Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag – 2020 edition

I’ve been away for a while and kind of neglected most of my obligations during June – exams and covid will do that to you – but I’m back with the Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag

I’ve wanted to do this post for some time and actually had it scheduled for the middle of last month, but since I couldn’t find the time to write it then, let’s do this now!

The prompts

Here are the questions I used, if you like me, haven’t written this post yet even though you meant to and want to reuse them!

  • What is the best book you’ve read so far in 2020?
  • What is the best sequel you’ve read so far in 2020?
  • What’s a new release you haven’t read yet, but really want to?
  • What’s your most anticipated release for the second half of this year?
  • What was your biggest reading disappointment of the year so far? 
  • What was your biggest reading surprise of the year so far?
  • What’s our favorite new author of these first 6 months of 2020? (Debut author or new to you)
  • What’s your newest fictional crush?
  • What’s your newest favorite character?
  • Name a book that made you cry in the past 6 months.
  • Name a book that made you happy in the past 6 months.
  • What’s the most beautiful book you’ve bought (or received) so far this year?
  • What books do you absolutely want to read by the end of 2020?

The answers

Goodreads tells me that so far, in 2020, I’ve read 35 books out of my 52 books goal. I’ve probably forgotten to log in a few, since I tend to go on goodreads sporadically and log in only the books I remember reading (so… I might have missed a few bad ones that I just completely forgot about), but still : I’m going to use this list as a basis for this post.

(I know, I should try to be more meticulous in logging which books I read, and when, but whenever I try it I just end up abandoning my new system a few days later.)

Best book

The way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson.

I’ve only read 3 books in the whole of June, and they were the first 3 novels in the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson – and they were all 5 stars books for me. I absolutely loved them, and can’t wait to get the next one in this series as soon as it comes out (hopefully, at the end of 2020!).

Best sequel

Aurora Burning, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.

I had a preorder of this that was supposed to be delivered to my local bookstore in June… but it got terribly delayed by the lockdown in Montreal, and I got it way after it came out everywhere else. Both my boyfriend and I read it as soon as it arrived, and we both thought it was a very good sequel with a surprising amount of character development in not a lot of pages! 

New release I haven’t read yet

This is how you lose the time war, by Amal El-Mohtar.

I bought this book as a gift for my birthday, but haven’t found the time to read it yet (what with reading The way of kings, then Words of radiance, and following on with Oathbringer… I didn’t have much time for anything else, really!). 

Most anticipated release

Unravel the dusk, by Elizabeth Lim.

I preordered this book back in November and was one of the lucky few to have access to the international forms for preorder incentives at that time, so the goodies have arrived! They got here right on my birthday, which was a nice coincidence, and if the contents of the books are as good as the contents of the goodies envelope, I’m expecting great things!

Biggest disappointment

The latte factor, by David Bach.

I even wrote a whole post about how disappointing this book was, and why you’d be better off reading literally any other personal finance book out there. Seriously.

Biggest surprise

The starless sea, by Erin Morgenstern.

This was back in the beginning of the year, as I got this book as a Christmas gift in December 2019, but since we’ve already established that I’m extremely slow at picking up new books to read from my TBR, it won’t surprise you to know that it sat untouched on my shelves for a long time before I finally picked it up and realized how good it was.

Favorite new author

Brandon Sanderson, hands down.

I’ve read 5 books of his so far, and 4 of those were read this year – and I’m impressed! He’s slowly but surely making me gain back my love of Adult Sci-fi and Fantasy, and my interest in 1000-ish pages long books. The character development alone… 

Newest fictional crush

Adolin Kholin. From, guess what… the Stormlight archive, by Brandon Sanderson!

I don’t want to spoil anything for the people who haven’t read these books yet (but if you are one of these people, and you have an interest in magic swords, brooding heroes and/or fantasy worlds with super developed magic systems? I have books for you!) – but he’s the very best and I shall hear nothing negative about him, ever.

Newest favorite character

Kaladin Stormblessed, from… the Stormlight archive. Again, no spoilers here, but : he has loads of character development, a good backstory, strong motivations, and a whole lot of feelings. Everything I love all wrapped up in a well-written persona.

Book that made me cry

Maybe you should talk to someone, by Lori Gottlieb.

I picked it up mostly because I love everything more or less related to psychology, so a book written by a therapist about her life, and life in general, sounded pretty interesting. I was pleasantly surprised, and found the experiences she wanted to relate very touching. I might have cried a bit.

Book that made me happy

Happily ever after and everything in between, by Debbie Tung.

