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His First, Her Last: The Incredible True Story of an American Lost in the Philippines

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Engaged couple Jason and Hazel travel across the world to meet her family in this true story of love and adventure. The moment Jason steps off the plane in the Philippines, an exotic island caught between the East and the West, the past and the present, grabs hold of this naive American and seduces him with its beauty, its places, and its people. Temptation looms as the best friend of Hazel tests their relationship and touches their souls. A deeply personal account of the conflict of culture between American excess and Philippine poverty, His First, Her Last explores the ability of love to transcend two worlds apart. But after an accident spills blood on the streets of a remote village, the lives of this couple flash before their eyes. Will he escape? Will she survive? Will his first trip be her last?

266 pages, Paperback

First published September 2, 2013

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About the author

Jonathan Sturak

15 books76 followers
Jonathan Sturak grew up in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. He is a Penn State University graduate and holds degrees in Computer Science and Film. He currently lives in Las Vegas where he uses the energy of the city to craft stories about life and the human condition. "The Place Called Home," Sturak's essay about Eastern European heritage in Northeast Pennsylvania, was featured on Glass Cases, associate literary agent Sarah LaPolla's pop culture blog at http://glasscasesblog.blogspot.com/20.... Sturak is also a contributing editor at http://NoirNation.com, the premier location for international crime fiction. His debut thriller novel "Clouded Rainbow" was published in December 2009 and has over 200,000 downloads on the Amazon Kindle. Sturak keeps updated information on his website at http://sturak.com

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5 stars
58 (19%)
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60 (19%)
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94 (31%)
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56 (18%)
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35 (11%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 54 reviews
Profile Image for Jinky.
551 reviews7 followers
March 9, 2014
I am utterly insulted! This character, Jason, was self-absorbed, tactless, and downright disrespectful. His observation of the Philippine culture was stereotypical and deficient (< ten day trip would make one an expert, right? –sarcasm--). Even if some of the remarks were true, his attitude in its presentation was offensive to the Philippine people. The straw that broke the camel's back for me was when he was desperate to get out of the Philippine hospital because he felt that he would not get the proper treatment. He was in a rush to contact the U.S. Embassy (sound Hollywood, anyone?) to get him out of the horror of such primitive amenities. Sure the technology in the U.S. would be better but please show some respect to your host country. Don't be so rude and flaunt your hand sanitizer and remarks of disgust.

The character of the main protagonist was not the only flaw in this book. The entire plot of the book was questionable. From the title and blurb, it would have one believe that there would be a story of romance. I didn't feel any romance between Jason and Hazel. No depth in the relationship was conveyed. The descriptions were one dimensional and vain. Even with the "lives of this couple flash before their eyes" accident or "I almost died when I was five" incident, the events were mechanically recounted. If anything, I felt their relationship was twisted (Jason flirted with Hazel's best friend and Hazel was ignorant to Jason's true character). Instead, the storyline was mainly about pointing out a skewed image of third world countries, in this case, the Philippines; as dirty, dumb, and behind the times.

The author is a good writer. This book was well written in applied terms. The grammar was good. The breaks were at the correct places. Smooth technical reading. The flaw was in the content of the story and the flamboyance to the telling. Take away the insults and have more of the caring Jason (like his tenderness with his soon–to-be nephew, Tony). Moreover, I believe that the author thinks he is doing a service by writing this book. Absolutely not! The tips at the end for travelers might be sound but again an example of disrespect.

I have never felt more passionate about not recommending a book than this one. This book is definitely a "don't bother"! Please, don’t bother. I already bothered for all of us.

By the way, this book was based on the author's true account of his trip to the Philippines, so this would be a memoir, hence a non-fiction. Yet, his character name was different. So would that make this fiction? Oh, the flaws are endless.

