Monday, February 29, 2016

I've Been Thinking...

I've been thinking lately... Maybe it's time for me to call it quits in blogging.

Not only have I not been posting at all, the more time I spend away from blogging and recently, even reading and commenting on other blogs and interacting with other bloggers, the less motivated I am to return. The more I feel like a failure. The more I feel sucked dry of ideas. The more I hate my blog.

These aren't unfamiliar feelings. I went through a similar period back in 2012 when I, all of a sudden, decided to pack up Random Reads and start a new book blog - the one you're reading right now. But this time around, these feelings FEEL more deeply rooted. And it's got me thinking about this blog but also...

How I'm so grateful for the conversations I've had with so many interesting people all around the world from different walks of life. How I love that I've been able to build friendships simply over our mutual love for books (and don't let anyone tell you internet friends aren't real - that is FALSE). How I'm so appreciative for being able to have this space to freely talk about my emotions and thoughts and have people who care enough to read and sometimes even chat with me about my thoughts after.

I am so so grateful for ALL OF THIS. For the entire book blogging community. I can't even imagine life now without my book blog, without this community. And so it's been difficult for the past few months, really, trying to deal with the idea that maybe this isn't for you anymore.

The truth is, though, I don't know. I don't know if blogging is still for me. But I also don't know if I'm ready to give it up. Even with all the pushing and pulling I've done with myself over the past few months to try, JUST TRY, to get a few more blog posts out each month and each time failing miserably, I still DON'T KNOW if I really, truly can call quits on this blog. Especially since I feel like I haven't given it my all. There's still so much I want to accomplish and I've barely even scraped the surface.

I feel like I've been going back and forth on this same question - is it time to stop blogging? - for the past four months now and each time, my answer is as unsure as the last. And while I still can't say with certainty what the future holds, I think the time I've taken off has really given me space to sit back and reflect. This week, I started checking my Feedly again. I started commenting on blogs again and interacting with other bloggers on Twitter more. And today, I'm writing this post.

I know better now than to promise anything as more often than not, my promises - at least in regards to this blog - go unfulfilled so I'm not going to promise. But can I be at least a little hopeful? Even though I've been hopeful each time I've raised this exact same topic in the past but it feels more genuine this time. And I know this has been a super melodramatic pile of WORD POO but I just needed to get my thoughts out somewhere. And where else but my blog?

Maybe this will be the start of something new.

See you guys around :)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Revelling in Being Busy

random tidbits from my life.

Hi guys, it's Annie (and this is the second post of 2016, woo!). Since I haven't really made any progress on the posts I have planned for this month, I thought I'd write a more casual post so as to not leave this blog deserted. Better to have something than nothing, right? One of my resolutions this year was to blog more and I am DETERMINED to achieve this resolution no matter what. Last year was a shitty year for blogging so I want this year to be better.

January has always been one of my favourite months simply because I love the feeling of possibility and not knowing and also anticipation. I love sitting down and writing down my goals and resolutions, reflecting on the past year and thinking of all the endless things I could achieve in the new year. Januarys just make me so happy and this January (even though we're 9 days in but knock on wood, hopefully nothing awful happens) has been no different.

I mean, nothing really EXTRAORDINARY has happened but I feel like my outlook and mental state has improved that my life, even in all of its mundanity, feels exciting and new and cool. Take school, for example. Even though I've only been back for a week, my life has already gone from 0 to 100 and while there have been a few rough patches, in general, I've felt more excited to go to school and learn than ever before. Of course, I don't necessarily love having to get up before 12 but I do like having my days structured for me and interacting with others and learning. I think there's something to be said about the joy of being busy. Like truly. I love lazing around doing nothing as much as the next person does - probably even more honestly - but lately I've also discovered how great it feels to be productive and kick ass every day.

