Best of 2017

Happy New Year! 😀 Hope your 2018 is off to a good start. I usually post my favorite books from the previous year as soon as the new year starts but I’ve been busy with a few post-holiday gatherings with friends so I haven’t had a chance to sit down and work on a post until now. You can check out my lists from previous years through these links: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. Eight years’ worth of favorite reads! That’s a lot.

I still haven’t been blogging as much as I would want to, most days I feel like logging into my laptop involves too much effort. I’m still online on a daily basis but it has been easier for me to constantly update the social networks that I have on my phone such as Litsy (username: Chachic), Twitter and Instagram. And I did something different with my best of 2017 reads this year: I did bookstagrams for all of them! With brief summaries of why I loved them. I felt like I didn’t get to talk about them that much so I wanted to highlight these titles before 2017 ended. Here are the speculative fiction reads I loved last year:

Clean Sweep Sweep in Peace One Fell Sweep

White Hot Wildfire

thick-as-thieves

Here are the contemporary romance novels I loved:

pretty face A Kiss in Lavender

Last but not the least, these are the romanceclass titles that stood out for me:

FLAIR You Out of Nowhere Better At Weddings Than You cover Feels Like Summer Another Word for Happy

In case you haven’t noticed, I also have a new blog banner designed by Filipino graphic artist Clarissa Ines. Learn more about the process here. I love how it gives my blog a fresh new look! I think it’s awesome that it’s a play on a book cover design, because Cla has designed locally published book covers.

ChachicsBookNook 2017 banner FINAL

Because I’m back in Manila, 2017 is also the year I became a lot more active in the romanceclass community. I’ve been posting a lot on Instagram and Twitter (and occasionally here on the blog) about the shenanigans I’ve been a part of. It’s been so much fun to have a sense of belonging in a local book community because I love books and I love interacting with people who love the same thing. You can see more of my romanceclass posts on the blog through this romanceclass tag.

That’s 2017 for me. Hope you guys enjoyed seeing the different direction that I took for posting my best of 2017 list. How was your 2017 reading year? What were your favorite reads from the past year? 🙂

New Blog Banner by Clarissa Ines

The last time my blog banner was updated was in 2013. As much as I loved the previous design, I wanted a fresh new look for the blog! So I contacted Filipino graphic artist Clarissa Ines to request for her to design artwork specifically for Chachic’s Book Nook. She has designed book covers for romanceclass titles in the past, some examples of which are:

Bucket List to Love Learning to Fall - Anvil Promdi Heart

The Kitchen When It Sizzles What About Today Tame The Kitten

Aren’t they pretty? She doesn’t just design book covers, she’s a romanceclass reader too! That was a pretty good sign that we’d get along well. 🙂 I love pretty things but unfortunately, I can only draw stick figures so I relied on Cla’s expertise in the design process. She gave me some sketches to start with, basically to choose what design to use as a base before moving forward:

chachic-sketches

I loved all of these! I had to stare at them for a long while before I could decide what to go for. Of course they’re all book-themed, but I feel like all of these designs would have worked well for my blog. Cla said the third one was actually based on my bookstagrams and flatlays. 😛 After seriously considering my options, I went with the second one because I love how it’s a throwback to Cla’s work in designing book covers. I gave her some details that I wanted to be included on the design and she got started on it. She does her own calligraphy and she mentioned that it will be included as part of the design, isn’t that awesome? This was the black and white digital artwork that I got as an update:

Cla Ines blog banner draft

No colors yet but even in just black and white, I think the design is already pretty. 😛 I told her that I would love to have a color scheme that we call “malamig sa mata” in Filipino which I think can roughly translate to cool colors that are pleasant to look at. I said I preferred blues and purples, and she really followed my suggestions! This was the next update, which is a colored version:

Cla Ines blog banner - draft color

I absolutely love the color scheme she used, and look at all the details in the book spine. I had mentioned earlier that I would love for the book cover to have the feel of an antique fairy tale book and I think Cla’ss design is spot-on. I can’t get over how beautifully detailed the book spine and cover edges are. I also asked for cake and coffee to be included because you probably all know by now that I equally love both food and books. 🙂 The genres in the book pile that the girl is sitting on are the genres that I mostly read (with a special shout out to romanceclass). This is close to the final design and she just needed to add in some textures and tweak a few details to get to this:

