Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Blog Tour Review: Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
Published: February 6th, 2018
Publisher: Berkley
394 pages (eARC)
Genre: Contemporary women’s fiction/historical fiction
Acquired this book: From the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for honest consideration
Rating: 4 stars
Warning: May contain spoilers
GoodReads || Buy the book: Amazon US ~ CAN || Chapters || B&N}

After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity--and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution...

Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba's high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country's growing political unrest--until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary...

Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa's last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth.

Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba's tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she'll need the lessons of her grandmother's past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.

I’ve been a fan of Chanel Cleeton’s books since her debut I See London. After her Wild Aces trilogy, she became an auto-buy author for me. I was certain her newest book, Next Year in Havana, wouldn’t disappoint, and I was right. This story weaves together an alternating narrative between present day and late 1950s Cuba and tells the stories of Elisa Perez and her granddaughter Marisol Ferrera. It’s a story of love, sacrifice, hope, and perseverance.

As someone who was extremely close to her grandmother and still feels the loss of her almost seven years later, I connected to Marisol’s grief and her desire to find answers about Elisa. Both women were strong, tenacious, and learned so much throughout the course of the book.

I’ll admit, I knew little to nothing about Cuba and its history. It was fascinating, horrifying, and heartbreaking to learn about the struggles and oppression its people have faced and continue to face. At times I felt like I was reading about a post-apocalyptic, dystopian society, because it’s hard to believe a place like that could really exist outside fiction. That being said, I was deeply touched by the pride of the Cubans who lived in the country as well as those who had left, and those, like Marisol, who had always considered herself Cuban despite never stepping foot in the country until after her grandmother died. As heartbreaking and at times bittersweet as this story was, it was also full of so much hope.

Romantic and rich in detail, Next Year in Havana is a beautiful, compelling story that’s sure to surprise you and touch you. It’s certainly a story that will stick with me for a long time to come.


Originally from Florida, Chanel Cleeton grew up on stories of her family's exodus from Cuba following the events of the Cuban Revolution. Her passion for politics and history continued during her years spent studying in England where she earned a bachelor's degree in International Relations from Richmond, The American International University in London and a master's degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics & Political Science. Chanel also received her Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law. She loves to travel and has lived in the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia. 

Website || Facebook || Facebook Reader Group || Twitter || GoodReads || Instagram || Newsletter   

Learn more about Next Year in Havana including downloading the book club guide and more here

Add Beatriz Perez’s story When We Left Cuba on Goodreads 


Have you read Next Year in Havana? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Have you read any of Chanel's other books?

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Friday, February 2, 2018

January Recap & February Goals

I don’t typically believe in setting New Year’s resolutions. They seem like a set-up for failure. I read somewhere that a huge percentage of people give up their resolutions within the first few weeks, and only a tiny percent actually stick with them through the year. It’s not hard to believe. People want to make big changes in their lives, but don’t realize it takes commitment, a plan, and actionable steps. Or they realize it, but aren’t willing to work for it. After all, we do seem to live in a world of instant gratification and wanting things now.

That being said, when a new year rolls around, I can’t deny the pull of desire to attempt to create new habits and form fresh goals. I’m a goal setter by nature, so it makes sense for me to set yearly goals. To me, there are two keys to succeeding at my goals: 1) Being realistic, and 2) Breaking big goals into smaller, more manageable pieces. The less daunting they seem, the more likely I am to accomplish them, and I think that’s likely true for other people.

January was a month I’m extremely proud of. I accomplished most of my goals, and worked hard to form new daily habits.

