New year, but same old me. Terrible jokes aside, my following across all platforms had grown exponentially in 2020. With so many new readers and subscribers, it seemed like the most opportune time for a reintroduction. As well as a fun Q&A session. (Huge thanks to my Twitter friends for submitting questions! I’m sorry that it took me this long to answer them, but I hope I do them justice. 🥰)
My blog is such a personal space, and while I write a lot of bookish and media content, I’d also like everyone to get to know me. Maybe it’s naive of me. But I’d like to believe that Internet folks care about the person behind the screen. 💛
Hi hey hello, I’m Shealea! I’ve been blogging about books since late 2015, and although my blog’s focus has expanded, I’m still the girl who hardly ever shuts up.
Writing has always helped me make sense of the world, and I’d like to think that’s evident in the content that I produce. While I mainly write for myself, I hope that my words spark something in someone else — be it joy, comfort, or a moment of connection.
Outside of my blog, I am a lazy perfectionist, an aspiring researcher, and an honest to goodness work-in-progress. 🌻
Books, Music, & Media
Kicking this post off with a difficult question, I see. 😤 I finished 132 books last year, which is a new personal record for me (yay! 🎉). In other words, a wider range of reads to select the bests and worsts from.
- Best Middle Grade: A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat
- Best Young Adult: Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko
- Best Adult: The Ikessar Falcon by K.S. Villoso
Note that I only considered first-time reads, consequently excluding rereads of my favorite books, such as The Bone Witch, The Wolf of Oren-yaro, and I Love You So Mochi. (Yep, I did a lot of rereading in 2020. Consider it a coping mechanism.)
🍃 Any books you’ve read recently that you didn’t enjoy? (@peachnace)
I recently went through a “feel-good contemporary romance” phase because the genre doesn’t require as much energy to fully grasp and real life had been overworking my remaining brain cells. I mean, I love speculative fiction. But sometimes I’m not in the mood to learn new magic systems, historical timelines, and sociopolitical landscapes.
Unfortunately, I’m a really picky reader when it comes to contemporary romance. 😔 Here are some recent misses for me:
- Kissing Lessons by Sophie Jordan
- Shine by Jessica Jung
- Secret Crush Seduction by Jayci Lee
- And the biggest disappointment of them all, Undercover Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams
🍃 What are your favorite underhyped fantasy books? (@ReaderOfQueens)
Funnily enough, The Portalist recently asked me for a short article on underrated fantasy books. It includes several titles that I enjoyed tremendously, such as Caster by Elsie Chapman, Realm of Ash by Tasha Suri, and Esme’s Wish by Elizabeth Foster. (Small disclaimer that my criterion for ‘underrated’ books is having less than 3,000 ratings on Goodreads.)
In addition, I’d really like to see more people talking about these fantasy books:
- Fireborne by Rosaria Munda
- A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna
- The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco
- Realm of Ash by Tasha Suri (yes, it needs to be mentioned twice because WHY ISN’T ANYONE TALKING ABOUT ARWA AND ZAHIR!!! 😤)
🍃 2021 most anticipated releases? (@divyaareads, @dawnelize)
I recently wrote an entire blog post celebrating the upcoming books that I’ll probably never shut up about. 👀 But if I were to pick just three:
Gearbreakers by Zoe Hana Mikuta! For the longest time, my little reader heart’s been yearning for steampunk-esque fantasy. Especially by authors of color. So, it’s no surprise that this cyberpunk debut novel about giant mechas and queer Asian girls is on the top of my need-to-read list.
Happy Endings by Thien-Kim Lam! I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: this is my ideal romance novel. And the cherry on top is that Happy Endings involves a sex toy shop. Bring on the steam!
Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee! If you’ve been following me for a while, then this answer won’t surprise you at all. I am a self-proclaimed champion for the Green Bone Saga. This series has come to mean so much to me, and I am both eager and terrified to witness its conclusion.
Preparing my list of most anticipated 2021 book releases has helped me realize that I do have a weakness for certain tropes and elements. Which is a huge revelation to me because I’m personally not a “want it, buy it” kind of reader. I’m very particular about the books that I pick up or purchase. But there are “buzzwords” that help tip the scales towards the book’s favor.
My biggest weakness is Asian-inspired fantasy — and truth be told, this can be blamed on Rin Chupeco’s The Bone Witch trilogy. I’m also drawn to speculative fiction that promises themes of colonialism, imperialism, and moral ambiguity/complexity. For fantasy and science fiction, my favorite tropes are found family, unreliable narrator, close sibling relationships, and enemies to lovers.