ChachicsBookNook 2017 banner FINAL

IT’S GORGEOUS! I’m so happy with the final outcome, I told Cla that I’ll probably use this blog banner until I decide to give up on WordPress (which isn’t too much of a strech, given how seldom I blog nowadays :P), and I can also use variations of the design in all my other social media accounts. As a bonus, she sent me the full book cover design that she used as the base before cropping and tilting it:

Cla Ines blog banner - book spread

It was a real pleasure working with Cla because she’s super accommodating, she really paid attention to my requests and incorporated them into the design. If you need to commission graphic art, then I highly recommend that you reach out to Cla because I’m sure she’ll do an amazing job like she did with my banner. THANK YOU SO MUCH, Cla! You are the best. 😀

YAY, now my blog looks amazing! I hope this encourages me to write even more posts for this blog. 🙂 What do you guys think of this new blog banner? Would love to hear from you, and I’m sure Cla will also appreciate getting some feedback.

Sense of Belonging

My smoked duck salad dinner while working one evening

My smoked duck salad dinner while working one evening

It has been a couple of months since I made major changes in real life and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since then. When I first moved to Singapore back in 2012, I had a very hard time adjusting to living in a different country for the first time in my life and being away from family and friends. It was one of the most difficult experiences that I’ve been through but I have no regrets because I’ve learned a lot, and hopefully, I’ve also grown both on a personal and professional level. When I made the transition to a new job a few months ago, I thought it would be easy to settle into this role. I figured that I’ve adjusted well enough to living in Singapore, and my new job is in the same industry as my previous one. I should have expected that in life, anything new would required an adjustment period! I have been trying to understand why it hasn’t been easy, and I don’t think it’s because of the company, the role, or even my co-workers (everyone has been as polite and professional as they can be). I realized that I can’t really say that I’m happy or comfortable in my current role (yet) because I don’t feel like I belong. Kind of like my presence doesn’t matter because I’m not making a relevant contribution (yet), which leads to feeling insignificant and lonely. This reminded me of a passage from a book that I loved, Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer:

“I can’t be the only one faking it. I’m not the only lonely small-town girl drowning in this big city. I’m not the only refugee feeling invisible and alone. I’m not the only one who wants to scream, “NOTICE ME! I MATTER!” Maybe everyone is faking it. Maybe they’re just better at it than I am.”

I know I matter! And I hope that I would start feeling like I do matter professionally in a few more months. I’d like to think that every newbie feels weird and awkward in the first few months, and that will change as time passes. A physical place where I would always feel like I matter is back home in Manila because that is where I’m the most comfortable and where I always feel like I belong. Virtually, I definitely feel a sense of belonging in the book blogging community. I feel like I’ve carved out a niche for myself, and I’ve found people who not only enjoy reading as much as I do but also read the same type of books that I love. I’m definitely not a famous or big time book blogger but it makes me happy to know that there are people who enjoy having bookish discussions with me and there are people who ask me what I think about books before they decide whether to read it. I have way more posts than followers on Instagram but I have a lot of fun taking bookish pictures, and friends have mentioned that they like seeing what I come up with. I’ve had authors respond to tweets or blog posts or emails, and that’s something that never gets old. I find myself lucky that I can even consider some of them friends, because we’ve had enough interaction to get to know each other. I’ve met so many lovely people in this community, and I still keep meeting more! With everything that’s happened in real life, it hasn’t been easy to keep blogging, tweeting or bookstagramming but I will keep doing all of those for as long as I can because I would miss it too much if I stop. I would miss the sense of belonging, the camaraderie, the blog comments, and the book recommendations. While I’m a firm believer of keeping blogging fun and not forcing myself to write a review or a blog post if I don’t feel like doing so, I will do my best to make more of a conscious effort to be an active blogger. For now, I’m here to stay because this is where I matter.

