Book Haul #1 ~Ali Smith, Ottessa Moshfegh, Zadie Smith & More

It’s been a while since I have purchased physical books and enough to make a whole post out of, but I thought I would give you a quick round-up of the books I have brought in the last few months. Most of these I got this month, as I treated myself to some books for my birthday.

I love physical books as much as the next person, but that said, I am trying to consciously limit my consumption this year because I have very little space and am on somewhat of a budget. Also, with the pandemic, I’m not going out of my way to browse in bookshops at the moment.

That said, I have splurged a little this month and this is what I’ve bought.


Such a Fun Age, Kiley Reid

Coming of Age, Fiction

I brought this because it was the only book listed on the Booker prize nominees that I had heard of and wanted to read.

It opens with an incident following a young black woman who is interrogated by the police for appearing to kidnap a young, white child. This all takes place in Philadelphia, in an affluent neighborhood. Emira, the babysitter and one of two main protagonists, looks after the child of Alix, a well known white blogger. Their lives are inextricably linked but divided along the lines of social and racial inequality.

I am currently reading this at the moment and am about seventy pages in – I’m enjoying it and can’t wait to read the rest of it. I also love the cover and design!

Autumn, Winter, Spring, Ali Smith (Seasonal Quartet)

Fiction, literary fiction

I first read Autumn a while ago but had it on loan from my local library. In love with the cover designs by David Hockney, I decided to purchase that and the rest of the books that are out in paperback. Although Summer came out a month or so ago, I’ve decided to wait until that comes out in paperback so I can have the whole collection.

This Seasonal Quartet is made up of four stand-alone novels which are all connected in some way. Having only read the first one, I don’t know how or why, but I’m guessing like the seasons, they have some similarities and stark differences. With Autumn, I feel in love with Ali Smith’s remarkable prose and sense of starkness and political commentary, so I can’t wait to read the rest of them. As a concept and physical book, they are all so appealing.

English Pastoral, James Rebanks

Nature writing, Non-fiction

James Rebanks, a farmer whose family has farmed the same land in the Lake District through generations, has published his fourth book which looks at what lands means to us and how it is owned, regulated and enjoyed in England.

I read The Shepherd’s Life last year and was taken aback by how beautifully it was written. It dealt with issues such as tourism and our respect for places of great beauty, but also his struggles with continuing the generation of farming in his family. I am very much looking forward to reading his next book as it deals with the wider political questions over land ownership, and how we can make farming into a more sustainable endeavour for the future.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Ottessa Moshfegh

Psychological fiction

Image: Violet Daniels

I have heard great things about this book and seen it everywhere, so I thought I’d pick it up.

Telling the story of a young woman, living in New York and struggling to figure her life out – I was naturally drawn to the premise of this novel. Being a regular insomniac myself, I am also drawn to her struggles with sleep and hopes at self-medication. From what I’ve read about this book, it combines dark humour with some heavy topics so I’m looking forward to seeing how the author navigates this contrast.

Intimations, Zadie Smith

Non-fiction, personal essays

After having a roaring success with Alone Together, I decided to give another Covid memoir a go. Although a lot shorter I figured I would enjoy this one too. Written by the highly accredited author Zadie Smith, this collection of essays documents her experience of lockdown and the emotional and personal difficulties it involved.

I know Smith is a profound and talented writer, so I am interested in reading about her perception of recent events and how it affected her life. I’m sure it won’t take too long to read either, in being such a small book.


That’s it for now! You can keep up to date with any new books I buy over on my new Instagram account. I’m trying to learn how to take nice photos but I am still new to the whole thing, so please be kind!

Happy reading, as usual!

Violet

Please note – this post does contain Amazon affiliate links and if you choose to use them, I will earn a small fee but this doesn’t impact my review in anyway.

Surviving Another Year Around the Sun

I’m never one for making a big deal out of birthdays. The more I have of them, the more I want to ignore them. I know I’m only young, but I’ve always feared getting old.

23 feels like the beginning of getting older, or of life getting more serious. I thought I’d write a sort of self reflection post, but I don’t really know where I’m going with it. This might be one that ends up being deleted.

I was thinking the other day that I haven’t done much in a year. Sure, I finished university and graduated but since last September I haven’t really achieved much. I started a job I loved, finished that one, started another job and then furlough happened and I’m back to square one.

I haven’t got that ‘proper’ job that everyone speaks of and I still don’t know when I will. I guess my younger self always thought I would have it together by this age and be a proper adult. But what does a proper adult even mean?

