What I’ve Read / Wonder, The Bookshop Girl & The Girl of Ink and Stars

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder has been popular since it was published in 2012. I started to feel like the only one in the world who hadn’t read it it… so I finally picked it up. Wonder, as I’m sure you know, is about 10-year-old August. Auggie just wants to be normal, but his facial abnormality means that starting middle school is more difficult for him than it is for other children.

As well as Auggie, we get to hear his story from several people in his life: Olivia (Auggie’s sister), Jack and Summer (Auggie’s friends), Justin (Olivia’s boyfriend) and Miranda (Olivia’s friend). Wonder is difficult and painful to read at times – we all know how cruel schoolchildren can be, and I marvelled in August’s courage to face them. Wonder is an uplifting story about overcoming those bullies. At times, it read to me like a novel written for adults, such as Emma Donoghue’s Room, although I know that children all over the world have loved Auggie’s story.

If there’s one thing I took away from Wonder it’s that we should all be a little kinder than is necessary. I’ll be heading to the cinema to watch the adaptation this winter!

“I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”

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The Bookshop Girl by Sylvia Bishop & Ashley King

The Bookshop Girl is a bonkers story. Property Jones is so-called because she was discovered as a five-year-old in the lost property section of a bookshop and adopted by the bookish Jones family. Property loves books. She really does. But she’s hiding a secret: she cannot read.

One day, the Jones family win a prize draw to run the famous Montgomery Book Emporium. With the help of an extremely grumpy and oddball cat, the Jones family must solve a dastardly mystery or lose everything – books an’ all.

I adore stories that feature books, bookshops and booksellers… and The Bookshop Girl has them all. I loved the quirky Montgomery Book Emporium: the world’s first mechanical bookshop. It’s a magical place, containing hordes of rooms filled with books. To browse the bookshop, just press the levers and rooms loop round like a Ferris wheel, with each one decorated appropriately. The Room of Space Adventures, for example, is ‘painted all over in deep indigo, speckled with twinkling lights’. Delightful.

It’s also apparent that I am Property Jones, since I accidentally dress like her…

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The Girl of Ink & Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

I picked up The Girl of Ink and Stars after it won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. I don’t normally read middle grade fantasy, but The Girl of Ink and Stars is an enchanting, magical adventure and is stunningly written (plus the book itself is pretty, too!).

The Girl of Ink & Stars follows Isabelle Riosse – a cartographer’s daughter – as she goes on a treacherous journey to rescue her best friend, Lupe. Lupe has disappeared into the island’s Forgotten Territories and because of her father’s teachings, Isabelle is well-versed in reading the stars and maps, and so is Lupe’s best chance of being found.

Adventure. Friendship. To me, that’s what sums up the sparkly The Girl of Ink and Stars. I adored the realistic and intense friendship between Isabella and Lupe, but I struggled occasionally with all the magic and mystic because it’s quite outside my usual genre. Even so, Kiran’s beautiful writing kept me going – I needed to know whether Lupe would be found!

“Each of us carries the map of our lives on our skin, in the way we walk, even in the way we grow.”

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My Journey to The Book of Dust

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I am not a fantasy reader.

I avoid really long books.

I rarely read books written by older male authors.

Therefore, I wasn’t super excited when Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage was announced, even though I knew it was a Big Deal. As well as the points above, it had been so long since I first (and last) read the trilogy that it was difficult to get caught up in the buzz. I read the popular fantasy books more than 10 years ago, aged 17. I discovered them in my sixth form library and now I could barely remember anything about Lyra’s adventures. As I saw more and more tweets about it, and the publication date for La Belle Sauvage loomed closer, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to re-read the books. It was actually something I’d wanted to do ever since I bought a beautiful Everyman’s Library edition five years before. Over the years, dystopian books and sci-fi books and contemporary books beat Pullman to the top of my TBR, and I never got round to reading them. And so I picked up my 1000 page-long brick, downloaded the audiobooks, and began.

Much to my surprise, I quickly became entranced by Lyra’s world, the characters, and the clever, twisty, exciting story. I have been telling everyone that I only read Northern Lights and The Subtle Knife, but once I began the third book, I realised that wasn’t the case – scenes and characters from The Amber Spyglass started to come back to me. I must have started the book and never finished. And only 17-year-old Stacey knows why!

As for my recently discovered love of the trilogy, I have the audiobooks to thank for this. They’re narrated by Philip Pullman himself, accompanied by an excellent cast, and meant that I was able to watch my very own thrilling His Dark Materials film in my head. 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. I finished The Amber Spyglass the night before La Belle Sauvage was published. I was officially a fan.

A friend encouraged me to go along to midnight launch of La Belle Sauvage and I bought my ticket – mainly because the words ‘supper club’ were mentioned – and I’m really happy I got to attend this monumental publishing event. I missed out on Harry Potter midnight launches and the one for La Belle Sauvage was only my second (the first being for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child). At the event, we sat on a boat and ate stew, listened to Gyptian music and partook in a quiz in which I did better than I thought, before heading upstairs at the stroke of midnight to pick up our copies. I finished listening to La Belle Sauvage (narrated by Michael Sheen!) within a few days and now I’m eagerly awaiting the next one, The Secret Commonwealth. I know that I’ll sit happily amongst longtime fans when it’s published – maybe even at another midnight launch, proof that it’s never too late to dream about your very own daemon!

