5 online classes I’d like to take

(If my IRL classes finally let me breathe !)

I’ve been in university for 5 years now, and am showing no signs of stopping anytime soon – I’m trying to get grades good enough to be able to do a doctorate, so I’ve got at least 6-7 more years ahead of me. Classes are hell and take so much of my time… but there’s still more stuff I want to learn than stuff I have no interest in.

Fortunately for me, I don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars for every single class I want to take – it’s the miracle of free online classes ! I especially love the platform Alison (I swear this is not a sponsored post, I just honestly love their online classes) and the french platform Fun.

So here are my top 5 classes of the moment that I’m planning to take – as soon as my IRL  psychology classes let me have a few hours to myself !

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E-business and E-commerce

I’m cheating : most of those aren’t actually classes, they’re learning paths : a group of separate classes all centered around the same topic. This first one, e-business and e-commerce, is composed of 7 separate classes, including one on e-commerce web strategy, and one on social media strategies for small businesses.

There’s probably never going to be a time when I’ll actually need to know that stuff, but I kinda just want to learn it for the fun of it.

Study skills

Another learning path, this one only has three classes on essential study skills – and I desperately need to improve mine. For years, I’ve thought that the best way to study was to just learn by heart every single word of my class notes, and write them all again on my exam paper. Turns out, in university, that’s not how it works – and it’s taken me a long time to realize that.

Which means : I’m in need of a new study strategy, ASAP. Hence this class. (Or learning path. Whatever.)

Hospitality management

I’ve worked in a hotel for a while before, as a housekeeper, and I’d love to do it again someday. It’s a good job, it pays the bills, and all my coworkers were nice. But ever since I worked there, I’ve been meaning to learn more about customer service and the hospitality industry in general. This learning path in hospitality management seems to be pretty useful in this way, and I’m especially interested in the hotel operations class !

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Human nutrition

I know nothing about nutrition. And I mean, nothing. At 21, realizing that I have no idea what kind of foods my body needs or how much I should ingest… didn’t go well. I’m overdue for some education about food and human nutrition.

Agir pour sa santé ! (Act for your health !)

This last one is actually a separate class ! It’s a french class on health, which should be pretty similar to the previous one but still different enough that I don’t feel like I’m taking the same class twice. It’s about the determinants of health, and how we, as individuals, can act to preserve / improve our own health.

As French is my first language, it should also be much easier for me to follow, and faster to go through than the other ones in this post – I read English pretty fast, but learning new material is still a bit harder when it’s not your first language.

Are there any online classes that you’d like to take ? Or did you take so many boring high school / university classes that you can’t bear to think about taking any more for fun ? Feel free to tell me about it in the comments !
N.B. : All the photos in this post are from Unsplash.
This is NOT a sponsored post

ARC Review : Mooncakes, by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu

Mooncakes is a 2019 Graphic Novel written by Suzanne Walker and illustrated by Wendy Xu. Its release date is today, October 15th, which made it a perfect topic for this blogtober post !

Synopsis
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A story of love and demons, family and witchcraft.

Nova Huang knows more about magic than your average teen witch. She works at her grandmothers’ bookshop, where she helps them loan out spell books and investigate any supernatural occurrences in their New England town.

One fateful night, she follows reports of a white wolf into the woods, and she comes across the unexpected: her childhood crush, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon in the woods. As a werewolf, Tam has been wandering from place to place for years, unable to call any town home.

Pursued by dark forces eager to claim the magic of wolves and out of options, Tam turns to Nova for help. Their latent feelings are rekindled against the backdrop of witchcraft, untested magic, occult rituals, and family ties both new and old in this enchanting tale of self-discovery.

