Mini Reviews: Fierce Fragile Hearts, Giant Days & The Night Olivia Fell

Fierce Fragile Hearts by Sara Barnard

I re-read Beautiful Broken Things before picking up Fierce Fragile Hearts and it really helped me appreciate the story more, I think. It reminded me how friendships were formed and about the different dynamics. It was great to go from Caddy’s to Susanne’s POV – I hope we get to hear from Rosie’s perspective someday!

Fierce Fragile Hearts is set two years laterSuze is back in Brighton and ready to catch up with her best friends, even thought they’re about to head off to university. After moving into a studio flat (and befriending the older lady downstairs, Dilys), she finds that her new life won’t be easy.

In the previous book, we didn’t really get to know Suze properly, but Fierce Fragile Hearts gave us the chance to go deeper. Suze is still very emotional, affected by her past, and really quite lonely. She is warned away from Matt, the charismatic musician, which she of course ignores. She is trying to make her life better – whilst simultaneously sabotaging herself. That’s what sums up the book for me: Suze developing as a character, and her two friends around her (even when they aren’t physically there). Sara Barnard still, for me, writes some of the most realistic portrayals of friendship, and I really enjoyed this follow-up!

Giant Days by Non Pratt

Even though I’ve only read the first volume of the graphic novels, I was so excited to hear about this book inspired by the Giant Days series – and written by one of my favourite YA authors! In Giant Days, we follow the lives of “three university first-years: Daisy, the innocent home-schooled girl; Susan, the sardonic wit; and Esther, the vivacious drama queen”.

As I’ve said on Pretty Books before, I adore novels set in university. I loved that each of the girls’ first-year experiences is different: Daisy’s going through homesickness and loneliness, and tries to deal with this by doing All the Things; Susan’s having to deal with her past when a boy called McGraw shows up; and Esther’s just making it up as she goes along.

I found it a little difficult at first to jump quickly between the three characters, but once we were introduced to the three girls and their time at university, it got easier to follow their misadventures and mishaps.

I also love that my friend Grace is a character in the book!

The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald

I’ve been in *such* a reading slump this year. It has nothing to do with the books I’ve been reading and all to do with me. What I needed was a fast-paced book… a thriller seemed like the perfect choice! I hadn’t heard about The Night Olivia Fell before picking it up (which, if you’re a fellow blogger, you’ll know is very unusual and exciting!).

Abi Knight is woken up in the middle of the night and told that her teenage daughter has had an accident. Olivia slipped and fell from a bridge into the icy water below, and is now on life support – not only that, she’s three months pregnant. But what if she didn’t fall? What if she was pushed?

The Night Olivia Fell is all about discovering what really happened to Olivia that night. Was it an accident? Did someone want her dead? And if so, who? And who is the father of her baby?

The Night Olivia Fell did the trick – it only took three days to read – and was enjoyable, if not the most memorable thriller. (I did spot two instances of ‘I let out a breathe I didn’t know I was holding’ – sorry! I can’t help it!). It was so much fun piecing together all the ‘evidence’ as the narration switched between Abi and Olivia. The novel is marketed as adult, but it could easily be YA,, too. If you need non-violet, fast-paced thrillers, The Night Olivia Fell could be one to try!

#gifted: All three books were obtained for free in exchange for an honest review.

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Mini Reviews: The Rumour, The Flatshare & Don’t You Forget About Me

The Rumour by Lesley Kara

I really want to read more thrillers. They’re just so much fun. I especially love them without gore and trauma (for the reader!) like, The Couple Next Door – and The Rumour. In Lesley Kara’s suspenseful novel, single mum Joanna hears a rumour that Sally McGowan – the notorious child killer – is living in her small town. Sally was only 10 years old when she stabbed little Robbie Harris to death 48 years ago… but does helping to spread the rumour mean that Joanna’s now in danger?

Lesley Kara kept me guessing throughout the book to the point where I suspected all the characters of being Sally McGowan. The reader has to decide: Is Sally really living there? And is she who everyone says she is? Lesley keeps the reader on edge right until the very end.

