Monday, 15 July 2019

Books I took to Copenhagen!

Copenhagen wasn't really my kind of city. There wasn't a lot of places to eat if you don't eat meat and fish, and I didn't end up finding much to do while I was there. On the other hand, the city was really beautiful and I actually managed to take a reasonable amount of books for once! So what did I pack...



Fighting Proud by Stephen Bourne
In this astonishing new history of wartime Britain, historian Stephen Bourne unearths the fascinating stories of the gay men who served in the armed forces and at home, and brings to light the great unheralded contribution they made to the war effort. Fighting Proud weaves together the remarkable lives of these men, from RAF hero Ian Gleed - a Flying Ace twice honoured for bravery by King George VI - to the infantry officers serving in the trenches on the Western Front in WWI - many of whom led the charges into machine-gun fire only to find themselves court-martialled after the war for indecent behaviour. 

I've talked about Fighting Proud a couple of times on my blog; when I bought it, its part in researching my Camp NaNo project and how I need to actually finish it after starting it on the plane. This is a really interesting read but I have to be in the right headspace for it because injustice can be exhausting. Probably not the best holiday read thinking about it!

Planetfall by Emma Newman*
Renata Ghali believed in Lee Suh-Mi's vision of a world far beyond Earth, calling to humanity. A planet promising to reveal the truth about our place in the cosmos, untainted by overpopulation, pollution, and war. Ren believed in that vision enough to give up everything to follow Suh-Mi into the unknown.
More than twenty-two years have passed since Ren and the rest of the faithful braved the starry abyss and established a colony at the base of an enigmatic alien structure where Suh-Mi has since resided, alone. All that time, Ren has worked hard as the colony's 3-D printer engineer, creating the tools necessary for human survival in an alien environment, and harboring a devastating secret.
Ren continues to perpetuate the lie forming the foundation of the colony for the good of her fellow colonists, despite the personal cost. Then a stranger appears, far too young to have been part of the first planetfall, a man who bears a remarkable resemblance to Suh-Mi.
The truth Ren has concealed since planetfall can no longer be hidden. And its revelation might tear the colony apart...

I was lucky enough to get my hands on Planetfall at the Gollancz event for book bloggers and boy, I was sold on these books almost immediately when Stevie talked a little about them. I started Planetfall while I was away and really enjoyed the diversity, the f/f relationships, and the world! I've since finished it and bought the next book in the series.

Déjà Dead by Kathy Reichs
Bagged and discarded, the dismembered body of a woman is discovered in the grounds of an abandoned monastery.
Dr Temperance Brennan, Director of Forensic Anthropology for the province of Quebec, has been researching recent disappearances in the city.
Soon she is convinced that a serial killer is at work. But when no one else seems to care, her anger forces her to take matters into her own hands. Her determined probing has placed those closest to her in mortal danger, however.
Can Tempe make her crucial breakthrough before the killer strikes again?

I bought this in Winter and haven't picked it up yet. I just haven't been in the mood for crime lately, it's been a lot of YA being pulled off my shelves which is quite unusual for me. Although I so always take a crime book with me when I travel out of habit. They're my version of a 'beach read'!

Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy
A new King Arthur has risen and she's got a universe to save.Coming to terms with your identity is always difficult. But for Ari, the 42nd reincarnation of King Arthur, it just got a whole lot more complicated. Gender-bending royalty, caustic wit and a galaxy-wide fight for peace and equality all collide in this epic adventure.
With an awkward adolescent Merlin and a rusty spaceship, this is the Arthurian legend as you have never before seen it.

Once & Future got a lot of hype when it first came out and now the dust has settled, I'm looking forward to seeing what I think of it. There have been some conflicting reviews! I was never big on the King Arthur legend but I love sci-fi and queer representation so hopefully I side with the hype-wagon.

