Valentine’s day update

If someone were to check on my stress hormone levels right now, I’m pretty sure they’d be through the roof. While I had initially expected February to be more quiet and restful than January, what is actually happening… isn’t it.

The university admissions process is much more complicated and stressful than expected, and I’m battling terrible anxiety about my future every single day – winning, so far, but still. It’s taking a lot of effort to stay positive and optimistic for the future, and my hobbies are suffering from it.

Still, I’m back today for a weekly update, because blogging and reading are things that bring me a lot of joy, and I want to keep that well in mind for the rest of the month.

Personal update

Life is hard. I feel like I’ve been coping pretty well with lockdown for the past year, with everything being closed and only seeing, like, 4 people in one year. But I went to see my siblings in the park yesterday, for the first real time in almost a whole year even though we literally live in the same city, and… it’s been hard.

I feel like I’ve missed out on a lot of their lives and they’ve grown so much in my absence that they’re almost wholly different people now – and I don’t know them that well anymore. I know it’s for a good reason, I know I’m doing the right thing by respecting all lockdown rules and not seeing anyone, even my family members, but… it doesn’t make it any easier in the long term.

Fortunately, everything isn’t as bad as that – so here are three things I’ve been doing that made me feel good this week :

Playing video games

I’ve been doing a brand new playthrough of Kingdoms of Amalur, the re-reckoning, and going on my third year in my Stardew Valley 1.5 playthrough – I’m hoping to complete the collection challenges before the Grandpa’s ghost comes in and judges my farm! I’m really happy with my progress in both these games, and I’m planning on going back to Don’t Starve and The Witcher 3 once I’ve manages to finish these first two.

Working out

I’ve started a Chloe Ting challenge and I’m really happy about it. I’ve been thinking of talking about my relationship with food and exercise in a separate blog post, so if I do end up writing it, I’ll link it here so you guys can go check it out! The bare bones of it, though, goes like this : I haven’t had the healthiest relationship with food and exercise, ever, but I’ve been making a lot of progress since the beginning of the year, and I’m finally at the point where I actually enjoy doing a morning workout, and eating good food no matter how much calories I’ve burned in the day how how much I’ve “worked for it”. It’s been… good. Relaxing. Freeing.

One of the things that’s helped me a lot with this has been Linda Sun’s YouTube channel, which you can find here. She’s a fitness youtuber who’s not dieting, not counting her calories, and not pushing a pro-diet agenda on her viewers, and her content is really wholesome and refreshing (and yes, the titles are clickbait, don’t worry!).

And on the topic of repairing my relationship with food and my body : speaking with a Registered Dietician has helped me a lot with this, and I highly recommend doing so if you think it can help you too. 10/10, absolutely worth it.

Meeting a friend outside

I’ve seen around, like, 4 people since the beginning of this pandemic, and one of them is an amazing friend who lives a couple of blocks away from our apartment, so I’ve met up with her this week outside to hang out and take a walk in the snow. With a hot chocolate in hand, of course, and at a safe distance, with masks on.

It’s done wonders for my mental health – both the social interaction and the walk outside – and I’m hoping we can do that again sometime next week!

Reading update

I’m back here with the short reviews! I’ve been mostly trying to get through all my remaining ARCs this month, with the goal of not requesting any more until at least June if I can stay away from the NetGalley request buttons, but I’ve still managed to grab some copies of books on my TBR from my local library!

The Andromeda Strain

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I had added this book to my TBR a while ago, following a recommendation from one of Emily Fox’s booktube videos (which are amazing, by the way, if you don’t watch them you should check out her channel!), and I really loved it!

The suspense and the science worked well for me, and as I’m already a big Sci-fi fan, it wasn’t hard to like this. The writing is quite dry, but as it’s supposed to be some form of military/scientific report, it didn’t bother me or dampen my enjoyment of the story.

The poppy war

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I finally read The Poppy War! I can’t believe it took me this long to start this series – every reviewer I’ve seen talking about it only had nice things to say, so I knew I was going to like it, but I also knew I would suffer all the way through it… and I was right.

Illuminae

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Another one I’ve waited a long time to read, and ended up appreciating a lot. However, contrary to The Poppy War, this book surprisingly didn’t leave me wanting to read the next one in the series.

I say surprisingly because I absolutely loved the ending, and was at the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading this – so why not want to pick up the next one immediately ? I think it has more to do with the very last pages of the book : even if they wrapped up the story nicely and revealed some nice plot twists, they didn’t bring about enough mystery and excitement about book 2 for me to want to pick it up immediately.

However, while that’s clearly not a good sign, it doesn’t mean I’ll never continue this series – I enjoyed this book a lot, and would be vaguely interested in further adventures in the Illuminae universe, so I might still come back to it later in the year!

My progress so far in 2021 : 18 books read out of 104

That’s it for me today! I’ll be back in the beginning of the week with – hopefully – a discussion post, and a book review sometime later next week, so, see you around!

January 2021 wrap-up

You know, I really thought January 2021 would be easier than 2020 – and oh boy, was I wrong. Wow.

Personal things

I’ve been beyond busy this month, and things have taken all my free time, leaving me with little to no energy for blogging after university started again. I was completely swamped with administrative work, files to send, forms to fill out, papers to get certified in the middle of a pandemic when all offices are closed and working remotely…

But we’re now back in business : my doctorate applications have been sent, and there’s not much more I can do to improve them in any way, so it’s just a matter of waiting until I get an answer – whichever it might be.

