2021 reading and blogging challenges

Welcome back! Today’s post is brought to you by my brand new stack of books to read this January, and my ever-growing motivation to try to create better quality content for this blog, as well as tackle my endless ARC list before it gets too bad to handle. In other words : here is a post about setting challenges for myself, to keep me motivated and help me grow as a blogger and book reader this year!

2021 Discussion challenge

I don’t often sign up for challenges, as I often fear that I’ll just forget about them halfway through the year and just never complete them. Last year, however, I signed up for the Discussion Challenge hosted by Nicole @ feed your fiction addiction and Shannon @ It starts at midnight, and it worked out okay for me – I ended up making less than 10 discussion posts, but still much more than what I would have written if I hadn’t signed up. The challenge motivated me to think about new discussion topics and reflect more on prompts and other people’s posts, and I really appreciated that!

Which is why, this year, I’m signing up again – but this time, I’ll be aiming for the second level of the challenge : posting between 11 and 20 discussion posts during the year, for the Creative Conversationalist level!

Discussion posts allowed in the challenge can be about anything related to books or reading, excluding wrap-ups and giveaways that don’t specifically include a detailed discussion part. If you would like to sign up too, you can check out the entire rules of the challenge and how to create your own sign-up post on Nicole’s post here, or Shannon’s post here. I’ll try to link up my discussion posts as soon as they’re out so I don’t forget to count them for the challenge this year!

Goodreads reading challenge

I’m irrationally happy seeing the Goodreads reading challenge icon now, knowing that a fellow Canadian book lover picked its color! If you don’t know her yet, check out Ariel Bissett’s booktube videos here – her channel is amazing, and she recently started a new vlogging series about her new house that looks super promising!

For my reading challenge this year, I wanted to do something more difficult than last year – mainly because I want to give all the positive energy I can to 2021, and having a high goal in something that brings me a lot of joy feels like a good plan to do so! Which is why my reading goal is currently set up for twice the amount of books I planned to read last year, so a total of 104 books.

Stay tuned to see if I can manage to keep up with these challenges all year round!

Bookending winter : Winter Café

Good evening! Today is day 19 of Bookending Winter – I took a little break from blogging this week just after finals as I was way too tired to do anything productive, even from a hobby that I love dearly. After a few good days of sleep, reading, doing some well-needed exercise and doing a winter version of spring-cleaning in my apartment, I’m ready to come back !

Bookending Winter is a quarterly blogging event run by Clo and Sam. For more information and all the details on how to participate, you can check out the announcement post on Clo’s blog, and check out all the other posts the awesome bloggers who participate in it have written so far this month!

Today’s prompt comes from Jeimy @ A novel idea, and here’s her original post – and you should check out her amazing blog while you’re at it!

Prompt Explanation : Answer prompts based off 5 wintery drinks/baked goods

  • Peppermint Mocha : Name a recent read that left you feeling refreshed and warm inside.

Starsight, by Brandon Sanderson! It’s no secret that I am a big sci-fi lover, and Sanderson’s latest YA series is making me terribly happy – there’s everything I like in a YA series, and everything I like in a sci-fi novel, so what’s not to love? (Also, the ending of the second book… I don’t want to spoil anything, but I absolutely loved it!)

  • London Fog Tea : Name a book you’ve read that takes place in London/has a British MC
Also, the cover looked awesome!

I have to mention one of teenage me’s favorite seriesAlex Rider! I was really big on spy stories as a kid, and this one in particular was so much fun.

There’s been a TV show based on it recently, and I thought it was pretty well done! It’s on Amazon Prime right now, if you want to give it a try. They went a different way than I expected, choosing to merge the beginning of the first book with the plot of the second one, which was – in my opinion – a good idea : there had already been an Alex Rider movie that followed the events of the first book, so people had already seen an adaptation of that first story. Moving on to the next book in the series was a good move to bring something new to the screen!

