Victober TBR

October is within striking distance, and I’ve been a terrible reader lately.

Okay – there doesn’t seem to be any connection between those two clauses. Let me explain. Recently, I haven’t read many books. I have a couple of books on the go – a non-fiction history book and a fantasy novel – but I haven’t really been finding time to sit and just read for a little while, and considering I’ve just spent the last three years getting an English degree with a heavy focus on literature, that seems a bit of a shame. I love reading, but after uni… I sort of took a break. Sometimes, you just need to let your brain rest and know that it’s okay to do that, but I’m ready to get stuck back in and I’ve decided that Victober is the perfect way to do that.

Victober, for those of you who don’t know, is basically “reading Victorian literature in October”. This year it’s being hosted by Katie of Books and Things, Kate Howe, Ange of Beyond the Pages, and Lucy of LucyTheReader. You can check out their announcement and recommendation videos on their respective YouTube channels if you’re interested in following along, learning more or joining in. They’re all linked there.

Despite never taking a module exclusively on Victorian literature, I did read my fair share across my degree. Some of the material I’ll be reading throughout October I’m familiar with, but I’ve mainly tried to selected literature I haven’t experienced before, and I’m looking forward to discussing it on here – you’ll get to see me actually put my degree to some kind of use. Don’t worry – I won’t make you read any full blown essays!

There are five challenges participants of Victober are encouraged to complete. These are:

  1. To read a Victorian book by a Scottish, Irish or Welsh author.
  2. To read a lesser-known Victorian book (less than 12k GoodReads ratings)
  3. To read a supernatural Victorian book
  4. To read a Victorian book recommended by someone else
  5. To read a Victorian book written by a female author

While I’ve selected five books (hey, I’m easing myself back in!), most of the books combine multiple challenges in some way. Here are the books I’ve chosen, along with a little bit about why I selected them!

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In A Glass Darkly by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

I am a big fan of Le Fanu. I first encountered him in my first year of my English degree when I took a minor in Irish literature (Irish literature is super interesting), and we studied ‘Green Tea’ and ‘Carmilla’ (both included in In A Glass Darkly). Then, in third year, I took a module on Gothic literature and film and ‘Carmilla’ was once again one of the texts we studied. I really like Le Fanu, but despite having owned this book for years, I haven’t read any more of it! I am really looking forward to seeing if I enjoy the other stories included in here as much as I enjoyed both of the ones I’ve already read.

This book will complete challenges 1 and 3!

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The Old Curiosity Shop, by Charles Dickens

Despite what I said earlier about having read my fair share of Victorian literature, I haven’t actually read much Dickens. I feel like I sort of had to put some Dickens on here, purely because of that. I asked some of my friends from university what works they would recommend, and it was a toss-up between this and A Christmas Carol. I decided to save ACC for December, so The Old Curiosity Shop it is!

This book will complete challenge 4!

East Lynne, by Ellen Wood

I knew I would be taking a novel straight from Ange’s announcement video for her challenge, and this one piqued my interest the most. I don’t think I’ve really ever heard about it before – not enough to remember, anyway, and after having a quick look around, I decided to stick with East Lynne. I really have no idea what to expect going into this one, but I’m looking forward to it nonetheless.

This will complete challenges 2 and 5!

Now, you might have noticed that we’ve completed all the challenges, so maybe you’re expecting me to stop here. We’re not stopping here.

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The Lifted Veil, by George Eliot

Deciding that I wanted more spooky entries to my TBR, I went back and added a couple more. I know I’ve wanted to read this in the past and never gotten to it, so onto the list it went! October is my favourite month for all things supernatural and spooky, and I also wanted to add more female authors to this TBR, so I am very much looking forward to reading this one. It will probably end up being read much earlier than you would think by its placement in this blog post.

This will complete challenges 3 and 5!

Gothic Tales, by Elizabeth Gaskell

This one is another collection, but I couldn’t narrow down the stories I wanted to read. I might not read them all, but this is definitely one I’m interested in picking up. Again, I wanted both more spooky entries and more female entries, so that’s why this one is here. I’m looking forward to it.

This will also complete challenges 3 and 5!

So, there you go. That’s my TBR for Victober, and I’m pretty excited. I’ll be sure to write up blog posts on each book I read (as per my desire to review the content I consume), so keep an eye out for those. I might even go into a little bit of history and analysis, but I won’t make any promises there because I’m not sure exactly how busy I’ll be throughout October.

Are you taking part in Victober? If so, what are you planning on reading? If not, have you read any Victorian literature before? Do you prefer other time periods? Contemporary? Let me know in the comments!

-K

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Reflecting On September

Recently, I read Sincerely, Sinéad’s post, ‘Harry Potter & Fall Feels’, and since I read it I’ve been thinking about my own relationship with September. This is my first September in as long as I can remember that I haven’t been heading back to school, and it’s been a little bittersweet. I’ve always marked my years by the half-term periods that begin in September and take me through to July, and September has always been a time of new uniforms and empty notebooks; of school shoes that are still a little stiff and not yet scuffed; of the smell of early morning frost and the sound of a new packet of pens being ripped open. It’s weird to know that this is it – I won’t have that again.