Jinky is Reading
Profile Image for Cassandra Javier.
Author 9 books33 followers
October 17, 2013
I got a free copy of this book for review and I must say that I have mixed feelings about this. Well, first up, I am from the Philippines and yes, although it's kinda funny that some of the stuff written here are true, others I think were just too...exaggerated and magnified. Here's what I have to say: The Philippines, though it's not America or any other place in the world, though there are things that happen here that would make you feel queasy or whatever, IT IS NOT A BAD PLACE. Not a god-dammed place that you can't visit again.

I know, I know, the author had a really traumatic experience and yes, I'm taking that into consideration but the thing is...you shouldn't really put the Philippines in THAT light because hello, some people here actually earn, some people actually have nice homes, and not everyone is poor or smelly or whatever. What irritated me is that almost every description of a person in the book had some "he looked like he hasn't showered in days" lalala and it was like, enough already, okay? It's so not that way.

And while I appreciate the fact that he loves his wife and that he was good to the family, everything else was just...ugh. I'm sorry. Plus, yeah, I agree with Hazel that the protagonist Jason is kind of a mama's boy, sorry about that.

Profile Image for megHan.
604 reviews87 followers
November 21, 2013
The first book that I read by this author was Clouded Rainbow. It was a great story and I loved it.

When Jonathan Sturak released this, his latest book, he messaged me out of the blue and asked me if I would be interested in reading it. Knowing how much I loved his previous book, and seeing his words about how personal this book was to him, I agreed.

I wanted to love this book as much as I loved Clouded Rainbow ... but I just couldn't. I've actually been putting off writing this review for several days because, well, I just didn't know what I was going to say about it. I'm actually stuck between giving it 3, 3 1/2 and 4 stars. There were parts that I did like and I tried not to let the parts that I didn't like overpower me, but I think those parts overpowered what could have been a beautiful story. It saddens me even more when I see that it is based on a true story.

I never EVER do this, but I am now going to delve into SPOILER world so, if you do not want to continue reading, I will completely understand. But if you are interested in seeing my issues, please stick with me while I explain my thoughts ...

When authors ask me to read their books, I never read the reviews that are already up for fear that I will go in to it with someone else's thoughts and opinions in my head. I also don't read past the first few sentences of the description because, let's face it, some give away WAY too much information and I want to enjoy the story rather than read anticipating things.

When it came to this particular book, I never even looked at the Amazon or Goodreads page, just downloaded it onto my Kindle and jumped into it as soon as I had the chance.

Because of my lack of research into the book, I was completely unprepared for the main character's ... um ... feelings for his fiance's best friend. And, to be honest, I disliked that aspect of the story. It would have been different, I guess, if it would have been one or two thoughts - but it was a CONSTANT thing. Each time it made me uncomfortable and left me feeling sorry for his fiance, that he could behave this way in the first place, but that he was also doing it in front of her. It was inappropriate and ... disgusting. There was laughing and joking about it from the fiance and parts of her family, but she had no idea the thoughts that were really going on inside his head.

Between that, him always wanting to go home (and complaining to his mom on the phone about it), his mom's passive-aggressive comments (i.e. her confusing the Asian countries - this is the girl your son is in love with and wants to marry, you'd think you'd get it right - and telling him several times that he needs to come home), the constant droning on and on with his complaining - about the food, about the people, about everything - and the fact that every two to three pages he was checking to make sure he had "his security pouch, his camera bag and his hand sanitizer," I really started to dislike him about 20% in ... and I don't think I was supposed to dislike him. (Side note: I too have an issue with germs. I carry my hand sanitizer in my purse. No matter where I am, it's there. Why he felt the need to keep checking, I just don't understand. Like someone in this county was going to steal his hand sanitizer from him. Ugh.)

I liked the fiance and her family. I loved how they treated him as if he was part of their family from the very first meeting. I loved the descriptions of his surroundings - when he actually took the time to notice how beautiful the country around him was.

Then the accident happens. That's when he, I guess, realizes just how much he loves and needs his fiance, as he searches to find her. This was actually one of the parts that I liked. (It reminded me a lot of Clouded Rainbow, where the husband his searching for the wife in a big city.)