And here I have to give a shout out to the few things that have kept me sane through all of the chaos of the past week because as much I've enjoyed the business of my life lately, it can also get hectic so these are the things that have helped me stay on track and keep my shit together:
  • my bullet journal. I started bullet journalling last May and have been doing it on and off since then. This month is maybe really the first time I've actually done it consistently every single day and it helps me so much. I've finally decided on a layout that works for me and it has been a lifesaver for the past week. I love waking up in the morning and planning out the tasks I need to do and then crossing off those tasks throughout the day. (PS. not sure if there is interest for this but I have been thinking of writing a bullet journal post, as I know a lot of my bloggy friends have taken it up and a bunch of others are starting. Maybe something to look forward to later this month or next?)
  • flat tomato. This is an app that follows the Pomodoro method of studying which if you don't know is basically when you study in 25 minute segments (studies have shown that after we are more focused in short spurts rather than a large chunk of time and somewhere around the 25 minute mark, our focus wavers) and then take a break for five minutes after each segment. After 4 segments or pomodoros, you take a longer 15 minute break. I have major problems with distraction and focus and I find this method works super well for me so give it a shot! There are a bunch of apps for tracking pomodoros but I find that Flat Tomato is the best I've come across so far.
  • spotify. I've been using the heck out of my Spotify lately for taking out some of the monotony of homework, for having a little dance break or just to relax. Some current favourite songs: American Money by B├śRNS, White Iverson by Post Malone, If I Ever Feel Better by Phoenix, Red Eyes by The War on Drugs, Devil In Me by Anderson East (also might make an Annie's Ultimate Playlist post soon because I haven't done those in a while!)
  • youtube videos. I've been watching Youtube videos again like crazy. I watch while doing my math homework or before bed as a way to unwind. No commitment (unlike television shows which I've basically completely given up on because I really don't have the tenacity to stick to a television show right now) and short enough for my very finnicky attention span.
  • twitter, snapchat, pinterest, instagram, tumblr, messenger. Social media has given me a much needed break this week whenever I've needed it whether it's during my pomodoro breaks or just in general when I feel a bit stressed and need to take a step back. Messenger, Twitter, Snapchat are apps I use to talk to my friends which of course, always makes me happy and destresses me and Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest I use mostly to inspire me and calm me with the beautiful and VERY aesthetic pictures.
  • human interaction! Very important obviously to have human interaction and talking with my friends, family, stuffed rabbit Beatrice, etc have been really helpful for me. 
  • shower time + bedtime. Probably my two favourite times of the day.
There is a downside to being back at school and even though I didn't want to mention this, I HAVE TO: my reading has very rapidly gone from avid to nonexistent which makes me sad. Any one have tips on how to counteract this? Because I think I finally have a handle on how to blog more consistently while my reading has pooped. The only book I'm reading right now (and at a snail's pace) is Frankenstein which is for English. TELL ME HOW YOU SUPER BLOGGERS DO IT. How do you read and blog and school and work and extracurricular and other interests at the same time??

today's post was a little more on the casual (and not book-related) side because my planned posts have not been completed yet. hopefully you guys enjoyed this! i'm really trying to post more so fingers crossed, let's see how my goal pans out. in the comments, tell me what tools you use to help you when your life gets busy and tips for a very sad reader right now.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The 2016 Challenge Masterlist

I've been doing reading challenges for the past two years and while my progress always starts petering out towards the latter half of the year, I do find I really enjoy partaking in challenges. And when my reading starts to lag, as it is BOUND to happen throughout the year, challenges are a great way to ignite my excitement and eagerness to read once again!

I'm generally very lax about my challenges in the sense that I never make lists of books to read specifically for each challenge. I pick the books I want to read like always, without much more thought than this is what is available right now and what I am in the mood for, and if it counted to one or more of my challenges, BONUS but if it didn't, I didn't really stress about reaching my goal. Mostly, I used challenges as soft guidelines to motivate me to not only read more but also read more diversely and that has worked and also not worked in the past. This year, I'm planning on taking a similar approach but I do want to set some more concrete goals for myself. Nothing too crazy but for example, instead of saying "I just want to try for as many as possible like maybe book x, y, z" I'm going for something like "I am planning on reading 10 books for this challenge and my list of prospective books are book x, y, z" this year. I've only picked 5 books for each challenge for now just to give myself a starting point but will probably add more depending on how the challenges go! Hopefully, if I have a clear vision of what I want to achieve, it will increase my motivation to complete these challenges. But also at the same time, I am okay not completing these challenges or reaching my goal for all of them because the only thing I really want out of this is to have fun and branch out with my reading? I don't know, I am just a whole bunch of contradictions and paradoxes always. I feel like it is a little like cheating to sign up for these challenges and then not really participate with all the giveaways and reviews and see the challenge through but also I just want it to be chill???

ANYWAY. Here we go, another long list of challenges I may or may not stick to. But since it's (almost) another year and another fresh blank slate, I'm going to err on the more positive side. 2016 has just started, it's definitely way too early for cynicism and skepticism, right? SO YES, I will CRUSH these challenges. CONGRATS ANNIE IN ADVANCE.

