Shelf Swap with Robin Stevens

Shelf Swap: Robin Stevens
I love swapping book recommendations, so I’m asking one person each month to pick five books from my Goodreads shelves that they want to read and five books from their own shelves that they think I might like to read.

I’m delighted to welcome Robin Stevens (@redbreastedbird), author of the Murder Most Unladylike series, to Pretty Books for Shelf Swap!


Night Owls by Jenn Bennett
Romance, rooftops and San Francisco – just the description of this YA love story about two teens who meet on a night bus has me hooked. Jenn’s writing has been compared to my favourite Jenny Valentine’s, too, which has rocketed the book up even higher on my to-read list.

The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham
I love John Wyndham’s books. They’re creepy and imaginative, the kind of science fiction that feels absolutely possible, and I think Wyndham is a beautiful writer. I have no idea why I haven’t read this yet – I need to resolve that quickly!

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
I’ve gotten very into graphic novels this year, and I definitely want to read more. This comes highly recommended, it looks gorgeous and it’s all about female friendship and summertime at the beach.

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
Cuckoo Song is one of my all-time favourite books, I love crime, I’m fascinated by the Victorians and Frances wrote an incredible short story for the upcoming Mystery and Mayhem anthology that I’m a part of. Oh, and this book just won the COSTA! I couldn’t be prouder of her, and I am so looking forward to finally reading this.

Skullduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy
Confession time: I’ve never read this book. This is the year I finally listen to my friends and right this wrong. I know that it’s a modern children’s classic – and it features a dancing skeleton. I can’t wait.


I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman
by Nora Ephron
I only recently discovered the joy of Nora Ephron’s essays. If you have ever been a woman, or known a woman, or just been near a woman, you need to read her. The essay about handbags had me weeping with laughter, and I want her to be my friend.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
I’m being a little sneaky here – I know Stacey is currently reading We Have Always Lived in the Castle, so I’m recommending her Hill House, a fantastically creepy and psychological ghost story. Just like Hill House itself, the story seems gorgeous, engrossing and gently funny, and then before you know it’s lured you in and you’re terrified.

Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe
This reads like a novel, but it’s real – a collection of letters that the young Nina sent her sister when she was working as a nanny in the 1980s. She’s about the worst nanny you can imagine, but she’s totally delightful, and it’s impossible not to fall in love with her and the bonkers London family she looks after. Oh, and Alan Bennett lives next door.

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit
From what I know of Stacey’s reading tastes, I think she’s a fan of great literary fiction with a historical bent, and so this will be perfect for her. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas for a new generation, this is a beautiful and heartbreaking World War II story that feels very fresh and new.

Unwritten, Vol 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity by Mike Carey & Peter Gross
Stacey has a lot of graphic novels on her shelves, and she’s hosting the 2016 Classics Challenge, so I think she’ll love this. It’s about a sort of fictional grown-up Harry Potter character who finds himself mixed up with a whole host of famous stories – it’s very clever and very referential. One for a true book nerd!

Thank you for swapping bookshelves, Robin!

Which of these books would you read?

The Hundred and One Dalmatians written by Dodie Smith and illustrated by Alex T. Smith (Classic #12)

The Hundred and One Dalmatians written by Dodie Smith and illustrated by Alex T. Smith (Classic #12)

Series: The Hundred and One Dalmatians (#1)
Shelved: Classic (children’s)
Published: 1956
Rating: ★★★★
Challenge: Classics Challenge – #12
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

This is my last post for the 2015 Classics Challenge – you can now join the 2016 challenge!

“Like many other much-loved humans, they believed that they owned their dogs, instead of realizing that their dogs owned them.”

Cruella de Vil is enough to frighten the spots off a Dalmatian pup. But when she steals a whole family of them, the puppies’ parents, Pongo and Missus, lose no time in mounting a daring rescue mission. Will they be in time to thwart Cruella’s evil scheme, or have they bitten off more than they can chew?

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
Likely when I first watched the Disney adaptation in the 90s. I’m much more of a cat person, but I’ve always loved the film and adored Dalmatians!

WHY I Chose to Read It
You picked my December classic and The Hundred and One Dalmatians won (27.32% of the vote). It was included in the poll because I wanted to read this newly-published edition, illustrated by Alex T. Smith.

WHAT Makes It A Classic
It is written by I Capture the Castle author Dodie Smith, a much-loved children’s classic and author.

WHAT I Thought of This Classic
I was hooked on The Hundred and One Dalmatians from the beginning. I loved discovering all the little differences from the story I grew up with and was surprised to discover that our courageous couple is not Pongo and Perdita, but Pongo and Missus. I was pleased to see that all of the animals in the story still had distinct, lovable personalities.

The Hundred and One Dalmatians is written in a wonderful style. It’s told almost conversationally, and in a way that is incredibly enjoyable to follow. I read it as if I were floating down a calm river or on a quiet jaunt through the countryside. But combined with the tense – and at times quite frightening – scenes that make Cruella de Vil one of the most notable villains in children’s literature, it becomes a brilliant canine adventure. It’s also beautifully accompanied by Alex T. Smith’s gorgeous illustrations, particularly of the puppies!