I got this as an e-ARC on a whim, just because it looked fun and was in the “available now” section on NetGalley – and I found myself relating to every single page of this comic. It’s funny, witty, and extremely realistic (so realistic that, at some points, I had to stop and tell my partner, “Hey, that’s us!”). 10/10 would recommend

Most beautiful book

The rise and fall of the dinosaurs, by Steve Brusatte. The cover looks so cool, and the illustrations on the inside of the book are stunning.

5 books I need to read by the end of the year

The ever cruel kingdom, by Rin Chupeco – I read the previous book, The never tilting world, somewhere during the past 6 months (is time even real?) and I’m pretty interested to see how this story goes!

To be taught, if fortunate, by Becky Chambers – this is on my TBR with no other comment than just “TO READ, VERY COOL”, which probably means that I saw someone recommend it in a booktube video, scribbled the title down somewhere, and completely forgot what it was about.

Invisible women : Data bias in a world designed by men, by Caroline Criado Perez – this one is part of my list of feminism-related books to read in 2020. Most of the books on that list are in French, since I live in Montreal and there are a lot of French-speaking bookstores around, but I haven’t found this one there yet, so I might borrow it from one of the libraries in town instead.

Gideon the ninth, by Tamsyn Muir – I tried reading this book in… April 2019, I think, maybe? And DNFed it soon after. I don’t like giving up on popular books, though, so I’m willing to give it a second chance just to be sure.

Edgedancer, by Brandon Sanderson – So this one is apparently supposed to be read before the third book in the Stormlight archives, Oathbringer, but I didn’t know that when I got my library hold, so I apparently read them out of order. Better late than never, though, so I’m hoping I can get to reading this before the fourth book in the series comes out!

That’s it for me! Have you read any of the books I mentioned? If you’ve got opinions on the Stormlight archive, feel free to comment or send me a message – I’d love to talk about it with other readers!

Stay at home book tag !

I saw this tag on Louise @ Foxes and fairy tales‘s blog, and thought the questions and book recommendations were really cute ! It was created as a booktube tag by Madison Mary on her channel Princess of paperback – you can check out her super fun video about it !

Laying in bed : what is a book you could / have read in one day ?

Out of all my recent reads, I think the one I read the fastest was The loneliest girl in the universe. It’s a short YA sci-fi novel of less than 300 pages, which is why it took me so little time to finish – you can see my review of it in this book review post !

Snacking : what is a guilty pleasure book ?

Definitely the Harry Potter series. I don’t appreciate the author that much, and stay away from her social media accounts (honestly, every time I see her name trending it’s because she tweeted / said / wrote something bad again, so, no thank you) but these books bring me so much joy and comfort that I don’t think I could stop liking them even if I tried.

Netflix : what is a series you want to start ?

The kingkiller chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss !

I think I remember reading part of the first book, back in high school, but it was the french version and I have little to no memory of it at all. There’s – so far – 5 books in this series, including 2 short stories and a companion novel to the main series.

I’m just a bit wary of starting unfinished series, so I haven’t gotten around actually reading it again – but I definitely should !

Deep clean : a book that has been on your TBR for ages ?

Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee. I first heard about this book when it came out in 2017, added it to my TBR, and then…. never touched it again. I 100% should borrow it from my local library, but I’m a bit intimidated by the 500 or so pages it says it has on Goodreads…

Animal Crossing : a book you bought recently because of hype ?

This question is a bit tricky because I don’t usually buy books, but the latest book I did buy was a preorder of Aurora Burning, the sequel to Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff ! I really enjoyed the first book (then gave it to my boyfriend, who also enjoyed it) so when I saw that the sequel was available for preorders, I didn’t hesitate one second !

Productivity : a book you learnt from / that had an impact on you ?

Digital minimalism, by Cal Newport. I got this as an eBook loan fro the library, and did not regret it one bit : I learned a lot about social media, technology and the hold it has on our lives, and it really helped me put into question my own habits and my behaviors regarding my phone, my email, and my constant use of technology every day.

FaceTime : a book you were gifted ?

The Guinevere deception, by Kiersten White ! I keep meaning to write a review of this book because I really enjoyed it, so hopefully that review will be up by the end of may – I’m really excited for the sequel (and the cover is gorgeous !)

Self care : what is something you do to look after yourself ?

Lately, I’ve been going running in the park behind my apartment building : it’s a small, quiet place, and running 4 times around the park is exactly one mile, which really helps when I’m trying to set a time goal or a distance goal. I only go there late in the evening, though, when it,s almost dark outside, so I can make sure there’s no one else there and no risk of getting sick or bringing the virus home.

