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?

Monday, 16 January 2017

2016 in Reading!

Apart from how I did with my reading goals from 2016, this is the only post I'm going to do about my reading in 2016. You all know what I read! I showed you every month. I just like to go over my statistics and hand out my favourite book of the year award! So in 2016, I read 61 books! 5 more books than I read in 2014, but 19 less than I read in 2015! Although at around 19,000 pages, I only read 2,000 pages less. It's strange how the length of book can really effect things like that.

This year there were 12 books I rated 
I rated 19 books as 
I rated 15 books as 
I rated 14 books as 
And 1 book as 

My average rating was 3.4 which is another reason two of my 2017 reading goals are to stop delaying and say goodbye to my comfort zone. I'm sure if I read books that I know are challenging, but probably amazing, my average rating will go up and I'll have a better reading year! That being said, I did read some phenomenal books and here are my favourites...



Third place goes to... Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen by Alison Weir
I wrote a whole review about this book back in July, a couple of weeks after I finished the book actually. Any book that takes me a month to read and isn't given up on is a good book. It's very rare I don't mind slow-reads. I fell in love with Katherine of Aragon and Alison Weir when I read this book, and the next book in this series is basically my most anticipated book of 2017!

Second place goes to... The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
Surprised, huh? Expected this to be number one? I loved The Fellowship of the Ring with as much devotion and amazement at Tolkien's genius as anyone would expect from someone who spends every birthday watching 11 hours of the extended edition movies. I was all set to put it up there in first place and call it a day, when I realised that as much as I loved it, I loved another book slightly more...

My favourite book in 2016 was... If You Go Away by Adele Parks
This is just such a beautiful novel. Even with my rave review back in October, there's a hundred more reasons why I adored it. I could talk for days about the growth of the characters, the honesty and brutality of its depiction of war, the slow-burning development of the relationships. This novel melted my icy heart with the love story, and I haven't met a story since that has wrapped my feelings so tightly around its pages.

What was your favourite read from 2016?

Friday, 13 January 2017

My 5 Reading Goals for 2017

I love the beginning of a new year and setting goals. There's a lot of hope involved and I think we all need some of that right now. Since reading is a big part of my life, I wanted to have some reading goals that were separate from my general 2017 goals. And I wanted to leave them more vague and open-ended because I find them a little more inspiring, they can be taken different ways, and I've already been looking for different books to fit the challenge. So here are the 5 goals I have...



1. Stop delaying.
When I first started reading again, after a long health-related slump, I looked at a lot of the books on my shelf that I wanted to read and decided to save them for later. I'll read them later. I'll get to them after some practice. I'll read them once I get a grip on reading again. That mindset was a fair idea back then, but it stuck around. I still find myself putting off certain books that I know I want to read right now, books I'm ready for. I just finished my 200th book since starting reading again! I know how to read and it's time for me to stop delaying. This year, I'm going to read what I want to read, when I want to read it.

2. Goodbye comfort zone.
A lot of the books I delayed are actually outside of my comfort zone which is where this goal comes from. I didn't want to challenge myself too much back then, but now I'm looking at these books with a new perspective. I'm ready. So goodbye comfort zone and hello classics, non-fiction and even longer books. I'm not saying that I'm going to completely give up my cosy crime series, but it's time for me to push the boat out and see how far I can get on open water.

3. Read a book in German.
And what is more out of your comfort zone than a book in a language you don't speak, eh? I'm currently learning German and I'd like to read at least one book in the language this year. I'm thinking The Thief Lord, or Herr der Diebe by Cornelia Funke. I loved that book as a kid and since I have the English copy I can just flip between the two when I get confused. And, y'know, it was originally in German so extra points for that. This is probably a goal for later in 2017 though!

