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.

8 Thoughts From Reading The Little Friend, by Donna Tartt

As a committed Donna Tartt fan, I was very much looking forward to this. The Little Friend was Tartt’s first novel and has mixed reviews. Having read and loved The Goldfinch, I had high expectations, but I was definitely not blown away. These are 10 thoughts I had whilst, during, and after reading, The Little Friend.

*Caution* ~ may contain spoilers.

The Little Friend

Donna Tartt

Novel, fiction, bildungsroman

Bloomsbury Edition, 2017 / 2002

Rating: 3 out of 5.

What is going on?

I found the book incredibly hard to follow, despite its simple premise. The novel is told mainly through the perspective of Harriet, a young girl growing up in Alexandria, Mississippi. Harriet spends the book trying to find out what happened to her brother, Robin, who was found hanging from a tree in the family’s front yard, many years ago. The novel jumps about from person to person, which I don’t usually mind, however in this case I found it hard to see how the different perspectives linked together, to aid the overall story.

There are so many characters and I’m struggling to keep up with them

Although the narration is mainly told through Harriet, it is alternated with the perspective of Danny Ratcliff, who Harriet thinks has murdered her brother. His life, and daily activities are paralleled with Harriet’s attempt to track him down, but this is also executed with no real structure. Ratcliff also introduces many other characters into the story – including Farish, his accomplice, Eugene (another accomplice), Curtis and Gum – who I never quite worked out.

And of course, there’s all the characters in Harriet’s family – her sister, Allison, Ida, the family’s maid, her mother and all her aunts and grandparents. And of course, Helly, her best friend. It really is a mind field and I struggled to keep track of them all and work out who was who.

Image: Jp Valery for Uplash

I’m really near the end and I still haven’t found out what happened to Robin

As I kept getting nearer towards the end, I was waiting for something to happen and it never came. Although the events towards the end of the story are quite exciting, we never find out who murdered Robin which I found so frustrating as this is what the novel is set up to do. It was just so unsatisfying that the whole premise of the book just wasn’t fulfilled.

I love Tartt’s writing but this novel feels jumbled and like it doesn’t have a structure

You cannot fault the writing stylistically, as Tartt undeniably has the ability to write and create a sense of atmosphere, which is executed well in this novel. However, there was just no structure to the story and I found it hard to want to keep reading. The only thing that kept me going was that I thought I was going to find out what happened to Robin. It was a pleasurable reading experience because the writing was good, but there was just so little substance to it.

I’m sad as I thought I would love this as much as her other books

I’d be lying If I said I didn’t finish this book feeling endlessly disappointed. Maybe I’m judging it too harshly as it was her first book and I have the benefit of having fallen in love with her more recent books but I did really want to like this. Part of me is also sad because I’ve now read all of her books and I know she takes a while to write.

Everything changes when Ida leaves

About 3/4 of the way through the book Ida, the household maid leaves as Harriet’s mother decides she no longer needs her services. Tartt portrays this noticeable break in the novel through incredible symbolism. The character of Ida is symbolized as being the carrier of normality in the household and Harriet’s life more widely, “Time was broken. Harriet’s way of measuring it was gone. Ida was the planet whose round marked the hours…” The story noticeably shifts to something more sinister when Ida leaves, and this crafting of the novel is the most sophisticated part.

I love Donna Tartt’s writing, but this novel was really redundant for me

The more I read, the more I was getting frustrated. There didn’t seem to be any climax to the story, yes there are a few exciting events, but the overall crux of the novel is never executed, which is such a shame because the writing as usual is spot on. Tartt has this unique ability to craft in depth character studies that drive the story forward, but unfortunately, in this case there was a lack of story in the first place and a plot that was unfulfilled.

The feeling of the book and the setting is infallible

Tartt’s characteristic attention to detail and use of sensory language portrays the feeling of growing up in Mississippi in in the 1970s from the perspective of a young girl. It is a fascinating character study – but I can’t help but feel it is nothing more than that. Her language creates an atmospheric feel to the book, my only wish was that it had a definitive story arc with a penultimate ending.

I’m currently trying out a few different formats for book reviews, let me know what you think of this one!

