Chachic's Book Nook


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Amour et Florand: The Chocolat Awards

Isn’t it great when your friends read and love the same books that you do? I was thrilled when my very good friend Holly of Book Harbinger agreed to do a guest post for Amour et Florand.

Please give Holly a warm welcome to Amour et Florand, as she presents The Chocolat Awards!

BookHarbinger
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Hi, all! I’m excited to be here. When Chachic asked me to participate in her Amour et Florand week I didn’t even hesitate to respond with a resounding yes. I’m currently on hiatus from my own blog (Book Harbinger) but I couldn’t pass up a chance to talk about one of my favorite contemporary romance series, Amour et Chocolat. I started the series last summer and read everything of Florand’s that I could get my hands on, chocolate-related or not. And while it may have been the charming cover, the endearing title, or the cute premise of The Chocolate Thief that initially drew me in, I found the series to be a perfectly-balanced combination of sweet and bitter and decadence and depth. Now I return to the Chocolat novels just as much for the nuanced characters and the deftly written scenes as I do for the luxurious descriptions of chocolate and the smoking hot smexy times.

For my post today I chose to revisit the standout characters and scenes of the series and select awards for my favorites. Without further ado, I present The Chocolat Awards:

Amour et Chocolat

Favorite female protagonist: Jaime from The Chocolate Touch. I loved seeing her transform from broken to whole and fragile to strong both inside and out.

Favorite male protagonist: Dominique from The Chocolate Touch. I connected to his soft, at times socially awkward center and swooned over his bad boy, leather-wearing biker outer shell.

Favorite other character(s): Magalie’s aunts from The Chocolate Kiss. Tough and practical in their own ways, Aja and Genevieve compliment each other well and make a strong support team for Magalie.

Loveliest couple: No surprises here! – my two favorite people – Dominique and Jaime from The Chocolate Touch. They are vulnerable and scarred and perfect for saving one other.

Steamiest scene: So difficult to choose! One of the most memorable for me is Sylvain and Cade (The Chocolate Thief) on the stairs. You know you remember it…

Funniest scene: When Cade crashes Sylvain’s chocolate-making workshop in her bad sweats disguise. (The Chocolate Thief)

Most magical chocolate shop: No contest here – the magical window displays and bewitched chocolat chaud of La Maison des Sorcieres (The Witches’ House) in The Chocolate Kiss. The magic realism in this book was truly enchanting. I want to drink one of Magalie’s wish-filled cups of hot chocolate.

Most idyllic setting: The flowers, fountains, and sun of Provence in The Chocolate Rose. (Visiting southern France is on my bucket list, for sure!)

Most salivating French cuisine scene: When Sylvain and his girl “friend” and Cade happen to choose the same Parisian café for dinner in The Chocolate Thief.

Most romantic chocolate-tasting scene: When Jolie tastes Gabriel’s famed chocolate rose and finds something besides the rich ganache filling inside. (The Chocolate Rose)

Most sensual chocolate-making+more scene: Magalie and Philippe in the kitchen of La Maison des Sorcieres (The Chocolate Kiss)… and a myriad of others. *blushes*

Book most likely to induce you to run to your nearest patisserie as soon as possible: The Chocolate Kiss (For Philippe-like French macarons! If only I could find a decent one in my neck of the woods. Add ‘Visit Laduree’ to bucket list? Check.)

Do you agree or disagree with my selections? Who are your favorite Amour et Chocolat heroes and heroines? Which scenes are the sexiest or have the most delectable chocolate-tasting moments? I know that I overlooked some excellent ones. I can’t wait to relive your favorite moments of the series.

Thanks for having me, Chachic!

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Merci, Holly! It’s always nice to have you over here. Such a clever topic. I would have to think about what my selections for these awards will be.

Here are some Amour et Florand posts in other blogs:
pakwanstripes: Laura and the Five Senses
From Cover to Cover: Five Things I love About Laura Florand’s Books

Amour et Florand


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Amour et Florand: Guest Post from Michelle

Bonjour, Laura Florand fans! Yesterday, we started off Amour et Florand by sharing stories of how we discovered Laura’s books. I mentioned that I found out about the Amour et Chocolat books through my friend Michelle of See Michelle Read. So of course, she was one of the first people I invited to write a guest post for Amour et Florand. I’m so glad she said yes.