Photo by @craftedbygc on Unsplash

I’ve applied to three doctorate programs and one masters, and am really hoping to get accepted into at least one of those, but I’m not basing all of my plans on that and I’m confident that no matter what happens I’ll figure out where to go and what to do after I graduate from my current program, and I’ll be okay.

The actual application process was hell, though – asking for recommendations from teachers was one of the scariest things I’ve ever had to do, one of those recommendations still hasn’t gone through (really hoping it gets done before the deadline…), and an administrative error on the university’s part broke my application file in one of the unis I applied to. It took a week and a half to get it fixed, and it’s still a work in progress! It’s been one of the most stressful months of my life in Canada so far, and 2020 was already a pretty stressful year, so I’m really hoping February will be more relaxing!

Online things

Blogging has taken a great hit this month, as I’ve barely had the time to blog-hop, let alone write and publish posts myself. On days when I did have the time, I couldn’t find the energy – not for a lack of enjoyment or motivation, but just from sheer exhaustion. So, to occupy my time with things that took a little less effort than blogging, here’s what I did in January :

  • Started a new farm on Stardew Valley with the arrival of update 1.5 – and I must admit that this is my best run so far. My farm is splendid, my crops are thriving, and I’ve got a ton of happy chicken, ducks and cows. I love this game so much.
  • Watched The Expanse‘s 5th season (and cried comme une madeleine1 during half of the episodes. It was so good. If you’re looking for your next favorite show, give this one a try!)
  • Watched Wandavision and laughed way too much at the sitcom episodes
  • Found a lot of new youtubers to watch in-between my breaks from studying – I’ve been taking all my classes at the university’s library, in a small isolated room so there’s no contact with other people, since my partner is now working from home most of the week : we only have one desk, and no dining table, so if one of us is using the desk, the other one has to work from the sofa. Which is a very comfortable sofa, if you’re watching TV or eating dinner, but not so much for studying and having zoom meetings for nine hours straight.

All in all, I’ve been keeping busy!

1 For anyone interested : Comme une madeleine is a french expression, meaning “crying your eyes out”. It’s very expressive in french, and carries a lot of emotional meaning.

Reading things

One of the things I’m really happy about this month, though, is that even with all the stress and the work I barely managed to stay on top of, I still found some time to keep up to date with my Goodreads reading goal !

I won’t list them here, as I’m planning to talk about these more on a semi-weekly basis instead of in wrap-up posts, but I did get through some ARCs and a bunch of holds from my local library, as well as one more of the Expanse series. I’m finally up to date with the TV show!

My progress so far in 2021 : 10 books read out of 104.

February intentions

Seriously, that cover is so beautiful it’s intimidating.

I have a LOT of books from the library that I want to get through in February. Hopefully, since almost all my stressful administrative work is now done and all wrapped up, I’ll have enough time to do so! This list includes, but isn’t limited to, The poppy war, The camelot betrayal, In a holidaze, Barack Obama’s memoir A promised land, Anti-Diet, and The midnight library.

I also want to keep up my habit of exercising at least three times a week, while improving my relationship with exercise and my body in general. It’s been something I’ve known I needed to work on for a long time, and I’ve finally realized that the only good moment to start on something like this is right here, right now.

Another wish is to keep doing my best in university ! Just because the applications for next year have been sent doesn’t mean I need to stop giving my current program everything I’ve got. I’m really proud of where I am now – and I’ll only write it once here so I don’t brag too much, but I don’t have a lot of people to share it with so I still want to talk about it… I managed to get my GPA up to a 4.11 out of 4.3! I’m super proud of myself and all the work I’ve put into this, and I’m hoping I can keep this up and graduate as a straight-A student for the first time in my life!

Finally, I’d like to work a little on my bookstagram – which, by the way, is linked in the sidebar of my blog if you want to go check it out!

How did your January go ? Did you manage to accomplish most of what you set out to do at the beginning of the year ? Let me know in the comments, and feel free to link up to your January wrap-up posts if you’ve made one!

Weekly update : first week of 2021

It’s been an… interesting week.

Personal update

I’ve been super busy this week, going from one appointment to another, doing all the urgent administrative work that needs to be done before the end of January – they days go by so quickly that I worry I won’t be able to finish it all up in time.

The deadline to apply to the program I’d like to be accepted into next year is February 1st, and I haven’t heard back from one of the people I asked a recommendation from – I need three letters of recommendation, and only have 2 so far, but hopefully, I’ll be able to secure a third one before January 15th. If I don’t get an answer from the teacher I emailed on Tuesday, I’ll urgently contact someone else, and hope for the best.

On top of that, our province’s covid-related rules have just been tightened, and Montreal is now under curfew from 8 pm to 5 am every night, with every “non-essential” shop closed, and the essential ones closed at 7:30 pm to give people enough time to go home before the curfew comes into effect.

This complicates things quite a bit for us, as my partner is currently working in an essential workplace and I’m a full-time student : on the days where he’s working from home, since he’s using the only desk we have, I’ll have to find somewhere else to go study, as most of his work is confidential and we don’t have the space for me to go study in another room. Which, since everything is closed down… will be tricky. Hopefully, though, the university will keep the library open for students who really need the space to study, as we can’t really go anywhere else anymore!

