Weekly Wrap-up | April 26, 2020

Happy Sunday, everyone! I hope you’ve all had a great week. I was planning on posting a couple of reviews this week, but I was distracted by the Women’s Prize shortlist announcement, and after that I seemed to have momentarily lost the ability to string words together for a review. Like, I would stare at a blank document for half an hour, or else spend it writing one paragraph, which sounds so bad that I’d end up scrapping it. It’s beyond frustrating. Has anyone ever experienced this when writing reviews? I know writers often experience this, but I didn’t think it was possible to be blocked when writing a review. (Then again, I’m a very slow writer.)

I’m not sure how this happened, but I suspect that the fatigue of churning out all those reviews for the Women’s Prize finally got to me. Being new to blogging, I’ve never realized how much effort it takes to write reviews on a regular basis. This stuff is hard work for a non-income-generating hobby (for most people—I know some have been able to monetize it), so now I have so much more respect for the veteran book bloggers out there—it really takes some dedication to keep doing this. If you have any tips or experiences to share about blogging, please let me know! I’d really be interested to hear them.

In any case, I don’t think I’ll force it for next week. I have one more post queued, a monthly wrap-up to do, and maybe one or two tags, but maybe taking a little time off from writing reviews will be a good idea. I’m a little disappointed because I never feel like I’ve caught up with all my reviews, but I’m hoping it’s better to take a break than forcing it.

Posts This Week

Books I Finished This Week

  • Despite not having a very good reviewing week, I’ve had a FANTASTIC week in reading. I handed out THREE 5-star ratings this week (!!!), and I’m so glad I can go back to raving about books.
  • I finally read Normal People, since the TV adaptation will air soon, and holy crap, I AM STILL NOT OVER IT??? There was nothing particularly revolutionary about the storytelling or the language, but it was just so sympathetic and emotionally affecting and it made me feel so seen and understood and… I don’t have enough words for what this book made me feel. It was just. SO. GOOD.
  • I loved Trust Exercise for entirely different reasons. Where Normal People elicited a very emotional reaction for me, I felt I appreciated Trust Exercise on a more ‘head’ rather than ‘heart’ level. Choi writes very precise sentences, and I enjoyed her experimentation with structure. There’s just SO MUCH to unpack about it. Its low rating on GR (3.15) is truly baffling to me.
  • I picked up Girl Gone Viral thanks to Erin’s review @ The Smut Report. It’s a very emotionally satisfying read about a rich widowed woman and her bodyguard. I usually like enemies-to-lovers romances with healthy rivalry and lots of snarky banter, but the sweet and mutual pining in Girl Gone Viral was so well done. It was also so much more than a romance—it also explored issues like privacy on the internet, PTSD, panic attacks, and difficult family relationships. I highly recommend it.
  • Of my reads this week, only Darling Rose Gold was a disappointment. I gave it 3 stars. It doesn’t take a lot to thrill me, but this book was just way too predictable.
  • I’m planning to write reviews for all of these books, but maybe not by next week, lol. I have a lot to catch up on.

Books I’m Currently Reading

  • For some reason, I find myself unable to truly concentrate on heavy historical fiction, so I’m taking it slow with How We Disappeared.
  • I’ve been seeing The Body Is Not an Apology across a number of platforms recently and so decided to give it a go. I’m also thinking about exploring body-image-related issues for my thesis, so I’ll try to do more reading around it.

Posts I Loved This Week

  • Emily and a group of other bloggers have put together a Blogger’s Edition of the Women’s Prize, and I find this list so much more exciting than the actual Women’s Prize. Check out their list for some great recommendations!

Some Non-Bookish Things

I haven’t done yoga in more than three months, but I decided to restart my practice to switch up my routine. This week, I’m working on practicing this flow by Sjana Elise. It’s challenging enough that I don’t get bored, but still friendly enough for beginners because she offers easier options of the poses. For anyone who also does yoga, I’d love it if you can also share video recommendations.

That’s it for my week! How was yours? Is your country still under quarantine, and how have you been coping? Let me know in the comments. 🙂

36 thoughts on “Weekly Wrap-up | April 26, 2020

  1. I know exactly what you mean about writing reviews! It takes time to formulate all your thoughts on a book and then put it into words (in a way that will be engaging to read too!). Loved this post☺️

  2. completely agree about how hard blogging can be!! im fairly new to blogging too and every time i try to draft a post im surprised by just how long it can take, even if its a short one. i feel like with me i either end up writing like 5 reviews/posts in a row one night, or i just write nothing for weeks–there is no in between lol. i find that writing little review notes in my phone while im a reading a book can help, especially if i end up reviewing that book weeks after finishing it.

    and im so glad you loved Normal People!! it was my fav novel of last year and has become one of my all time fav novels ever; i love it so much. are you gonna be watching the mini series adaptation? it looks amazing! i cant decide if i wanna watch it right away or if i wanna reread the book before just to have the story fresh in my mind 🤔

    1. “i either end up writing like 5 reviews/posts in a row one night, or i just write nothing for weeks–there is no in between lol”—omg, I feel like this will be my pattern too. As much as I’d want to stick to a schedule, I feel once I impose something on myself, my body will just rebel against it. Thanks for the tip—I’ve taken to keeping a notebook beside me when I’m reading, but sometimes I still forget to take notes since I’m so lost in the story!

