What I’ve Read / Iron to Iron, Love and Other Alien Experiences & Another Together

Mini ReviewsI have mini reviews of three eBooks for you today!

Iron to Iron by Ryan Graudin

Wolf By Wolf was one of my favourite books of last year so I absolutely had to download Iron to Iron, a novella that takes place before the events of the first book.

Iron to Iron is narrated by Luka Lowe as he tries to figure out newcomer to the world famous Axis Race, Felix Wolfe – Adele Wolfe in disguise. Even though we already know the outcome of the dangerous motorbike race, the relationship between Luka and Adele is still a little bit of a mystery, so it was great to get to know them both better (since Adele is rather… occupied in Wolf By Wolf). It’s still just as tense as ever and I’d really love to re-read Wolf By Wolf, to see whether the novella has affected how I see Luka. It was a great way to whet my appetite before the highly anticipated sequel, Blood For Blood. It’s definitely worth reading if you loved the first book.

Love and Other Alien Experiences by Kerry WinFry

I had wanted to read fellow YA blogger Kerry’s novel for a while and so when I was in a reading slump, whereby I could only read fun contemporary young adult novels, it seemed like a perfect choice.

Mallory Sullivan has suffered from severe anxiety and agoraphobia since her father left without warning. She hasn’t left her house in weeks and is humiliated when her classmates pick her to be on the school prom committee. Because high school is cruel, they start the #stayathome hashtag and she desperately tries not to follow the nasty things they tweet about her. As a lover of all things paranormal, she instead finds solace in talking to her friend (or is he more than that?) BeamMeUp on the We Are Not Alone online community.

Even though Mallory feels alone, her brother Lincoln, best friend Jenni, and the neighbourly Kirkpatrick boys are also there to help. Even with their support, it’s tough to see how judgemental people, especially your own family, can be. Mallory feels like she’s the town “freak”, but she’s a fantastic, intelligent character with a lot of wit and sarcasm (a Sullivan family trait) and a surprising talent for flirting. It’s the characters that bring this story to life (but the puppies help, too). Even though it may seem serious, the characters’ conversations and relationships are light and fun – something which helps Mallory more than she thought. Love and Other Alien Experiences will be available in print next spring and you’ll definitely want to pick it up!

Another Together by Lauren James

If wonderfully written historical romance and time-travelling sound like your cup of tea, then The Next Together should be on your wishlist. Another Together is a standalone short story set in the same world. It’s 1940 and war is upon us. Kitty and Matthew, codebreakers at the famous Bletchley Park, are determined to solve a different kind of puzzle – a murder has taken place and the investigation isn’t all as it seems.

Another Together is a sweet story that provides a more insight into the relationship of one of 2015’s favourite literary couples, set during a time that’s always fascinated me. It’s over super quick, but it’s a little bit of fun to get you ready for the companion novel, The Last Beginning. Let the reincarnation romance continue!

What I’ve Read / The Lost & Found, The Unexpected Everything & The Square Root of Summer

Mini Reviews: The Lost & Found, The Unexpected Everything & The Square Root of Summer
I have three more mini reviews for you today – all contemporary books, all green covers, but all very different stories!

The Lost & Found by Katrina Leno

Close internet friendships, check. Road trips, check. Excellent representation of mental health, disability and racial diversity, check.

Frannie and Louis have had tumultuous lives. They met in an online support group and have been friends for years, but have never seen each other face-to-face. Frannie lives with her grandparents, but her mother didn’t move away like she thought, and her father stabbed her with a pen when she was little. And Louis has been struggling with guilt ever since his twin sister fell out of his window and lost both her legs.

In The Lost & Found, Louis’s guilt and anxiety is palpable and Frannie’s desperation to know who she is is understandable. They’re both wonderful, relatable characters, but the side characters –  Arrow (Frannie’s adopted cousin) and Willa (Louis’s sister) – are just as memorable. Louis and Frannie set off to Texas with their road trip buddies in order to accomplish something important to each of them – so why not meet each other at the same time?

The Lost & Found is a brilliant contemporary novel with a little magical realism – Frannie and Louis cannot understand why things they own just… disappear – which ties everything together beautifully. It’s only being published in the US at the moment, but I really hope it gets picked up here!

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

A new book by Morgan Matson is always going to be one of my most anticipated novels of the year. I was super excited when I received a copy with all the summer essentials, from a beach towel to sun cream.