But, after he finds her and she is ok, he goes right back into his complaining and his obsessive need to leave the country, no matter what doctors tell him.

At the end of the story, all I'm left with is one question for Jason - If the accident had never happened, would you have changed at all??
Profile Image for Diane.
31 reviews
August 14, 2014
Like a train wreck, this book was hard to look away from. The author's America-centric world view and cultural expectations were cringe-worthy. Having lived in the Philippines for 10 years from the 1970's to 1980's, I thought I would appreciate seeing an outsider's view of the country for a touch of nostalgia. Yet even I, with all my youthful naiveté, could not have rivaled this fellow for his unrealistic expectations of life in a third world country, his ignorance of what is "normal" for others around the world, and his irrational fears.

Profile Image for Jilly.
565 reviews5 followers
July 11, 2023
I love a good biography, it is always interesting to read about other peoples lives. To see the similarities to our own and also the differences. We learn how other people make their choices, we see different places and learn about other cultures. This book has all of that. Reading about the culture clash between American riches and Philipines poverty really made me think about my own life and how much we have and how much we take it all for granted. This is an interesting read.

Engaged couple Jason and Hazel travel across the world to meet her family in this true story of love and adventure. The moment Jason steps off the plane in the Philippines, an exotic island caught between the East and the West, the past and the present, grabs hold of this naive American and seduces him with its beauty, its places, and its people. Temptation looms as the best friend of Hazel tests their relationship and touches their souls. A deeply personal account of the conflict of culture between American excess and Philippine poverty, His First, Her Last explores the ability of love to transcend two worlds apart. But after an accident spills blood on the streets of a remote village, the lives of this couple flash before their eyes. Will he escape? Will she survive? Will his first trip be her last?
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 21 books47 followers
November 26, 2020
As a Filipina, married to a white man, Norwegian, this book piqued my interest when I receive a review request. I was eager to start reading it and know the experience of another foreigner in the Philippines.

2020, years later, I read this again, and you know what? I notice things I didn’t in the beginning at the stuff he did pissed me more than ever.

Before I get to the point, I want to mention that I want to applaud the author for his clever observation about the Philippines. Many foreigners go to the Philippines then go back home thinking they’ve been to paradise. This is all because many foreigners who went to the Philippines for vacation only experience the tourist places, the organized environment for tourist and for the rich and the famous, but that’s just a part of the Philippines. Jason (the protagonist) experienced the real Philippines with its good and bad.

I agree with him on many things. The crazy organized chaos traffic, the balut (ugh, I hate balut! I feel bad for that little bird being boiled alive!) and yes, the cockfighting too, my father brought me in one of those tournaments when I was a child and that has traumatized me for the rest of my life. Even now I feel like crying remembering those cruel days. Poor living is not an excuse to resort to using the roster that way. There are many ways to get money in the Philippines you just have to be creative (and no, I don’t mean that you should join the mafia) and if I want to feed myself (one way is cutting the neck of that chicken-quickly before he knows it. Then you get some nice adobo. Okay I admit, I’m ranting.)

Anyway here comes why I didn’t give this book a two stars.

1) Okay, many Filipinos might go and get defensive saying “it’s not that bad” but I’d say: “it is that bad” at less in the poor Philippine areas, but I’ll agree with one of the reviewers in Goodreads.

Jason did make it sound like no one takes showers there.

I want to emphasize (my husband who been in and out of the Philippines, with rich and poor, also said it)

Filipino are very conscious about appearance.

Doesn’t matter if the house looked like it’s about to fall apart, washing up and keeping themself clean is something many prioritize, especially if they work in a bit “normal job” (I especially noted it on the Flower man) and yes, some might mix up, he/she, him/her. But I find that really strange, anyone who has been in grade 4 should be able to use it perfectly. I have yet to meet someone who needs to be reminded so many times.

