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.

Continue Reading

10 Books Everyone Loves That I Haven’t Read (Yet)

I saw Lucy’s (The Book Belle) video and I thought it’d be fun to share ten books that everyone’s read and raved about, but I haven’t read yet… my TBR pile is so ridiculously big!

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. Ready Player One is out in cinemas at the end of March and the book will be spoiled for me if I don’t read it first. I bought a copy exactly four years ago – everyone was reading this sci-fi novel and even now, half a million Goodreads ratings later, people still rave about it.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt 

I guess this is a modern classic now, right? It sounds perfect for me – mystery, university setting, drama!

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

On my bookshelves you’ll find both Life After Life and A God in Ruins. I’ve not read a book by Kate Atkinson and this feels like the best one to start with. I’m intrigued by the premise: What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

I’ve just finished The Sun and Her Flowers and cannot wait to read Milk and Honey. I’m not normally one for poetry, but I found that I could relate to many of her poems, especially about friendship and loneliness. I’ve seen this all over the interwebz for the past few months.

Loneliness is a sign you are in desperate need of yourself.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Again, fantasy isn’t a genre I usually seek out, but I’ve been to a few of V.E. Schwab’s panels and thoroughly enjoyed them – she seems like a lovely person and we share a love of Edinburgh. As a Londoner, I’m excited to check out the Shades of Magic series and discover four parallel Londons.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart 

I’ve read We Were Liars and have five more E. Lockhart novels to read – and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is one of them. A boarding school, secret societies and feminism? Yes please!

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

I bought my copy for the first ever Books Are My Bag campaign in 2013. It’s another one that has been adapted this year, so I better get my skates on! When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.

The Dreamsnatcher by Abi Elphinstone  

Abi is one of my favourite middle grade authors… but I haven’t read any of her books yet! I went through a phase of reading younger fiction a little while ago. I haven’t read much recently, but The Dreamsnatcher is high on my middle grade TBR.

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Matt Haig’s popular non-fiction book was added to my bookshelves last year and I really ought to read it soon. It’s one of my aims (although not one I wrote down) to read and talk about mental health a bit more.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Yet another fantasy novel on my TBR! As a fantasy newbie, surely V.E. Schwab and Leigh Bardugo are the best to start with? (I’ve already read S.J. Maas!). I began the audiobook last year but found it difficult to stay focused, so I need to pick it up again – perhaps a readalong?!

Have you read any of these? 

(I also blogged about ten popular books on my TBR nearly 3 years ago and guess who still hasn’t read most of them?).

10 Books I’m Looking Forward to in 2018

So many fabulous books will be published this year. Here are ten in particular that I’ll definitely be reading as soon as they’re out.


Out of the Blue by Sophie Cameron
As a contemporary reader, I rarely read books about the paranormal, but I’ve heard such wonderful things about Out of the Blue. It features bisexual and gay main characters, takes place during Edinburgh Festival, and is about grief, guilt and fear.

“Ten days after Jaya Mackenzie’s mum dies, angels start falling from the sky. Smashing down to earth at extraordinary speeds, wings bent, faces contorted, not a single one has survived.”


I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman
Radio Silence was one of my absolute favourite books of last year, so I can’t wait to read her next novel. I also need to pick up her first book, Solitaire, this year.

“For Angel Rahimi, life is only about one thing: The Ark – a pop-rock trio of teenage boys who are currently taking the world by storm.”

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli
Love, Simon is one of my most-anticipated movies of the year and I’m looking forward to this sequel to the book.

“Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.”


Save the Date by Morgan Matson
Well, it wouldn’t be summer without a new Morgan Matson, would it? She’s one of my insta-buy authors – her books always make me feel warm and fuzzy.

“Charlie’s older sister is getting married and Charlie can’t wait—for the first time in years, all four of her older siblings will be under one roof. The only problem? The weekend is shaping up to be an absolute disaster.”

From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon
Like most of the interwebz, I adored When Dimple Met Rishi (perhaps I’ll re-read it this year!), and immediately added Sandhya’s upcoming books (like When Ashish Met Sweetie) to my wishlist.

“Told through the letters Twinkle writes to her favourite female filmmakers, From Twinkle, with Love navigates big truths about friendship, family, and the unexpected places love can find you.”

How Do You Like Me Now? by Holly Bourne
I’ve already reviewed Holly Bourne’s relatable and hilarious first adult novel, but I can’t wait to get my hands on a physical copy and re-read it over the summer!

“Holly Bourne is known for writing relatable teenagers, but, as a 28-year-old, How Do You Like Me Now? is her most relatable novel (for me) so far.”


Floored by Various
I couldn’t not add this! Floored is a YA contemporary story told from the perspective of six characters and a mysterious narrator, written by a bunch of my favourite authors, including Sara Barnard and Lisa Williamson.

“After they go through a traumatic experience together, the lives of six strangers become intertwined, and they decide to meet once a year to commemorate the day they met and the person they lost.”


Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber
I really enjoyed Katie Webber’s Wing Jones and can’t wait to read her next dreamy YA novel. Only Love Can Break Your Heart is about “a popular girl with secrets and cracks in her heart and the boy who thinks she’s perfect.”


The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee
Much to my surprise, I absolutely loved The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue – Henry and Percy are my faves – and I’m sure the sequel will be equally as amazing.

“A sequel to The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, narrated by Felicity and featuring travel, pirates, and a science girl gang.”

The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman
I loved being part of The Book of Dust hype last year and will definitely be picking up the sequel to La Belle Sauvage – I’m sure the cover will be stunning, too.

“The Secret Commonwealth will feature Lyra Silvertongue as a twenty-year-old undergraduate, travelling to Central Asia via the Levant.”

Are any of these books on your wishlist?

Shelf Swap with Non Pratt

I love swapping book recs, so I’m asking one person each month to pick five books from my Goodreads shelves that they would like to read and five books from their own shelves that they think I might enjoy.

I’m happy to welcome Non Pratt, fabulous author of Trouble, Remix, Truth or Dare and Unboxed, here to celebrate her newest novella, Second Best Friend, to Pretty Books for Shelf Swap!


Not Yet Dark by Simon P. Clark
I’m a huge fan of Eren – Clark’s atmospheric and creepily compelling debut and have been itching to read his second, which promises to deliver an equally intriguing story, this time combined with my perennial favourite theme of fractured teen friendships.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
While I’m a devout children’s and YA fan, there are some grown-up books that eventually reach critical mass and force their way onto my radar. This is one such book – so many people whose judgement I trust have raved about Eleanor Oliphant that as soon as this is available in paperback, I’m going to give it a go.

George by Alex Gino
Sounds right up my street in terms of subject matter, tone and age range – I do not understand how I’ve not yet read this book! Doing Shelf Swap has reminded me to get on it. Immediately.

Becoming Betty by Eleanor Wood
Eleanor Wood is one of the six authors I’m working with on Floored and although I’ve read (and loved) My Secret Rockstar Boyfriend, I really want to get on and read Becoming Betty – as a teenager music meant so much to me and I love reading about fictional teens who feel the same way.

Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen
A bit of a cheat as I have a proof of this and it is LITERALLY the next book on my TBR, because I really, really want to read it. Last year I got totally hooked on Wolf By Wolf, not for the skin-shifting and the motorcycles, but for the life-or-death tension created by pretending to be someone you’re not and I’m expecting similar thrills (and more) from Killeen’s debut.


Going Too Far
by Jennifer Echols
So. I did a bit of poking around on your Goodreads shelves because I’m a giant nerd who does her homework properly. You like contemporary US writers, and you’ve read most of the ones I can think of… but have you tried Jennifer Echols? It’s a SUPER long time since I read this, but I raced through it and it has that sunny, small-town America vibe plus a pulse-racy romance that you might enjoy. (It’s possible I should re-read before recommending, but hey, let’s risk it!)

Stacey says: I haven’t! I’ve *heard* of Jennifer Echols, but for some reason have never read any of her books… that must change! I do quite like sunny, small-town America vibes.

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin
Looking through old shelf swaps, you prefer contemporary to fantasy – this is a book that is high-concept contemporary and I adored it when it came out. It’s sweet and heart-wrenching and very readable and might be something a little different.

Stacey says: I have a copy of this, so I’m very interested in checking it out, especially if you loved it, Non! *waves through stacks of contemporary YA*

The Last Days of Archie Maxwell by Annabel Pitcher
Annabel Pitcher is one of the finest UKYA writers we have and if you’re looking to bump up your UKYA quota, why not do so with a quick read novella that packs all the emotional punch of Annabel’s longer novels?

Stacey says: I had no idea that Annabel Pitcher had written a new novella! I’ll have to track it down – I loved Ketchup Clouds.

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
I re-read this recently and Graffiti Moon is still one of the best dual narrative contemporary novels I’ve ever read. Fresh and compelling and like nothing else I can think of – you might love USYA the most, but I think Aussie YA brings together the best elements of US and UKYA.

Stacey says: You’re right, I haven’t read much Australian YA (also, I always confuse Graffiti Moon with Jellicoe Road), but I definitely want to pick this one up.

Giant Days, Volume 2 by John Allison, Lissa Treiman, Max Sarin and Whitney Cogar
I see you have read Giant Days, Volume 1 – is it totally cheating to suggest you read Volume 2 (and 3, 4, 5 and 6…) as well? I bloody love this series! I recently recommended it to my husband who has been keeping me awake by laughing all the way through each volume.

Stacey says: I read Giant Days recently and adored it – it’s so refreshing to see a graphic novel set in a UK university – and more volumes are on my wishlist for the next time I visit a comic shop!

Thank you, Non, for swapping shelves with me today!

Do you want to read any of these books?


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.

A post shared by Stacey (@prettybooks) on

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.

Continue Reading