The Rumour isn’t the sort of thriller where Sally McGowan is painted as the villain and that’s that. The reader is encouraged to think about what it’d be like living under witness protection, and whether someone deserves to be punished for something that happened when they were a child – especially a child with horrendous family circumstances. It makes you wonder whether the group of Flinsted-on-Sea mums are guilty of more crimes than a child…

I’m keen to read Lesley Kara’s next book, Who Did You Tell?, out later this year. Her writing style reminds me of Rosamund Lupton, a thriller writer I adored years and years ago!

What are your favourite thrillers?

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

The Flatshare was technically one of my favourite books of 2018, despite being published this year!

Tiffy Moore needs a room. Leon Twomey needs extra money. The solution to their problems? To share a bed, of course… You’ve heard about flatsharing, but bed sharing? It may sound unusual, but in today’s London, with sky-high rents and extortionate house prices, it probably does exist. Tiffy and Leon are never in their flat at the same time due to different work hours, and so have never actually spoken – aside from through Leon’s nosey girlfriend and the Post-It notes they leave each other. And yet, over time, love blossoms…

The Flatshare was so incredibly believable – aside from the fact that neither of them seemed to have a sick day! – and I became so throughly immerse in Tiffy and Leon’s romantic and adorable story that I finished the book in a day. I tend to struggle with contemporary female writing, not because I’m a book snob (I’m really not!), but because I cannot relate to characters that are married with children, and so The Flatshare was absolutely perfect for me.

I loved Tiffy and Leon, and the entire cast of characters. Tiffy and her quirky ways endeared me. She’s a fave. And I adored Richie’s part (Leon’s wrongly imprisoned brother) in getting Leon and Tiffy together.

The Flatshare is out in April and is the perfect romcom, especially for fellow millennials.

Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane

I heard that Mhairi McFarlane was the contemporary romcom writer to read and so I made Don’t You Forget About Me my last book of the year (2018 needed extra fuzziness).

Georgina is fired from her job at the grottiest restaurant in town and comes home to find her boyfriend, Justin, in bed with someone else. He’s dumped, obviously, but it really is a shitty day for G. Georgina takes the first job she’s offered – a barmaid at the cosy local pub – and it’s here that she bumps into her school boyfriend, Lucas McCarthy.

Lucas is a striking character. I kept imagining him as an Irish Patrick Dempsey but much more aloof and sarcastic. I would’ve loved even more tension and adorableness (totally a word) between the two, but I still throughly enjoyed the pair’s cutesy drama. After all, Don’t You Forget About Me is actually a story Georgina at Life at 30 – and the romance is just one part of that.

Justin is the actual worst. Don’t You Forget About Me and The Rumour both do a great – and incredibly important – job of highlighting emotional abuse (particularly gaslighting), so it’s wonderful that we’re getting more books like these.

I want to check out Mhari McFarlane’s It’s Not Me, It’s You, which I also have, next!

#gifted: All three books were obtained for free via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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9 Books I’m Looking Forward to in 2019

Here are nine books out this year that I’ll definitely be reading as soon as I can!

JANUARY

Paper Avalanche by Lisa Williamson
Lisa’s Williamson’s one of my favourite YA contemporary authors (and she’s an all-round lovely person), so I can’t wait to read her newest novel, Paper Avalanche.

“When it comes to flying under the radar, Ro Snow is the expert. It may be lonely but at least this way the truth remains where it should: hidden. Then Tanvi Shah, the girl who almost died, comes tumbling back into her life and Ro finds herself losing control of her carefully constructed lies.”

The Binding by Bridget Collins
I’ve been hearing so many awesome things about The Binding (it’s meant to be one of 2019’s biggest books for bookish peeps), so obviously I have to check it out this year!

“For as long as he can recall, Emmett has been drawn to books, even though they are strictly forbidden. Bookbinding is a sacred calling. Within the pages of the books they create, secrets are concealed and the past is locked away.”

FEBRUARY

Fierce Fragile Hearts by Sara Barnard
I’ve actually already read Fierce Fragile Hearts – review to come soon – but it’ll have been on my list anyway. I really love Sara Barnard’s novels and Fierce Fragile Hearts is a companion novel to Beautiful Broken Things, all about Suzanne.

“Suzanne’s back in Brighton, the only place she felt she belonged, back with her best friends Caddy and Rosie. But they’re about to leave for university. When your friends have been your light in the darkness, what happens when you’re the one left behind?”