2) I would have liked this book better if Jason hadn’t annoyed the hell out of me. At the start of the book Jason was overly cautious (way over the top) and then there’s the incident with the cops. One shouldn’t need to travel the world to know a place like the Philippines is a place where rules are often ignored in exchange for a price. And sure he’s in a foreign country, but does he need to behave like a helpless kid when the beggar kids flocked around him?

3) Food. Okay, this isn’t the best the Philippines could offer (I personally think so too) but must he act as if everything given to him is a potential poison, with the exception of pizza and McDonald food? McDonald’s might be licensed from the US, but he should know that the food they serve there is cooked in the Philippines! So, tell me. What’s the difference between that and the meal served from a high-class restaurant which is not American license?

4) Hand sanitizer much? Why does he keep spraying himself for every Filipino he encountered? There’s was no COVID back then. I’ve met, talk and become friends with a lot of western people and seriously, they don’t carry around a sanitizer and squirt their hands for everything, that won’t keep you completely safe. Wash your hand regularly with soap and water.

5) And what annoyed me most with Jason was, I feel like he got a sexual desire for all of Hazel’s friends. Especially Joy. Others might say “it’s okay it’s part of being a man.” Shut up, for me he’s actually cheating on Hazel—mentally or physically makes no difference and especially irritating because it’s his fiancée’s best friend.

No, his fantasy over Joy is too much to ignore.

I wanted to stop reading the story at 20% the first time but out of respect for the author, and I promised a friend to finish it to the end, so I forced myself to finish reading this story. And so, with all that being said, I would like to say that this book made a lasting impression on me, the author writing was neat, I also like his writing style, the book was easy to read (though his personal thoughts really disturb me). This book could have been more entertaining if Jason has a more likeable attitude. The only thing I like about Jason is that he sympathizes for the animal and that we both have Back to the Future as a favorite movie, but throughout the story I did learn to respect him for his honesty and I feel really sorry for what he has gone through.

I’ll recommend this book to foreigners who planned to visit the Philippines, it’s a great manual written in the semi-autobiographical form. And no, I’m not going to sit here and say that hospitals in the Philippines are better than that, my own personal experience forbids me to do so. However, I would say that if you want a better and more comfortable experience, I suggest going to private hospitals.

I’m not eager to recommend this book, because I’m more pissed about it after reading it again.
Profile Image for Lori.
187 reviews
November 15, 2018
Mixed feelings ...

At first I was excited to read about daily life in the Philippines. But pretty soon I was very disappointed. It reads like a first time novelist with choppy paragraphs and a draft-like feel.

It was insulting to see how naive this man was about visiting another country. Of course you check your cell coverage ... find a hospital ... do your research. It portrays Americans as idiots. And the hand sanitizer!? Really?!

Not impressed. Do not recommend.
Profile Image for Lori.
Author 18 books88 followers
October 3, 2013
I'm a huge fan of Jonathan Sturaks work. This story was very different from what I've read of his. Based on actual events in the author's life he tells of an amazing journey to the Philippines to meet and visit his fiancee Hazel's family.
From the moment Jason and Hazel arrived in her country, Jason finds himself questioning things he takes for granted. He is suddenly surrounded by the harsh realities of what life is like living in the Philippines, the poverty, the people and the lifestyles are much harsher.
Jason's character reminded me very much of Jack Nicholson in the movie as good as it gets. The fears/phobias we all experience outside of our comfort zones. Fear of drinking water, eating food and the unknown.
As Jason begins his journey of meeting Hazel's family and experiencing the old ways vs new he discovers the importance of his own family and what he's taken for granted. He also begins to care for and love Hazel even more as well as her family.
When tragedy strikes Jason and Hazel's love and relationship are put to the test as family members from the Philippines and the States pull together.
I was amazed at how well the author brought together both cultures and was able to give the reader a real feel of what it's like to leave everything you know for the unknown.
The story grabs you from the beginning to the end. I think this is one of Jonathan Sturak's best stories.
I can't thank him enough for providing me with an ARC to read. Great read and kudos to him for telling his own story in his own words.
Profile Image for Tracy.
123 reviews5 followers
January 3, 2014
I gave this book 3 starts because it doesn't have an option to only give 2 1/2. I think I might have liked this book more if I wasn't so mislead by the title and cover picture. I assumed the story was about a man who while visiting the Philippines for the first time had experienced some horrific event, became lost in a foreign country and somehow overcame his circumstance all while dealing with the loss of his fiance. I was way off!! By Chapter 13 still nothing exciting happened. Halfway through the book it started to become a chore to finish.