What I accomplished in January:

  • I read 10 books (my goal was 8)
  • Daily habits: I started a habit tracker in my bullet journal so I could get into the habit of doing certain things every day. This has worked with varying degrees of success before, but in January there were very few squares left blank, which makes me happy. A couple of the things I succeeded at every single day were having breakfast and doing my Duolingo French lessons. This is the first time I’ve ever hit a 31-day streak on Duolingo!
  • A big thing I want to work at in 2018 is eating healthier (I have specific smaller goals for this, since ‘eat healthier’ is way too broad and vague and I think that’s part of why people don’t stick to it; it needs to be a lifestyle change if you’re really committed to it) and moving more. I ate more fruits and veggies in January than I did in the last several months combined. I’m not even kidding. I also made a conscious effort to reduce my sugar intake - less sweets, less sugar in my coffee, making sure to read labels to check for sugar content. I drank lots of water every single day, went 21 days without pop (considering I normally had pop almost every day, that’s huge for me), and cut back on alcohol. I also made a point to move every day and typically got at least half an hour of walking in, plus simply getting up from my desk and moving around more often. I didn’t set a number-related goal because I’ve done that too often and ended up disappointed, but I did lose almost 5 pounds and I’m thrilled with that.
  • My biggest goal was to write my Christmas novella, Christmas Wish. The other day, I thought I’d have to mark this as a ‘failure’ in my January goals. The story was going to be a standalone sequel to my 2017 Christmas novella, Mistletoe Kiss. I got thinking about it, and I realized in a way I did hit my technical goal. When I first started writing, it was meant to be a 20,000-ish word Christmas novella. I planned to release it in November with a cover similar to Mistletoe Kiss so people knew they were a standalone series. But then I got writing and the story took on a mind of its own, and after awhile, I knew it wasn’t meant to be a novella. Bridget’s story was quick and sweet and fluffy - something to read during the holidays as a pick-me-up or to help people get into the holiday spirit. I thought Ivy’s story would have a similar feeling, but Ivy had different ideas and she took things in unexpected directions. I love when that happens, so I’m not complaining at all, especially since I’ve struggled with my writing for so long. I hit the 20,000-word mark on January 29th, so I technically reached my goal, even though Ivy’s story (now no longer ‘Christmas Wish’ and in need of a new title) isn’t finished. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and where the story is going, so I’ll definitely call this a win.

Overall, I feel like I smashed my January goals. I didn’t get every single thing accomplished I’d hoped to, and I had days where I was frustrated or disappointed in myself, but on the whole, I’m proud of the things I managed to do. I’m feeling motivated and positive, and I’m going to do my best to keep the momentum going in February.

Speaking of February...

February Goals

  • Continue with my daily goals of eating breakfast, Duolingo, lots of water, even less pop, making more conscious food decisions, upping my movement even more than January
  • Read 8 books
  • Finish writing Ivy’s story
  • Work on cover redesigns (this is a big February goal, but for now I’m keeping it vague here...more to come!)

I’d also like to do a few things I’ve been saying forever I was going to do like yoga and meditation. I want to live a more conscious, mindful, purposeful life, and I feel like meditation especially would help me focus and clear my mind (which would be nice since my mind feels like it’s going eleventy billion miles an hour most of the time).

PS: If you saw my last post, in which I gushed about Helene Sula and pimped her Instagram for Success course, that course is still open for enrollment but only for a few more days. If you're looking for proven methods to improve your Instagram and want to learn ways to sell a product or service, make money through affiliates or sponsorships, or build an online community for any number of reasons, this course is definitely worth the money. You can check out my post with details and how I've benefited from the course here: The Instagram Game Changer: Helene Sula's Instagram for Success

How did you do with your goals in January? What are some of your goals for February?

You might also like:
  6 Self-Care Resolutions to Make a Priority in 2018
  Looking Ahead to 2018: My Word + Goals 
Why It’s Important to Take Pleasure in the Little Things

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Instagram Game Changer: Helene Sula's Instagram for Success

In the last year or so, I’ve talked a lot about how Instagram is my ‘place’. The bookstagram community especially feels like my home online. I love talking to like-minded people who share my love of books and often many of my other interests too. I’ve made friends from all over the world, and I feel truly blessed to have the opportunity to meet new people every day and make new friends and connections. I also have a ‘personal’ account where I talk about writing, blogging, travel, and basically anything else that takes my fancy.