A fascinating Edition to a Nostalgic Series: Midnight Sun

Just a quick preface I was obsessed with Twilight throughout my teenage years and remember walking to school whilst reading Eclipse, completely hooked. Although I have revisited the films in recent years, I haven’t been tempted to re-read the saga, but I was unashamedly excited at the start of the year when Midnight Sun was announced. I really tried to savor the pages, but I only lasted a few days! This will be gushy, as it’s reviewed by a dedicated Twilight fan, but I couldn’t help myself.

Midnight Sun

Stephanie Meyer

Young Adult, fantasy, romance

Little Brown and Company, August 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Pros

  • The background to the Cullen world ~ seeing things through Edward’s perspective is different in many ways. Being over a hundred years old, Edward naturally has a more complex way of viewing the world, the language is different and heavier than that used with Bella’s perspective throughout the previous saga. It is dense and heavy, but offers a perspective on the human world that is unique and interesting. Through Edward’s perspective, we gain a greater insight into the history of the Cullen family which is fascinating to read. A lot of the book features the thoughts of the Cullen’s and other human’s in Bella’s circle, including Mike Newton and Jessica Stanley – as Edward recalls reading their minds.
  • The chance to see things through Edward’s perspective ~ Edward has faced a lot of backlash in recent years for his controlling nature. Although there is certainly some truth to this, one has to realise he is a Vampire and Meyer isn’t trying to portray a normal human relationship here… he is an animal after all. The animalistic nature of his very being is self evident, as Edward describes the pain of his thirst and the complications this brings. In reading this I think I actually left feeling more sympathetic toward Edward and more understanding of why he is the way he is. Ultimately, I found reading things through Edward’s perspective so much less annoying than Bella’s….
  • It adds greater complexity to the overall story ~ Seeing things through an alternative lens, having read the entire story multiple times over, is bound to give more complexity to the saga. Through reading this I actually gained a greater appreciation for the world Meyer had created, as all the back story’s were revealed. Meyer has always faced backlash for being a poor writer (which I never believed) but this edition really highlights her skill as a writer, expressed with her attention to detail.
  • It adds another dimension to their relationship ~ Bella for me was always a problematic narrator and not a very likable character. The Cullen’s were always the most fascinating, so seeing everything through Edward’s perspective was definitely better from a reading point of view. Seeing Edward’s perspective on human relationships is certainly interesting, but he also manages to convey the beautiful simplicity of being human. He notices things we probably don’t – like the subtle changes in Bella’s skin-tone, and the alterations in someones voice. Although some of the criticisms over Edward’s possessiveness are valid, I think seeing the relationship through his lens is incredibly valuable. Bella is not pushed into his arms, rather, she pushes herself, and Edward is always on the side of hesitancy throughout their relationship.

Cons

  • It is long winded at times ~ Being stuck inside Edward’s head is fascinating when there’s lots going on, but in scenes when he is on a hunt or just by himself, it can be quite boring. There is a constant re-laying of other people’s thoughts as he reads their minds, which could have done with a bit of toning down, but on the whole I found his perspective fascinating.
  • The discovery that Edward knew he was going to leave Bella far earlier on ~ From reading the saga multiple times in the past, I never got the impression that Edward knew that he was going to leave Bella so early on. In this book, he realises he needs to leave her just after the incident with James, when Bella is still in the hospital, but never lets on. I think this is one of the sides to him I don’t like – he is a very good liar and can easily manipulate Bella into a false sense of security. Obviously, with everything that happens in New Moon and after, we know they get back together but still, it was something I was shocked to discover and kind of annoyed at Edward for.
  • This won’t make sense unless you’ve read the other 4 books ~ Not necessarily a negative but I think it’s worth pointing out that this isn’t another Twilight story, but an addition to the series which definitely would not be as valuable unless you had read the other books. Knowing the entirety of the story didn’t hinder me as a reader, but I found I actually benefited from it as I could fully get into Edward’s own perspective.

Favourite Quotes

Image: USA today

“My life was an unending, unchanging midnight It must, by necessity, always be midnight for me. So how was it possible that the sun was rising now, in the middle of my midnight?”

The dedication nearly had me bawling, “This book is dedicated to all the readers who have been such a happy part of my life for the last fifteen years. When we first met, many of you were young teenagers with bright, beautiful eyes full of dreams for the future. I hope that in the years that have passed, you’ve all found your dreams and that the reality of them was even better than you’d hoped.”

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

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 🙂