  • Hot Chocolate with Frozen Whipped Cream : Name a book that had just the sweetest ending

I don’t think my perception of sweet is a good one… I was about to say A Series of Unfortunate Events – which was also adapted recently, by Netflix this time, and it’s honestly one of the best book-to-screen adaptations I’ve ever seen! The ending of the books is quite melancholic and uncertain, though, so it might not really fit into everyone’s definition of “sweet”, but I really liked the hope and the sentiment of calmness the last chapters gave me when I was reading them.

  • Gingerbread Nut Cookies : Name a book that was “spicy” as it was nutty. (For those of you that do not read 18+ books, name a book that was nutty!)

This is the only one I have absolutely no candidate for! I don’t read an 18+ books – or any romance books either, to be honest – and I can’t remember reading a book that was too extravagant.

I think that’s mostly due to the fast that I’m really picky when I select my books or prepare my TBRs. In general, I tend to know quite well if I’ll like a book or not, and I don’t hesitate to DNF if the story is getting too crazy for me or if I’m just not having fun with it.

  • Traditional Sugar Cookies : Name a book that you would read every winter

Terry Pratchett’s Night Watch. I read it a long time ago, but it was so distinctively magical for me that I would love to re-read it again quite often. It’s political satire on the frame of an excellent time travel plot, and I’m just… so weak to Pratchett’s brand of humor. I love his books so much, I think I’ve recommended them to every IRL person I know that ever expressed the desire to read something. They’re just too good!

Sidenote : I am also aware that there’s a TV show based on Pratchett’s books coming out soon / already out by now. I watched the trailers, read some interviews, and… nope. Not for me.

If you want to hear the opinion of someone a bit more eloquent than me on this topic, Daniel Green made an excellent video about it, and it resumes very well all my feelings and opinions on this so far :

These prompts were super fun to follow! Tomorrow’s Bookending Winter post will also be coming from Jeimy – if you haven’t visited her blog yet, now’s the time!

Bookending winter : Comfort reads by the fire

Good Morning ! Today’s my last days as your host for Bookending winter 2020 – – if you don’t know what this is about yet, you can check out the announcement post on Clo’s blog, and check out all the other posts the awesome bloggers who participate in it have written so far this month!

I don’t reread books often, but when I do, it’s because they’re comfort books that always make me feel better. And if there’s anything we need at the end of 2020, it’s some good recommendations of books that will bring us comfort and warmth as we hope for a better year ahead – so here’s today’s prompt :

Prompt Explanation : Winter is the season for warmth and comfort, reading books by the chimney in your favorite armchair. What are your top 5 comfort books to read / reread during this season ?

Honestly, there’s a lot of books I could add to this list – most of the YA novels I read when I was in high school definitely count as comfort reads, but I tried to make a shorter selection and only present the ones I might consider re-reading this winter, watching the snow fall outside my window while I enjoy the feeling of not having any exams to study for for the next three weeks. (And if I had a chimney, I would be right next to it, of course!)

Harry potter and the prisoner of Azkaban

I don’t support J.K. Rowling in any way anymore, and try my best to stay away from most Potter-related news, but I still have my old french copy of the entire series in pocket format – with yellow pages, dog-eared corners, chocolate stains on some title pages (I was a child that didn’t take very good care of my books, sue me!) – so I sometimes still go back to it, especially in the winter season.

There’s just something about coming back to Hogwarts and seeing all out favorite characters again that screams comfort and holidays to me. (And with a hot cup of chocolate, of course. These books have seen worse, so, at this point…)

The Martian, by Andy Weir

Listen, I’m a sci-fi fan. There has to be at least one sci-fi book in every list I make.

I first discovered this one by watching the movie based on it – then switched to reading the book because of how much I liked the movie. The tone of the novel was so much fun for me, I think I borrow it form the library at least once a year to re-read it and rediscover the story all over again. When I’m looking for a shorter read but with all the fun and laughter I could possibly want, this is the one I’ll pick up first!

The count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas

When I was a child, we didn’t really have a lot of YA books in my house. There were the kids books – the ones about cute talking animals that you read when you’re 5 and move past quickly afterwards, and there were the adult books – a collection of pocket classics that my parents had bought here and there, and accumulated in one large bookcase. This lead me to read a lot of classics at a young age, and I never quite got over how brilliant and engaging the Count of Monte Cristo was.

