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

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

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?

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Isolation day 95: heatwave, ‘independence’ day and insomnia

Just thought I would write a quick update, I’ve been incredibly quiet on here this week, only publishing one blog post. We are experiencing a heat wave here in the UK and while I like the sun, it also makes me feel very lethargic.

The heat and accumulating tiredness from nights of lost sleep has sucked away my motivation to write. The previous few weeks I was writing several things in one day and I felt full of motivation. In reality I did see the ‘crash’ coming, I thought I would reach a point where I couldn’t bring myself to punch the keys or pick up a book. It’s strange how some weeks go.

My sleeping habits are all over the place from experiencing bouts of insomnia. One night I will oversleep, getting between 9-10 hours, and the next I will under-sleep and get 4-5. I can’t seem to strike the balance. I guess the key thing is to keep to the same wake up time, but that’s not always easy. This morning I had to force my eyes open to prevent myself drifting off and over sleeping again. Strangely, the heat doesn’t seem to influence my sleep, it all seems to be in my mind.

The lockdown announcement last week has been playing on my mind. Boris Johnson, our Prime Minister, has effectively called July 4th our ‘independence day’ despite the rate of infection still at a level rate, not actually declining fully and still higher than our European counterparts. The news has been showing us scenes of overcrowding on beaches and endless queues for Primark. The vast majority of the public seem to believe the pandemic is over. Partly, I don’t blame them as the government is reinforcing this message. It doesn’t help that our PM has told people he wants to see the return of ‘bustle’ in our cities and towns and denies the possibility of a second wave. It’s all very worrying.

I couldn’t bring myself to do a PMQ’s review this week as I’ve found the political situation too draining – I will try again next week. I don’t want to pressure myself to do it religiously, but I do want to get better at writing short, snappy political analysis.

Although I keep telling myself that it is pointless for me to worry about everything – as these political decisions are out of my control, I can’t help but sometimes loose sleep over it.

I have woken up a bit more motivated and with more energy today so I am hoping that over the weekend I will get some more blog posts out. I have a review of The Sacrifice that should be going up tomorrow and a few other things in the pipeline.

Also, I have now made a Medium account if anyone would like to follow. I might be publishing original content on there or just re-publishing posts, I haven’t quite decided what to do with it yet!

I hope you are all doing well and continuing to stay safe.

Violet x

Notes from an insomniac

I stare blankly at the ceiling in the dark room for the fourth time that week. I thought this night would be different, I felt so calm and relaxed when I went to bed and wasn’t expecting to have a difficult night. After hours staring at the same four walls I hesitantly look at my watch, seeing it’s 3:30am. The light is already beginning to pour through the cracks in the curtains, and the world is slowly rising, already.

It seems quite apt that I am writing about my long night not being able to sleep, on the longest day of the year. For me, it will feel like the longest day, in more ways than one.

I have struggled with bouts of insomnia for most of my adult life. At 18, I first experienced the frustration that comes with not being able to sleep. Something that seems so instinctive, so natural, started then to become difficult. It was the summer of my final A-Level exams, I hadn’t slept a wink before stepping into the exam hall. I didn’t know how I was going to get through the exam, let alone perform to the capacity I needed to, to get into university. Somehow I did. To this day I don’t know whether that lack of sleep influenced my grades, but it still feels remarkable to me, what the brain and body could cope with on such a severe lack of sleep.

I’ve always been a “difficult sleeper,” one of those people that wake up in the night from even the softest noises. My mum always remembers the inconvenience on Christmas eve when I was younger, me always stirring in my sleep as she came to deliver my stocking. Since my first experience of insomnia it has come in waves. Throughout lockdown (over twelve weeks now) I have been reading with curiosity about peoples’ struggle with sleep during isolation. However, until now, I’ve never recently had a problem. In fact, my sleep was probably the best it has been in a long time, I was regularly clocking between 8-9 hours a night, usually falling asleep instantly. A few nights ago, I began to experience the racing mind, throwing my months of beautiful sleep out of whack.

I have effectively been awake since 3:30am (it’s 7:30am when I’m writing this) but I don’t feel tired. My eyes feel sore and itchy and my body slightly heavier but my mind is working as it usually does. In the hours before now, I managed to finish a book, write in my journal and now I’m writing this. In my experience, the crash will come soon enough during the day. However, I have never been someone that finds napping easy, nor beneficial. I hope to wait it out, to try and tire myself out as much as I can.

Me at 18 would get incredibly panicky at the prospect of not sleeping. You can’t blame me really, as this was happening against the backdrop of my final exams. It had never happened to me before and I didn’t know how my body and mind would react. Ever since, throughout my experiences of bouts of insomnia, I tend to look to this moment when the same creeping concern arises. I managed to do my A-Levels off the back of no sleep, I can get through today…

The funny thing is – last night my mind was completely at ease. I felt clam from an evening of unwinding, and when I closed my eyes for the night, nothing was on my mind. It was dark and quiet. The perfect conditions for a good nights sleep. But sleep just never came. I was simply laying there, my mind empty, with nothing happening. How can you explain that? I don’t let myself ponder on it too much. I find if I occupy myself with it, I will worry all the more when the time comes to go to bed. Nowadays, after several years, I have come to accept the situation and try and get on with the day as best I can.

Image: Pixabay

I haven’t ever spoken to anyone who has experienced insomnia or sleeping difficulties. Explaining it to someone who has never experienced it is hard. Going to sleep should feel like the easiest thing in the world. A treat, even, in this modern world of overload. I feel like it’s one of those problems that you can only understand fully when you’ve been through it yourself.

Even after days of not getting enough sleep, it seems crazy that my body still won’t naturally succumb to rest. Even when my mind feels at ease.

I’m writing this in the hope that it may enlighten some people and shed light on the struggle. But also, because I need to do something to fill the spare hours! I hope that it may be insightful or comforting to people in some way.

Have you ever experienced insomnia? If so, what are your tips for a good nights sleep? I’d love to know. Although I think I’ve tried most things at this point...

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com