Maybe this is an unpopular sentiment, but I really enjoy writing wrap-up posts. In fact, they’re my favorite! I’m a very sentimental person, and I find satisfaction in documenting aspects of my life. Even if very few people read them. With that said, I’m personally bummed that my last monthly synopsis was way back in September. (Is it in a coincidence that I temporarily stopped writing wrap-up posts after I secured a full-time job? Probably not.)
So much has changed since then. But I’ll save those stories for a different post (aka the world’s most delayed wrap-up post). For now, let’s take a look at the first month of 2021 — which has been a mixed bag of delays, disappointments, and delights.
MY MONTH IN BOOKS
– ON WHAT I READ –
For 2021, my goal is to read fewer books. Ideally, I’d really like to have more free time to explore other interests and to consume content more intentionally. Nonetheless, I finished a decent number of books — a surprising total of seven (7).
📚 Sagala by Tori Tadiar // 2021 served up my worst reading slump yet. But thankfully, this graphic novel broke the spell! Set during Spanish colonization in the Philippines, Sagala is a delightful and inventive fantasy about a feisty gunsmith’s apprentice and her protective older brother. Highly recommended! And of course, huge thank you to Kat for this wonderful Christmas gift! 🎄🎁 // Read my review
📚 Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao // It’s official: Gloria Chao’s books aren’t for me. Like, at all. Rent a Boyfriend is the least enjoyable book she’s written thus far, in my opinion. The first few chapters are cute, but the rest of the story is annoyingly repetitive, poorly paced, and unnecessarily drawn out. In other words, it was a pain to read. Not recommended. 🥱 // Read my review
📚 Crownchasers by Rebecca Coffindaffer // What a fun galactic romp! Crownchasers is a thrilling, fast-paced space opera led by a sharp-tongued pansexual pilot. Weirdly enough, reading this made me feel nostalgic for the 2010-2012 YA classics like The Hunger Games and Divergent. Except Crownchasers undoubtedly blows them all out of the water. Recommended! // Read my review
📚 The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang // Admittedly, The Poppy War disappointed me. And it isn’t the book’s fault. The fault in our fandoms is that fandom discourse can exert too much of an influence on someone’s reading experience (especially when that someone is often exposed to it). As I read The Poppy War, not only did I see major plot reveals happening a mile away, but my introduction to the characters was also tainted by other readers’ biases. Don’t get me wrong. I do think that The Poppy War is brilliant and excellently written, but I’m upset that I did not enjoy it as much as I hoped. Recommended with an asterisk! // Read my review
📚 The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang // This was a ride. And by that, I mean, I disliked majority of the The Dragon Republic, only to change my mind at the last 20%. Huge black sheep here, but all the characters’ obsession with Altan really got under my skin. However, despite my personal gripes about Altan and the lack of genuine character relationships, I did appreciate the political machinations and exploration of warfare in this sequel. Plus, The Dragon Republic ends on a really intriguing note, and I’m eager for the conclusion. Recommended with an asterisk! // Read my review
📚 Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto // An easy new favorite! This novel promised chaos and meddlesome family members — and it unfailingly delivers with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments thrown in. Dial A for Aunties is delightfully absurd and wonderfully fun. Suspend your disbelief, buckle in, and enjoy the wildest of rides. Highly recommended! 🥰 // Read my review
📚 Flamefall by Rosaria Munda // Fireborne left me with astronomical expectations for its sequel, and thankfully, Flamefall did not let me down. This new installment is darker, grittier, and more sophisticated with a focus on the rising tension among friends, lovers, and allies. I highly recommend this series! // Read my review
– ON WHAT I WILL READ –
I’ve never really pressured myself to read and review ARCs “on time” (i.e. on or before their release date) simply because I’m not being compensated for my time. I firmly believe that while an honest review is a fair exchange for a chance to read a book, an imposed deadline is an incredibly unfair ask for free labor. So unless I’m paid a fee, I won’t commit to a deadline. But I digress.
For 2021, I thought it’d be a good exercise to challenge myself in completing my ARCs early. Hence, I’ve resolved to binge 2021 ARCs until the end of the first quarter. As of writing this post, I have a total of sixteen (16) unread titles, although I’m currently reading She Who Became the Sun.
