What I’ve Read / All These Beautiful Strangers, My Heart Goes Bang & More Happy Than Not

All These Beautiful Strangers by Elizabeth Klehfoth

All These Beautiful Strangers was recommended by one of my good friends, Bella, who knew that I enjoyed boarding schools, secret societies, and a lot of mystery. Charlie Calloway is immensely privileged. She’s rich, has a close family, a loyal set of friends and achieved top grades at her fancy boarding school. She’s always been taught that she’s different; special, better, so when an exclusive secret society – the A’s – sends her an invitation to join the club, there’s no question that she should join. But Charlie quickly finds herself at the heart of a decades-old mystery involving a terrible family crime: what does her mother’s disappearance have to do with the A’s? And is Charlie willing to risk her membership to find out?

All These Beautiful Strangers switches between 2017 and the 1990s, with everything slowly unfolding until Charlie discovers the truth. It was such a fun, immersive read – even though I’d have loved for it to focus more on Charlie and the the A’s – and is a fabulous blend of YA and adult fiction. Charlie really develops as a character and you end up loving her even though you shouldn’t, and the twists will keep you guessing until the end.

My Heart Goes Bang by Keris Stainton

I bought My Heart Goes Bang for London Pride and it turned out to be one of my favourite books of the year. It now sits on my favourites shelf next to Freshers, and I’d absolutely love to see more books set at university. Ella, Lou, Issey, Liane and Paige are ready for their second year at the University of Liverpool and their new student house. They’re settling in when Ella comes across a magazine article with a list of men they should date before they’re 21 (e.g. someone who’s been on TV, someone who has tattoos), and challenge her house to complete it.

When you come across ‘Bastard’ and ‘Fuck. Me.’ on the first page, you know it’s going to be a great book. I adored our five protagonists and you’re bound to identify with one of them – I’m very much an Ella, fairly sensible, bookish and attracted to nice boys.

My Heart Goes Bang brought back so many memories of being at university (minus the Fuck-It List!). It’s narrated by five awesome girls – I enjoyed each of their storylines, featuring everything from bisexuality to money worries – and is sex-positive (which we need so much!), funny and relatable. I wish I had this as a fresher. There will be a sequel, right?!

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

Adam Silvera has been one of my favourite authors since I read They Both Die at the End & History is All You Left Me, so I was super excited when Simon & Schuster sent me a copy of his first book, newly published in the UK, More Happy Than Not. Adam Silvera does magical realism excellently. Aaron Soto lives in a world where, if you wish, your memories can be completely wiped so you no longer have to remember troubling times. Aaron hasn’t had the surgery, but he’s struggled with depression ever since his father died and, with help from his girlfriend, he’s slowly remembering what happiness feels like. But then he meets Thomas, who’s smart and funny and gets Aaron. They’re best friends until, much to his surprise, Aaron falls in love with him. And then he must make a decision.

More Happy Than Not is another brilliant contemporary story from Adam Silvera and, like his previous books, doesn’t go the way you expect it to. It deals with sexuality in an incredibly complex way. Aaron’s story is intense and sad, but layered with geeky comic book references and rediscovering the joy of being with someone who understands you. I’m ready to read What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera!

P.S. Pretty Books is 8 years old today!

Unboxing: Rare Birds Book Club


Well, I say unboxing, but it’s more like unwrapping. Rare Birds Book Club is a book club subscription owned by Rachel. Rare Birds Book Club sends surprise books each month and the club “cherry picks the best of contemporary women’s fiction and celebrates female authors writing books we think you’ll love”. They kindly offered me a one month subscription to get a taste of the book club and chat to you guys about it. I was super excited when it landed on my desk at work!


Even though I have a lot of books (and a lot I haven’t read), Rachel managed to pick a book that I hadn’t heard of but is my sort of novel. Quite a feat! August’s book was Party Girls Die in Pearls: An Oxford Girl Mystery by Plum Sykes, set in Oxford University in 1985. I’m really looking forward to picking it up. In addition, rather than just simply sending you a book they love, you also get a secret password to access the Rare Birds Book Club and chat with fellow subscribers about the latest read. I moved house last month and it has been a little hectic so I hope there’s still time for me to join in!


Rare Birds Book Club costs £10 a month to join and, even though you might get a tiny bit more for a similar price from other book subscription boxes (e.g. a book plus additional treats), I think the book club feature is fantastic for people who aren’t on social media or who don’t get to chat about books as much as they would like. Plus Rachel promises a few extra goodies occasionally!


