“Starting my book blog gave me a creative output for things.” – Guest Post by Michelle Toy

Escaping into bright beautiful worlds.  Falling in love with characters.  Smiling with joy, laughing in happiness, crying in sadness and quivering in fear…books are amazing and have been a huge part of my life.  

What would you do if one day you woke up and you couldn’t see?  You couldn’t pick up that favourite book you always pick up with its tatty dog eared cover and tear stained pages and with that familiar smell that makes your tummy flutter.

This happened to me, but let’s jump to the beginning….

I have always been a huge reader.  It’s simple.  I love books.  I love stories.  I always have done ever since I was a little girl.  I was always encouraged by my Mum to read and write and she was happy for me to read whatever I liked. Something of which I have passed down to my son.  Nothing was off limits for me.  Okay well maybe that time when I was proudly reading true crime magazines and learnt how to scalpel someone in an autopsy may have pushed it a little too far (sorry Mum), but you get the idea.

I spent hours reading jumping from one book to the next.  A regular visitor of my local library through my childhood, teenage years and even as an adult. Reading is my hobby and something I enjoy.

Jumping forward, I suddenly, kind of without warning, lost my sight in August 2013.  It was a traumatic time and with only a headache two days previously as a warning sign that something wasn’t right I found myself having drops in my eyes to dilate them, having head scans, eye scans, mri scans and a couple of tests that I never ever want to have to go through ever again one of which involved taking fluid from the eyes which I will leave to your imagination of how that was done.  It was scary.  At first I couldn’t see out of both eyes.  At this point everything you can possibly imagine runs through your mind.  What if I will never see again?  I won’t get to see my son grow up.  I won’t be able to watch my wedding video and see how handsome my husband looks in his dashing black suit and see how much he loves me in a look.  I won’t be able to see my family, friends and a sunset on a beautiful summers day.  I won’t be able to read an actual book again.  All these feelings mixed with the fear that something is majorly wrong made it a very worrying time indeed.

To cut a long story short after an intensive course of steroids the eye sight in my left eye luckily remained, but the right eyes optic nerve had died.  Completely white and dead meaning that I cannot see out of this eye at all.  I am partially sighted or half blind.  At first it was hard.  I was off work and the motion of the TV made me sick, everything seemed different.  Everything was different.  I tried picking up a book but after a page my left eye just felt so tired. I was scared, upset and really not in a good way.  The strength and love of my family got me through these traumatic bad times.

I really couldn’t read for quite some time and I lost my reading mojo (is that a thing?), but then one day I was lazily still in my pyjamas, but having a good day and looking briefly through the internet at old books I used to read and love as a teen.  I used to read a lot of Point Horror when I was a teen and looking up these old books gave me a nostalgic feeling tingling throughout my body.  It was then I stumbled across an author at the time I had never heard of, Juno Dawson.  She had a love for Point Horror too and I could see that she had written some books that really peaked my interest, Hollow Pike and Cruel Summer.  I looked up some reviews and added Juno to my twitter followers.  I then took the plunge and ordered the books even though in my mind I thought I would struggle reading them because of my eyes.  The books came and I popped them on the small brown coffee table tucked between my two living room chairs so every time I sat down I could see them and hopefully pick them up.  Eventually after a few weeks of picking them up and convincing myself I couldn’t read I did just that…. fully expecting to continue in the worst reading slump of my life, but then something changed.  It’s hard to describe really.  It’s almost like something clicked inside my brain.  Over the course of two weeks I slowly, a few pages at a time, read Hollow Pike and adored it.  I moved straight onto Cruel Summer and fell completely back in love with reading again.

This is how I began book blogging.  Something in those books just fully ignited my passion for reading again.  I found out after I read them that they were YA books which hadn’t even crossed my mind at all whilst reading them.  I then discovered the warm and welcoming UKYA/YA/ Book Blogging community and it was like a warm hug.  I found a place I could chat to people about books, get recommendations for more fab books, talk to authors, share gifs with Keris Stainton mainly of Harry Styles but still it all made me smile so much.  I discovered what book blogging was and embraced it with both hands.  I was excited about books again.

I really do love book blogging.  Writing reviews, inviting authors, other bloggers and publishers over to my blog for Q&A’s and guest posts.  I find it so fascinating.  I still beam with happiness popping a post together or having an idea for a post.  I have even seen an improvement in my own writing whether that be from the creative aspect of book blogging or that I’m reading a lot more.  My own writing has improved in strength.  I have rediscovered how much I love not only reading and discussing other people’s stories, but that I actually really like making up stories of my own.  My son thinks I am a great story teller and it fills my heart with joy.  I also love how my son also loves reading we can share books or swap/recommend books to each other.  He has his own corner for his own reviews on my blog and it’s something that we love sharing together.  He wants me to become a famous author one day like J K Rowling…. bless him.  

Most of all book blogging has introduced me to the most wonderful friends a person could ever ask for.  An unexpected and most welcome bonus of book blogging.  Friends who are fellow bloggers, authors or publishers. Some of which I feel like I have known my whole life and I know I will know for the rest of my life.  Book friends really are the best!

Starting my book blog gave me a creative output for things, it started conversations it got me back into reading.  I’ve learnt a lot about how much my good eye can take and when to stop…although sometimes especially when engrossed in a fab book I push past the point of when my eye is telling me to stop.  I suffer the next day, but it’s worth it.  Quite often though I have to listen to my eye…. sounds strange right?

I went to an event recently and the discussion was about significant life events. I guess what this significant life event has taught me is not to take things for granted like your eyesight for example.  Appreciate every sight, taste, smell and touch that you possibly can and most of all that reading can open the doors of friendship that you never thought possible.

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