What I liked
  • The art was really beautiful – I got this ARC from NetGalley so the last few pages weren’t in full color, but the rest of the book was, and it really made me appreciate the artist’s work ! The use of the colors in the story is captivating and helps understand a lot of details.
  • This is a very diverse book, but it never feels “forced” or badly done – the characters feel pretty authentic and it was easy to relate to them while reading, and understand their motivations.
What I didn’t like
  • I felt like it was lacking a bit in the plot department. For a book marketed towards Teens and YA, I was expecting a little more complexity in the intrigue. It stays enjoyable, of course, but feels a bit too simple for the themes it tries to talk about.
  • As you well know if you’ve read any of my posts about fantasy books, I love anything and everything magic. I would have liked to get to know more about the promising magic system that Mooncakes’s cover let me hope for, but it is mostly left unexplored through the course of the book, the author focusing more on the rest of her story than on explaining her world-building to the readers.
Conclusion

I’d give this book a solid 3 stars – not bad at all ! I overall enjoyed reading this and took my time to appreciate the art. I would maybe suggest it to an audience a little younget than the one currently reading YA, though, as the story itself isn’t one of the most complex there is.

Still, I’d definitely recommend this book if you have teenagers, or for something like the new acquisitions display of a school library !

My favorite comfort foods for fall

I pushed myself far out of my comfort zone today, and went to a kick-boxing class ! I haven’t done any real sport in a little more than 3 years, so, as expected, my whole body feels like overcooked spaghetti right now and I have trouble lifting the smallest things.

So, in the spirit of Blogtober, I thought I’d talk a little about one of the things I love the most in my life – up in my top 5 with books and comfy sweaters in the winter – food.

I’m a big fan of food – whether it’s a simple recipe, or something that takes 3 full hours to cook, if it tastes good, I love it. So I thought I’d share my 5 favorite comfort foods for fall !

  • Tomates farcies (“stuffed tomatoes”)

Here is a recipe in English – tomates farcies are big tomatoes, stuffed with a mix of meat, tomato, rice, bread crumbs and wine (and other things if you want to make it a fancy meal), roasted in the oven and served with a good serving of rice. They taste heavenly, and they smell like fall and Halloween to me.

this photo comes from the FOOD52 website (link above)
  • Macaroni and cheese

I discovered mac and cheese during my first fall semester in Canada, at a time when I felt pretty alone and lost in the world, and it was such a good comfort food that I almost only eat it in those circumstances. (also, cheese is life)

  • Roasted chicken and potatoes

That’s the typical Sunday meal in my family, and it’s associated with so many good moments in my life that the simple smell of cooked chicken and potatoes suffices to put me in a good mood.

  • Pancakes (covered in Nutella and bananas)

I’m extra weak :when I want pancakes, either I have the courage and time to make some at home, or… I go to Cora and order a pile of strawberry banana pancakes with an extra of chocolate sauce on the side.

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  • Cereal and milk

Breakfast food = comfort food. In fact, I think that’s what I’m going to have to do tomorrow morning : try to get out of bed early enough to go to the grocery store a few blocks from my house and buy milk to go with my cereal.

Then I’ll stay in bed and read, wrapped in my comfy blankets, and ignore my very sore muscles while I convince myself to go back to the gym next week.

Inside and out book tag

I’ve had a very productive day today : I applied to 5 job postings, had a business phone call for 20+ minutes and faced my mother for a full hour before running away and hiding in a Starbucks with my laptop and 2 grande coffee frappuchinos.

Which means : I’m feeling extra lazy tonight, haven’t done any grocery shopping, and am distracting myself with a book tag instead of writing my planned post for today. So here goes the Inside and out book tag !

I first saw it on Morgana’s blog (which is awesome, by the way).

1. Inside flap/Back of the book summaries: Too much info? Or not enough?

I love reading what’s inside the flaps and on the back of the book before I buy/borrow something. If there isn’t enough information, I’ll probably open the Goodreads app and check the book info on it before deciding what to do – those summaries save me a lot of time and effort.

If it’s clearly something I do or don’t like, I’ll be able to make my decision way faster than if the back of the book is just a collection of compliments about it form various authors or newspapers – as good as a recommendation from the New York Times is, it doesn’t really tell me if the book I’m holding is right for me or not.

2. New book: What form do you want it in? Be honest: Audiobook, E-Book, Paperback, or Hardcover?

Short answer : I love hardcovers.

Long (and honest) answer : I come from France, where the publishing industry just doesn’t do hardcovers – the very first hardcover I ever got was the cursed child screenplay book, because those shipped from the UK as soon as they were published and the french publishers didn’t wait until we had a paperback french version before selling the English hardcovers in the whole country. I’m pretty sure at least 50% of the fun I had reading it came from the novelty of having a hardcover book in my hands.