****Spoiler Alert****

There was an accident towards the end of the book, but the author was never physically lost in the Philippines. This is more of a self discovery story. After spending most of his vacation complaining and having a negative attitude towards his fiance's homeland and culture (and obsessively checking his security pouch, camera bag and hand sanitizer), Jason along with his fiance Hazel, her nephew, cousin and best friend are involved in a terrible motor accident. From this experience Jason realizes the beauty in the people and the country.

I don't want to be too negative, the story was well written and very descriptive. Just was not something I would normally choose to read and a bit of a let down from what I was expecting.

Profile Image for Kristen Mazzola.
Author 67 books1,098 followers
October 24, 2013
I was lucky enough to win a copy of this through a goodreads giveaway! It was the first time that I heard about Jonathan Sturak and I have to say that I am so thrilled to have found such a talented writer. This book brings so much to that table and the raw emotion conveyed is palpable. The characters are wonderfully portrayed and make you turning the pages from cover to cover!
Profile Image for Jhiehan.
15 reviews
December 3, 2013
I am a filipino and while most of what's written is true, but, we don't eat sandwiches with rice. We have a problem with poverty and corruption but it doesn't make us any less human than you. It offends me that you always have to use your sanitizer and that you fear that your food is not safe. I will not read this for now and will continue next time.
Profile Image for Tamara.
423 reviews2 followers
December 1, 2016
This is the true story of a young man who visits the Philippines with his fiancé for the he first time. It is a true story told by Jason who is the author. Jason is clearly neurotic and perhaps has not had a great deal of experience with traveling or with other cultures as he is anxious the entire time he is visiting the Philippines. His fiancé Hazel, seems like a nice person that comes from a close knit family. Although Jason is a foreigner, Hazel's family and friends embrace him. Jason is friendly and kind to them. He pays for almost everything and the family and friends are appreciative. Joy, is Hazel's best friend. Although Jason constantly proclaims how much he loves his fiancé, he is constantly thinking about Joy and clearly has feelings that he should not have for her. I found that to be very disrespectful and off putting. Jason is very close with his parents and he almost seems childlike with his constant need to call them. I enjoyed learning more about the Philippines and to hear how kind the people are there. I did not care for the author's behavior throughout the story besides for his generosity, and for that reason I rate the book 3 stars.
March 7, 2021

This book kept me interested right up until the end. Perhaps because I have a brother engaged to a Filipino woman and after several visit s he is planning to move there made it more relevant to me.
February 4, 2019
Slow start... seemed to drag in places. About 75% through the book peaked... and rapidly concluded. Almost too fast. Felt rushed.
Profile Image for Charlie.
Author 3 books18 followers
December 27, 2013
Read more book reviews at Book Junkie Joint.

Poignantly accurate! This is a very insightful read about an outsider's point of view of the Philippines.

It was interesting to read about my country from the eyes of a foreigner. Sure, I will have to admit that my country is not paradise, heck, it's even world-famous for its corrupt politicians, but it's not so bad really. It was understandable to read about Jason being all antsy and careful as regards the food and environment when he came to the Philippines. It's normal to be scared of something you've never experienced, or some place you've never been to before. Besides, the Philippines is culturally different than America. I'd say that it was normal for Jason to imagine the worst of things about the Philippines, and the author realistically captured this.

