ARC review : Only mostly devastated, by Sophie Gonzales

Finally, I’m writing this review I’ve been meaning to write for the past two weeks !

I’ll be honest and say that I asked for an e-ARC of this book without actually thinking I’d get one, and then… I did. I truly didn’t expect it, so I immediately downloaded it and read it in the subway on my way to and from class (really fast, because I just couldn’t put it down !).

Only mostly devastated is a fun, LGBTQ+ themed, YA contemporary romance with a 2020 release date, written by author Sophie Gonzales.

Synopsis

When Ollie meets his dream guy, Will, over summer break, he thinks he’s found his Happily Ever After. But once summer’s ended, Will stops texting him back, and Ollie finds himself one prince short of a fairytale ending. To complicate the fairytale further, a family emergency sees Ollie uprooted and enrolled at a new school across the country—Will’s school—where Ollie finds that the sweet, affectionate and comfortably queer guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High. This Will is a class clown, closeted—and, to be honest, a bit of a jerk.

Ollie has no intention of pining after a guy who clearly isn’t ready for a relationship. But as Will starts ‘coincidentally’ popping up in every area of Ollie’s life, from music class to the lunch table, Ollie finds his resolve weakening.

It’s time to admit something to you : I’ve never watched grease, ever.

So when this book was described as “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda meets Clueless, inspired by Grease.”, as someone who hasn’t read or watched any of those references, I wasn’t expecting anything from it, because – well, because I just didn’t know what to expect. And I think that actually helped me enjoy this book more than some other reviewers who tended to compare it a lot to those references.

What I liked

Fair warning : the next paragraphs have some spoilers. If you don’t want to see them, feel free to skip until the end of the section.

For a YA romance novel, I thought this book tackled some heavy themes, and it hit me pretty hard. For example – Ollie has to stay in that new city to help a sick relative, and the themes of illness and grief are talked about in detail in a few chapters. This hit really close to home for me : this past year, one of my closest friends passed away after a long illness – the very same one that affects Ollie’s relative in the book, and a few months later, I lost my grandfather of sudden illness.

The character’s feelings and expressions of emotion in the book resonated with me a lot, and I had to take a few breaks at some points. This quote, specifically, felt so real to me that I had to stop and cry for some time before I could start again.

I lost it in the hallway. I pressed my back against the wall and sank to the floor, crying as quietly as I could. I didn’t want to be here in this house knowing [character name] would never be in it again. It was her house. We came here when we visited her. It’d been her house my whole life. This wasn’t right. None of it was right.

That quote echoes exactly my own feelings about grief, and about my personal losses, and I thought the author had managed an extremely just portrayal of what you can go through in that kind of situation.

The themes of fat-shaming and homophobia were also talked about in this book, and I really appreciated it.

What I didn’t like

I felt like some of the character’s relationships could have been developed a bit more – like Lara and Ollie, and Will and his friends. I also had some trouble getting over my initial dislike of Will on behalf of Ollie, even when the main character himself started getting over it.

Conclusion

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Overall, this was a good book for me. I really liked reading it, even if it wasn’t as lighthearted and fun as I expected it to be, based on the cover and the description. I’d still recommend it to readers of YA contemporary books without hesitation !

That’s it for today !

10 things I’d like to to in November

Can you believe it’s already November ? This year went by so fast, it feels like I didn’t have any time to do all of the things I set out to do in January ! Still, I’ve made a lot of progress in 2019, and I’m going to try to maintain that for the last two month of the year.

Following last month’s 10 things I’d like to do in October, I though I’d try to make this a regular feature, and share the 10 goals I wrote down in my bullet journal for this month ! So here’s a short list of things I’m planning to work on during the next 30-ish days.

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Photo by @esteejanssens on Unsplash

1 . Read 4 books off my TBR

I’ve realized that when I plan out my monthly TBR, I usually never get to read all of the books I put on it – I can manage to read a few, but I often make myself feel guilty about it when I really shouldn’t. I mean, it’s a TBR, a personal list of books I’d like to read, not an obligation ! So this month, the goal is to check 4 or 5 books off the list – and to not feel guilty about not getting to read the rest of it.

(And anyways, I’m good on my Goodreads goal, so I’ve got nothing to feel bad about !)