It’s not terribly Christmas-themed, sure, but both the length and the contents of the book make it a perfect comfort read for me, and I can definitely spend whole afternoons re-reading it entirely.

Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld

I know, this one isn’t so popular nowadays – but, as is the case with a lot of books I read in my childhood, it’s not so much the contents of the book than the actual book itself that makes me feel warmth and nostalgia (but the good kind of nostalgia, the one where you happily reminisce about the good moments).

I pick up this novel and remember when I first got it in the school library, where the librarian had ordered it for me after I added it to the suggestions box. I really loved the story as a child, the dystopian world with super cool technology but hiding dark secrets underneath, and I might revisit it sometime in 2021 to write an updated review of it, it I have the time!

Ellana (the trilogy), by Pierre Bottero

This is an entire trilogy – I know, that’s cheating, but I made the rule so we’ll say it counts as one!

It’s composed of the three following novels : Ellana (book 1), Ellana, the flight (Book 2), and Ellana, the prophecy (Book 3), and it’s a shame that I can’t find an English translation for it because they’re honestly the best books I’ve ever read, and they changed my life. Really. These books got me through some really rough times, and everyone I’ve met who’s read them so far agrees : the plot is excellent, the characters are well-developed, the world-building is magical and the writing is stunningly beautiful.

The french cover of the comics

These books follow the life of Ellana, a young girl in a magical world parallel to ours, who is the sole survivor of an attack on her caravan when she’s about 4 years-old, and who grows up into an independent young woman and ends up joining a secret order of mercenaries.

When people around you can make things become real with the power of their imagination (yes, the magical powers are called imagination and drawing. I love this so much), and you’re just…normal – what do you do?

They’ve been adapted into comics recently, and I have to admit that they do an excellent job at representing the world Bottero painted in his novels. If you or anyone in your friends and family who likes YA can read french, I highly recommend picking these up!

That wraps-up my time as a Bookending Winter host for this year – I hope you had a fun time, and feel free to send me the links to your posts if you use any of my prompts – I’d love to go read them!

Movie night – holidays edition

Welcome back!

Today is my second day as your host for this year’s bookending winter – if you don’t know what this is about, you can check out the announcement post on Clo’s blog, and check out all the other posts the awesome bloggers who participate in it have written so far this month!

Prompt Explanation : It’s the time for Christmas movies – the cheesy ones, the classic ones, the brand new ones… Discuss the tropes, themes, etc. that you like or dislike in Christmas movies. Feel free to recommend your favorite !

I love holiday movies. Ever since I was a little kid in France, during the winter holidays, my father would let my siblings and I pick a movie, and we would all go to the movie theater on December 24th to watch it in the evening, as an early present.

It was a wonderful time, and it’s no wonder why I so strongly associate Christmas movies with happiness and comfort. But even a holiday-movie enthusiast like me finds that some of the following tropes just… don’t feel right. So here’s a list of six popular holiday movies tropes, and why I love (or hate) to see them :

Love : Mr Claus or Mrs Claus is real

And they’re meddling in the Main Character’s business, obviously.

If the goal of the story is to save a handmade toy shop – they’re meddling, or they’re the actual owners of the shop themselves. If there’s a small old woman watching the MC with a smile on her lips and a mug of hot chocolate? That’s Mrs Claus! Unexpected presents at the bottom of the tree when the parent doesn’t have the money to buy them? It’s the magic of the season…. and Mr Claus’s doing, of course.

This is one of my all-time favorites, and I love the touch of mystery and fun they add to the story – and it always reminds me of that time when, in a northern small town in France, my sister saw an old carpenter with a long white beard cleaning his workshop, and ran back to me to whisper in my ear “don’t look, but Santa is here!”.

Like : Small hometown

It’s the end of December, the roads are slippery, the ice-cold wind howls outside and our Main Character slowly makes the trip to their small hometown for the Christmas celebrations after spending their year in The Big City.