      I know, it does!!! I’m not sure if it’ll be airing here, though, and I don’t have a Hulu account, so I’ll have to wait for a bit before I can watch it. Tbh, I’m a little scared of watching it too since what really made the novel for me was the incisive character study, like the way Rooney broke down their interactions and their thoughts and mannerisms. I’m not sure how that would translate on screen. Maybe watching the adaptation first would help enjoy it more since the possible disappointment won’t be looming?? And then read the novel again after to compare lol.

      1. yeah i was concerned too when they announced the adaptation because Normal People is so much about the characters’ inner lives, but having seen the trailer im feeling much more confident in it! Sally Rooney was involved in writing the scripts for some of the episodes, and the director was nominated for an Oscar for his movie Room, so I think its gonna be a really solid adaptation, if not an excellent one (hopefully haha) 👍

  3. Writing fatigue is so real, and I’ve been there too! I think your approach of taking it slow is a good idea and will help prevent burnout. Something else that helps me is starting a book review draft as soon as I start the book; I’ll just take notes in there and eventually build them into a full-length review.

    Also yes, Normal People is AMAZING! I’m really glad that you enjoyed it (what’s not to enjoy lol)! I’m so excited for the mini-series too!! Have you read Conversations with Friends? I think you’ll enjoy it based on your thoughts on Normal People!

    1. Thanks for the tip! I think that’s one thing I haven’t done—I take notes on my notebook while reading but a draft will really help jog my thoughts. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in this.

      RIGHT IT’S SO GOOD!! 😭 I haven’t yet, but I definitely plan to! I admit I’m a little scared of approaching it since I might be disappointed after the high of Normal People. Personally, which of the two did you prefer? 🙂

      1. No prob! Even with the drafts, I definitely still struggle haha.

        And that is so valid!!! But I think/hope you’ll love Conversations with Friends just as much! This isn’t a helpful answer, but I liked them both equally; they were both 5-star reads that I could not put down. The main character in Conversation with Friends is slightly less likable than Marianne from NP…but she’s one of those characters that you really feel for!

  4. Joanna @ TheGeekishBrunette

    It’s definitely hard to write reviews at times, especially when you’re not sure what even to say, haha! Hopefully a break will do good for you!

      1. Joanna @ TheGeekishBrunette

        Haha, for me it is easy to write about books I really hated or ones that I really loved. Anything in between takes me a bit longer. 🤣

  5. I completely feel you about writing reviews. I have been doing it for over two years now, but there are still times where I spend literally ages looking at a screen thinking what to say, and it stresses me. Try not to be hard on yourself, it is normal for this to happen every now and then, and it shows how much you care about getting it right. 🙂
    I’m glad you have enjoyed your recent reads!!

  6. So sorry writing reviews isn’t easy right now! I’m sure it will get better with time. It’s pretty normal to feel this way, especially with such an underwhelming list.

    Your reading week looks great!! I almooost got Darling Rose Gold but changed my mind in the last minute… looks like a good decision. I haven’t heard many good things about it!

  7. Have you tried to write mini reviews, i.e. short reviews collated in one post? I often do that, when I struggle for time or haven’t felt motivated and hence fallen behind with my reviews. Mini reviews is a quick way to catch up and because they are short and snappy and fun to write, they may even bring back your writing mojo. 🙂

  8. On yoga videos: I’m a little bit obsessed with Yoga with Adriene (https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene), mainly because her voice is so soothing and that is just what I need in my yoga practice right now. She has literally hundreds of yoga videos available, and they vary widely in length and difficulty (I really appreciate her 15 minute videos because sometimes that’s all the time I have to escape my children), though even the most challenging one I have done is definitely still accessible to beginners.

    Also, thanks for the shout out! And also for linking to the alternate long list, because while reading literary fiction isn’t in my wheelhouse right now, it will be again. Some day.

    1. I checked it out and I have seen her before—I think a friend of mine and I did one of her yoga warm-ups for running before! I can’t believe she didn’t come to mind when I thought of restarting my practice. Thanks for the rec! 🙂

      Sure! 🙂

  9. I just picked up a copy of How We Disappeared and I’m both looking forward to it and a little reluctant because I know it’s going to be heavy. My only advice re: book blogging is to keep it fun. As you say, it’s an unpaid hobby so it should work for you. I find that sometimes I post a lot and sometimes I post less and I choose not to worry about it too much either way!

