While I think it's awesome that Agay Llanera has delved into YA again, I wasn't as impressed with This Side of Sunny as I was with Choco Chip Chips. IWhile I think it's awesome that Agay Llanera has delved into YA again, I wasn't as impressed with This Side of Sunny as I was with Choco Chip Chips. I've never been a fan of instalove and that's what happened between Mela and Paolo. I liked the idea (half-American, half-Filipino girl flying back home to the Philippines to discover more about her family... meets cute Filipino guy who helps her along the way) behind the story but it definitely could have been executed better. Still looking forward to what Agay will write next, and will be keeping my fingers crossed that I'll enjoy that more. ...more
Andrea and Damon first meet in the short story Wedding Night Stand, and their story continues in What You Wanted. This title is the latest in Mina V. Esguerra's Chic Manila collection, which has romance books featuring female twenty-something professionals in Metro Manila. Not too long ago, I was also a female twenty-something working in an office in Manila so these books are fun for me to read because I can relate to them. They feel realistic, like the stories can happen to someone I know. Which was why I dove into What You Wanted sooner rather than later. I also like how Mina keeps partnering with Filipino fashion bloggers for her book covers. What You Wanted's cover was designed by Tania Arpa, featuring fashion blogger Rhea Bue. Note to self: start posting OOTD shots so I can potentially be featured on a book cover.
I enjoyed Andrea and Damon's story of how they met and got together in Wedding Night Stand. I thought it was cute how they danced around their flirtation. What You Wanted is a continuation of their story and because they already got to spend a weekend together, the two of them are much more comfortable around each other. And I really liked that about them, how their sort-of-relationship felt really cozy. I liked both Andrea and Damon's personalities and I thought they were great together. Andrea has a bit of wild side and seems like a fun person to hang out with. She likes doing spontaneous things like suddenly going off to a secluded beach hours away from the city by herself. She also tended to be flighty when it comes to relationships and the one time she was ready to become serious with someone, she got hurt pretty badly. Damon is the type of guy that seems like he has everything going for him - handsome, smart, polished and financially well-off. And yet the girl he's been interested in for the past two years keeps dragging him along. For two people who haven't had a stellar record in the relationship department, Andrea and Damon sure handled things well between the two of them. But maybe it's because they tried to keep things casual - heck, it was supposed to be just a one night stand. That just kept being extended.
Like I said, I really liked how cozy Andrea and Damon were together. From how willing they were to meet the other person's friends and family, to how Andrea kept sleeping over, to how they had their meals together, to how they kept meeting around their office area... it just felt like they were meant to be together because it seemed effortless and drama-free (when it's just the two of them). The drama only happens when other people come into the picture. It made me root for them as a couple, and I wanted them to get over their hang ups and just be together. Overall, What You Wanted probably isn't my favorite Mina V. Esguerra romance because while I liked Andrea and feel like I could be friends with someone like her, I couldn't relate to her in the sense that I can't see even a sliver of myself in her. I probably have more in common with her older sister Julie, who is more steady and acts a bit like an old maid ("manang"). Damon, however, might be one of my favorite Mina V. Esguerra heroes. He's not perfect but even his imperfections seem appealing. Plus he loves to eat good food! Always a plus in my book.
The author's Chic Manila books can be read as standalones but the latter books have cameos from the characters in earlier books. In What You Wanted, Damon and Andrea meet at a wedding where he's a co-worker of the groom and she's the sister of the bride. That was the wedding of Anton and Julie from That Kind of Guy. Damon also lives in the same condo as Ethan and Moira from Welcome to Envy Park. I think these little overlaps make it a little bit more fun to read the books because it makes the reader feel like all the characters are connected somehow. What You Wanted was an interesting addition to this collection and I'm looking forward to reading more romances set in Manila.
My reviews of the rest of the Chic Manila titles: ...more
This is a freebie now until the 17th! It's the prequel to Mina's upcoming Chic Manila book, What You Wanted. While this short story is a freebie, I thought it would be the perfect time to write an equally short review for it. :)
As the title and the premise suggests, Wedding Night Stand is set during a wedding a few hours away from Manila. The happy couple who tied the knot? Julie and Anton from That Kind of Guy, another book from the author's Chic Manila series. I think it's pretty cute how these books are loosely connected. They're standalones but it feels like a treat whenever I see cameos of previous MCs. Also, it feels realistic because even though Metro Manila has a population of almost 12 million (according to Wikipedia), it still feels like such a small world sometimes.
