November wrap-up

Welcome back ! It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these posts – in fact, my last wrap-up was in May this year. There’s been a lot of changes in my life since then, but I’ve found my way back into a semi-comfortable posting schedule, which means we’re back for a November wrap-up!

Personal update

The second lockdown in our city made me lose my salary, as the restaurant I had found a new job in had to close in-doors dining spaces. But, very luckily for us, my boyfriend found a new job in an essential sector, which will be of a great help paying the bills and keeping us afloat until I can get back to work – with a little more luck, maybe in late January?

In the meantime, I’m focusing all my energy on university and all the administrative tasks that we’ve kinda forgotten over the course of this hellish year. There’s so much to do, I’m never bored!

Related posts : May 2020 wrap-up : let’s see if I hit those goals!

Keeping up with university work

This semester is hard, but so far, I’m still on course! There’s only one class out of five in which I’m not getting the grade I was aiming for – it’s going to be difficult, but there’s still one exam left, which means I’ll have one more chance to rectify the situation and get an acceptable grade that will help me get accepted into the program I’m applying for. Fingers crossed.

I’ve also gotten into an internship I wanted a lot, and it was as interesting as I expected it to be, so I’m really happy about that! Hopefully, I can finish all the tasks pertaining to that internship on time, and get a good grade for the class that goes with it.

Image by @nickmorrison on Unsplash

Playing video games

My boyfriend made me discover The Witcher : Wild Hunt, and I played it a lot in the beginning of the month. I had to slow down on that a little, though, because some changes in our lives meant an added paperwork charge : for the past two weeks or so, my evenings have been filled with administrative tasks, professional emails, talking about more administrative tasks (and stressing out about them) and some reading. Hopefully, I can get back to it as soon as my semester of university is over – this game is amazing!

Reading update

I didn’t really make a TBR for November, as I wanted to relax a little more and just read whatever I felt like reading at the time.

The new e-reader I ordered to replace my old one

Finding my old (as in, bought in 2012…) e-Reader helped me a lot! I hadn’t realized how tiring it was to read all my eBooks on my phone until I tried the paper-like screen again, and it changed everything. It’s so much more comfortable, and I can upload all my eARCs on it perfectly!

I loved using it again so much that, for Christmas, I ordered the newest version of the model I currently own – as mine is discontinued, and has been slowing down a lot and losing battery life over the years.

With the help of my old e-reader, I ended up finishing 6 books for this month :

  • Caliban’s war, by James S. A. Corey – 5 stars (this one was a re-read, and I loved it just as much as the first time!)
  • Abbadon’s gate, by James S. A. Corey – 5 stars
  • Just eat, by Bary Estabrook – 4 stars
  • Empower yourself, by Xenia Tchoumi – 2 stars
  • Bookishness, by Jessica Pressman – 3 stars
  • How to be parisian wherever you are, by Anne Berest – 1 star (yeah, this was… a miss. And a mess. You can check out my short review on Goodreads if you want the details)

On the blog, I published 8 posts this month (including this one). Check out my favorite ones!

Overall, November was a very stressful month, but I have high hopes for December (especially since my semester ends on December 16th, and I can finally have the well-deserved holiday I’ve been waiting for this entire year).

On this topic : December is the month of #BEWinter2020 ! I’m a host for three days this year, and will try to participate in the other prompts as much as I can, so keep an eye out for the hashtag on twitter and come check out all the awesome posts book bloggers will write this month!

The Horse and his boy – My favorite Narnia novel

Classic Remarks is a meme hosted at Pages Unbound that poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation.

You can find more information and the list of weekly prompts here.

Today’s prompt is : Which Narnia book is your favorite and why?

Find Krysta’s post here to see what her answer was!

My favorite Narnia book is The horse and his boy, which is the 5th book in order of publication, and 3rd book in chronological order. When I was a kid, I got a boxed set of all Narnia books in chronological order, so this is the one I first read them in – but I had watched the first movie before that, so I did have an idea of what I was getting into.