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I originally posted a shorter version on Instagram but thought it’d make a fun blog post too!

Halloween TBR 😱


There are two weeks until Halloween and I’ve picked four creepy books to read this year!

I’ve read a new book in Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood & Co. series every year around Halloween since 2014, which means I’m onto the fourth book, The Creeping Shadow. I’m curious to see what trouble Lockwood, George and Lucy get up to in this installment. They’re my absolute favourite ghost-fighting trio. I’ve also chosen There’s Someone Inside Your House because I adore Stephanie Perkins’ contemporary novels and now she’s turned her hand to horror: ‘One-by-one, the students of Osborne High are dying in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, the dark secrets among them must finally be confronted’.

I meant to read Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories last year but didn’t get round to it, so hopefully I will this year! It’s a collection of ‘dark, sensual, fantastic stories’. I’m also excited to read the eerily beautiful The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell, which is inspired by the works of Shirley Jackson and Susan Hill, and is a ghost story set in a crumbling mansion. 👻

Have you read any of these spooky stories?

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Added to My Bookshelves: September

It’s finaaaally October. I really wish I was born in October because it’s the best month of the year – it is starting to get chilly, but not too cold; the autumn colours are so pretty; and we get to celebrate the run-up to Halloween, Bonfire Night and Christmas. But first, here are the books I added to my bookshelves in September.

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I took a trip to Phlox Books with my bookish friends Louise and Charlie. Phlox a lovely new indie bookshop in Leytonstone, east London where I picked up Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island. I’ve still yet to read a Bryson – and I’d love to get into more non-fiction/travel writing – so this seemed like an excellent choice.

We’ve just launched a book club at work (#BABookClub) and the first pick was Exit West, a surprising read for me as I’m usually intimidated by literary fiction. I really enjoyed it and I’m excited to see what we’re reading next (I voted for The Fallen Children). I also worked a little with Bloomsbury and so they kindly sent me a copy of the eerily beautiful The Silent Companions, which went straight onto my Halloween TBR (post to come soon!).

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I was also sent a few surprise review copies from publishers. I received E Lockhart’s Genuine Fraud and Beth Garrod’s Truly Madly Awkward. I’m looking forward to delving into these two contemporary reads – I enjoyed both We Were Liars and Super AwkwardA copy of This Book Will (Help You) Change the World (politics and activism for young people), Everless (Red Queen meets Downtown Abbey,) and Zero Repeat Forever (The 5th Wave meets Beauty and the Beast) also turned up through my letterbox.

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5 Things to Do in Barcelona

In November, I visited Barcelona for the first time with my friend Sarah before she left London for Australia (😭😭). It has taken me a little while to write this post, but here are five things to do in the city!

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Visit… the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló and Park Güell

Gaudí is everywhere in Barcelona. The Catalan architect’s work is unusual, for this Londoner, and a delight. These spots are pretty standard for any traveller to Barcelona. I particularly enjoyed the stained glass windows (spring, summer, autumn and winter-inspired) of the Sagrada. It’s worth checking out the audio guide and taking a trip up the spire. Casa Batlló was stunning – so much blue and green and turquoise! – and my favourite out of the three, whilst Park Güell is perfect for a sunny day. Don’t forget to book your tickets for all three in advance!

Go on… The Shadow of the Wind walking tour

Sarah loves Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s popular series for bookworms and so we booked places on The Shadow of the Wind walking tour. It was fascinating to visit places mentioned in the book (such as the secret Cemetery of Forgotten Books). As we weren’t in tourist season, we were the only two on the tour and so could ask plenty of questions. Our guide kindly kept it spoiler-free for me, too, seeing as I was only halfway through the book (silly, silly Stacey).

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Eat brunch at… Federal Café

We visited this Australian café in Barcelona twice because we loved it so much – and I had avocado and poached egg on toast both times. It’s certainly a ‘hipster coffee shop’ but, honestly, those are my favourites.

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Drink gin cocktails at… Dux

After dinner, we stumbled across this gorgeous, elegant cocktail bar and it was the perfect spot to sit and chat. I enjoy fruity cocktails (although they don’t love me…) and hanging out at Dux was a great way to spend our evening. In Spain, people eat and drink very, very late and so everywhere you go is super quiet and you can always get a table! Dux had a lovely piano in the corner, the tables were candlelit, and the menu offered pop culture-inspired cocktails.

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Browse… Barcelona’s many bookshops

Barcelona is a haven for bibliophiles and I was fortunate to go on holiday with a fellow book industry friend, so bookshops were at the top of our list. One of my favourites was Altaïr. This travel bookshop was cosy, homely and had a little café with sofas. I buy a copy of Le Petit Prince every time I visit a new country and I bought El Principito in La Central. We drank coffee outside and I enjoy playing around on the swing seat. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to go to Gigamesh, the popular sci-fi bookshop – next time! (I used a handy Guardian article to plan our bookish adventure).

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We only tried churros twice so I wouldn’t dare recommend the best place to eat them! But a few places on our list to go to were Xurreria Dels Banys Nous, Chok – The Chocolate Kitchen, Granja M Viader, and La Nena.