Sunday post #1 A busy writing week

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted at @ Caffeinated Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news ~ A post to recap the past week on your blog and showcase books and things we have received. Share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme.

This week I’ve gotten back into the flow of writing. I’ve been reading a lot of articles about the writing process and have since learned the importance of making writing into a habit. It may seem like an obvious thing, but to me, I used to think I should only write if I felt inspired – but I realised I could be waiting around for ages and that may never happen.

Every day this week I have been getting up slightly earlier and writing first thing – I was surprised how quickly the words have been flowing and how addictive it has been. Before doing this I was always worried this approach could potentially make writing a bit of a chore – but I think I’ve fallen even more in love with it. I’ve been writing mostly over on Medium, where you are all welcome to follow me there too. I have been exploring the platform and do like the element of simplicity it gives.

The week-long heatwave in the UK finally broke, which meant I naturally felt more like doing things. We’ve been having lots of rain and the air generally feels a lot fresher. I also went back to the gym for the first time in 5 months and was pleasantly surprised at how safe I felt. I closely monitor the number of Covid cases in my area and as soon as that goes up – I will adjust my habits, but for now, it’s been over a week without any new cases.

This Week on the blog

Book Review: Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race

A Fascinating Edition to a Nostalgic Series: Midnight Sun (review)

8 Thoughts from Reading the Little Friend, by Donna Tartt (review)

This Week elsewhere

5 Things I’ve Learnt Since Having The Coil

5 Reasons Why Twilight Isn’t as Bad as You Thought

How to Read 5 Books a Month

Is Freedom Always a Force for Good?

Three Ways to Get Books for Free

Currently reading

How I learned to Hate in Ohio

David Stuart MacLean

I am about mid-way through this book and already am completely hooked. It’s an e-ARC which is due to be published this October. It follows the life of Barry Nadler as he starts his freshman year of high school. It narrates his dysfunctional family life and his attempt to be as invisible as possible.

Containing undertones of the difficulties of race and xenophobia within rural Ohio, it provides a social commentary on Barry’s small, but growing world. It is startlingly comic but a deeply revealing narrative about the seeds of middle-class grievances and the shaping of modern American political consensus.

Posts in the pipeline…?

There will be a review soon of the above book – possibly next week. I’ll be writing more over on Medium as well if you’d like to follow me there. I’m currently preparing to write a few other pieces published elsewhere – one on Kamala Harris and the other on the importance of intersectional feminism, so look out for those, which will be on my socials.

For this blog, I’m also thinking about doing a small book haul, as I recently treated myself to some new books. Well, second hand, but new books if you get what I mean. I’ve never written one of those though, so I’m unsure of where to start!

Image: Andrew Neel via Uplash

Favourite articles read this week

Mini-Reviews | An American Marriage & The Mothers ~ @ Gil Reads Books. I was very happy to see the return of Gil’s book reviews, I love reading her reviews as she writes so eloquently, and also tends to read the same kind of books as me!

Mini Review, Midnight Sun ~ @ Dee’s Reading Tree. Having also recently finished Midnight Sun, I was glad to hear that Dee felt the same kind of nostalgia as I did. I found being inside Edward’s mind and seeing another version of the story very interesting too.

It’s too hot ~ @ really (not a runner) England has been going through a heatwave and by the second or third consecutive day, I was very sick of it too. I very much empathized with this post, running in the heat is a nightmare, I just avoided it all together!

Book Review: Such a Fun Age ~ @ Books and Bakes Having just ordered this, I found this review very useful and it was incredibly well written and made me excited to read the book.

The 5 States that Will Decide the Election ~ @ Dave Fymbo. I’m getting a bit obsessive over following the US election, and I found this post really useful. I find US politics a mind field at the best of times, but this was very explanatory.

What I Wish I Knew Before I Started Writing ~ @ Matt Lillywhite. This was the post that made me realise I need to write every day, so I am eternally grateful to Matt for writing this! I’d encourage every budding writer to have a read, I found it very motivational.

Have a great week everybody!

Please noteI was not paid for any of the reviews mentioned, all opinions are my own. However, if you are interested in buying the books via Amazon, please consider using my Amazon affiliate link on the titles mentioned, you would be helping a newbie writer out! I will receive a small fee from Amazon, but it won’t affect the price of your book.

