On My TBR: Summer

I love a summery TBR! Here are six fun contemporary novels I’ve picked to read over June, July and August.

The Wonder of Us by Kim Culbertson

Riya moved to Berlin while Abby stayed behind in California. Riya proposes an epic adventure: two weeks, six countries, unimaginable fun. I love travel novels, so I can’t wait to get stuck into this.

The Summer of Us by Cecilia Vinesse

I picked out another fabulous travel + friendship novel. Aubrey has two weeks before she leaves for college. She and her best friend, Rae, have planned one last trip across Europe. From Paris to Prague, they’re going to explore famous museums, sip champagne in fancy restaurants, and eat as many croissants as possible.

The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman

30 years ago, something terrible happened to Luna’s mother. In Brooklyn, her mother’s birthplace, something impossible – magical – happens to Luna, and she meets her mother as a young woman back in the summer of 1977. I love a bit of time travel. I picked up this novel at the Lush book club last year, so I’m excited to finally read it.

Two Summers by Aimee Friedman

In this contemporary romance, we’re off to France! Summer says goodbye to her best friend, her secret crush and her single mum, and is off on a trip of a lifetime to visit her estranged artist father. But right before she’s about to board, her phone rings. Should she answer it?

Lying About Last Summer by Sue Wallman

Skye’s sister died in a tragic accident. Her parents think that a camp for troubled teenagers might help her process her grief. When Skye starts receiving text messages from someone pretending to be her dead sister, she knows it’s time to confront the past. But what if the danger is right in front of her? I thought it’d be fun to add a thriller to the TBR!

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

And finally, a road trip novel that I’ve wanted to read for ages. After breaking up with her boyfriend, Reagan is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. Her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts.

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10 Non-Fiction Books About Mental Health


For Mental Health Awareness Week (14-20th May), I thought I’d chat about 10 books about mental health that are on my wishlist, TBR, or that I’ve read.

Mad Girl: A Happy Life with a Mixed-up Mind by Bryony Gordon

Mad Girl is super accessible. It reads just like having a chat with Bryony over coffee about her OCD, and is really enjoyable and funny. Mad Girl does what I think we all should do: talk about mental health as if we were talking about the flu, honestly and without fear of judgement.

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A Series of Unfortunate Stereotypes: Naming and Shaming Mental Health Stigmas by Lucy Nichol

I was sent a copy recently by Trigger Press as part of their mental health awareness campaign. As someone who deals with anxiety, Lucy discusses the ways in which mental illness is viewed, and tackles unfair stereotypes e.g. that people with mental illness are ‘narcissists’, ‘hypochondriacs’ and ‘psycho’.

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Matt Haig suffers from depression (like 20% of people) and Reasons to Stay Alive is his award-winning book on how he copes with the illness. It’s loved by many and one I hope to finally read this year.

A Beginner’s Guide to Being Mental: An A-Z by Natasha Devon

One for millennials, this is a guide to mental illness, from A (anxiety) to Z (zero f**ks given).

It’s All Absolutely Fine by Ruby Elliot

Ruby’s illustrations show what it’s like to suffer from all kinds of mental health issues: anxiety, bipolar disorder, self-harm, eating disorders, and depression. We all know that mental health needs to be talked about more, and I really do think that humour – visual humour especially – can be a great way to do it.

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How to Survive the End of the World (When it’s in Your Own Head) by Aaron Gillies

If you don’t follow @TechnicallyRon on Twitter, do it now! He’s so hilarious and relatable, and I can’t wait to read his first book. He talks about the impact that anxiety has and gives readers some tools to fight back alongside his trademark humour.

The Time in Between: A Memoir of Hunger and Hope by Nancy Tucker

Nancy was diagnosed with anorexia and bulimia as a teenager and The Time in Between is her memoir of her experience and recovery.

The Self-Care Project by Jayne Hardy

Self care is something we all should do and I can’t wait to get my hands on this book, written by the founder and CEO of The Blurt Foundation, a charity that aims to increase awareness and understanding of depression.

It’s All In Your Head: A Guide to Getting Your Sh*t Together by Rae Earl

Aimed at teenagers, It’s All in Your Head is full of friendly advice, coping strategies and laugh-out-loud moments to get you through the difficult days written by someone who gets it.

Secrets for the Mad: Obsessions, Confessions and Life Lessons by Dodie Clark

A mix of doodles, poetry and prose all about self-care, mental health, life and relationships: “This is for the people with minds that just don’t stop; for those who feel everything seemingly a thousand times more than the people around them.”