MARCH

The Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James
I really enjoyed The Loneliest Girl in the Universe so cannot wait to read Lauren James’ next sci-fi novel – and the cover is beautiful!

“Lowrie and Shen are the youngest people on the planet after a virus caused global infertility. Their idyllic life is torn apart when a secret is uncovered that threatens not only their family but humanity’s entire existence.”

APRIL

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
Another one I’ve already read, but had to include because I enjoyed it so much. It shouldn’t work: you’ve heard about flatsharing, but bed sharing? I read it in a day, immersed in Tiffy and Leon’s story.

“Leon has a flat that he only uses 9 to 5. Tiffy works 9 to 5 and needs a place to sleep. The solution to their problems? To share a bed of course… As Leon and Tiffy’s unusual arrangement becomes a reality, they start to connect through Post-It notes left for each other around the flat.”

JUNE

The Paper & Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie
Well, obvs. Lucy’s one of my best friends (who I’m extremely proud of!) and I cannot wait to read her first YA contemporary novel, The Paper & Hearts Society.

“Tabby Brown is tired of trying to fit in with her classmates. It’s like she hasn’t found her people… That is until she moves to a new town where a book club, The Paper & Hearts Society, is recruiting.”

JULY

Loveless by Alice Oseman
I’m looking forward to Alice Oseman’s fourth novel – although I still haven’t read Solitaire, so I really need to get to that first!

“Georgia’s eighteen, never been in a relationship, or even had a crush on a single person in her whole life. Georgia’s is now at university and determined to cure herself of her lovelessness.”

SEPTEMBER

Tunnel of Bones by Victoria Schwab
Of course, as it was one of my favourite books of 2018, I’ll pick buying the sequel to City of Ghosts when it’s out! I cannot wait to meet up with Cassidy and Jacob again.

OCTOBER

‘Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas by Adam Kay
Adam Kay’s This is Going to Hurt was one of my favourite books of 2017 and this is his second book. I really love Adam’s sense of humour and passion for the NHS, and I’m sure this’ll be a brilliant follow-up.

“Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas is the hilarious, poignant and entertaining story of the life of a junior doctor at the most challenging time of the year.”

Are any of these your picks, too?

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Top 10 Books I Read in 2018

Here are my favourite books of the year!

It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne
This was the first book I read in 2018, so my year of reading started off fabulously. It’s one of those books that I just wanted to tell everyone to read as soon as I finished it. It made me feel everything: excited, angry, upset, giddy.

How Do You Like Me Now? by Holly Bourne
Holly’s first adult novel was also a favourite for me. I actually read it in 2017, but it was published this summer. I adored How Do You Like Me Now? because it tackled society’s expectations of how to live your 20s (which are unrealistic and often unattainable goals that are horrendous for mental health) in Holly’s characteristically hilarious, engaging and honest way.

Nevermoor & Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend
I’m counting this as one… I love, love, loved Nevermoor and its sequel. I know every children’s book under the sun has been compared to Harry Potter, but in this case it’s accurate and very well-deserved. Nevermoor is one of the most fun, inventive and brilliantly written series I’ve read, and I cannot wait to go on another adventure with Morrigan Crow.

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
City of Ghosts was my first Victoria Schwab (aka V.E. Schwab) book. It was my Halloween pick, set in one of my favourite cities: Edinburgh, Scotland. I adored City of Ghosts as soon as I opened the page to a map of the city, and it won’t be the last book I read by Schwab.

The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X.R. Pan

After her mother commits suicide, Leigh travels to Taiwan with her father. Before they leave, she meets a curious bird – and is convinced it is her mother. I discovered a lot to love about The Astonishing Colour of After, from the glorious setting to Leigh’s friendship/romance with Axel. It’s a novel that I’ve been telling everyone to pick up, including people who don’t usually read YA!

My Heart Goes Bang by Keris Stainton
I bought My Heart Goes Bang for London Pride and it now sits on my favourites shelf next to Freshers. I’d absolutely love to see more books set at university. My Heart Goes Bang follows Ella, Lou, Issey, Liane and Paige through their second year at the University of Liverpool, living in their new student house. 

Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen
I love the tagline ‘A teenage spy. A Nazi boarding school. The performance of a lifetime’ and was gripped by Orphan Monster Spy from the start. It’s a super exciting, dark and intense story. Pick it up even if you’re usually not a fan of historical fiction!