It also means I won’t have the anxiety in the pit of my stomach while I wait to leave for school, but it’s more than just ‘no more bad stuff’. It means I’m ready for the next chapter of my life – whatever that happens to be. The reason I decided to forego studying for a master’s degree after graduation is that I really thought I was just ready to step away from education. I didn’t think there was any more I could gain from studying right now, and it was feeling more like I was just trying to delay the inevitable. Now, don’t get me wrong here: I absolutely loved my degree, but I was undoubtedly ready to take a step away from academia.

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September was definitely a little bit scary this year. It was full of unknowns, and none of my plans seemed to have fallen into place yet. I was certain that now was when my writing was going to become my main focus, but all of my ideas had gotten fuzzy and I wasn’t sure if I remembered how to be creative. Nothing seemed to be worth writing, and, honestly, I was terrified. And then I breathed, and I stopped worrying, and it clicked.

September is a time of new beginnings for me. I’ve picked up blogging again, which I am absolutely loving, and all of those fuzzy story ideas have become a little clearer. There are new characters setting up shops and homes and business in the avenues and alleyways of my mind, and there are old ones stepping out of the shadows and offering a hand. My brain has had time to rest and now it’s hungry again, but this time I get to pick and choose for myself. I’m reading what I want to read, and I’m pushing myself out of my reader comfort zone instead of a list of required reading doing it for me.

So, September this year is a bit of a weird one. It’s new, and it’s kind of the same. As it’s drawing to a close I’ve come to see that until now I never realised it was such an important moment in my year, but I’ve got a newfound appreciation for it and I’m greeting like an old friend I’ve passed in the street. I can remember all of the good times, and I’ll smile and mention that I saw them when I get home, but we don’t need to force it to be anything it’s not. This time, it’s okay to just let it pass.

What does September mean to you?

-K

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Habit Wish-List

Recently, I seem to have developed a lot of good habits. I have a daily skin care routine, I make my bed and straighten my room every day, I keep a spread of all of my expenses and I find time for writing multiple days a week. This last one is a habit I’m hoping to increase to every day, and it was in thinking about this change that I decided to write this blog post. So, without further ado, here are some habits I’m hoping to force myself to develop: 

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1. Morning dog walks 

As previously mentioned, I enjoy walking my dog. I usually try to walk him between midday and 3pm because there are less people around (my dog is mostly blind and can get quite startled when people suddenly approach him!). However, I’ve noticed lately that I’ll wake up early and spend too much time sitting around before I become productive. My hope is that walking my dog first thing in the morning will help me to kick-start my day earlier, as well as helping me to find inspiration that I might miss inside my house and get my creative juices flowing! 

2. Better hair care 

My skin care right now is pretty great, but my hair care is lacking. A little over a year ago I shaved my head, and to begin with I was doing a really good job at making sure it was growing back healthier and stronger. I’m still not entirely happy with my hair, so this is something I’m going to devote more attention to, starting with regular hair masks! I rarely use any heat on my hair as it is, so for me hair masks seems like a good starting point, but if you use a lot of heat then letting your hair air-dry (if possible) or going a few days without straightening or curling your hair might be a good place for you to begin if hair care is also something you’re concerned with. 

3. Reviewing the content I consume 

I love reading, but I don’t often take the time to share my opinions on the books I read any more. That’s not really fair considering how heavily I rely on reviews when I’m looking for a new book to read. I can’t afford to buy every book I’d like to and if I can’t get it from the library then book buying is actually a pretty big commitment! I need to minimise the chance I’ll be disappointed with my choice and I rely on reviews for that, and more reviews means less chance my decision will be skewed in the wrong direction. I think it’s only fair that I add my voice to these conversations, because I’m sure there are a lot of people in the same position as me who would really appreciate that. 

 4. Keeping a daily journal 

I have more empty notebooks than I know what to do with, and I’d really like to get into the habit of noting down my thoughts in it every morning or evening. Not only is it always good to spend more time writing, but I’m certain it will help me clear my head and organise my thoughts. Getting things down on paper will allow me to return to it later and look at it objectively, and I’m sure this can only be a positive change for me. 

4 seems like kind of an awkward number to me. I sat for a while trying to think it’s fifth habit just because 5 is a much nicer, rounder number in my opinion, and then I realised that was kind of a dumb thing to do. I don’t want to tack things on just for the sake of it, knowing full well I don’t have any real intentions of sticking by it. I don’t want to lie to you – I know myself and I know that the guilt I’d feel for failing at a goal I publicly announced would be enough to send me into hiding, so I won’t do that. We’ll leave it at 4. 

All in all, I think these are pretty achievable habits to desire. Maybe in a couple of months I’ll check back in and we’ll see how well I did – or have a good laugh and how I stuck at it for a week or two and then my enthusiasm fizzled out. Either way, it’ll be more content! We’ll just have to wait and see. 

What about you? Are there any habits you wish you had? Or the opposite – what are some habits you want to lose? Remember, we don’t have to wait for New Year to make these changes! 