Doing some sort of intense physical activity really helps me feel better in my body and lifts my spirits on the bad days – and lately, there have been quite a few more of those than before, due to stress and accumulating anxiety.

Bonus question : what is an upcoming release you are excited for ?

Unravel the dusk by Elizabeth Lim ! I’m so excited about this… I preordered the first book when it came out last year, and it was amazing, so I did the same with this one as soon as I could !

If you’re from the US, there’s also a preorder incentive available on the author’s website – you just have to upload your proof of purchase and your mailing information !

That’s it for me ! If you like this tag, please consider yourself tagged and feel free to link your post in the comments so I can go check it out !

My stay-at-home time is coming to an end – my last final is coming up today, and I’m going to work tomorrow, which means I’ll probably only be spending two to three days a week at home. I hope you’re staying safe and indoors as much as possible – and for all the university students out there : good luck for your finals !

5 tips to study for your online exams

Unlike usual, this post isn’t about books – or rather, not about novels or recreational books. It does include textbooks, though.

Since we’re in self-quarantine here, all non-essential services are closed, which includes universities and schools all over the country. Many schools are now turning to the internet to maintain their classes online as much as possible, either having their classes live on platforms like zoom, or using panopto and other video conference software to record videos and power point presentations and make them available to their students whenever possible.

If you’re a full-time university student, like me, you’ve probably had to rethink your entire study methods over the past few weeks : online learning is, after all, very different from in-person classes. And with online classes, come… online finals !

So I thought I’d share some of the tips I found useful while preparing for my exams after switching all my classes to online learning.

1. Don’t underestimate the difficulty of the exam

Many professors will assume that, since you’re doing the exam online, it makes it an open book exam – meaning, they’ll prepare their exam keeping in mind that you’ll have access to all of the course material when you take the test, and will be able to look for the answer to their questions relatively quickly.

Underestimating the difficulty of the exam is one of the most dangerous mistakes you could make : if you rely too much on having the material at hand when you take the test, and don’t put enough effort into understanding it and making sure you have a good enough comprehension of the class, you’re setting yourself up for failure. However, having the ability to look through your notes and textbooks while you’re writing your answers is an advantage that you should take advantage of !

2. Study guides are, in fact, useful

Making a study guide to keep track of all the course material you need to know to achieve the grade you’re aiming for is a lifesaver. You can use the syllabus your professor gives you at the beginning of the semester (sometimes put online so you can access it at any point during the semester) to give you an idea of the amount of work you’ll have to put in, and when you’ll need to start studying.

If you have textbooks or required reading, printing the documents and putting tabs on the side to note where the important concepts or chapters are will save you a lot of time !

3. Take advantage of your professor’s student hours

A lot of university professors still have their student hours, even while the university campuses are closed. They might answer your questions via email, or a video conference with other students, but this is an important resource you would do well not to neglect : studying on your own, at home, is difficult enough in itself.

Photo by @nickmorrison on Unsplash

If you have any questions about the material that your teacher could clarify for you, using the means at your disposition to contact them and ask for explanation could help you save your grade, and make sure you don’t lose precious knowledge that will be useful during the actual exam.

4. Pay attention to the parameters of the test !

Online exams may be available for up to 24 hours, depending on your teacher’s wishes, but that doesn’t mean you have all this time to think about your answers ! Those hours are here so that all the students can start the test at a time that fits their schedule the most. Once you start the exam, the real countdown begins : that’s the amount of time you’re allotted to actually answer the questions.

If you’re in quarantine in an apartment with one or more other people, you might want to make sure to let them know that they are not to disturb you for the entirety of the time it will take you to pass the test – concerns for plagiarism aside, there is nothing more disheartening than realizing you won’t be able to finish in tie because someone interrupted you with something that could definitely have waited one more half-hour for your attention.

You also want to make sure there’s no ambiguity over how, exactly, you’re going to be evaluated. Is it a multiple choice questions type of test, or will you have to make developed, long thought-out answers ? Does it cover all of the material, or only half the semester ?

5. Make sure your material is working properly

This one may seem pretty self-explanatory, but it’s so frustrating to hit the “send” button, only to discover you didn’t have a properly working internet connection and all your answers have disappeared when you tried to transmit them…

Side-note : this isn’t a made-up scenario : it happened to me last semester, in a multiple choice question online exam with more than a hundred questions. Luckily, I had backed up my answers by writing my choices on a paper while I went through the exam the first time, so I didn’t lose everything. Still, it took me an additional 15 minutes to re-fill the entire form, and that prevented me from being able to double-check my answers before the time limit was up. So, essentially : don’t be like me. Make sure everything works before you start the exam.

