Book Review: How Do You Like Me Now? by Holly Bourne

HDYLMN“Turning thirty is like playing musical chairs. The music stops, and everyone just marries whoever they happen to be sitting on.”

Holly Bourne is known for writing relatable teenagers (such as the Spinster Club girls), but, as a 28-year-old, How Do You Like Me Now? is her most relatable novel (for me) so far. I keep telling friends – all in their mid-to-late 20s – to read it as soon as it’s out, messaging screenshots of paragraphs eerily similar to conversations we had that very same week.

31-year-old Tori Bailey is… well, she’s unlikeable. Vain, selfish, and blunt, she’s not someone I would be friends with (sorry Tori), but she behaves like many of us on social media. Her posts project her best self and her best life, while the messy, complicated, and upsetting bits are restricted to private DMs. According to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, she’s a hugely successful self-help author with a lot of self-confidence, and in the perfect relationship. But her thousands of followers are oblivious to her not-so-perfect life. Her longterm boyfriend, Tom (we hate him), won’t even talk about marriage, while all her friends are getting engaged and having babies. Her clock’s ticking – or, that’s what everyone says. What’s more, her publisher has asked for a second book. How can she write self-help when she can’t even help herself?

I much prefer being in my 20s to being a teenager (no homework! money! independence!), but it’s hard. ‘Millennial’ is a word for us young people. We enjoy avocado on toast, iced lattes and city breaks. We’re apparently bad at managing money and rely too much on our parents… but the world’s a difficult place when you’re spending half of your wages on someone else’s mortgage, especially if you’re single. Definitely if you’re single. You graduated not that long ago, only a few years into your career, and you’re expected to be successful, a proud homeowner, a wife, a mother… all before you’re 35. In 2018, it’s unrealistic, often unattainable, and horrendous for mental health.

I adored How Do You Like Me Now? because it tackles all of the above in Holly’s characteristically hilarious, engaging and honest way. Through 9 months of Tori’s life, Holly breaks down issues that adult women face: what makes a ‘good’ feminist, maintaining adult friendships, dealing with the pressure to constantly ‘succeed’ (my friend Louise wrote an excellent blogpost about the same topic here), mental health and self-care, unfulfilling relationships, and the fear of being single.

Holly is one of my absolute favourite YA authors … and I’m so, so excited for the world to read her adult fiction. As much as I love her YA, this is where she really shines. She makes me feel not so alone as a twenty-something, alongside lifestyle bloggers Louise Jones and Grace Latter, and I cannot wait to read the sequel to How Do You Like Me Now?, likely when I’m 30. 😱

“We have to wait for a table. Of course we do. The coffee here looks good when you take a photograph of it from above.”

How Do You Like Me Now? is published by Hodder & Stoughton on 14th June.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash.

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!

5 BOOKS FROM STACEY’S SHELVES THAT NON WANTS TO READ

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.

5 BOOKS FROM NON’S SHELVES THAT STACEY SHOULD READ

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.

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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…

THE RITZ

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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2018 Goals

I don’t particularly enjoy making New Year’s Resolutions. I hate the way it makes me feel if I don’t accomplish them, but this year I’ve set a few goals that are super achievable and will make me feel great at the end of the year.

My TBR

    • Read 52 books and save £1 for every book read

Like most booklovers, I’m doing the Goodreads Reading Challenge, as I’ve done every year since 2011. Back then, I read 100 books but these days I aim to read 52, one per week. But it’s less about the number for me and more about the joy of seeing all the books I’ve read over the year (it also aids my terrible memory!). I saw people tweet about Aoife’s idea to save £1 for every book read, so I’m going to pop a coin into my ‘What happens in book club, stays in book club’ mug for every book I finish.

    • Visit two new countries

I’ve travelled a little over the past couple of years (and I hope to blog more about my travels, both around the UK and abroad) and this year I’d love to visit at least two new countries: Hungary, the Czech Republic, USA, Norway, Australia… or somewhere else!

    • Visit 10 new places in London

I’ve lived in London most of my life but there’s still so much left to explore. Whether a new museum, borough, coffee shop or park, I want to visit at least 10 new places in London this year. I really enjoyed doing this last year, from visiting Highgate Cemetery for the first time to discovering amazing new brunch places to go to with friends.

