Weekly update : first week of 2021

It’s been an… interesting week.

Personal update

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

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

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

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

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

Blogging update

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

Reading update

Progress on my Goodreads goal : 3/104

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

Kingsbane, by Claire Legrand

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

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

Find it on Goodreads here.

A sky beyond the storm, by Sabaa Tahir

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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

Find it on Goodreads here.

The ever cruel kingdom, by Rin Chupeco

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

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

Find it on Goodreads here.

2021 reading and blogging challenges

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

2021 Discussion challenge

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

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

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

Goodreads reading challenge

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

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

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

2021 reads I can’t wait for

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

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

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

Victories greater than death, by Charlie Jane Anders

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

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

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

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

Check it out on Goodreads here

One last stop, by Casey McQuiston

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

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

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

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

Check it out on Goodreads here

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

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

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

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

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

Find it on Goodreads here.

Six crimson cranes, by Elizabeth Lim

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

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

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

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

Find it on Goodreads here.

Leviathan falls – The Expanse, book 9

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

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

The bookish rant and rave tag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RAVE: an author who’s works you love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RAVE: a book you would recommend to everyone

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

Related post : Series review : an ember in the ashes

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

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

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

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!