You know the one. Everybody knows all the neighbors in the small town and it’s always heavily decorated with tinsel garlands, lights, and red and green baubles hanging from the trees. As a small-town girl who moved away to the city, I don’t dislike this trope, even if it doesn’t resemble my experience at all – there’s a certain romanticism in returning to your hometown that I can’t deny, and this trope never fails to warm my heart and bring me joy.

Like : Baking

The baking protagonist! The sweet baking scene that shows love and care through making food for the people you love! There’s nothing I don’t adore in this theme. Any form of baking is fine by me, but I do have a soft spot for scenes such as the bread scene in The Knight before Christmas, where one character teaches another how to make a holiday food they love.

Also, shout-out to the baking competition in The princess switch – I had so much fun watching this that I immediately added the second movie to my Netflix list when I heard it was coming out this year!

Dislike : Inescapable romance

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman during the holiday season must be looking for a man… yeah, not a fan. While I love romance, and romantic movies, the idea of the incomplete woman is by far one of the tropes I hate the most, in movies as in literature.

Also known as : if you focused on your career, you made the wrong choice, and this is how this small town lumberjack/baker will seduce you and make you realize it just in time for Christmas.

This is, in my opinion, a very bad look – and it tends to ruin a lot of the fun in otherwise quite enjoyable movies.

Dislike : Unworthy romantic partners

They don’t even feel the holiday spirit! Joke aside, this is one of the rare tropes I really don’t appreciate that much. We’ve all seen this type of story – the MC is fully into the holiday spirit, enjoying the magic and the happiness with their family / friend / small town neighbors, and here comes their scrooge partner, whose deep hatred or disdain for the holidays finally makes the MC realize what a shitty partner they’ve chosen. Usually, they dump the partner by the end of the movie, and conveniently, the sexy lumberjack down the street is single! And they have the holiday spirit, so they’re good!

Yeah, no. Come on, writers, you can think of a better plot. I know you can.

Love : Snow on Christmas day

For the entirety of my childhood, snow on December 25th was a dream – something that had never actually happened, and that I only ever saw at the movie theater or on the romantic Christmas movies they air on TV during the entire month leading up to it. It gives such a magical tone to these movies that when I first saw actual snow here, in Canada, it felt like I was living in my wildest Christmas dreams.

Photo by @goian on Unsplash

There’s so much joy associated with the slowly falling snow outside, while the protagonist and their family are eating dinner and opening presents with their loved ones… snow, for me, is an essential part of the winter movie aesthetic, and I absolutely love it.

What are your favorites Christmas movie tropes? Are there any recurring themes to this type of movie that you just can’t stand watching anymore?

Tell me all about it in the comments – and if you’ve made a post using this prompt, feel free to drop your link here too so I can check it out!

Bookending Winter : Snowstorm day

Hi ! For those of you who haven’t heard of Bookending Winter yet, you can check out the announcement post on Clo’s blog – there’s a ton of blogging prompts for you to try during December, so come have fun with us and check out everyone’s posts!

Today’s prompt is hosted by me – check out other people’s posts on the event masterlist here!

Prompt Explanation : It’s the beginning of the Canadian winter, and we’re having the first snowstorm of the year. What are your plans for the day ?

Since I started living in Canada four years ago, winter has quickly become my favorite season of the year. Coming from a quiet little town on the west coast of France, I had never seen more than 1 cm of snow in my entire life before moving to Canada – and, for me, there is something inherently magical about watching the first snowflake slowly fall to the ground on a lazy Sunday morning, with every passing minute transforming the landscape into a romantic Christmas movie set.

The first snowstorm of the season always takes me by surprise. I don’t make it a habit of checking out the weather before I go to bed, so when I wake up to an email from work / university saying not to come in because you can’t see anything outside and there’s snow up to above your knees, it’s the best surprise of the week!

Photo by @aaaarupar on Unsplash

In the morning

Waking up early and realizing we’ve been snowed in during the night can only lead to one thing for me : I happily turn off my alarm, open the curtains to let natural light in when the sun comes up, and get back to sleep as much as I want to. If I don’t have any obligations for the day anymore, you can bet I’m spending at least a third of it under the covers, in my comfy pajamas and not doing anything even remotely productive.