I’ve also had my first appointment with a dietician this week – I’ve been trying to eat healthier and make progress on my own, but lately, I’ve come to realize that even with my best efforts, I still need to ask for some help with this. And that’s okay! There’s no shame in asking for help if you’re in a situation where you need to, whether it’s about physical or mental health. I’m incredibly lucky that my university has a partnership with a dietician / nutritionists group, which gives students a medium discount that compensates a little for the absence of insurance coverage for these services. (Which – don’t get me started on that, I could rant about it for hours. Who thought it was a good idea to exclude nutritionists from health insurance benefits??)

Blogging update

On the blog lately, I’ve written two posts : a late Bookending winter post, about 2021 reads I can’t wait for, and a reading challenges announcement!

Reading update

Progress on my Goodreads goal : 3/104

I’m trying a new format here! I’ve been doing reviews in their own separate posts, but by doing them this way, I didn’t review most of the books I read, as I just couldn’t find the time to write an entire post about them. So here are short, 1 paragraph reviews of what I read this week!

Kingsbane, by Claire Legrand

Rating: 4 out of 5.

My first book of 2021 – I ended 2020 by reading the first book in this series, and I had gotten a copy of the next novel through my local library, so I followed up immediately with it.

Where the first book was setting up the scene a lot, and teasing some dark mysteries without revealing much to the reader, this one unveils secret after secret in a captivating story filled with unexpected plot twists and heartbreaking moments. I didn’t expect the cliffhanger at the end, and I liked that more than I expected – it’s been a while since I’ve given a real chance to a fantasy series, and an even longer time since I’ve read a book ending with a cliffhanger that I was actually interested in enough to make it to the next one and find out what was happening. I’m definitely reading book 3 as soon as possible.

Find it on Goodreads here.

A sky beyond the storm, by Sabaa Tahir

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I read the first three books in this series in 2020, and enjoyed them a lot, so I have no idea why I didn’t pick up the last installment in this series as soon as it came out, in December 2020. I liked this conclusion to the story, and thought it wrapped up all the different character arcs pretty well, even if I didn’t connect with it as much as I had with the previous books. I had some issues with the ending – especially the treatment of one of the main characters. (To put it without too many spoilers : one of the characters has a power that could save their loved one… yet doesn’t use it at the end when it could be the most useful. For no apparent logical reason. Yeah, didn’t like that.)

Find it on Goodreads here.

The ever cruel kingdom, by Rin Chupeco

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Another follow-up on a book I read last year, The never tilting world. I found the first one okay, but enjoyed the second one much more!

I think it had to do with the pacing of the story, and the advancement of the plot that felt like it was moving forward much better than the first book. I loved the character development in this, and the much more detailed backstories we got than the ones alluded to in book 1, which made it easier to get attached to the characters (and made it worse when they died… but I digress). The love and the romance between the main characters was also lovely (and after bingeing Bridgerton, I was in the right mood for romance!).

Find it on Goodreads here.

2021 reads I can’t wait for

Welcome back! Today’s post is the first Bookending Winter post of 2021… because I missed posting day and really wanted to use this prompt even if the year was over! For those of you who haven’t heard about it yet, Bookending Winter is a book blogging event run by Clo and Sam, in which different bloggers host a couple of prompts each during the month of December (Yep. I’m late.). Anyone who wants to participate can register on the announcement post, make 3 (or more) posts during the event, and link them up on the challenge spreadsheet so others can find them easily!

Today’s prompt comes from Sam @ fictionally sam ! It called for a top 10, but I went for a top 5 – not because there aren’t many new releases that look really good for 2021, but simply because I’ve been so busy reading library books and ARCs that I haven’t really gotten the time to look at the upcoming releases for this year. I’m taking notes on everybody’s 5 stars predictions, though, and I’m expecting great things from 2021 novels!

Prompt Explanation : What are your top ten most anticipated reads for next year?

Victories greater than death, by Charlie Jane Anders

A thrilling adventure set against an intergalactic war with international bestselling author Charlie Jane Anders at the helm in her YA debut—think Star Wars meets Doctor Who, and buckle your seatbelts.

Tina has always known her destiny is outside the norm—after all, she is the human clone of the most brilliant alien commander in all the galaxies (even if the rest of the world is still deciding whether aliens exist). But she is tired of waiting for her life to begin.

And then it does—and maybe Tina should have been more prepared. At least she has a crew around her that she can trust—and her best friend at her side. Now, they just have to save the world.

A sci-fi novel with an awesome-looking cover and an interesting synopsis. I’ve been trying to find some fun YA sci-fi, and so far, this story seems pretty promising! I really like the concept of clones (especially the type of cloning we got in stories like Altered Carbon, for example) and the idea of the protagonist actually knowing what’s going on and why they’re “special” sounds quite refreshing!

Check it out on Goodreads here

One last stop, by Casey McQuiston

Casey McQuiston is coming out with a new YA LGBT romance! I’ve been gravitating more and more towards books with LGBT characters that don’t center the entire story on homophobia or LGBT pain, and I found this author’s previous novel to be exactly what I was looking for last year. I have good hopes for this one too, especially with such a fun synopsis!

For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.

But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.

Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.

Check it out on Goodreads here

See also : my review of Casey McQuiston’s previous book, Red, White and royal Blue, in Two contemporary YA novels

The ones we’re meant to find, by Joan He

Cee awoke on an abandoned island three years ago. With no idea of how she was marooned, she only has a rickety house, an old android, and a single memory: she has a sister, and Cee needs to find her.

STEM prodigy Kasey wants escape from the science and home she once trusted. The eco-city—Earth’s last unpolluted place—is meant to be sanctuary for those commited to planetary protection, but it’s populated by people willing to do anything for refuge, even lie. Now, she’ll have to decide if she’s ready to use science to help humanity, even though it failed the people who mattered most.

More sci-fi! Joan He’s Descendant of the crane was one of my favorite books of 2019, and I’m expecting great things from this one – a sci-fi mystery thriller with an amnesiac main character and the promise of a twisty plot? Yes. 100% yes.

Find it on Goodreads here.

Six crimson cranes, by Elizabeth Lim

There’s clearly a theme here – in 2021, so far, I’m trusting authors I’ve previously read from and loved stories from, and eagerly awaiting their next work. Elizabeth Lim is no exception to this, and I have a strong feeling that this one will be a five stars read, as was everything I’ve previously read from her!

Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Peniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.

Find it on Goodreads here.

Leviathan falls – The Expanse, book 9

It doesn’t have a synopsis on Goodreads yet, but I’m halfway through this series, so hopefully I’ll have read all of the previous books by the time this one comes out in 2021! I’m watching the TV show at the same time, so I’m a bit further in the TV show than I am in the books, but it hasn’t spoiled my enjoyment of the novels so I’m quite happy about that. (And they make excellent Christmas gifts to ask for!)

That’s it for me today – what are your most anticipated reads of 2021? If you’ve written a blog post, or an Instagram one, feel free to link it in the comments so I can check it out and add some of them to my yearly TBR!

The bookish rant and rave tag

Good morning! It’s been a hot minute since I last posted here, but I wanted to take a nice break and truly rest for the holidays after the absolute hell that this year has been. Still, I’m back on here today, with another Bookending Winter post!

Bookending Winter is a book blogging event run by Clo and Sam, in which different bloggers host a couple of prompts each during the month of December. Anyone who wants to participate can register on the announcement post, make 3 (or more) posts during the event, and link them up on the challenge spreadsheet so others can find them easily!

Today’s prompt is an original tag written by Sumedha @ the wordy habitat! I’m really late in doing it, but I really like the prompt, so I couldn’t let this post sit in my drafts even if I missed the official prompt day!

Prompt Explanation : Use this tag to dump your thoughts on books which you’d like to talk more about but usually don’t. Time to really rave about loved books, and rant about frustrating books.

RAVE: a book you loved but don’t talk enough about

Descendant of the crane, by Joan He. Which reminds me – the author is having to pay for a legal battle with the editors, which you can read more about on her twitter page. If you have any spare money to donate to Joan He’s legal funds, you can check out her donation page here!

Also, look at that cover. It’s gorgeous. It’s one of the most beautiful books I currently own, and I’m so happy to have preordered it when it came out!

RANT: a book you didn’t like and haven’t spoken about

Cinderella is dead, by Kalynn Bayron. I wrote a very short review on Goodreads but didn’t dedicate a post to it on the blog, because I tend to avoid writing long reviews of books I really didn’t like, but… yeah. This book didn’t work at all for me, in almost any aspect. I found it unoriginal, and frankly just boring most of the time – which is surprising for me since I’ve seen it in quite a few “best books of the year” lists this year!

RAVE: an author who’s works you love

Brandon Sanderson. I only discovered his works in 2020 (yeah, I know, I have no culture whatsoever in English language literature and famous English-speaking authors) and so far I’ve loved every single book I’ve read by him! I love sci-fi with all my heart, and his stories are so captivating that I need to be careful of when I start them – when I first picked up The way of Kings, I accidentally pulled an all-nighter trying to finish it all in one go!

I’ve also read his latest YA series, Skyward, and I would definitely recommend it to any YA sci-fi reader!

RANT: an author who’s works you just cannot like

I can’t think of one right now… I’m sure there’s lots, but I tend to be really selective with what I read, so I don’t often open books I really end up hating, and I never read a book by someone whose previous works I hated. It helps a lot with keeping my motivation and enjoyment of reading!

RAVE: a book you recently loved that you want everyone to read

Better sleep, better you, by Frank Lipman and Neil Parikh. It’s a non-fiction book about the usefulness of sleep, how to improve your sleeping habits, and be more energized during the day. I got it as an e-ARC this year, and I think it’s coming out in April 2021, so it might come back in my best 2021 non-fiction reads!

RANT: a book you did not finish recently and haven’t spoken about

Stop hiding and start living, by Dr Bill Howatt. I DNFed it less than 50 pages in – it was just so boring, I couldn’t force myself to keep reading. I’m usually an avid reader of personal improvement books, but this one just… didn’t work at all for me. I didn’t even try to post a review on Goodreads or explain why I DNF’ed, because I had so little to say about it.

RAVE: a book you would recommend to everyone

An ember in the ashes, by Sabaa Tahir. Absolutely loved it, 10/10 would recommend. The fourth book in this series actually came out this year, and I finally got my hands on a library copy so I’m going to try to finish it before the new year!