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Shelf Swap with Annalie Grainger


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 Annalie Grainger, who is here to celebrate her newest book In Your Light, to Pretty Books for Shelf Swap!

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

How Do You Like Me Now? by Holly Bourne
I’m a big fan of Holly’s teen books, especially her Spinster Club series, so I think I would enjoy this one. She’s such a funny, warm and smart writer. Her characters are always so real, and she captures the teen girl experience so perfectly. I’d love to see what she writes for an older audience. I’m sure it is equally brilliant.

This Book Will (Help You) Change the World by Sue Turton
I was sold on the title alone with this book! Like a lot of people, I’ve watched with increasing horror at what’s been going on in politics recently. I feel pretty let down by the people in charge but also overwhelmed about where to begin with trying to make a difference. How can one person make a change?! As such, I’d love to know what practical things I can do. As such, this sounds like the perfect book for me!

The Scapegoat by Daphne Du Maurier
I’m a huge fan of Daphne Du Maurier. Rebecca is one of my all-time favourite books, and I’ve read that this book shares many of the same themes. I love seeing an author’s writing develop, so I’d really like to read this book to understand more about how Du Maurier progressed through her career.

This Is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay
I read Do No Harm a few years back (see below!) and was fascinated by the ins and outs of a surgeon’s life. As such, I’m sure I’d enjoy this. Also I saw Adam Kay interviewed on TV, and he was very funny!

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
This is billed as Eleanor and Park meets Bollywood, and I’m totally hooked already. I love a good rom-com, and this sounds like it’s going to be a great one.

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Mini Book Reviews / Nevermoor, Out of the Blue & I Was Born for This

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

I love, love, loved Nevermoor. I know every children’s book under the sun has been compared to Harry Potter, but in this case it’s accurate and very well-deserved.

Morrigan Crow has the unluckiest birthday of all – Eventide. She’s cursed and therefore blamed for everything, from hailstorms to heart attacks – and it means that on the next Eventide, her 11th birthday, she’ll die. But just before, a mysterious man called Jupiter North appears and whisks her away to the Deucalion Hotel in a magical city called Nevermoor, and it’s there that Morrigan learns all about the famous Wundrous Society (I so desperately want to be member, please).

I couldn’t stop thinking about Nevermoor. I’d go off to bed, wondering what thrilling twists awaited my return, falling asleep dreaming of the dangerous trials, and desperately rooting for Morrigan to earn her place in the society. Nevermoor is fantastically crafted. It captures your imagination and doesn’t let go until you’ve reached the last page. And accompanying the magical story is a sensational cast of characters, from Jupiter and his colleague Fen (a giant sarcastic cat, if you must know) to fellow children Hawthorne and Jack.

Nevermoor is one of the most fun, inventive and brilliantly written children’s books I’ve read, and I cannot wait to go on another adventure with our heroine in Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow. 

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Out of the Blue by Sophie Cameron

A YA novel set in Edinburgh? Yes please! Edinburgh is one of my absolute favourite places. I’ve visited a few of times and recently took myself there on a solo holiday. I was grateful to Out of the Blue for taking me back.

Jaya and Rani set off to the city because their father’s chasing angels. 10 days after their mum died, angels fell from the sky, smashing down to Earth so fast that not one has survived. Until now. Jaya discovers one on Arthur’s Seat and brings her back to their rented flat, where she’s named Teacake. As someone who’s very particular about paranormal, I was wary! And yet the fallen angels plot line felt comfortable within the contemporary setting and storyline. Through Teacake, Jaya begins to explore her grief and make new connections, particularly with siblings Allie and Callum.

I adored the trio’s antics across the city as they learned more about each other – Allie is disabled and bisexual – and enjoyed seeing the relationship between Allie and Jaya become something more. Out of the Blue has a lot happening in such a short book, but at its core, it’s all about finding your place in this world.

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I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman

Alice Oseman’s I Was Born for This was one of my most anticipated books of the year – I adored Radio Silence and couldn’t wait to see what Alice came up with next.

