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

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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Book review: The Sacrifice

I have been pretty quiet this week due to multiple reasons. However, I’m back with another book review! Please note, The Sacrifice was kindly sent to me in an exchange for an honest review. I’ve never done a review of a short story collection so we’ll see how it goes!

Genres: Short story, fiction

Source: Free e-book

My rating: ★★★

Synopsis

The Sacrifice is a collection of short stories, written by Indrajit Garai, author of The Bridge of Little Jeremy. There are three stories in the collection, which all feature the exploration of human sacrifice and the strong bonds that hold family relationships together.

The Move, the first story in the collection, is about a dairy farmer in rural France who struggles to keep his business alive. Guillaume faces the real prospect of financial ruin as he tries to protect his son, eventually giving up everything to keep him safe.

The Listener, is a story told through the perspective of a young boy, Matthew, who tries to save his favourite tree from being chopped down. The tree is a source of comfort for the boy, in a time in his life where his home life is unstable, as his Mother begins a relationship with a new partner,

The final story is The Sacrifice, the tale of a struggling author who lives with his Grandson, Arthur. Francois has been struggling to make it as an author his whole life. As he begins a battle with rival publishers, he faces the real prospect of financial ruin. Often starving himself so that his Grandson can eat, he makes the ultimate sacrifice to keep Arthur safe.

The Review

The shining element in this collection was the sense of unity created between the three stories. Each story was very different in its feel and plot, however, they were all connected by a common theme – which is essential (in my opinion) for any short story collection.

All stories were united by the idea of human sacrifice, explored through various complex family relationships. Despite the suffering and darkness that is at the heart of all stories, there is always a sense of hope. I was left with the same feeling I got when I finished The Bridge of Little Jeremy and it is what Garai does best; despite everything, the darkness is always countered with a sense of hope, even against the worst circumstances.

“He saw, no matter how harsh his struggle for survival had become, there were still rewards of living on this earth.”

The Sacrifice, 148.

The exploration of human suffering and relationships across all stories makes the collection feel incredibly raw and real. It strikes at the most difficult elements that life can bring, but also maintains a sense of hope. As always by Garai, the writing is beautiful and I can quite easily get lost in the prose.

From reading The Bridge of Little Jeremy, I gather Garai likes to write about troubled characters, which features heavily in all these stories. Each character is facing some kind of hardship and strives to put it right. Garai also likes to explore the child persona which features in The Listener, as Matthew tries to do everything in his power to save a tree from being chopped down. But it isn’t just any tree, as it becomes his source of comfort in a time where he is experiencing anxiety and upheaval.

My favourite story in the collection was definitely The Sacrifice. Francois strive to make it as a writer and do everything to try and keep his Grandson thriving, and his story pays homage to the extent of human perseverance and struggle. For me, it was the most gripping as it had a sense of pace that the others lacked. I desperately wanted Francois to make it as a published author and receive the life he and his Grandson deserved, one free of the anxieties of financial hardship.

Despite the beauty of the writing, I struggled with The Move and The Listener, the first two stories in the collection. They both lacked a hook and reading them was a bit slow-going, as there was little drive and suspense to keep me reading. The Move redeemed itself slightly in the dramatic ending, however this was the only part that intrigued me. In this respect, I feel the first two stories were weaker than the last. They felt heavy and dense, with a definitive lack of direction.

All in all, I enjoyed reading this collection and really felt that all stories connected to each other. The language is beautiful and a joy to read but I felt the first two stories were a bit draining. However, I thoroughly enjoyed The Sacrifice, the last story, and think this is where the collection really excels. Definitely worth a read!

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