I started reading Wedding Night Stand past midnight last Sunday. You might be wondering why I would start a book that late when I would have to wake up early the next day for work. That's because I was in denial that the weekend is over. Anyway, this was the perfect choice because I was able to finish it in one go. And I didn't have to give up that much sleeping time for it. It's short, flirty, and steamy with just the right amount of sexual tension for two attractive individuals who happened to be assigned seats next to each other. Can I just say that Damon's a really hot guy? Kulang na lang ng kanin. There's also a tiny bit of sweetness in there, when the two characters side with each other after learning about the other person's story. I picked this up, knowing that Damon and Andrea's romance would be continued in another book. But I think it can stand well enough on its own. So grab it while it's free!...more
I first found out about Loveless. Childless. Clueless. by Miren B. Flores from Filipino romance authors MinaOriginally posted at Chachic's Book Nook.
I first found out about Loveless. Childless. Clueless. by Miren B. Flores from Filipino romance authors Mina V. Esguerra and Chris Mariano. I saw them posting about it on social media and that made me curious. Both the cover and the premise looked interesting so I decided to try a Kindle sample. I bought a copy after finishing the sample because I liked it well enough to continue.
At first glance, I had a feeling I would be able to relate to this title because I am loveless, childless and clueless too (although I'm a few years younger than Anna). But more than anything, Loveless. Childless. Clueless. is a breakup book and it's about Anna trying to pick up the pieces of her life after her fifteen-year relationship ends. It reminded me a little bit of another Filipino chick lit title Breakup Dairies by Maya O. Calica, but this book has a much more serious tone because of the age and maturity of the characters. It was easy enough to like Anna. I could understand why she chose to end such a long relationship, she could see that she and Miggy were stuck in a rut and they could see no way out of it because both of them weren't willing to change. That kind of breakup is probably even harder to endure, because it's not like they fell out of love. The relationship just became too much work, on top of everything else they have to face in their lives.
I thought Anna handled the moving on process well. Sure, there was some drama but it never felt like it was too much. There's the usual crying and drinking wine and meeting up with friends. But she didn't just wallow in her own misery. I liked how proactive she was in going after the things that she wanted to do, the things that she felt she missed out on while she was busy trying to keep her relationship afloat. It felt like she was going on mini adventures while trying to find herself. I was rooting for Anna and I wanted her to have, if not a happy ending, at least some closure. I just have a minor quibble with how she kept waffling near the end. I know how confusing her situation must be but I just wanted her to make a decision and stick with it, not go back and forth questioning whether she's right or wrong. Anyway, there were more things to like than dislike in Loveless. Childless. Clueless. and I enjoyed the book overall. I think the writing is pretty solid and consistent, always a good thing in an indie debut novel. Non-spoilery snippets that I particularly liked, plus some pictures that I took that I think go well with the quotes:
We talk about how Paris is a city built for both lovers and loners; about how it can be both familiar and new, how she can feel like home but never get old. We talk about the museums and the gardens, the bridges and the streets, and wonder how every corner can be so darn pretty.
The sea is for me. I make this declaration silently, standing chest-deep in the water, staring at that point where the horizon meets the sea. I close my eyes and revel in my favorite natural sound in the world - the waves. It's a hypnotic rhythm, a soothing rhythm, the sweetest, I'm-so-glad-I'm-alive rhythm.
A woman after my own heart! Paris was the first city in Europe that I ever visited and I will always have fond memories of it. And I can relate to how Anna describes the sea and the waves, how they soothe her and manage to give her perspective. I don't know if that's something that's common to most Filipinos, having experienced the ocean and beaches throughout our lives. Like I mentioned earlier, Loveless. Childless. Clueless. has some pretty solid writing and it will be interesting to see what Miren B. Flores will write next. It makes me happy whenever I find another Filipino author to follow....more
I found out about Choco Chip Hips by Agay Llanera when I saw friends posting about it on Goodreads. I was immOriginally posted at Chachic's Book Nook.
I found out about Choco Chip Hips by Agay Llanera when I saw friends posting about it on Goodreads. I was immediately curious because of the title. I read the premise and it also looked intriguing. I haven't read anything else by the author and I thought this title would be a good one to start with. It's Filipino YA and that's something that I'll always be interested to try.
