My love affair with Laura Florand's Amour et Chocolat contemporary romance series started with The Chocolate Thief. I was captivated by that first book and I knew I would want to read the rest of the novels as soon as they came out. I have been really curious about The Chocolate Touch ever since I found out who the two main characters are going to be - both Dominique and Jaime were mentioned in the first book. I was lucky enough to get a review copy of this and I read it as soon as I could. I was a bit bummed that The Chocolate Touch's cover didn't follow the design of the first two and I don't think the couple in it is a good representation of the characters. But that's a minor quibble that has nothing to do with the contents of the novel.
A draft of my review for The Chocolate Touch has been sitting on my dashboard for weeks. I don't know why but I just couldn't find the right words to describe what it's like to be immersed in Laura Florand's delectable version of Paris. But let me try. What I love about the Amour et Chocolat books is that even though each book features a French chef or chocolatier, their personalities are so distinct that reading about them never gets boring. Plus I feel like the writing in each has a different tone - The Chocolate Thief is deliciously entertaining, The Chocolate Kiss is whimsical with magic realism feel to it while The Chocolate Touch has such a sweet and endearing romance. This latest installment in the series is filled with warmth that's very comforting, like drinking hot chocolate on a rainy day. Kind of similar to how Jaime visits Dom's chocolaterie everyday, consuming his creations and letting them revive her both physically and emotionally. I liked the contrast between Dom and Jaime - how he initially felt that he's such a brute compared to how delicate she looks and that he has to be careful with how he treats her. But appearances can be deceiving and Jaime has a core of steel that makes her the perfect match for Dom. I had so much fun reading about the tentative nature of how they got to know each other. Both of them have complicated pasts and there's a reason for why they feel like they don't have much to offer (even though they both think the world of the other person). Here's a snippet that I particularly liked:
He didn't talk, but a man who had Paris in the springtime didn't need to talk. Better not. Better just to concentrate on the cool breeze off the river, stirring his shaggy black hair, the bridges that stretched away through the centuries, that fresh young green on the trees along the quays. Evening was falling later and later. The sun was only starting to set now, easy blurred shades of pink and gold and gray through low strips of clouds. The sky above them was blue, clear, but blurring toward gray. Half the world looked in love, couples strolling hand in hand along the Seine. At the edge of that sunset, in the west, far away along the river that simmered with pink and gold, the Eiffel Tower rose, gentled by the low haze.
Lovely writing right there. Laura Florand sure knows how to set a scene. And write mouth-watering descriptions of chocolates, caramels and pastries. Just thinking about them is making me hungry, I may have to hunt down some desserts tomorrow. Another aspect of the book that I really enjoyed is seeing how Dom and Jaime relate to their friends and family. It was nice to see characters from the earlier novels, especially the members of the Corey family. They're just too funny. If you're a contemporary romance reader and you've never read any of Laura Florand's books, then you must give them a try as soon as you can. Highly recommended for fans of chocolates, Paris and romance. It goes without saying that I cannot wait for the next book in this wonderful series. To get a better idea of The Chocolate Touch's setting, check out the author's pictures of the real-life chocolatier who inspired the book.
Novel Gossip is a new feature that my good friend Michelle and I started a few months ago. Our inaugural post was The Chocolate Rose by Laura Florand....moreNovel Gossip is a new feature that my good friend Michelle and I started a few months ago. Our inaugural post was The Chocolate Rose by Laura Florand. We both loved Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (my review, Michelle's review) last year so Rose Under Fire was one of our most anticipated reads this year. Since it's a book set in a concentration camp, we were pretty sure that it would be heartbreaking and that it would be a good idea to read this together so we can provide moral support as we go along. Click here to read our thoughts about this historical fiction novel. While we did our best to refrain from putting in spoilers, it's pretty hard to have an in depth discussion without going into some of the things that happened within the book. If you'd rather go into Rose Under Fire without prior knowledge of its contents, then feel free to skip our discussion (although we hope you'd drop by after finishing the book).(less)
Thank you so much to my friend Maggie of Young Adult Anonymous for giving me a signed copy of Amy Spalding's debut novel, The Reece Malcolm List. I kept hearing good things about this contemporary YA novel so I was pretty excited to read it.