Related post : Series review : an ember in the ashes

RANT: a book which others like and you don’t understand why

… can I say Midnight Sun ? It’s got 3.77 on Goodreads right now. I’m strongly debating whether or not I should borrow it from the library and actually give it a real chance, or just ignore all the reviews and stay on my “not reading this mess” idea.

Should I pick up the Twilight Edward-centric book, or just ignore its existence entirely? Have you read it? Seen an awful review that discouraged you from buying it? Let me know in the comments!

Positive 2020 reflections

Welcome back ! I’ve been mostly absent on here this week, as final exams are fast approaching and I needed a lot of time to focus on studying and try to get my grades as high as I can before the end of the semester.

Still, I wanted to do a little more blog-hopping lately – something that’s been difficult to do this weekend as I got a quadruple tooth extraction on Friday (wisdom teeth, how I hate you…) that left me drowsy on painkillers for most of the weekend. I’ll try to catch up after finals, though, so I’ll do my best to go read all the amazing blog posts published while I was recovering from my operation!

Bookending Winter is a book blogging event run by Clo and Sam, in which different bloggers host a couple of prompts each during the month of December. Anyone who wants to participate can register on the announcement post, make 3 (or more) posts during the event, and link them up on the challenge spreadsheet so others can find them easily!

Today’s prompt is absolutely lovely, and comes from Sumedha @ the wordy habitat :

Prompt Explanation : 2020 has not been easy but we should take some time to find positives everywhere because it helps us move on easily. Take today to talk about the highlights that made this year bearable.

This year has been extremely difficult, and I appreciate a lot that this prompt takes the focus back to the good things instead of the endless stream of difficulties that we’ve probably all experienced during this trying time! I talked a bit about two big things that helped me a lot this year in another blog post this month, so reflecting on the small positives and highlights of the year seems like a good plan!

Related post : Warming your winter : the things that made this year better

This year, I….

Rediscovered photography

Photo by @rumandraisin on Unsplash

I have a pretty good camera, and I’ve always been interested in learning how to use it better, so this year, whenever I could, I took it out of the bag and tried taking pictures in different styles, figuring out what I do and don’t like, etc.

Some of the results were bad, some were good, and most of them helped me understand more how my camera works and improve my technique.

One of my friends also got me into a photoshoot with her and another friend in November, and the photographer that was there took some time to teach me how to take better portraits, which was super nice of him!

Read a ton of good books

I’m so grateful for my local library and the bookstore a couple of streets from my apartment. I’ve been reading a lot more this year, especially since we moved to a new part of the city where we’re much closer to those two places, and it’s been such a help in feeling better about confinement, and adjusting better to this new way of life!

Got some plants

Now, I’m not saying they’re all still alive, but I’m trying. So far, only two out of 5 have died ! (So far…). They’re adding so much joy to my living room, and they make my mornings happier and more tolerable, even when all I have to look forward to is a day inside, working until night falls, so I’m counting these as an important highlight. Even if they’re hard to keep alive.

Got a bike

Photo by @markusspiske on Unsplash

The highlight of my entire summer.

Biking almost every day made my days so much more bearable, especially when I had a job as an essential worker and was constantly under the stress of risking getting sick every day when I went to work. It’s also a super safe mean of transportation, covid-wise, since you’re not getting close to anybody!

Now that winter is here, I’m mostly just walking everywhere, but I’m taking the bike out as soon as the snow clears out in March!

Did sports semi-regularly

This was one of my resolutions for 2020, and one that I tried my best to maintain – and it did wonders for my mental health! I would definitely have fared much worse for the past 9 months if I hadn’t had the option and equipment necessary at home to do some form of physical exercise at lest 5 times a week. I’m not much of a spiritual or religious person, my family isn’t very supportive and I don’t really meditate, but doing sports helped me be calmer and center myself more on the things that matter, and decreased my anxiety by a lot.

The fact that I had a fitbit bracelet also helped achieve this goal, as it served as positive reinforcement most of the time, making me acknowledge – even on days when I felt like the human equivalent of a potato – that I was doing something good, and that taking care of myself was important.

Loved my classes and my program

It seems to me that the more I advance in my studies, the more I love psychology! I’ve been taking a lot of classes this year, and I’ve loved every single one of them so far. It’s an amazing feeling, being able to study what you love and do something that interests you that much!

Got nice clothes

I usually only buy clothing when the pieces I currently have are falling to pieces. About 90% of the stuff that I own is at least 3 to 4 years-old, or hand-me-downs from someone else in my family or friend circle. But this year, as I started to figure out more who I want to be as an adult, and what I like – as opposed to what other people want me to be / like – I did buy a little more than usual.

Three new pairs of pants, one comfortable knitted dress for the winter, and two knitted turtleneck cropped tops have been added to my closet, and I’m really happy with them! They make me feel more confident in myself, and in what I’m doing, and I like my image much more in this style. I’m still trying to figure out what style, exactly, I like the most, but this is a good start!

Started cooking more

Photo by @ellaolsson on Unsplash

Being in a bigger apartment came with having a bigger kitchen area – not a really large one, but enough space to prepare food, have the instant pot sitting on the countertop, and have a full-sized oven! I had never gotten a full-sized oven before, not since I moved out of my parents’ house… seven or so years ago?