    1. I know, I’m feeling reluctant about it for the same reason—I feel that my current reading mood is resistant to heavier reads, especially with war and trauma, so I’m not forcing it. Thanks for the tip! I’ll keep that in mind. I always thought all bloggers should “stick” to a schedule, but obviously it hasn’t been working for me. Your mindset seems like it’ll help me, though. 🙂

      1. I used to feel like I needed to keep a schedule too but then realized I never paid attention to other bloggers’ schedules. I also find I have fits of productivity and so when I do I try and schedule posts in advance to fill in the less productive times!

      2. You’re right, I don’t exactly notice when other bloggers are posting either—makes me less self-conscious about missing a day. I guess I’ll just wait for the next fit of productivity to hit 🙂

  10. Quarantine in the United States: can’t stop, won’t stop! Just kidding, some states are trying to restart the economy despite record deaths and cases of COVID-19. *gulp*

    I used to teach college students how to write reviews, and I’ve done Grab the Lapels for seven years without break, so I’ve got a rhythm to it. I think the thing that stops a lot of reviewers is the fear of being seen as mediocre in their thoughts. However, a review really boils down to a yes/no to qualities of writing and storytelling. I tend to highlight things that stick out to me when I read, so before I write a review a re-read those passages and look for themes. Are they about a character? A feeling? A style of writing? (If needed, I’ll write a super quick outline or bullet list of what I discovered after reexamining those highlighted passages and start writing). Next thing you know, I have a review about an emotionally-complex character whose kindness spoke to me, all delivered in a clever turns of phrase and unique metaphor.

  11. Oof… I’ve been glancing at the headlines in the US and it seems like a mess there. If I may ask, which state are you in again? (I must have seen it in one of your comments, but it slips my mind.)

    Thank you for the tip! It’s true that I sometimes feel that I can’t possibly say anything about Book X / Y that hasn’t already been said by someone else, though sometimes when I start writing I’m surprised that I do have something to say about what spoke to me. May I ask if you go through all the ‘elements of fiction’ so to speak in your mind when you write a review, or do you tend to follow an element or train of thought that’s most compelling? I admit that since it’s been awhile since I’ve last ‘analyzed’ a book, I go through a list of stuff that I think a review should cover (plot, setting, characters, etc.) to remind myself of what I ‘should’ cover, and find myself stuck on something I don’t have anything to say about.

  12. Literary Elephant

    What a great reading week! I’m SO GLAD you’re on the Sally Rooney hype train now, she’s such an excellent author! I really loved Conversations with Friends and both of her short stories published so far as well, she just never disappoints. I’m looking forward to the adaptation of Normal People! And I’m equally excited that you loved Trust Exercise, though I completely agree that it’s a head more than heart book. Even so, it’s been one of my favorite reads of the year so far!

    And you’re far from the only one struggling with blogging/reviews, it’s definitely normal after pushing through a challenge! I saw Hannah mentioned above starting a draft for a review while reading, which is what I do too with my notes. It’s probably not much different if you’re already using a notebook, since having some words already started is the key, but being able to move them around in the post and build as you go can also be an aid. Otherwise, just taking a step back when you need to is perfectly acceptable! If I try to review when I’m not feeling it I also end up staring at the same bad paragraph for far too long, and it just makes more sense to come back to it when you’re excited about it again, I think. Posting things other than reviews can also be a helpful way to keep up a schedule without burdening yourself with a lot of critical writing. Whatever works to keep it fun for you is the right approach, imo! 🙂

    1. You know, I was initially intimidated by the very low GR rating of Trust Exercise, but it was your review that convinced me to give it a shot! And I’m very glad I did. It’s also one of my favourite reads so far. I loved how she tried to break the fourth wall (ish) with the second section, and how the title Trust Exercise frames each one of her structural experimentations, as if to prep the reader. It was absolutely masterful! Now I want to inhale all of Choi’s previous works.

      Thanks for sharing your process too! It really helps me feel like the struggle is normal. I’d always imagined before that all bloggers followed a rigid schedule and wrote even when they didn’t feel like it 😅 It’s nice to know that people are also adopting a “whatever makes it fun for you” approach!

      1. Literary Elephant

        Ah, it’s so exciting to hear that my review helped put a good book in your hands! 🙂 I completely agree, all of the formatting details were so impressive. I can see where it might take a certain kind of reader to appreciate structure over emotional engagement, but it is sad to see it getting so many low ratings! It fully convinced me, and I’m very curious about the rest of Choi’s work as well!

        There are definitely some rigid schedulers and numbers folks out there, but that’s not the whole community! I certainly can’t speak for everyone, but I think there are quite a few bloggers who post what they feel like when they feel like it, and I for one am in that group. I hope you’ll be able to find what works best for you soon! 🙂

      2. I might not have been able to appreciate Trust Exercise had I been in a different frame of mind, but I think reading it after the very emotionally satisfying Normal People was a good call, since I wasn’t really expecting emotional engagement anymore.

        Thank you, Emily! I hope I can figure it out too! 🙂

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