One of my favourite Instagrammers is Helene Sula aka heleneinbetween. I was first attracted to her account by her beautiful, crisp photos and her witty, engaging captions. I liked that she was honest, open, and could always make me laugh. She has a pretty cool life - she lives abroad with her husband and two dogs, and travels regularly throughout Europe - and while she shares pictures and stories of her incredible adventures, she’s also honest about it not always being sunshine and roses, which I appreciate so much.

Something else I love about Helene is how much she wants to help other Instagrammers and bloggers. On her blog Helene in Between you’ll find a wealth of information about social media, along with posts on a variety of other topics. Last year when she offered her free Instagram for Success workshop, I couldn’t sign up fast enough. I loved getting tips from her on her blog and Insta, and I knew she’d go in depth with the workshop, which she did. At the end of the workshop, she had an offer for her paid Instagram course, Instagram for Success. My initial reaction was basically, ‘That’s cool, but she already gave all these great free tips and I can’t afford to pay for the course’ and I closed it out. Over the next few days, between reading testimonials and hearing Helene talk about it on Instagram, plus getting those ‘time is running out to sign up’ emails (which I usually just delete but kept opening each time), I started to see this was something I should invest in.

I went back and forth wondering if I was making the right decision. I wasn’t sure if the course was right for me, as an author, so I contacted Helene, told her about my Instagram accounts, and asked her straight up if she thought this would benefit me. After emailing back and forth a few times, I was inspired by Helene’s passion and commitment, and I purchased the course. I’ll admit, I wanted to vomit; as someone who rarely invests in herself (not to mention the cringe-worthy US-Canada conversion rate), I was nervous but also confident I’d made the right choice.

My followers as of July 26th, 2017 when I signed up:
sweetmarie_83: 1347
rambling_daydreamer: 113

My followers as of January 31st, 2018:
sweetmarie_83: 1714 (+367)
rambling_daydreamer: 254 (+141)

I know some people gain dozens or hundreds of followers by the day, so my numbers might not seem huge, but they’re huge to me. My followers hadn’t grown for weeks before signing up for Helene’s course, and I started to see a slow but steady growth after applying the methods I learned. Beyond the numbers, my engagement has increased, and I’ve made friends through the course I likely wouldn’t have met otherwise. I’ve built a community, and that’s worth more than all the followers in the world.

Is Instagram for Success right for you?
-Do you have a business, product, or course to promote?
-Do you have a blog you want to promote because your blog is a source of income and you want more traffic?
-Are you hoping to monetize your Instagram? Make money through affiliate sales, sponsorships, or brand partnerships?
-Do you simply want to build an online community of like-minded people and have no idea how to go about it?

If you fit into any of those categories, you will likely benefit from Instagram for Success. Part of my hesitation was wondering if it would benefit my author platform. Until this past November, I hadn’t published a book in two years, and I was worried people had forgotten about me or I’d become irrelevant. While I talked a bit about my writing and my new release Mistletoe Kiss here on the blog and on Facebook and Twitter, most of my promotional efforts went into Instagram. I used links to track where my book sales came from, and the majority of sales came from Instagram.

What you can expect from the course + how it's benefited me:
-Helene’s lessons come in the form of videos, PDFs, worksheets, and checklists.
-I’ve learned how to write more engaging captions. I used to get next to no comments on my pictures and now there are days when I have trouble keeping up with responses.

-You get access to Helene’s Instagram Unlocked ebook; this normally sells for $37 on her website. Related: Check out the Instagram Unlock ebook
-Once you pay, you get instant access and you have access to the course forever. You can binge-watch the videos Netflix style, or you can take the course at a slower pace. Any time Helene updates the course, you get all the new information (so for instance, last year’s course was just updated with all the videos that are new for this year’s course).
-The Facebook group. This members-only group is a place where you can ask questions, share your successes, and where Helene posts updated information, as well as threads where you can share your posts and gain engagement from members within the group (I’ve made several friends from these threads).
-Ways to beat the algorithm. How to rock Instagram stories. Help with hashtags.

