Funnily enough, my last monthly wrap-up post was literally a year ago. January 2021, to be specific. Which is such a shame. Because as I had mentioned in that post, I really enjoy the process of writing wrap-up posts. I find a lot of satisfaction in looking back and reflecting on my month.
Fortunately, January was a pretty great month for me. While I was unable to accomplish everything that I set out to do, I still made a lot of headway towards this year’s intention of reconnecting. Especially in reacquainting myself to my hobbies, which fell to the sidelines last year. Yay!
With that said, I’m very excited to share the highlights of January 2022 with all of you. Let’s take a look at the first month of 2022 — which was all about reviving this blog and pursuing old loves with renewed energy!
MY MONTH IN BOOKS
Hold onto your hats and pearls, friends, because I read twenty (20!!!) books for the month of January. This is the largest number of books I’ve read in a long, long time. And I’m both surprised and unsurprised by this outcome.
On one hand, I’ve been consciously making time to do a bit of reading every day — be it through listening to an audiobook while at work or reading a few chapters before bed. But on the other hand, twenty is still a really high number that I didn’t think I could achieve. Oof.
To recap, my Goodreads 2022 reading challenge was set to 99 books, and I’m currently leagues ahead of schedule. Wild. 😭 But I digress.
– ON WHAT I READ –
📚 A Lot Like Adiós by Alexis Daria // I’m happy to share that my first 2022 read blew me away! This tumultuous second-chance romance gave me the perfect blend of heat, angst, and yearning. Plus, both leads are chaotic bisexuals who do their damnedest to fight their feelings. Highly, highly recommended! // Read my review
📚 The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai // Reading this historical fiction novel was truly life-changing. Heartbreaking and cautiously hopeful, it offers a compelling multigenerational tale and a vivid portrait of the Vietnam war. I read this as an audiobook, and oof did it pull at my tender heartstrings. Highly recommended! // Read my review
📚 Love & Other Natural Disasters by Misa Sugiura // I went into this book for the sapphic fake dating, but I stayed for the messy teenagers with relatable insecurities and relatable fears. While there’s a lot to love about this YA novel, I greatly appreciated how it takes on the narrative of “coming out” to conservative family members in Asian households. Highly recommended! // Read my review
📚 The Jasmine Project by Meredith Ireland // Filed under YA contemporary books that had me giggling out loud. Following an insecure Korean-American adoptee and her meddlesome family, this debut novel immediately won me over with chaotic family group chats, staged meet-cutes, and swoon-worthy dates. A new favorite and highly recommended! // Read my review
📚 You Are Here by Thich Nhat Hanh // In line with my goal to read more self-help and nonfiction this year, I immediately nabbed this title when it went on sale for $1.99. And I’m forever grateful for that impulsive decision because wow, this really had me contemplating on life and on what it means to be truly present. A simple yet profound read. Highly recommended! // Read my review
📚 Thronebreakers by Rebecca Coffindaffer // Darker and grittier than its first installment, Thronebreakers went above and beyond my expectations. It serves up the staple elements of YA sci-fi (e.g. teens toppling corrupt governments), but with refreshing depth and nuance. Had this duology been released while I was still in my Angsty Teen phase, I guarantee that this would’ve had been my whole personality. Highly recommended. // Read my review
📚 The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow // I’m generally not a fan of human-alien stories, much less budding romances between them. This was recommended by Julie, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Set against the backdrop of a fully invaded Earth, The Sound of Stars offers a moving story that tackles colonization, freedom, and self-expression. Recommended! // Read my review
📚 Last Tang Standing by Lauren Ho // Ah, here we are, the worst read of my month. With marketing pitching this as Crazy Rich Asians-esque, I was expecting some good, old-fashioned escapism. Instead, I got a literary train wreck with garbage characters and trashy jokes rooted in being as offensive as possible. I’d happily stab my leg instead of recommending this book to anyone. // Read my review
… AND THE OTHER BOOKS I’VE READ THIS MONTH.
– ON WHAT I WILL READ –
February will be a month full of smut and romances for me. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a series of book lists and recommendations throughout February. Mainly because I’m still embarrassingly rusty when it comes to blogging. And book lists are hard-to-curate but easy-to-create content.
