Saturday, 19 October 2019

Required Reading Haul Again!

It's been almost two years since my first Required Reading haul and here I am again! I found a great deal from a fellow student wanting to declutter and thought, since I'm always interested in what books other universities study, that this might be interesting to do again.



The module I've decided on is Literature in Transition: from 1800 to the Present and I started last week which is why it's been a bit quiet on the blog!



The 'Realities' texts are: Bleak House by Charles Dickens, which I already had. London Labour and the London Poor by Henry Mayhew which my mother is really excited for me to read. I know nothing about Henry Thoreau's Walden so that'll be fun. And Mill on the Floss by George Eliot which I've actually already read and absolutely adored. I love looking at the contexts within a book is written so I'm really looking forward to learning more about one of my favourite books!



'Movements' includes: the play Playboy of the Western World by J.M. SyngeShort Stories by Katherine MansfieldThe Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford which I have since found two copies I already owned on my shelves, the poems Four Quartets by T. S. EliotBetween the Acts by Virginia Woolf and Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys.



And finally 'Futures', which collects books published in the last 80 or so years. This includes: Under Milk Wood by Dylan ThomasThe Complete Cosmicomics by Italo CalivinoOranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson which I read on audiobook and unfortunately didn't get along with, Season of Migration to the North by Tayib SalehStuff Happens by David Hare and Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri.

Have you read any of these? Anything I should be looking forward to?

Sunday, 22 September 2019

#Hallowreadathon 6!

It's my favourite time of year again. The leaves are turning orange, there are little black kittens scampering around as I type and pumpkin spice is being added to every food you can imagine. This is the sixth year I'm doing my little readathon and I'd be thrilled if you spent some time reading with me this holiday! The Hallowreadathon will run for 48 hours, from the 30th to the 31st of October and there are a few challenges too if you feel like creeping up your TBR.



1. Read a book with witches!
There are a lot of really great books about witches coming out lately and I'm hyped about this publishing trend. Whether it's fiction or a how-to guide, there's a lot to choose from and a perfect way to honour Samhain!

2. Read a book with black on the cover!
In honour of bats, cats and rats, pick up a book with black somewhere on its cover.

3. Read two books!
It can happen! We can do it!

I'll be tweeting the whole two days with the #Hallowreadathon hashtag (you can follow me here) and I'll be giving away a book and some halloween candy to a random person who uses the hashtag over the weekend.

See you October 31st!

Monday, 19 August 2019

Books I Read in December!

December was a really good reading month for me considering that I'm usually so busy with Christmas stuff that I never get any reading done. However, it was also the beginning of a huge reading/ blogging slump that lead to me not reading anything in January and only getting around to talking about these books in August! I'm catching up, I swear! Anyway, the books...





Kitty in the Underworld by Carrie Vaughn
I took a massive break in the middle of reading this and the book as a whole struggled to hold my attention, unfortunately. I love the world and the characters but this instalment just wasn’t for me.
Although, as always, I was a big fan of the literature references Kitty makes in this series; in this book, H.G. Wells; The Island of Dr Moreau. In an urban fantasy book, these are the things that remind me that this is 'our world', just with werewolves and vampires and such.


Face Off by Brenda Novak
I know that Brenda Novak mostly writes romances, but she knows how to write a thriller. I’ve enjoyed this series from the word Go (review of the first book here and the second book here) and this was, what I thought, a thrilling conclusion. Only to find out there’s another book coming. It was like all those times you finish a series and wish for another book, only to immediately find out that it's happening. If you like true crime but want a bit more of a story, or you just like crime books in general but the usual suspects are getting a bit too similar, the Evelyn Talbot series should be your next read.
Waterstones | Amazon | The Book People | Book DepositoryThe Works


Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean*
I said it when I finished this and I say it again now, Empress of All Seasons is YA fantasy at its best. It's diverse, original and wasn’t dragged out into the trilogy format that packs young adult shelves.
I loved the Asian inspired mythology, I haven't read much of it before and I want to search out more. There was ladies being badass and boys being gentle which I love. The pacing wasn’t the best but I think this one is worth pushing through, I might re-read it via audiobook and see how that is.
"-our bodies are not ornaments; they are instruments."
Waterstones | Amazon | The Book People | Book Depository