3. Scribble while you read? Do you like to write in your books, take notes, make comments, or do you keep your books clean clean clean?

I used to hate the very idea of writing in books, but now… not so much. I had a french teacher in high school that told the class to write as much as we wanted in our copies of the books we had to read for her class, and I remember feeling horrified at the moment, but I kind of see what she was trying to do now.

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I’ve taken to annotating them with sticky tabs I can then write on if I’m not 100% sure to keep the book forever, and just plainly writing on them if I’m planning to keep the book and just buy another copy if I want to lend it to someone else.

I try to write somewhat neatly, though, if only because I want to be able to re-read my annotations later and still be able to understand what I was thinking when I read that book.

4. Does it matter to you whether the author is male or female when you’re deciding on a book? What if you’re unsure of the author’s gender?

I have no idea why, it’s totally not a conscious decision, but most of the books I read in the past few years were written by women. Maybe it’s because reading something written by  woman gives me hope that someday I might be able to do the same ? I don’t know.

5. Ever read ahead? or have you ever read the last page way before you got there?

Never ! Although I do really appreciate trigger warnings in reviews and sometimes look for a review from a trusted blogger before I start reading.

6. Organized bookshelves, or Outrageous bookshelves?

I used to have very organized bookshelves when I was in France and had all the space I wanted to put my books in a nice way. Right now, most of my books are in cardboard boxes in a storage unit, and I just have one shelf with the few I’ve been able to buy and keep with me during the past three years.

7. Have you ever bought a book based on the cover (alone)?

Totally ! And I also borrow a lot of books based on the cover alone.

8. Take it outside to read, or stay in?

Depending on the weather ! I live in Canada now, so I take my books outside during the summer, and keep them inside during the winter – no need for any snowflakes to fall and melt on the pages !

I don’t usually tag people, but if you haven’t done this tag yet and are looking for an excuse to do so : consider yourself tagged ! And don’t hesitate to tag me so I can go see your posts and check out your blog !

My reading habits

I’m always pretty curious of how other people read, and where/when they do so : do they read in their bed ? In the bus when they go to work in the morning ? I know my father’s been keeping a book in the pocket of his coat for some time now, just in case he gets stuck waiting in line for something, or has some free time and no additional work to do – but how do others read, and how does it compare to how I read ?

When I thought about making this post, my first idea was that I don’t read that much in my day, and to be honest, that thought didn’t make me feel good about myself. But I spent some more time thinking about it, and realized that wasn’t actually true. So here’s a short post about my own reading habits !

WHAT I read

First things first : in examining my daily habits, I actually realized that I read a lot of stuff throughout the day. Most of it, though, falls under one of four categories :

  • Books

I wish those made up most of my daily pages read, but they sadly don’t : books are expensive, and since I moved to a new city at the beginning of the semester, I haven’t found the time to make myself a new library account, so I can’t borrow any books for free yet. (It’s written as a task in my bullet journal, but I haven’t been able to do it yet – I’m hoping to find some time for that this week though !)

  • Fanfiction

Maybe one third of my daily pages read. It’s easy to read, I can access it on my phone whenever I want, and it doesn’t take as much effort as a brand new book since I already know the characters and the world they evolve in. I usually select fanfictions only over 15k words, so I’m sure to have enough to read for the whole ride home after my last class of the day.

  • Blog posts

I love blog posts. I usually open a bunch of those on my laptop whenever I open WordPress, and bookmark tweets and posts that sound interesting in order to come back to it later during the day.

  • Class reading material

I have so much class reading material in a week, it’s terrible. I’m currently taking 5 psychology classes, and each of those gives me at least two documents every week, of between 10 and 20 pages each – that’s at least 100 pages of academic reading material every week ! And that doesn’t include chapters from the class book, and optional readings (which I sometimes try to do, when by some miracle I get to have some extra time to do so).

I had some extra time on my hands while writing this, so I made a pie chart to illustrate this post :

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This is way too simple for me to be this proud of it, but I like it, so. Here it is.