Andie has her summer all planned out: she’s going to work towards getting into a top medical school, see as little of her Dad (a fancy Member of Congress) as possible, and spend as much time as she can with her best friends Palmer, Bri and Toby. That is, until her summer plans collapse. And I’m so glad they did.

As with all Morgan Matson novels, there’s a lovely (and quite awkward, at times) romance but it’s never the main part of the story, unlike friendship and family. Andie takes on a new and unexpected job as a dog-walker and meets super cute and shy Clark (who I’m sure all booklovers will adore!), and gets involved in a little best friend drama. She also discovers that her Dad can be quite fun after all, and is grieving for her mother as much as she is. (Who wouldn’t want to take part in a scavenger hunt with their parents?!).

But the novel itself is not so unexpected – summery, fun and one you need to pick up this summer. (I’m only disappointed that there were no tiny pugs!). Please may I have a new Morgan Matson novel every year for as long as I live?

The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter-Hapgood

I adore the cover for The Square Root of Summer – we have a huge poster of it in our flat! And in The Square Root of Summer, Harriet does an excellent job of combining time travel, science and romance (complete with little diagrams because physics = difficult).

It’s been a year since Gottie’s life changed; when her grandfather died and the boy she fell in love with stopped being the boy she fell in love with (aka the boy I dislike intensely). But it’s a new summer, involving the return of her former best friend Thomas (aka the boy who bakes); changing friendships; new experiences; and travels through the space-time continuum – flashbacks to recent poignant moments in her life.

I particularly felt for Gottie as she grieved for her grandfather, Grey. It’s not the sort of relationship we often see in young adult novels, but it’s clearly the one that had the most influence on Gottie. He clearly helped shape who she is, from her disinterest in technology (her grandfather owned a dusty old bookshop) to her knowledge of German phrases. But the friendship-turned-romance in the story is also slow-burning and wonderful.

The Square Root of Summer is beautifully written and the inclusion of maths/physics was a fun way of representing Gottie trying to work herself out, too. It made a refreshing change from all the American YA contemporary novels I always curl up with!

Thank you to the publishers for providing these books for review!

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Shelf Swap with Grace from Almost Amazing Grace

Shelf Swap with Grace from Almost Amazing Grace

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 happy to welcome Grace Latter (@gracieactually), blogger at Almost Amazing Grace and events human at Maximum Pop! Books, to Pretty Books for Shelf Swap!

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

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
The story of the man who owns a record store and has a list of his worst relationships/breakups. Like a ‘Desert Island Discs’ situation, but with exes and sexcapades. Now, I know I will like Nick Hornby. I know I’ll get into his style of writing. Yet for some reason, I keep buying his books and never reading them! I saw the film High Fidelity recently and I am told the book is better. Plus I do love a good bitter tale now and again…!

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Drifters George and Lennie roam around California searching for something meaningful. Then gentle giant Lennie gets in trouble and things are thrown off balance… Every English class was reading this at school before exams. Every class except mine! I kept hearing how magical this book was – even my friends who hated reading (!!) were engrossed. It was the same situation with Holes, and I finally read that recently. So I need to read this now, for my inner 15-year-old!

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
The book of the blog; Allie’s crazy awesome artwork with accompanying essays about complicated feelings, specific situations, just life in general. This has been recommended to me so many times! I really think I’ll relate to it on several levels. I am fascinated by some author’s ability to combine art with their words and capture the most inexplicable things so perfectly.

Nothing Tastes As Good by Claire Hennessy
Annabel is a deceased anorexic teen who has been summoned as a ‘helper’ for Julia, another girl struggling with food. She’s not too happy about that… All my pals have been receiving proofs of this recently. I am a huge fan of Claire on Twitter, so I already know I’ll love her writing style. This novel covers issues close to my heart – body positivity is so important to me, after many years of hating the way I looked, and how heavy I was (/am).

The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith
We all know this story – especially me as I’ve watched both films many, many times. I would be so interested in how it is told in a book! Although I may have to somehow erase the vibrant vision of Glenn Close as Cruella De Vil first… I hate reading a book after seeing the film and thus seeing the actors in the film as the characters!

5 BOOKS FROM GRACE’S SHELVES THAT STACEY SHOULD READ

Crush by Eve Ainsworth
Abuse in relationships isn’t always 100% physical. Quite a lot of the time it’s psychological – pushing, pressuring, pandering. Eve Ainsworth bravely addresses this with her excellent writing.