I enjoyed reading Choco Chip Hips and I know that I would have fallen in love with this book if I read it as a teen. I'm so glad readers are getting more Filipino fiction nowadays. I liked Jessie's character and could relate to a lot of things in her life. Like Jessie, I also LOVE desserts (I think that's obvious if you follow my Instagram account, which is basically bookstagrams and foodstagrams). I thought it was cute that Jessie's dad runs a local dessert and cake shop. If it was a real place, I would have dropped by their store! Baking is also what brought Jessie and her best friend Kim together. The downside of eating too much sweets and not exercising is that Jessie is overweight. I can just imagine how difficult that is for a teenage girl to deal with. I also struggle with trying to lose weight and living a healthy lifestyle. So that's another thing that made me empathize with Jessie. I could totally understand the beating that her self-esteem gets because of her weight issues. I thought that aspect of the book was handled very realistically, even with how crude Filipinos can get when it comes to weight-related topics. People here in Singapore are always surprised when I tell them that the first thing Filipino relatives notice when they see you is how your weight has changed. The last time I was home, an uncle said he couldn't take my picture because he doesn't have a wide angle lens (I actually thought it was funny but hey, I'm not a sensitive teenager). A non-spoilery snippet that I really liked:
I looked at the mug of thick, hot chocolate, like I was seeing it for the first time. The sides of the cup were smudged with dark brown liquid, dotted with grains. To get this thick consistency, you had to melt the tablea in water with milk, stirring the pot tirelessly with a wooden molonillo. You whisked and whisked until your arms protested, until the ingredients melded in a rich and silky brown. It was a labor of love.
I pulled the mug closer, bowed my head, closed my eyes, and inhaled. It smelled - what was it, exactly? - full. It smelled so many things: dark, earthy, and fruity. I held the rim to my lips and took a long, thoughtful sip.
"It's not as sweet as you're used to," Dad said apologetically.
It tasted a hint of the sweet, a hint of the bitter - the way life always had been.
Argh, where can I get a nice cup of tablea hot chocolate in Singapore? Another thing that I could relate to was how Jessie enjoyed dancing. I'm a frustrated hip-hop dancer and it's always made me sad that I don't have the talent when it comes to singing and dancing. I even enrolled in a hip-hop class during one of my summer breaks in high school. The main thing I learned was that I don't have what it takes to be dancer. Inspired by stories of how great a dancer her mom was back in the day, Jessie tries hip-hop dancing and discovers how much she enjoys it. I thought it was pretty awesome how she decides to break out of her shell and do something different. In the process, she gains some of her confidence back and learns more about herself. I loved how supportive Jessie's dad is in everything that she does, the two of them were really a team. I also though both Kim and Dave were good friends to Jessie, in their own ways. I enjoyed seeing their interactions. One minor quibble that I have is that I felt like the romance in this book was half-baked. On one hand, it was refreshing that Jessie's growth as a person was centered on herself and not on another person. But on the other hand, I felt that the story could have been stronger if there weren't any hints of romance. I would have been satisfied with a blossoming friendship instead. That was a minor issue for me and it didn't affect my overall enjoyment of Choco Chip Hips. Honestly, I believe this is a well-written piece of Filipino fiction. It felt like the author knew what she was talking about when it came to baking and dancing, two of the major themes of the book. I will be adding this title to my list of recommendations written by Filipino authors. I'm just not sure how well the story will work for non-Filipino readers because some Filipino words are in there but no definitions were included....more
So one day, I asked Mina if she'll ever consider writing a main character who was a book bloggeSeries review originally posted at Chachic's Book Nook.
So one day, I asked Mina if she'll ever consider writing a main character who was a book blogger. I told her that I don't think I've read a book with a book blogger MC before. A few months (or about a year?) later, Learning to Fall is out in the wild! I could really relate to Steph's life as a book blogger, especially since she's a blogger on hiatus. So many of my blogging buddies have also gone on breaks or have stopped blogging altogether and I have to admit that I've also thought about doing that. It's pretty much a given that I loved that Steph is a big fan of books and would happily spend hours reading. I also thought it was awesome that through her blog, she's found good friends who know her so well. Because that's something that have also happened with me. I feel like we do reveal more of ourselves than we realize through book reviews because our thoughts and feelings about books are very personal (I think I can write a whole blog post about this topic). A non-spoilery snippet:
In theory, blogging shouldn't take a lot of time. Read a book, then write about it. Simple, right? Obligation fulfilled to the publisher or author who sent the book, to the readers who read the blog.