Give it up for Michelle!

See Michelle Read
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Ever since I discovered Laura Florand’s Amour et Chocolat books last year, I’ve tried to pinpoint why exactly they appeal so much to me as a reader. Since I refuse to believe they are part of a conspiracy concocted by the chocolate makers of the world to convince us to purchase more and more of their product, I’ve since come to the super-scientific conclusion that Ms. Florand’s books must rely on three specific points to achieve their full addictive properties. And just in case there is any doubt; this is a scholarly researched thesis. Scholarly! In the name of academia, I’ve spent hours pouring over these three books with only a few bars of Ghirardelli Intense Dark for sustenance. This is totally legitimate research and not the meanderings of some amateur coming out of a dark chocolate-induced hangover. So! Don your fluffy cardigans and horn-rimmed glasses, as I give you:

Michelle’s Super Scholarly Thesis on The Addictive Properties of The Amour et Chocolat Series

 

Paris. You know what they say: location, location, location and Laura Florand has nailed it with her setting. Most women with even a slightly functioning romance radar will agree that there is something about the City of Lights and the mere mention of falling in love in such a picturesque locale is enough to elicit a chorus of wistful sighs. Notwithstanding the romantic backdrop, consider the French penchant for fabulous food and you come to my next point…

Chocolate. Dear me. Chocolate. The connecting feature of all Ms. Florand’s novels! Whether you like milk, dark (did I mention how much I love dark?), caramel, with nuts/without, chocolate lovers can all attest to the magical powers contained therein (except for those white chocolate weirdos. Blech. I don’t think they should be allowed to call that waxy stuff chocolate). Chocolate is rich and indulgent and decadent…plus the whole melting at body temperature thing? Talk about a shoo-in for the most swoon-worthy dessert.

And where would the chocolate in Laura Florand’s books be without the handsome men who obsess work so hard to get their creations juuuust perfect? Which brings us (finally, you say) to my last point: The Dudes. If I had only one word to describe Ms. Florand’s chocolate obsessed heroes it would be Intense. 98% cacao special dark intense. Actually, I was gonna go with testosterone-filled-endearingly-adorable-chocolate-perfection-obsessed-dudes, but well, you get the idea. Slyvain, Philippe, Dominique…all three are solid alpha heroes who have no problem going after exactly what (and who) they want. And if they just happen to smell just like chocolate in the process? So much the better.

So there you have it. The secret formula to the Amour et Chocolate series: Paris, Chocolate, and The Dudes. A winning combination to be sure and I highly recommend you prove my hypothesis and read these books for yourself. And for purely academic purposes, just be sure to have your own stash of chocolate within arms reach — mine’s taken.
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Merci, Michelle! I agree with the reasons you included here: Paris, chocolate and the heroes. All of them contribute to making Laura’s books highly addictive.

Amour et Florand


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Amour et Florand: How did you discover Laura’s books?

Amour et Florand

Welcome to Amour et Florand, a blog event celebrating Laura Florand’s writing! I’m excited to be hosting this event, with guest posts from other Laura Florand fans throughout the week. If you’ve known me for a while then you’re probably aware of how enthusiastic I can get when it comes to the authors I love. I can’t stop talking about them and I keep pushing friends, both online and in real life, to read their books. Because I want more readers to pick up books written by favorite authors, I started hosting blog events to focus on their work. This is the first time I’ve featured a romance author in one of these events, which makes Amour et Florand special. Some of the other events that I’ve hosted were Queen’s Thief Week (about Megan Whalen Turner’s writing), Marchetta Madness (about Melina Marchetta) and EWein Special Ops (about Elizabeth Wein).