In the afternoon

It’s not a good snowstorm day if there’s no warm food involved! Waffles, hot chocolate, nutella pancakes… whatever sugary treat I can make at home will do, as I curl up on the sofa with my laptop or a book to spend the next few hours relaxing and having fun. If I’m on my own, I’ll use that time to catch up on an ARC I’ve been meaning to read, or pick one of the books currently in my pile of shame (as in, the pile of books I’ve got a hardcover copy of but haven’t found the time to read yet… and am very ashamed of).

Related posts : Tackling the pile of shame : my physical TBR

If my partner is here (which, let’s be real, with the current lockdown, that’s highly likely), it might be a good time to play some videogames side by side.

Here are my current favorites :

  • The Witcher 3 : Wild hunt – I’ve started this game on my partner’s recommendation, and I can’t believe I waited this long to try it. The lore is incredible, the game play is amazing and every single side quest will break your heart. Also, I love games where I can pick up tons of loot, and this one has honest-to-god scavenging hunts! 10/10 a perfect way to spend your free afternoon.
Also, I make my character wear truly terrible outfits just for the fun of it. It looks awful.
  • Stardew valley – I’ve got more than 300 hours of play time in this and I’m still loving it. It’s terribly cute, engaging, funny, and once I start a new farm I just can’t stop playing until I’m at least at the end of the first year. It’s just that good.
  • No man’s sky – I’m a big, big fan of sci-fi novels, and, it seems, sci-fi games as well! Maintaining my spaceship, exploring new worlds and building my base on a perfect planet is super entertaining, and I find myself spending a lot of time just cataloguing new species and new plants, and jumping from world to world searching for a new type of planet I haven’t visited yet. This game is incredibly beautiful – and did I mention the spaceships again? There’s spaceships.

In the evening

Photo by @apham on Unsplash

In my ideal snowed-in day ? We’re eating fondue and watching a marvel movie. Probably Iron Man. (I just can’t resist a cool origin story!).

We’ve got a fondue set at home, only taken out of the cupboard during the winter, and you can use it for either a cheese fondue or a chocolate one. So far, we’ve only used it for the cheese version – the one me and my partner were missing the most from home – but we’re definitely trying out the chocolate fondue this winter!

And you, how would you spend your first snowstorm day of the season ?

Warming your winter : the things that made this year better

Hi again! Today’s day 4 of Bookending Winter 2020, and it’s hosted by the amazing Lauren and Becky @ Northern Plunder!

For those of you who haven’t heard about it yet, this is a quarterly book blogging event run by Clo and Sam, in which different bloggers host a couple of prompts each during a month (for #BEWinter, December). Anyone who wants to participate can register on the announcement post, and make 3 (or more) posts during the event.

You can check out the announcement post on Clo’s blog for the complete rules of the challenge, as well as the prompts for the whole month, and link up your posts on the challenge spreadsheet so others can find them easily!

Prompt Explanation : A lovely follow on from the previous prompt. Spend some time reflecting on those people in your life who’ve made this year better. Consider sharing some blog posts that really moved you, or talk about some memories you’ve made. Either way, just hype up some pals that might be in need of a pick me up.

Ooooh I love this prompt! I’ve realized recently that, even if I try to be a positive person in general, anxiety and stress keep preventing me from doing that as much as I’d like to. Spending some time to reflect on what made my year better is definitely a good practice for me!

Changing apartments

In May, I moved in with my partner into a slightly better apartment than the one we were in last year – we went from a 1-room basement apartment with yellowed light bulbs to a 3 1/2 in the middle of the biggest city in the province, on the ground floor, with a large window in the living room and a very-small-but-still-there courtyard shared with the neighbor.

Moving helped us a lot to cope with quarantine and not seeing much of anyone for the past… nine months, now, going on ten? It feels like an eternity, but I’m extremely thankful for the friend who sent us this opportunity for a better apartment, exactly at the right time for us.

