Valentine’s day update

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

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

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

Personal update

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

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

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

Playing video games

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

Working out

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

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

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

Meeting a friend outside

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

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

Reading update

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

The Andromeda Strain

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

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

The poppy war

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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

Illuminae

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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

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

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

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

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

January 2021 wrap-up

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

Personal things

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

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

Photo by @craftedbygc on Unsplash

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

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

Online things

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

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

All in all, I’ve been keeping busy!

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

Reading things

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

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

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

February intentions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekly update : first week of 2021

It’s been an… interesting week.

Personal update

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

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

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

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

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

Blogging update

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

Reading update

Progress on my Goodreads goal : 3/104

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

Kingsbane, by Claire Legrand

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

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

Find it on Goodreads here.

A sky beyond the storm, by Sabaa Tahir

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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

Find it on Goodreads here.

The ever cruel kingdom, by Rin Chupeco

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

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

Find it on Goodreads here.

2021 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 ?