10 things that make me happy

I’ve had a bit of a down few weeks, so I thought I would share with you a list of ten things that make me happy, or help to improve my mood. Maybe these will also help you too! If you have other things that make you happy, please comment them below!

1. Spending time outdoors

Throughout lockdown I have gone through ebbs and flows of spending time outdoors and then locking myself away – this happened at the earlier stage of the pandemic, and I am a lot more comfortable being outside now. But living in a flat with no garden has made me realise how important it is that I spend some time outdoors every day, regardless of how long I am out there for. This morning I took myself for a walk first thing and it really helped to improve my mood.

2. Morning coffee

For me, a morning is not complete without a coffee. After waking up, I make sure to drink a glass of water first but then head straight to make myself a coffee. I like to drink this slowly whilst reading the news or my book, and then I will have breakfast after this. I drink my coffee strong and with oat milk – if you’re interested!

Image: Violet Daniels

3. Podcasts and listening to the radio

I often do either of these things when I’m doing something mindless – like brushing my teeth, doing my skincare or washing up. I’ll often stick a podcast on or listen to BBC Radio 4. Sometimes I also listen to something before I go to bed, as I find it quite calming. I did a whole post about podcasts a while ago, but I have also been enjoying Michelle Obama’s podcast more recently and a podcast called Writer’s Routine.

4. Journalling

I do bouts of different kinds of journaling depending on what I feel like. Sometimes I spend more time doing long form, stream of consciousness writing, butother times I just simply write my thoughts and what’s happening in the world. I find putting pen to paper as a physical act very cathartic and it makes me happy to see I have nearly filled an entire Moleskine just throughout lockdown!

5. Some form of routine

I don’t have a strict routine I make stick to everyday or a particular routine I have at night or in the mornings, but I do make myself a to-do list each day, just so I have something to stick to. I might write small things down like ‘wash my hair’ but also things like what writing I want to work on that day, or more mundane tasks. I don’t always stick to it, but having some kind of routine, and idea of what to be doing makes it easier to fill the days.

Image: Violet Daniels

6. Writing

A very obvious one, but nonetheless one of the main things that makes me happy. Writing this blog and other articles has kept me sane for the past hundred days or so of lockdown. Having been off work for nearly five months, I had to start writing so that I had something to do with my days and something to wake up for. More than anything, I think this period has made me realise how much I love it and that seeing my work online gives me such a sense of achievement and happiness.

7. Reading (shock, horror!)

This is in the same vein but very much the source of most of my happiness. For as long as I can remember I have preferred to escape into other worlds and other people’s minds, rather than delve into my own, and this has been confirmed again during lockdown. There’s nothing more comforting than curling up with a book. Reading regularly is now one of my firm priorities and I never feel guilty about it.

8. Baths

Recently I have been indulging in long, leisurely soaks in the bath whilst I have more time on my hands. It has been so therapeutic during the long evenings and especially after a run as it can help to ease the soreness of my muscles. I use this time to listen to podcasts and read, but also to take care of myself. I have realised as well that taking the time out for me is never something I should feel guilty about it.

9. Going offline

Like many people, I have become even more addicted to my phone than ever before in recent months. However, I have been trying to schedule in afternoons, evenings or even days where I don’t go on social media or spend time on my phone, unless I have to reply to a message. As someone who is naturally quite insecure and can feel quite negative about themselves after spending time on Instagram or even Twitter, it has been really important for me to take time off.

Image: Violet Daniels

10. Taking care of myself

This may seem a bit strange but I do find it easy to forget to take care of myself. By this I mean forgetting to wash my face and take care of my skin, treat my hair to a mask, or do a face mask. I haven’t worn make up in months but instead of spending time doing that, I’m actually taking the time to moisturize my body and stick to a regular skin care routine. Although my skin is still problematic and I haven’t gotten to the route of the problem – forming the habit of taking care of myself makes me happy.

This was a bit different to my usual posts, but I hope this may have been beneficial and that you enjoyed reading it! The book reviews will be returning soon.

Hope you are all keeping safe and well,

Violet xxx

An update & thoughts on the booker prize

Long time no see! It’s been over a week since I published my last blog post and it’s because I’ve been in a bit of a slump. Recently there have been days I can barely pick up a book – so apologies for the lack of posts and reviews.