When it comes to contemporary and romance novels, I have a soft spot for fake dating/engagement, foodie romantic comedies, plots involving media (e.g. film, social media), friends to lovers, and K-pop idols.
🍃 Most underrated book you’ve read in 2020? (@katelovescolour)
Definitely The Ever Cruel Kingdom by Rin Chupeco. I mean, on one hand, this sequel was recently released last November so I can’t expect everyone to have read it already. But on the other hand, I think that the duology itself is greatly overlooked by readers.
I know that I most actively promote Rin Chupeco’s The Bone Witch trilogy (because the books are closest to my heart), but everyone, please read The Never Tilting World duology! 🥺
The first book has a bit of a learning curve, but everything really comes together in The Ever Cruel Kingdom. Aside from being a clever allegory for our present-day climate crisis, this is the gayest and softest book that Rin Chupeco has ever written. Perfect for readers who enjoy sister relationships, sacrifices for the greater good, bodyguard and enemies-to-lovers romances, and reunited families!
🍃 What’s a book that makes you distrust someone’s recommendation? (@guerrerawr)
The obvious, albeit really boring, answer would be to cite books written by authors whom I don’t ever want to support. Jay Kristoff, Stephenie Meyer, Jay Asher, and Rainbow Rowell, to name a few.
Barring problematic books, however, I’d have to admit that I have a list of “deal breakers”, which includes (but is not limited to):
- The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
- Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan
- Wildcard by Marie Lu
- Faker by Sarah Smith
- An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and I don’t think mine outweighs anyone else’s. But I am a firm believer in book taste compatibility. And if you enjoyed the abovementioned titles, then our tastes are most likely incompatible and I will be understandably hesitant to take any recommendations from you.
I wholeheartedly believe that there is a right answer to this. My bet is on Rin Chupeco, Chloe Gong, Xiran Jay Zhao, and RF Kuang. They’re all intelligent, witty, and hilarious in their own distinct way. And seeing their tweets on my feed always feels like a blessing. Bottom line: I aspire to be like them, period. 🤩
Yes! I used to be friendly acquaintances with Sarah Smith, author of Faker and Simmer Down. I began distancing myself after she quote-tweeted and attacked a fellow Filipino blogger over lumpia of all things. The incident left me feeling really uncomfortable. Months later, I finally committed to blocking Sarah after reading her debut novel, which I vehemently disliked. I have no regrets.
I think everyone who follows me on Instagram can guess who my bias is. But I digress. My favorite BTS member is definitely Taehyung, closely followed by J-Hope and Jungkook. Nothing sparks as much joy as Taehyung’s smile! Plus, I am obsessed with the timbre and range of his voice. 💛
I think their performance of ON at the Grand Central Terminal initially piqued my interest. I was blown away by how clear and consistent their vocals sounded, despite the complicated choreography. And I was impressed by the grandness of the production. (Confession: I am a sucker for high production value.)
But it was really their Carpool Karaoke session with James Corden that motivated me to start learning all the members’ names and stuff. In fact, it was J-Hope’s sunshiny disposition that really held my attention. He was the first BTS member to stand out to me.
Looking back, I’m pretty shocked by how invested I’ve become in such a short period of time. Believe it or not, I’m not a huge listener of music. I rarely care for it. Instead, I tend to gravitate towards performances, instead of the songs themselves. What can I say? I prefer the whole package. Wink wink, wonk wonk.
🍃 Favorite hair color on Taehyung? (@caitlinalthea)
Let me preface my answer with the acknowledgment that Taehyung can pull off any hair color effortlessly, and that basically sums up how unfair the world is.
I feel like many BTS fans will find my answer boring. But my favorite color on Taehyung is either black (especially when his hair is long and curly) or light brown (especially when his hair is pushed back a little). I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: I’ll immediately pick up a vampire fantasy book if — and only if — the vampire is black-haired Kim Taehyung. But I digress.
It’s hard for me to pick between the two colors because they evoke contradicting aesthetics. Dark-haired Taehyung is danger personified, while light-haired Taehyung is the kind of charming guy I’d want to introduce to my family. And I love both personas equally!!!
I refuse to answer this question until I finish listening to their entire discography. Only informed opinions are allowed on my blog, thank you very much. (I will say that I have a soft spot for the album art of Love Yourself: Answer. It sparks so much joy! 🥰)
I do! I listen to Blackpink too, as well as a small handful of TWICE and ITZY songs. Lately, I’ve also been frequently listening to Maria by Hwa Sa (from Mamamoo).