I love the presence of the original characters as adults – I feel like this is one of the most interesting times in Narnia, and I really wish we had more content on the years during which they ruled together. Seeing the adult Pevensies without focusing entirely on them makes it a very enjoyable read for me, as you have the fresh perspective of a new character without being fully lost (unlike in The magician’s nephew…). The character of Aravis especially was very toughing and I remember getting attached quite fast to the small group of main characters!

I also think that Aslan’s role fits much better in the story than in the other novels, as he actually gets involved in a way that makes sense with the story – I loved the appearance of the lion chasing the horses in the desert, pushing them to go faster so they could accomplish their mission! And seeing more of the world outside of Narnia was so much fun – in this sense, it reminds me a lot of Voyage of the Dawn Trader, where the voyage to a strange land is also at the forefront.

On the main themes, the flight to freedom is one I especially appreciate, and even if I’m not that much on board with the religious aspects of C.S. Lewis’s work, I do think this novel was really well crafted.

All in all, I greatly enjoyed reading this book, and I hold a lot of affection for it, which is why I’d say this one is my favorite. (Now, about my least favorite…that’s a story for another day!)

What’s your favorite Narnia book ? Or your least favorite ? Did you enjoy this one as much as I did ? Tell me all about it in the comments!

NetGalley TBR – November 2020

Good afternoon!

Today’s post is inspired by Alexa’s NetGalley Update series, which you can go check out on her blog, Writing the universe (and don’t hesitate to follow her blog if you haven’t subscribed yet!).

These past few months, I’ve done my best to improve my NetGalley ratio, which was at a low 65 at some point this year (yeah, I know, that’s pretty bad… I might have requested a bit more books than I could actually read…).

It’s now gone up to 78%, and I’m doing everything everything I can to get it all the way up to the recommended 80% – I feel like I’d be pretty happy if I could get it to 85, but then again, since I’m not a US-based reviewer, it won’t drastically augment the number of books that are available for me, so I’m not stressing too much about it.

Related posts : The eternal frustration of an international book blogger, by @insidemylibrarymind, My story with ARCs as an international book blogger, by Marie @ Drizzle and Hurricane books

My NetGalley “to read” and “to review” shelves have now been almost fully emptied, but I do still have some books I’d like to get around to reading and reviewing sometime before the end of the year :

  • Slingshot, by Mercedes Helnwein – I got an invitation to get this e-ARC in my email a while ago, and almost didn’t see it at all – it had slipped in my spam folder by accident. Fortunately, I managed to find it before the publication date!
  • Men who hate women, by Laura Bates – I read a book on this exact topic from a Québécois author last year, and I’m supposed to be taking a class on it next semester, so I thought it might be useful for me to read this one!
  • The truth and other hidden things, by Lea Geller – this just sounded fun and full of drama – exactly what I’ll need once my finals are done in mid-December!
  • Viral BS : Medical myths and why we fall for them, by Seema Yasmin – I felt like this was going to be particularly interesting considering the year we’ve just had, so my expectations are pretty high for this one!

I think I’ll prioritize them by their publication dates – the last one on the list here is due for January 2021, and it’s the earliest one here so far, which means I’ve got all the time I need to read and review them all before I end up with late ARCs.

I did wish for a lot of new ones, but I’m not holding out any hope of actually getting them, since most of them were highly anticipated YA novels for which I’m sure a lot of other people made wishes.

One thing that would be pretty useful, though, would be if NetGalley could add a “wished for” tab in the library section, so we could see those books in the same way we can see the pending requests – I’ve wasted time more than once opening a ton of NetGalley tabs to check out interesting books, only to realize that I’d been here earlier in the month / year and already wished for those…

There’s been a lot of change in my life recently, and lots of added stress, so I’m not sure how fast I’ll be able to check these books off my list, but I’m genuinely excited to read them all, so we’ll see how it goes over the month of December!

Tackling the pile of shame : my physical TBR

I’ve got a pile of unread books in my home, and I’m pretty ashamed of it. Physical books are expensive, and I have a very limited budget – especially in times of covid – so I tend to not buy a lot of them, but I do sometimes get them as a gift from other people, or use money meant to buy myself a gift for it. As a result, my collection of physical books is quite small – and yet, there’s still a good portion of these books that I haven’t read. Why is that, you may ask?