It’s fantastic to come across a subscription box that isn’t YA – I can definitely think of a few people I’d gift subscriptions to. It can be tricky to pick a book for someone, so I love that someone else will do it for me (if I’m not buying them National Book Tokens of course…!). If you do already own the book you receive, you only have to get in touch and Rachel will sort it out.

Thank you Rare Birds Book Club for sending my free box!

Mini Book Reviews / Are We All Lemmings & Snowflakes?, The Summer of Us & Lying About Last Summer

Are We All Lemmings & Snowflakes? by Holly Bourne

Holly is an author whose books I’ll read no matter what: her mental health + feminist chat is always on my insta read list, so when Are We All Lemmings & Snowflakes? was handed to me at work, I was super excited.

Are We All Lemmings & Snowflakes? takes place in Camp Reset, which promises a shot of “normality” for Olive, whose poor mental health is a struggle. Olive, with help from fellow campmate Louis, comes up with a plan to solve everyone’s problems, hence #KindnessIsContagious. As with Clean by Juno Dawson, I adored meeting the campmates and learning about their individual experiences. It’s important to remember that other people’s experience of mental health won’t necessarily be the same as yours, which is one of the reasons why Olive doesn’t want to know her diagnosis; it can define you, how you see yourself, and how people treat you.

I adore Holly’s writing style and Are We All Lemmings & Snowflakes?, like her other novels, tackles an important issue that people need to read about in a way that makes you understand. Self-care is a phrase that’s banded around a lot lately, but Holly shows us that it’s essential, not just for individuals, but for everyone.

“You don’t have to stop looking after yourself just to help the world. In fact, sometimes it’s better for the world if you put yourself first. That’s not being selfish, in fact looking after yourself is the greatest act of kindness you can give the world.”

The Summer of Us by Cecilia Vinesse

The Summer of Us was the first book from my summer TBR. Aubrey has two weeks before she leaves for college. She and her best friend, Rae, have planned one last trip across Europe to explore famous museums, sip champagne in fancy restaurants, and eat as many croissants as possible.

But, as usual, trouble arrives in boy-form. Jonah (Aubrey’s perfect boyfriend) is also coming along with his best friend Gabe (who Aubrey accidentally kissed, awks). And not forgetting Rae’s crush, Clara. For the past couple of years, I’ve enjoyed city break adventures with my friends, so it was fun seeing these five teenagers visit Paris, Amsterdam, Prague, Florence, and Barcelona.

It can be tricky to travel with friends, especially as I’m the anxious Aubrey-type. You’re together 24/7. It’s stressful and intense. And that’s even without the relationship drama. It was difficult to read about the tension between Audrey and Rae, and I silently pleaded with them to just talk to each other (communication is everything, people!). I enjoyed the love triangle that is Aubrey, Gabe and Jonah, plus Rae and Clara were completely adorable.

The Summer of Us is a fun novel about friendship, travel and relationships… and it was the perfect start to the summer.

Lying About Last Summer by Sue Wallman

To accompany the slightly lighter novels on my summer TBR, I thought it’d be fun to add a contemporary thriller into the mix! Skye’s older sister, Luisa, was killed in a tragic accident, and her parents think that a camp for troubled teenagers, Morely Hill, might help Skye process the grief. But once there, she begins to receive messages from someone pretending to be her dead sister.

So, Morely Hill isn’t quite as relaxing as Skye’s parents expected. She has to deal with her fellow campmates, some of whom make life extremely difficult (aka Joe), being expected to join in with activities that remind her of her sister, plus the frankly terrifying texts from someone who has access to her sister’s group message. I really felt for Skye. I haven’t experienced the death of a sibling, but it’s a lot for one teenager to hold onto, especially because she lacks someone to talk to and support her.

Lying About Last Summer deals with grief, loss, memories and guilt, and I liked that the storyline is much about Skye’s recovery as much as it is about the mystery.

My Ideal Best Bookish Friends | Chloe Seager

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I’m delighted to welcome one of my interwebz BFFs, Chloe Seager, to Pretty Books to chat about her ideal Best Bookish Friends as part of her blog tour. Chloe’s the author of Friendship Fails of Emma Nash, the sequel to Editing Emma.

I’m slightly cheating by naming not one, but five ideal BFFs from a book, but I’ve always been weirdly jealous of the Bennet sisters.