Blogging found me at a time when I needed people. I knew this, didn't need a therapist to tell me. Moving to another state, starting college, figuring out how to be a fully functional adult and artist... there was so much comfort in being friends with people who liked the same things. Believe me, I tried being friends with real people, but the friendship offers stopped coming when I missed one too many dorm parties.
I think Mina was able to portray a pretty accurate depiction of Steph's blogging life. Steph wasn't the only one I liked in this book, I thought Grayson was a great guy too. A hot athlete who's also very sweet... what's not to like? He's pretty driven too. He knows what he wants and tries to go after them, the challenge is that he seems to want too many things that can't be balanced together. From their meet cute until the end of the book, I was rooting for these two to find a way to be together. As with the earlier titles in the series, Steph and Grayson also had to figure out what they wanted to do with their lives after college. Again, I thought it was realistic for characters in that age bracket to be in that kind of mindset. Like the earlier two titles in the series, I enjoyed reading Learning to Fall. I liked the book blogging aspect of it so much that I sent it off as a Kindle gift to my own blogger friends. ...more
I grabbed Young and Scambitious while it was available for free on Amazon. I think the cover looks great, it has an intriguingOriginally posted here.
I grabbed Young and Scambitious while it was available for free on Amazon. I think the cover looks great, it has an intriguing and glamorous feel that goes well with the premise. Yesterday, I couldn’t decide what to read next so I thought I’d start on this short story because it would be easy to get into. I started reading it on the train ride on the way to work in the morning and was able to finish it on the way back in the afternoon.
I like that this story focuses on the Manila socialite scene and the people who prey on the rich. While I’ve never been into that kind of scene, I think it’s interesting to read about it. Even though Jane is a con artist, I really liked her as a character. I feel like she’s only doing what she has to do in order to survive. She’s good at playing out different roles and she takes advantage of that skill. I also like that she’s a reader, I think it’s always nice when a character likes to read.
"Jane liked to go to libraries. She spent a lot of time in them growing up, and she had had to grow up in several places. Later she started seeing how each building was different. In one place, old and regal; in another, shabby and musty.
So since the preparation for the Chrysalis Magnolia job had her visit Singapore, a city with a (shiny and modern) public library, she naturally had to go there on her only day free."
I thought it was pretty cool that the story was partially set in Singapore, in a library! I could totally relate to that. I also liked that even though the story is so short, there was still enough room for some romance. My only issue with this short story is that I felt like the whole thing ended a bit abruptly. I kind of got the feeling there should be more to the ending that what I got. Maybe I wouldn’t have minded if I knew that the ending was meant to leave readers hanging? According to Mina, there will are probable sequels to this but no definite date on when they will be published. I think that will give readers a fuller perspective of the story that was introduced in Young and Scambitious. Check this out if you want a quick read that you can finish in one sitting or if you want to give Mina's writing a try....more
I heard about All’s Fair in Blog and War as soon as it came out. While I’ve never met Chrissie Peria in person, we share some cOriginally posted here.
I heard about All’s Fair in Blog and War as soon as it came out. While I’ve never met Chrissie Peria in person, we share some common friends (she’s good friends with my flatmates as well as fellow Filipino book blogger Chris of Ficsation). Plus, she wrote her novella for Mina V. Esguerra’s romance class so Mina is another person who is actively promoting this title. I was planning to read All’s Fair in Blog and War sooner or later because I was curious about the premise and I think the cover is pretty cute. I just decided to bump it up the TBR pile because of all the recommendations floating around.
