What I’ve Discovered / Fresh Flowers, Lucy Fleming’s Illustrations & Who Gives a Crap

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This is a new feature dedicated to all the things I’ve discovered, loved or enjoyed most recently!

Pretty Vases and Fresh Flowers

I used to think that fresh flowers were a waste of money (they die so quickly), but that was before the realisation that they were an easy way to brighten my day. Now I have a fresh bunch on my desk every week and yellow daffodils are my current favourite. A little vase of joy is a really easy way to make me feel happy in the mornings. I’ve also enjoyed buying them for birthdays and Mother’s Day – and people seem to like getting them!

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Lucy Fleming’s Illustrations

Last year I visited my friend Kat’s home for the first time and noticed she had lots of lovely framed drawings on the wall. I thought this was such a lovely idea. I’ve never been one to buy art, but recently I picked up two stunning prints of Edinburgh (one of my favourite places in the world) and prints by Lucy Fleming, a book illustrator that I discovered on Twitter (she also runs a beautiful Instagram account). I bought two beautiful illustrations from her website: Orionid and Flying, a couple of frames, and put up one in my living room and one in my bedroom. Perfect.

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Who Gives a Crap

No, sadly I haven’t stopped worrying about what other people think about me just yet. I want to talk to you about 🚽’s. I came across Australian brand Who Gives a Crap on Instagram and thought they were pretty awesome. They produce toilet paper, tissue boxes, kitchen roll, etc. made from recycled (“forest friendly”) paper, and 50% of their profits are donated to help build toilets for those who need them – they’ve donated more than £650k so far. I thought that was pretty cool, so I ordered tissues and kitchen roll to last me a year (!). I adore my pretty new tissue boxes and they’re super soft, so I thought I’d share the love.

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Added to My Bookshelves: February & March

Here are the books I added to my shelves in February and March!

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I visited Foyles Charing Cross Road with Charlie and we chatted to the lovely Chloe, a children’s bookseller there, about her upcoming novel The Bookshop Girl. After watching an early preview of Love, Simon, I wanted re-read the book but didn’t own a physical copy, so I bought the film tie-in edition (I like Nick Robinson, okay?!). I also bought Francesca Zappia’s Made You Up because I absolutely adored Eliza and Her Monsters (you can read my review here). From Foyles Royal Festival Hall I picked up Dodie: Secrets for the Mad on a whim. It’s a mix of doodles, poetry and prose all about self-care, mental health, life and relationships.

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For my birthday, I visited Cambridge and popped into Heffers, an awesome bookshop. I bought the Lonely Planet guide to Budapest as I’m off on holiday with one of my best friends in May. As a birthday gift, my colleague Kara gave me my first Penguin Modern, Shirley Jackson’s The Missing Girl. I also want to check out Daphne du Maurier’s The Breakthrough, and Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer. I was given National Book Tokens for my birthday and I’m super excited even though I work there… ! I’m ready for more book-shopping!

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In February, my friend Cathy gave me Milk and Honey and from work I took home Suicide Club and How to Survive the End of the World (When it’s in Your Own Head). Kara and I are buddy reading Suicide Club – we’ll be discussing it over a chocolate brownie and tea this week!

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I received some lovely review copies over the past few months. I’ve already read The Exact Opposite of Okay, Skylarks and Out of the Blue so I’ll be reviewing these soon. I also received The Taste of Blue Light, We Are Young, The Wild Folk, In Your Light, and Midnight Sun. What a wonderful two months!

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Have you read any of these books?

Mini Book Reviews / Eliza and Her Monsters, Moxie & Stargazing for Beginners

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Eliza and Her Monsters isn’t published over here and yet I’ve seen so many of my bookish friends rave about it on Twitter. I loved so many things: the slow romance (in a this-is-basically-a-friendship kind of way), the fandom chat, the discussion of online friendships vs. making new “real life” friends, the excellent family dynamic (Eliza’s parents actually play a huge role!), and the realistic portrayal of anxiety and depression, to name a few. I mean, Eliza attends a party in a bookshop for goodness sake. What’s not to like?

Eliza Mirk is shy in real life, but online she’s the super famous webcomic artist, LadyConstellation. And no one knows. But when Wallace joins her school and Eliza discovers he’s a huge fan, there’s a risk that her identity might be revealed… I finished Eliza and Her Monsters in two days (quick for me!). I hated having to put it down. Like all wonderful books, I found myself thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it. I’m a child of the Internet and it will always mean something much deeper to me than to my parents and grandparents – and in that sense I related to Eliza, who is quite similar to teenage me.