-This is probably the biggest thing: I’ve learned to take better photos. I’ve discovered lighting and composition tricks, plus what I consider my Instagram game changer: Lightroom. Helene uses Lightroom to edit all her photos, and that’s how she’s created an instantly recognizable theme for her Instagram. The course includes her Lightroom presets, which she normally sells for $59 on her website. I currently only have the phone app so I haven’t used Helene’s presets yet (although I hope to get the full version for my computer eventually), but she’s done step-by-step tutorials that show you how to use Lightroom and make it work for you and your style. While all of Helene’s methods are phenomenal, and my numbers all around have risen, I attribute a lot of that to my photos being better quality because of Lightroom and her instruction on how to use it. I thought my photos were good before, but now I take a huge amount of pride in my feed. Related: Check out Helene's Lightroom presets

Helene is killing it on Instagram with 122K followers, so she clearly knows what she’s talking about. So many people covet their secrets to success, but not Helene; she wants to help others succeed the way she has. I’ve read tons of articles and blog posts by so-called experts and most of them say the same things, and they’re not all that helpful. Take great pics! Write great captions! Well, no shit Sherlock. *facepalm* ‘Tips’ like that are not even remotely helpful. Helene goes in depth with a wealth of knowledge based on research and proven methods.

If you’re ready to take the leap, invest in yourself, and build your Instagram empire, sign up for Instagram for Success now. Helene only offers this course once a year and the window to sign up is very small. 2017 was a strange year for me with a lot of ups and downs, but I can tell you one thing I’m glad I did was sign up for Instagram for Success.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask me. If you have specific questions for Helene, she’s easy to reach. Like I said, before I committed to the course, she answered my questions via email and just yesterday she answered a question I had. I hope to see you in the Instagram for Success Facebook group soon!

You might also like:
Instagram for Authors: Everything Authors Need to Know About Using Instagram
6 Mistakes Authors Make and How to Avoid Them
7 Things Every Author Should Have on Their Website 

Please note this post contains affiliate links. Any potential commission I make does not affect my opinions in any way.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

6 Self-Care Resolutions to Make a Priority in 2018

We’re about halfway through the first month of a new year, and I’m sure a lot of people are still thinking about - or perhaps rethinking - their new year’s resolutions. There’s something about a new year that seems like a clean slate. You have high hopes for the next 365 days and you want to make plans, set goals, and possibly turn over a new leaf. For many people, those resolutions don’t last longer than a few weeks, but there’s one thing I hope each of us can do and stick with in 2018: proper self-care.

By now, we all know the importance of self-care. It's important no matter who you are or what you do, but it's especially important for people with any sort of mental or physical ailment. I say this as someone with depression and anxiety, who's often hard on herself for either doing too much or not doing enough. There has to be a balance and it's crucial to find that balance. With that in mind, here are 6 self-care resolutions I've made for 2018, and I hope you'll adopt some or all of them for yourself and make them part of your routine and lifestyle.

Less screen time
I say this as someone who practically lives with a screen in front of her face. I’m either on my computer, on my phone, or using my Kindle. Toward the end of last year, I dealt with a bout of nasty chronic headaches that were partly caused by bright screens and eye strain. By reducing screen time, you’ll not only be giving your eyes (and neck, back, and wrists) a break, you’ll also be minimizing distractions, plus who knows what kind of connections you might make or strengthen if your face isn’t buried in a phone all the time? Something I’ve started doing this year is setting my phone out of reach while I’m working so I won’t be tempted to check it every five minutes and end up lost in a loop of surfing Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Come on, we all do it. Now it's time to break the habit.

More outdoor time
I’ll admit, this isn’t something that’s easy for me. I work from home and tend to be a hermit. I live in an area with a lot of traffic and not much outdoor space, and while my city has a beautiful bayfront walking trail and park, it’s not accessible by bus and it’s too far away to walk there. Still, I know I need more fresh air, more exercise, and more sunshine, and I’m sure the same is true for many others. If you’re like me and you’re intent on living a more mindful life, connecting with nature could be a great way to clear your mind and focus on the present. Also, for those of you who have trouble sleeping, spending more time outside could end up being a great natural sleep aid.

