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 ?

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!)

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!

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?

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!