Angel Rahimi is off to London (and a fancy part at that) to stay with her best friend Juliet from the interwebz. They have tickets to a meet and greet/gig for their favourite boy band of all time, The Ark aka Lister, Jimmy and Rowan. For Angel, there’s nothing more to life than The Ark. And her encyclopaedic knowledge of them rivals any fan’s. The book’s second point of view is from Jimmy. He’s constantly in the spotlight due to being a member of one of the world’s most famous bands, previously outed as being trans to the incredible support of his fans, and secretly suffers from severe anxiety. Both characters think they know what the other is like, until their lives unexpectedly collide…

I Was Born for This brilliantly weaves in someone vs. the idea of someone. Angel thinks she knows everything about the boys, but she can only know how they’re portrayed. And, as soon as she meets her bestie Juliet, their friendship dynamic isn’t quite how Angel imagined. As a huge music fan as a teenager – I blogged about music, went to monthly gigs, listened to music all morning/afternoon/evening, and even did my university dissertation on music and fandom – I resonated with I Was Born for This. I remember reading that blogpost by Josh from Paramore and questioning everything I thought about the band – it made me feel funny inside, and affected how I interpreted their album Brand New Eyes.

I probably don’t even need to tell you that the characters that Alice creates are honest, accurate and realistic. Alice does an absolutely brilliant job of writing about the teenage experience and making it read from someone who actually gets it because they’ve gone through it – from fandom to mental health. I Was Born for This is for anyone who’s ever been a fan.

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Mini Book Reviews / Orphan Monster Spy, The Exact Opposite of Okay & Becoming Betty

Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen

I love the tagline ‘A teenage spy. A Nazi boarding school. The performance of a lifetime.’ and was gripped by Orphan Monster Spy from the start.

Orphan Monster Spy begins with 15-year-old Sarah, on the run from the government following her mother’s death. She meets a mysterious spy and persuades him to let her work alongside him, certain that her mother’s acting tuition will pay off – and he does. Her high-stakes mission is to infiltrate the Rothenstadt Academy as ‘Ursula Haller’, befriend the daughter of a scientist, and steal the blueprints for a bomb that could take out an entire city in one fell swoop. Because Sarah is Jewish – and also blonde and blue-eyed – she experiences terror from both sides, from fascist soldiers to cut-throat students.

Sarah is a brave, intelligent and quick-witted teenager, whose story gave me the same thrill that Wolf by Wolf did. As a reader, it’s exciting to be one of the chosen few to know the protagonist’s real identity. On her journey, she meets the Captain, close friend Mauser, who has more strength than she knows, and popular Elsa, whose life isn’t all that it appears, amongst many terrifying characters. Orphan Monster Spy is one of my favourite books of the year so far – super exciting, dark and intense story. Pick it up even if you’re usually not a fan of historical fiction!

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The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven

18-year-old Izzy parties, drinks, dances and… sleeps with a boy. But that’s her business. Until a slut-shaming website is set up and she becomes the centre of a national scandal because the boy in question is a politician’s son. Thankfully, Izzy doesn’t have to deal with it alone. I adored Izzy’s friendship with her best friend Ajita and her wonderful and close relationship with her grandmother. It was also refreshing to see Izzy build a rapport with her supportive teachers, who encourage her to pursue her dream of being a comic writer. I loved Lauren Steven’s exploration of life as a teenager today – and it’s not always pretty.

Izzy gets up to mischief more than once and that was great to see. She may not make the ‘best’ choices, but this doesn’t mean she deserves to be judged and abused as a result. Izzy could’ve been a stereotypical ‘innocent’ and ‘perfect’ character to make it easier for us to feel sorry for her, but she’s not. No one is.

The Exact Opposite of Okay is a feminist, hilarious and topical UKYA novel set in the US, covering everything from online bullying to revenge porn.

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Becoming Betty by Eleanor Wood

16-year-old Elizabeth aka Lizzie is nervous on her first day of sixth form college, wondering how she’s going to make friends, watching the cooler girls fit in easily like they’ve been there the whole time. But luckily she meets super cool Viv and they become instant best friends – even though she already has two perfectly excellent friends at her old school. Viv decides that Lizzie is to join her band and voilà, Betty is born. But is that who she really is?

Becoming Betty is set against the colourful and quirky backdrop of The Lanes in Brighton. I love reading books set here as I went to the University of Sussex and lived just outside of Brighton for three years. It’s easy to be jealous of Viv – who lives in her own flat with her boyfriend – but being friends with Viv isn’t all that great for Lizzie. I constantly wanted to shake her and shout “stop listening to Viv!”, but Betty has to make that decision on her own.

Becoming Betty is a fun snapshot into the drama-filled lives of two music-loving sixth formers. I need more feel good UKYA in my life!

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