Montreal – Photo by @matthiasmullie on Unsplash

Changing jobs

I also got two jobs in 2020, which were honestly two of the best things of my year – they helped me pay rent and afford this new place (new place, higher rent) and I managed to save a little to pay off one half of my student loans, which means I only have one government-registered student loan to worry about now. That’s excellent news for me, as I was super nervous about loan deadlines and having to constantly make sure they didn’t think I had stopped studying, and started asking for their money back – having only one loan to keep an eye on is much less stressful!

I hope extremely strongly that by the end of January, the city will be safe enough from covid again so that restaurants are able to reopen and I can get back to my current job, which I haven’t been going to since the middle of September when everything closed down again.

Blog-hopping more

After reading Kal’s post on how to use Feedly for blog-hopping, I migrated all my follows to Feedly and pinned it permanently to the window of my internet browser, and it’s helped me a lot to blog hop more consistently and not miss blog posts from the people I love reading content from! Here are 10 of my favorite blogs to read from lately :

I always appreciate seeing a new post from one of these blogs appear on my Feedly dashboard, so if you’re not following them yet, you should check out their awesome blog posts!

Photo by @craftedbygc on Unsplash

Practicing gratitude is something I’d love to add more into my daily life, and I’m thinking about making it a habit in 2021.

I’d also like to pick up journaling more regularly – now that I use Notion for all my planning needs, I’ve got a spare notebook I could use for some more “classic” journaling! It’s a bit intimidating, but I feel like giving it a try might help me discover something new that would be very beneficial for me, so I’m going to try to practice that over the next few weeks. (I don’t want to make it a New Year resolution, because holding on to these is a nightmare – it’s so much easier to just start now and try to form the habit when you’re actually motivated to do it!)

Related posts : Jumping on the Notion bandwagon

What are some of your favorite blogs or content creators you’ve been following in 2020? Mention them in the comments so I can check out their platforms and give them a follow!

Seasonal switch : Winter version

Today is the first day of Bookending Winter 2020 !

For those of you who haven’t heard about it yet, this is a quarterly book blogging event run by Clo and Sam, in which different bloggers host a couple of prompts each during a month (for #BEWinter, December). Anyone who wants to participate can register on the announcement post, and make 3 (or more) posts during the event.

You can check out the announcement post on Clo’s blog for the complete rules of the challenge, as well as the prompts for the whole month, and link up your posts on the challenge spreadsheet so others can find them easily!

Today’s prompt is Seasonal Switch : Winter version, hosted by Clo ! You can check out her post here to see her own spin of this wintery prompt.

Prompt Explanation : Taking your favorite books, imagine if the book took place in Winter instead? Imagine Winter in Outer Space? What would it look like on a spaceship? How about that favorite summer romance but now it’s in winter? What would happen? How would the seasonal switch affect the story (or not!)?

At the moment, one of my favorite books is actually a series, The Expanse. I’m currently starting book 4, and enjoying it a lot – and this prompt made me thing a LOT more about winter in outer space than I ever thought I would!

I feel like, as a people, we’re quite attached to our calendars and traditions, so even in the emptiness of space, humans would probably try to celebrate holidays and maintain some sort of normalcy – at least for the Earthers in the series, which would still have regular seasons on their planet (even if they destroyed most of it, they seem to still have “normal” weather, which means… maybe they also have snow in the winter? I hope so!).

The Martians might not, but they do seem to still have strong religious beliefs, even when knowing there was an actual alien hive mind spanning multiple galaxies reaching for them, so… If I was in that position, I would probably try to keep traditions alive and have holiday celebrations no matter where I am. Even if they don’t have an atmosphere on their planet, much less a real winter.

Book 3 of The Expanse series

I do wonder, though – in the books, it’s mentioned that ad-screen in public places scan the faces of people in the crowd, analyze their data and use it to target them with ads tailored to their interests. Would all December ads be winter-themed?

For the Belters… they’re a pretty diverse group, divided into factions and with a lot of different beliefs and worldviews, so I’m way less sure about them. I would guess that they might create their own holidays, or maybe just move “winter” around on a part of the calendar that suits them better. Being that far away from Earth, it wouldn’t make that much sense for them to still follow Earth’s holidays and seasons, but habit or sentimentality might lead them to adapt those winter celebrations in their own way. I sure would love to see that!