WHERE I read

With physical books, it’s usually at home, in my bed before going to sleep or in a comfy chair when I’m taking a day off and having some time for myself. I read eBooks and fanfictions on the move (since I live in a big city now, I usually spend at least an hour a day in commute, sometimes up to two and a half hours) and blogs on my laptop after dinner or in the afternoon when I have some time to relax between classes.

HOW I read

I actually own an e-reader, but I haven’t used it in a couple f years – I bought it in France in 2012, so it’s a bit old and probably needs a ton of updates before I can get it to work well again, but I haven’t had the heart to get rid of it. I mostly read eBooks on my phone now, as well as fanfiction.

I mainly use my laptop for blog articles, but I prefer to print my class reading material before reading and annotating it : it’s so difficult to annotate a PDF on my laptop, it’s not worth the effort. And, of course, I love having access to actual physical copies of books, especially hardcovers !

What about you – how do you read, and when ? Do you have any unexpected reading habits ? Feel free to comment about it !

The priory of the orange tree, by Samantha Shannon

The priory of the orange tree, by Samantha Shannon, is a standalone 848-pages novel published in February 2019, and hyped everywhere from booktube to bookstagram, including book blogs and book twitter, for months on end. So, of course, when my local library obtained a copy – and by that I mean when I asked them to loan it from another library at the other side of the province –  I had to read it immediately.

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Synopsis

A world divided.
A queendom without an heir.
An ancient enemy awakens.

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction—but assassins are getting closer to her door.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.

Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.

What I liked

  • The cover is gorgeous.

You know the “don’t judge a book by its cover” saying, that everybody ignores because a good cover is often the first thing that attracts someone to a book in a bookstore ? It’s especially true with bookstagram – I find I tend to bookmark books on there because of a gorgeous cover, then when I’m at the library or the bookstore I check their Goodreads rating and synopsis and decide whether or not they’re worth my time. This one looked incredible, and the various recommendations I saw on all book-related platforms convinced me to put it immediatly on my TBR.

  • The characters

I got attached to Sabran, Ead and Tané really quickly, and loved the way each one had the time to evolve and grow during the course of the book. They’re not perfect, they all have their flaws – some more obvious than others – but they learn from their mistakes and adapt to their environment pretty fast.

I also would like to note the fact that this book has several well-written same-sex relationships, and that’s something I haven’t found that easily in fantasy or in YA without it being the main plot point. I really appreciate that kind of representation.

By the way, for those of you who have read the book (or aren’t afraid of spoilers) : here’s some very nice fanart ! (And a meme – also a spoiler !)

  • The magic system and the overall plot

I found the first very original (and I’m always a hoe for original systems of magic), and the second just complicated the way I like. It’s been compared to Game of Thrones a few times, and while I can’t say whether or not it’s an apt comparison since I haven’t read all Game of Thrones books, it is filled with political intrigues and will keep you on your toes until the very last pages.

  • The extremely rich world-building & the length

With 800+ pages, you have all the time you need to build your world and show it to your readers in as much detail as you want – and Samantha Shannon did that well.

I read this book on a very long work day, where my job was to sit behind a desk and wait until people came up to me with problems to solve, while keeping an eye on the company’s Facebook page – not the busiest day ever.

Where, for some people, the length and all that world-building felt heavy and unnecessary (I read a review from someone saying it took the 6 weeks to get through all of it because of that), I personally loved it and would like to see more of this type of novel in my TBR.

What I didn’t like

Not much. I would have liked to learn a bit more about the dragons, though, and the draconic plague felt a bit under-developed. My least favorite character was Niclays Roos, the exile desperate to return to his home and ready to do anything it took to do so, but I think that’s only because I read him as a mix between protagonist and antagonist, and found it a bit confusing.

Conclusion

You know how, when you put a review up on NetGalley, they ask you if you’d be willing to meet the author or to buy this book for a friend ? I’d 100% do both. In fact, I’m buying this book for my boyfriend’s birthday in a month, and if I ever get the chance (if she comes close enough to my city for me to go !), I’m getting it signed by the author.

If you’ve been wondering whether or not you should read this ? You definitely should.