Some universities here in Canada are putting everything in place to ensure the success of their students, as best as possible. Mine, for example, offers the option to only have the mention “Success” or “Failure” in your academic file for classes in which you don’t get the grade you hoped for. My brother’s university goes one step further, making the “Failed” mention an automatic “Abandon” mention, thus making sure the results of this crisis don’t alter your GPA in any way.

What measures are other universities putting in place to best help their students ? How do you prepare for your online exams ?

Why I’m not focusing on productivity right now.

By now, if you go on the internet on a regular basis, you’ve probably seen one of those headlines. Or ten. You know, the ones about “how to avoid gaining 10 pounds while self-isolating“, or “how to stay on top of your cleaning when everyone works at home“. Or “how to avoid distractions and stay busy during self-isolation“. The articles that tell you it’s important to keep your morning habits and not give in to the siren of “working from home in sweatpants instead of dressing up for work every day”.

The perfect self-isolating woman those articles describe us wakes up at 5 in the morning, does her gym exercises every day, cleans her apartment, takes the dog on a walk but doesn’t see anyone, respects every confinement rule and spends the energy necessary to ensure everyone in her household does too. She feeds everyone, does the laundry, teaches the children so they don’t miss anything while school’s closed, and works from home at her 9 to 5 job.

Image by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash

I’m not going to lie – I wish I was as productive as all those articles want us to be. I wish I could wake up early in the morning, make hot chocolate, get dressed quickly, work all day and still have a clean apartment.

If I was a perfect person, I would use the quiet hours of the morning to work on a personal project, like writing a book about self-isolation and the terrible hardships of confinement (I’m not joking, there’s a ton of people out there doing that – rich people who left their house to go to their vacation home and who think their “self-isolation journals” are full of amazing insight on the daily struggles of the financially unchallenged. Seriously. And those journals aren’t even well-written.).

But I’m not, and I’m betting you aren’t too. And that’s okay.

I’ve read on social media that being creative is difficult for a lot of people right now. Finding inspiration to make art, write a blog post, film a video, etc. seems to be much harder than usual – and that’s normal. It’s hard to find creativity when you’re constantly worrying about the next disaster coming around, or if you’re going to put yourself and your parents / children in danger by going out to buy groceries. You’re spending all your energy on staying alive and staying safe – it’s not surprising that there’s not a lot left for anything else.

We’re living in a terrifying time, where fears of death, illness and financial hardships are even more present than usual, and it’s unrealistic (and borderline dangerous) to expect people to keep the appearance of normalcy when everything around them isn’t. Millions of people have lost their jobs in the last few weeks, are struggling to make ends meet while trying to protect themselves as much as possible. Our health care workers are doing everything they can with insufficient PPE and equipment, and the supply chain is struggling to produce enough masks and gloves for each and every one of them. There is nothing normal about our situation.

Sure, it’d be nice if you could learn something new during a holiday, “quench your thirst for knowledge”, write a research paper or make a full dinner set with your own hands. During a holiday, you’d have all the time you want, and no worries or obligations other than resting and having a good time.

But this isn’t a holiday. It’s a pandemic, and if the only thing you can do today after making sure you’ve eaten and slept is watch the Dragon Prince on Netflix for three hours ? That’s okay too. Your coping strategies don’t need to be the same as everybody else’s.

You don’t need to force yourself into a burnout just to make sure you’re doing everything you’re “supposed to” during theses trying times.

So if wearing sweatpants at home and playing Animal Crossing New Horizons keeps your spirits up and helps you cope with the increased anxiety and stress of these last few weeks ? Go ahead. If you want to bake sourdough bread and post pictures of your dog on social media ? We’d love to see them !

And if you’re struggling, please don’t hesitate to ask for help. Mental health professionals are here for you.

Source : Infographic by the government of Australia.

If you’re in Canada, here’s some information on mental health resources that can provide help during the pandemic :

  • Mental Health First Aid Canada has produced a Self-care and resilience guide to help people deal with mental health challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic. Find more information here.
  • The Public Health Agency of Canada has created a free PDF sheet on Taking care of your mental health during the pandemic. You can download the document here. (The text part of this document isn’t specific to Canadians, only the resources part, with the contact numbers of mental health associations that continue to offer their services).

Stay safe,