So I’ve been cooking a lot more this year, and rediscovering the pleasure of making tasty meals at home, and spending time on a recipe to learn a new technique or perfect something I really liked!

Got a makeup subscription

This is honestly the most self-indulgent this I did this year, and it made me so happy that I can’t regret it at all! I got a monthly subscription to a makeup bag, Ipsy, priced at 12$USD per month – with tax and delivery, it comes up to around 20$CAD. I’ve saved a bit of money on other things to be able to afford it, and getting that monthly package in the mail has been a highlight of many months this year!

I’ve been experimenting more with makeup as a consequence of this, and I probably won’t keep the subscription forever as I don’t want to hoard a ton of makeup either, but it’s been really fun to discover these surprise packages at the end of every month.

That’s all for me for today – see you tomorrow and the next three days for my hosting days for Bookending Winter!

It’s the final countdown!

Good morning! (or afternoon, whichever one it is on your side of the world). Today’s bookending winter prompt is hosted by the amazing Sam @ Fictionally Sam – check out her post for today!

Bookending Winter is a book blogging event run by Clo and Sam, in which different bloggers host a couple of prompts each during the month of December. Anyone who wants to participate can register on the announcement post, make 3 (or more) posts during the event, and link them up on the challenge spreadsheet so others can find them easily!

Prompt Explanation : Are you behind on your Goodreads goal and/or your resolutions this year? What are some plans you have to catch up and meet your goals before 2020 ends?

I talked about this a little in previous posts, but my Goodreads goal this year was set at 52 books – one a week. For a while there, I thought I wouldn’t manage to meet that goal on time – this year has been so hectic that finding spare time to read books became a much more difficult challenge every month.

But over the last week, surprisingly, as final papers were sent to my university teachers and there was nothing more to do than just study for exams, I finally found the right combination of time and motivation to read! A motivation which resulted in 6 books read in 10 days, and a Goodreads goal attained this morning – and I’m super happy about that!

Image by @markuswinkler on Unsplash

Looking at the list of books read in 2020 on my Goodreads shelves, 35% of them seem to be ARCs, 48% are books borrowed from my local library, and only 17% are books that I physically own. That makes sense, since I don’t really own a lot of books – probably less than 40, at this point, maybe even less than 35.

I’m always super envious when I see pictures of people’s shelves on Bookstagram, completely full of books, but then I remember : the reason why I don’t have that many physical copies of books is because for the past 7 years, I haven’t stayed in the same apartment more than 8 months in a row, and sometimes only two. Moving that much tends to make you live with very few possessions, and as little heavy items as possible. I’ve only started actually buying books that I want to keep this past year, and that’s because for the first time since I went to high school I think I might stay in one place for a while – maybe up to 5 years or so.

As my semester of university comes to an end, I’ll be (finally!) on holiday on December 17th. I have a huge TBR pile of books borrowed from the library that I’d like to go through before the year is over, but I don’t think I’ll edit my Goodreads goal to match my ambitions – it might just make me more stressed about finishing books as soon as possible, and I don’t think I’d enjoy them as much as I usually would if I did that.

At the beginning of the year, I set some personal and book-related goals, so I thought it might be fun to go back on these and see what happened!

Related post : check out my 2020 bookish goals !

Personal goals

  • Exercise 5 days a week – done! My fitbit helped me a lot this year in gaining motivation to move more, exercise and overall become more active.
  • Save money to go back home for the holidays – well, that didn’t happen. But hey, I used that money to get myself a new laptop when mine died at the beginning of the semester, so that wasn’t too bad!
  • Get a job – I got two! Well, one after the other, not two at a time. Hopefully I can get back to work when lockdown is over!

Bookish goals

  • Succeed at my Goodreads challenge – done!
  • Post more on my bookstagram – I tried, I swear! The conditions in my apartment aren’t really ideal to take photos, though, so I’ll have to work on that a little more in 2021.
  • Blog hop more – Feedly helped a lot with that!
  • Request less ARCs – …. maybe? I did read a lot of ARCs, but I didn’t request so many that I’d get overwhelmed by them, so I’ll count this one as a win.

Related posts : on the topic of Feedly, check out these two excellent posts from Kal @ Reader Voracious – Why I switched to Feedly for Bloghopping – and Lauren @ Northern Plunder – Be efficient with bloghopping | How (not) to use Feedly.

Did you manage to attain your Goodreads goal for this year? And would you edit your goal to read a little more, or keep it stable and just go past it? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Fireside favorites : 10 of my favorite 2020 reads

Welcome back to another Bookending Winter post! Today’s prompt is hosted by Lauren and Becky @ Northern Plunder.

Bookending Winter is a book blogging event run by Clo and Sam, in which different bloggers host a couple of prompts each during the month of December. Anyone who wants to participate can register on the announcement post, make 3 (or more) posts during the event, and link them up on the challenge spreadsheet so others can find them easily!

Prompt Explanation : Take a look back at your favorite reads of 2020. Hopefully these will make it to someone else’s TBR for them to pass the time whilst snuggled in with a hot coco next to the fire.

At the beginning of 2020, I set my Goodreads challenge to 52 books – one a week, I thought, was perfectly attainable, seeing as I used to read a lot more than that, and my current classes at the time weren’t that time-consuming. 52 books, I reasoned, was a perfectly adequate challenge, and one I’d surely be done with in September, at the latest.