Time is a strange thing and it means different things to everyone. Some people want to get married in their twenties and have children straight away, whereas others want to wait. I’m not in a rush, but I do wish my life had a bit more momentum and I was somewhat closer to being where I want to.

But I can’t blame myself for that, Covid happened out of the blue and was never something I could control. And I have been making steps and pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and that’s what matters, right?

The next few years are going to be a hard one to try and start a career in and it feels like our generation has faced obstacle after obstacle (nearly two global recessions now, come on) so this year I’m not going to be too hard on myself and I’m going to celebrate every small achievement.

I may be 23, but that doesn’t mean I have to have my whole life together – it just feels that way due to societal pressures and expectations.

Bu I do have things to be proud of.

I’ve been brave enough to put myself all over the internet in the form of blog posts, articles and writing on Medium. First year university me would never have been this bold, maybe not even third year university me. I’ve gained a certain amount of confidence with my writing but I’m nowhere near there yet – but it’s a journey, right?

I feel like I am managing my anxiety better than I used to. At university I used to let it just take hold of me. But now I make the effort and I’m learning about what’s best for me. Having a slower pace to life since the pandemic has definitely helped, and so has rediscovering journaling.

I think in a way I have channeled myself more this year, as I’ve been able to do things I lost track of at university. Like reading, writing and just being. I haven’t found myself fully yet, but apparently that happens more as you go into your 20s…

I’m by no means perfect or where I want to be yet – but that’s okay. I survived another year – and that’s enough to celebrate in itself.

It’s also Hugh Grant’s birthday today, so happy birthday to him (he’s 60!)

What I’ve Learned from Writing Book Reviews

So it’s now September and I find myself with a backlog of over 40 book reviews. And when I haven’t written these book reviews, I’ve always been thinking about books in some way, consciously or unconsciously reviewing them in my head.

Apart from simply loving writing them, over the year I’ve realised I have learned a lot from them too. I’m no expert – quite the opposite. But this is what I have learned from the experience so far.

I Value Having a Record of Everything I’ve Read

This may sound like the obvious one – but hear me out.

When I was younger and I had all the time in the world to read, I would whizz through books at a speed so fast that if you asked me about the book the next day, I wouldn’t be able to tell you a thing about it. In other words – I would forget everything I’d read.

Writing book reviews has forced me to consolidate my thoughts on a book and has left me a neat little trail of reviews across the internet – which will be lovely to look back on in years to come. If I’m ever sat there thinking, “I wonder what I read when I was 22?” as long as the Internet is still alive, I’ll be able to know the answer.

If You Don’t Like the Book – Just Give Up

I used to be a firm believer that once you’ve started a book, you should never give up on it. Now that I (almost) read every book to write a review, there would be nothing worse than having to plough through a book I didn’t like and write a review about it after.

Life’s too short and there are so many books out there, ditch the ones you don’t like and then you can make more time for the ones you do.

And yes, it is okay to abandon the book at any time. Thirty pages from the end and you just can’t be bothered anymore? Then put it down and move onto the next.

It’s Rare to Find Someone Who Agrees With You 100%

For every book read, there’s a wealth of different opinions that come with it. Every book is going to be received and interpreted in a number of ways, and this is largely a credit to the power of literature.

We all think and feel in different ways so it’s almost impossible that we are going to have the same experience with a book. Additionally, we all like different things in books. Some of us like a fast-paced plot over an in-depth character study. It all depends on the reader.

Part of the wonder of being part of the book community is seeing everyone’s different opinions on a book – it’s one of my favourite things. But I’ve learnt more than ever is that no one is going to agree with you all the time. For instance, I felt like an anomaly when the book world was going mad for Normal People, and I had forced myself to read it for a second time but was still left wondering what all the fuss was about.

All Reviews Matter

Before I started writing reviews on my blog, I naively thought that only book reviewers that wrote for the top magazines and newspapers gained influence and mattered. It’s easy to think, right?

Sure, my reviews will have far less of an audience but they still have the potential to alter the perception or success of a book. Working with lesser-known authors that have approached me (which is still unbelievable in itself) I’ve realised the value of a well-written book review and what that can mean for an author – and it doesn’t have to be written by someone well established.

In a world where we can all be writers and reviewers on Amazon, NetGalley and Goodreads, all of our opinions and thoughts matter too. That’s the beauty of the internet.