Stacey says: I always need to read more UKYA than I do, and Eve Ainsworth has received a lot of praise for Crush and her previous novel Seven Days, about bullying.

The Bloody Chamber & Other Stories by Angela Carter
After studying this (or rather reading it madly on trains to and from uni, fine-combing it and arguing about it with my peers in seminars, then writing endless essays about it until the small hours on the day of the deadlines), I find myself recommending it to almost everyone I know. Angela Carter is ‘the white witch of literature’. She casts spells with her words. Her take on fairy tales is chilling yet delicious.

Stacey says: I’ve chosen to read this in October for the 2016 Classics Challenge – it sounds perfectly creepy!

You Know Me Well by David Levithan & Nina LaCour
I can never get enough of David Levithan’s gorgeous words. I often just read one sentence and have to take a moment to reflect and recover…his teaming up with Nina LaCour was perfection! You Know Me Well is about two besties, both gay and searching for something most urgently. Their friendship saves them a little bit in their respective disasters.

Stacey says: I really enjoyed Every Day, Two Boys Kissing, and Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares from David Levithan, so I’m sure I’ll like this too.

Counting Stars by Keris Stainton
I love Keris, generally, and her writing is gorgeous. Somehow in this novel she juggles several different stories at once, keeping all points of view equally engaging. Anna has left school and moved straight to inner city Liverpool, to pursue her dreams… the problem is, the dreams are proven to be a little out of reach when she arrives. Luckily she is able to vlog still – although maybe she’s saying too much online…?

Stacey says: I love Keris as a person but for some reason haven’t yet picked up one of her YA books! I rarely get to read books about new flatmates and new jobs, so I think I’ll love this!

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Creepy as can be. I had to read this for English Lit A Level and I both loved and hated it. An older man fancies a young girl and so he takes her, imprisons her, tries to make her love him back. She tries everything to escape, including seducing him.

Stacey says: I first heard about this from a friend when I was 16. She was studying it for her AS Level… but I still haven’t picked it up! It’ll be another for the classics challenge, I’m sure.

Thank you, Gracie, for swapping shelves with me!

Which of these books would you read?

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (Classic #4)

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (Classic #4)

Shelved: Adult fiction (mystery/crime, classic)
Series: Hercule Poirot (#4)
Published: 1926 by William Collins and Sons
Rating: ★★★
Challenge: Classics – #4
Buy: Foyles
More: Goodreads

This is my fourth post for the 2016 Classics Challenge – sign up and join 450+ other people in reading one classic each month.

Roger Ackroyd was a man who knew too much. He knew the woman he loved had poisoned her first husband. He knew someone was blackmailing her – and now he knew she had taken her own life with a drug overdose.

Soon the evening post would let him know who the mystery blackmailer was. But Ackroyd was dead before he’d finished reading it – stabbed through the neck where he sat in his study…

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
I received it in 2012 for Christmas. I’m not sure why I asked for this one in particular, but it’s likely that I scrolled through Goodreads to see which ones were her most popular (it’s currently her fifth most read book).

“It is completely unimportant. That is why it is so interesting.”

WHY I Chose to Read It
It was time for my annual dose of Agatha Christie! I’ve (mostly) read one a year for the classics challenge: Murder on the Orient Express (2014), Death on the Nile (2013) and And Then There Were None (2012).

WHAT Makes It A Classic
Agatha Christie is one of the most well-known and beloved crime writers. If she’s not a classic of the genre, who is? The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is one of her most popular mysteries, known to have a shocking twist, and apparently had a significant impact on the mystery/crime genre. It was voted by the British Crime Writers’ Association as the best crime novel ever.

“The truth, however ugly in itself, is always curious and beautiful to seekers after it.”

WHAT I Thought of This Classic
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is narrated by Dr James Sheppard, who lives in the fictional village of King’s Abbot. He’s a great narrator: full of wit, light mockery and surprising vivaciousness. He’s shocked when he receives a phone call saying that his friend Roger has been found dead. Dr Sheppard knows it must have occurred shortly after Roger received a letter from someone who blackmailed the woman he adored into committing suicide – but does anyone else? He calls on as many people as he can (even his gossipy sister!) to help solve the murder. As with previous Christie novels, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is full of clever detail, interviews with fishy suspects, and a lot of surprises.