I truly hope to finish all of them by the end of March. To make things extra challenging, I announced my 2021 ARC binge on Twitter and let my followers decide on the order of my reads. Wish me luck! 💛
MY MONTH IN MEDIA
– ON WHAT I WATCHED –
🎬 Rhythm + Flow (Season 1) // Listen. I need all music competition shows to take notes from Cardi B. Because damn, what a show! I think what sets Rhythm + Flow apart from a long line of musical reality shows is its unapologetic rawness, especially in reflecting the racialized “politics” within the industry. Also, despite being a competition, there’s undeniable kinship and camaraderie among the judges and contestants — and it’s beautiful to watch. My only complaint is that the first season has too few episodes and odd pacing.
🎬 Haikyuu (Season 3) // To no one’s surprise, Haikyuu remains to be a guaranteed boost of dopamine in my life. I love all the characters, your honor. 🥰
🎬 Bling Empire (Season 1) // I have mixed feelings about this show, to be honest. Bling Empire leverages on the tried-and-proven reality show formula. So, on one hand, it’s just as flashy, over-the-top, and annoying as most reality shows. But on the other hand, it is kind of, sort of refreshing to see East Asians (and one Southeast Asian lmao) live their best lives on screen. (Also, I just have to point out that the one Filipino we meet in this show is a waiter who’s mistaken as Vietnamese. 😬)
🎬 Winx Club (Season 1) // Since everyone and their mother is watching the Netflix adaptation of Winx Club, I decided it was high time for me to give my childhood favorite cartoon a revisit. So far, I’m really enjoying my rewatch. But I’m shocked by how utterly detestable Bloom is. She’s just so whiny and self-absorbed. Flora and Tecna are easily my favorite fairies!
🎬 Welcome (2007) // In January, I formed a small informal club with Charvi, Gargee, Dini, Kate, Cam, Shruti, and Anandi where we throw Bollywood Netflix parties! Our first watch was Welcome (2007). This was very entertaining, and the songs were fire!
🎬 Om Shanti Om (2007) // Our second Bollywood film! This was also a fun watch in a different way. Plus, the main song slapped hard.
🎬 Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) // Wendy is my go-to buddy when it comes to watching Studio Ghibli films. Our latest watch was Howl’s Moving Castle. Despite my strong feelings about that one grandma (if you know, you know), it’s definitely my favorite so far. The animation is adorable, the characters are adorable, and the story is so wonderfully wholesome.
– ON WHAT I WILL WATCH –
It seems that my Netflix subscription — or more specifically, my lola’s Netflix subscription that I leach from 😅 — will continue to be maximized in February. Especially because there’s an incoming wave of new films for the platform.
- Four Sisters and a Wedding (to rewatch with friends)
- Carmen Sandiego, season 4
- Haikyuu, season 4
- Namaste Wahala (to watch with friends)
- To All the Boys: Always and Forever
MY MONTH IN BLOGGING
– ON WHAT I WROTE –
📝 With so many new followers and subscribers, I felt that a quick get-to-know-me session was in order. Head on over to my Q&A blog post if you’d like to know me a little better.
📝 Exhausted by the book piracy discourse on Twitter, I compiled a comprehensive list of legal resources to read free books. It’s one of my best posts yet, in my humble opinion.
📝 2021 is set to be a great year for new books. As evidence, I shared some of the most exciting sequels releasing this year.
– ON WHAT I SHARED ON SOCIAL MEDIA –
🔔 I’ve been brainstorming on a new blog post series dedicated to Notion! I even shared a preview of how I use Notion for blogging. What would you like to see first?
🔔 I read 132 books in 2020, which is a new record for me. But in 2021, my goal is to read fewer books. There is a bit of fear that I might lose my following because of this. But so far, I’ve received nothing but warm wishes and support!
🔔 I finally distributed 100% of the funds we collectively raised for typhoon and flood victims in the Philippines! Yay! 🥳
🔔 I also did a quick expectations vs. reality when it comes to how I spend my salary. (Spoiler alert: It’s not on books. 😂)
🔔 I talked about reading The Poppy War for the first time ever, and the responses I received were quite homogenous.
🔔 In addition, I opened up a little bit about my new relationship with social media.
– ON WHAT I FOUND INTERESTING ONLINE –
📌 “New year, new blog” seems to be a popular sentiment among bloggers. Many of my friends have recently relaunched or revamped, and their new blogs are looking gorgeous! Make sure to send some love and adoration their way.