Image: @katstokes_ via Uplash

Sometimes It Can Be Hard to Put Thoughts into Words

Some reviews have been easier to write than others. Sometimes I have felt so overwhelmed with a book that I’ve struggled to put my thoughts to paper, or haven’t even written a review for it, in fear of not being able to do it justice. Take The Goldfinch for example, probably one of the best books I have ever read, but I couldn’t write a review of it because it was almost too good – and my thoughts on it lacked a real coherency that book reviews need. So I left it, and that’s okay.

And then some books deal with difficult topics, such as Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race and An American Marriage – incredibly important books, but I’ve found reviews for these hard to write in case I phrase something badly or have interpreted the message in the wrong way.

But now and always, it will be imperative that we continue to review these types of books and test ourselves. It’s better to try and get it wrong than to sit back and not try at all.


It’s been a fun nine months of writing book reviews and I’ve gained a lot from it. As someone who can easily forget books despite whilst reading them being madly in love with them, I’ve realised the value in keeping some kind of record of my thoughts to look back on. For non book bloggers, it doesn’t have to be a book review, but even making a few simple notes in a diary or journal, detailing what you thought of the book.

I’ve realised above all, that I love writing book reviews and starting conversations with readers across the world, as despite being many miles apart, we can be united by the shared experience of having read the same book. The sense of community at the heart of the online book world is invaluable and I hope I’ve managed to positively contribute in some way, despite only being here for a short while.

Here’s to more brilliant reads and writing more book reviews to come!


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Sunday Post #2 Wild adventures

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.


I’ve been fairly absent from writing this week, as I took a long needed trip away to Dartmoor National Park with my partner. We usually take a camping trip every year, but due to the situation, we decided to try wild camping for the first time, which was exciting!

Dartmoor is the only place in England where you can pitch up your tent without having any kind of permission. After a week of solid rain we approached the trip with tepidity, but remarkably, we barely got any rain and had a successful trip. It was so nice to spend time outdoors and enjoying the simple things in life – finding and filtering our own water, letting our sleep patterns correspond to the sun, eating outside, and just being away from the same four walls. Everything just felt more special than it usually does. Plus, Dartmoor is pretty beautiful – especially the ponies.

I had gotten into a pretty solid routine of writing before going away and I’m now trying to ease myself back into it – which is hard. Because there’s no urgency and I have to inflict deadlines for myself and keep myself motivated, which isn’t usually a problem but when I take time off it can be.

The nights are slowly drawing in and it already feels like the beginning of Autumn – I can’t believe its been half a year of this dreaded virus. I’m worried about the next few months and feel like we haven’t had the worst of it yet.

In terms of blog updates – you may have noticed I have a new theme. I am very indecisive when it comes to themes, but I decided to go for something more simplistic. I think it works, let me know if you have any thoughts! I have redesigned my portfolio page so that it looks a bit more presentable in the hope some commissioning editor may see it and be impressed…. I will always be wishing.

I have set up a MailChimp account with the intentions of starting a newsletter to keen readers who wish to hear more from me. I’m thinking of doing a weekly newsletter that includes my reading thoughts, any recommendations I have and generally what’s happening in my life. You can sign up for that here. When I get enough subscribers I’ll brave it and write the first one.


This Week on the Blog

Book Review: How I Learned to Hate in Ohio

What I read in August ~ 2020


This Week – Elsewhere

OPINION: Post-Covid-19, We All Need to be Intersectional Feminists Empoword Journalism

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Don’t Need to Be Radical, Just Electable Backbench UK

Signs You Need to Practice Self Care — and Why It’s Important The Innovation, Medium

How to Achieve Mental Clarity by Journaling Medium


Currently Reading

Expected: September 1, 2020. Edited by Jennifer Haupt

This is kindly provided to me from NetGalley. I’m not sure how I feel about producing books about Covid yet, seeing as it’s far from over. But if it’s going to be a long journey, I guess we have to document the beginning.

I love the idea of this – a collection of essays, poems and interviews written by writers across the board. I have only read about 20% but I am already enjoying it. It’s so interesting to read about all the different (but sometimes harrowing) experiences of the pandemic.

I am currently on the grief section which is of course, a paramount aspect of the pandemic but is is an incredibly emotional and raw read. I look forward to reading the rest of this in small, regulated doses.

Expected: 29th October, 2020. Mark Watson.

TW: Suicide, depression

This is another one from NetGalley which I was drawn to because of the cover art! It starts with the character of James, who decides to send a text to everyone in his inbox, telling them that he is going to take his own life. Each chapter is told through a different person who received the text and goes through their response to his message, and then the book with lurch back to James.

Again, I haven’t read too much of it yet but it’s a hard going read for sure, mainly due to the context and how close to home it is. It’s quite hard to follow because of the sheer number of characters, but I definitely like the idea of this and hope Mark Watson manages to pull it off.