Maybe it’s because I’m (sort of) an only child, (I have a brother and a sister, although I’ve never lived with them), but their sisterly bonds fascinate me. Growing up, I’d picture telling Lizzie my secrets whilst Jane brushed my hair, dancing with Lydia and Kitty at a ball and giggling with them in a corner, or rolling my eyes at one of Mary’s strops.

Partly, what I love about their relationships is that they’re not perfect. Lizzie can be tempestuous and hot-headed, which clashes with Jane’s passive and peaceful nature. Lydia can be loud and domineering and overshadow Kitty. Mary can be judgemental and look down on all the others. They get on each other’s nerves, steal each other’s things and can be spiteful to one another.

BFFs

But despite all this, the relationships they have with each other are stronger than anything. Lizzie and Jane are each other’s stabilisers; they keep each other calm in a crowded, frantic household, and against the pressures of society. Lydia and Kitty have more fun with each other, in their sitting room, than they do anywhere else in the world. They’re each other’s confidantes, allies, entertainment and support systems. They laugh together, hurt together, think together, dream together, and above all look out for each other.

I love the concept of having a best friend who is also your sister. I know Pride and Prejudice is most commonly labeled as a romance, but it’s the sisterly friendships that make it mean so much to me.

Thanks, Chloe! Friendship Fails of Emma Nash is out now. (You can also read her previous guest post on social media and anxiety here).

FF tour

Mini Book Reviews / Leah on the Offbeat, Clean & Bookshop Girl

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

Leah is Simon’s awesome bestie from Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, ready to tell her story. She’s a girl-band drummer, with a dry sense of humour, unashamedly bisexual – and in love with one of her best girl friends.

Leah on the Offbeat‘s main focus is friendship – much more so than Simon vs. – and everything’s unravelling in Creekwood. I loved seeing the gang back together, especially our faves Simon and Bram. But I would’ve loved a bit more romance, too! I was swayed by all the raving on Twitter and Instagram, and assumed we’d get to see Leah live happily ever after, coupled up with a girlfriend, but that’s not what Leah on the Offbeat is about. Leah is openly bisexual to her mother but it’s kept a secret from her friends – and that’s okay. There’s a lot of pressure for people to be open and out, but not everyone’s comfortable with sexuality being a large part of their identity. Even so, I wish Leah was a bit more open-minded when talking about sexuality with Abby – she was a little judgemental at times!

Leah on the Offbeat takes us back to Creekwood and into the lives of teenagers who are just trying to figure themselves, and everyone else, out.

Clean by Juno Dawson

Lexi Volkov is beautiful, sex-positive, a socialite, the daughter of a rich Russian… and addicted to drugs. When Lexi overdoses and her brother Nikolai takes her to an exclusive rehab facility, The Clarity Centre, she’s in for a shock. It’s here that she becomes friends with fellow teens, from ex-child star Brady to Kendall, who’s transgender and has an eating disorder.

Clean doesn’t hold back, and that’s what I loved about it – drugs, sex and swearing, it’s part of every teenager’s life Clarity. Lexi’s not someone I’d be friends with (or even meet!) IRL, but I couldn’t help but adore her and hope that she’d push past her addiction. But rehabilitation isn’t easy and Lexi’s about to go through some very dark times. There are many types of addiction, and Clean makes each and every character relatable, regardless of what they’re struggling with, from relationships to drugs.

Clean is my favourite Juno Dawson novel so far. The TV rights have been snapped up, and I really hope it gets made – it’s UKYA Gossip Girl for the 2020s.

Bookshop Girl by Chloe Coles

Bookshop Girl was written for teen Stacey. When it’s announced that Bennett’s Bookshop will close down, Paige Turner is having none of it. It’s her place of work; where she goes with her best friend and colleague, Holly, to buy her next favourite book; and a pillar of the Greysworth community. Paige won’t go down without a fight, even if there are pretty artistic boys around to distract her.

Paige’s bookshop campaign alights the fire in all booklovers. I’m from London and so I’m lucky enough to have loads of fantastic chain and independent bookshops around me, but what if the one local bookshop in my town was going to close? It’s a very real issue, and one that Chloe Coles – bookworm and bookseller – tackles with giggles, book tokens and feminism.

On a side note, I work at National Book Tokens and this autumn you’ll be able to get your hands on this Bookshop Girl gift card, which was super fun to work on and I can’t wait to see it in bookshops around the UK!