Let’s kick off Amour et Florand with stories of how we discovered Laura Florand’s books. I first found out about her last year. In March 2013, I traveled from Singapore to LA to attend a cousin’s wedding. While I was there, I was fortunate enough to get the chance to meet one of my long-time blogging buddies: Michelle of See Michelle Read. I will always be thankful that Michelle was willing to drive a couple of hours in order for us to finally meet in person.

withMichelle

Michelle and I at Barnes and Noble

We had lunch, dropped by a bookstore and of course, chatted about books. Michelle was raving about Laura Florand, this contemporary romance author who writes about chocolates and Paris. I was immediately curious because Michelle and I tend to have similar tastes in the books that we read. I take her recommendations seriously. I can still remember inquiring at the B&N branch we visited if they had copies of The Chocolate Thief and The Chocolate Kiss. I would have bought them right then and there if they were available but unfortunately, they weren’t. Good thing I was planning to order books online and I was able to include those two in my haul. I read The Chocolate Thief a few weeks later and that started my love affair with Laura Florand’s books. She became an auto-read author for me and I’ve read all of her books since then. I’ve also traveled to Paris and Aix-en-Provence last April and Laura’s books were constantly on my mind during the time we were there. It’s a good thing two of the friends I was with have read her books because I kept talking about them. Unfortunately, I didn’t encounter any handsome chocolatiers or perfumers.

On one hand, I feel lucky that I discovered her work early – she only had two books out at that time. But on the other hand, I envy those who will be able to have a nice glom of all her work. It’s a good thing there isn’t a long wait in between her books because I really can’t get enough of Laura’s writing. I’m really looking forward to her next release, Once Upon a Rose.

So that’s how I found out about Laura’s books, through the recommendation of a very good friend. What about the rest of you, how did you find out about Laura Florand’s books? Was it through a friend, a book blogger or just by browsing in a bookstore? What was the first Laura Florand book that you read? Share your stories! I would love to hear them. Let the Amour et Florand discussions begin. :) Feel free to leave a comment or please use the hashtag #AmouretFlorand on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram if you plan to talk about the event over there, just so we can all follow the posts.

Links to my reviews of Laura’s books:
All’s Fair in Love and Chocolate by Laura Florand
The Chocolate Thief
The Chocolate Kiss
The Chocolate Touch
The Chocolate Rose
(Novel Gossip discussion)
The Chocolate Temptation
Turning Up the Heat
A Rose in Winter

Snapshot from a Book:
The Chocolate Thief
The Chocolate Touch


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The Chocolate Temptation by Laura Florand

Apparently I’ve had a draft of a review for The Chocolate Temptation by Laura Florand sitting in my dashboard for the past few months. I dusted it off and tweaked it just in time for Amour et Florand this weekend. It’s always a pleasure to read a book by one of your favorite authors. The Chocolate Temptation is part of the Amour et Chocolat series and the books can be read out of order because they stand well enough on their own. However, the characters in The Chocolate Temptation were earlier featured in The Chocolate Heart so I think it would be a good idea to read the latter first. I was intrigued by Patrick in The Chocolate Heart so I’m delighted that he got his own book.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

The Chocolate TemptationShe hated him.
Patrick Chevalier. The charming, laid-back, golden second-in-command of the Paris pastry kitchen where Sarah worked as intern, who made everything she failed at seem so easy, and who could have every woman he winked at falling for him without even trying. She hated him, but she’d risked too much for this dream to give up on it and walk out just so he wouldn’t break her heart.

But he didn’t hate her.
Sarah Lin. Patrick’s serious, dark-haired American intern, who looked at him as if she could see right through him and wasn’t so impressed with what she saw. As her boss, he knew he should leave her alone. The same way he knew better than to risk his heart and gamble on love.

But he was never good at not going after what – or who – he wanted.

He could make magic out of sugar. But could he mold hate into love?

Out of all the Amour et Chocolat novels, The Chocolate Temptation stands out because one of the main characters is a female pastry chef. I know how male-dominated the industry is since I have a cousin abroad who works in that field, so it’s pretty interesting to get a better idea of what things are like from Sarah’s point of view. I think Sarah is a great character. I love how brave she is in terms of changing career paths. She’s an intelligent person, with an engineering degree from Caltech. She could have been living comfortably in the States while working as an engineer and yet she chooses to throw that away to pursue a culinary career. I admire her guts and her passion for what she feels is the right path for her. Patrick is also very passionate about being a pastry chef. He was once a foster child but he has risen to the top of the culinary ladder and is now one of the best pastry chefs in Paris. I liked Patrick’s easygoing nature and how he’s constantly being likened to a beach bum/surfer guy. What a contrast to the demanding and hectic workplace that they thrive in. He also has a terrific sense of humor, which he uses to relieve the pressure that everyone feels in their work environment. I also loved the dynamics between his relationship with Luc, especially after getting Luc’s POV from The Chocolate Heart.