I felt like I read this book at just the right time. I just came back from L.A. when I read this more than a month ago and I was able to appreciate all the references to L.A. in the book. I got excited whenever I recognized any of the places or things mentioned - like having a burger from In N Out, which is something that I always make a point of having whenever I visit L.A. I'm a fan of musicals although I'm not as into the whole thing as Devan is - I mean I would like to be but I obviously don't have her talent. I just enjoy watching musicals and I try to watch as many as I can. I wish I was more familiar with Merrily We Roll Along because that was the musical featured in the book. I probably would have appreciated Devan's rehearsals more if I've seen Merrily We Roll Along on stage or if I knew the songs. I also love having karaoke sessions (we call it videoke back home in Manila) with my friends though because I like to sing even if I'm all heart and no talent. So I could totally relate to the karaoke scene in the book, I find it interesting that for a seriously talented singer like Devan, a fun karaoke session lets her unwind.
I liked reading about the characters and how Devan slowly got to know them - her theater friends, her love interests, her mom and even her mom's boyfriend. There were interesting characters and dynamics within the novel. I really, really enjoyed reading this book and I felt like I would have fallen in love with it if it just had a little more emotional depth. I felt like there was enough room to draw upon the characters' feelings - maybe more grief or anger from Devan over all the bad things that have happened in her life. I guess I was expecting something like that since her father passed away and she suddenly has to move in with a mom she has never met. I think that this novel is a very good debut and I'm definitely curious about Amy Spalding's next book - it's just that I wanted more than the overall lighthearted tone presented in The Reece Malcolm List. If you're a fan of contemporary YA, then you should definitely check this one out. I'm not surprised that I've seen so many rave reviews for it because it's a really fun read.(less)
Hazel Osmond was kind enough to send a copy of her second novel, The First Time I Saw Your Face (quite a mouthful) after she fo...moreOriginally posted here.
Hazel Osmond was kind enough to send a copy of her second novel, The First Time I Saw Your Face (quite a mouthful) after she found out that I enjoyed reading her debut, Who's Afraid of Mr. Wolfe. I really appreciate receiving a copy of this book from her not only because it's a signed copy, but also because it's not locally available. I'm always up for contemporary romance with more depth than usual and I feel like Hazel Osmond's books fit that description.
Let me take a moment to comment on the cover, I'm usually not a fan of real people in book covers but I think they did a great job in choosing the model who posed as Jennifer. I like how stylish she looks - from her French manicure to her classy black top (or is that a dress?) - reminds me a bit of Unsticky's cover. Only half of her face is shown and that's in keeping with the book's plot. Also, check out the hot pink spine, I think it looks good on my contemporary romance shelf:
The book's summary is pretty vague, isn't it? I don't think it would be too spoilery if I flesh it out. Skip ahead if you'd rather not know details about the book though. Jennifer was planning to be a successful stage actress when a horrible car accident leaves her face scarred. After the accident, she decides to come back to her family's farm, live a quiet life as an assistant librarian and forget her dreams of pursuing an acting career. Enter Mack Stone, former tabloid journalist who is being blackmailed to work undercover. His mission? Get as close to Jen as possible so she can dish out the details of her celebrity cousin's love life. Their story is told from alternating points of view, which I think is a good idea because readers will see how Mack was reluctant to take advantage of Jen right from the start.
The First Time I Saw Your Face is all about the slow burn - it's a quiet kind of romance filled with scenes that are all about the characters getting to know each other. I know I keep saying this but I'm a fan of romance that takes time to form. Jen feels like there's no way someone good-looking like Mack will ever be interested in her. And Mack has conflicting emotions, he genuinely likes Jen but he can't find a way to get out of the situation he's in. I was worried about these two and how the problems would get resolved once Mack's secret is out in the open. Overall, I found their love story sweet. I also liked how well-developed the secondary characters are - from their family members to the rest of the townspeople. Both of their families play significant roles in the story. I also found it interesting that the setting is Northumberland instead of London. Northumberland sounds beautiful based on the book's descriptions but I'm not sure if I could ever stand how cold it is over there. I had fun reading this one, very easy to get into so I recommend it to fans of Hazel Osmond's first novel as well as readers interested in British contemporary romance. The ebook has already been released and the paperback is coming out on August 16. (less)
I won a copy of Mina V. Esguerra's latest, That Kind of Guy, when I joined the contest that she hosted. You can read all about...moreOriginally posted here.