It’s always fun to read about bloggers even if they don’t blog about books. The last novella that I read that had a blogger main character was All’s Fair in Love and Chocolate by Laura Florand (funny that the two titles are so similar). I really enjoyed the blogging aspect of Five’s life because I could relate to it – how her blog shapes her vacation plans and how it’s more than just a hobby for her. That’s how I feel about my blog as well, a niche blog can take over your life like that. She’s a lot luckier than me though because look at how she won a contest to visit Macau to blog about it! Would love to have a similar huge blog-related experience. I was also interested in reading more about the tourist attractions in Macau because I’ve never been there. From what I heard from friends, I always thought there wouldn’t be a lot to do in Macau if you’re not into gambling but looks like I made the wrong assumption because Jesse and Five found more than enough things to occupy their time. As a foodie, I also enjoyed hearing details about what kind of dishes and snacks are available in Macau. This novella made me want to have an egg tart! Good thing they’re pretty common here in Singapore. One other thing that Five and I had in common was this:
I knew I was early, so I found a comfortable spot and pulled out a well-worn copy of Pride and Prejudice. I always revert to Austen when I'm in between books. P&P has always been my favorite, so it was the book I decided to pack for this trip.
That little snippet was while she was waiting at the airport. I always bring a book (or my Kindle) with me whenever I travel so I can't even count the number of times I've read books in airports. And Pride and Prejudice is also my favorite Austen. *P&P high five* While I think that All’s Fair in Blog and War is a light and fun read, I also felt like it would have been better if it was a little longer. I'm not sure if word count was a factor that had to be considered for the romance class which produced this novella, but I would have liked to see more character development, more tension or kilig (swoon-worthy) moments between the two main characters. Other than that, I found this an enjoyable read. Recommended for contemporary romance readers who would like to try Filipino fiction. This is the kind of book that you can finish in one sitting, maybe while waiting to check in or board or even during a flight. For a more interactive experience, readers can follow the characters on Instagram: fivetravels, and Twitter: @5travels and @wanderingcamera.
What a coincidence, I received a postcard from Macau today!...more
Icon of the Indecisive by Mina V. Esguerra is the third book in the Interim Goddess of Love trilogy. The first two books in theOriginally posted here.
Icon of the Indecisive by Mina V. Esguerra is the third book in the Interim Goddess of Love trilogy. The first two books in the series are Interim Goddess of Love and Queen of the Clueless. Do you need to read the books in order? Yes, unless you want to get really confused. They're all tied together, with Hannah as the main character, tasked with helping college students with their love problems. Mina compared the series to a TV show, with the first two books as different episodes and Icon of the Indecisive as the season finale. I received an advanced review copy of this for the audio commentary that Mina organized with several other bloggers. Here's my account of that experience and feel free to download the file over at Mina's website.
It was nice to be back in Ford River College, a setting that I enjoyed reading about because it reminded me of my own college experience. I feel like I keep saying this but since I had fun in college (in spite of not loving my major), I take pleasure in reading anything that takes me back to those years. Even though Hannah and the other characters in the series weren't ordinary college students, because they had abilities as gods and goddesses, I could still relate to them. To be honest, I was a little worried about Icon of the Indecisive. I felt like we were left hanging at the end of the second book and there were too many questions that needed to be answered in the final book. I shouldn't have worried because the whole trilogy was wrapped up quite nicely in this installment. In the first two books, readers were able to see glimpses of Hannah's own love story interspersed with the cases that she needed to solve as interim goddess. I was rooting for Hannah to get her own happy ending - I felt like she deserves to have her own beautiful romance after going through the trouble of comforting and supporting other people through their love-related difficulties. I had no idea where things would go when it came to Hannah's leading man and I liked not being able to predict what would happen. While I didn't think the ending was perfect because I thought it could have gone in a different direction, I still found it quite satisfying.
The Interim Goddess of Love trilogy is different from Mina's usual contemporary romance with main characters in their mid-twenties. The series is young adult, set in college and has a mythology aspect to it. Granted, it's light on the mythology and doesn't have as much worldbuilding as other fantasy novels that I'm used to. Still, I think it's a good idea for an author to branch out and try writing something different. In this case, I think it worked well because romance is still a big element of this series, something that it has in common with the author's previous work. Like all of Mina's other books, Icon of the Indecisive was a quick read for me. Thank goodness it didn't take long for this one to get published so the story was still quite fresh in my mind and I didn't have to reread the first two. You're pretty lucky if you haven't started on the series and you're curious about it, because now you can read all of them in one go. Recommended for fans of romantic novellas, readers who want something light and fun, and anyone interested in giving Filipino fiction a try.