Story-wise, as this book was based on the real experiences of the author, I wasn't really expecting something majorly ground-breaking. Majority of the story-line wasn't exactly about the love between Jason and Hazel. It was about Jason's adventure in the Philippines and the way he almost lost Hazel due to an accident in a country with no adequate medical facilities.

What I think was really beautiful about this story is that from Jason's perspective, the Philippines isn't even half of what the US is as a country, but the people from the Philippines make do with what little they have, and they can smile despite their circumstances. Personally, this trait is something I'm proud of. In the Philippines, we have this motto: "Kung maiksi ang kumot, matutong mamaluktot", which roughly translates to: "If the blanket is short, learn to bend (your legs)". Yes, the Philippines might not be as urbanized or as highly developed as the US, but we learn to adapt and make the best out of the hand we're dealt with.

Secondly, I loved reading about Hazel's family. The typical Filipino family was realistically depicted in this novel! Even the house they all lived in, and the way they shared whatever it was that they had with each other. In my opinion, the reason why most Filipino can smile despite dire situations is because of their close-knit support group - their families. (Statistics show that depression is higher in the US, than in the Philippines, and this is even despite the fact that psychiatric help isn't even prevalent in the Philippines.)

What else? Hmmm... Ah, yes, I was a bit disturbed while reading about Jason's sexual desires for other women. I'd like to think that this is because the women that Jason saw in the Philippines looked exotic in his eyes for being different, but really, it was still disturbing to read about him ogling other women when he has Hazel. Dude, just no.

While I was delighted to read about my country in this book, in general, I don't think that this story would really appeal to other people from other countries. The details about the Philippines were spot-on and realistic, but portraying them in the book made it a bit dragging. Secondly, the story-line was simple, and not all that exciting.

All in all though, for me, this book was such an interesting read!
Profile Image for Roger DeBlanck.
Author 7 books123 followers
November 14, 2016
Jonathan Sturak’s fifth book (his fourth novel) is his most accomplished work to date. The main character, Jason Stefanik, is an all American boy: raised on the east coast, a college graduate, and a young man with a steady career in computer technology. His fiancée, Hazel, is a beautiful Philippine woman adjusting to life and work in the states, yet understandably she is nostalgic for her family back on the islands. When the couple takes a trip back to Hazel’s native country, the vacation becomes a journey of self-discovery that challenges Jason’s anxieties and tests the strength of his and Hazel’s love for each another.

The story is compelling on different levels with its blend of folly, romance, tragedy, and drama. Sturak is a master at transitioning his narrative from scenes of fun and amusement to horror and dread. In each of his previous books, Sturak has demonstrated his tremendous command of plot and pacing. This novel continues that signature feature of his writing. His prose has a fluidity that’s incredibly addictive. The plot unravels with shocks and twists. Sturak often employs a spare style to keep events moving quickly. When he invests in description and depth, his passages are memorable and the book elevates to a high level of beauty. Even as events race forward, he makes a reader feel everything in the surroundings of the country.

One of the strongest aspects of this novel is Sturak’s ability to capture the nuance of culture through the shrewd observations and the streaming dialogue of his characters. He captures the disorientation of Jason as a foreigner. We see his anxieties and fears of visiting a strange land, and we notice his self-awareness of needing to resign to certain aspects of his situation in order to prove to Hazel how much he wants to understand her family and her former way of life. As tensions build, the narrative focuses on new challenges for its characters. The hardships they encounter on vacation allow them to realize how adversity throughout life must be faced in order to assure the lasting commitment of their love. Sturak delivers a heartfelt story that pulls you in several directions with all its joys and struggles.
Profile Image for J.N..
1,364 reviews
December 31, 2013
I won a copy of this book from the Goodreads First Reads Giveaway program. Many thanks to the publisher/author for giving me the chance to read and review this book from the Goodreads First Reads program.

This was a really hard book for me to get into. It ended up being a slow, kind of painful read. Maybe the writing style just doesn't appeal to me. I liked that the story was so in-depth, but it also tended to drag at times.