4. Replace.
Kind of borrowing from my 2017 goals with this one but I felt like it fit with my reading goals because I do want to link my book buying with, not only how many books I'm letting go of, but how many books I'm reading. My current thought is that I'll bring in one book, for every ten that go out or read. Also, and this isn't explicitly to do with reading but more the potential of reading. I have a lot of books on my Amazon wishlist and I've been doing Books I Want to Buy and Why posts about them for a while, that need a clearing up. Something has come over me in 2017, my tastes have changed and my shelves need to reflect that!

5. Read 80 books.
This is my first year making a Goodreads challenge that's going to be an actual challenge. I managed 80 books in 2015 but not in 2016, so now I want to see if I can get back to that. I'm both excited and nervous about this, I want it to push me to read more but I don't want it to stop me reading longer and more challenging books. We'll see! After all, it's just a challenge on a website. Not the end of the world.

What are your reading goals for 2017?

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

6 Reading Goals for 2016: One Year On!

It has been exactly one year since I posted up my 6 reading goals that I had for 2016 (I love when that happens), and I thought before I put up my 7 for 2017, that I'd go over how I did last year. I did a how-I'm-doing at the 6 month mark but quite a bit has changed since then on some of these goals. Some I did good on, some I didn't. Much like my 2017 life goals, my reading goals are going to get a shake-up this year because somethin' ain't workin'.




1. Read a couple Non-Fiction books! 
I read Green River Killer, a biographical graphic novel, Hot Feminist by Polly Vernon and Fredrick Nietzsche's Aphorisms on Love and Hate. So I'm not counting this as a complete success, but I did alright. Strangely enough, so far in 2017 I've read a feminist essay, another biographical graphic novel and a semi-biographical set of short stories. Maybe 2017 will be the year of non-fiction. *knock on wood*

2. Read a book over 600 Pages!
Although I read it in audiobook form, American Gods by Neil Gaiman translates into 635 pages so I'm counting this one. Also, not a huge amount of books are 600+ pages! My copy of The Fellowship of the Ring is only 530. I'm counting this as a success but not one that was much enjoyed, American Gods wasn't my jam.

3. Read a couple classics!
This is a recurring goal and a bit of a recurring failure for me. Although maybe less so this year? I read Dr Faustus by Christopher MarlowThe Burial at Thebes by Seamus Heaney (Antigone by Sophocles) although they were both required reading. And I'm counting The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien too. I'd like it to be a longer list next year though.

4. Get rid of some books!
Eh. Okay, not really. Although I have a new outlook in 2017 about replacing things I've grown out of and this definitely includes some of the books on my shelf. Some of the unhealthy-perspectives-teenage-girl-drama needs to go.

5. Complete some of the unfinished series on my shelf!
Not even close! Apart from finishing the Harper Connolly series in August, which I started in April, I didn't finish a single series. Although, I did give up on a lot of series. It was time to finally admit that I'm never going to finish the Princess Diaries series, for example.

6. Read 16 books!
My number-loving heart is pleased with the 61 books I read. But, if I'm honest with myself, I'm a little sad that I didn't do as well as I did in 2015 when I read 80. That's why I made an honest-to-goodness Goodreads challenge this year. But more on that, on Friday when I'm talking about my 7 reading goals for 2017! 

Did you set reading goals for 2016? How did you do?

Monday, 9 January 2017

Books I Read in December!

December is an odd month for reading. I'm always so sure I'll have lots of time to curl up by the fire and read all of those festive reads that I seem to collect up throughout the year. The tree will be decorated, the house will be ready for visitors, and the cupboards will be full of food that won't dare crumble into the pages of my book. When in reality; December is a hot mess of getting ready, a jam-packed few days festive cheer, a week of sleep, then New Years. And it's a miracle any reading gets done at all! Here's what I managed...

 The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien, The Curse of the Gloamglozer by Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell, Shakespeare's Christmas and  All The Little Liars by Charlaine Harris


The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
I'm going to do a review of all the Lord of the Ring books together when I've finished the series but so far- wow. Unsurprisingly amazing. I listened to this on audiobook, read by Rob Inglis, who is just a perfect narrator and I'm currently enjoying The Two Towers about as much.