Comments are like chocolate

Blog comments are like chocolate! Which is saying a lot given how much I love chocolate (dark chocolate in particular). I’ve had blog discussions about comments before, but I realized that my posts were in 2011 and 2012 so I thought it would be a good idea to revisit the topic again. I think it’s always fun to receive comments because hey, it’s a form of validation… someone is reading my post and is interested enough to say something about it! 🙂 I think commenting is great in the way that it encourages discussions and conversations with people who read the same kind of books that I do. And for me, that’s what makes blogging interesting. This is why I always reply to the comments that people make in my posts.

Comments are like chocolate

Or like potato chips covered in dark chocolate

Over the years, I’ve noticed that people’s commenting habits have changed. I don’t have any stats to prove it but I feel like I used to receive more comments in the earlier years of my blog. Now that could be due to a number of reasons like some of my blogging buddies going on hiatus. But I also cross-link my posts on Facebook and Twitter, and I’ve noticed that some people are more comfortable leaving a Facebook comment or a tweet rather than writing down a comment on an actual blog post. Totally understandable because it’s easier to do that, especially when you’re on your phone. I also do the same thing when I’m going through other people’s posts while I’m on the go. It also makes it easier for me to reply to someone when they do that, it’s just that it’s more difficult to keep track of the discussion when it isn’t being saved on the blog.

I know that some people tend to prefer to lurk, instead of writing comments. This is also something that I could relate to since I was a lurker before I started my own blog. There are also instances when you’ve read the post but you don’t feel like you have anything substantial to add so you skip leaving a comment. That happens to me too. But I hope visitors and followers of my blog feel like they can comment anytime, even with something random like just saying hi. 🙂

I also used to comment on other blogs a lot more. Back when I used Google Reader to keep track of blogs that I follow. Nowadays, I usually just leave comments when I have some time to check out the blogs I’m interested in, or to visit other blogs participating in a meme. If you ever come across a blog post that you think I’d be interested in, feel free to share a link so I can check it out.

I’m basically thinking out loud here, and sharing some of my thoughts about blog comments. What do you think about comments? Do you also enjoy receiving and replying to them?

BBAW: Keeping It Fresh

BBAW 2016 - Blogger Burnout

Today’s the last day of Book Blogger Appreciation Week (BBAW) and the prompt is how do bloggers keep things fresh to avoid blogger burnout. This is going to sound totally random but my favorite lip balm brand is Fresh and I just stopped by that store earlier today. And now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, back to the topic that I should be discussing. I think blogger burnout and reading slumps are pretty common, there’s really no way to predict when or how they will happen. I’ve been blogging since 2010 and over the years, I’ve seen how the book blogging community has changed. So many of the blogging buddies, who were newbies with me, have given up on their blogs because other priorities have popped up. Even WordPress has changed its features and layouts during the time I’ve been a blogger. While I’ve never seriously considered giving this up, there have been times when I felt kind of meh about my blog. So what do I do to avoid that? It’s real simple, I read and blog without any kind of pressure. I pick up books based on my mood, and I blog whenever I feel like it. I don’t force myself to read something that I don’t want to, and I definitely don’t put pressure on myself to write a post when I don’t feel like doing so. I read and blog because it’s fun for me. And I hope it keeps being fun for a long time.

I’ve said this before and I will probably keep saying it until I stop blogging: my blog is my happy place. Going back through old posts, I noticed that some of the things I said in one of my BBAW 2012 posts are still applicable today. So I’m going to end this post by reiterating what I said before. I shared a quote about reading and explained why I chose it:

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” ― James Baldwin

I love this quote because it talks about reading opening up your eyes and making you realize that you’re not alone – the same can be said for blogging. It was blogging that taught me that the things that I loved the most were the very things that connected me with readers all over the world. I feel like my blog keeps me grounded because I get to focus on something that I love. It helps me unwind at the end of the day. I have a feeling that I’ll be a lot more homesick and more than a little lonely if I didn’t have my blog.

What about you, how do you keep yourself motivated to blog?