I won a copy of Mina V. Esguerra's latest, That Kind of Guy, when I joined the contest that she hosted. You can read all about it here. I enjoy reading her novels because I can relate to her characters and of course, the local setting.
Manang is a Filipino word that is roughly translated as "older sister" and is usually used as a term of respect. It's hard to define but manang is also used to describe conservative girls. My friends and I say we're manangs when we'd rather stay home on weekends (and in my case, read or blog) instead of go out and party. A girl can be a manang in so many different ways - from the way she dresses (no sleeveless tops or short skirts or dresses) to the way she dates (not willing to be set up on a blind date). Julie is a manang in the sense that she's a good girl. She doesn't do wild parties and she doesn't date random guys. In fact, she's never been in a serious relationship. When a friend suggests that she should loosen up by dating a fun guy, Julie agrees to try things out with Anton. She's just as surprised as everyone else when it becomes apparent that Anton wants to start a serious relationship with her. I was curious about Anton when I first met him as Tonio in No Strings Attached. I wanted to see how Mina would write about a playboy settling down. I wasn't disappointed, Anton turned out to be a really sweet guy in spite of how he was initially portrayed as a wild party boy. Here's a quote from the book that I really liked:
“Before I met him, I wondered how I could possibly fit a relationship into my life. My days felt full, of people, things, and concerns, and I wondered what I'd give up to accommodate someone new. Anton made it seem easy. He didn't take me out of my life; instead, he sort of slid into the empty spaces and made himself comfortable.”
It's funny because even though the book is written from Julie's point of view and I have manang tendencies, I liked Anton's character more than his girlfriend's. His actions and his lifestyle made sense when he explained them. I guess I just couldn't understand why Julie wasn't invested in their relationship but then again, that's something that Julie herself is trying to figure out. What I like about Mina's books is that I still enjoy reading them even if I can't fully relate to her characters. Why? Because I feel like her books are stories that can actually happen to some of my friends. I guess a huge part of that is because of the local setting. I liked watching Julie and Anton's love story unfold. I also think it's nice that they have such different personalities and yet they go well together. I'm already planning to recommend this (andmaybe even buy copies to give as gifts) to my girlfriends. That Kind of Guy is available in local bookstores all over the metro and will be available as an ebook soon. Mina, when will your next book be released? :P(less)
I was so excited to grab a copy of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green because I knew that he signed all of the first print ed...moreOriginally posted here.
I was so excited to grab a copy of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green because I knew that he signed all of the first print editions. Also, I felt that so many readers all over the world were getting copies once it was released and I wanted to be part of that community of YA readers. When I saw a copy in a local bookstore, I grabbed it and read it as soon as I could. I have to admit that I haven't read all of his books, even though I already have copies of them, but I promise I'll get to them sooner or later.
Based on that premise, I had a feeling that this book will make me cry. I was right. I think I will always have a soft spot for well-written novels that have characters with cancer. I don't talk about it that much because it's a very personal thing for me but I've mentioned it on the blog before - my father passed away in 2007 because of lung cancer. I know other readers have pointed this out already but The Fault in Our Stars reminded me a bit of A Monster Calls in the sense that it's a cancer book but it's not just about the cancer. Both are books that can make you empathize with the characters, they made me feel that I was right there with them. I think John Green did an excellent job of realistically portraying what life must be like for a teenage cancer survivor. Hazel Grace knows she's lucky she got a reprieve but she's reclusive because she wants to minimize the hurt that she'll cause the world when she passes away. She's very matter-of-fact about her cancer. Here's a snippet that I liked, fairly early on so it's not spoilery:
“There will come a time when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you. Everything that we did and built and wrote and thought and discovered will be forgotten and all of this will have been for naught. Maybe that time is coming soon and maybe it is millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of our sun, we will not survive forever. There was time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that’s what everyone else does.”