The Curse of the Gloamglozer by Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell
I took The Curse of the Gloamglozer with me to Munich and finished it while I was out there, so it was a pretty quick read. Now, I've been harping on about re-reading this series for a while now so believe me when I'm as surprised as anyone when I say- eh. It wasn't bad. But it wasn't this amazing thing that I remembered from being a kid. I'm putting this down to Quint being my least favourite of the main characters within the world.
The art was unbelievably beautiful, as I always expect from Chris Riddell. I just thought the story was a little loose and lacked the world-building of the other books. I'm going to finish this trilogy too though because I think as soon as Quint leaves the floating rock city, it'll perk up.
Better answer with silence than indignation, as the saying went.


Shakespeare's Christmas by Charlaine Harris
This was one of the Christmas books that I wanted to read pre-the big day and actually another book I took to Munich but didn't get to. I expected it to be like Christmas episodes of TV where the holiday it completely central to the story but this was really more about a holiday vibe! I really could've read this October onwards and I wish I had read it earlier because it ended up being my favourite of the series so far. The mystery wasn't a murder like usual, but a missing child, although Harris does manage to shove some murder in there for good measure, and it was nice to get a bit of a switch on the usual motives.
Lily is right up there with my favourite female protagonists as well. She's so straight-talking, no-nonsense, and kicks butt.
Can I also just mention how much I love Charlaine Harris when she was writing this book? Not only did she make a very strong point about the police profiling of black men, she was shading annoying white men left and right. Case in point:
"'A girl Friday, though I guess "girl" is politically incorrect now.' He gave the strained smile of a conservative paying lip service to liberality.
'Yes', I said." 


All The Little Liars by Charlaine Harris
Two Charlaine Harris books from two different series in the same month? This was weird for me. I normally finish a series by an author before starting another, especially when they're the same type as both the Aurora Teagarden and Lily Bard books are both cosy crimes. However! The first new Aurora Teagarden book in 13 years comes out? You know I was going to read it. I adored the original eight. And it was Christmas themed so you know I was going to read it in December.
Again, like Shakespeare's Christmas, it was centred around missing children- but this time, Aurora's own half-brother and his friends. And less murder. It was quite a ride and although I had some inklings towards the ending, Harris hasn't lost her touch and Aurora still surprised me. That, and all the references to books and reading that made me fall in love with this series in the first place, made this a fun read for me.
Harris has mentioned in the past that the opportunity to write and publish the two new Aurora Teagarden novels comes from the success of the TV movies and I love that she doesn't shy away from referencing that- having a writer character; "-any association with the movies threw a handful of glitter on a writer." I like a little self-awareness.
Also- there was a The Walking Dead reference that my nerdy little heart loved.
I had never been able to fathom what people did with their free moments, if they didn't read.


What did you read in December?

Friday, 6 January 2017

Books I Want to Buy and Why 13: 2017 Releases Edition!

I don't really tend to think far into the future about book releases, but at the beginning of the year I like to get my favourites lined up for my diary, so I don't realise a cliffhanger-relieving sequel is out two months late when I see it in a bookshop window. It's also really interesting looking back at what I was hyped for last year compared to this year. The biggest change is definitely in the genre! No YA this year, although I'm still a sucker for series. I wonder what will make next years list...