Since I’ve gotten into reading in public transport, or pretty much anywhere when I have the time, and borrowing books from my local library, I’ve been reading more and more e-books instead of physical books. Their instant availability means that whenever I finish one of them, I can just open the next one immediately – without having to go back to my apartment and getting another novel from my bookshelves. The availability of e-books has led me to ignore my personal collection, which is why I want to set myself a challenge for 2021 : read every single book on my physical TBR.

Can I do it? Probably. Will I do it? We’ll see that next December! For now, here’s the contents of that TBR :

From the series The Expanse : Caliban’s war, Abbadon’s gate, Cibola burn.

I got the first two as a Christmas gift, and bought the fourth one this summer, but haven’t gotten around to reading them yet. They’re excellent and I love them, but having watched the TV show kinda slows me down in reading. I’m hoping I can get through these soon, though, as the next season arrives on amazon prime at the end of the year!

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

I got this book at a local secondhand bookstore a few street away from my apartment, and I’ve read it once before, when I was a young child, but the edition I have now is absolutely stunning – it’s the 60th anniversary edition, which has an introduction written by Neil Gaiman, and I thought it would be a very nice addition to my bookshelves when I found it!

I have little to no memory of the actual story, so it would definitely be good for me if I could re-read it.

Unravel the dusk, by Elizabeth Lim

I loved the first one, so I’m pretty sure I’ll love this one too, which is why I’m quite ashamed of putting it on this list!

I had a preorder of this book, and then Covid happened and I… kinda put reading on hold for a while during the summer, as I was working full time as an essential worker in a grocery store, then in a restaurant for as many hours as I could get, and studying part-time. With the new restrictions in September, I stopped working but went back to university full time, and I just didn’t find a moment to pick this up.

This is how you lose the time war, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

This was one of my birthday gifts! I’m super interested in the synopsis, and it’s the books and tea book-club read-along for November/December, so I’m hoping to get this one done before the end of 2020!

The city we became, by N.K. Jemisin

I loved N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy, and I’ve had my eye on this one since it was announced a long time ago – I finally got it at the bookstore last week!

The midnight library, by Matt Haig

Good reviews made me pick up this book while it was on sale at my local bookstore on the same visit when I got The city we became, and I love the cover art!

Hopefully I can read this one in the first half of 2021… maybe even during my winter break? Who knows…

I’m really excited to be reading all of these, and I’ve got some preorders for 2021 that will get added to the collection once they arrive – I’ll post an update halfway through the year, to see where this got me!

Do you have a lot of unread physical books? What are the ones you want to read the most, out of your collection? Let me know in the comments so I can add them to my TBR!

Perfect on Paper, by Sophie Gonzales

Perfect on paper is author Sophie Gonzales’s third novel, coming out in March 2021 – and if you like queer romances, YA contemporaries or just love YA romance in general, then you should definitely add this gem to your TBR.

Synopsis

Darcy Phillips:
• Can give you the solution to any of your relationship woes—for a fee.
• Uses her power for good. Most of the time.
• Really cannot stand Alexander Brougham.
• Has maybe not the best judgement when it comes to her best friend, Brooke…who is in love with someone else.
• Does not appreciate being blackmailed.

However, when Brougham catches her in the act of collecting letters from locker 89—out of which she’s been running her questionably legal, anonymous relationship advice service—that’s exactly what happens. In exchange for keeping her secret, Darcy begrudgingly agrees to become his personal dating coach—at a generous hourly rate, at least. The goal? To help him win his ex-girlfriend back.

Darcy has a good reason to keep her identity secret. If word gets out that she’s behind the locker, some things she’s not proud of will come to light, and there’s a good chance Brooke will never speak to her again.

Okay, so all she has to do is help an entitled, bratty, (annoyingly hot) guy win over a girl who’s already fallen for him once? What could go wrong?

What I liked

I had high hopes for this story, and… they were all met. And then some. Oh boy.

