to the fractured relationship with her family – and her father’s death not so long ago – but she doesn’t actually talk about her own mental health much; we learn about it through other little snapshots into her life.

So Happy It Hurts is told in a light-hearted way – and is very funny – but focuses on the serious side of life, too, alongside the little things that make us happy. It’s actually very uplifting, I promise, and was one of the few books to actually make me cry…

‘I want to be a good person. And I want to be happy. So happy it hurts. I need you to help me with that.’

The Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James

Aren’t Lauren James’s books just so pretty? The Quiet at the End of the World was one of the books on my ‘to buy’ list this year. I really look forward to her science fiction, especially knowing that she’s so passionate about women in science!

Lowrie and Shen are officially the youngest people on Earth after a virus caused global infertility. The two teenagers are content with their idyllic lives – growing up in an opulent mansion in a pocket of London, looked after by a small, ageing community – until Lowrie comes across social media posts written by a girl who was a teenager when the virus hit. She begins reading, and learning more, about what changed humanity forever – and uncovers a secret that threatens the entire existence of those left behind.

The Quiet at the End of the World is, actually, a quiet read. Lauren James’s books never force lots of complicated scientific theories onto you, they’re simply about the day-to-day lives of her protagonists. Lowrie and Shen are a really sweet couple. I went back-and-forth between wanting them to be the best of friends, and wanting them to fall in love, and it was lovely watching their relationship grow stronger and stronger. As with all of Lauren’s stories, a devastating secret awaits, but it isn’t the twist that keeps you reading, it’s experiencing the world and enjoying the company of the characters she has created. I particularly adored Mitch, a cute robot who I wish was a friend of mine!

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Mini Reviews: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) & In At the Deep End

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

I’d wanted to read The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle ever since it was nominated for the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards last year. I cannot resist books that everyone’s talking about.

I loved the premise of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle: Evelyn has been killed hundreds of times, and every day, Aiden Bishop, who wakes up in a different body, is too late to save her. It’s a fabulous time-travelling, Agatha Christie-style whodunnit mystery. I enjoyed discovering which character our puzzle-solver would wake up as next. I read most of it curled up on a beanbag in the Wellcome Collection’s Reading Room.

Even so, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle was perhaps a little too long for me, especially as a lot is going on at the same time. I felt it could’ve been shorter, but I generally feel that way about most books!

Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) by Lev A.C. Rosen

Has anyone else been in a reading slump this year? You know that feeling when you want to read, but can’t bring yourself to pick up a book, or you end up reading the same novel for weeks? I needed something funny to pick me up and Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) was the perfect choice: part Pretty Little Liars, part Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. A much filthier version.

Jack Rothman is 17 years old and loves partying, makeup and boys. He’s the school’s fave to gossip about. Jack begins writing an online sex advice column and starts to receive mysterious love letters… except they’re threatening, dark, and stalkerish. Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) is a liberal joy. I know a lot of teenagers will find it helpful, whether they’re a gay man or not.

Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) is also one of those books where the side characters shine through. I really enjoyed Jack’s relationship with his friends Jenna and Ben – although Jenna, I think, is one of those slightly problematic friends where you can’t quite decide whether they’re good for the other person or not – and his mum. Jack of Hearts is a wonderful mix of mystery + contemporary, and I have been telling everyone to read it!

This photo was taken by my lovely friends Beth @ Books Nest. We went book-shopping and she bought both books after my recommendations!

In At the Deep End by Kate Davies

As of next week, I’m 30 years old, but I rarely read books about marriage, divorce, affairs, mortgages, or having children. I’m still on that millennial bridge between teenager and adult, and enjoy books about young people like me, such as Tiffy and Leon in The Flatshare – people who are still figuring out life, discovering who they are, and working on their career, friendships and relationships, but who never feel like they know what they’re doing.

At the start of In At the Deep End, Julia has a one-night stand with a man who accuses her of breaking his penis. It’s this pretty awful night that makes Julia really think about what she wants. She begins questioning her sexuality, and eventually the ‘right’ way to be a lesbian and a feminist, making some pretty big changes in her life.

In At the Deep End is straight-talking and hilarious – not only because it’s sexually graphic – and a really fantastic read. I still feel like a newbie to the world of LGBTQIA+ (I only started reading LGBT+ YA books a few years ago). I was as clueless as Julia at the start of the book, but she becomes a more open person as she throws herself into being a lesbian. But even being part of a supportive, friendly community doesn’t mean you’re immune from toxic relationships. Julia begins a relationship with a woman that turns more and more toxic, and she once again needs help from her friends.

In At the Deep End is another book I’ve been telling everyone to read. I’m becoming a fangirl of filthy books, it seems.

#gifted: Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) and In At the Deep End were obtained for free in exchange for an honest review. I borrowed The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle from a friend.

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What’s on my shelves?

Here are some of the new books I’ve added to my bookshelves recently!

Gifted: My first publisher event of the year was Stripes’ EqualiTea and I was particularly excited to be given a copy of LGBTQ+ anthology Proud, edited by Juno Dawson, which is full of stories, art and poems from authors and illustrators who are part of the community. I’m also looking forward to delving into romcom My So-Called Bollywood Life, about Bollywood film fanatic Winnie who meets fellow film geek Dev. It sounds like it’ll be a lot of fun to read!

I bought Erin Gough’s pretty book from Readings Books in Melbourne. I hadn’t heard about it before (it doesn’t yet have a UK publisher, it seems), but it sounds fantastic. Amelia Westlake won the Readings Young Adult Book Prize 2018 and is about two gay girls + a fancy school + a feminist campaign (plus the cover reminds me of Madeline, so what’s not to like?). I bought my friend Charlie a copy for Christmas, too!

Gifted: I attended a fabulous blogger event at Bonnier with Lucy Adlington (author of The Red Ribbon) interviewing Heather Morris about her global bestseller, The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Heather’s interview was more like a chat we happened to overhear, which I really enjoyed. Lucy Adlington – a fashion historian – was also great and I can’t wait to read her story. I’ve not read historical fiction for a while, but I’m looking forward to delving back in. I picked up a signed copy of Heather’s book for my mum, too!

Gifted: I also went to a publisher event at Scholastic, where we got to hear all about their 2019 titles. I’m excited to read Beth Garrod’s Take a Chance on Me, Simon James Green’s Alex in Wonderland, and Sabina Khan’s The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali, which we were given a copy of! It’s all about 17-year-old Rukhsana, who tries to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans for her future fall apart.

Are any of these books on your TBR?

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