That didn’t age well. I’ve been trying my best to get through my ARCs and finish the books I currently own, to maybe get to the 52 books goal, but it might very well not happen this year. Still, I’m trying to not be too bummed about this, and this prompt serves as a good reminder that, even if I didn’t read a ton of books this year, I still read a couple of really good ones!

So here’s – in random order – my 10 favorite books I’ve read so far in 2020.

Note : ⏳ are ARCs gotten through NetGalley or the publisher, 📚 are books I own or borrowed from my local library.

5 stars books

⏳ Better sleep, better you

I enjoyed reading this book a lot! It’s full of useful information on the science of sleep – why we do it, and what we’re doing wrong – and has a ton of advice adaptable for almost every situation so that its readers can improve their sleep habits. I learned a lot by reading this – definitely would recommend as a gift for a friend interested in science or how things work, or for your friend running every day on 5 hours of sleep and not understanding why they’re feeling like crap all the time!

Find it on Goodreads here.

⏳ Happily Ever After & Everything In Between

This is the cutest and most relatable thing I have read in a very long time, and every single one of the pages seemed like a situation taken out of my own life. I laughed so much out loud reading this that my partner came over my side of the living room to check if I was okay (and if I needed snacks).

It was my first book from this author, but I’m planning on checking out her other works too!

Find it on Goodreads here.

⏳ Surrender your sons

This was… wow. Just wow. You can check out my review here on Goodreads – I wrote it right after reading and I honestly couldn’t say it better right now. Excellent novel and amazing author, 10/10 would recommend.

⏳ Perfect on paper

I was really excited to see what Sophie Gonzales was going to give us next, and she did not disappoint! You can read my full review on the blog – I wrote an entire post about it, it’s just so good – but if you’re just looking for the short version : this is an excellent queer YA contemporary, and you should definitely read it as soon as it comes out.

Find it on Goodreads here.

Related post : check out my review of Perfect on Paper, by Sophie Gonzales

📚 The starless sea

I’ve been trying to write a review of this book for months now, but nothing I can write renders it justice. While this author’s previous novel didn’t work for me at all, this one was so poetic and beautiful that it went into my favorites in January and stayed there the whole year long. I’m planning on re-reading it in the second half of December, if I get stuck on my current TBR and need a break in the form of the most beautiful prose I’ve read so far in 2020!

Find it on Goodreads here.

📚 Leviathan wakes

I read the first three books of the The Expanse series, and rated them all 5 stars, so I’m only citing the first one here or they would take way too much space in this list. I love the narration, the different points of view, the intrigue and the space battles – everything fits neatly into place and it’s extremely entertaining!

If you like politics and spaceship, this is the book you need to pick up for the holidays. I’m waiting for next weekend to get into book 4, and I’m really excited to see what happens next!

Find it on Goodreads here.

📚 The way of kings

One of my first Sanderson books, and I must admit – this one put him immediately on the list of authors I’ll automatically give a chance to, whatever the subject of his next book may be. It had been a while since I’d read such a long and good novel, and even longer since I’d started a really challenging series – I’m planning on reading more from him next year, maybe make it a small reading challenge?

Find it on Goodreads here.

4 stars books

📚 Skyward

Another Sanderson book! I rated this one 4 stars instead of 5, mostly because I do agree with some other reviewers in the sense that, even though this book was really good, it felt more like a prelude to a bigger novel than an actual first installment in a series. Still, I can’t fault the quality of the writing, and the characters were easy to love and well developed.

Find it on Goodreads here.

📚 Maybe you should talk to someone

A non-fiction book! I love anything and everything psychology-related, so this book by a therapist about her job and her experiences with therapy sounded right up my alley. I really enjoyed reading this, even if it felt a bit longer than it should be in the end. It’s not as informative as I thought it’d be from reading reviews about it, but the experiences described in this book are very touching and complex.

Find it on Goodreads here.

📚 Aurora Rising

2020 was a pretty good year for my sci-fi loving heart! Aurora rising was a fun and easy book to read, filled with humor and nice plot twists. I liked the ending a lot, and my preorder of Aurora burning couldn’t come to my local bookseller soon enough!

Find it on Goodreads here.

What are your favorite 2020 reads ? Did you read and review any of these ones? Let me know in the comments! (And link your reviews if you did, so I can go read them!)

My 2021 plans, goals and dreams

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 Clo – you can see her post here!

Prompt Explanation : Share your plans, goals and dreams for next year! I always find December to be the month steeped in self reflection, planning for the months ahead and reassessing my situation. What you share is entirely choice, keep it to just blogs and books, or branch out!

I fully agree with the sentiment expressed in this prompt : December, and the end of the year as a whole, is an excellent time for self-reflection and thinking about one’s situation, whether you are where you want to be, or not yet.

For me, it’s going to be a month divided into two parts : the first one, from December 1st to December 16th, will be the most stressful part of the semester, as the final exams are approaching and final papers are due on the 16th. But from December 17th to December 31th, I’m officially on holiday (and, sadly, my workplace is still closed due to covid until at least January 11th) – my first real one since January 2020! I’ll finally have some good time on my hands to relax, lay down on the couch with my electric blanket and read a good book while the snow falls in the courtyard outside. Living my wildest holiday dreams!