How did you come up with your blog name?

what

This post was inspired by a similar discussion in my friend Sandy’s blog, Pirate Penguin Reads. I got her permission to also talk about how I named my blog because it’s an interesting topic for all bloggers.

I maintained a personal blog on LiveJournal for years and when I started focusing on more book-related topics, I figured it would be a good idea to move to a different platform and start a book blog. I love the layouts and designs of WordPress blogs, I think they look clean and clutter-free. Now I’m not very creative when it comes to naming things so I went ahead and signed up on WordPress with “Chachic” as my username. After that, I had to figure out a blog name that would include my name and would also be related to books. I wanted the URL to match the blog name because I didn’t want to confuse people. I thought about it for a while and even asked some friends if they had any bright ideas and it was actually a friend who suggested I should go for Chachic’s Book Nook because of how it rhymed. I liked how it sounded so I settled on that name.

Not a very exciting story, huh? If I could go back in time and choose a blog name again, I would do it prior to signing up on WordPress so I would have more flexibility in choosing a name. I would have probably chosen Throwing Inkpots as my blog name if that was the case. That’s what my Tumblr blog is called and it’s a shout out to Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series, one of my all-time favorite series. Actually, I just looked it up and it is possible for me to change my WordPress username but then I’ve had Chachic’s Book Nook since 2010 and that’s what people already know. It might create confusion if I change my blog name now (I have no problem changing blog banners though, which I did sometime in 2013).

Some samples of creative book blog names that I love:
The Book Smugglers
Angieville
SpecficRomantic
Inkcrush
Wear the Old Coat

How about the rest of you, care to share how you came up with your blog name?

One Less Lonely Person

blogging August 15 2014

The other day, my friends and I were talking about how it’s very difficult to adjust to living in another country, away from family and friends. Most Filipinos have very strong ties to family and friends so when we do move abroad to explore better job opportunities, more often than not, we get lonely and homesick. At least it’s easier to keep in touch because of messaging and calling apps nowadays. But we also talked about how important it is to have hobbies to keep ourselves busy. Of course, I brought up reading and blogging. My friends said it’s good that I’m able to do something that I love and I absolutely agree. I would be pretty lonely if I didn’t have reading and blogging to keep me busy.

In a blog post three years ago, I discussed how much reading is a part of my life so I won’t expand on that. I have also talked about how I love the book blogging community, how I think people are so warm and friendly and I feel like I’ve made some good friends over the years. I don’t mind talking about it again though. It may not seem obvious at this point in time because I’m not blogging as often as I want to and I don’t get as many comments as before but I still feel like reading and blogging are a big part of my life. It’s more than a hobby, in terms of how much thought, time and effort I put into it. It’s more like a lifestyle because I’m in constant conversation (through comments, Twitter, emails or even messaging apps) with blog friends about books. It’s not even as lucrative as other forms of blogging, like fashion or food where other bloggers can get sponsors through ads, but we keep doing it out of love for the written word.

Sometimes, my enthusiasm (or frustration) spills over to real life and I influence my friends to read the books that I love (or stay away from the ones I didn’t think were any good). I also have several friends who ask me for recommendations for themselves or for other people when they need ideas for giving books as gifts. My mom doesn’t really read my blog but it’s funny how she tells her friends that I’m a book blogger. There was also one time when I was telling her that I spend so much money buying books and she said that’s not really a bad thing, it’s better to spend money on books rather than harmful addictions.

I have to be honest and say that I really had a hard time adjusting to living in Singapore when I first moved two years ago. Actually, there are times when I feel like I’m working in Singapore but still living in Manila just because the latter is still home. But I’m very thankful with how reading and blogging has helped me. Reading affects my mood and I’m a lot happier when I just finished an amazing book. Same thing goes when something positive happens that is blog-related, like when I get a response from an author or when I win a giveaway. When I’ve had a bad day or when I’m worrying about something, I’ve said it before and I will keep saying it, I want to keep my blog a happy place. This is why I try to stay away from blog drama whenever possible. I’m an outgoing person but I also enjoy having alone time and I like how reading and blogging lets me do both. I can read by myself and then engage other readers in discussions whenever I feel like it. I can do that whenever and wherever I want to. Both are hobbies that have flexibility in that sense.