The Expanse has been adapted as a TV show, and season 5 will be released in a few days on Amazon Prime. I can’t wait to see how they do it, and who knows – we might get to see some winter holidays in Outer Space before the show ends!

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!

Dealing with procrastination and avoidance

Procrastination isn’t good for you, and neither is avoiding the things you need to do. I know that. I know that for a fact.

Yet, the other day, I realized in a flash of panic that I had three extremely important things to do that I had just been passively avoiding for weeks – some for months, actually – and just had to muster the courage to face before it got too late. I needed to :

  • send a tax adjustment to the government (I made a small-ish mistake in my tax declaration and it’s been haunting me since I realized it)
  • send an email to my university’s administration to get my previous diploma’s classes credited so I can graduate this year (which. I’d like to be able to do. Tuition isn’t cheap.)
  • renew my medical insurance and my address on my social security card (it expires in a month and I have medical appointments I need to have that card / insurance for!)

Those three are, taken separately, pretty simple things that might take some time but aren’t necessarily complicated to do, and they’re clearly important enough that I should have come around to doing them a while ago. So how did it get to this point ?

It’s overwhelming

Sometimes, when something generates a lot of anxiety or overwhelms you, the unconscious reaction is to avoid it, as a coping mechanism : if you don’t think about that thing, then it can’t cause you any distress.

The problem with avoidance as a coping mechanism is that it teaches your brain that you aren’t capable of facing what causes you this type of anxiety, that it’s just so overwhelming that the only solution is to push it as much away from your conscious mind as possible.

Photo by @stilclassics on Unsplash

In essence, it’s the difference between stress management – the good thing, the one where you confront what’s stressing you out and deal with it in a way that makes you less stressed – and stress avoidance – where you ignore the stressors and hope they go away on their own (which they don’t.).

In the short run, sure, not thinking about it will make you feel better, help you not get overwhelmed by what you’re trying to avoid. But in the long run, it’s likely to turn your initial reaction to this stressor into an even bigger one – making it worse and worse until you either have to deal with the cause of your stress (in my case : those 3 administrative tasks that really really need to be done) or with the consequences of not doing it (here : losing my insurance so I can’t go see the dentist, or not being able to graduate this year because my classes haven’t been credited on time).

How to stop doing it

At the time I’m typing this, my papers for the class credit have been sent and half the classes have been approved, and my medical insurance has been renewed – I still have to take care of the social security and the tax returns, but it’s a work in progress. I’m getting there.

So how do you deal with avoidance as a coping mechanism?

I don’t have a universal method for this, but the thing that works for me – that actually works and forces me to confront what’s causing that behavior while not provoking even more distress – is to:

1 . Tackle one thing at a time.

Here, I’ve got three separate problems I’ve been avoiding unsuccessfully. I’m not going to try to solve all of these in the same day : that’s more likely to make me panic and quit / have a panic attack than succeed, and we’re trying to find a better solution than that. So I’m focusing on solving one after the other, step by step.

2 . Divide them into easily manageable chunks

Just like studying for midterms, if you try to do it all in one go, it’s going to be much more difficult than if you take the time to separate it into more manageable tasks that you can take care of efficiently and without too much stress.

For the class credits, I divided it like this : check out necessary papers / fill out class credit form / retreive official grades from my previous university / write email to the person in charge of class credits / add papers to the email and send.

While that may look like a lot of extra steps if you’re someone who’s not bothered with anxiety at the idea of doing important administrative papers, this was the right way to do it for me : it helped me stay focused on the small tasks I was doing, instead of thinking about the issue as a whole and getting overwhelmed by what was at stake here (and panicking. A lot.)

3 . Don’t hesitate to ask for help

Photo by @nate_dumlao on Unsplash

It’s easy to drown in something like this if you’re alone and have to do all of it on your own. But if you have anyone you can count on, someone you can ask some help from, then don’t hesitate to do so. My partner helped a lot, actually – not in actually doing the tasks that generated all that anxiety, but in making myself confident enough that I could handle them on my own.