It's funny how Interim Goddess of Love has several cover designs. I just wanted to mention that I really like that it got redesigned and now all three installments have matching covers:
All three covers were designed by Tania Arpa using photographer/blogger Rhea Bue's photos. Aren't they lovely? I like that the covers feature a Filipino fashion blogger and how all the photos give off a college vibe that represent the series well....more
Always a pleasure to be back in this world. I inhaled the earlier books in this series when I first discovered it. I'm not really sure why it took meAlways a pleasure to be back in this world. I inhaled the earlier books in this series when I first discovered it. I'm not really sure why it took me so long to read this volume but it's nice that I already have the next one on hand. This was a really good installment in the series because there's more depth to Trese's character. I also enjoyed seeing the recurring characters from previous stories - the Kambal are always fun to be around and it was interesting to see what Maliksi was up to. I can't wait to find out more about Trese's archenemy and how that particular arc will play out in the next books.
If you're interested in trying out this Filipino graphic novel series, some of the earlier stories are now available on Amazon....more
I'm a Mina V. Esguerra fangirl. I've read and reviewed all of her books and even did and interview and giveaway last year. She's my favorite Filipino chick lit writer and I keep recommending her books to my girlfriends because all of her novels are so light and fun. I knew she was planning to release Interim Goddess of Love in 2012 and I was really looking forward to it, not only because I'll read anything she writes, but because she's tackling a new genre. All of Mina's other books are contemporary romance with women in their twenties as main characters. This time, she decided write a contemporary young adult novel, with a hint of Philippine mythology in it.
I initially thought the "goddess of love" bit in the title and the premise was figurative. It's not. Hannah is a descendant of one of those unions between a mortal and a god so she has enough magic in her to be the interim goddess of love. Basically, she has to help out fellow students in Ford River College with their love problems. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that one of my frustrations is not having enough Filipino YA novels to read. Which is why I'm thrilled that Mina has written Interim Goddess of Love and has two sequels scheduled to be released this year. I loved the college setting of the novel because Ford River reminded me of my own college. If you want to get a feel of what college (or university or uni in other parts of the world) is like here in the Philippines, then read this book. I know I keep saying this about Mina's novels but I could really relate to the characters because they're all Filipinos. Interim goddess role aside, I could connect with Hannah's college experiences. It felt like I was back in my own school - attending core curriculum subjects, hanging out with friends in the cafeteria, participating in school organizations and getting to know classmates. Based on just the title, you know that romance is a focus of this novel and I think that's pretty realistic because most college teenagers tend to worry about their love lives. Here's a snippet that I really liked:
Some girls can’t stand to be around the guy they like. They get really nervous, and rather than make fools of themselves, they just stay away. I was the opposite; the more I liked a guy, the more I wanted to be around him. I was the type who’d join the same org, or pick the same elective. Sure I was probably looking like a fool five times a day over a bunch of things, but I liked being close to someone I admired.
The act of doing something about the feelings, no matter how futile the exercise, was still way better than sitting around just hoping they’d notice the girl who never said anything.
Hannah has never had her own boyfriend but she's not willing to be a wallflower either and I liked that about her. The huge cast of characters in this short work of fiction may be confusing for some people but that's one aspect of Interim Goddess of Love that I really enjoyed. Thank you, Mina, for giving us so many swoon-worthy guys in one book! I couldn't decide which guy I should root for. This installment is about Kathy's romance but in the process of finding her true love, we get hints about Hannah's possible love story as well. I think the number of characters sets up the sequels quite nicely - I'm hoping to read more about the other characters in the next books. Interim Goddess of Love is a promising introduction to Mina's YA work and it's just as charming and fun as her other books. After finishing this, I went online so I could bug Mina about the sequels. I can't wait to read them and I will recommend this one to anyone interested in reading Filipino fiction because I have a feeling they'd enjoy reading Interim Goddess of Love as much as I did....more
I liked the idea of this book, that there's a Filipino contemporary YA set in Manila. I also read this in time for the #BuwanNgMgaAkdangPinoy campaignI liked the idea of this book, that there's a Filipino contemporary YA set in Manila. I also read this in time for the #BuwanNgMgaAkdangPinoy campaign this month. Sadly, I didn't enjoy reading this as much as I expected. I couldn't really connect with the characters and I also felt that there wasn't enough depth in the story. The issues that they had felt shallow....more