I'm never been to the Philippines, nor do I know much about it, but the author did a good job with the details and descriptions. It almost made me feel like I was there. However, even though I believe it's great to be saved, the constant checking of the hand sanitizer got a little annoying.

This is marketed as a romance as well as a true story, but I didn't really get the romance vibe. At least not until near the end, and somewhat in the beginning. The rest of the book has the main character thinking about other women, and that made me like the book even less. I'm not a man, but it didn't seem right for the main character to come to the Philippines with his fiancee' and then think about her female family and friends--or buying them "secret" presents.

It ended much differently than I expected, but I didn't really care enough about anyone to feel too sad, though I am sorry for the real tragedy that the author experienced.

This book just wasn't for me. Not bad, but I'd never pick this one up again. Maybe I can find someone to give it to who will appreciate it more than I currently do.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for this review. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.
Profile Image for Joyce.
1,150 reviews6 followers
November 9, 2014
I'm glad I spent very little to purchase this book. The review made it sound much more interesting than it turned out to be. It is the story of the author's trip to the Philippines with his fiance, Hazel, to meet her family and a traumatic event that occurred during their brief time there. It was somewhat interesting reading the author's descriptions of the Philippines---especially the traffic in Manila, the hotel rooms he stayed in, and other details he shared about Manila and other locations he traveled to. However, I felt like the author was an arrogant jerk who seemed pretty obsessive-compulsive in his constant need to use a hand sanitizer and constant hygiene concerns. I also felt disgusted by his frequent need to call his mother who treated him like a little child rather than a grown man. There were so many things I didn't like about him and the ways he treated other people that I could go on and on but won't. He did at least give praises about the people of the Philippines being warm and caring. I definitely felt sorry for his fiance Hazel who he traveled with to the Philippines to meet her family.
637 reviews19 followers
November 12, 2013
Somehow I had expected something much more sinister, like a hostage situation or something really twisted occurring. I was reading along... waiting and waiting for the real action to begin. The living situation in the Philippines - with the corrupt police officers, absent traffic regulations and desperate poverty - as these situations were described, there was an overall feeling of dread, that the 'bad' thing was going to happen at the next moment. At maybe 70% or so, a horrible accident occurs and the group is dependent on the meager resources the local hospital had to offer. Scary situation - of course! Worthy of a novel? Not really. Sorry. I do feel I learned a little about the Philippines; enough to know how absolutely fortunate I am to live in the United States! Okay book, just not nearly as adventurous as what I had expected, making it a little disappointing. The writing was fine enough. Maybe someone who has more of a connection to the Philippines would enjoy this more than I did?
Profile Image for Kaishauna.
52 reviews1 follower
December 31, 2013
I usually really enjoy memoirs, especially when it's someone traveling to another country; however, I honestly was really disappointed with this one. I thought the title of the book was very misleading and the use of the word "incredible" a stretch. Though I think it is wonderful that someone can get into a terrible accident and survive it, it's not until 76% into the book that you even get to this part. That means I read 75% of pretty much nothing. I found the writing to be very dry and the main guy a little sickening with his selfish and spoiled attitude towards everything he encountered in the Philippines, as well as his fantasizing about his fiance's BFF. I think it could've been written in a better way, and perhaps the "climax" of it could have happened quite a bit sooner, leaving some room for the writer to reflect more on life lessons learned and how his relationship was impacted with his fiance. Just my opinion though.
Profile Image for Tammy.
3,038 reviews14 followers
September 21, 2013
I have taken some time and stepped away from the book I read and finished. The Author had sent me a copy of his book- His First, Her Last by Jonathan Sturak. I felt like the book was really long and painful to read because I was waiting for something to happen. Other books I have read by this author contained more of a mystery and I guess I was always waiting for the story to begin. It turned out this was more of an autobiographical story about the author visiting the Philippines with his fiancé. It was written well just difficult to get into the book because I had different expectations. And the only review I found online after I finished really loved the book so much I felt bad I didn't enjoy it nearly as much.
Profile Image for Glenna.
40 reviews
October 5, 2013
This true life story about the American, Jason, and his foreign fiancé, Hazel, is a riveting adventure. They arrive in the Philippines to vacation with Hazel's friends and family. Jason becomes the foreigner in this Pacific land. Every day is a battle of emotions and physical struggles. Would this couple ultimately return to America? This book left me informed yet anxious about ever visiting a foreign land. When embracing a different culture, the ultimate preparations may not make for ideal memories. I kept wondering and reading to see if Jason and Hazel would survive this trip. The love that bonds their different backgrounds is beautifully strong in this book.
Profile Image for Kevin Cortes.
129 reviews12 followers
April 11, 2015
A story based on the actual experiences by the writer on the Filipino culture, traditions and even some of the problems that the country have. It gives another perspective to a life in the Philippines through the eyes of a tourist.