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
Eliza and Her Monsters is Fangirl meets Radio Silence. I genuinely think if you loved them (as I did), you’ll love Eliza – I want more books like this! Francesca, please may we have a sequel with Eliza at college? I also bought a copy of Made You Up, so I’ll have to read that next year.

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
History is All You Left Me was one of my favourite books of 2017, so I had to read They Both Die at the End in 2018. And I completely adored it. I have become a huge fan of Adam Silvera’s writing.

Stargazing for Beginners by Jenny McLachlan
Jenny McLachlan’s stories make me feel warm and fuzzy inside, and Stargazing for Beginners was no different. From the lovely opening scene describing a young Meg sitting in a cardboard spaceship that her grandfather made her, I knew it was going to be a powerful story – I love YA novels featuring female characters with a passion for science.

Did any of these books make your list?

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Mini Book Reviews: What If It’s Us, Wundersmith & Only Love Can Break Your Heart

What If It’s Us by Adam Silvera & Becky Albertalli

What If It’s Us is co-authored by two of YA contemporary’s favourite authors, Adam Silvera (History is All You Left Me & They Both Die at the End) and Becky Albertalli (Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda), about two boys and their charming love story. Arthur and Ben first meet in a New York City post office. They’re both attracted to each other, but being rather awkward boys, they don’t swap numbers. And so the hunt is on to track each other down! 

I was lucky enough to attend Becky and Adam’s event in London for What If It’s Us and hear them talk about how much they loved working together, how the story came about, and why it was important for them to tell it. It was a really good event – plus it was filled with teenagers, which was lovely to see, as book events are often full of people from the publishing industry!

Arthur and Ben are completely adorable… as is their story. I enjoyed their dates (and do-over dates). What If It’s Us is not a plot-heavy book, but sometimes it’s just lovely to forget about the world and read about a cute relationship.

“I barely know him. I guess that is every relationship. You start with nothing and maybe end with everything.”

Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

I read Nevermoor earlier in the year and it became one of my all-time favourite books. I wanted to re-read Nevermoor before the sequel, and I was worried that I wouldn’t enjoy it as much (which happens sometimes) but it was just as fantastic and made me feel right at home. Morrigan Crow is a brilliantly lovable character and during my re-read, I related to her a lot. She frequently worries that she’s to blame, that she’s not good enough, and that people dislike her. I love that she’s a heroine with doubts and anxious thoughts, but she still does the thing anyway. Morrigan very much feels like a character who’s been shaped by their past. 

“Where is he? she muttered.”
“He’ll be here.”
“What if he doesn’t make it?”
“He’ll make it.”
“What if he doesn’t?”

In Wundersmith, Morrigan and her best friend Hawthorne are now proud scholars in the elite Wundrous Society, but the anxiety hasn’t left. Morrigan’s still coming to terms with being a Wundersmith, her ‘knack’ is classified, and not everyone’s supportive – even though she’s left the Republic, people are still scared of her. But Hawthorne and Jupiter will see to that! 

Wundersmith is full of magic, adventure and new faces, and I enjoyed it just as much as Nevermoor. It was sold as a planned trilogy, but I really hope there are many more books to come because it’s just getting started! 

Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber

Only Love Can Break Your Heart is the second novel by my friend and UKYA-er Katie Webber, who also wrote Wing Jones. Reiko’s older sister died a few years ago and she’s still struggling to come to terms with it – especially as she rarely talks about her sister, and certainly doesn’t tell people that she can still see and speak to her. When she becomes unlikely friends with Seth, she learns that there’s more than one way to break a heart.

Seth shares Reiko’s love for the desert – specifically in Palm Springs, Calinfornia – which is her favourite place to be; where she can be herself, and where she feels at home. Over the summer, Reiko and Seth enjoy many sunset-filled nights together amongst the sand and rocks, and they fall in love. I’ve never been to Palm Springs, but Katherine Webber describes it so vividly and beautifully.

I had assumed that Only Love Can Break Your Heart would be a cute and simple love story, but it’s much more complex. Should Reiko and Seth really be together, or do they just like the idea of each other? Only Love Can Break Your Heart is a colourful yet heart-breaking YA contemporary novel, and Reiko’s a great main character who’ll you find yourself rooting for.

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