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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ˜› 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. πŸ˜› 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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ˜€

YAY, now my blog looks amazing! I hope this encourages me to write even more posts for this blog. πŸ™‚ 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.

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Book Blogging Over the Years

Coffee in one hand, Kindle in the other.

A post shared by Chachic (@chachickenpie) on

I’ve been book blogging since 2010. That’s seven years of being active in the online book community. That’s longer than any romantic relationship that I’ve had and even longer than any of my work stints in each of the companies I’ve worked for. πŸ˜‚ I keep doing it not because I earn any money from it, but because it’s so much fun to interact with fellow book lovers and authors, to discuss books with people who get you. Over the years, I’ve tried to influence family and friends to read books and I’ve been successful with some of them… but they’re not book nerds like book bloggers are. There are also fellow book bloggers who have become wonderful friends, and some of those have become more than just “online” friendships. I’ve met some of them in person when I traveled abroad and even the ones I don’t think I’ll ever meet, I’ve been comfortable enough with them to share more than just book updates. In a previous post, I mentioned that I feel like I have a sense of belonging in the online book community because I feel like I’ve carved out a niche for myself. I will keep doing this as long as it keeps me happy. And what makes me happy and engaged and excited to talk about books has changed from when I first started.

When I first started blogging about books, most of the posts that I made and the interactions that I had were through my blog (this WordPress site right here). I used to blog daily then it became weekly then it became monthly. Now I’d be happy if I manage to publish one post every month. There was a time when I would feel guilty about this, but like I’ve said plenty of times before, I want to keep my bookish interactions fun and part of that is blogging when I feel like it. I used to think that the reason why I didn’t blog as much was because I was busy – with work, with chores, with my social life. But now I understand that it has increasingly become more difficult to open my laptop and sit down to write a post. I don’t know why this is, maybe because being on apps on a smartphone just makes things easier? Or maybe because opening up a laptop feels too much like work, and blogging is something that I don’t want to feel like work. So now I’ve learned to not be too hard on myself. My WordPress blog will always be here whenever I’m in the mood to type out a post. I will keep updating my yearly posts like best books I’ve read in the year or my favorite fictional couples. But for more stream of consciousness type of updates, I’m on Twitter and Litsy (username: Chachic) on a daily basis, and Instagram whenever I feel like updating it. I know social media apps are not everyone’s cup of tea so please feel free to comment on any of my posts or send me a direct message in any of the apps I mentioned or an email if you feel like just chatting. πŸ™‚

What about you, what are the things that you’ve done to keep blogging fun? Is it also easier for you to interact using bookish apps? Or do you prefer something more personal like sending an email or messaging directly?

Best of 2016

Happy New Year! πŸ˜€ I think we can all agree that 2016 was a difficult year on so many levels. There was so many things happening on an international scale, as well as in the Philippines (which still affects me a great deal even if I’m based in Singapore for work). On a personal front, I resigned from my previous job and started a new one. It hasn’t been smooth sailing and I’ve been struggling with having a sense of belonging. Of course, all of these have affected my reading and blogging life, which is why I haven’t been posting as much as I would want to. 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. Going forward, I think this will continue for a while. It’s just so much easier for me to check, update and reply on my phone. My laptop has been acting up and it’s been a pain to open it up and go online. Plus real life stuff happening has made everything harder. The struggle is real!

Anyway, I have a tradition of posting my favorite reads for the previous year whenever the new year rolls around, I’m a few days late but it’s still within the first week of 2017! You can check out my previous posts through these links: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. In no particular order, here are the books that I loved in 2016 (linked to my reviews if I have them):

a-darker-shade-of-magic a-gathering-of-shadows The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms the-broken-kingdoms

a-promise-of-fire magic-binds master-of-crows

Act Like It Summer Skin In the Middle of Somewhere Out of Nowhere

Amulet The Stonekeeper Monstress fresh-romance

It’s safe to say that I read more than I blogged in 2016. πŸ˜› That’s seven speculative fiction titles, four contemporary romance and three graphic novels. It’s funny because the easiest genre for me to get into is contemporary romance but it looks like the books that stand out more for me are fantasy titles. I think my sweet spot is fantasy with a well-written romance. In addition to these, if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you would know that I’ve been trying to read and promote books written by Filipino authors. I haven’t read that many of them this year but the ones I enjoyed reading have been:

Beginner's Guide - Love and Other Chemical Reactions Iris After the Incident

That’s 2016 for me. How was yours? What were your favorite reads from the past year? πŸ™‚

Meet up with Tina (Ana Tejano) in Singapore

In my last blog post, I mentioned that October kicked my butt and that’s why I haven’t been able to catch up on blogging. Looks like November is doing the same! But I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to set aside more time to write because I miss blogging. 😦 Let me kick things off with a quick update about my meet up yesterday with Tina a.k.a. Ana Tejano, who is in Singapore for a short trip. Tina and I have known each other for years – starting from when we were newbie Filipino book bloggers (she was blogging at I Like It Dog-Eared). I remember we were reading more YA back then and now I think both of us read more romance. We’ve also been part of various bookish groups/events in Manila like The Filipino Group in Goodreads and Filipino ReaderCon. And now she’s an author of #romanceclass novels! She writes under a pseudonym (Ana Tejano) and has already released several titles. I’m such a bad friend, I still haven’t had a chance to read her books. You guys know how it is – so many books, so little time. Anyway, I’m so glad we got to catch up one on one yesterday over tea time at Antoinette and a visit to Kinokuniya.

Here are the goodies that we had for tea time:

Β .
Β .

And here we are in front of Christmas tree, as well as with our book purchases from Kinokuniya (which we were able to get at 20% off yay):

With Tina in Singapore

With Tina in Singapore - Kinokuniya

We both bought romance graphic novels so of course, we had to take a selfie in the romance section of the bookstore. πŸ™‚ As always, I had a lot of fun hanging out with a bookish friend especially since it feels like I haven’t had a chance to catch up with Tina one on one in years.

It’s almost midnight on Sunday over here and I’m in denial again that the weekend is over. Will probably squeeze in some reading before bed. If you don’t see me here on WordPress, I’m always on Twitter, Instagram and Litsy (username: Chachic) because it’s a lot easier for me to update apps that I have on my smartphone. Which reminds me that I still need to write a blog post about Litsy to convince the rest of you to join me over there. πŸ˜›

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:

β€œI 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.

Tweedle Book Cafe on a Friday Night

I’m back in Singapore soil but still behind on blog posts so I have a few more Manila-related posts that will (hopefully) go up in the coming days. I’ve been meaning to visit Tweedle Book Cafe again after my initial visit last December. So when friends asked me last Friday where I wanted to meet for dinner, I suggested this place. You know you’re a book nerd when you bring your friends to a book cafe on a Friday night. Woohoo, reading party! I’ve been encouraging them to read more so I wanted them to experience a book cafe. πŸ™‚

Tweedle Book Cafe - May 2016 - long table

Dinner (TWG first edition tea, salpicao with egg and kimchi) and signed copies of Agay Llanera’s books:

Tweedle Book Cafe - May 2016 - dinner

Only Vintage Love is mine, given by Chris Mariano as a gift back when it was launched and recently signed by the author when I met her in person. I’ve yet to read it! The rest are copies I got for my friends Ena, Chuchay and Mich to read and share. These three have inherited and borrowed books from me before, and were also super excited to get signed books as Christmas gifts last year. I love it when real life overlaps with my book blogging life.

Here are #romanceclass books available at the cafe:

Tweedle Book Cafe - May 2016 - romanceclass

Delicious hot chocolate infused with hibiscus, made in Cebu by The Chocolate Chamber. Served in a pretty tea cup:

Tweedle Book Cafe - May 2016 - hot chocolate

Last but certainly not the least, I brought books that I wanted to pass on with me. Unread books are sad books so I’ve been passing on physical copies of my books because they just get neglected in Manila while I’m in Singapore. Some of these I’ve read, some I’m not planning to read anytime soon. Most of them have pages that have started foxing (getting brown spots) and yellowing because of heat and humidity, even when they’ve been stored in a bookshelf with a glass cover:

Foxing - donated books

I didn’t want them to waste away so I thought it would be better to pass them on. The upright ones on the left went to my friend Ena, the right-most stack went to my friend Chuchay and the two stacks in the middle were donated to the cafe. You can visit the cafe and read those books if you wanted to.