If you’ve read this book and have a different opinion, or liked something I didn’t – or didn’t mention – feel free to comment !

10 things I’d like to do in October

If there’s one thing I love and will always keep using in my day-to-day organization method, it’s to-do lists. There’s something very satisfying in writing out your goals, and how to reach them, and then crossing items off the list one by one.

A particular type of to-do list that I’ve been doing for a while now, is a monthly “10 things I’d like to do this month” page in my bullet journal. It usually includes some really important things – papers to sign, contracts, etc. – and then some more personal items, and a few vague ones (like “eat more cooked vegetables – it doesn’t specify how much, how often, just that… it would probably be good if I tried to do that).

So here’s my “10 things I’d like to do in October” goals list !

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1 . Fill out my student loans application

This is one of the serious ones. There’s a TON of papers I need for this, and I still don’t have all of them, but I just can’t afford to procrastinate on this any longer.

2 . Get more invested in the events that happen at my new university

The fun part ! I moved recently, and have been getting used to my new campus and all my classes in September. Now that October’s here, it’s time to go out of my way to meet people, make friends, go to events that may be interesting and get involved in the local student groups. This is something I know I love doing – I just need to push myself a little bit to get out of my comfort zone at the beginning, and I haven’t regretted it yet.

3 . Find a new therapist in my new city

Mental health is important to maintain, and a university student’s mental heath isn’t usually the best there is. I’m trying to know my limits and see if I can’t deal with something on my own, and ask for help when I need it.

N.B.: If you need any help, please don’t hesitate to go see a psychologist. They’re trained professionals who aren’t here to judge you – they’re here to help. (Depending on where you live, there might be programs that offer a few appointments for free, or for a very low price !)

4 . Get better at fashion

That’s a much lighter one, and somewhat inspired by my binge-watching of Ashley at bestdressed’s YouTube videos.

I recently realized that most of my wardrobe is made of : stuff people gave me for free when I had only really old clothing; the really old clothing; and stuff my mom bought me when I was 1 and that I never wore or got rid of. There’s probably some changes that could be made in there.

5 . Cook more meals at home instead of dining out too often

In September, I spent SO MUCH MONEY on buying food outside… I’m not doing a “no-spend-October”, but I probably should. Instead, I’ll be trying out a softer “try-to-spend-less-October”, and leaving my credit card at home every other day, just to be sure not to buy too much stuff. We have food at home. Let’s see how it goes !

6 . Get a library card form my new city’s library

I’ve been living here for more than a month now, and I still haven’t gotten a library card. At this point, I’m pretty sure it’s criminal. I really should get the necessary papers and just. Go out and do it. (But I’ve been procrastinating so much…)

7 . Apply to as many jobs as possible

I worked hard during the summer to put some money aside for my tuition, and 2 months worth of rent, but it’s getting more and more urgent for me to get a job now. University books aren’t cheap, and food is really expensive in a big city.

8 . Do some form of exercise every 1/2 days

I am SO BAD at exercising. I know it’s good for you and all, but… going outside ? In the cold ? To move ?

That probably means I should try to do more of it.

9 . Try to control a bit more my phone addiction

I’ve been spending a lot of time on my phone this past month – and I mean, a lot. It’s definitely time to monitor that a bit, and see just how bad it is. (And then maybe do something about it.)

10. Try to study well, not read my class notes for hours on end without understanding what’s going on.

This is something I’ve struggled with in the past. I’ve been too focused on the time I spent studying, that I didn’t actually focus on the material of the class I was studying for, and it never ended up getting me the grades I hoped for.

This past year, I’ve been trying out new methods, studying for shorter amounts of time but focusing more on how much I know, and how much I still have to learn, and it seems to be working pretty well !

Hopefully, I’ll be able to accomplish some – if not all – of those this month. It’s pretty ambitious, or at least it feels like it, but I’m positive that I can stay ahead of things and manage pretty well this semester. I’ll keep you updated on how it goes !

Do you have a monthly goals list, or something that you use in the same way ? I’m always looking for new bullet journal layouts to try out, so feel free to recommend your favourites in the comments !
N.B. : All the photos in this post are from Unsplash.