Be it someone who can re-read your email before you send it for that internship you really want, someone who’s there to help you figure out which papers go where, or even just a friend to stay with you at that party where you’re so anxious to go because you won’t know anyone else… A little support can go a long way.

And if you feel like you don’t know where to even start, or that anxiety is significantly deteriorating your mental health, please consider speaking with a licensed therapist, who has the skills and knowledge needed to best assist you with these issues.

I hope this post was a little bit useful – if you have any tips on how to deal with avoidance as a coping mechanism, or with procrastination in general, feel free to leave them in the comments!

Blogging when English isn’t your first language

Today’s post is a little more personal than usual – I’m going to be talking about the challenges of writing blog posts when English isn’t your first language. (And yes, this might have been inspired by my frustrations this week, trying to understand some subtleties in English grammar and spending hours on it).

Learning English

When I first discovered blogs as a teenager, I was mostly reading blogs in my native language, French. I read a lot of lifestyle blogs at the time, and absolutely loved the visuals, the soft colors, the energy in those blog posts. (Sadly, when I got back into blogging in my twenties, I couldn’t find those French lifestyle blogs again – I wonder where they went…)

In high school, I went on to learn English out of spite. I began high school with grades averaging 20% in English class, and tried to talk about it with my teacher at the time. Having no patience for a student with grades as bad as mine, he looked me right in the eye, and, in front of the whole class, loudly said : “It’s not my fault if you’re lousy.

Yeah. Talk about building confidence.

So I learned English out of spite. I started reading fanfiction in English only, changing the soundtracks on my favorite TV shows, and slowly improving step by step. By the end of high school, I was back with the same teacher for my last semester – the irony! – and when he gave me my last exam paper, he pulled me aside and told me he was impressed by my progress. (I always wondered if he knew being mean would motivate me to study even more ?)

Blogging in English

Moving to Canada in a bilingual province helped me become more confident in my ability to communicate in English, and I started reading almost all of my books in their original language, without having to wait for a French translation – but I didn’t feel comfortable enough to write and blog in my second language yet.

Blogging in French, however, was much more difficult than I expected. Not because I had trouble with the writing part, but because finding an audience was challenging and even though blogging isn’t for the followers, it is in part for the interactions and the comments – which I just couldn’t get in French. English is the language of the internet, and if you want to reach out to people, you’ll have much more luck using a language that so many of them will understand.

I started blogging in English about a year ago, and every time I write a post it takes me forever to write – not because I don’t know the words, but because my sentence structure is inherently French and I want my posts to feel as natural as possible for the readers.

My boyfriend kindly offers to check up some of my posts once in a while, but it can get really frustrating to spend so much time re-writing every single sentence in my posts. Usually, he’ll point out phrasings that mimic French grammar a little too much, or that would seem a bit strange to an English speaker – and help me find more specific words for the precise thoughts I want to express.

For example : just this week, more than 10 minutes were spent trying to figure out the essential difference between “this lacks _” and “this doesn’t have _“. It’s something that can seem extremely simple, but if you’re writing in a language that’s not your first, it’s one of the many things you might want to pay attention to so you don’t write something that sounds unbalanced, or poorly constructed – at least, that’s what I was thinking.

Is it really important?

More and more, I question the relevance of putting so much effort into the perceived “quality” of my writing. I know it’s important when I’m trying to write something more narrative, like fanfiction, for example.

But should people try to use elaborate sentence structures in blog posts, or should we try to make them as accessible as possible, with more direct phrasing and easily understandable vocabulary?

I’ve read a few posts on how to improve your posts when English isn’t your first language, and some of them mention that an overly complicated language might be perceived as pretentious or showy. A more conversational writing style seems to be preferable – but how do you, as a non native speaker, distinguish a conversational writing style from an overly simple one?

Do you blog in your first language? If not, what kind of methods do you have to make your posts as “natural” as possible?

Related posts : on the same topic, you can check out Kristina’s post @books and dachshundsblogging with anxiety : can I say that?