Less worrying about what other people are doing
This applies to so many things: work, life, social media. Some people seem to have things so easy; they have the dream job, they get to travel, they’re madly in love with a wonderful person, they have a dream house, beautiful children - the list goes on. Just remember: 1) Nobody’s life is perfect. Even if someone’s life looks perfect from the outside, there are always things going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about, and in the case of social media, most people only post the highlights and exciting bits, and some of those things are contrived. 2) Everyone is different, and things happen for people at different times. Many of my friends are in relationships/married, have children, and/or have great jobs. There was a time when it bothered me seeing everyone having the life I wanted - or thought I wanted/should have - and couldn’t seem to achieve. Then I realized it wasn’t my time for those things, and if I continued to work hard, stay positive, and be myself, the things I want will eventually be a reality.

There are still days when I look at other writers and feel envious of their success. There are days when I open Instagram and feel a pit in my stomach because someone is visiting my dream country. I’ve worked hard at not letting these things get to me as much, and I’m going to continue doing that this year. One key bit of advice I’d like to give: if you follow someone on social media, whether you know them in real life or just online, and their life makes you feel bad about yourself - like genuinely bad, not just the occasional twinge of envy - unfollow them. There’s a difference between someone inspiring you and someone making you feel like shit about your own life. I follow several travel bloggers who I admire so much, and while I occasionally have a whiny moment of ‘Ugh, their life is so cool, they get to travel and see amazing things and get all these opportunities, it’s so unfair!’ it’s outweighed by being inspired to work harder and strive for more.

Basically, if someone or something affects your mental health, peace of mind, or puts you in a negative mindspace, eliminate it. Focus on your own life, your own goals, your own accomplishments. Be grateful for what you have while still reaching for the stars and going after what you want.

More exercise
Many of us probably have one similar thing on our list of new year’s resolutions that’s something along the lines of ‘exercise more’ or ‘eat healthier’ or ‘lose weight’. Whether you’re trying to lose weight or just get or stay healthy, exercise is important. Many of us have jobs where we sit at our computers most of the day and then likely come home and sit on the couch the rest of the night. Even if you’re within a healthy weight range, all that sitting is having negative, unseen impacts on your health. Find something you enjoy doing (or if you seriously hate physical activity, at least find something you can tolerate!) and make it a habit. If you’re not used to exercising, start small and work your way up. Walk more, dance around your house, find videos on YouTube you can follow along with, start practicing yoga. If you need some motivation, join a class or find a workout buddy, or if you don't have anyone nearby to join you, find a friend online to be your accountability buddy.

If your goals are weight related, you might have to get a bit more specific with your goal setting. While I’ve learned to be more comfortable in my skin and more confident over the last couple of years, I most definitely need to lose weight for health reasons. That being said, I’m not focusing on numbers, because I know they're not always accurate. The scale changes based on a number of factors, especially for women (hello, hormones, how ya doing), so while I plan to do a monthly weigh-in, I know there are more important things than the number on the scale, like how I feel, how much energy I have, if my clothes are getting looser, etc. It’s perfectly fine to set a goal of ‘lose 20 pounds’ or ‘reach my goal weight’, but you need to take actionable steps, even if they’re baby steps at first. Look at your eating habits, look at your exercise habits, and see where changes can be made. Some people think of self-care as a psychological thing only, but it applies to physical health and all around well-being too!