The themes Sophie Gonzales approaches in this book hit extremely close to home, and, as was the case with her previous novel, Only Mostly Devastated, were written in a very thoughtful, delicate way that left me unable to put it down until I had read it entirely.

The story touches on themes of internalized biphobia, LGBT+ relationships, parental conflict, lying… Expressions of emotions and feelings are on point (I might have cried, more than once) and the book is full of all the complicated relationships and drama that are so characteristic of high school experiences. The romance is also super sweet, which is always a great point.

Darcy and Brooke… the unrequited love trope is something I’m very partial towards – if it’s done well, it can be so much fun for the readers, and this one is done perfectly. I also loved the relationship between the main character and her transgender sister, and the way all of the characters were fully fleshed out and each had their own journeys throughout the course of the story. These characters aren’t perfect, they make mistakes, (and downright questionable choices, looking at you Darcy) but they try to learn from them and do better – and that makes them all the more likeable and attaching for me.

What other people didn’t like

Some people have mentioned the common plot points with the show Sex Education (the secret locker and giving advice to other students part) but, as with OMD, since I haven’t watched that show, I didn’t have any sense of déjà-vu. (Additionally, as the author said in a tweet recently, this book was mostly written by the time Sex Ed came out – it’s not plagiarism in any way!)

As an additional note : some reviewers have mentioned that this story was “unexpectedly mature” and “not appropriate for YA”. I won’t elaborate too much on that here, because it would honestly deserve an entire post, but I’ll tell you this : the most mature thing in this book is a kiss, and I think we know exactly what this person had in mind when they made this critic.

LGBT representation is not inherently “mature”. Our existences aren’t “mature”, they just are. Leave queer kids alone. Stop policing queer books.

Conclusion

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is absolutely a five stars book for me, and I would definitely recommend it to YA romance readers, and contemporary YA readers in general. Sophie Gonzales is now firmly on my list of authors I’ll read every book of, and I’m so excited to see what she writes next!

Related posts : Only Mostly Devastated, by Sophie Gonzales

10 backlist books I want to read in 2021

I don’t know about you, but ever since I started book blogging, I tend to look forward to new releases much more than before. Sadly, that focus on new releases tends to make me forget about older books – something that the beat the backlist challenge post by Austine on Novelknight this week reminded me of.

As I was talking about this with my partner, I thought it might be interesting to go back and have a look at some titles I’ve missed over the years, see if I could find some that I’d be interested in! So I went on a tour of Goodreads and my bookmarked blog posts, and spent a too long amount of time reading through lists of YA 2018 releases, to pick and choose from the ones I hadn’t read yet and make my first TBR for the next year.

Here are the 10 finalists of that first selection – the 10 YA novels of 2018 that I’d like to read in 2021 :

The forgotten book, by Mecthild Gläser

The synopsis portrays this as a YA retelling of Pride and Prejudice – a YA fantasy romance that seems like a perfect way to start my year!

Find it on Goodreads here

Girls of paper and fire, by Natasha Ngan

This is the first book in a series, and I’ve seen it in so many recommendations since it came out in 2018 that I absolutely need to add it to my TBR. I don’t usually read a lot of series, since I’m someone who likes reading the entire story all in one go (so when there’s multiple books in a series, I tend to wait until it’s finished to pick it up), but this one looks so interesting that I can’t wait to read it!

Find it on Goodreads here

Heretics anonymous, by Katie Henry

From the Goodreads synopsis, this is a contemporary novel about atheists and misfits in a catholic school. As someone who went through two catholic schools and didn’t really fit in properly, I’m interested to see this take!

Find it on Goodreads here

The forest queen, by Betsy Cornwell

This is marketed as a gender swapped Robin Hood retelling, and I’m 100% on board with it. I loved the story of Robin Hood as a child, and gender swapped stories are one of my favorites themes – I’m really excited to see the result in this one!

Find it on Goodreads here

To be honest, by Maggie Ann Martin

Sometimes, all you need is a fluffy contemporary YA romance. After the train wreck that is 2020, I’ll definitely need to read more than one of these next year!