📌 Reviews are the backbone of book blogs. Check out Jonna’s review of Sugar and Spite, Tiffany’s review of A Taste for Love, and Thya’s review of The Knockout. Meanwhile, Cam wrote an excellent discussion on the relevance of Do You Dream of Terra Two.
📌 Wendy put together an impressive list of middle grade recommendations. Definitely a must-read!
📌 I also enjoy reading honest thoughts and musings from other bloggers. In January, Belle opened up about reading for the sake of content, while Juri shared the things she learned from a year of being a bookish creator.
📌 Should bookstagrammers edit digital covers onto photos? An excellent discussion from Briana.
📌 I also found new people to follow and subscribe to!
Book bloggers to check out:
EVERYTHING ELSE IN A NUTSHELL
– ON LOOKING BACK –
My first month of 2021 wasn’t particularly special if I’m being honest. Although things were quite rocky at the onset. Specifically, I was feeling ill throughout the first week of the year. So, that sucked.
Among other disappointments, I failed to reach my target number of blog posts. I had so many planned for January. And I was on track for a while. But due to an unexpected increase in workload (to be explained later), I was forced to put my content calendar in the backburner. All of this is to say that I really missed blogging consistently, friends.
On a brighter note, January was a good month for self-reflection and contemplation. It’s actually kind of weird how a month can be both hectic and peaceful. Hectic because of an increased workload (my company assigned me to more brands!) and real-life responsibilities. And peaceful because my busyness resulted in less time for social media.
Like I said in a previous blog post, my new working adult life has really challenged my perspective, priorities, and to an extent, my principles. It’s like seeing the world for the first time! I feel like I’ve changed so much in such a short time and in ways unnoticeable online. Aside from settling into a new, arguably more well-rounded routine, I’ve also become more invested in my health, more conscious about my finances, more open to new experiences, and less dependent on social media. And honestly? I really do love this development for me. 🥰
Before I officially move on from January, let’s revisit some things that I’m grateful for:
🌷 Despite not meeting my desired quota of 6 to 8 blog posts per month, my blog’s stats still surpassed my KPIs! In fact, in the first week of January, this little space already garnered over 1,500 views, despite the lack of new content. All thanks to the must-have reader spreadsheet template. In addition, I beat my record for highest views in a day — from 1,545 (14 August 2020) to 1,654 (10 Jan 2021).
🌷 After more than a month’s worth of panicking and stressing out, PayPal finally restored my account! Huge sigh of relief.
🌷 At the very last minute, I was assigned to create and present a huge pitch in front of my company’s executives and potential new clients. I had 4 to 5 days to study a hugely unfamiliar brand, develop a year-round proposal for their media campaigns, and prepare a polished spiel — without compromising my workload with established clients. It was intense. But in the end, I think I did a pretty decent job. Yay!
🌷 I also had occasional writing gigs outside of my blog. I’m very fortunate and grateful! And of course, I hope you take a moment to click on the articles that interest you:
– ON MOVING FORWARD –
February is my shot at redemption! That is, it’s my chance to finally get things on track. With everything going on last month, I had neither the time nor energy to really sit down and plan out my 2021. But hey, better late than never, right? Here are my plans and goals for this month:
☘ First and foremost, I hope to finally complete my Notion set-up. I’ve been using this app since last September, but there are still plenty of blank pages and unfinished trackers to work on. (The incompleteness is slowly grating on my nerves, to be honest.)
☘ I want to get rid of my post backlog. Specifically, the posts I planned to release in January but — because the universe absolutely hates me — did not finish drafting. So, expect a lot of irrelevant content and continued allusions to 2020. *finger guns*
☘ Similarly, I want to get my 2021 ARCs out of the way. I’m very grateful to be an early reader for many of these upcoming titles. But I’m also tired of reading for the sake of reviewing.
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Thank you for reading!
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I’d love to hear from you!
🌻 How was your January? And what are your plans for February?
🌻 Among all the 2021 ARCs I’ll be binge-reading, which ones would you like me to share my thoughts on asap? Are any of your most anticipated releases on my TBR? 👀
🌻 My mantra for 2021 is nourish. Do you have a mantra for this new year? Comment it below and let me know why you picked it out!