Sarah thinks of herself as the lowly intern and she obviously looks up to Patrick as her mentor. Being attracted to each other, without knowing what the other person is feeling, gives their relationship tension that stretches out over the months of Sarah’s internship. They both feel that liking the other person is inappropriate – since Patrick is essentially one of Sarah’s bosses – and yet they can’t help feeling that way. I loved this bit of comparison of their romance to their creations:

“This thing between them was like this beautiful fairytale of a dessert constructed out of work and caution and risk and whimsy. Leaping and twirling, full of color and taste, a wrong breath could break it. And yet night after night, in the kitchens, they made such fragile magics and waiters got that fragility all the way to the tables they were meant for.”

Such a beautiful way of describing what began as a tentative romance that slowly developed into something deeper. Given how passionate they are about their work, it’s not surprising how strong their feelings are for each other. I’m not usually a fan of workplace romance but Laura Florand handles it so well. I had such a lovely time reading about Sarah and Patrick – from how they started getting to know each other outside the workplace to how much they’re willing to sacrifice to make the other person happy. At this point, I feel like I’m a broken record because I keep recommending Laura Florand’s books. But that’s only because they’re SO GOOD. Go forth and read them.


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Wildlife by Fiona Wood

I read Six Impossible Things years ago and I remember enjoying it but unfortunately, I couldn’t remember details of the story now. I would have loved to reread it prior to reading Wildlife but my copy is in Manila, I’m not even sure which friend has it at the moment. I have been looking forward to Wildlife ever since it first came out and I saw Aussie bloggers raving about it. I was able to get a copy last year when a friend from Australia passed by Singapore on his way to Manila. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to read it!

Wildlife in the wild

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Life? It’s simple: be true to yourself.
The tricky part is finding out exactly who you are…

In the holidays before the dreaded term at Crowthorne Grammar’s outdoor education camp two things out of the ordinary happened.
A picture of me was plastered all over a twenty-metre billboard.
And I kissed Ben Capaldi.

Boarding for a term in the wilderness, sixteen-year-old Sibylla expects the gruesome outdoor education program – but friendship complications, and love that goes wrong? They’re extra-curricula.

Enter Lou from Six Impossible Things – the reluctant new girl for this term in the great outdoors. Fragile behind an implacable mask, she is grieving a death that occurred almost a year ago. Despite herself, Lou becomes intrigued by the unfolding drama between her housemates Sibylla and Holly, and has to decide whether to end her self-imposed detachment and join the fray.

And as Sibylla confronts a tangle of betrayal, she needs to renegotiate everything she thought she knew about surviving in the wild.

Note to self: do not start reading books late at night if you have a feeling they’re going to be good. I spent a good chunk of one weeknight reading Wildlife and stayed up until 2:30am to finish it. Yes, I needed coffee to survive work the next day. Narrated from the points of view of two characters, Lou and Sibylla, this Aussie YA novel is an engaging read. My heart went out to Lou because of her loss and the grief that she’s still coming to terms with. It’s understandable how closed off she is at the start of the novel. Sibylla is a likeable character, very low-key and cares deeply for her friends. We didn’t get to see his POV but another character I really liked was genius and quirky Michael, who is also very loyal to his friends. I also found the setting refreshingly different, high school students spending a term out in the bush. It’s like a combination of boarding school and camp, away from the city and family homes. I can imagine how difficult it would be for a teenager to adjust to that kind of set-up. Constantly surrounded by others and absolutely no privacy. I find that living on such close quarters like that can either strengthen or destroy relationships. People can either become very comfortable or very annoyed with each other’s quirks. It was interesting to see how the dynamics between the characters changed as the book progressed.