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?

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Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Moxie was one of last year’s most popular feminist YA novels. Viv Carter has had enough of how girls are treated at her school: the sexist dress codes, the harassment, the disgusting comments. Viv has always kept to herself, but now it’s time to recreate her mum’s Riot Grrl past – she designs a feminist zine and slowly begins to start a girl revolution.

At first, I couldn’t understand why Viv was so anxious about getting into trouble, but it’s easy to say that as an adult who knows that it isn’t the end of the world. And then I found myself getting angrier and angrier. At the boys, at the school, at the parents. Maybe I’m fortunate because I don’t think my school would’ve reacted the same way; I don’t think girls were targeted when it came to the dress code, and I like to think that they’d have dealt with sexual assault severely. But maybe I was oblivious. Maybe I didn’t see it because it didn’t happen to me.

Viv’s character development was fantastic. She never did anything out of character but was a different person by the end of the book. Moxie shows healthy, strong female friendships. It’s a brilliant book for teenagers, especially those who shy away from the word “feminist”. I want so many people to borrow Moxie off me!

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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.

15-year-old Meg is forced to grow up fast when her mother takes off on a somewhat charitable trip for ten days, leaving Meg to take care of her baby sister Elsa alone. As if that wasn’t stressful enough, she needs to work on her competition entry – the prize is a visit to the NASA headquarters. Meg. Must. Go.

Stargazing for Beginners is a stunning story. It’s exciting to see a teenage girl so determined to become an astronaut, fighting everyone who laughs at her ambition. I couldn’t help but feel angry at Meg’s mother. She’s selfish! And irresponsible, under the guise of being helpful. As for Meg’s grandfather, you can’t help but love him, even if he’s a little reckless. He encourages Meg to be a better version of herself, one who cares less about what people think and allows herself to shine.

Stargazing for Beginners even encouraged me to vote for Valentina Tereshkova – the first woman in space – in this poll of fantastically great women who made history.

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Harry Potter Merch Review: Magic Alley

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A few weeks ago Nathan from Magic Alley – a UK-based online shop that sells official Harry Potter merchandise – got in touch to ask whether I’d like to review some of the magical products they sell. They sell everything from Butterbeer and Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans to scarves and ties. I visited the Harry Potter Studio Tour back in December for Hogwarts in the Snow and coveted a few goodies from the gift shop but it being Christmas, I couldn’t really justify buying fun things for myself. So thank you, Nathan! I picked out a gorgeous Dobby the House Elf Wrist Watch (£24,85, currently £17.95 in the sale) and a Golden Snitch Necklace (£9.95).

I’m super happy with both the necklace and watch! I own a bunch of Ravenclaw stuff, but I wanted something that was pretty/delicate and that I could wear all the time. Let’s look at them a little closer…


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The last blog: an endless list of female awesomeness | Matt Killeen

I’m super excited to welcome Matt Killeen, author of Orphan Monster Spy, to Pretty Books. Matt has been on an epic blog tour all about his female heroes and this is the final stop. I’m currently reading Orphan Monster Spy and loving it. It’s like The Book Thief meets Wolf By Wolf (two books I adore), with an awesome protagonist you can’t help but cheer on.

I’ve written 17 of these blogs, each a celebration of the female fictional and historical heroes who have influenced me and the characters of my debut novel. There was one exception, where I talked about the children of the modern day UK who still suffer as Sarah, the heroine of Orphan Monster Spy, suffered.

It was never meant as an exhaustive list, just those that have touched my life the most. But now I find myself with one blog left and I’ve barely scratched the surface. Of the fictional women that spring to mind, there’s the titular titian (& sometimes green) haired genius Anne (with an ‘E’) Shirley and her tragical and ultimately royally beautiful life, puffed sleeves and all. Then there are the heroines of Elizabeth Wein’s Young Flyers trilogy. I could have written about the plucky Rose Justice navigating the horrors of Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, or Julie Beaufort-Stuart the SOE agent, suffering, confusing and defeating her Gestapo interrogation. I could write a book on the ways that the shadowless, shoeless September, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, is superior to the blinkered and imperialist Alice. I might even have attempted to introduce Bella Lind, the Captain of The Rockhopper from Alastair Reynolds’ Pushing Ice, who began as a glorified miner and through quiet determination became the basis for an intergalactic civilisation. Offred, Lyra, Arabel, Celie, Mildred Hubble, Anne Elliott…the list goes on.

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