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…


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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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?

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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Autumn TBR 🍂

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It’s finally autumn, my favourite time of the year. Hot chocolate. Cosy jumpers. Blankets. And curling up with a new book. I finished my summer TBR in August, so it’s time to pick a new TBR!

I’m really looking forward to working my way through these 10 books over the next few months. There’s an exciting mix of contemporary and sci-fi, LGBT+ and translated fiction, and YA, non-fiction & literary fiction. I love having a diverse TBR after my recent stint of YA contemporary romances.

I’ve already read Emery Lord’s The Start of Me and You, about sixteen-year-old Paige, who’s mostly known for being the girlfriend of a boy who drowned… and she wants to claim her life back. For my work book club this month, we’re reading Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West: ‘In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, Saeed and Nadia share a cup of coffee, and their story begins’. I rarely pick up literary fiction, so it’ll be a nice little challenge for me.

I’m pretty intrigued about Naomi Alderman’s The Power since it won the Women’s Prize this year (awesome women with electric shock powers, what’s not to like?), plus Han Kang’s The Vegetarian (translated by Deborah Smith). It won the Man Booker International Prize and is described as a ‘fraught, disturbing and beautiful’ story set in modern day South Korea.

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I cannot believe that I’ve not yet read Patrick Ness’ Release – a story inspired by Mrs Dalloway and Judy Blume’s Forever – because I normally read his new books straight away. I’ve also heard excellent things about David Owen’s The Fallen Children – inspired by John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos – and Lisa Heathfield’s Flight of a Starling

In October, I’m taking a trip to Berlin and so I want to re-read Anna Funder’s Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall. It’s a captivating collection of interviews with people who have first-hand experience of the Berlin wall, such as 16-year-old Miriam, who attempted to escape West Berlin.

And lastly, I cannot wait to read Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End – I loved History is All You Left Me (and I’m sure this one will make me cry, too) – and Nina LaCour’s beautiful We Are Okay because I recently fell in love with Everything Leads to You.


Have you read any of these?