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?
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#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!
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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?
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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?
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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

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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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Book Review: Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen by Alison Weir!

There are a few series which I never stop talking about; this is one of them! I loved book one, impatiently waited for book two, loved book two, impatiently waited for book three and took it on holiday where I read it in three days. You know I love a series where there’s a paper trail on my blog that I can link you through!

Ever since she was a child, Jane has longed for a cloistered life as a nun. But her large noble family has other plans, and, as an adult, Jane is invited to the King’s court to serve as lady-in-waiting for Queen Katherine of Aragon. The devout Katherine shows kindness to all her ladies, almost like a second mother, which makes rumours of Henry’s lustful pursuit of Anne Boleyn—who is also lady-in-waiting to the queen—all the more shocking. For Jane, the betrayal triggers memories of a painful incident that shaped her beliefs about marriage.

But once Henry disavows Katherine and secures his new queen—altering the religious landscape of England—he turns his eye to another: Jane herself. Urged to return the King’s affection and earn favour for her family, Jane is drawn into a dangerous political game that pits her conscience against her desires. Can Jane be the one to give the King his long-sought-after son or will she meet a fate similar to the women who came before her?

I have to start by saying… Jane Seymour: The Haunted Queen* was my least favourite book so far. I only rated it… four stars. Shocking, I know! I’ve loved this series so much that this was a surprise to me, even though I still really enjoyed it. I guess not everyone can be a Katherine of Aragon or an Anne Boleyn. Jane may have been Henry’s favourite but she isn’t mine.

It’s just that Jane as a character is just a little bit boring. The book doesn’t reflect this because it’s really interesting but as a character… Everything happens to her, which, yeah, she was a woman in the 1500s but rarely is a decision made that she actually sticks to. Then she’ll blame someone else. And her relationship with the King! She literally says at one point that “no sane woman would want to entangle herself with such a man” but goes on to talk about his vulnerability. She’s that friend you have that keeps going back to her ex even when he’s clearly a terrible person.

Reflecting, I’m not a huge fan of the choice to add the supernatural aspect of ghosts to the story. It was interesting, but it strays a little too far into the fictional side of historical fiction. It’s my pet peeve in science-based crime-dramas on TV when they do this and it’s always such a jump-the-shark moment for me, especially since there’s no historical base for it. If she had written a letter mentioning a ghost, sure, but as you can tell from the title, this Haunted Queen kind of overshadows the actual person.

As always though, Alison Weirs Author’s Note is truly fascinating as she goes into her method of writing historical fiction; her sources and choices. It makes me wish more authors would go into their thought processes and writing methods, it’s fascinating. I really have to pick up one of her non-fiction books these days.

Have you started this series yet? What do you think?

*I was sent a proof copy of this book. I bought the hardcover myself.
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2018 in Reading!

In 2018 I read 54 books, and according to Goodreads, that figured out at 19408 pages. Interestingly, I figured out that while I read less books than I did in 2017, I read longer books so more pages. The longest being It by Stephen King at 1376 pages, which is just obscenely long, but also a lot of 400-500 page books that I wouldn’t have dreamed picking up in the past.

I rated 13 books as 
I rated 14 books as 
I rated 19 books as 
I rated 5 books as 
And 2 books as 

But which were my favourites?

Third place goes to… Autoboyography by Christina Lauren!
I’ll be talking more about this when I finally catch up with my monthly reading posts but I read this in hours, as an audiobook, which is so unlike me. And it’s a YA romance, which isn’t my genre. This just blew me away on so many levels and has me searching for more M/M romance to fill the gap this has left in my heart.

Second place goes to… The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams!
Sometimes a book is refreshing. It reminds you why you like reading in the first place and the real magic of a good story. You can read my full review rave here because I truly need to stop myself before this becomes another post all about how great this book is and how everyone should read it right this second.

My favourite book in 2018 was… The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot!
Of course, my favourite book this year was a classic! It’s wild to me that looking back to when I started this blog, I was truly anti-classic. This was a wonderful book, and the only one in 2018 to make me cry. If classics aren’t your thing, give The Mill on the Floss a try, it’s progressive and charming and heartbreaking and a true English delight.

What were your favourite books of 2018?
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Books I took to Iceland!

I took a trip to Iceland after stressful couple months of revising for some pretty important exams (which I recently found out I passed!). I was sure I was going to get a lot of relaxing and reading done, but my body had other ideas and decided it was time to get poorly. C’est la vie! I took some great books though…



Dominion by Jennifer Ridyard & John Connolly*
I did it! I finally read this gosh darn book and it was as fantastic as I knew it would be. I shut it and was immediately overtaken with a bone-deep need for more that I know will never come. Heartbreaking! But a true YA masterpiece.

Magisterium: The Iron Trial*, The Copper Gauntlet*, The Bronze KeyThe Silver Mask and The Golden Tower by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
I originally planned to take these, then changed my mind. But, as always happens, I ignored my own plans. Two minutes before walking out the door to catch my flight and you could find me shoving these into my, until then, reasonably full backpack. I did get around to starting my re-read of this series though so I don’t feel too bad.

Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner*
I’ve been looking into reading more female-written fantasy after some big disappointments from male writers and Ellen Kushner is one of the heavy-hitters. This was first released in 1986 and then rereleased in 2016 and I really want to get to it soon. But new fantasy worlds are not a friend when you’re not feeling well!

Weight by Jeanette Winterson*
One of the books I need to read for my next term of university is a Jeanette Winterson so in true Imogen-fashion, I didn’t bring that, but brought another one of her books. This is a retelling of theAtlas story and my mum actually nabbed it off me on this trip and loved it.

A Hero Born by Jin Yong*
Everyone and their mother seems to rave about these books. There have been unofficial translations for years and I was super stoked when I heard of the official translations finally being put out. Again, new fantasy worlds are not for reading when you’re poorly but I’m desperate to start this soon.

The Bitter Twins by Jen Williams*
I loved The Ninth Rain so much. So much! But I decided after a couple chapters to leave this to next year when the third and final book in the trilogy is coming out. I don’t have the best memory so I’m thinking a good 1000+ page binge of the end of this series is for the best. I can’t wait.

Have you read any of these?
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Written by the Elves!

Santas Elves spend their year making the presents for all the good girls and boys, but what about the very good girls and boys? Could they, perhaps, request that the elves whose toy production has been outsourced to factories all over the world, write a book personalised to the receiver. So, here are the elements that would feature in my dream book…

Urban Fantasy and Cosy Crime
These are my absolute favourite genres and I’d love to see them mixed together to make a cosy crime investigation in an urban fantasy world. I’m thinking a spree of vampire murders or werewolf bank heists solved by a main character that knits or volunteers at her local library. Heck, maybe she stumbles upon a skull while picking herbs for her witchy tinctures.

Remote Locations
Give me a small town in the middle of nowhere and I’m happy. Cosy crime needs a little bit of distance from big city policing and areas where everyone knows everyone are both claustrophobic and comforting.

Radio Hosts/ Pawn Shop Owners/ Motel Staff
There are some professions that I’m always interested in reading for some reason. I don’t know if it’s the influence of Frasier as a child but radio hosts are a must. Whereas pawn shop owners and small time motel staff probably have the most interesting stories from interacting with a random selection of the public that they rarely see again.

LGBTQ+ Romances
Sometimes I just want a cute lil romance with queer characters without having to read homophobia or transphobia. There’s enough of that in real life. Give me a chill relationship development that isn’t the focus of the story, but is treated like all the Hallmark-style straight romances.

What would your ideal book be?
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