I’m definitely open to giving other groups a try! Please send recommendations my way. I’d love them! Although I’ll have to give a quick disclaimer that vibe and production aesthetics are really important to me. As I’ve said earlier, I’m a performance-over-song type of girl.
Does Netflix count? I haven’t touched our television for years. Surprisingly, I’ve been consuming more Netflix series than books lately.
I recently finished watching Dear White People, Bojack Horseman, #blackAF, and Jane the Virgin — all of which I really enjoyed. At the moment, I’m in the middle of two Netflix series: She’s Gotta Have It, which is unconventional and pretty fun; and, Rhythm + Flow, which is high-key entertaining (and an unexpectedly great commentary on the whiteness of the music industry and the impossible standards faced by Black artists).
I’ve been meaning to explore the fascinating world of K-drama. But I just haven’t had the time or the right mindset for it. In addition, usually, I play episodes in the background while I work on other tasks. For obvious reasons, this is not the ideal setup for shows with subtitles.
Nonetheless, I do have a few K-drama shows in my queue, such as It’s Okay Not to be Okay, Private Lives, and some other hyped titles. It’s just a matter of being in the right mood and finding enough time for them. And yes, I’m still open to recommendations as well!
Brand & Blogging
🍃 Any advice for new bloggers? (@writerscarlet)
Is it weird that I’ve been doing this blogging thing for five years now, but I still don’t feel any wiser? Impostor syndrome is strong, persistent, and most of all, a pain in the ass.
But setting that aside, my biggest advice for new bloggers is three-fold:
First, first impressions are crucial. Especially when it comes to gaining new readership. You can write the best and most insightful content, but a poorly designed blog will discourage readers from sticking around long enough to appreciate your writing.
Take note, that when I talk about poor blog design, I’m not just pertaining to the overall aesthetic value. Instead, blog design also encompasses the internal logic, structure, navigation, and readability of your blog. What does this mean? Ideally, your menu, categories, and tags should have a sense of order. Navigating your blog shouldn’t require much brainpower, and finding specific content on your blog shouldn’t be a challenge. Important tools and features should be readily accessible. And of course, your font and color choices shouldn’t make reading your content difficult to do.
Second, be intentional. Before writing a blog post, ask yourself: “Why? What is this for?” While not everything needs to have a deeper meaning, I do believe that intention can be a powerful motivator and guide. Honestly, blogging is exhausting and can lead to frequent burnouts if you’re not careful. But being intentional in what you do can help you use your limited energy wisely and meaningfully, reducing the chances of getting burned out often.
Finally, always give yourself room to grow and improve. Blogging is a journey, and it certainly isn’t a linear one. You’re not going to know the ins and outs of everything on your first day. And even after a year or two, you’ll realize that there’s always more to learn. Which can be disheartening or exciting, depending on how you choose to view things. Personally, I recommend the latter. There’s something exhilarating about continuous growth and evolution. 🌻
Ahh, adulting questions!
Internal screaming and flailing aside, I think I’m adapting quite well for someone who’s joining the workforce amidst a global pandemic. 😅 Working from home has generally been convenient, but establishing work-home boundaries can get tricky. Especially when you’re dealing with clients who send texts and messages after 9 PM. Nonetheless, I’m hanging in there!
Moreover, having a full-time day job with occasional weird hours has really impacted all aspects of my life, including my reading, blogging, and social media habits.
The biggest change is that I have less free time and energy for my usual hobbies now. But it isn’t as sad as I thought it’d be. On one hand, it sucks that I can’t create as much content as I’d like. But on the other hand, I genuinely appreciate my more hands-off relationship with social media. It’s been refreshing!
In addition, I’ve also noticed that I’ve been gravitating towards Netflix over books. Especially over my Christmas break. It’s probably because watching media requires less energy than reading text. Although I still feel fairly guilty over my lack of reading, I’m cautiously hopeful that my increased consumption of other media will inspire me in diversifying my blog content. (The glass is half-full on this blog, friends. 😊)
As for my social life, I think the hit that it’s taken can be blamed on the pandemic. Not really my job. It has been harder to maintain long chats and reply to people, though. But I digress.
All in all, I guess we can conclude that in getting a full-time job, you win some and you lose some — and you get to decide which side you’d like to focus on. For me, I’m choosing to focus on the good. There’s comfort in settling into a new routine. I am so grateful to be able to help support my family. And although it sucks that I can’t devote a lot of time to do the things that I love (i.e. reading, blogging, interacting with people in the community), I am hopeful that this will ultimately drive me into being more intentional in everything that I do, both online and offline.