You Asked for Perfect by Laura Silverman
Senior Ariel Stone has spent his life cultivating the perfect college résumé first chair violinist, dedicated volunteer, active synagogue congregant, and expected valedictorian. He barely has time to think about a social life, let alone a relationship... until a failed calculus quiz puts his future on the line, forcing Ariel to enlist his classmate, Amir, as a tutor.
As the two spend more time together, Ariel discovers he may not like calculus, but he does like Amir. When he's with Amir, the crushing academic pressure fades away, and a fuller and brighter world comes into focus. But college deadlines are still looming. And adding a new relationship to his long list of commitments may just push Ariel past his limit.

This was the only book I started and finished while I was away and I really liked it. I'll go into it more in my review but this is less of a m/m romance and more about the academic pressures teens put themselves under. It was relatable and heart-warming while also being quite an easy read.

Her Kind by Niamh Boyce*
A woman seeks refuge for herself and her daughter in the household of a childhood friend.
The friend, Alice Kytler, gives her former companion a new name, Petronelle, a job as a servant, and warns her to hide their old connection.
Before long Petronelle comes to understand that in the city pride, greed and envy are as dangerous as the wolves that prowl the savage countryside. And she realises that Alice's household is no place of safety.
Once again, Petronelle decides to flee. But this time she confronts forces greater than she could ever have imagined and she finds herself fighting for more than her freedom...
Tense, moving and atmospheric, Her Kind is a vivid re-imagining of the events leading up to the Kilkenny Witch Trial.

There are so many amazing books about witches coming out this year and Her Kind is one of them, although, not about witches as much as history's "witches". Either way, I didn't get around to this but I'm still so excited to read it. I can't think of the last book I read set in Ireland!

Have you been to Copenhagen? Have you read any of these?

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Book Unhaul #6

It's unhaul time again! I own too many books and I think if I piled them all up, they could definitely fall and kill me. So that's a weird thing to think that I now find very stressful. So let's unhaul twenty books in one quick go. These'll be making their way to my nearest charity shop where they'll hopefully find a new person to read them.

Girls in TearsHow to Survive Summer CampLola RoseThe Diamond GirlsLove Lessons, Dustbin Baby, and Midnight by Jacqueline Wilson
I found a bunch of these while going through my family's storage unit and decided these seven can go. Jacqueline Wilson dominated kids books 'for girls' ten years ago so I read a lot of them. They deal with kids in difficult situations which I really wasn't at that age, this might've helped me be a little bit more empathetic and they are pretty diverse. But boy, flicking through them as an adult can be an uncomfortable experience. Love Lessons has straight up victim-blaming and acceptance of a teacher-student relationship that has kids online talking about how they want the teacher to leave his wife for the 14-year-old... Yikes. Becky from Becky Bedbug also has some interesting thoughts on these books as well.

I kept a few of them that I have stronger nostalgic attachments to but I'm never going to re-read these so they can go. And the others might end up joining them.

Dead Until Dark, Living Dead in Dallas, Club Dead x 2, Dead to the World x 2, Dead as a Doornail, Definitely Dead, All Together Dead, From Dead to Worse, Dead and Gone x 2 and Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris
We all know I love Charlaine Harris and Sookie Stackhouse, so much that I actually own several copies of the first ten books in the series. I briefly thought I was going to collect the cute Orbit covers as well. But I much prefer the newer covers I own, and I'm not a multiple copies kind of person really. Thirteen books take up so much shelf space! 

Havve you read any of these? Do you have mulitple copies of certain books?

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Author Post: Eva Seyler on her Research Process!

Imogen checking in here to say I'm so excited to introduce you all to Eva Seyler and how she researches her historical fiction books. I'm currently working on a historical fiction project so this post has been truly invaluble to me, and hopefully will be for you too! Anyway, enough of me...