I think Hazel Grace is a quiet sort of person, which is why Augustus' bright and vibrant personality stood out more for me. In any case, that didn't keep me from really enjoying the book. I love how the friendship developed between Hazel and Augustus and eventually blossomed into something more. It's a slow burn relationship between two intelligent characters who bonded over their favorite books, how can I not root for that kind of relationship? And it's the real deal between these two, even their parents could see that. Which brings me to another aspect of the novel that I liked - the supportive parents. We don't get enough of those in YA nowadays. It has taken me a while to come up with this review and I've seen mixed responses from other readers - some truly loved it while others had problems with it. I'm okay with that, I'm just glad The Fault in Our Stars worked for me. It was the first contemporary YA novel that I finished in 2012 so all the other contemporary YA books that I'll read within the year have big shoes to feel. John Green's latest is a beautiful book. Read it if it's something that you think you'll enjoy and tell me what you think when you're done. Okay? Okay.(less)
Zack and Jasmine went to the same high school but they were never that close. They reconnect when they bump into each other in...moreOriginally posted here.
Zack and Jasmine went to the same high school but they were never that close. They reconnect when they bump into each other in college and they become good friends. Zack then asks Jasmine to pretend to be his ex because he's never had a girlfriend before and the girl that he likes doesn't want to be with someone who's never been in a relationship. Jasmine agrees, not knowing the consequences of that little lie. Fast forward to the present day, Zack is about to get married to a girl that none of his friends and family really know. It's up to Jasmine to confront Zack but before she can do that, she has to sort through her own feelings first. My Imaginary Ex was pretty easy to read even though the story is interspersed with flashbacks to fully flesh out Jasmine and Zack's friendship. The story sort of reminded me of My Best Friend's Wedding because it has a similar theme with the movie.
I'm not a fan of best friend love stories probably because my high school boyfriend was my best friend and we didn't really get our Happily Ever After together. Don't get me wrong, we're still good friends but now I feel like I have a certain fondness for love-hate relationships more than best friend love stories. Does that make me sound weird? :P In any case, I'm sure there are more people who will appreciate the friendship that is the foundation of Jasmine and Zack's relationship. While I didn't get to connect with the characters in this one as much as I did with the characters of Fairy Tale Fail, it's still quite an enjoyable, light read. The characters are believable and the author does a good job of describing the life of a young professional in her mid-twenties, living in Manila. Mina mentioned over Twitter that Summit is going to release another book of hers any day soon. I'm looking forward to that!(less)
Oh wow, I don't think I can write a review that would do this book justice. I can't even classify what genre it falls under. Em...moreOriginally posted here.
Oh wow, I don't think I can write a review that would do this book justice. I can't even classify what genre it falls under. Emotional Geology is about so many unfamiliar things - it's about forty-seven-year-old Rose and her everyday problems as she tries to cope with bipolar disorder and a past that's been troubling her for years. Rose settles in a remote area in Scotland, hoping to immerse herself in her work as a textile artist. She finds a kindred spirit in Calum, a handsome younger man who teaches in the local school, climbs during his free time and writes poetry whenever he can. The story focuses on these two broken individuals - how they're both burdened by their problems, how they try to rise above them and how they form a friendship based on how they see the world as artists. You know how someone gets you even when you barely know each other? I think that's the case with Calum and Rose. The point of view bounces from first to third person with bits of poetry thrown in between, changing from the present to several years in the past to fully explain Rose's experiences. It was a bit confusing at the start but I became used to the writing as I moved forward.