Even though I adored the story, I was a little disappointed by the attitude towards some of the female characters and the perpetuation of traditional gender roles, even if it was originally published 60 years ago. I was also intrigued by the description of Cruella de Vil (“She had a dark skin, black eyes with a tinge of red in them, and a very pointed nose”) compared to how she’s usually imagined – as a lady with pale skin. If you Google ‘Cruella de Vil’ and ‘dark skin’, you get zero results. Why is this?

Even if a little old-fashioned at times, The Hundred and One Dalmatians is still an incredibly charming classic that I thoroughly enjoyed. It was a delightful end to the 2015 Classics Challenge.

“Nanny Cook slept dreaming of Dalmatian puppies dressed as babies, and Nanny Butler slept dreaming of babies dresses as Dalmatian puppies.”

WILL It Stay A Classic
It’s difficult to think of the book without thinking of the film. Would it still be a classic without Disney?

WHO I’d Recommend It To
People who love illustrated fiction, puppies and children’s books.

“Dogs can never speak the language of humans, and humans can never speak the language of dogs. But many dogs can understand almost every word humans say, while humans seldom learn to recognize more than half a dozen barks, if that.”

Behold the Pretty Books! / September Book HaulBehold the Pretty Books! / September Book HaulBehold the Pretty Books! / September Book Haul

Book Reviews: Christmas with the Savages & Lily and the Christmas Wish

Book Review: Christmas with the Savages by Mary Clive

Shelved: Children’s fiction (classic)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads
Published: October 2015 (originally September 1977) by Puffin
Pages: 186

Okay, it’s a little late (or early?!) for Christmas stories, but I wanted to share my thoughts on two wonderful children’s books. Mary Clive’s Christmas with the Savages was the perfect children’s classic to read in December. It’s about Evelyn, an 8-year-old who much prefers the company of adults to other children. Evelyn is dismayed when she is sent toTamerlane Hall, a large Edwardian house in the countryside, where she finds more children than she’s ever experienced before – the Glens, the Howliboos, and the Savages.

Christmas with the Savages was a delightful festive read, full of humour. It’s based on Mary Clive’s own experiences growing up – and it was lovely to be transported into this eccentric family’s holiday celebrations. All the children are left to roam the house and gardens, so it’s full of hilarious escapades and antics. I loved Evelyn’s prim and proper opinion on just about everything, from the youngest of children to the Nannies, who can’t quite cope with all 13 children!

Christmas with the Savages is a classic I only discovered this year and I’m so very glad I did. If you’re participating in the 2016 Classics Challenge, be sure to consider this one for December!

Book Review: Lily and the Christmas Wish by Keris Stainton

Shelved: Children’s fiction (contemporary, fantasy)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads
Published: November 2015 by Piccadilly Press
Pages: 160
Source: Thank you to the publisher for providing this book for review!

I think festive children’s stories have to be among the best kinds of stories. Keris Stainton’s Lily and the Christmas Wish was a welcome addition to my winter TBR pile. As Christmas approaches, the little town of Pinewood is so excited that they give everyone a wish to hang up on the town’s giant Christmas tree. But a storm strikes and something odd happens. Christmas wishes begin coming true – but for the wrong people! And Lily discovers that her puppy – an adorable pug named Bug – can talk! Can two children and one pug help make everyone’s wishes come true before it’s too late?

Lily and the Christmas Wish is an incredibly sweet story about festive cheer, fun, and family. It was thoroughly enjoyable to see if Lily – accompanied by her younger brother James – could match up everyone’s Christmas wishes in time. And it was heart-warming to see what everyone wished for: some wishes were funny, some were a little sad. Keris wonderfully blends fantasy with reality. Even though there’s a little bit of magic to the story, it’s really a contemporary tale of a sleepy town and the people who live there. A beautifully wintry story for younger children.

Is it also possible for me to get a talking pug?

From My Bookshelves / Graphic Novels

From My Bookshelves / Graphic Novels

It’s unsurprising that I’ve been curious about graphic novels over the past few years: it’s quite satisfying to read a book in a day and I love stories with illustrations. Here’s a selection of graphic novels I have read, graphic novels on my ‘to be read’ pile, and graphic novels on my wishlist.

From My Bookshelves / Graphic Novels
As I adore young adult books, I’m particularly drawn to these types of visual stories. I read teen graphic novels This One Summer and Friends With Boys over the summer and I’d love to see more published. I’ve also delved into graphic memoirs, from hilarious and relatable anecdotes in Hyperbole and a Half and mouthwatering stories and recipes in Relish to charming illustrations in Isobel’s Journal. Graphic novels are such a wonderful way to tell the story of someone’s life and so I really wish more contemporary graphic novels existed.

I also went a little outside my comfort zone and was thrilled to enjoy the dark and stormy stories in Through the Woods and the popular Scott Pilgrim. One of the most famous graphic novels I’ve read is Maus, the incredible story of the Holocaust. It’s one I’d always suggest to anyone looking to get into reading them, especially fans of history. I’ve loved curling up with each of them, savouring the words and pictures. (I do have to keep reminding myself to look at the pictures, though!). And, in school, my teenage self loved the dark humour in Squee’s Wonderful Giant Book of Unspeakable Horrors, Lenore, and Johnny the Homicidal Maniac. I’m a bit more squeamish now!