It was my third Hercule Poirot and I enjoyed his character a lot more than I have previously. I’ve not found him to be memorable but, this time, the Belgian detective had more of a Sherlock/Watson dynamic with Dr Sheppard – and they worked well together on solving the mystery. Even so, I can’t say I’m a Poirot fan. I’ve not yet come across a Christie that has gripped me as much as And There Were None. I’ll continue to hope I didn’t read the best one first, and try a Miss Marple next…

I’ll have to agree with Robert Barnard: “Apart — and it is an enormous “apart” — from the sensational solution, this is a fairly conventional Christie. … A classic, but there are some better Christies”. I was enjoying the first half until it all got a bit puzzling, with a lot of red herrings thrown in. Even though the ending was a little bit of a surprise (I did wonder at some point, though!), it’s still not my favourite Christie so far. Sorry, Agatha.

WILL It Stay A Classic
I’m sure Agatha Christie will continue to be loved many for years to come! Even if Poirot isn’t my favourite, I’m looking forward to seeing why Miss Marple is a much-adored detective.

“It is odd how, when you have a secret belief of your own which you do not wish to acknowledge, the voicing of it by someone else will rouse you to a fury of denial.”

WHO I’d Recommend It To
People who love crime/mystery stories. People who love twists. People who are new to classics.

“The things young women read nowadays and profess to enjoy positively frighten me.”

Mini Reviews: Mystery & Mayhem, Jellicoe Road & London Belongs to Us

Mini Reviews: Mystery & Mayhem, Jellicoe Road & London Belongs to UsIt’s been an odd few weeks and I’ve been neglecting Pretty Books a little since I moved house. But I’m currently sitting in a local cafe with bookish housemate Charlie and ready to review!

Mystery & Mayhem: Twelve Delicious Intriguing Mysteries edited by Katherine Woodfine

I was excited to see Egmont publish a collection of crime short stories by some of my favourite children’s authors, such as Clementine Beauvais and Katherine Woodfine. In Mystery & Mayhem, we solve baffling crimes occurring in locked rooms, encounter a whole host of canine capers, and more; it’s a fun and varied collection of stories.

I’m sadly not a short story convert (still!) because more often than not, the stories end just as I start getting into them. However, the young detectives are a delight. We get to solve The Mystery of the Purloined Pearls with Lil from The Clockwork Sparrow series, and help Minnie from Marsh Road Mysteries track down which dastardly character destroyed the feathery carnival costume. I might stick to full-length stories, but I’m looking forward to reading more from The Crime Club.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

One of the most beloved Aussie young adult novels, I borrowed Jellicoe Road from Daphne after seeing so many people over the years say how amazing it was. I began reading on a busy tube and quickly decided this wasn’t the way to go. Jellicoe Road is not a story to be dipped into, but one that demands your attention, and one you must devour in one go.

Taylor Markham’s home is a boarding school where disputes between teenagers – the visiting Cadets vs. the local Townies – are rife. It’s at first puzzling and confusing but this passes as we begin to uncover Taylor’s past. She’s struggling with the fact her mother left her all those years ago, and when her friend and mentor Hannah disappears, Taylor is confronted with a lot more. The leader of the Cadets, Jonah Griggs, once again enters her world. Taylor’s story is also interwoven with memories from the past, involving a fierce group of friends: Tate, Narnie, Fitz, Jude, and Webb. Jellicoe Road takes you from bemused to clear in one fell swoop and is certainly a unique one.

London Belongs to Us by Sarra Manning

I’ve (almost) always lived in London and adore books set here, especially when they’re written as well as London Belongs to Us.

London Belongs to Us takes us on a fast-paced London adventure: 17-year-old Sunny receives a photo of her boyfriend kissing another girl, so she leaves Crystal Palace to find out what’s going on and ends up at Alexandra Palace 12 hours later. It’s an unpredictable, colourful journey that takes Sunny through Camden, Shoreditch, Soho and more. I’ve been to almost every place and with Sarra Manning’s help, could vividly picture Sunny on her madcap journey with French cousins, Jean Luc and Vic – and not forgetting the many other diverse characters Sunny encounters on the way.

I rarely read a book that’s so much fun as London Belongs to Us. It was such a joy to read about my home city in all its glory, not forgetting the gritty parts. As an east Londoner, I enjoyed the attitude to the (so far away) south London and the characters they meet on the way, from drag queens and rickshaw drivers to lead singers and the awfully posh. It’s a delight!

Thank you Hot Key Books and Egmont for sending me two of the above books to review!

Blog Tour: Mystery and MayhemMini Reviews: Mystery & Mayhem, Jellicoe Road & London Belongs to UsBehold the Pretty Books! / April Book Haul