At the time of this post, I have nearly 30 smutty titles in my TBR that I’m hoping to go through. (Probably not likely if I’m being completely honest.) And since I don’t want to spoil any potential content for the next month, here are the non-smutty books in my TBR for February!
MY MONTH IN MEDIA
While we’re on the topic of other media, I recently created a Letterboxd account to help me keep track of the films I’ve watched. Feel free to follow me on that space — but be warned that I have a questionable, if not outright shitty, taste in films.
– ON WHAT I WATCHED –
🎬 Tick, Tick… BOOM! (2021) // Prior to watching, my only knowledge of this film can be concisely summarized as Andrew Garfield and songs. And it was all the motivation I needed to press play. I was engrossed by Jon’s (played by Andrew) almost manic energy and unhealthy ambition of becoming a theater great. While much of the film felt exaggerated, I personally related to the restlessness and anxiety that come with the fear of time running out. A great watch for people in their late twenties who feel hopeless, disillusioned, and just exhausted (myself included).
🎬 Encanto (2021) // New favorite Disney film! This was everything I wanted Raya and the Last Dragon to be (but alas, Disney gave us watered-down Southeast Asia). From the soundtrack to the plot, Encanto felt like a breath of fresh, magical air while tackling serious issues, such as generational trauma. (Also, anyone who calls Abuela Madrigal a villain is not welcome in this space, thanks.)
🎬 Feel Good (2020-2021) // This is a Netflix series that I started a few days ago — mainly because it appeared under my “Lesbian TV and Shows” recommendations. I literally just finished the first season, and I might just binge the rest after writing this post. It’s so good! I adore the messiness and humor, and the way that the show portrays modern-day relationships. But above everything else, I love how unapologetically uncomfortable it gets, especially as we follow Mae’s struggle with addiction. Content/trigger warnings for substance abuse (alcohol and drugs), trauma, sexual harassment, homophobia, among others.
🎬 Eternals (2021) // With a star-studded cast (including my beloved Gemma Chan), my hopes for this film had been high. Unfortunately, it failed to live up to my expectations. It broke out of the usual Marvel mold, which was great. But I think that Eternals had the potential to be so much more, but sadly, it was hampered by really weak writing. Overall, meh.
🎬 Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) // The Marvel fangirl in me thrived off on the film’s blissfully abundant fanservice. But even I have to admit that fanservice and nostalgia aside, this film was absurd. In watching NWH, I’ve reached two crucial revelations: one, that my Marvel Era might be over (given that the recently released Marvel films have disappointed me in varying degrees); and two, Tom Holland is the worst Spider-Man. Probably an unpopular opinion, but I’m standing by it.
🎬 Cats (2019) // The only force of nature that prevented No Way Home from being the worst film I watched this month… is the fact that I was peer-pressured into watching Cats for the second time. Thank you, Kate and Klauds, for your unintended service.
MY MONTH IN BLOGGING
– ON WHAT I WROTE –
📝 How can bloggers develop a winning mindset for blogging? I shared some quick tips on shifting your thinking for 2022. This post might be particularly valuable for bloggers recovering from a hiatus!
📝 I also wrote about my 2022 intentions and resolutions — with a larger goal of reconnecting.
📝 What backlist books should you finally tackle this year? I shared 22 backlist titles that I hope to read before 2022 comes to a close.
📝 With so many exciting releases to look forward to, some upcoming gems tend to fall through the cracks. Check out my blog post on 2022 book releases that may have missed your radar!
– ON WHAT I SHARED ON SOCIAL MEDIA –
🔔 After long and careful deliberation, I released the official shutdown announcement of Caffeine Book Tours. This was an inevitable decision, and I’m relieved to have finally done it.
🔔 I successfully traded a cookie for an ARC of Foul Lady Fortune. (Not clickbait! 😉)
🔔 Out of boredom, I launched an informal study, which concretely proves that I’m the most famous Shealea worldwide. Or at least, according to Google’s search engine. 😂
🔔 And last but not least, I’ve reached the pinnacle of my book blogging career: getting paid to read A Court of Thorns and Roses. ✨
– ON WHAT I FOUND INTERESTING ONLINE –
📌 Kate prepared a comprehensive list of 2022 Filipino-authored book releases that you definitely need to check out.
📌 For fellow language enthusiasts, Fadwa shared 6 language-learning tips that actually work.
