Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Books I Read in January!

About half a month ago, we said goodbye to the first month of the year! And with it, the first month of my first numbered reading challenge. I actually ended on schedule which I'm really happy with because that quickly went caput with how busy February has been. Plus, I read a good mix of books. I even took up the challenge of one of my reading goals and stopped delaying when it came to reading Catch-22! So what did I read?



We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I actually got this for Christmas and forgot to pop it in my Under My Christmas Tree post because I had already moved it to my read-pile. It was actually my first book of the year, as early-morning-1st-of-January-Imogen started to panic about reading 80 books. It was short, to the point, and I read it aloud in a Skype call to a group of friends who were playing video games and not really paying attention. Except this managed to grab their attention because it was making some very powerful points.
The one thing that stopped this being a five-star read for me came with the line; "Women can have babies, men cannot." That's a really quick way to exclude trans-women and infertile women from your feminism. Obviously nobody can go into a huge amount of detail in a 48-page essay but that definition of women is just a little too exclusionary for me. I haven't got around to her full 30 minute talk but I'm hoping for more detail.
-A man who would be intimidated by me is exactly the kind of man I would have no interest in.


A Young Doctor's Notebook by Mikhail Bulgakov
I've wanted to read this since I watched the TV show with Daniel Radcliffe and Jon Hamm. I don't read many translations or books from the 19-20th centuries. I also don't think I've read any Russian literature. And I definitely haven't read anything about the way people were treated medically in Russia in this era- although I have been listening to a really great podcast called Sawbones about medical history which gave me a vague idea- so this was completely new. I was a little nervous going in but I needn't have been.
This reads unbelievably modern for something from 1925. I was expecting to have to ask Siri about a lot of words, especially medical jargon, but either the translation worked this out or Mikhail Bulgakov knew his future audience. Either way, amazing. I loved it. I was completely taken out of myself and thrown into the Russian countryside, the cold weather, the small hospital with all the patients and this poor, inexperienced doctor.
I'd say, and this is a rare occasion, try the show first. I think you'll appreciate the source material more, and probably the show. The way they take the short stories, and the separate piece; 'Morphine' and work them together is really great. Plus, Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe.
"There's great experience to be gained in the countryside," I thought, falling asleep, "Only I have to read, read a lot... read..."


Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Full review coming soon!


Shakespeare's Trollop by Charlaine Harris
I struggled with this one. As you might be able to tell from the title, the murder victim is the towns 'trollop'- or, y'know, woman who isn't ashamed to have lots of sex. On one hand, I can completely see where Charlaine Harris was going with it. The evolution of Lily's character in the series has been ongoing and this fit in that arc. She's a rape victim and the only way she has addressed this is to get very strong, take martial arts and she believes it's a woman's responsibility to protect herself. And I completely understand slut-shaming exists in the world, more-so in 2000 when this was published. But I didn't want Lily to do it. I want her to be better. Even if she half changes her mind at the end, she still finds the moral of this half-change 'beyond her'.
Judging it just as a book on it's own, it's just not as good as the rest of the series. Which is strange, because what leads is...


Shakespeare's Counselor by Charlaine Harris
I feel like this book is the foremost of Charlaine Harris's books. I've now finished every complete series that she's written and this is right up there as one of my favourites! Lily starts to get help for her problems which is an incredibly healthy message after the last book. Her support group addresses victim-blaming and lots of positive stuff, all the while their counsellor is being stalked and people around her die.
I shut the book feeling like Lily was going to be okay, and I understood her better. I might not agree with her about rehabilitation not working for criminals, and I think women have a right to feel safe even though it's a modern idea, but as a writer, Charlaine Harris made me understand and care for the character. And wrote a good mystery at the same time. I didn't expect the ending. I'm off to dig out the Sookie Stackhouse novel that Lily features in and re-read her small part.
"No matter how much sympathy I have for you, it won't heal you faster or slower. You're not a victim of cosmic proportions. There are millions of us. That doesn't make your personal struggle less."


2017 Reading Challenge: 6/80 (graphic novel review coming soon)

What did you read this month?

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Series Review: The Harper Connolly Mysteries by Charlaine Harris!