I intentionally decided to take a week off doing anything remotely productive (writing, editing, pitching, etc) just to see if it would re-fresh me. It did at first, but then my hormones kicked in… But in that week I got back into running which was great until I injured myself with shin splints so now I’m trying to rest and am back to square one. I am in agony even when just walking so if anyone has any tips please let me know!

I am still living in a lot of uncertainty job wise – the retail sector in the UK is struggling and this is three months before the furlough scheme ends, so it is worrying. Every day it feels like the news is filled with another company making cuts with more unemployment, and the worst is yet to come.

I’ve been feeling a lot of reading guilt lately as I’ve got books pilling up on my NetGalley shelf that I haven’t read and given feedback for and I’ve also got a lot of books I’ve purchased which I haven’t read yet. We got a new bookcase last week and it’s made me realise how many books I own that I haven’t read… so maybe I should go on a bit of a book buying ban?

Image: Violet Daniels (Instagram: @_vdaniels_)

The two books I am reading at the moment are pretty heavy going – I feel guilty for not having finished a book recently but at the same time, I want to take my time with these and not put any pressure on myself.

So the Booker prize longlist was revealed on Monday and I’m not surprised I haven’t read a single title on the list… I’ve heard of two of them – Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light and Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age. But as usual, I haven’t read any of them. It’s funny I think nearly every year since I’ve been following it, I’ve yet to have read one of the titles. I read Lucy Ellmann’s Ducks, Newburyport which was nominated last year but wasn’t really impressed with that.

Although Mantel is arguably one of the best writers around and has done tremendous work for the historical fiction genre, part of me really hopes she doesn’t win as she’s already so well known. I wasn’t hugely invested in last year’s, but I do wish Bernardine Evaristo could have won it on her own, instead of being overshadowed by Margaret Atwood who had already won the prize once. The prize itself is more valuable for the international attention and recognition than the prize money, and both Atwood and Mantel already have that. I always think these prizes should be given to relatively unknown and undiscovered authors so that they can be recognised.

Saying that, most ordinary people and readers don’t take too much of an interest in prizes so it doesn’t matter that much. However, having worked in a bookshop, I have noticed that awards sell and customers gravitate towards fiction with the Booker prize stickers on – so who knows how much it influences reading habits!

Has anyone else read any of the titles or is going to? Such A Fun Age has been on my radar for a while so I might give that a go and Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi sounds interesting.

This is a bit of a mundane post but I thought I would write it just to let you know I’m still alive and well! Life has gotten significantly flatter in recent weeks and my motivation to read and write has dipped, but hopefully that will get better soon.

I’ve recently become a contributor to The Indiependent which is a great site for aspiring writers and journalists to become part of! My first piece was a review of Colour Blind, a poem by Lemn Sissay.

Love and best wishes to you all 🙂

100 Followers: A Reflection on blogging so far

I’ve recently hit a small (very small, actually) milestone of 100 followers. I started this blog with the hope of reaching this target by the end of the year, so I’m incredibly pleased (and amazed) that I’ve gotten to this stage.

Without a doubt, being at home for 4-5 months during the Coronavirus pandemic has meant that I could put more time into my blog. Despite everything, I’m very thankful for the extra time it has given me to read and write. Having said that, some days and weeks I have struggled.

When there is no routine, or even exposure to ‘normal life’ I have sometimes found my energy or inspiration to write completely sucked out of me. There were days that I just stared at a blank screen and no words would come, or I could simply not summon up the energy to even start.

I still ask myself, how on earth did Shakespeare write King Lear during quarantine?

I think what I have learnt most of all from the short time I’ve been doing this, is that writing and running a blog takes time, dedication, and love.

When I post frequently I see more engagement and traffic – which obviously makes sense. It is not all about followers but it is nice to know that people enjoy reading what I have to say.

I’ve already met some really nice people via this little online community and I think it’s really important to engage with other like minded people. I love starting conversations with people about books and will be forever grateful for this platform!

I have really enjoyed the process of curating my little corner of the internet – although my blog is by no means perfect or big, I’m proud of how far I have come. I used to get so nervous about posting and people reading my work, but now it has just become routine. It has done the world of wonders for my confidence and finding a ‘voice’ as a writer.