Also, if you want to follow my progress throughout the year, check my Challenges page where I will be posting updates!

2016 challenges.

The 2016 TBR Pile Reading Challenge

Idea: To read as many books in your TBR pile as possible!
Goal: I am aiming for the second level: 11-20, A Friendly Hug. I feel like that's a good number and should be achievable. I probably read more than 20 books off my TBR this year but one thing I've learned in life is to aim low so you always come on top when you (inevitably) exceed your goal! Also random but I just realized I can't read any 2016 books on my TBR for this challenge? I don't think this stipulation makes a difference to me as I probably didn't read very many 2015 books on my TBR this year but still *whispers* I don't think I like that limitation so I'm probably going to be sneaky and cheat and count any 2016 books on my TBR towards this challenge too. I mean, I'm not going to enter any giveaways so it doesn't really matter, right??
Books to Read?: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent, The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace (plus a billion more but these are mostly books I already own that I REALLY need to get to ASAP)

The 2016 Debut Author Challenge

Idea: To read books from 2016 debut YA authors
Goal: I don't know the exact number but I know my count for last year was awful (not surprised if it is under 3 honestly). I am just not good at reading new releases in general, not to mention debuts! So for this challenge, I'm going to aim for 5 books. I know this probably seems really stupidly low but I think it is a reasonable goal for someone who really doesn't read debuts at all.
Books to Read?: The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye, The Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright, Summer of Sloane by Erin L. Schneider, Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch, This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

The 2016 Diverse Reads Book Challenge

Idea: To read books that are diverse (represent different demographics and cultures, etc)
Goal: I'm going to go with 7 books! There aren't any levels for this challenge either and I think 7 is a good number for me to aim at. Like if I read 70 books (which has been my average over the past few years), 7 books would be 10% of the total number of books I would read which is not bad for someone who - and I am so ashamed to admit this - definitely doesn't read very diversely at all. But I really want to make an effort to change that and hopefully this challenge will help me do so!
Books to Read?: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, Simon VS. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth, Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

The Reread Challenge

Idea: To take the time to go back and reread some older books!
Goal: Though I didn't end up rereading the two series I had planned on rereading this year for this challenge (Harry Potter and Anne of Green Gables), I reread basically every single OTHER series and my total rereads by the end of 2015 is somewhere around the 20 range? WHICH IS CRAZY, definitely way more than I was anticipating! So I would definitely say I CRUSHED this challenge last year and exceeded my expectations. Keeping that in mind, I'm going to go into 2016 with a goal of 10 books. 2015 was a great year for the reread - I was just in the MOOD for revisiting some old faves - but I'm not sure what 2016 is going to be like for my reading so I feel like 10 is an achievable goal whether I'm still in the rereading mood like 2015 or am craving for new books.
Books to Read?: The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants series by Ann Brashares, Magic in Manhattan series by Sarah Mlynowski, Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series by Louise Rennison, the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, the Cherub series by Robert Muchamore, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Flights of Fantasy Challenge

Idea: To give fantasy books some love by reading as many as you want!
Goal: I read 13 fantasy books last year but the majority of them are probably considered, like, BORDERLINE fantasy. Like it could be but barely? (I don't know, I go off how Goodreads classifies each book because I am too indecisive to categorize them myself). I'm predominantly a contemporary reader but I have enjoyed the fantasy books I've read although honestly, it's like PULLING TEETH to get me to read fantasy and any fantasy book I read is after very long consideration. But I want to get into fantasy! So I'm aiming for 10 fantasy books this year. LET'S SEE IF I CAN DO IT?
Books to Read?: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas (because yes, I STILL HAVEN'T READ IT), Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (I want to start the series again!), Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

The Backlist Books Challenge

Idea: To spread some love to backlist books (published before 2015) that might be forgotten with new releases pouring in every day
Goal: I predominantly read backlist books because I am terrible at keeping up with new releases so I don't bother trying. But I'm not exactly sure how many of the backlist books I read this year were from 2013 and before? I feel like in terms of my backlist reading, I still pick up books that are fairly recent like in the past year or so. I did have a lot of rereads this year so that probably boosts this year's number to quite a bit. I'm guessing somewhere in the 30 range? Maybe 40? For this challenge though, I'm going to go for 25, to be on the safe side in case I set something too hopelessly high. And 25 feels like a good number, you know?
Books to Read?: Audrey, Wait by Robin Benway, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Even in Paradise by Chelsea Philpot, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick, Pivot Point by Kasie West