The White Road by Sarah Lotz
Sarah Lotz blew my mind in 2014 with The Three. To this day, I still think about that book and the story. It frequently gets a smile when I pass my shelf. I recommend it to people liberally. Admittedly, the follow-up, Day Four didn't quite stand up to my expectations but I think that was because it struggled with being a companion novel/ sequel. The White Road, on the other hand, is a stand-alone and has a social media aspect which I love since the Scream TV show did it so well. I can't wait. I'm already planning a day where I just do nothing but read this.
Confirmed publishing date: 4th May

Anne Boleyn: A King's Obsession by Alison Wier
If one series I started in 2016 completely blew. my. mind, it was the Six Tudor Queens series by Alison Weir. I read the first book, Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen and I cried over someone who has been dead for 500 years. I spent over a month reading it and I am not normally one for slow books. In fact, I bought the hardcover despite being a poor student and owning a beautiful proof copy. I just needed them both on my shelf. Now I'm waiting as patiently as I can to get Anne's side of the story, and her opinion on my girl, Queen Katherine.
Confirmed publishing date: 18th May

Defiance by J.S. Law
Another series I started last year that I rather enjoyed was the debut, Tenacity by J.S. Law, a navy man turned author. It had everything I wanted; a brilliantly written female main character, intrigue, accurate navy stuff, a concluded murder mystery and the beginning of a plot thread that will lead the series on. When I wrote my review I could hardly believe it was a debut. I'm really looking forward to seeing where Dan goes next on her quest for justice.
Possible publishing dates: 8th August/ 6th October/ 21st September

Hello Again by Brenda Novak
Last time I mention starting a series in 2016, promise, but I did read Her Darkest Nightmare in October. Since then I've been watching documentaries, reading Reddit threads, looking up 'fun' facts all about psychopaths. Brenda Novak picked a really interesting group of people to feature in this series. I really liked the first book and I think I'm going to like the second just from the small hint in the last chapter of what is to come, and that sinister title.
Possible publishing dates: 24th August/ 3rd October

What books are you looking forward to in 2017?

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Hello 2017!

Thank gosh that's over, huh? Bring on the fresh diaries, the clean calendars and lets all practice writing 2017 a couple of times before we have to write it on any actual paperwork. Perhaps the less said about 2016, the better, but I quickly recap my goals every year, and embracing that I don't always get where I wanted is healthy motivation. Then for my 2017 goals I decided to go a little more abstract, because I want to focus on how things make me feel this year. Anyway...



Things I wanted to do at the beginning of 2016:
Travel. 
I went to Milan and Munich so I'm calling this a win! I didn't get to visit my 'Murican friends but every year we get closer and make more plans. I'm sure they'll happen eventually.
More degree work. 
I didn't complete first year like I planned, which wasn't possible because of how university terms work, but I'm super close and I'm getting pretty good grades.
Catch up on my 30 Before 30 List. 
Nope. Super behind. Definitely going to have a re-think of this before my re-cap on the 20th.
Reach 500 Blog followers. 
Oh beginning-of-2016-Imogen, so optimistic. 
Be happy. 
It was a year of ups and downs, wasn't it?

Things I want to do in 2017: 
Find a balance.
I started doing new things in 2016, and it threw my physical and mental health completely off. This year, instead of hanging on by my fingertips, I'd like to set my feet on the ground and find a way of doing what I want to do without my health paying the high price. It's definitely going to mean compromise, which isn't going to be fun, but this is about the bigger picture.
Replace.
I have a lot of things that I've had forever, don't get rid of and don't get new ones because I already have some that I've spent money on. Bad-fitting clothes, books I don't have an interest in anymore, even furniture. This year I want to see out with the old, and invest in the new.
Blog less.
Yes, you read that right. I've been trying pretty hard to blog 2+ times a week and that worked for me for a good while but lately it just isn't. It puts this numerical value over my head when really I just want to be writing posts I'm proud of, and sometimes they take me longer than they probably should. I also really want to write more in-the-now posts. I write a lot of wrap-ups, I write a lot of plans, I don't really keep you updated in-between. I just need to figure out how to write that way and give myself the chance! And hopefully with a little less time on my own blog, I can spend more time supporting and loving other blogs.
Tick off the practical.
It's time to take my driving test, answer emails, book meetings. All that grown-up stuff that I like to avoid. It might even be time... to try a bullet journal. If I can keep on top of this stuff then I won't have to keep taking big chunks of time out to catch up.

How is your 2017 going? What are your goals?

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