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

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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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

Isolation day 87: retail, furlough, brain fog, and podcasts

England is taking its first tentative steps forward, nearly three months on from an unprecedented, national lockdown. Tomorrow will see the opening of “non-essential” shops, as the great British people prepare to flood the high streets during a pandemic which is yet to disappear.

As I sit here writing this, I do wonder what will be going through those peoples’ minds as they make trips into local towns and cities across the country, acting as if the pandemic has magically gone away. It’s safe to say I will not be in a rush to visit shops any time soon.

Many major high street retailers will be adopting the “quarantine items” approach and storing things for 72 hours to kill off the virus. Many shops will not be allowing customers to try items on, and instead encouraging them to take them back to their own homes and bring back if need be. This all seems so comical to me. If the queues for McDonald’s reopening are anything to go by I think the turn out for retail will be just as crazy…

Meanwhile, my furlough has been extended for the time being, I have no definitive date for going back to work but expect it may be between July-August. It feels so strange to realise I have not been to work since the end of March. The world feels so different to the last time I got on that commuter train and made my last latte. I’m pretty sure I won’t even know how to operate the coffee machine when I return… (sorry to my boss if you happen to see this!)

These past few weeks have been pretty rough. I almost feel as if I’ve had this cloud of fog over my brain. Any time I have go to do something, I have found a million excuses why I shouldn’t or just put it off for as long as possible. I feel like my attention span is now worse than ever and I find it hard to concentrate on anything that makes me think. I still feel like there’s a thousand things I could be doing that I’m not. I actually plucked up the courage to send pitches in for national news outlets but have heard nothing back which is disheartening. However, I know that I can’t give up and I need to keep trying. It’s annoying though because the piece was quite “time-sensitive” and I can’t re pitch it as it just wouldn’t be relevant now. I find that half the battle is getting the article idea in the first place.

Sitting in the park

I’ve been lax with exercise too. At the beginning of lockdown I was taking the daily exercise allowance quite seriously and would go for walks most days, however, since it has gotten busier outside with the loosening of the lockdown, I now feel more worried about going outside. I do generally feel like most people are acting like the pandemic is over and the virus has just disappeared. It worries me because you can never predict how anyone is going to behave, I actually wrote a piece for empoword journalism about this. But I am managing to at least get in one run a week – this week I actually managed two so I guess that’s pretty good going.

Day by day, the political response gets worse. What worries me more than anything is the sheer lack of integrity and accountability that Boris Johnson shows. When he even bothers to turn up for the daily conferences (which now seems to be like a weekly thing) he doesn’t answer the questions, he silences the scientists and offers no valid information for the public. His treatment of the Black Lives Matter movement has been diabolical, it took a prompting from the leader of the opposition at PMQ’s for him to even address it, and even when he did it was shoddy and half hearted. I can never agree with Conservatives politically, but at least some in the past haven’t been so full of hypocrisy. It really worries me.

I’ve recently re-discovered the value of podcasts and how great they are to listen to whilst you are doing other things. I love cooking but sometimes I just get a bit bored chopping and waiting for things, but now I tend to pop something on to keep me entertained. I also listen to them in the bath a lot – which I am still having loads of. They make me happy and content which is what I really need right now.

For some unforeseen miracle, we managed to get our hands on some flour – the first time in about three months. I have since made two batches of Irish soda bread – as we’ve got the flour but still no yeast – and have been enjoying the taste of fresh bread. Although maybe a little too much, because on the second bake I basically ate the whole loaf to myself which resulted in a carb induced coma for the rest of the day. I wouldn’t recommend.

My bread, not perfect but something

I am actually really proud of my blog at the moment and how far it has come since the start of the year. In January when I properly started I could count the amount of followers I had on two hands, and now I am fast approaching one hundred. I know that isn’t much in the grand scheme of things but I think it’s mad that so people want to hear what I have to say. And I am so pleased that I managed to save up enough to get myself a new laptop – my old one was so clunky, heavy and slow and now I have a really fast laptop which feels lovely to type on. Getting it at this time was definitely a good idea.

Anyway, I’ll stop rambling. That was my isolation update. I thought I would be doing more of these but I guess I didn’t realise how “samey” the days would be.

Hope you are all keeping safe and well 🙂