If there is one author who makes me sound like a broken record, it's Charlaine Harris. I loved her Aurora Teagarden series, I loved her Sookie Stackhouse series, and unsurprisingly- I liked her Harper Connolly series. I reviewed the four books in the omnibus separately (1, 2, 3, 4), but I've finally put together my series review, where I tell you a few things I thought about the series as a whole.



Harper Connelly has always been unique: ever since she was struck by lightning she's had the ability to locate the dead. She can sense the final location of a person who's passed, and share their very last moment. The way Harper sees it, she's providing a service to the dead while bringing some closure to the living - but she's used to most people treating her like a blood-sucking leech.
She does what she can to put her unique ability to good use, with the aid of her step-brother Tolliver, but it's not always easy. Her cases can be heart-wrenching, complex - and sometimes, if someone would rather the body wasn't found, they can even even be dangerous...

The Premise
The premise was what originally drew me towards this series although, admittedly, Charlaine Harris could write a VHS manual and I'd want to read it. Harper is able to sense the dead, and when she finds them, she can see their final moments. I love a paranormal story that's a little different and I've never read anything like that before. Plus, the living characters can be just as interesting in how the death affected them. As Harper points out; The dead could wait forever, but the living were always urgent.

The Romance
This is the part that I wasn't as much of a fan of. It's no secret that the romance in this series is, at best, semi-incestuous. You can write it however you want, but the majority of people are always going to find that a bit icky (a word borrowed from an interview Harris herself did about the couple), even if it's 'just' step-siblings. I try not to judge but no thank you.

The Writing
This wasn't Charlaine Harris's usual. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a complete shake up, but it felt weaker. I loved that she took the opportunity to talk about some of Americas problems, while Harper faced serial killers, rapists and torturers along with the run-of-the-mill murderers. But the character development and the actual mysteries wasn't up to her usual standard. I actually find it really interesting that this series was written a few years after the Lily Bard mysteries, which I'm currently reading. They both deal with dark subjects but Lily feels much more real- of course, she doesn't see dead people so...

Overall, this was very much a three star series for me. Not bad by any means! Readable and fun. Just not the high level that I usually put Charlaine Harris at and I didn't immediately want to jump into the next book. 

I couldn't fathom people who longed for the past. They weren't thinking about the absence of antibiotics, that was for sure.

Have you read this series? What did you think? 

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Under My Christmas Tree!

It's been over a month since Christmas but considering I just finished packing up my decorations this morning, I figured it wasn't totally too late to show what was under my tree this year. I really like writing these posts because I like the memories that are associated and looking back at the years that have come before. There's like a secondary rush of gratitude which is nice as well.



Usual disclaimer; just showing some of the cool stuff I was lucky enough to get. Not bragging in any way. 



While I was in Germany, I mentioned in passing to my mum how my art teacher at school had told me not to draw. It wasn't my area. I spent a lot of time with my hands covered in clay while she taught me and I loved it. But I always kind of wished I had drawn, at least a little. Especially after seeing Chris Riddell in Summer. Somehow Santa found out and I now have some fancy drawing pencils, pens and a sketch book!

And since it wouldn't be Christmas without something Liberty print in my stocking; the cutest pin-cushion mouse that ever existed, thread scissors and a tape measure. Santa really wants me to be crafty in 2017.



Books! Glorious Books! Gladly added to my shelves are The Ladybird Book of the Zombie Apocalypse, F*ck You, 2016 (a gift from my best friend because seriously- f*ck 2016!), Lost Cat by Caroline Paul, The Indisputable Existence of Santa Claus, Cats by Jane Brown, Please Take Me Home: The Story of the Rescue Cat by Clare Campbell and a b-e-a-uuuutiful illustrated copy of Watership Down by Richard Adams



I totally spoiled myself when I picked up my mums phone to play a game of Tetris and found a text from my brother telling her he was buying me Pokémon for Christmas. My bad! I just need to finish Alpha Sapphire and I'll be right into this one, Lauren's review has me super excited.

I asked for the Home Improvement DVDs. I loved that show when I was a kid and you just can't find a good version of it online. I really want to just dive in but- self control prevails. I'm saving it for my week off in summer, not that it has stopped me doing the Tim Allen Grunt whenever I catch sight of my snazzy new boxset.



And chocolate, of course! My new Lindt mug is a welcome addition to my collection and the chocolate Santas were a welcome addition to my stomach. Chocolate coins are a classic. And my dad knew I was really upset about the new Toblerone so he got his friend at the newsagents to hook him up with a box of ten of the old versions. 2017- possibly the year my heart explodes? We'll see!