Less Clutter
This is something that’s good to apply to all areas of your life: online, internally/mentally, and externally. Online: Unsubscribe from newsletters and blogs you never or rarely read. We all sign up for newsletters or blog emails we think will help us find great deals or have helpful information, or simply as a required step in a giveaway. If you aren’t finding value in the emails or they’re just cluttering up your inbox, hit the unsubscribe button. The same goes for what I was talking about before with unfollowing people. I'm sure we all follow some people online that we inevitably end up thinking 'why am I still following this person?' Maybe you initially enjoyed their posts, but your interests have changed over the years or they're posting different content that no longer applies to you. That's fine! We all grow and change, and not everyone is meant to stick around in your life. Mentally: Decluttering your mind can mean anything from a brain dump or to-do list to meditating to consciously changing your thought patterns to clearing your mind through creative endeavors. My mind often feels like my internet browser: way too many windows up and running at any given time. That’s something I definitely need to work on this year. Externally: Start your spring cleaning a bit early this year! Organize your space, streamline where you can, and create a space you love and that’s conducive to whatever it's intended for, whether it’s a work space or a relaxing area. Get rid of things you don’t need, no longer use, or that don’t work. If at all possible, try to do this in an environmentally conscious way by recycling, donating, or even selling items. I’m not saying to get rid of all your things; I’d be a complete hypocrite, because I live surrounded by books, Funko Pops, candles, and other miscellaneous things (check out my bookstagram to get an idea what I'm talking about), but they all have a place and are organized in an aesthetically pleasing way that makes me happy.

More creativity
Find something you love to do - writing, drawing, painting, a craft of some sort, photography - and do it. Creative endeavors can alternately challenge or relax you; figure out which works for you and make it part of your regular routine. Creating something can be incredibly therapeutic and freeing. If you have a job that involves being creative, try to find something different as a hobby that can keep you engaged and make you feel satisfied. For example, I write for a living, so while that’s challenging, satisfying, therapeutic, and a million other things rolled into one, I like to keep my creative juices flowing through photography, graphic design, and colouring. Have fun with it and don’t be afraid to get messy!

Whether you have a ‘new year, new you’ mentality or you’re simply looking to add more peace into your life in 2018, I hope you’ll find these self-care resolutions helpful. Remember that taking care of yourself should be a priority, no matter how busy you are.

Do you have specific self-care goals you want to make a priority this year?

Did you enjoy this post? Find it useful? Want to save it for later or help others discover it? Hover over the picture below to save it on Pinterest, or share it on Facebook or Twitter. Thank you!

You might also like:
   Looking Ahead to 2018: My Word + Goals

Follow Ramblings of a Daydreamer on Bloglovin'

Monday, January 8, 2018

Looking Ahead to 2018: My Word + Goals

Last week I shared some of my highlights of 2017. This week, I'm sharing some of my 2018 goals.

I've talked plenty about how the last two years have been difficult for me; between anxiety, depression, and family issues galore, I’ve found it hard to find motivation and even harder to stay focused. That’s why my Word for 2018 is Focus. Unlike most other years, 2018’s Word came to me with complete clarity a few weeks ago. I feel like it encompasses so much more than just the definition of the word itself entails.

I want to focus on the most important things in my life: my family, and the people closest to me. F
ocus on my writing, marketing, and publishing. Focus on my mental and physical health, and living a life of intention and purpose. Focus on my goals and bringing them to fruition. Focus on being present and enjoying life. Focus on the positive. Focus on my inner voice and listen to it when it tells me to fight my fears, push past my doubts, step outside my comfort zone, and also when it tells me to pull back, rest, and recharge.

I have a lot of plans for 2018, and yet I want to be realistic. While my first inclination is to DO ALL THE THINGS, I think that’s been my problem the last few years. I realize early on I can’t do all the things (at least not the way I initially imagine) and then I get overwhelmed and lose motivation, drive, and, yes, focus. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking this over, putting down the ideas swirling through my brain, and I think my goals for 2018 are realistic and manageable.

My 2018 Goals:

*Write Christmas novella

*Write short story to offer as a freebie to my newsletter subscribers

*Revise the romcom I wrote in 2017

*Finish writing book I’ve been calling my ‘secret project’ (a contemporary romance)

*Publish romcom in spring or summer

*Publish Christmas novella in November

*Create new covers for the Angel Island series (I love the original covers, but I feel like it's time for something fresh)

*Work on writing and scheduling regular content for this blog (I’m thinking one post per week, possibly two occasionally)

*Read at least 65 books (check out my GoodReads challenge and books read)

*Continue to grow my community on Bookstagram and Instagram. I can’t lie and say I don’t want to grow my following on both accounts, but making friends and connections is so much more important, and I’m lucky to have made so many amazing friends already.