2 . Post 10 times on my blog

Blogtober got me pretty motivated, and forced me to plan a bit more my posts – and it worked out well for me ! I’m usually really busy with life in general, and only find the time to post 2 to 3 times a month, but in October, I published no less than 10 new articles on À lire plus tard ! The challenge really motivated me, so I’m going to try to do the same this month, and see where it goes.

3 . Keep exercising

I have a fitbit watch, and it’s really useful to check on how much I exercise. The bad news, about that, is that I clearly don’t exercise as much a I should. I don’t usually walk 9000 steps a day, and do actual sports maybe twice a week. But I’m working on it !

4 . Sleep 7 to 8 hours a night

This one is quite self-explanatory. My sleep schedule isn’t looking good right now, and I’m making this one of my monthly goals in order to give it the importance it deserves.

5 . Keep studying even if I don’t have any exams this month

I have a really bad habit where I study a lot when I have an exam coming up, then completely stop studying once the exam has passed. It’s not good for my long term results : studying with such an irregular schedule makes me forget what I learned soon after the exam, and it gets even harder to have to learn all of it again.

6 . Get a job

I applied to job offers last months but didn’t get a positive answer yet, so I’m going to keep searching. My finances aren’t looking good right now, so I need it sooner than later – this is the last month I can “afford” to not have a job yet, so I’m not picky about what type of work I’m willing to do.

7 . Form new relationships

Moving to a new city, in a new province, made some of my relationships less functional – some were based on going to the same events, having coffee together once a month, studying together, etc. – and I know I don’t do well alone. I’ve made some new connections here since I arrived, so, since I don’t have exams to focus on, I’m going to try to make some real friends here and share things with people a bit more !

8 . Post more on bookstagram

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I made a bookstagram account to go with this blog !

It only has 2 photos for now, because I don’t have many occasions to take really good pictures for it, but I’ll try to keep it up do date with what I’m currently reading, so the books featured on my feed will probably be there before I review them here.

9 . Buy less takeout coffee

I spend so much money buying Starbucks and Tim Hortons coffee in September and October…. I really need to stop doing that. I made a small coffee budget this month, and I’m going to try to stick to it as much as possible.

10 . Write something

I’ve been meaning to write something for years, but the act of writing in English feels really daunting to me, so I though I’d start with something small, like a short fanfiction of a TV show or a movie I liked a lot. Starting with that might help me feel more confident in my ability to write something longer and more complex.

What are your monthly goals for November ? Do you plan them monthly, weekly, yearly, or not at all ? Feel free to share your methods in the comments !

My favorite comfort foods for fall

I pushed myself far out of my comfort zone today, and went to a kick-boxing class ! I haven’t done any real sport in a little more than 3 years, so, as expected, my whole body feels like overcooked spaghetti right now and I have trouble lifting the smallest things.

So, in the spirit of Blogtober, I thought I’d talk a little about one of the things I love the most in my life – up in my top 5 with books and comfy sweaters in the winter – food.

I’m a big fan of food – whether it’s a simple recipe, or something that takes 3 full hours to cook, if it tastes good, I love it. So I thought I’d share my 5 favorite comfort foods for fall !

  • Tomates farcies (“stuffed tomatoes”)

Here is a recipe in English – tomates farcies are big tomatoes, stuffed with a mix of meat, tomato, rice, bread crumbs and wine (and other things if you want to make it a fancy meal), roasted in the oven and served with a good serving of rice. They taste heavenly, and they smell like fall and Halloween to me.

this photo comes from the FOOD52 website (link above)
  • Macaroni and cheese

I discovered mac and cheese during my first fall semester in Canada, at a time when I felt pretty alone and lost in the world, and it was such a good comfort food that I almost only eat it in those circumstances. (also, cheese is life)

  • Roasted chicken and potatoes

That’s the typical Sunday meal in my family, and it’s associated with so many good moments in my life that the simple smell of cooked chicken and potatoes suffices to put me in a good mood.

  • Pancakes (covered in Nutella and bananas)

I’m extra weak :when I want pancakes, either I have the courage and time to make some at home, or… I go to Cora and order a pile of strawberry banana pancakes with an extra of chocolate sauce on the side.