The story of Jason's adventure is an interesting insight and narration of the experiences that the author had. Amidst the bad experience that he had due to the accident, Sturak still manages to come up with a story that talks about love and hope despite the tragedy that takes place in a country rich with heritage.

More of my review at:
Profile Image for Kevin Cortes.
129 reviews12 followers
January 16, 2014
A story based on the actual experiences by the writer on the Filipino culture, traditions and even some of the problems that the country have. It gives another perspective to a life in the Philippines through the eyes of a tourist.

The story of Jason's adventure is an interesting insight and narration of the experiences that the author had. Amidst the bad experience that he had due to the accident, Sturak still manages to come up with a story that talks about love and hope despite the tragedy that takes place in a country rich with heritage.

More of my review at:
Profile Image for Eric.
691 reviews
November 10, 2013
What an amazing story. Told as a novel but based on a true account this book really had it all. I loved the way the author shared his feelings of being in a different country and then contemplating on how it effects the world as a whole. He generally had culture shock and needed to know that his world still existed by constantly phoning family back home. His visit ended in tradegy though which caused his desire to return to the country to fade away along with his Fiancees desire to return to her own country. A marvelous and touching read.
799 reviews4 followers
August 21, 2014
I debated between a 0 and a 1 for my rating of this waste of time. I guess I learned a couple of things so I went with a 1. I kept waiting for something to happen, but every page was the same with him whining to his fiancé, calling his mommy, charming the young nephew, reciting every dollar he gave to these people like he was saving them or something by buying them food from McDonalds, and flirting with his fiance's best friend. He talked of the poverty of the country and kept hinting that something was going to happen to make the story interesting. BLEH.
Profile Image for Christina.
6 reviews1 follower
February 26, 2014
As an American I take so much for granted. Good hospital care, flushable toilets, even a soft bed. Through the eyes, and sad yet magnetic memories of the author I have realized my own naïveté. Whilst reading of the lives of those living in the Philippines I had to constantly remind myself this book tells a story of just a couple years ago. I kept wanting to believe people only lived like this a hundred years ago... A poignant and worthwhile read for sure.
Profile Image for Nancy.
1,610 reviews46 followers
February 27, 2014
This was a free book. I had a hard time getting into it. I started reading four different books, one chapter at a time. The author wrote the story of his trip to the Philippines with his fiancee. He lusted after Hazel's best friend, Joy. It was hard to understand why Joy got the task of watching out for Jason. I read some of the other reviews, and one was harsh on the authors version of life in the Philippines. This was a difficult book to read. I'm glad it over.
Profile Image for Shannon.
8 reviews1 follower
August 12, 2014
Downloaded this book for free and am glad that I didn't purchase it. Jason's character annoyed me and I could not get a good picture in my head as to what he looked like and how he came to be the way he was. The way he behaved had me intrigued, but not in a good way. I felt bad for Hazel the entire time. I also felt as if there was a lot of build-up and then all of a sudden the book was over. Not what I was expecting.
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