Image: Violet Daniels

Starting this blog has also given me access to lots of advanced copies of books, for which I am very grateful for. One thing is for sure – I feel like I am never going to run out of things to read! It’s so nice to play an active part in the reviewing process and know that I could influence a reader to buy the book and also, help the author.

Reading has now become such a big part of my life and I really do love writing about books and sharing my reviews with you. I feel out of love with reading for pleasure when I was at university and am so glad I can now read what I want. I’m a firm believer in the power of books and only want to spread that message.

I’ve also enjoyed sharing my thoughts on politics. These posts don’t do as well, partly because with everything going on at the moment, I think it’s nicer to read about other things! Nonetheless, Covid-19 has been a testing time for the government, and I think it is important that we scrutinize them and go on doing so. I have always had a passion for politics and will continue to share my thoughts and ideas on this platform. However, I do this more on Backbench.

Honestly, writing has been keeping me sane over this period. Without it, I would be pretty lost!

I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone who reads my posts, likes and comments, and who follows me – I am hugely grateful and really appreciate your support. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings!

Love and best wishes,

Violet xxx

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How Lockdown changed my reading habits

Are you leaving lockdown wishing you had read more? The experience of lockdown across the world lead to a kind of ‘reading revolution’ as we all had more time on our hands, but will this continue?

Our reading habits may have changed for better or for worse during this period, but in this post I am going to share with you how lockdown altered my habits, with the hope that it may encourage you to reflect on yours.

1. Treating reading like a job

This could be interpreted as positive or negative, but lockdown meant that I have not been at work and I had to take up something to fill the empty days with.

I started reaching out to people, became a member of NetGalley and all of a sudden had more opportunities to review books for people and companies. Working to deadlines and reading less of what I wanted has made it feel like more of a job, but definitely not a chore.

Reading has therefore, become more like a job, but one I have come to love.

Image: Violet Daniels

2. Abandoning TBRs

I love making lists of any kinds and I have always had some form of TBR going.

Having more review requests has meant I have strayed away from my personal TBR list, which I have come to realise isn’t a bad thing.

Reading habits change all the time and so do the books we want to read, sometimes it feels counterproductive to have a list to stick to. Sticking to this wholeheartedly could close down books we expose ourselves to. Everyday we learn about new books and it becomes easy to stray away from our reading plans. But so what?

I still have my TBR but I am definitely not following it strictly.

3. Realising less is more

Lockdown has played havoc for my concentration. I have found that I can only read for 15-20 minutes at a time before I start to lose focus. But on the other hand, I find myself actually picking up books more times in the day – so they probably balance each other out.

Previously, I used to try and read as much as I could in one session, as I probably only had one opportunity every day to read whilst working. But now with my time being more flexible I can read less but more frequently, which I like.

Image: Violet Daniels

4. Diversifying my reading choices

The exposure of the Black Lives Matter movement has made me realise how white my reading choices are.

I am now making a conscious effort to read more by authors of colour, especially women of colour who are majorly underrepresented in the literary industry. I am aiming to read at least one book written by a BAME author per month in an effort to diversify my reading habits.

Last month I read My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite and this month I aim to read An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. These are small actions but a step in the right direction, which I would encourage everyone to take.

5. Using a Kindle more

As I am receiving more books to review, these are usually in the form of e-ARCs which means I am using my Kindle a lot. I’ve also been reading outside more and Kindle’s are perfect for this.

They are lighter and easier to hold whilst being out and about and I have been enjoying using it. Obviously, it’s no replacement for the physical book, but definitely a game changer for being able to carry so much reading material on the go.

6. Books are my perfect form of escapism

Some people watch TV, films or play video games to switch off, but I read. I think I have always known this, but lockdown has really shown I do turn to alternative worlds to escape the present.

Whether it’s fiction or non fiction, I have found reading takes me away from the present and the unrelenting news cycle that can cause havoc for anxious people like me. It is perfect one to one time, a form of self care, and a break from everything that is going on.

So those were reflections on how my reading habits have fluctuated during this period. I think it’s important to remember that habits will always shift during our lives. We should never beat ourselves up if we don’t meet our own standards or stray away from our goals, but acknowledge it when it’s necessary and go from there. Have your reading habits changed, if so, how?

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