📌 Looking for something to look forward to? Kal put together a great list of anticipated book releases, which come out in February 2022.
📌 Still looking for ways to spice up your reading? Check out the Sunnybook Farm 2022 Reading Challenge, which is hosted by Ena.
📌 If you’ve been wanting to diversify your reading in terms of genre, Malka wrote a few helpful tips on breaking into new genres.
EVERYTHING ELSE IN A NUTSHELL
– ON LOOKING BACK –
January felt like six weeks instead of four. It definitely dragged. But at the same time, I also felt that I wasn’t able to squeeze enough ✨ productivity ✨ into those long weeks. And while a teensy tiny part of my brain is upset, the larger part of me is pleasantly unbothered. As someone whose self-worth is oftentimes tied to productivity and purpose, this is a win for me. Even if, to some extent, it still feels like a loss.
All of this is to say that unlearning can sometimes take a lifetime, and more importantly, it’s a choice that we need to keep taking. I know that on some days, I’ll slip up and fall back into self-destructive patterns. And I shouldn’t resent myself for making that mistake. Because a crucial part of unlearning and getting better is simply hanging in there, in spite of the slip-ups. But as per usual, I digress.
I tried my best not to put too much pressure on myself. As I wanted January to be a time for me to regain my footing, both online and offline. Having made big decisions (i.e. shutting down Caffeine Book Tours and reviving this blog), there was definitely an adjustment on my end. And if I’m being honest, I’m still trying to figure out how I can accommodate a work-life-blogging balance this year.
Still, amidst the chaos of everything, here are several things that I’m incredibly grateful for:
🌷 I started my 2022 with a staycation trip in Farm Ridge, Nueva Ecija. The winds were oftentimes vicious (especially on my hair!), but the vibes were immaculate. Slowing down was such a welcome, much-needed change of pace. Especially after the hustle and bustle of the holidays. It was genuinely the calmest I’ve felt in a very, very long time. 🥰
🌷 I managed to write four blog posts this month, which is fewer than my target goal but still worth celebrating! I also have my content planned out until March, so um yay??? 🥳
🌷 I received a short yet sweet email from a librarian, thanking me for my work, and I sobbed. Book blogging is such a thankless job. It was touching to be reminded of how I started and why I continue to do what I do.
🌷 Not to sound like a boring adult, but I’m happy to share that I now have life insurance plans set in place (😭). Financial stability should not be taken lightly, and I’m exceedingly grateful to afford the privilege of protecting myself, and to an extent, my family. With the threat of the pandemic still looming over our heads and the general socioeconomic instability that we are presently facing, having these protections does grant me some peace of mind.
🌷 For the first time in my woefully inept life, I made cookies without supervision! Oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips and walnuts, to be specific. My first two batches flopped (to no one’s surprise 😂). But the latter batches turned out great! My family confirmed that they tasted good. A personal culinary win for me!
🌷 I enrolled in a couple of free online courses on Coursera. One’s dedicated to project planning, while the other one is about career decisions. I’ll be honest. I’m already a little behind on deadlines. But is it really learning if I’m not cramming my way through the lessons?
🌷 My fascination with k-pop weirdly died down in the last quarter of 2021. I think it’s weird because many groups were releasing great content, especially around the holidays. I just felt strangely disconnected from all the excitement. But anyway, I’m thrilled to report that my love for the k-pop genre has been renewed — all thanks to Pentagon’s latest title track, Feelin’ Like. Everyone, say thank you to Yanan and Yuto and their arms. 😂
– ON MOVING FORWARD –
February is shaping up to have a faster pace than January. I’m both excited and intimidated by what’s to come. But I think it’s a totally normal, perfectly understandable feeling to have. Especially since I’m anticipating a larger workload in my day job.
With that, I hope to take things day by day, making sure that I don’t over-exert myself. And of course, being kinder and more compassionate towards myself, which can admittedly be difficult at times! It really does take a lot of practice.
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I’d love to hear from you!
🌻 How was your January? And what are your plans for February?
🌻 What kind of content would you like to see more of on this blog?
🌻 Now that I’ve mentioned my struggles, what are your tips to maintaining a healthy work-life-blogging balance? (Especially for fellow corporate worker ants such as myself!)