*Take better care of myself. Eat healthier. Get more exercise. Get outside more. Take more time for self-care.

*Continue to work on being more mindful and present.


I'm ready for a year of possibilities. Of adventures. Of setting and then smashing goals. Of change. Of laughter and happiness and love and positivity and challenges and hard work and wonderful new memories. I'm ready. Welcome, 2018.

What are some of your goals for 2018? Do you set daily, weekly, or monthly goals? Do you have a Word for 2018? I'd love to hear about your plans for the year ahead!


Follow Ramblings of a Daydreamer on Bloglovin'

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2017: A Year in Review

I just read 2016’s recap and ugh. Emotional. I spent a lot of 2016 in a very dark place; by the end of the year, I was seeing things in a different light after a lot of self-reflection, but it’s still really painful to read. For 2017, I’m doing something different: I’m going to focus on the good parts of the year and do a highlights/best of. 2017 wasn’t all sunshine and roses by any means. A lot of the things I struggled with in 2016 carried into 2017, but I want to focus on the good parts. The things - and the people - who made me happy and made it a memorable year. So here we go!

My Mum and The Littles
Every single day spent with my mum is a day I consider myself truly blessed. She’s not only an amazing mother, she’s the best friend a girl could ask for. We have so much fun living together, and even the most mundane task (like grocery shopping and hauling tons of bags home on the bus - blech) can turn into an adventure.

Then there’s the Littles (my youngest niece and nephew, 4 and 7 respectively). They brought so much joy and laughter to our lives in 2017, as they’ve done since the day they were born. Those two tiny humans are so incredibly intelligent, creative, imaginative, hilarious, and sweet. I cherish every snuggle, every funny/sweet/ridiculously smart thing they say, and every memory we make together. I’m so lucky I get to spent so many days with them drawing and colouring, snuggling, playing games, watching movies, and going on adventures around our neighbourhood.

In 2016’s recap, I wrote this: “Professionally, 2016 was a joke. All the crap going on in my life took up so much time and energy at the beginning of the year, I basically had to put my career on hold.” I wish I could say I spent 2017 writing my heart out, but there were still quite a few distractions, and my lack of motivation carried through the year. BUT...I did write a Christmas novella at the beginning of the year, which I published in November, and I finished writing the romantic comedy I started writing the year before. That feels like a huge accomplishment, especially considering I felt like such a failure after 2016.

Mistletoe Kiss was the first new book I’d published in two whole years, and the response to it was better than I could have hoped for. I talked about how I was afraid people had forgotten me and I had become irrelevant in the publishing game, but the support I received was overwhelming (in the best way possible). I owe a lot of this to the bookstagram community, and a good chunk of my sales I owe to my childhood best friend, author Athena Wright, who mentioned the book in one of her newsletters, which prompted dozens of people to buy it. (*insert me crying like a baby*) I have a lot of writing plans for 2018, and I sincerely hope I get such an enthusiastic response for those projects as well!

I didn’t make it too far from home this year, but I did take an amazing trip to Toronto with my friend Krista. We got to explore Cabbagetown (a gorgeous part of Toronto I’d never seen before), and we shopped at the Eaton Centre and Curiosa (the second being somewhere I wanted to go from the moment I heard about it but figured I’d never actually get to go...also, I still have to write about our experience and what we bought there. I mean it's only been, like, two and a half months since we visited *facepalm*). The ultimate highlight of that trip: attending Jacquelyn Middleton’s launch party for her sophomore novel London, Can You Wait? Held at the Wickson Social, Jackie’s party exceeded all my expectations. Amazing food and drink, fun people, and meeting Jackie in personal after a year of being friends online was one of the high points of 2017. Plus it was great to spend two whole days with Krista since we didn’t get to see each other much last year.