Six Tudor Queens: Anna of Kleve, Queen of Secrets by Alison Weir*
I have never, and probably will never shut up about this series. After being a little disappointed with the third book, this one brought me back around and I'll be writing a full review.
Waterstones | Amazon | The Book People | Book Depository


Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce*
I rarely read books as quickly as I read Blood Orange. I flew through this and actually no longer have my copy as I leant it to a friend who was getting bored of the usual thrillers. This isn't a normal thriller, it's flawed characters doing flawed things with a dash of blackmail and murder. I imagine that people who get stressed when characters do the wrong thing would absolutely hate this one but when I let that go and just let the story happen, I was gripped.
Waterstones | Amazon | The Book People | Book DepositoryThe Works


Have you read any of these?

Monday, 12 August 2019

Book Review: Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff!

I bought Maresi after booking to go to a panel that Maria Turtschaninoff was on about Feminist Fantasy at the Edinburgh International Book Festival (more on this in a later post). Since that talk was yesterday, it seemed like a good a time as any to post my review of this incredible story.



Maresi came to the Red Abbey when she was thirteen, in the Hunger Winter. Before then, she had only heard rumours of its existence in secret folk tales. In a world where girls aren't allowed to learn or do as they please, an island inhabited solely by women sounded like a fantasy. But now Maresi is here, and she knows it is real. She is safe.

Then one day Jai tangled fair hair, clothes stiff with dirt, scars on her back arrives on a ship. She has fled to the island to escape terrible danger and unimaginable cruelty. And the men who hurt her will stop at nothing to find her.

Now the women and girls of the Red Abbey must use all their powers and ancient knowledge to combat the forces that wish to destroy them. And Maresi, haunted by her own nightmares, must confront her very deepest, darkest fears.


The main thing that I took away after finishing this was how rarely I see first-person past-tense written in the style of a diary/ memoir. We're introduced to Maresi by Maresi herself on the first page, she tells the reader who she is, that she isn't a storyteller but that she has been told that her first person account is important and she wants to record it while her memories are still fresh. She'll occasionally break the fourth wall by talking about the fact that she's in the 'now' and writing about the past but it isn't overused and actually helped me get into the story more.

Even now as I write, my hand trembles in memory of the terror, and I hope my words are still legible.

I loved the female-based mythology that was at the centre of the book. There's the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone and it's all really well thought out. I didn't know quite how to word this until Maria herself talked about it but it was really refreshing that these three aspects were all valued and honoured rather than just the youth. Even though it's a young adult novel with a teenage main character, a lot of the other characters in the Abbey are older and not stereotypical old women.

I also loved the value given to reading and knowledge. Y'all know I love a book where characters read! The girls at the Abbey can go out and take the knowledge they learned there to other communities, a little like missionaries, so they're taught a whole host of things like medicine, farming, animal care and architecture. There's a really great balance of traditionally masculine and feminine work being done on the exclusively female island.

I originally gave this four stars because it did take me a little bit to get into. The pacing for the first half was very slow, maybe because it's a translation, maybe because the background information needed to be laid out much like a non-fiction book by our narrator before the action. However, while writing this review, I feel like I appreciate this book so much more now I can see the wood through the trees. It's worth pushing through if slow-pacing is something that makes you put a book down, because Maresi is the young adult book that you want young adults reading, but that they'll actually enjoy as well!

Coming to the Abbey and learning to read was like opening up a big window and being flooded with light and warmth.

You can buy Maresi from The Book DepositoryWaterstonesAmazon or The Book People!

Have you read Maresi? What's your favourite feminist fantasy book?

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Book Review: Sanctuary by V.V. James!

I finished Sanctuary* at a little past midnight and my first thought was that I'm very glad I order my shelves alphabetically because I have no idea where genre-organisers are going to put this one. It's not the urban fantasy I thought it would be, it's beyond thriller and the witches will keep it off the topical contemporary shelf. Sanctuary is hard to define beyond the word Brilliant. This is a long one today!