(Not) Spooky October TBR

I’ve never been good at reading spooky stuff and watching scary movies, but I am so excited for Halloween month ! I’m looking forward to making a ton of pumpkin dishes and decorating my small apartment in orange and green – and participate for the first time in Blogtober this year !

I’m planning some more varied content this month, with a few book reviews, but also some discussion posts and – hopefully – some photos I’ll be able to take in my new neighborhood before winter comes in ! I’m hoping that having a set plan for those posts will help me stay focused on my daily to-do list as well as regain some of the productivity I’ve lost through the summer.

October is a month of midterm exams for me, and as weird as it sounds, I’ve found that it actually helps me more to have a lot of things planned in my days. It’s really useful to force me to get out of bed in the morning and follow through on my plans instead of sleeping until the afternoon and not finding any motivation to do much of anything.

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My plan for this month

The TBR part

For this month, I don’t have a fully planned TBR yet – only a few notes in my brand new notebook, which I’ve been carrying around with me at all times these past few weeks in order to keep track of all the books I see during the day that might be interesting to read.

I also have a few ARCs to read from NetGalley – I’ve been granted a wish by a publisher for a book I’m really excited about, but those will have to wait until we’re a little bit closer to their publishing date.

So far, I’ve got, for the first books of October :

The 5 am club, Miracle Morning, and Your dream life starts here – Lately, I’ve been listening to some motivational podcasts and reading some blog posts about motivation, and how to organize your day. I’m not convinced that I’ll actually start waking up at 5 in the morning after reading those (especially during my midterm exams week) but I’m still curious to see what this is all about. And if there’s something I can use and apply to my own personal life, that’d be a pretty good bonus !

Rage becomes her, and Travail gratuit, la nouvelle exploitation (In english : Free work, the new exploitation) – I had planned to read those two a loong time ago, but I just never could get my hands on them. Now that I’ve moved into a much bigger city than the one I lived in before, I’m hoping one of the local libraries will have them – these are the kind of books I feel like I’ll be able to learn a lot from, but that will take me some more time than usual to read.

Digital minimalism and Irresistible – I’ve been watching a lot of videos from Ashley at bestdressed, and saw her mention those two books in one of those. I spend a lot of time on my phone everyday, doing more or less nothing on it – except maybe read a book or two, but nothing I couldn’t do without it. I’ve been meaning to try and see if I could use it a little less, try to be more focused on what I’m currently doing than on who posted a new story on Instagram or what party my ex-roommate is going to tonight.

So that’s it for me today ! I still have to find a way to obtain those books – something I’m hoping to find some time to talk about at some point this month, and we’ll see how it goes.

N.B. : All the photos in this post are from Unsplash.

Autumn tag !

I’ve been gone for a while – the end of the summer was pretty rough for me and I needed to focus on the most urgent things, at the detriment of the things I like to do in my free time, but I’m back for the semester and ready to tackle the coming months !

I’ve got a few book reviews planned in the next two weeks or so, and a more personal post about moving 18h away from home, but for today, I thought I’d do something a little lighter – I saw this autumn tag on Jenn’s blog, and it looked like a lot of fun, so let’s try it !

1. Hot Chocolate – what is your comfort book?

I think it could be the last 3 Harry Potter books, but to be honest, it’s pretty much any book I read and liked when I was in middle school or high school. It was a difficult time, and books were the best escape I could find – they gave me a calm sort of comfort and peace I just couldn’t find anywhere else.

2. Pumpkin Carving – what is your favorite creative outlet?

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I’ve tried a lot of creative hobbies through the years !

Right now, I do bullet journaling, which isn’t extremely creative for me since I have very little artistic talent, but it’s still very satisfying and I love looking through Instagram or Pinterest in search of new layouts and ideas to put in my notebook.

3. Falling Leaves – changes that appear bad but you secretly love?

Leaving. I just moved to a completely different city, and it was very stressful, but I also really loved the adventure and the unknown of moving like this on my own.

4. Pumpkin Spiced Latte – something you love that others tend to judge

Watching old reruns of Teen Wolf or NCIS Los Angeles. Seriously. I get teased so much about it it’s not even funny.