I’ve been asked to write a guest post about my research process! I’ve written three books since late 2017 (two not being out yet), and all three of them have had their own individual research approach, so this will be fun.
I begin all my historical projects the same way: by reading all the relevant nonfiction I can get my hands on. I see what my library has, and once I’ve exhausted their supply, I’ll start trolling AbeBooks for used copies of books that look useful. One book invariably leads to another. 
I’ve had to rein myself in a lot. I went absolutely nuts buying WWI books during the writing of The War in Our Hearts, and I justify it to myself by saying that I’ll be writing more about it in the future (I do have at least two other WWI-era stories in mind). So I’ve stopped buying books unless I literally cannot get them any other way, but even so, I do not necessarily read them all cover to cover. That would just be impossible! I’m a bit of an obsessive hurricane when I write, so unless the entire research book is relevant (and it’s often not), I come to a point during my projects where I’ll just go to the index and browse all the pages mentioning a certain topic and take notes that way. 
Here are some example photos from the notebook in which I compiled all my trench warfare notes. For what it’s worth, doodling on my notes for TWIOH got me into the zone a bit, because Aveline (one of my main characters, a 13 year old orphan girl) draws on everything. It seemed to be what she’d have done. Also, have an exclusive peek at a SuperTechnicallyAccurate(™) map that I drew of the setting of my book!



For my post-WWII-escaped-Nazis-in-Argentina WIP, I’ve had a number of topics I needed to research fairly intensively, and I decided to try the Colour-Coded Index Card Approach. Here’s my master list of topics and what colour I designated for each one:
And some examples of how I took notes on the cards:
At the bottom of each card I put the title of the source material and the author’s name (or initials), because otherwise there is no way I’ll remember where I got specific facts by the time the book comes out! And I like to have lists of related/recommended reading I can put on my website for people who want to learn more.  
Finally, for my middle-grade novel set in 1925 Turner, Oregon, I was able to do most of my research on-site. In fact, I had really no other option! Turner is a tiny town, and there’s very little written material available to turn to for such niche research. So I went to the library in Salem (our state capital, about eight miles from Turner and about an hour north of where I live) and I spent several Thursdays combing through microfilm of 1925 newspapers. I went to the Willamette Heritage Centre, and they helped me dig up a telephone directory for Turner. 
I contacted the principal of the elementary school (which was opened in 1922), who gave me a tour, allowed me to dig through nearly-century-old records, and hooked me up with the Turner mayor. The mayor, in turn, connected me with a gentleman in his 90s who has spent his entire life in Turner. Thanks to the school records and the telephone directory, I had a fairly comprehensive list of every resident of Turner in 1925, and this man was able to go down that list and tell me about a lot of them in an epic 3-hour visit. There was no way I could take notes and listen too, so I used my recorder: 
Listening to and transcribing three hours of chat afterwards was a bit exhausting. But it was worth it. 
Of all these methods, I think the most practically useful has been the colour-coded index cards. It’s been a quick way to access a specific bit of research when I’m editing or writing a specific part of my WIP. 
The on-site research is the most fun, but not so practical, because it’s one thing to drive one hour north for an afternoon, and completely another thing to hop on a plane and fly to Argentina for six months. Fortunately, there are sites like TripAdvisor.com that have SO many photos you can flip through of almost any place on earth and, if you’re lucky, information about the weather at a given time of year or such like, to help add authenticity to your setting, if it’s not somewhere you can easily go. 
I should also mention that I have one of those accordion-style expanding folders that I store all my notes and general materials in (early drafts, either handwritten or printed out and marked up; timelines; any of the abovementioned notecards or other notes). 
So, that’s how I conduct and organise my research when I’m writing. 
Thanks for having me, Imogen! <3 <3
--Eva Seyler

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

The Non-Fiction Books I Need to Finish!

Non-fiction is a bit of an odd genre for me because I love documentaries and regularly start books about subjects I'm interested in, but I almost never finish non-fiction books. So I went hunting through my book piles and picked out the three I found the most interesting, and I'm going to try and finish them this Summer!