The Contemporary Romance Challenge

Idea: To read as many contemporary romances as possible (either YA, NA or adult)
Goal: Contemporary romance is probably my favourite genre and would be my most read genre if I didn't feel like I'd already read every single (YA) contemporary romance under the sun so I know I would CRUSH this challenge without even making an effort to do so because I love contemporary romances! So I'm going to be a little ambitious with this one and aim for 16-20 books (aka 3rd base). The only reason I'm not aiming for 21+ is because I go off of Goodreads' classifications and not all books I consider to be contemporary romances are considered to be so on Goodreads and like, I don't know... my genre categorization is just really wonky. It makes no sense. But anyway THAT'S why I'm not aiming for 21+ (also keeping expectations low, you know). 
Books to Read?: Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland, The Trouble with Destiny by Lauren Morrill, A Match Made in High School by Kristin Walker, Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally, One of the Guys by Lisa Adlin

The Contemporary Challenge

Idea: To read as many YA contempoarry novels as possible 
Goal: I don't really need any more motivation to read contemporary but I'm still so excited for this challenge. Maybe because I know this is a challenge I'm going to pass with flying colours and it feels good to know that if all else fails and goes to shit, at the very least, I'll be able to proudly say I finished this challenge (unless 2016 sees me totally ditch contemporary and turn to fantasy instead? Which is unlikely but a possibility?). I'm aiming for 26+ books (the rose level). CAN I DO IT? (Yes, probably, I read 41 contemporary novels in 2015)
Books to Read?: I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella, I Was Here by Gayle Forman, Emmy and Oliver by Robin Benway, Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle

The Retelling Challenge

Idea: To read retellings (fairytale retellings, myth retellings, etc)
Goal: I think I only read two books for this challenge last year so I'm setting my goal low this year as well. I'm aiming to read 1-4 books this year for this challenge (the "Enchanted Moura" level).
Books to Read?: Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen, Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge, Valiant by Sarah McGuire, Splintered by A.G. Howard

The 2016 Classics Challenge
Hosted by Pretty Books

Idea: To read classics (or books deemed as "classics)
Goal: Before I announce my goal, can I get a drum roll please...because I aiming to read two books for this challenge. Yes, two. I didn't do so well at this challenge at all last year and I'm awful at reading classics in general so I know it'll be off-putting for myself if I choose a number too high. Honestly, I'd consider it an accomplishment if I even read ONE classic of my own accord so if I can get to two this year (not counting school-mandated reads), I will consider it a huge success (but the fact that Roald Dahl books can count towards this challenge might help me reach my goal).
Books to Read?: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, Matilda by Roald Dahl, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

The 2016 Discussion Challenge

Idea: To encourage bloggers to write more discussion posts by participating in this challenge for motivation
Goal: So this is not a reading challenge but I participated in this last year and while I FAILED majorly, I'm excited to get back at this this year. I'm so terrible at writing discussion posts and while I think that's fine - everyone has their own niche and things they are good at and discussion posts just aren't what I enjoy writing / what I'm best at - I do know in the past, my discussion posts have been well-received and that people in general prefer to read discussions so I would like to write more! I'm aiming for one every month (12 discussion posts in total aka Discussion Dabbler), which was my goal last year. I failed at it in 2015 but hopefully, second time's the charm!

The 2016 Around the World Challenge
Hosted by All About Books

Idea: To visit as many places as possible through the books you read (ideally, places that are spread all around the world, not just concentrated in one area)
Goal: I'm not setting a particular numeral goal for this challenge because I think it works better if I just go about reading books like normal and see how many places I end up "visiting" through the books. I did this challenge last year and it worked really well for me (until I got too lazy to track my progress any more) so I'm excited to participate in this again! It was one of my favourite challenges last year!

That's about it for my 2016 Challenges masterlist! Some other challenges I'm participating in but didn't include here are the 2016 Goodreads Reading challenge (in which I'm aiming for 85 books), the 2016 Popsugar Reading Challenge, and The Girly Geek's 2016 Book Bingo Challenge. And of course, if you're interested in seeing my progress for these challenges as the year goes by, make sure to visit my Challenges page at the top of the page in the navigation bar. I also usually recap my monthly progress in my monthly recap posts!

now to you: what challenges are you participating in this year? let's cheer each other on! also hey, first post of the new year! here's to hoping 2016 goes well for all of you!