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  • Cereal and milk

Breakfast food = comfort food. In fact, I think that’s what I’m going to have to do tomorrow morning : try to get out of bed early enough to go to the grocery store a few blocks from my house and buy milk to go with my cereal.

Then I’ll stay in bed and read, wrapped in my comfy blankets, and ignore my very sore muscles while I convince myself to go back to the gym next week.

10 things I’d like to do in October

If there’s one thing I love and will always keep using in my day-to-day organization method, it’s to-do lists. There’s something very satisfying in writing out your goals, and how to reach them, and then crossing items off the list one by one.

A particular type of to-do list that I’ve been doing for a while now, is a monthly “10 things I’d like to do this month” page in my bullet journal. It usually includes some really important things – papers to sign, contracts, etc. – and then some more personal items, and a few vague ones (like “eat more cooked vegetables – it doesn’t specify how much, how often, just that… it would probably be good if I tried to do that).

So here’s my “10 things I’d like to do in October” goals list !

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1 . Fill out my student loans application

This is one of the serious ones. There’s a TON of papers I need for this, and I still don’t have all of them, but I just can’t afford to procrastinate on this any longer.

2 . Get more invested in the events that happen at my new university

The fun part ! I moved recently, and have been getting used to my new campus and all my classes in September. Now that October’s here, it’s time to go out of my way to meet people, make friends, go to events that may be interesting and get involved in the local student groups. This is something I know I love doing – I just need to push myself a little bit to get out of my comfort zone at the beginning, and I haven’t regretted it yet.

3 . Find a new therapist in my new city

Mental health is important to maintain, and a university student’s mental heath isn’t usually the best there is. I’m trying to know my limits and see if I can’t deal with something on my own, and ask for help when I need it.

N.B.: If you need any help, please don’t hesitate to go see a psychologist. They’re trained professionals who aren’t here to judge you – they’re here to help. (Depending on where you live, there might be programs that offer a few appointments for free, or for a very low price !)

4 . Get better at fashion

That’s a much lighter one, and somewhat inspired by my binge-watching of Ashley at bestdressed’s YouTube videos.

I recently realized that most of my wardrobe is made of : stuff people gave me for free when I had only really old clothing; the really old clothing; and stuff my mom bought me when I was 1 and that I never wore or got rid of. There’s probably some changes that could be made in there.

5 . Cook more meals at home instead of dining out too often

In September, I spent SO MUCH MONEY on buying food outside… I’m not doing a “no-spend-October”, but I probably should. Instead, I’ll be trying out a softer “try-to-spend-less-October”, and leaving my credit card at home every other day, just to be sure not to buy too much stuff. We have food at home. Let’s see how it goes !

6 . Get a library card form my new city’s library

I’ve been living here for more than a month now, and I still haven’t gotten a library card. At this point, I’m pretty sure it’s criminal. I really should get the necessary papers and just. Go out and do it. (But I’ve been procrastinating so much…)

7 . Apply to as many jobs as possible

I worked hard during the summer to put some money aside for my tuition, and 2 months worth of rent, but it’s getting more and more urgent for me to get a job now. University books aren’t cheap, and food is really expensive in a big city.

8 . Do some form of exercise every 1/2 days

I am SO BAD at exercising. I know it’s good for you and all, but… going outside ? In the cold ? To move ?

That probably means I should try to do more of it.

9 . Try to control a bit more my phone addiction

I’ve been spending a lot of time on my phone this past month – and I mean, a lot. It’s definitely time to monitor that a bit, and see just how bad it is. (And then maybe do something about it.)

10. Try to study well, not read my class notes for hours on end without understanding what’s going on.

This is something I’ve struggled with in the past. I’ve been too focused on the time I spent studying, that I didn’t actually focus on the material of the class I was studying for, and it never ended up getting me the grades I hoped for.

This past year, I’ve been trying out new methods, studying for shorter amounts of time but focusing more on how much I know, and how much I still have to learn, and it seems to be working pretty well !

Hopefully, I’ll be able to accomplish some – if not all – of those this month. It’s pretty ambitious, or at least it feels like it, but I’m positive that I can stay ahead of things and manage pretty well this semester. I’ll keep you updated on how it goes !