Sanctuary. It's the perfect town... to hide a secret.

To Detective Maggie Knight, the death of Sanctuary's star quarterback seems to be a tragic accident. Only, everyone knows his ex-girlfriend is the daughter of a witch - and she was there when he died.

Then the rumours start.

Bereaved mother Abigail will stop at nothing until she has justice for her dead son. Her best friend Sarah will do everything in her power to protect her accused daughter. And both women share a secret that could shatter their lives.

It falls to Maggie to prevent her investigation - and Sanctuary itself - from spiralling out of control.


My initial interest for this book was based in the research that V.V. James did into witchcraft because it's a topic I'm personally interested in and find fascinating. The note at the end says that while the magical system draws on various sources, it shouldn't be equated to modern day practices, and I'd love a long article from V.V. James going into this. Her talk at the Gollancz preview night was incredibly detailed, and this research shows in the book.

I know I'm not alone in my avoidance of topical books. I like a lot of books that deal with tough subjects but I feel like when they get too close to the realities of everyday, I find them very stressful to read. There were definitely moments like that in Sanctuary; the President tweets using a lot of words in all caps while disparaging Democrats, there's religious cultural appropriation, there's a case of rape with a lot of comments ranging from believing victims to slut shaming, even from police which- yeah. The use of police transcripts, emails, tweets and news articles interspersed between the multiple POVs make it feel very real. But there's no direct allegory for the witches in Sanctuary and I think that's kind of the point, there's a bit of everything from religious persecution, sexism, unethical policing and racism. So by adding magic and witchcraft, for me, it actually stopped it being as anxiety-inducing while still addressing important contemporary problems.

The theme of consent is also explored in a really interesting way. You've got the rape storyline which we see all the time in real life; popular sports star doesn't understand the word no. But you've also got the idea that the 'foundational principle of magic is consent' so magic without consent goes wrong and causes adverse reactions. I liked the way this was dealt with, and the parallels are really interesting.

A lot happens in this book, and every time you think that that things about to get better for the characters, they probably won't. It's a busy novel. By having so many POVs (three main and others popping in), it did feel like some characters fell a little flat and didn't get much page time. I would've loved more from some of the other coven members and their children as it developed but there was so much going on that the book didn't feel lacking without it.

And the writing, oh, the writing. The power of grief was tangible and even if the actions of the grieving were reprehensible, V.V. James made it believable. It seemed easy for the grief to lead to intolerance, even if it isn't something we imagine in ourselves, it is something we see a lot in reality that I've never really thought about before reading this.

With Sanctuary, V.V. James has created a fantasy version of contemporary America that's incredibly real and brutal. I know I won't be alone in hoping that Sanctuary doesn't stay a stand-alone and becomes a companion-style series dealing with similar issues in a world of fictional witchcraft.

"The giveaway of what happened here is the blown out windows. Each one is blackened with soot round the edges, like evil itself crawled out of every hole it could find."


Sanctuary is out tomorrow! Will you be picking it up?

Saturday, 27 July 2019

My Spring Book Haul!

I've been buying a lot of books this year, you can see the books I got over Winter here, and I'm not reading as much as usual. I'm just bringing more and more in! I need to do some more unhauling or I'll end up living in a house made only out of books and I live in England, it rains a lot! Books are not good sheltering material. They are fun though, so here's what I've been buying.

A pile of books in front of two succulents


I picked up Planetfall by Emma Newman* at the Gollancz blogger event and read it in May. I liked it so much, I had to get After Atlas by Emma Newman. There are four books that are all stand-alone books set in the same universe and the synopsis of this actually appeals more than Planetfall; detectives and cults and sci-fi, oh my!
Waterstones | Amazon | The Book People | The Book Depository

Of course, I had to get The Poison Song by Jen Williams as soon as it came out. I loved the first book in this series (my review/rave is here) and decided soon after that I'd put off reading the second book until the third came out so I could binge it. Now I have this in my grasp, I can finally start.
WaterstonesAmazon | The Book People | The Book Depository