I just wanted to share these thoughts and also to thank everyone who has been part of my reading and blogging life so far. Maraming salamat!

May 2014 Recap

I didn’t have an April 2014 update because I was traveling and only managed to finish one book, Thorn, that month. I decided to write a review instead of making an update. I also reread A Rose in Winter by Laura Florand and was finally able to review it – it was one of my Christmas reads last year but I didn’t get to review it. Yay for posting more reviews! They may be shorter than some of the ones I used to write but hey, at least I’m no longer in a slump.

Moving on to my May 2014 update, these were titles that I read last month:

It Happened One Wedding by Julie James – Really enjoyed this one, review in draft mode.

Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane – Gritty, dark and bleak, this really isn’t my cup of tea but I wanted to give the series a try since my friend Maggie has been raving about it. I heard that the second book is a lot better than the first so I’ll probably try reading that as well to see if I want to keep going with the series.

Sun-Kissed by Laura Florand – I’m a Laura Florand fangirl so it’s not surprising that I really liked this even if it has a different feel from her other books – it features an older couple and it’s set in the States instead of France. I’m thinking of coming up with a post about this and Snow-Kissed, we’ll see how it goes.

Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart – Retro Friday review can be found here.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart – Review can be found here.

Dare to Resist by Laura Kaye – I read this prelude to the Wedding Dare series which includes Baiting The Maid Of Honor by Tessa Bailey. Quick and fun read, I liked that the heroine is a computer whiz and that she works in the same field as the hero. Also liked how the heroine’s favorite book plays an important role in the story.

A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty – Review in draft mode. I’m thinking of reviewing it together with the sequel, which I haven’t finished reading.

I think it was a pretty good month in terms of books read and reviews written. I hope it won’t take me months to finish the reviews that I have in draft mode. At least now that I’ve mentioned them here, there would be more of a push for me to finish them.

Last week, I also participated in ArmchairBEA 2014 and had a great time writing posts for the daily topics, posting Instagram pictures and commenting on posts. Here’s a wrap-up of what I did for the blog event, in case you want to check it out.

Recap of previous months:
January
February
March

#ArmchairBEA 2014: Author Interaction

ArmchairBEA 2014

Let’s talk interacting with authors IRL (in real life) or online. This is your opportunity to talk about your favorite author readings that you have attended. Or, you can feature your favorite author fan moment (i.e., an author sent you a tweet or commented on your blog). Maybe you even want to share how your interactions have changed since becoming a blogger or share your own tips that you have learned along the way when interacting with authors as a blogger.

I love this topic! Because as an avid reader, I’m a bigger fan of authors than celebrities or rock stars. I love that blogging has let me interact with authors both in real life and online. As a blogger, I’ve been constantly amazed at how friendly and approachable some authors are. Some of my favorite author moments are when they:

Reply to tweets, emails and blog posts – It always makes my day when an author replies to my tweets or emails or even comments on a blog post. Or when they retweet a review that I’ve written.

Write guest posts for my blog – I am always happy to host guest posts on the blog because I feel like it spices things up to have someone else share their thoughts in this space. Whenever I ask an author for a guest post and he or she says yes, I’m usually in a state of disbelief that someone who writes books for a living would be willing to write for my blog. I’m super thankful that they’re willing to do that.

Read books I recommended – During the rare times that an author picked up a book based on my recommendation, I felt that it was a huge compliment because they were willing to give a book that I liked a try.

Rose Under Fire US edition

Send me signed copies of books – The authors of the books I read don’t usually come to Singapore (or even to Manila back when I was based there) so I only have a handful of signed copies of books. I get really excited whenever I get a signed copy of a book because they’re not so easy to obtain. I feel like these signed copies are prized possessions!

Include me in the acknowledgments section of the book – I can count in one hand the number of times that this has happened and it’s such a lovely feeling to see your name in print like that.

It hasn’t happened yet and I don’t know if it ever will since I don’t think I write the kind of reviews that get quoted, but I would love to have a blurb of mine included in a book. What about the rest of you, care to share how you’ve interacted with authors as a book blogger?

