Mini Book Reviews / They Both Die at the End, Secrets of a Teenage Heiress & The Fallen Children

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

History is All You Left Me was one of my favourite books of 2017, so I eagerly put They Both Die at the End on my January TBR. And I completely adored it. I have become a huge fan of Adam Silvera’s writing.

As with History is All You Left Me, I loved the two protagonists – Mateo and Rufus – as well as the incredibly inventive story. The teenagers arrange to meet after receiving a call from Death Cast informing them that today’s the day they will die. They’re not told how they’ll die, or when, but it’ll definitely be today. Mateo struggles to deal with this announcement. His father’s in a coma and Mateo doesn’t want to cause pain to his best friend, while Rufus is busy punching his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend. Not wanting to be alone on their final day, they reach out via an app called Last Friend, and thus begins the last opportunity to live their life to the full.

They Both Die at the End takes place over an emotional 24 hours. Although it’s set over such a short time, the pacing is perfect. It moves swiftly – you’re constantly aware that time is running out for our two boys – and yet it never, ever feels hurried or rushed. Over the day, we get to know Mateo and Rufus and I was constantly on edge, wondering what would really happen at the end. They Both Die at the End has such a fascinating concept: What would you do if you got a phone call saying you would die within the next 24 hours? It’s paralysing even to think about, and yet I couldn’t stop. I thoroughly enjoyed going on a journey with this unlikely pair and discovering more about this alternate universe.

Adam Silvera has definitely made it onto my auto-buy list! They Both Die at the End might end up being one of my favourite books of the year, too.

“I truly believe we should live our lives as soon as possible and to the best of our abilities, because unlike the characters in this book, I don’t know how much time I have left in this universe. And neither do you. So don’t wait too long to become who you want to be – the clock is ticking.”

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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.

What I’ve Read / We Are Okay, Flight of a Starling & The Start of Me and You

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

Nina LaCour is one of my new favourite authors. I adored Everything Leads to You when I read it this summer and now We Are Okay has swept me away. But the funny thing is, very little happens in We Are Okay in contrast to the drama and mystery of Everything Leads to You. It’s the quietest of quiet novels. Marin’s first year at a New York college is going by slowly and it’s the start of the winter break. She has barely spoken to anyone since she left home, miles away in California. But enough is enough. Marin’s best friend Mabel is visiting and so she finally needs to confront the loneliness that has taken hold of her. Nina LaCour does feelings really well, especially those that are difficult to describe: grief, loneliness, immense sadness. I also adored the relationship between Marin and Mabel, and even though we eventually find out what happened to Marin, it’s not the end game; we already know before we’re told. I can’t wait to read more from Nina!

‘I was okay just a moment ago. I will learn how to be okay again.’

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Flight of a Starling by Lisa Heathfield

Rita and Lo are sisters and best friends. As an only child, I’m always fascinated to read about sibling relationships, the seemingly close bond that no friendship can quite match. The girls are part of the ‘greasepaint and glitter of the circus’, a setting that, I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t have usually chosen to read about. But I attended a panel that Lisa Heathfield was on and throughly enjoyed myself, so I delved into Flights of a Starling. What kept me hooked was the realistic way that Lisa portrays depression and suicidal thoughts. Lo begins to down beneath her poor mental health. She meets Dean and falls intensely in love. But Dean’s not a circus boy and will never be accepted by her family, and then Lo discovers even more devastating secrets, struggles to fit into her close-knit community… and begins to unravel, painfully and honestly.

I also own Lisa Heathfield’s two other books, Seed and Paper Butterflies, and I’m looking forward to picking them up!

‘We’re different, us and them.’

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The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

Emery Lord is becoming one of my go-to authors for summery YA contemporaries. Paige is known as the girlfriend of the boy who died, and it’s time for her to return to the world as her own person. She’s mourned for Aaron and for the time they didn’t have together. She didn’t get the chance to know him as well as people think she did, and dreads people asking how she’s doing. Paige makes a plan: date, party, join, travel, and swim. Simple, right? As with most contemps, there’s a surprise romance: Max. Ryan is Paige’s crush, but Max is his nerdy cousin – and one of the lovely highlights of the story! And then there’s a tight-knit, realistic friendship between Paige, Tessa, Morgan and Kayleigh. Romance + friendship = the perfect mix. I’m excited to get stuck into my final Emery Lord novel, Open Road Summer, until we get the sequel to Paige and Max’s story.

“Handing someone else the only set of keys to your happiness—it seemed like too much to part with, even for love.”

 

What I’ve Read / Wonder, The Bookshop Girl & The Girl of Ink and Stars

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder has been popular since it was published in 2012. I started to feel like the only one in the world who hadn’t read it it… so I finally picked it up. Wonder, as I’m sure you know, is about 10-year-old August. Auggie just wants to be normal, but his facial abnormality means that starting middle school is more difficult for him than it is for other children.

As well as Auggie, we get to hear his story from several people in his life: Olivia (Auggie’s sister), Jack and Summer (Auggie’s friends), Justin (Olivia’s boyfriend) and Miranda (Olivia’s friend). Wonder is difficult and painful to read at times – we all know how cruel schoolchildren can be, and I marvelled in August’s courage to face them. Wonder is an uplifting story about overcoming those bullies. At times, it read to me like a novel written for adults, such as Emma Donoghue’s Room, although I know that children all over the world have loved Auggie’s story.

If there’s one thing I took away from Wonder it’s that we should all be a little kinder than is necessary. I’ll be heading to the cinema to watch the adaptation this winter!