Over the next couple months, I'm trying to make a conscious effort to read more non-fiction (I have a whole post about that here) so when I saw Queen Bees by Siân Evans for £2.99 (now £2.49) on The Book People, it joined my cart immediately. I'm really looking forward to learning more about these society hostesses and their impact on the world.
WaterstonesAmazon | The Book People | The Book Depository

Jane Seymour, The Haunted Queen and Anna of Kleve, Queen of Secrets by Alison Weir were books that I got proof copies of and, of course, needed the hardcovers to complete my set. I really love this series and they look so so good on my shelf. I'm thinking of doing a re-read of the whole series when the final book comes out, but there are still two queens to go!
Jane: WaterstonesAmazon | The Book People | The Book Depository
Anna: WaterstonesAmazon | The Book People | The Book Depository

A pile of books in front of two succulents


Once & Future by Amy Rose Capette & Cori McCarthyYou Asked For Perfect by Laura Silverman and A Good Girls' Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson were all pre-orders I made back in February so they've slowly been trickling in, and I've been reading them! I missed having fresh and exciting YA on my shelves. Expect to see them in upcoming wrap-ups!
Once & Future: WaterstonesAmazon | The Book People | The Book Depository
You Asked For Perfect: WaterstonesAmazon | The Book Depository
A Good Girls' Guide to Murder: WaterstonesAmazon | The Book People | The Book Depository

Have you read any of these? What do you think of my buys?

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?

Monday, 1 July 2019

My Camp NaNoWriMo Goals!

My name is Imogen, and I've never written a novel. But today is the 1st of July and that means it's the first day of Camp NaNoWriMo. Scrivner is downloading as I type and I thought it would be interesting to track this a little, after all, one day I would like for some of you to read it! So here are my workable goals for Camp NaNoWriMo 2019, helped by the 5 things I learned from an unsuccessful NaNoWriMo.



Read one of my research books
I have a couple of books I've bought for research when it comes to my planned projects, but I struggle with non-fiction sometimes. I actually think reading more academically and making notes will help me get through them- my old teachers might be shocked to hear that!

Write a good chunk of notes
I'm not a great planner when it comes to writing but if I've learnt anything from my past couple years at the Open University, it's that I do better when I have at least a little bit of an idea of where I'm going. So I took one of my immaculate notebooks off the shelf and wrote in it! I even made a spelling mistake which is truly the sign that a notebook is used. I want to get an outline, a couple of mind maps and use a couple of Rhianne's incredible resources from her website to really get a grip on my project.

Write the ending 
Here's the thing, I know my characters quite well already and I know where I want them to end up. I know ho I want this story to end, I just don't know how I'm going to get them there. My hope is that once I've got it out of my head and actually in words, my brain will be free to figure out a little bit more.

6,200 words
Slow and steady wins the race, as they always say. There are 31 days in July and I'd like to write around 200 words a day. That feels manageable since I know that there'll be busy days when I won't be able to write anything, and hopefully some productive days when I write quite a lot. Heck, this blog post is more than 200 words. Wish me luck!

Are you participating in Camp NaNo? Have you written a novel before?

Friday, 28 June 2019

Fostering: Aurora!

Aurora came to me with almost no information and sometimes it happens that way; no big story of neglect or being found on the side of a busy road, just a cat that's been found as a stray or the owners have surrendered them for personal reasons. One day you have an empty room and the next, there's a big ball of fluffy ginger fur in your favourite chair.



I didn't bond that much with Aurora for a couple of reasons, and I get asked a lot about how I manage to say goodbye to my fosters so I thought I would mention some of the reasons that I don't bond with every cat and it can sometimes be really easy to send them off to a forever home.

The main reason is probably that I only had her for ten days. Sometimes I have cats for a long time, my longest being four months for a pregnant cat who had kittens, and sometimes they're snapped up the moment they're advertised. I don't know if it factored into her adoption specifically but the rarer a cat, the faster they seem to get adopted. Ginger females are outnumbered by ginger males about 1/4 because the ginger gene is on the X chromosome and females need two to be ginger. She's also long-haired, which a lot of people prefer despite the extra grooming. And she was cute as heck!