5. Bonfire Night – what makes you explode with joy?

Getting mail. I so rarely get mail, that when I do, it’s really fun. Usually, it’s something I ordered on the internet, or a postcard from a friend or a family member – I don’t usually get bad news in the mail, so that helps !

6. Fright Night – favorite scary book or film

I truly don’t like anything that’s, like. Actually scary. I watched the first 10 minutes of a horror movie once, drunk, thinking alcohol would help me be less terrified, but I had to stop at the very beginning because of how scared I was. Harry Potter 2 is scary for me, seriously.

7. Halloween candy – favorite thing to eat

Chocolate. I love chocolate so much, it’s the one thing I just can’t ever give up. If I’m sad, chocolate will always cheer me up.

8. Scarves – your autumn ‘must have’ accessory

Scarves and headphones ! I love scarves so much, it’s the one accessory I never go out without in autumn. You ever know when a cold wind is going to start and you’ll need that comfy scarf to hide into !

9. Fire – a book or film that burns your soul

Ellana, la prophétie (“Ellana, the prophecy”), the 3rd novel of a YA series centered about the disappearance and assumed death of a young woman, Ellana, and her friend’s quest to find her and her child, and avenge her. (It’s got feelings and emotions and it always, always makes me cry.)

10. Toffee apples – a book or film that seems one thing but really has a different inside

Twilight. I read those books when I was a teen, and they seemed fairly innocent and fun – re-reading them as an adult is eye-opening, and not in a very good way.

Spin the dawn (The blood of stars, #1), by Elizabeth Lim

I’m in love.

I preordered this book on my birthday, June 10th, without really knowing what I was getting into – I’d seen the cover a couple of times, and followed the author on Twitter, and it seemed like a nice and fun book for the summer. I wasn’t disappointed : it arrived at my local Chapters on Thursday (I skipped my lunch break to bike to the store in 40°C weather to go get that book before it closed for the day) and I just couldn’t put it down once I started reading.

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Synopsis

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

On Goodreads, this book is described as “Project runway meets Mulan“, but I’d like to offer a different comparaison – Mulan meets the tailor’s version of Donkeyskin. If you don’t know what Donkeyskin is, there’s some information in English on its Wikipedia page, but the most important part is this :

She  (the princess) went to her fairy godmother who advised her to make impossible demands as a condition of her consent: a dress as bright as the sun, a dress the colors of the moon, a dress all the colors of the sky, and finally, the hide of his marvelous donkey (which produced gold, and thus was the source of his kingdom’s wealth). Such was the king’s desire to marry her that he granted all of them.

In the classic french tale, the king’s tailors work day and night to satisfy the princess’s demands – even though she doesn’t actually want them to succeed. Maia, for the most part of the book, does her best to obey her emperor’s commands, and sew the three magic gowns (three, like in Donkeyskin ! … sorry, I just really love that fairytale) he has asked from her.

What I liked

The writing is really smooth, and once I started reading, I couldn’t put the book down anymore. The romance felt natural, and was very well done – I’m a sucker for a good enemies-to-friends-to-lovers trope…and some fake dating on top of that !

I got attached really easily to Maia and her desire to protect and support her family, and Edan’s backstory was very original and really interesting. The pretending-to-be-a-boy part was quite stressful, but had some pretty funny moments too (like Maia being the only one able to walk easily in her glass slippers, while all her male competitors struggled to take a few steps…), and I’m excited to see what will happen next !

The world-building is very well done, and I especially appreciated learning about the rules of magic in A’landi, and the mythology behind the story of the three dresses of Amara.

What I didn’t like

Almost nothing. I wish we would have gotten to see more of the Lady Sarnai, who seems like a really complex and interesting character, but I’m guessing we’ll get all of that in the next book in the series, so it’s not a big negative point. Some plot points were left unresolved, but again – this isn’t a standalone, so I didn’t read it as one, and won’t judge it as one.

Conclusion

Definitely one of my top 3 books of the year so far, 10/10 would recommend. If you like fairytales, brave women who fight for what they believe in, and creative magic, you absolutely need to get your hands on a copy of this book.

Did you get a copy of this book ? What character did you like the most ?