Do you have a monthly goals list, or something that you use in the same way ? I’m always looking for new bullet journal layouts to try out, so feel free to recommend your favourites in the comments !
N.B. : All the photos in this post are from Unsplash.

My days are too short.

Do you have these days when you feel like there’s just not enough hours in your day to do all the things you want to do ?

Yesterday morning, I woke up at 7, feeling tired and drowsy from lack of sleep. I went to bed at 10pm the night before, thinking a solid 8 hours of sleep would help me get back on my feet the next day and perform better at work… but my flatmates had decided otherwise, and invited their friends for a dinner party in our apartment, that rendered me unable to sleep until 1:30am. Instead of the good 8 hours of sleep I had wished for, I barely managed to get 5:30.

I couldn’t stay in bed any longer, so I took a couple more minutes of rest and then went to take a shower, get dressed and start my day – make my lunch, take a shower, go to work, work for 7 hours with a 30 min lunch break, get out of work, go to a meeting for my volunteering activities, go to the community garden to water my crops, realize that I need to go to the grocery store get some gardening supplies, move my schedule around so I can take an hour for that and leave immediately for the store, go home covered in dirt and mud, take another shower, answer my professional and personal email, wash the dishes and make dinner, check my social media and play a small video game for 20 min to relax a bit. And then it was 11pm and I fell asleep.

My day went by extremely quickly, and I didn’t do half the things I wanted to – or was supposed to.

  • Cleaning my apartment ? Taking out the trash ? That was put aside in the morning, in exchange for those few extra minutes of rest.
  • Going out to meet a friend, maybe get some bubble tea ? I went to buy gardening supplies instead, and told the friend we’d catch up another day.
  • Calling the tennis club to ask if they had any adult beginner’s classes that I could attend ? Sadly, the club was already closed by the time I got home and started sorting through my professional and personal communications.

And then there’s the things I would like to give a little more of my time – taking photos with my camera, for example, would be a nice addition to any day, really, but I can’t carry the camera to work, and would have to go home and then get out again to take pictures. It would take an extra amount of time that I just can’t figure out where to take.

“But Maude”, you’ll tell me, “why don’t you just get rid of superfluous activities in your day ?” That would give you more time ! And yeah, sure, I could cut on those 20 min of video games (or reading, depending on the day) – but would it really do me any good ? Cutting back on your leisure activities often means cutting back on the things that help your mental health and well-being, and I have a feeling that that’s not the right way to go for this.

I don’t have a miracle solution – but I do have some tips that I use to try to make it work :

  • I plan my day in advance, the day before, and go over what I have to do in the morning, to make sure I don’t have to make more than two different trips during the day. I know myself and my strength, and I also know that past 6pm, if I get home, I’m not going out again if I can avoid it in any way.
  • I consider my weekends to be vacation days – and by this, I mean : no work, at all. No thinking about work either. I’m lucky enough to have a job that I can be completely disconnected of during my days off, and I use that fully.

If you don’t have to answer emails this coming Friday, don’t do it. Give your brain the time to power down. Vacation is seen as a luxury, instead of a right, and it’s made it so that few full time working Americans are taking time-off. In 2014 42% of working Americans didn’t take a single vacation day.

(from the blog create and cultivate)

  • I always take the time to do at least 1 leisure activity in my day, usually after dinner – whether it’s video games, reading, editing photos or browsing the web for cool blog articles to read, I know that these briefs moments help me maintain my mental health, and that’s a thing I do NOT want to neglect in any way.
  • I eat good food. And by good food, I don’t mean “healthy” food, just food that makes me happy when I eat it. If ramen makes me happy, I’ll eat ramen. If breakfast food makes me happy, I’ll eat breakfast food, whatever the time may be.

Even though I try my best to stay positive and not let myself be influenced too much by that feeling of not being fast enough, not doing things the way I should, I still have those days when I feel like I’m running out of time and don’t have enough hours to finish everything I have to do. Like I’m not productive enough, and am a bad person because of it. And that’s okay – as long as I know what those emotions are, where they come from, and how I can manage them for the time being, until I feel better about what I do and remember that extreme productivity at the detriment of my mental health isn’t the path I want to follow.

Do you have any tips on how to deal with that ? Any blog posts on that topic that I should read ? Feel free to link them in the comments !