Tweedle Book Cafe - May 2016 - donated books

I think it was a Friday well spent. I was back in Tweedle a week later, but only to drop off more books to be donated. I passed by the cafe right before heading to the airport for my flight back to Singapore. This was the stash I donated:

Tweedle Book Cafe - May 2016 - more donated books

I’m glad book cafes are becoming more of a thing in Manila. They aren’t as common in Singapore but I believe that’s because Singapore has a pretty good public library system, something that the Philippines doesn’t have. Obviously I want these book cafes to flourish, which is why I will try to keep donating books whenever I can. πŸ™‚

Reading at the hair salon

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m currently on vacation in Manila. You’d think that because I’m on vacation, I’d have more time to blog. As always, I’m behind on posts! There are several things I want to blog about but I always feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to squeeze in some blogging time. So I thought I’d come up with a short, book-related update.

Earlier today I was at the hair salon getting a hair cut and treatment. These are services that I usually try to do whenever I’m in Manila because they’re way too expensive in Singapore. In my almost four years of being based in Singapore, I’ve never gotten a hair cut or treatment there. Same goes for my Filipino girl friends in Singapore. Usually when I go to the salon, I’d just bring my Kindle with me and read whatever I’m currently in the middle of. Or I’d go through the magazines provided by the salon. But since I brought my copy of Amulet, Vol. 1: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi all the way from Singapore, I thought I might as well bring it with me when I have a few hours to kill. What a great idea it was! This is such an engaging book and it’s super easy to get into. I was instantly absorbed and was able to read quite a huge chunk while I was waiting. It’s also easy to read in installments whenever I had to stop for them to rinse my hair. I will probably finish the book tonight and will try to look for copies of the sequels in local bookstores.

Amulet at the hair salon

The hair salon served coffee. Yay!

Note to self: bring more graphic novels with me whenever I have errands to run. What about you, what books do you usually bring with you when you know you’d have some time to kill?

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! πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚

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:

β€œYou 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?

Ten Goals/Resolutions For 2016

Top Ten Tuesday2

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today is the first TTT of the year! I did this topic last year and will be adding on some of my resolutions from before because I want to keep doing them this year. In no particular order, here are my blogging and reading goals for 2016:

Keep blogging without pressure. In order to keep blogging fun, I need to blog without pressure. No pressure to write posts or review books if I don’t have the time or if I’d rather do something else (like read or rest).

If I can manage to do so, visit more book cafes or indie bookstores. Because exploring bookish locations is fun. I might even donate books to one or two of the book cafes I’ve visited in Manila, maybe on my next trip home.

Tweedle Book Cafe - shelf

Tweedle Book Cafe

Read more Filipino fiction. I think I read a decent number of books written by Filipino authors last year but I want to do more of that this year. Also review more of them.

Read more speculative fiction. I’ve noticed that I have a tendency to dive into contemporary fiction rather than sci fi or fantasy because I feel like the former is easier to get into. But I do love spec fic! I just need to remind myself to read more of it from time to time.

Read more books from my TBR pile. I have so many books that I still haven’t read and I need to make more of a conscious effort to prioritize them.

Read more graphic novels. I’ve enjoyed a few graphic novels in 2015 and would like to discover more titles this year. The ones that I already have copies of are Halina Filipina, Mythspace, Rat Queens, The Wicked + The Divine, Ms. Marvel, This One Summer, Anya’s Ghost and American Born Chinese. Feel free to make suggestions if you have any!

To avoid clutter (since I’m only renting in Singapore), buy ebook editions instead of physical copies. Except for graphic novels or illustrated books.

Pass on physical copies of books that I don’t plan to reread. Again, this is to avoid generating clutter since I can’t afford to collect books when I don’t have a permanent residence. I’ve been doing a bit of this last year, even passing on some of my books from my Manila bookshelf whenever I fly home.

Don’t hesitate to DNF books. I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again, life is too short to read books we don’t like. But even so, I have a hard time DNF-ing books. I’m more likely to skim until the end. But why should I do that when I could read something else that I would like more?

Buy more bookish clothes. Because it makes me happy to wear a bookish outfit, and I also get to blog about it whenever I do so.

Chachic - ootd - book skirt 2

What about you, what are some of your goals and resolutions for the year? πŸ™‚