🍃 What is your biggest blogging regret? (@guerrerawr)
I’m going to cite two because I can’t decide which one I regret more:
One, that I named my first book blog as “That Bookshelf Bitch” and that this decision will haunt me for the rest of my life. I’m just relieved that I was able to rebrand before my internship application. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have had the courage to include my blog in my resume.
Two, that I purchased a WordPress Premium Plan for a year, instead of immediately going self-hosted. These paid plans are ridiculously overpriced with very little value for your money. In fact, my current 3-year plan with SiteGround costs just as much as my 1-year plan with WordPress. Additionally, going self-hosted has granted me more freedom over the design, features, and tools for my website.
Believe it or not, when I was rebranding into Shut up, Shealea, I didn’t immediately think about incorporating sunflowers into my new brand. Instead, the sunflowers came much, much later.
Initially, I was toying with the idea of a gold motif. Probably with geometric shapes and frames. And if you look at my current blog logo, it does have a gold frame, which is pretty reminiscent of my previous logo.
I’ve always believed that yellow and gray make an elegant, albeit hugely under-appreciated, combination. And I wanted that specific magic for my rebranded blog.
With that said, if I didn’t incorporate sunflowers, I probably would’ve leaned harder on the geometric patterns. Just to give you an idea, check out the picture on the left. Lots of shapes and patterns with accents of bright gold! ✨
🍃 What are some of your favorite blog posts that you’ve written so far? (@IsThisEva)
Truth be told, the majority of my favorite content is still gathering dust as unfinished drafts. Unfortunately, my fatal flaw is that I want to give justice to my ideas so badly that I refuse to work on them unless the perfect conditions are met. 😭 But I digress.
Despite this hiccup, I am pretty proud of my content. Here are some of my favorite blog posts that I had so much fun writing!
- 7 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Book Blogging
- 6 Important Questions To Ask Before Writing A Blog Post
- Tired of Disney’s Live-Action Mulan? Here Are Books By Chinese Authors You Can Read Instead
- Diverse Books 101: Starter Recommendations For Diversifying Your Bookshelf (ft. signed book giveaways)
- 7 Impossible, Unimaginable Things I Achieved In My 5 Years As A Blogger
Life & Personal
🍃 How is adulting going? (@RABlack12, @writerscarlet)
It’s certainly… going. Adulting never stops. Especially working full-time on weekdays and pursuing side hustles (e.g. freelance content writing) on weekends.
As the eldest daughter and the only college graduate among my siblings, I naturally — if we consider social constructs and societal norms ‘natural’ — slipped into the role of being my family’s breadwinner. It’s a huge and heavy responsibility. But I love my family, and I’m grateful to have the means to support them. 💛
But adulting is about more than making coin, though. It’s also about reevaluating my priorities, finding more ways to mature and grow, and committing to more responsibilities. I haven’t figured everything out, but I’d like to think that I’m making progress!
🍃 How are you finding your new job/working full time? (@katelovescolour)
I’m currently working as an integrated media planner for a media agency. While the role isn’t heavily immersed in research, it does involve brand strategy and planning. Which are two things that I had always been interested in. And while I appreciate the comforts of working from home, I think that an office setting would enhance my experience. Nonetheless, so far, I’m learning a lot and I’m enjoying the tasks. (The hours are wild, though! I’m no longer a stranger to overtimes.)
🍃 Your favorite and least favorite thing about your new adulting life? (@cuppaclo)
My favorite thing about my new adulting life is that I’ve finally settled into a routine that, for the most part, really works for me. I’m the type of person who’s almost always on-the-go. Meeting deadlines, toying with projects, being productive — this is my comfort zone, as weird as that sounds. Having to stay at home and not having much to do, especially amidst a pandemic, had made me feel really uneasy and anxious. So, in a weird way, having a work-centered routine has boosted my mental health by a ton.
In contrast, my least favorite thing is having less time and energy to blog. Especially when it comes to creating new content. Currently, my day job involves staring into my work laptop from 9 AM until 6 PM. Or until 10 PM, depending on the client’s needs. By the time that my shift is officially over, I practically throw my laptop away because I cannot stand another minute. And this has really hindered me from writing new posts and such. (Which, again, sucks because I have so many ideas that are begging to be written down!)