I have to be honest, there was a point in the book when I got frustrated with Sibylla and how passive she is with her relationship and friendship. I was all, “C’mon girl, learn to push back a little.” But it’s not like she’s not aware of the situation she finds herself in because she definitely is. She knows that the balance is tilted in Holly’s favor when it comes to their friendship and she’s also aware of the nuances of dating a popular guy like Ben. It then occurred to me that Sibylla is still in the process of getting to know herself, she hasn’t fully settled into her own skin and as a result, she’s also not sure of how to react to and interact with those around her. It’s a very truthful and realistic portrayal of teenage life. Looking back on my own experiences, I have to admit that not all of the relationships and friendships that I’ve had were healthy or good for me but that’s just how life is. We all make mistakes and that’s how we learn and become better people. So even though I was initially annoyed by some situations, in hindsight, I loved the accurate descriptions of relationships (both romantic and platonic) in Wildlife. It’s all messy and complicated and confusing and feels very real. This is one of those books that I would gladly give to my teenage self because I know I will be able to relate to it. Wildlife reminded me of how brilliant Aussie YA is and I’m so glad I still have a couple of Aussie YA titles in my TBR pile. One of my favorite reads for this year, I recommend Wildlife to fans of realistic young adult fiction.

Other reviews:
Inkcrush
Chasing Words


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Open Road Summer

I have seen several rave reviews about Emery Lord’s debut novel Open Road Summer. Based on what I’ve heard, it seemed like a YA contemp with a sweet summer romance. It is eternally summer here in Singapore (and also in Manila) so I felt like I could read Open Road Summer anytime I was in the mood for it.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Open Road SummerAfter breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind… and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts.

But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence.

This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking.

Reading Open Road Summer was a case of the right book at the right time for me. I made the mistake of starting it late at night and stayed up until 2am to reach the halfway mark. I wanted to go on but I had to get some sleep to avoid being a zombie at work the next day. What I loved about this book is that it is in equal parts a story about two best friends who have supported and loved each other for years, and also a sweet summer romance. I loved how strong the friendship is between Reagan and Dee, they’ve been there for each other throughout all the problems that they’ve had. They also don’t let their relationships come between their friendship. It just feels like such an honest and true friendship between the two of them. They planned Dee’s summer tour as the ultimate road trip which will let them spend as much time together and hopefully will heal their broken hearts. Their friendship reminded me of how thankful I am to have good friends in my life. I may not have a specific best friend like Dee and Reagan but I have girl friends who help keep me sane.

Another aspect of Open Road Summer that I really enjoyed was the romance. Oh boy, such a good slow burn romance! Sparks flew the moment Reagan and Matt meet but they couldn’t act on the attraction for reasons that you will find out when you read the book. Given how much they’re thrown together because they’re traveling on the same tour, they try to get to know each other as friends instead. Reagan has made some bad decisions in her life but she’s choosing to follow a better path. Over the years, she’s learned to develop a prickly nature as a defense mechanism for all the issues that she’s faced. Matt is quite the opposite in the sense that he’s an easygoing, friendly guy who has had the support and love of his family his whole life. Reagan and Matt have led such different lives and yet they feel a connection right after they meet – not just attraction but the recognition that someone understands life the same way you do. Because they both have experiences with loss and grief and just had different ways of coping. Because of this, it felt like the author highlighted how important it is to have friendship as the foundation of a relationship.

The tour reminded me of summers back home in the Philippines, which usually means road trips and beach trips with friends. Taking it easy, hanging out with friends and doing what you love. For Dee and Matt, that means focusing on their music – performing and writing songs. While for Reagan, it’s photography and capturing moments using her camera. A little detail that I liked was that Reagan has a Diana camera, yay for lomo! I’m always a fan of characters who are passionate about the things that they love so I think it’s great that these three characters are actively pursuing their goals and dreams. As with any book where music is a big part, I wish there was a way to hear the songs included in the story. I think it would have been perfect if there was a playlist at the end of the book, like similar songs to the ones featured within it. Open Road Summer was such a good read for me, I’ve added it to my best of 2014 list. Recommended for fans of Saving June by Hannah Harrington, Such a Rush and Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols.