What did you get for Christmas? Can you even remember?

Friday, 20 January 2017

30 Before 30: Three Years On!

It's my birthday! And that means it's time for me to watch 11 hours of the extended edition of The Lord of the Rings, have a look at my 30 Before 30 list and do an update. I updated it when I turned 21, then again when I turned 22, and now I'm 23! *gulp*! That's not early-twenties anymore, that's just twenties. Next year I'll be 24 and that's mid-twenties. To distract me from this revelation, on with the list...

Some of the photos on my Instagram over the year!


1. Complete Pokémon.
Pokémon Yellow was re-released on 3DS for the 20th anniversary but I haven't got it yet. Honestly, haven't been playing that many video games. I need to get on this in 2017 since it's probably one of the easiest to complete on this list. I may buy it for myself as a birthday present!
2. Write a Novel.
Do 10 beginnings count as one? I need to work on finishing projects this year.
3. Earn at least a 2:1 in my degree.
Working on it!
4. Do a 365 photo a day challenge.
I've mentioned every year, this is one for later in my life when my life is more interesting.
5. Copy the 'Three Men in a Boat' trip.
Not yet! Although at least with my procrastination, there's less risk of being exploded by a WWII bomb!
6. Take a plane on my own.
7. Start a Podcast.
Remember how 2016 was awful? This idea got delayed because of that. It's hard to do a podcast when all your hosts are having a hard time in their personal lives. Fingers crossed for 2017!
8. Learn to drive.
I think I just decided what I'm going to do with my birthday money. Time to take that test.
9. Write a will.
10. Own The Walking Dead #1.
I might just buy a reprint and be done with this.
11. Host Christmas.
12. See my brother get married.  
13. Go to Vegas with my oldest friend.
14. Make a quilt.
I have a few patterns ready, I just need some fabric and time now.
15. Own a Hyundai Ix35.
16. Own a collection of mugs that all have meaning.
I'm counting this as done although I'm still collecting. I have an amazing collection at the moment that are all lovely and mean so much to me. 
17. Get back into Archery.
Something I love about these updates is that this list can grow as I do, and I no longer wanted to 'start a small business'. But something that I've wanted to do for years, and clearly need an extra push for, is getting back into archery. So it was time for this to change.
18. Review 200 books. 
I recently finished reading my 200th book, so I'll have finished this goal when I write up my reviews for my January reads. I can't quite believe it. I thought this was going to take me all ten years if I'm honest. And all the reviews so far are here!
19. Road trip the UK.
20. Go to SDCC.
21. Grow a bonsai tree and keep it alive.
Last year I had just bought two little saplings that were still alive but not growing. One did end up dying, but the other is finally growing and looking more alive! You can see him in the background of some of my blog pictures here and here. This is in progress!
22. Travel Europe on a train.
23. Cosplay.
24. Go to all the places Ashley wants to bring me to.
25. Learn to crochet and make something.
I learnt to crochet so long ago! I did start a project in 2016 though, a nest-bed for my cat, but I haven't finished it quite yet.
26. Keep bees.
27. Cut my hair and donate it to the Little Princess Trust. 
I did this last year, and I'm thinking of doing it again in 2017 because my hair has grown long again. It's such a worthy cause and I'm not exactly doing anything with my cut-off hair!
28. Learn German.
I had a weird 30 credits that I needed to take to complete first year because of changing universities and one dealing in 40 credit modules and the other in 60. I saw a German class and knew I needed to take it. It's been amazing, super helpful and I feel like I'm finally getting my head around the language! Enough that I'm hoping to read a book in German this year
29. Visit the German Christmas Markets. 
I visited Köln/ Cologne in December 2015, that you can see here! It was such an amazing experience that I actually went to München/ Munich in December 2016, that I posted about here! German Christmas Markets really are magical.
30. Act.
I didn't put this on last years list because I thought it would come across kind of silly, but I've actually been going to acting classes since April. My confidence has built up, at least enough to put it on this list publicly. We'll see!

Four out of thirty- but with six on the way of being done. I'm feeling a lot better about this list then I was last year. Progress is fun.

Do you have a 30 Before 30 list? What's on it?

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