The True History of Chocolate by Sophie and Michael Coe*
Chocolate – ‘the food of the Gods’ – has had a long and eventful history. Its story is expertly told here by the doyen of Maya studies, Michael Coe, and his late wife, Sophie. The book begins 3,000 years ago in the Mexican jungles and goes on to draw on aspects of archaeology, botany and socio-economics. Used as currency and traded by the Aztecs, chocolate arrived in Europe via the conquistadors, and was soon a favourite drink with aristocrats. By the 19th century and industrialization, chocolate became a food for the masses – until its revival in our own time as a luxury item. Chocolate has also been giving up some of its secrets to modern neuroscientists, who have been investigating how flavour perception is mediated by the human brain. And, finally, the book closes with two contemporary accounts of how chocolate manufacturers have (or have not) been dealing with the ethical side of the industry.

Chocolate is a good chunk of the food I eat so when I started reading this during Lent after I gave up chocolate, this book felt a little like torture. I've spent hours wandering the chocolate museum in Köln and find the whole process fascinating so I'm looking forward to taking a really deep dive into it's history, as well as the current market and ethics. What I've read so far is wonderfully written and ideal for reading with a cookie or five.

Please Take Me Home: The Story of the Rescue Cat by Clare Campbell
In Please Take Me Home, Clare Campbell takes us on a journey with the nation's rescue cats, from being treated as pests throughout history to being the pet of choice today.
For a long time, stray cats in Britain were seen as a nuisance and hunted down as vermin. Having invited this wild, independent creature into our homes, humans did not extend their welcome for long. Over time, thousands of cats were subsequently abandoned and left to live on the margins of survival.
There were, however, the kind few who sought to help. But these good spirited people were often scorned, even derided as 'mad'. A Princess of Wales was even told to stop helping lost cats in order to avoid a royal scandal; the story was kept a secret of state for years. It would take over a century for strays to become the beloved rescue cats of today, with some now gaining celebrity status, such as Downing Street's Larry or Street Cat Bob.
Please Take Me Home is a fascinating and insightful history through the ages of the struggle for cats to exist in domesticity alongside mankind.


I began fostering cats in 2017 and since then, it's become about 70% of my personality. I've literally had to stop writing this post three times because of kittens climbing onto my desk and standing on my keyboard (look at this silly boy). So I'm really interested in the history of the rescue cat and the people that began the charity work I do now! I have a feeling this is going to fill me with righteous indignation about the ten-and-a-half million cats estimated to be on the UKs streets, and how it's all humans fault.

Fighting Proud by Stephen Bourne
In this astonishing new history of wartime Britain, historian Stephen Bourne unearths the fascinating stories of the gay men who served in the armed forces and at home, and brings to light the great unheralded contribution they made to the war effort. Fighting Proud weaves together the remarkable lives of these men, from RAF hero Ian Gleed - a Flying Ace twice honoured for bravery by King George VI - to the infantry officers serving in the trenches on the Western Front in WWI - many of whom led the charges into machine-gun fire only to find themselves court-martialled after the war for indecent behaviour. Behind the lines, Alan Turing's work on breaking the 'enigma machine' and subsequent persecution contrasts with the many stories of love and courage in Blitzed-out London, with new wartime diaries and letters unearthed for the first time. Bourne tells the bitterly sad story of Ivor Novello, who wrote the WWI anthem `Keep the Home Fires Burning', and the crucial work of Noel Coward - who was hated by Hitler for his work entertaining the troops. Fighting Proud also includes a wealth of long-suppressed wartime photography subsequently ignored by mainstream historians. This book is a monument to the bravery, sacrifice and honour shown by a persecuted minority, who contributed during Britain's hour of need.

I actually got this for a story I was planning on writing for my creative writing module and needed to do some research about the gay men who served in WWII. Now it's stemmed into the whole idea behind my Camp NaNoWriMo project so, unsurprisingly, it's really good. My only issue is that I can get really sad reading some of the stories that don't have the happiest endings so I have to take it in small chunks. It's a really powerful and important book.

Have you read any of these? What are your favourite non-fiction books?

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