Inspired by Open Road Summer, I made a collage of past trips with girl friends

Inspired by Open Road Summer, I made a collage of past trips with girl friends

Other reviews:
Alexa Loves Books
The Perpetual Page-Turner
Ivy Book Bindings


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Top Ten Blogging Confessions

Top Ten Tuesday2

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish. I thought this week’s topic is such a fun one. I’m not sure if the things I’ve listed here can all be considered confessions or if they’re just random facts about me. In any case, I had fun coming up with this list and would be interested to know if any of you share my sentiments in any of these things.

1. I have ARC envy from time to time. I can’t help it, it’s hard to wait for books that you want to read right away. So when I see other bloggers sharing pictures or tweets of books that I’m dying to read, I get jealous. Then I have to remind myself that I have so many good books waiting to be read from my own stash.

2. I also get jealous of all the author and book-related events or conferences that are held in other countries. Even Manila has started getting more author events organized by major bookstores (e.g. Stephanie Perkins in the Philippines). If Megan Whalen Turner or Elizabeth Wein or Melina Marchetta ever have a Manila event, I’m definitely booking a flight to see them. Sigh, I can’t even remember the last time I attended a book event.

3. I want a new Kindle. My trusty Kindle Touch is just about to turn 2 years old and it’s still working fine so it wouldn’t be very practical to get a new one. I love that I’ve brought my Kindle with me on my travels (it’s been to Manila, Singapore, Los Angeles, Paris, Barcelona, Aix-en-Provence and Milan) but I really want a Kindle Paperwhite. Mostly for the convenience of having a lighted device.

A shot of my Kindle on the train on the way to Milan. I was reading Thorn by Intisar Khanani

A shot of my Kindle on the train on the way to Milan. I was reading Thorn by Intisar Khanani

4. I tend to ignore the paperbacks and hardcovers in my TBR pile. I’ve become really bad at reading the physical books that I have just because my Kindle is so easy to carry around in my purse. But I still enjoy buying and receiving physical books and I like the comfort of having a bookshelf full of books so now I have quite a number of unread titles. I really should make more of an effort to read these paperbacks and hardcovers, maybe alternate them with ebooks.

5. I measure the prices of things based on books. For example, if I’m considering buying something – let’s say a pretty necklace or a cute dress – and it’s more expensive that what I would usually spend on a thing like that, I would think to myself, “This is expensive, I could buy *insert number of books here* with this price.”

6. Whenever I buy a purse or handbag, I have to check and make sure that at least my Kindle or one book will be able to fit into it. Even if I don’t really get a chance to read during the day, I just feel more comfortable having a book with me.

7. My mood is affected by what I read in the sense that I’m in a good mood when I’m in the middle of (or just finished) a really good book. I also feel a bit lost when I’m not reading anything or if I’m not really enjoying what I’m reading.

8. I used to unfollow people on Twitter but now just use the mute button. I check my Twitter and Instagram feeds on a daily basis so I unfollow or mute people for several reasons: I may find their tweets or posts annoying or I’ve replied to their tweets but they’ve never responded – I mean I get when famous authors don’t respond but for fellow bloggers? I just feel like it’s not a good thing when I’m not able to have a conversation with that person.

9. I feel like I already spend a significant chunk of time on my blogging and yet it’s never enough. I spend a lot of my spare time on reading and blogging because they are my main hobbies. But even though I do that, I’m still behind on blogging in the sense that I don’t get to review all of the books that I read and I don’t get to post as often as I would like. Back when I had more time in my hands, I would also read and comment on all of the posts of the bloggers I follow but nowadays, I’m not able to do that anymore.

10. I don’t think I’ve ever really talked about what got me to start a book blog. Prior to starting my own book blog, I had a personal blog and was a lurker in LiveJournal communities. My friends kept telling me that I should review books because I enjoy reading so much, and I just kept saying that I’m a reader and not a writer. I was in awe of some of the book blogs that I discovered and felt that I wouldn’t be able to come up with something similar. But then I also started seeing other book blogs that were poorly maintained and realized that I could do better (I’m sorry if that sounds mean!) and that pushed me to start my own blog.

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