From My Bookshelves / Graphic Novels
I visited my local library this week and picked up six graphic novels. (It’s one of my favourite things about libraries). I picked up Coraline, Blankets, El Deafo, Phonogram, Vol 2: The Singles Club, The Property, and Ghost World. A few I was looking for, a few are new to me. I particularly love the colourful and modern artwork in both El Deafo and Phonogram: The Singles Club. Blankets – about first romance and growing up – has been on my wishlist for years. It’s such a diverse selection and I cannot wait to get stuck in. I also already own The Graveyard Book, Dark Satanic Mills, and Lumberjanes. I attended an event with Noelle Stevenson last year and Lumberjanes is high up on my list!

From My Bookshelves / Graphic Novels
Daphne knows I love contemporary graphic novels and has loaned me individual issues of Giant Days and Archie. I can’t wait to read all the volumes – they’re so fun! I’d also love to read Seconds, Lost at Sea, Anya’s Ghost, Winter Town, The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, and Nimona. I love anything with bright and vivid illustrations and about coming of age. As I’m a big fan of Lucy’s Knisley’s graphic memoir, Relish, I also want to check out her other books: An Age of License: A Travelogue and French Milk. I find it really difficult to discover graphic novels, so any recommendations are welcome! I occasionally love to browse Gosh! and Orbital Comics, too, and I’m hoping to read many more graphic novels in the future!

What are your favourite graphic novels?

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Blog Tour: Never Evers by Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison / 5 Best Literary School Trips

On My TBR / Winter

Welcome to my stop on the Never Evers blog tour! I’m delighted to welcome Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison to Pretty Books as they chat about their favourite school trips in literature!

Blog Tour: Never Evers by Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivision / 5 Best Literary School Trips1. Whitby (Room 13)
A school trip to Whitby – home of Dracula himself –  was always going to be a risky affair. Fliss – the protagonist of this great 1989 novel– senses something bad’s on the horizon, as she has a nightmare the evening before the trip. And her instincts are spot on – what should be an uneventful school outing turns into a full-blown horror mystery, in which teenagers get possessed by vampires and ghostly guest rooms suddenly materialise in the night.

Blog Tour: Never Evers by Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivision / 5 Best Literary School Trips2. London (The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 & 3/4)
Adrian’s story of his school’s catastrophic trip to London is made even funnier by the fact it’s all recounted in chronological bullet points. So, things start badly (“7.10am Coach stopped for Barry Kent to be sick… 7.45am Coach stopped for Barry Kent to be sick again”), and get progressively worse (“11.50am Coach breaks down at Swiss Cottage… 11.55am Coach driver breaks down in front of AA man”) until the group finally arrives at the British Museum, only to “run beserk, laughing at nude statues”. The trip ends with the police escorting the entire school group back to their coach, as Barry Kent as been caught stealing ‘Grow-It-Big Cream’ from a nearby sex shop.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green3. Amsterdam (The Fault In Our Stars)
OK, OK, this is not technically a school trip, but it IS a trip, it IS supposedly educational (they’re going to meet a novelist) and Hazel IS taken out of school to go on it. So we’re saying that it counts. Plus, it’s as eventful and emotional and meaningful as any other literary school trip: firstly, Hazel gets her heart broken on meeting her extremely disappointing ‘hero’, Peter Van Houten. And then, she gets her heart mended by getting jiggy with Gus almost immediately afterwards.

Book Review: Geek Girl by Holly Smale4. Birmingham (Geek Girl)
Harriet and Nat’s trip to the Clothes Show Live is obviously the spark for the whole Geek Girl series, but it’s also a pretty hilarious and eventful school trip on its own. Coach-based vomiting: check. Having to wear spare PE kit: check. Meeting a hot boy: check. Causing thousands of pounds’ worth of damage: check.


Blog Tour: Never Evers by Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivision / 5 Best Literary School Trips5. Hogwarts (Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire)
Obviously there’s no travel involved for Harry etc., but for Fleur and Viktor and their mates, the Triwizard Tournament represents a pretty incredible school trip, in which they get to hang out in a fairly amazing castle, watch and compete in a preposterous contest, and get off with loads of random British wizards and witches.

Never Evers by Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison is published by Chicken House, £6.99.

Blog Tour: Never Evers by Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison / 5 Best Literary School TripsKicked out of ballet academy, Mouse is hating the school ski trip. Jack was sure it’d be filled with danger and girls, but hasn’t a clue about either. That’s until French teen sensation Roland arrives in the resort – and Jack’s a dead ringer for him.

After Roland persuades Jack to be his stand-in for a day, Jack, in disguise, declares his feelings for Mouse. But what happens when he’s no longer a pop star – will there still be music and magic on the slopes? From the critically-acclaimed authors of Lobsters, shortlisted for the YA Book Prize.