This was a refreshing and enlightening read for me because like I said, I know nothing about textile artists, climbing, geology or even Scotland. North Uist seems like a bleak and quiet place. Megan, Rose's daughter, even worries that her mother has chosen a lonely life when Rose decides to settle there. I think it's an appropriate choice for Rose and it's the perfect setting for her story. I would love to visit the area if I ever get the chance. Some of the characters in the book, like Calum, are serious climbers and I never realized how dangerous the sport (or hobby or obsession) is. I've tried some wimpy local climbs (very easy trails) and I also have friends who are mountain and rock climbers and I don't think they face the same risks that the climbers in Emotional Geology do. For one thing, we never have to worry about snow or frostbite here in the Philippines. Even if I wasn't familiar with a lot of things in this book, I was drawn to the characters because they felt very real. Linda Gillard did an amazing job of making me feel like I was inside Rose's head. The author was able to illustrate how erratic Rose's moods are - what Rose was thinking and feeling during high and low points in her life and what causes her to react in a certain way. This might seem like a grim book but it has a message of hope as the characters struggle to move on so they could find the happiness that they deserve. Haunting, lyrical, Linda Gillard's writing will stay with you days after you finish reading Emotional Geology. Highly recommended for fans of literary and women's fiction. (less)
2012 NOTE: I first read this March last year and just reread it because of Marchetta Madness. Funny that I finished rereading this one the same day I...more2012 NOTE: I first read this March last year and just reread it because of Marchetta Madness. Funny that I finished rereading this one the same day I posted a review last year. :P Maybe I should make it a yearly tradition? Glad I now have the Aussie edition because it's even more beautiful in person. And yep, the book itself is just as amazing as I remembered (it still made me cry).
Today's my birthday and I'm glad that I get to post a review of what has become one of my favorite reads this year. The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta is a companion novel to Saving Francesca, which I enjoyed reading last year. I think both books stand well on their own so there's no need to read one before the other. I can't even remember the details in Saving Francesca while I was reading The Piper's Son (which I regret. I will reread both books consecutively in the future). I love Melina Marchetta and Jellicoe Road is actually one of the books that encouraged me to read more contemporary YA.
How about that Aussie cover? I think it's lovely and I wanted to get a copy of it. I feel like the US edition is marketed for a younger audience when The Piper's Son doesn't read like a YA novel. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a way to get it so I went ahead and ordered the US edition because I've been waiting to read this for a while now. Let me just say that it was totally worth the wait! There's something about Melina Marchetta's books and her writing that makes the characters come alive and it makes you want to squeeze yourself into each close-knit group and beg to be included. That's how I felt when I read Jellicoe Road and again when I finished The Piper's Son. I wanted to become a part of their world, I wanted to feel all that love and yes, even the heartbreak and the pain that go with it. I can't get over how amazing Melina Marchetta is as a writer because she can really make you feel. Her books can make you laugh and cry and care about her characters to the point that you become fully invested in them. You feel like you're experiencing everything that her characters are going through and even when they're mostly difficult situations, you'll still love every minute of it. The Piper's Son is an achingly beautiful book that manages to do just that.
Tom is such a broken person at the start of the book and you just hurt for him and his family. The point of view changes from Tom to his aunt Georgie and the reader gets a clearer picture of each family member and most of their friends because of this. The Piper's Son is about grief and the slow healing process that goes with it. The characters were fully fleshed out, even the secondary ones, and Melina Marchetta shows how a person's actions and feelings affect the people around him or her. It reminds me of ripples in water and how they spread out to bigger areas. In my opinion, this book perfectly describes how complicated different kinds of relationships are. Family, friendships and romantic relationships - all of these are highlighted and illustrated in this book. Even if there's a lot of love involved, people are bound to make mistakes that they'll regret and it's a matter of knowing when something is worth fighting for and when someone deserves to be forgiven. Music is also a huge aspect of this book because a lot of the characters are into it. I've never been a big music geek but this book made me want to make a playlist and look up all of the songs mentioned in it. If it isn't obvious yet, I loved this book to bits. It's all kinds of wonderful. If you haven't had a chance to pick this up, I urge you to READ IT. After finishing this book, I couldn't stop thinking about it and I had one of those "THIS is why I read!" moments.
Side note: Does anyone know if Ben the Violinist in this one is the same Ben from Jellicoe Road? If yes, then that's awesome.(less)