Blog Highlights
Some of my most popular posts in 2017:
Writing and Publishing: 
5 Things I’ve Learned in 5 Years of Publishing
6 Mistakes Authors Make and How to Avoid Them
7 Things Every Author Should Have on Their Website 
Instagram for Authors: Everything Authors Need to Know About Using Instagram
Everything Authors Need to Know About Beta Readers
5 Tips for Surviving NaNoWriMo

Book Recommendation Posts:
Books Set in England
Books Set in France
Books Set in Italy
LGBTQ+ Books
Book Recommendations for Romance Lovers

All the Rest 
I spent some super fun days with my friend JaimeKristal while she was home between travels. She arrived back in town in November 2016 after 2 years of living in London, and left again in August 2017, this time for 2 years in Ireland. In the months we had together, we went to a Harry Potter event at Chapters, saw a local production of Pride and Prejudice, had a fancy tea party, watched the Canada Day fireworks by the bay, and spent hours chatting, watching movies, and shopping (mostly for books and Funko Pops, naturally). I enjoyed my time with her so much and was sad to see her go, especially since I’d initially hoped to go with her. It puts a lump in my throat just thinking about it, so I won’t get into it again, but I talked all about it in a post called Pity Party: Table of One. This wasn’t an easy post to write, but the response I got to it made me feel so much better, and the embarrassment and shame I felt over potentially coming across as a whiner was completely washed away by the support I got.

☆I saw my college best friend Missy for the first time in almost ten years. We spent the day with our mums and her three kids at the park. It was an unexpectedly emotional experience seeing her again after so long, and we unpacked a lot of baggage and reminisced about our college days, plus caught up on a lot of current news.

☆I read a lot of great books in 2017. Added several new favourite books to my shelves, and discovered new authors. I hit my GoodReads goal of 85 books read in 2017 (completed this goal 2 hours before midnight on the 31st!). If you’re looking for some recommendations to kick off 2018, I shared my 17 favourite books of 2017 as my last post of the year.

Bookstagram continued to be a great source of pleasure for me. I’ve made so many friends in that community, and I love that I get to share my passion for books there, and that I can be my nerdy self. It’s also been an absolute joy to continue being a rep for NerdyGrlDesigns (who’s in the process of moving from an Etsy shop to a standalone webite, which is why I linked her Instagram rather than the shop; you can keep an eye out there for updates) and seeing Melisa branch out and turn her business into a thriving one, plus she created a Society6 shop with her designs. I also co-hosted my first ever photo challenge in December with my wonderful friend Caryn, which exceeded all my hopes and expectations. We had so much fun, we’re hosting another challenge for January. I also had a lot of fun with my personal/author/blog Instagram in 2017. I posted there more consistently and created more of a focus for my feed. I did most of this with the help of Helene Sula’s blog, Instagram, and her course Instagram for Success. Her tips and advice helped me more than double my following on my personal account, and I’m continuing to grow and learn and improve slowly but surely, as well as apply those things to my bookstagram account. Let me just say, one thing that was a massive game changer for me: Lightroom.

I changed the direction of this blog from a book blog to a more general blog...but still with an emphasis on books! I know some people say having a niche is important and there are all these things you ‘should and shouldn’t do’ on your blog, but you know what? Screw that. I want to talk about what I want to talk about. I want to help other writers (especially those who choose to self-publish like me), I want to gush about books, I want to talk about travel and photography and life, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do. I basically just want to be my nerdy, quirky self, and hope I find other nerdy, quirky people who will appreciate what I have to say.
So, that’s my 2017 in a nutshell - the good parts, at least. It was a year of ups and downs, as most years are, but it was certainly better than 2016! I have a lot planned for 2018, which I’ll talk about in an upcoming post. Watch for that soon!

What were some of the highlights for you in 2017? Did you travel? Read some great books? Start a new hobby? Have great things happen in your personal life? I’d love to know! Tell me in the comments below, and if you posted a yearly recap, feel free to leave a link so I can check it out. Wishing you a wonderful 2018 full of laughter, light, hope, and love.

Previous Yearly Recaps:

2016: A Year in Review
Looking Back on 2015
Reflecting on 2014 and Looking at the Year Ahead 
2012: A Year in Review
2010: A Year in Review

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