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.

Book Review: Salvation Station

Firstly, many thanks to She Writes Press and Book Publicity Services for providing me with a copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review.

Salvation Station, Crime Fiction

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

“When committed female police captain Linda Turner, haunted by the murders of two small children and their pastor father, becomes obsessed with solving the harrowing case, she finds herself wrapped up in a mission to expose a fraudulent religious organization and an unrepentant killer.
 
Despite her years of experience investigating homicides for the force, Captain Linda Turner is haunted by the murders of the Hansen family. The two small children, clothed in tattered Disney pajamas, were buried with their father, a pastor, in the flower garden behind a church parsonage in Lincoln, Nebraska. But Mrs. Hansen is nowhere to be found—and neither is the killer.
 
In St. Louis, the televangelist Ray Williams is about to lose his show—until one of his regular attendees approaches him with an idea that will help him save it. Despite his initial misgivings, Ray agrees to give it a try. He can’t deny his attraction to this woman, and besides, she’d assured him the plan is just—God gave her the instructions in a dream.
 
Multiple story lines entwine throughout this compelling mystery, delving into the topics of murder, religious faith, and the inherent dangers in blindly accepting faith as truth. While Reverend Williams is swept up in his newfound success and plans for his wedding, Captain Turner can only hope that she and her team will catch the Hansens’ cunning killer—before more bodies surface.”


Combining a classic whodunit and an exploration of Christianity and blind faith, Kathryn Schleich in her debut novel, creates a unique and gripping read. Schleich combines multiple story-lines to uncover the corruption and horror at the heart of a devout Church community in Nebraska.

The Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Do not be deceived by the disturbing front cover depicting a plastic doll, left abandoned in the leaves. This book despite appearances is not a horror story, but rather, a classic crime fiction whodunit. I had my reservations when I started, as the cover led me to think it would be more of a horror/thriller, but alas, it wasn’t.

The first thing that stood out to me, was that the lead police investigator was a woman, which I loved. Of course, there are some writers within the genre that feature female leads, like Kay Scarpetta in Patricia Cornwell’s novels, but even then, Scarpetta is the chief medical examiner, rather than the lead police role.

It was so refreshing to see and made a change from having a typically male leading character as the head of police. The story features different perspectives, but Linda Turner and Reverend Ray Williams are the main narrators. I got on with Linda as a character and valued her honesty and commitment to solving the horrific crime.

Schleich has an eye for creating great characters. Ray Williams, the Reverend and host of The Road to Calvary, a hit evangelist organization, soon to be a successful TV commercial, is very likeable. Although gullible and a bit haphazard, Ray desperately cares about his local community.

Susannah comes into Ray’s life out of the blue and goes headfirst into wanting to improve The Road to Calvary. Ray falls in love with her ambition and readiness to help, and their relationship blossoms, but all is not what it seems. Susannah from the off is dislikable in her manipulation of Ray – but she also makes him happy, so what’s the problem?

Having a range of good characters for me is key in any good story, and Schleich definitely provides this.

The plot is simple, mirrored on a classic whodunit premise. The reader is hit with a dark and ominous feeling at the beginning and this is continued right through to the end. The chapters are short and sharp and give a sense of pace – which I liked. Aside from the gripping beginning, the novel isn’t suspenseful and not a page-turner by classic definition – but I was so invested that I didn’t need an added incentive to keep reading.

Moreover, I liked the way it wasn’t just a crime novel. Using The Road to Calvary, and other religious overtones, Schleich can make a poignant comment on religion and the notion of blind faith. The story and community in which Ray, Linda and Susannah are a part of, is religious and benevolent by nature, but of course, this is a false misconception.

Without saying too much – the ending was dramatic and satisfying. I would recommend this to anyone who loves a good crime fiction novel with a twist, and for fans of police procedurals.

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.


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 August ~ 2020

August was a good reading month. On the whole, I was very impressed with most of the things I read, including feeling a warm wave of nostalgia, having read the long-awaited latest instalment in the Twilight series. Although I haven’t read as many books, as usual, two of them were over 700 pages! I hope you all managed to have a good reading month too! What were your favourite reads? 

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race Reni Eddo-Lodge, Non-fiction

This is an essential read for everyone. Reni Eddo-Lodge reveals in her emotionally charged long-from essay the deep, systemic racism at the heart of British society. With chapters on feminism, class and the criminal justice system it is a thematic demonstration of how racism is embedded within every level. Eddo-Lodge challenges readers to recognise their own bias and learn to listen – and it is evocative and completely compelling. It explains complicated concepts in a broad and uncomplicated manner, making it fully accessible, acting as a great starting point for learning about race.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Midnight Sun Stephanie Meyer, Fiction

For die-hard fans of Twilight, this is a must-read. Written as an addition to the Twilight series, readers finally get to see Edward’s version of events. Reading this gave me a greater appreciation for the Twilight world and I was interested to see things through Edward’s perspective, as he has long been branded as the creepy boyfriend. Granted, this won’t make sense unless you are familiar with the series but it offers more of an in-depth background to the Cullen’s and the Vampire world. Reading this filled me with the nostalgia of my teenage years. The over 700 page novel of mostly Edward’s inner thoughts and feelings won’t be for everyone – but for die hard fans it is bliss.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Little Friend Donna Tartt, Fiction

Donna Tartt’s first novel is full of initial intrigue as the story follows Harriet, a young girl, who tries to uncover the murderer behind Robin, her younger brother who was found dead in the family yard many years ago. The premise offers an initial hook and Tartt delivers a dreamy and evocative description of Alexandria, Mississippi in the 1970s, but fails to deliver a coherent plot and ending to what would have been, a fascinating novel. As a dedicated Tartt fan, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed and was left wanting more of an explanation. Nonetheless, it is still a beautifully written book, but with no definitive ending. Literary fiction by nature focuses on character development, but this does not mean the plot should have to suffer. This is brilliantly demonstrated with Tartt’s latest novel, The Goldfinch.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

How I Learned to Hate in Ohio David Stuart MacLean, Fiction

This book is a portrayal of hate in multiple forms, demonstrated within one community in Ohio in the 1980s. Told through the perspective of Barry Nadler, and the small community he is a part of, the novel explores racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and white, middle-class discontent which shines a light on the division that can encapsulate small communities. It’s not a plot-driven novel but an in-depth social commentary told through one person’s inner monologue. The book only really gets ‘exciting’ at the end but keeps the pace through short, snappy chapters. I think this book is important and necessary, but I was constantly waiting for something to happen and when it did, felt unfulfilled.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This takes me up to 45 books completed out of my 50 to read for this year. I am ahead of my Goodreads challenge for the first time in years which makes me really happy. For once, I won’t be ending the year wishing I had read more, but smiling because I have. And, because I have documented it all!

Happy reading everyone.


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.


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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.