🍃 Most unexpected thing about adulthood no one really talks about? (@dawnelize)
Everything in the world suddenly looks different once you’re a tired, working adult who’s continuously exploited by capitalism. Some things start to matter more, and other things start to matter less. In a way, it’s like seeing the world for the first time. And no one warned me about this brand new view!
I don’t think I’ve changed a lot as a person. But my approach to certain things is different now. For instance, my goal this year is to read fewer books — which is a first for me. Another great example is my newfound relationship with social media. I’m more hands-off, and I’ve become more selective in my online battles. And I love this development for me, to be honest.
A home-cooked meal for dinner and enough time to sleep, to be honest. If I’m able to squeeze in a few chapters to read or a couple of episodes to watch before bed, I’d take it as a huge win. 😂
The Iron Fey was my all-time favorite fantasy series throughout high school. It was an admittedly lonely fandom since most of my friends were obsessing over The Hunger Games, Twilight, and The Selection. But anyway, I sold my ragged, pre-loved paperbacks and I’m excited to replace them with these gorgeous hardbacks!
Outside of books and recent purchases, I’m also looking forward to becoming a regularized employee. Finally getting access to all my job benefits is nothing to sneeze at. (Eww, what a terribly boring answer. But it’s the truth! 😂)
- Having enough time for breakfast
- Getting enough hours of sleep
- Ticking off items on my task checklists
- Browsing through my Notion setup
- Watching episodes with my sisters
- Posting on my Instagram stories
- Updating my spreadsheet trackers
- Using sheet masks
Random & Miscellaneous
🍃 Favorite comfort food? (@cuppaclo)
What comforts me depends on what the situation is, if that makes sense.
My go-to comfort food is sinigang, which is coincidentally my favorite Filipino dish. I crave it when I’m feeling sad, sick, or lonely. Although to be perfectly honest, during my college years, I ate sinigang at least once a week.
When I’m homesick, I immediately look for sisig, which is a Filipino dish that originated from my home province, Pampanga. It’s funny to me because I only started eating sisig in college.
Finally, I eat ice cream whenever I’m in need of a quick pick-me-up. I think it’s one of the more generic comfort food, but hey, it works!
🍃 Favorite desserts? (@sarareadthat)
I definitely have a sweet tooth. Desserts are my favorite part of any meal. I’d have to say that my ultimate weakness is cheesecakes, though. It doesn’t really matter what kind of cheesecake, although I prefer those with some chocolate. Creamcheese is just so sinful and heavenly!
🍃 If you could go back to you five years ago, what advice would you give her? (@RABlack12)
I’m twenty-four years old now, so I’d be giving advice to nineteen-year-old me. At that age, it would have benefitted me to punish myself less. For context, I was extremely hard on myself for quitting chemical engineering halfway. It got to the point of being self-destructive. I felt like I didn’t deserve anything good in my life, which was quite a toxic mindset to have. So, I don’t know, I guess I would tell younger me to be kinder, gentler, and more compassionate to myself.
Another piece of advice I’d give is to explore the city more. It’s weird to think that in all the years I spent in Metro Manila, there are still so many places I haven’t been to. Malls, museums, hole-in-the-wall eateries. I was so focused on school that I didn’t really take advantage of the independence I gained. And I think that’s something I’ve come to really regret.
🍃 Do you have any pets? If not, would you want one? (@dawnelize)
No, not really. My sister’s hedgehog became a family pet for a while, but Esteban passed away last year.
I’m not sure if I can commit to being a responsible pet owner. Especially if I’ll need to move out of my house to live closer to the office. But if ever, I’d like to have a baby bunny!
🍃 Have sunflowers always been your favorite flower? (@mmmmsunlight)
Nope! I love peonies. They’re my absolute favorite! And on some days, I still prefer them over sunflowers. It’s a constant competition. 😂
My soft spot for sunflowers began in college. In my university, they’re closely associated with graduation. Every year, hundreds of sunflowers are planted along university avenue in time for them to bloom during the graduation ceremonies. There’s even a popular myth that the number of planted sunflowers indicates the number of graduating students.
Because sunflowers are such an icon in my university, I’ve come to see them as a symbol of hope and perseverance. 🌻
Thank you for reading!
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Finally, if you really enjoy my content, consider further supporting me by leaving a one-time tip ☕ or joining my sunflower garden. 🌻🍃
I’d love to hear from you!
🌻 First and foremost, do you have any recommendations for me? Recommendations for Netflix series to try or K-pop groups to listen to? Please comment them below!
🌻 For my long-time readers, do you still remember how we first connected? What was your first impression of me?
🌻 For my newer readers, what first brought you to my blog?