-K 

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Why I’m Back To Blogging

Since graduating from university in July, I haven’t written much. I promised myself that I would start focusing on my creative writing, and that all of the projects that had been festering in my mind would finally have their time to shine. As of today, they have not. A few days to relax became a couple of weeks, and now it’s September and I only have a handful of rough, half finished drabbles and scraps to show for it. Still, it’s better than nothing.

I decided to take up blogging again for a few reasons:

1. To teach myself discipline with my writing.
2. To give myself structure in my week.
3. To improve my writing.
4. To have fun.

I’ve decided that every Monday and Thursday, as long as circumstances permit, I’m going to post a blog. That means that I will have to learn to let go of my writing. I have a terrible habit that I know most writers are guilty of, which is the inability to stop editing. At university I could work an essay to death, but when the due date arrived I had to let go of it no matter what. Without that finality, I might never see a piece leave the labyrinthine folders of my computer, so I’m setting my own deadlines. I can keep improving the same piece, but if I let it go and work on more things, I know that overall that will make my writing better in the long run.

Every time I have decided to blog before, my downfall has been concerning myself too much with being popular. What type of things should I write about? People won’t like me if I’m not sticking to a genre or theme. I’m not good at taking photographs, and a lot of my hobbies aren’t the things many people read blogs about. I always ended up just feeling embarrassed that I wasn’t producing the “right” content, of my blog didn’t have the “right” look. It put me off truly engaging in the community, and it was all in my own head. This time, I’ve decided to only blog for myself. I’ll write whatever I want to write because how else can I enjoy what I’m doing? And if only seven people read it, then it’s still seven more readers than if I never posted it in the first place. I’m not going to be embarrassed if I want to write about cosplay and nobody wants to read it because cosplay is something I enjoy. Just because I write about books one week doesn’t mean I can’t write about makeup or music the week after. Sure, I might have less readers this way, but at least I’ll be writing about things I care about.

I definitely feel like without this fear of embarrassing myself, I’m already engaging in the community in a way I never have before. I’m making more of an effort to share with a larger audience and to leave comments on all of the blog posts I read because I’m not worrying about what people will think when/if they visit my page in return. Already, the blogging community seems a little less daunting and scary. It’s actually pretty damn welcoming, believe it or not!

I’m writing this blog on the train back to Liverpool from Birmingham. I’ve just spent a wonderful weekend with my best friends and a gorgeous puppy, and I’m feeling all kinds of happy, positive and hopeful, so I wanted to write about something I hope will become a bigger and more loved part of my life. Now I’ve done that, so I’m going to close my eyes, listen to some music and try to get some rest for the rest of this journey.

What are your reasons for blogging (or not blogging)? Have you seen blogging make a positive difference in your life the way I hope to see it make in mine? Leave a comment and let me know.

-K

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Roll On, Autumn

Autumn is fast-approaching, and I’m finally ready to say goodbye to England’s poor attempts at the season of summer. Sure, we had a couple of fleeting glimpses of sun, but the days are getting shorter, the winds are getting brisker and I am so ready for it all.

Now, I won’t lie, most of my excitement right now is skewing towards knowing Christmas is only three months away, but there are plenty of facets of Autumn that are getting me hyped up, too!

  1. Fashion

Autumn is the season of oversized jumpers, scarves and big, chunky boots. If you know me, you know I’m one of those terrible people who wears the same pair of shoes every day, no matter the outfit. Spring and summer had me living in my black converse (because, at heart, I am still a thirteen year old emo), but as the weather gets wetter, I’m ready to break out my burgundy boots again. I bought them last Christmas on sale, and I absolutely adore them. They’re some of the comfiest shoes I own, and I feel like they definitely give any outfit the “autumn finish”.

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My boots, taken last Christmas!

  1. Food, Baking and Hot Drinks

My favourite foods and drinks are anything that includes cinnamon and/or ginger. I can’t wait to have a nice hot chai latte on a day where it’s not so warm it’ll make me want to pass out!

Traditionally, my little sister is the baker of our house. Just last week she made a massive batch of gingerbread… all of which I proceeded to eat. Seriously. Everyone else in my house got a single cookie. However, I’m definitely going to try my own hand at baking in the coming months, and I’ll be sure to share any success stories (or, I suppose, hilarious failures) over here.

  1. Dog walking

I love walking my dog. Recently I’ve been unwell and that’s meant I haven’t been able to take him out, but now that my health is picking up I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of regularly going on our walks. I’m hoping that the colder weather will mean they’ll be a little longer, and I think it will be a good way to wake the both of us up when the temptation to crawl into my dressing gown and curl up with a book or film instead of moving all day is threatening to overwhelm me.

There are plenty of parts of autumn to be excited about, and I’ve barely scraped the surface with this post here, but these are a few of the things that come to mind when I consider autumn. Not to mention there’s Halloween, watching the leaves change colour (I live in a very green village which means you can see the seasons in a way you don’t get to in the city centre) and so much more.

What are you looking forward to? Or are you just waiting for autumn to pass so we can crack on with winter?

-K