“I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”

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The Bookshop Girl by Sylvia Bishop & Ashley King

The Bookshop Girl is a bonkers story. Property Jones is so-called because she was discovered as a five-year-old in the lost property section of a bookshop and adopted by the bookish Jones family. Property loves books. She really does. But she’s hiding a secret: she cannot read.

One day, the Jones family win a prize draw to run the famous Montgomery Book Emporium. With the help of an extremely grumpy and oddball cat, the Jones family must solve a dastardly mystery or lose everything – books an’ all.

I adore stories that feature books, bookshops and booksellers… and The Bookshop Girl has them all. I loved the quirky Montgomery Book Emporium: the world’s first mechanical bookshop. It’s a magical place, containing hordes of rooms filled with books. To browse the bookshop, just press the levers and rooms loop round like a Ferris wheel, with each one decorated appropriately. The Room of Space Adventures, for example, is ‘painted all over in deep indigo, speckled with twinkling lights’. Delightful.

It’s also apparent that I am Property Jones, since I accidentally dress like her…

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The Girl of Ink & Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

I picked up The Girl of Ink and Stars after it won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. I don’t normally read middle grade fantasy, but The Girl of Ink and Stars is an enchanting, magical adventure and is stunningly written (plus the book itself is pretty, too!).

The Girl of Ink & Stars follows Isabelle Riosse – a cartographer’s daughter – as she goes on a treacherous journey to rescue her best friend, Lupe. Lupe has disappeared into the island’s Forgotten Territories and because of her father’s teachings, Isabelle is well-versed in reading the stars and maps, and so is Lupe’s best chance of being found.

Adventure. Friendship. To me, that’s what sums up the sparkly The Girl of Ink and Stars. I adored the realistic and intense friendship between Isabella and Lupe, but I struggled occasionally with all the magic and mystic because it’s quite outside my usual genre. Even so, Kiran’s beautiful writing kept me going – I needed to know whether Lupe would be found!

“Each of us carries the map of our lives on our skin, in the way we walk, even in the way we grow.”

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What I’ve Read / Everything Leads to You, The Loneliest Girl in the Universe & Editing Emma

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

Everything Leads to You was the last of my summer reads and I chose it over We Are Okay, a story that sounds a lot sadder and darker – I’ll save it for autumn!

I finished Everything Leads to You a couple of weeks ago and I still remember how film aspect of the storyline made me feel. I adored it. I love the idea of being a set designer like Emi, our talented protagonist, and Nina LaCour tackles every little detail. She enables the reader to really understand and picture the work that goes into set design, why it’s such an important part of making a film, and how fun it can be. Emi is incredibly passionate about her future career, but Nina doesn’t just show us the glamorous side. We also see the boring, frustrating side of the industry, from being a lowly intern and not feeling good enough to browsing hundreds of sofas to find the one.

Emi and her best friend Charlotte come across a mysterious letter penned by a movie legend after browsing his estate sale, which leads them eventually to a girl called Ava, and a summer to remember. 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. It’s all about Emi and Charlotte’s determination to uncover the story of the letter and a girl who discovers her past.

Everything Leads to You is one of my favourite novels of the year so far – beautiful, cinematic and a joy to read. It lives up to its stunning cover, that’s for sure. 🎥

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The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

Even though The Loneliest Girl in the Universe isn’t out until September, I had to pick it up because people wouldn’t stop talking about it. I’m rubbish at resisting hype and I just had to see what magic Lauren James created this time.

I love a good space story and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe made me realise how much more YA sci-fi I need to discover. I obviously do not read/watch enough because I had to engage Lauren in a lengthy conversation about how time works. *facepalm* (Thank you so much, Lauren!). Romy Silvers is left as the young Commander of her ship after her entire crew perishes. But she’s also a normal teenage girl. She bakes, she writes fan fiction and she’s really good at maths. Romy has an essential job ahead of her: travel to another planet and create a new home for the human race. She’s all alone in space – and so literally is the loneliest girl in the universe – until she receives an email from a new ship that has just launched from Earth. It’s a boy called J, and he’s coming to meet her.

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe throws up a lot of surprises. Romy’s journey on the ship is at times both exhilarating and fascinating, and terrifying and isolated. But it’s all Romy knows. It’s best you go into the story without knowing much at all… go on, it’s a long journey! 💫

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Editing Emma: The Secret Blog of a Nearly Proper Person by Chloe Seager

Editing Emma features the word ‘masturbation’ more than any other book I’ve read. It’s crazy, if you think about it, because most of what I read is contemporary YA. The genre is supposed to be realistic. It’s supposed to tell stories of what it’s like to be a teenager: school, friends, heartbreak, family and everything in between, so you think there’d be more talk of sex. Go you, Chloe.

When 16-year-old Emma is ‘ghosted’ by the boy she is ‘dating’ (they were dating, right?! She didn’t just imagine it?!), she creates a private blog to write about the life and thoughts of this new heartbroken-but-refuses-t0-be-defeated Emma. It’s the perfect way to document the positive changes she’s making in her life, from finding a boyfriend who will treat her right to stalking Leo’s social media profiles. Wait, no, she’s definitely meant to be stopping that.

Editing Emma is a super fun and hilarious quick read, perfect for the social media generation. As much as I adore the interwebz – and it’s a huge part of my life – it was also brilliant and refreshing to see Emma rediscover her passion for fashion design after she’s grounded and left with no access to the internet. (Chloe actually wrote an excellent post for me on social media and anxiety). We could all do with taking a break from our screens once in a while, and Emma Nash shows us it can be done.

Editing Emma has been recommended to friends who have been ghosted by complete dicks, friends who have a love/hate relationship with social media, and friends who appreciate such frank discussions of sex. Which is most of us, to be fair. 👩‍💻

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