So here’s a quick look at my plans, goals and dreams for 2021 :

Blog and books-related

Assessing my situation

This year has been super helpful for me to figure out what I wanted to do with this blog, where I wanted to go and what kind of aesthetic I wanted to have (I did a full redesign during the first lockdown, when classes were suspended, and I’ve been really happy with it so far!). I was way happier with my blog than I was before, and that had repercussions on my enjoyment of the books I read and the connections I made with other bloggers.

Posting regularly

I’ve been improving my posting schedule over the last six months, and I think I’ve finally found a rhythm I like, so I’m going to try to maintain it! I feel like getting back into a normal rhythm in my life in general, in November, has helped a lot with this, and given me back my motivation to do things in my free time, including reading and blogging.

Get better with social media

I’ve dusted off the cobwebs on my old Pinterest account, and began making new pins for my old blog posts, and I find it a lot of fun ! My bookstagram account, however, isn’t as nice as I’d like it to be. For 2021, I’d like to make it more personal and coherent for me, so I’ll try to work on that! Looking at other people’s bookstagrams really helps, and there’s so many good ones out there that I’ve been bookmarking a ton of posts for inspiration!

Participate in a blog tour

This one is in the dreams category, as I have a relatively small blog – in part due to the small number of free hours I have available to work on it, compared to a lot of bigger book bloggers – but it’s still something I sometimes think about, and go “huh, that’s be nice”, so. In the dreams category it goes!

Finish my pile of shame

Image by @daanouthere on Unsplash

I wrote a post in November about this – the pile of physical books that I bought / someone gifted me with, and haven’t read yet. I don’t own that many books, which means that each one I haven’t read yet takes a lot of place in my small bookshelf in comparison to the others.

I’ve been trying to alternate between reading one of these books, reading an ARC and reading a library book, to get through the pile without giving up halfway through – hopefully, that’ll be done in 2021!

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

Personal goals, plans and dreams

Assessing my situation

2020 was bad for everyone, but I’m still in one piece, as well as the ones I love, and I know I’m very lucky for that. Still, it hasn’t been easy, and I’m more than ready for this horrible year to end.

My university grades have suffered a bit, but not too much, so I’m still okay on that – and, if everything goes well, on track to graduate in May 2021 with a Bsc in Psychology. On the work side, I was an essential worker for some time, then switched jobs to work in a restaurant – which ended up closing indoor dining in September, so I haven’t gotten a salary since. My partner got a full-time job in November, though, which helped a lot with the stress of our situation.

We haven’t been able to see our families for more than a year now, but we’re okay. There’s still a lot of room for improvement, though, which I why I have a ton of goals for the upcoming year!

Graduate and study more

I want to get into a selective program in my university – putting it out there, universe, please help me. I’m working hard for this degree, and I just want to get into the program of my dreams.

Still, I know that once I’ve applied to the program, asked for reference letters and given everything I have to have a good application, there’s nothing more I can do. The deadline to apply is February 1st, so after that date, I’ll just… try to not think about it until I get an answer, whatever it may be.

Take care of myself

Image by @contentpixie on Unsplash

All that studying and stress hasn’t resulted in excellent mental health for me, and I’ve had to ask for help a few times this year because I was struggling too much to be able to get back up by myself. And that’s okay, that’s a good thing to do – asking for help. It was the best thing I could do at the time, and it improved my situation by a lot.

Still, I know I haven’t been taking care of my mental well-being as much as I wanted to, and I’m planning on getting better with this for 2021.

Protecting my mental health and improving my quality of life are two goals I want to make priorities next year – because no matter what, at the end of the day, they’re both essential to my well-being, and I know the consequences of neglecting them are definitely not things I want to have in 2021.

Do more sports

I’ve been doing kickboxing for a year and a half now, after doing karate for about 8 years when I was younger. University, work, and my boyfriend working full-time have prevented me from doing a lot of that lately, and I don’t want to lose all the progress I made over all those months. The plan here would be to do at least one 1-hour session every week, and maybe a short 20-minutes session whenever we’re both not too tired in the evening.

If the gyms reopen, I’m hoping I can have enough money from my part-time job (if indoor dining is allowed again) to pay for a gym membership, so we can have access to equipment and a better space than our 30 square meters apartment!

Win NaNoWriMo

Image by @craftedbygc on Unsplash

This one is a dream turned goal/plan. I want to write, but haven’t been able to take the time to do so. I think it’s time for me to try and put myself out of my comfort zone, and try NaNoWriMo seriously, to see what I can do and try to gain some confidence to write a little bit all year round.

I’m taking my time to plan this out – I’m definitely not a pantser (my partner lies to say I’m an Amy from his current favorite show, Brooklyn Nine Nine) so if I’m doing this, I’m going to be well prepared for it. We’ll see how that goes!

Save money to get my driving license

In my province, the process to get a driving license takes more than a year and a half, so I’m hoping to have the money to get started on this process in January 2022, and have it by the end of 2023. My partner has one, which means if we ever really need to go somewhere with a car, we still can, but Canada is a very large country compared to France, where we both used to live. At some point, I know I’m going to need to know how to drive and be able to. It’d be better if I had a license when that time comes!

What are your plans and goals for 2021?

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!