Stockholm, Sweden

    • Acquire fewer material things and reduce the amount of stuff I own

This is something I tried to do in 2017 and would love to continue this year. Last year, I decided that I wanted to spend my money on experiences, rather than on stuff. This includes buying fewer but higher quality clothes, frequent book-culling, frequent spring cleaning, buying new toiletries only when others are empty, and being aware of eco-friendly packaging.

    • Go to exercise classes every week and complete Couch to 5k

At the end of 2017, I joined the gym for a 6-week trial and really enjoyed how motivated it made me feel. I plan to renew my membership once my awful chest and throat infection disappears. I loved doing Body Combat (a mix of yoga, tai-chi and pilates) classes and I was also training for Couch to 5k until I suffered from ankle pain. Once I get myself proper running shoes, back onto the treadmill I go!

    • Make lunch and buy fewer lunches/hot drinks

I’m guilty of spending a lot of money on food. It’s probably my biggest expense after rent. I love eating out, but I know that it’s not necessary to buy lunch and a hot drink every day, so I’d like to limit those to once per week. Even so, I’ve swapped to a KeepCup to be more environmentally friendly, which does make it tricky (I get 25-50p off each drink when I use it!). It’ll also encourage me to get back into cooking and being organised with my food shop.

Berlin, Germany

    • Learn to crochet

I bought a little crochet set a while ago, but fear of failure is stopping me from giving it a shot. I’ve been told that crochet is super easy, so I need to just give it a go and make that damn bunny.

    • Take driving lessons and pass the theory test

As a lifelong Londoner, I can’t drive because I’ve never needed to. But a chat with a friend recently spurred me on to try. I’d love to acquire a new skill in 2018 and learning to drive is a big one. I passed my theory test nearly 10 years ago now, so it’s back to square one, but if I pass my driving test this year it’ll be a huge accomplishment. I love the idea of the independence that being able to drive gives someone.

    • Learn to be kinder to myself

And finally, it’s an important one. 2016-17 were tough years for me, in different ways, and I didn’t help much by not being kind to myself. I’m not perfect, but I don’t deserve some of the things that happened, and I need to stop being so hard on myself. If I’m kinder to myself, I’ll have more confidence and energy to do what makes me happy… learning, new experiences, exploring, spending time with friends, and making new ones.

Are any of these your 2018 goals?

Added to My Bookshelves: December

Here are the lovely books I added to my shelves in December!

For Christmas, I was super lucky to get the Harry Potter illustrated books. I’ve wanted them ever since I worked at Bloomsbury Children’s before they were published, so as soon as Foyles announced they were selling them for half price, I quickly added them to my list. I’ll definitely be starting a Harry Potter re-read this year, accompanied by Jim Kay’s beautiful illustrations. My lovely friend Cathy also bought me a copy of Craig Taylor’s Londoners, which I read and loved more than five years ago. I read the eBook, so I’m really looking forward to picking it up again – it’s even more relevant now.

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I also received a bunch of surprise review copies: Orphan Monster Spy, The Astonishing Colour of After, The Unknowns, The Truth and Lies of Ella Black, Bad Girls with Perfect Faces, The Nowhere Girls, Contagion, and Not Yet Dark. Most of these books are completely new to me and I am most intrigued by Orphan Monster Spy – a Jewish girl-turned-spy must infiltrate an elite Nazi boarding school – and An Astonishing Colour of After – Leigh Chen Sanders is sixteen when her mother dies by suicide, leaving only a scribbled note, and she finds herself travelling to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time.

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In December, I also picked up Nevermore: The Trials of Morrigan Crow, The State of Grace, Seven Days of You, Songs About Us, Out of Heart, Spellbook of Lost and Found, It Only Happens in the Movies, and Moonrise. I recently raced through Sarah Crossan’s Moonrise, a poignant novel written in poetry from the point of view of a young boy whose brother is on death row, and Holly Bourne’s It Only Happens in the Movies was my first book of 2018. I started off 2017 reading ...And I Happy New Year? so it seemed fitting! I’ve also heard absolutely amazing things about Nevermore, which is said to be fans of Harry Potter and His Dark Materials, so I’d love to pick that up soon, too.

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Have you read any of these books?