I joked on Twitter that I had never bonded with a long-haired female cat and that it was clearly the impact of 12 years of all-girls school but in reality, just like with humans, sometimes personalities don't click. This is why I always recommend meeting a cat before you adopt them if you can. Sometimes people end up leaving with a different cat then the one they originally came for!

The last thing is that the reason I started fostering was that I had a ginger cat, creatively named by 7-year old Imogen as Ginger, who passed away and I wanted to help. Seeing a ginger cat that wasn't my Ginger was jarring at times. Luckily, my area is overrun with black-and-white cats so I haven't had a ginger cat since!

Do you prefer long-hair or short-hair animals?

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Books I Read in November!

I'm going to catch up on these monthly wrap-up posts, I swear. Starting with November when half the books I read were co-written, which is an odd little coincidence! I really liked most of the books I got around to in November and even now, months later, really want to re-read at least two of them because of how much they impacted me. So!

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
I listened to the audiobook of this and it was so dang good even though I knew whodunnit (the BBC show was great too). I was genuinely spooked as it ramped up towards the end and the atmosphere was just so well-developed. The narrator, Hugh Fraser, does a lot of Agatha Christie audiobooks so I'm really looking forward to listening to some more when Autumn rolls around, which is really the perfect Christie season.


Magisterium: The Bronze Key by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
I agree with my initial review on my re-read of this! Although I did rate it slightly lower; four stars rather than five, as I find that ramped up cliffhangers tend to make me rate books slightly higher the first time around. Plus, with the reading one right after the other, I found a continuity error and that is the kind of stuff that bothers my nitpicky soul when it comes to entertainment.


Magisterium: The Silver Mask by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
I posted my full review of this just a few weeks ago here!
Sometimes he forgot how small she was because her bravery loomed so large in his mind.


Magisterium: The Golden Tower by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Unsurprisingly, I loved the final book in this series and it even had me laugh out loud at some points. Everything was tied up and rounded out well, it's what you hope for in a final book really.
My main problem with the series and this book, in particular, is just how rushed it all feels. On one hand; they're both pretty busy authors, Holly Black has her new series and Cassandra Clare seems to have a couple series on the go. And the Magisterium series didn't get much attention after the first book had its week on YouTube. On the other hand, I just wish they had taken their time with it a bit more. I gave books two to five, four stars and I genuinely think they could've all been as good as the first book with just a little more fleshing out.
I do hope Holly Black and Cassandra Clare work together again in the future. I'd love a companion series set in this world that delved into the European mages and their hatred of Chaos magic.


Persuasion by Jane Austen
Literally everyone I spoke to when I was starting to read Austen's works said that this was their favourite, even my mother who has pretty great taste. But it was my least favourite of the five I've read so far. I just didn’t connect with these characters at all and it really lacked some of the playfulness that her other works have. Maybe I'll re-read it in a few years and my opinions will change but I'd much rather dive into Sense & Sensibility again.


Autoboyography by Christina Lauren
Fun fact about me: Ebooks trigger my migraines so I mainly borrow them from the library as a way of deciding if I want to buy a physical copy. I also don't read very fast. I dip into books in short bursts rather than long stretches. I read this book in ebook form, in one night. And ended up buying a physical copy too.
I'll be doing a full review of this one because it blew my mind.


Christmas with the East End Angels by Rosie Hendry*
You can read my full review here!


Heartstopper: Volume 1 by Alice Oseman
I really like the Heartstopper comic, I read it online and decided to back it on Kickstarter and now it's traditionally published! It's adorable but, maybe because I read a lot of comics, I just don't think the art translates well in print.


An Easy Death by Charlaine Harris
I love Charlaine Harris but alternate history Wild West stories might not be the genre for me. The main vibe of the book that has stayed with me is an uncomfortable relationship with sex throughout. You've got an older male character 'waiting' until a female character is old enough to sleep with, and while there is an openness about sex work, the term 'whore' is thrown about. I guess because of the time? I'll still probably read the next book. I can't just not read a Charlaine Harris.
"-I stood looking up, seeing the vastness above me, nothing between me and the hereafter. I had my place, standing here on this dirt."


Have you read any of these? What did you think?

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