Also : have you seen this cover? It’s super cute!

Find it on Goodreads here

Furyborn, by Claire Legrand

The cover for this book is stunning, and I’ve been meaning to read it ever since I saw it last year at my local bookstore. I think this is also the first part of a series, and I remember being really interested in the plot after reading the back of the book at the bookstore, so I’m expecting good things from this one!

Find it on Goodreads here

Empress of all seasons, by Emiko Jean

This is a high fantasy & mythology YA novel that I first heard about when Lauren @ Northern Plunder reviewed it on her blog, and her review makes it an automatic addition to this list.

Find it on Goodreads here

We regret to inform you, by Ariel Kaplan

This is a YA contemporary mystery about rejected college applications, and I didn’t know I needed this until I read the synopsis, but it sounds so right up my alley that I immediately added it to my library wishlist.

Find it on Goodreads here

———————–Related posts : Library book tag

Sky in the deep, by Adrienne Young

This is another novel I had initially seen at my local bookstore, then forgotten about as the new releases kept coming my way – and I definitely should have added it to my TBR when I saw it the first time.

I don’t often read historical fiction/fantasy, but this story seems really promising so I’ll give it a shot sometime in January!

Find it on Goodreads here

Reflection, Elizabeth Lim

A Mulan retelling written by the author of Spin the dawn and Unravel the dusk? Of course I’m reading that! The gorgeous cover is a nice bonus as well.

Find it on Goodreads here

———————–Related posts : Spin the dawn (The blood of stars, #1), by Elizabeth Lim

What are some older books you’ve been meaning to read ? Any recommendations ? Let me know in the comments !

Empower yourself, by Xenia Tchoumi

I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, and as much as I’m usually happy with the books I request on NetGalley, this one was a miss for me.

I read a lot of nonfiction, especially personal development books, which I greatly enjoy reading. My ratings usually follow the Goodreads scale, with 1 = did not like it, 2 = it was okay, 3 = liked it, 4 = really liked it and 5 = amazing. Sadly, Empower Yourself by Xenia Tchoumi didn’t live up to its hype, as I rated it a 2/5.

So, why such a low rating?

Synopsis

Xenia takes readers on a practical, no-nonsense journey to self-empowerment, covering topics such as taking responsibility, using your pain and your failures to push yourself further, and learning digital dominance instead of letting yourself be digitally dependent. She offers a wealth of tips for creating productive habits, setting goals, protecting your mental health and resisting society’s pressures to confirm.

She shares her stories of struggling against prejudice as the child of recent immigrants, battling the restrictive structures of the fashion industry, making her mark in the digital space and ultimately making herself into an ultra-successful brand. Questioning exactly what empowerment looks like today, she also offers the inspiring stories of empowered people she has met all over the world and shows that, while empowerment can seem very different in different cultures, there are certain key traits that empowered people share – habits that anyone can learn and use to become a success in life.

What I liked

The book was well organized, with a page of important things to take away from the chapter at the end of each and every one of them. The #Powertrick inserts in the middle of the chapters, with practical tips on how to put in action the advice given in this part of the book, were interesting and well thought out.

On the content itself, most of it was very sound advice, like using daily journaling as a way to know yourself better and figure out your goals and ambitions, or making sure you don’t skip your self-care in favor of your work because that’s never going to end well… nothing revolutionary, but nothing inherently bad either.

The use of scientific evidence to support these tips was an excellent addition, at it served a lot to support the author’s claims that something would be beneficial for you – that’s something I’d like to see more in self-help and personal development books, as lately it seems to me that very few of them bother sourcing their advice or supporting their theories with psychological studies or sound research, even when including those references might help convince more strongly their readers of the legitimacy of their opinions.

What I didn’t like

I didn’t know anything about the author when I picked up this book, and from the very first chapters, this seemed to come from an extremely privileged place – completely detached from my reality and difficult to reconcile with my personal experiences.