Salvation Station, Kathryn Schleich.

It’s been a while since I have read a good crime novel and I am looking forward to reading more of this one. This was kindly provided to me by Kelsey Butts at Book Publicity Services.

The lead character is a female police captain called Linda Turner, which I immediately approve of because so many crime novels/thrillers usually have male leads. Chapters alternate between different people potentially involved in the crime and they’re short and choppy which gives a nice pace to the book.

I’m enjoying it so far but just hope it doesn’t get too scary!


Favourite Articles of the Week

7 Lessons Learned by Writing Over Three Thousand Blog Posts ~ Cristian Mihai @ The Art of Blogging

How I Write 20,000 Words in a Single Day ~ Tim Denning @ Better Marketing, Medium

Why I Don’t Wear Bikinis ~ Addie Page @ P.S I Love You, Medium

The Government’s Obesity Strategy Neglects Those in Poverty and Perpetuates Dangerous Stigmas ~ Holly Barrow @ Backbench UK

I hope you all have a brilliant week and keep staying safe!


Please note – this post does contain Amazon affiliate links and if you choose to use them, I will earn a small fee but this doesn’t impact my review in anyway.

What I read in July ~ 2020

I’ve experienced a bit of a ‘lull’ in reading this month, and I’m not sure why really. Some days I’ve barely picked up a book! I started off the month well but haven’t read as much as I would have liked, oh well! Here is what I read in July.

If I Could Say Goodbye, Emma Cooper (e-ARc)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This is a novel about grief and understanding how it can affect our minds and relationships. Told through the perspective of Jennifer Jones and her husband, Edward, Emma Cooper sets out to explore the impact of the sudden death of Jennifer’s sister, Kerry. Within this novel is a very honest and revealing depiction of grief and how it can overturn our whole lives, however, I found the book itself a struggle to read. It lacked structure and a definitive overarching narrative, but nonetheless, was one of the most realistic portrayals of grief I have seen explored in a novel.

Broadwater, Jac Shreeves-Lee (e-ARC)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Broadwater is a collection of short stories, narrating the lives and experiences of a group of people living in Tottenham, North London. Jac Sheeeves-Lee showcases the variety of generations and nationalities that live alongside each other in high density housing. Each chapter is told through a different character and experience, but all are united by the shared sense of striving for a better life and seeing the beauty in the everyday – despite their ongoing struggles. Shreeves-Lee depicts the realities of race, economic inequality and lack of opportunity in this stunning collection of short stories which had me hooked from the get go.

A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A truly wonderfully crafted story, set between the French revolution (1789) and the Reign of Terror that followed. Living in times like ours, it seemed apt to read a novel set within so much uncertainty and a quest for change. Despite this, there is also something strangely comforting about returning to Dickens and classics more widely. Although I found the plot hard to follow at first, unlike other Dickens novels, there are only a few characters to keep track of – so the narrative became easier to follow as the novel went on. Dickens exposes the reality of the revolution and the brutality of Robespierre’s regime so viscerally – it is revealing, clever and extraordinary. I think this is my favourite Dickens I’ve read (so far!)

An American Marriage, Tayari Jones

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This book hit the spot in every way. Tayari Jones crafts a well thought out and beautifully written story but filled to the brim with complexity. It follows the lives of a newly wedded couple, Roy and Celestial. One day Roy is falsely accused of a crime he didn’t commit, and spends five years in jail which causes his relationship to fall apart. Celestial and Roy spend their time communicating through letters, which gradually dwindle out as time goes on. At the heart of this novel is an exploration of the rampant racism at the heart of American institutions, the impact of gender, class and race on life chances and opportunities and an evaluation of a relationship. I loved reading this book from start to finish and think it is an incredibly important one to read.

Currently reading

Image: Violet Daniels

If you have read one of my recent posts, you will know I’m currently reading The Little Friend and We Need To Talk to White People About Race. The Little Friend is a mammoth of a book and I still have around 200 pages to go, but the Reni Eddo-Lodge is smaller but way more dense – I’ve got round 50 pages to go with this one. I’ve been taking my time with both and reading them more leisurely but I’ll probably finish them soonish, so expect some more reviews for next week!

July’s TBR (I didn’t do too well here…)

An American Marriage

A Tale of Two Cities

The Little Friend – in progress

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – in progress

How I learned to Hate in Ohio

That’s all for now! Hope you all had a good reading month and are keeping safe and well.

Violet xxx