Making the Move – Part II

When I first moved to Singapore a little less than two years ago, I did a write-up of the bookish aspects of the move. I’ve moved to two different flats since then, but there weren’t big changes involved in those so I didn’t feel the need to give an update. This time it’s different and you’ll find out why in a bit. Just to give an overview, property is insanely expensive in Singapore so rent is my biggest expense per month. Studio or one bedroom flats aren’t very common here so people tend to share flats. Ever since I moved here, I’ve always rented one furnished room, which includes a bed, a closet, a desk and a chair. The first two flats that I stayed at had three bedrooms while my current one has four.

My first problem in moving was how to transfer the books from one place to another. I thought I didn’t have that much stuff so I decided not to hire movers and just put all my things in a cab on moving day. I thought boxes filled with books would be too heavy for me to carry so I put my books in suitcases instead. I managed to fill one large and one small suitcase with books. I was a little surprised that I had so many books because I haven’t been buying a lot of paperbacks or hardcovers since I moved to Singapore because books are pretty expensive over here. The books that I have here are mostly books from Manila, my US trip last year and some that I’ve received as gifts or review copies.

I was pretty lucky that the previous two rooms that I rented before had bookshelves, so I didn’t have to worry about where to put my books. However, the room that I moved into doesn’t have bookshelves. I thought about just getting clear plastic boxes to store my books in but when I got to Ikea, I found out that they have some affordable bookshelves. Getting several plastic boxes would have cost just as much as one bookshelf so I decided to just get the latter. I ended up buying Trysil drawers (to keep sheets, towels and clothes in because surprise, surprise, I didn’t have enough closet space) and a Billy bookshelf. That was the first time I’ve ever bought furniture from Ikea because I have always been worried about accumulating too much stuff that it would be difficult for me to move around in Singapore or to move back to Manila. But hey, I needed storage space so I went ahead and bought these. Although I had minor difficulties in putting these furniture pieces together, I still thought it was a lot of fun:

Moving - Trysil and Billy

I was pretty happy when I was finally able to unpack my books:

Moving - suitcase to shelf

I chose just the right size of Billy for the number of books that I have:

Moving - filled bookshelf

Aside from the Ikea stuff, I am now also the proud owner of a used armchair. I’ve always wanted to have my own armchair because it seemed perfect for reading. So when I found out that the owners of the flat were selling a one-year-old armchair for less than half the original price, I went ahead and grabbed it. Ha, even if it’s cheaper than a brand-new one, this armchair cost more than both the bookshelf and the drawers. I’m making good use of it though – I’ve curled up to read on it and I’ve also fallen asleep while reclining.

Moving - armchair

As you can see, my reading corner gets a lot of natural light during the day. But on weekdays, I do most of my reading at night and the light in my room isn’t bright enough for reading. I bought a book light but it gives up on me after 30 minutes or so. I thought about buying a stand lamp but I think they’re quite pricey at around SGD60 (USD47, PHP2131). This is why I’ve considered buying a Kindle Paperwhite even though my Kindle Touch is still in good shape. I’ve heard rumors that there will be a new version of the Paperwhite that will be released this year so I’m thinking of just waiting for that. In the meantime, I’ll make do with the desk lamp that I have (I have to prop it up on my lap when I’m reading on the armchair).

Quite a lot of changes from my previous room with the light situation as the only big problem. I’m open to suggestions if any of you can think of a solution. Also feel free to share your own stories about moving from one place to another and how that affected your life as a reader or book blogger.

______________

Edited to add:

I forgot to include pictures of what the wall above my bookshelf and desk looks like. I taped some scrapbook sheets, gift wrappers and a calender of The Hobbit, which I received as a gift last year:

Moving - scrapbook sheet walls

Here’s a closer look at the scrapbook sheets because some of them are book-themed:

Moving - scrapbook sheets 1

Moving - scrapbook sheet 2

I love this clever play on periodic table elements.

I love this clever play on periodic table elements.

Last but not the least, here’s The Hobbit calendar:

Moving - The Hobbit calendar