I had a hard time finding any flaws to her behavior and character – it seemed, from her descriptions, that she did everything almost perfectly, from eating good food cooked at home to doing physical activity every day, journaling, communicating with loved ones, to being productive while still having time for her personal life… The problem with perfection, however, is that it puts distance between you and your readers, who see your behavior as an unattainable goal – if the people who do it are this immaculate, and I’m not, how and I ever going to succeed ?

Likewise, when I’m reminded more than once that the author “turned down an offer to work full time at a leading investment bank”, and that when she was looking for an internship, she was so sure she’d get into a top company that she felt offended and outraged when her therapist told her there was a lot of competition and it wasn’t a done deal… I’m having a hard time relating to these experiences.

This specific situation, with the therapist trying to make sure she wasn’t setting herself up for a terrible disappointment, served as a way to advance the idea that confidence is the only thing that makes the difference between you and other people – no mater your and their diplomas, experience, skills… of you have the confidence, you’ll get that job/internship/work offer! Except… for most of us, that’s not how life works. And treating the therapist as if she was actively trying to undermine her self-belief instead of trying to help her and make sure no matter what happened, she’d be okay… isn’t a good look at all. (Neither is qualifying people who weren’t productive during a worldwide pandemic as “sad and lazy“.)

Overall conclusion

On the positive/negative balance, the scale tips a bit too strongly on the negative side for me. This is not to say that this is a terrible book – to reuse the Goodreads scale qualification, it was okay. Sadly, with the amount of self-help and personal improvement books published every year, just okay isn’t good enough for me anymore.

Did you read this book, and have a different opinion? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Why I read more than one book at a time

Welcome back! Today’s post is all about reading habits, namely : reading multiple books at the same time.

I was picking up some books to bring back to the library today when I realized that I had read almost all of them at the same time, piece by piece. It’s a habit I have with certain books, but not all, and something I’ve been doing for quite some time now. So why do I read multiple books at once?

I’m a mood reader

If I don’t feel like reading a book on topic A, I will do anything but that. Including reading something on another topic, until I want to get back to book A again. This usually means that if something isn’t fully captivating, I’ll probably be in the middle of at least two books at the same time, if only to get back to the one I’m most interested in on that specific day.

Photo by @daanouthere on Unsplash

They’re non fiction

If I read a fiction book, it’s only one and it’s all in one go or nothing at all, but with non-fiction, it’s much easier to stop in the middle, pick up something else, and come back to it later.

If I get a little bored (because, even if I often only post reviews of four to five stars books, I rate half of what I read below that, which means I do, sometimes, get bored) while reading something, in a non-fiction work, I can just finish the chapter and put it down without fearing that I’ll have trouble remembering what it was about when I start it again.

It helps sort my priorities

If I’ve got more than one book at a time, I can roughly see how much reading time I have left in all of them, how long I have them for (if they’re from the library) / want to give them, and prioritize accordingly.

It can also be helpful in identifying which books I should consider DNF-ing and which ones are worth the effort.

Photo by @florenciaviadana on Unsplash

If I’m in the middle of a book, and it’s been sitting on my bedside window (I don’t have a bedside table, but I do have a bedside window corner – just enough space for one person to sit under the window and see the tiny courtyard shared with the neighbor) for more than two weeks, it might be time to let it go and admit I’m just not that interested in it. I don’t often DNF books, but when I do, it’s usually because I’ve been stuck trying to read them for too long.

Time is of the essence

Since I’m a full-time student (and hopefully still a straight-A student at the end of this semester), have a part-time job (when not in lockdown), try do do sports every two days, try to practice photography and to blog in my limited spare time, I don’t really have long spots of uninterrupted reading time.

I used to read the most during my daily commute, but my university has converted fully to online classes, so when I do go somewhere to study, it’s to the university’s library, and I go there on foot – not the best time to take out a book or my phone to read comfortably.

I’ve been adding small reading times to my timetable every day, to help me relax and take some time for myself in the middle of all this. Recently, being able to just pick up something, put it down 30 min later, and pick up something else on my next break has been a really useful skill!

Do you read multiple books at a time, or only one? Did you read or post something interesting on the same topic? Link it in the comments so I can check it out!