Chachic's Book Nook


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June 2014 Recap

June has ended and with it, the first half of the year. I feel like that went by pretty quickly? Probably because I had a couple of trips earlier this year. I should do a mid-2014 recap and see which books have become favorites for this year. I’ll think about doing something like that. For now, here are the books that I read in the past month:

Graceling by Kristin Cashore – This was a reread for a YAckers discussion. It’s such a comfort to reread old favorites. Graceling was just as good as I remembered. I ♥ Katsa and Po.

Baiting the Maid of Honor by Tessa Bailey – I’ve become a Tessa Bailey fangirl and I enjoy her books so much that she’s become an auto-buy author for me. Like with all of her books, I finished Baiting the Maid of Honor pretty quickly and I enjoyed reading it but I don’t think it’s as good as her Line of Duty books. Looking forward to seeing what she publishes next!

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart – Review can be found here.

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski – Review can be found here.

Summer Rain is a romance anthology. I bought it because it has short stories by Ruthie Knox and Mary Ann Rivers. I’ve read and enjoyed both of those short stories and a couple of others in the book but I wasn’t able to finish the whole thing.

Killer Instincts series by Elle Kennedy (Midnight Rescue, Midnight Alias, Midnight Games, Midnight Pursuits) – Seems like I’ve been reading more and more romances lately. I can’t help it, they’re just so easy to get into. I liked the premise for this Elle Kennedy series because the main characters are assassins and mercenaries. It’s funny because I didn’t love any of the books on their own but I realized that the series is a much stronger read when the books are read all together. I’m now invested enough in the characters that I’m really, really curious about the next book which will be released later this year.

Saga Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples – I follow only two graphic novel series: Saga and Trese and I read them when I feel like taking a break from full-length novels. Saga is such a good series with excellent writing and great artwork. I’m not a fan of all the gore/death/injuries in the series but I will keep reading because I want to know what happens to the characters.

Nowadays, I don’t feel like I’m not super behind on blogging anymore because I get to review some, if not all, of the books that I read. I would still like to post more often that I do now but I don’t want to sacrifice my reading time for it. Which is why I do these recaps, to keep track of the books that I’ve read even if I haven’t written reviews for them. I’m hoping that July will be an amazing month in terms of books, I have a few in my TBR pile that I’m really excited about (to the point where it’s difficult to choose what to read next). Also, I will be hosting Amour et Florand at the end of the month so watch out for that.

What about the rest of you, what are the books that you read last June? Any titles that became favorites?

Recap of previous months:
January
February
March
May


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Late Night Reading

I do most of my reading at night. I used to have a longer commute to work and I got to read on the train then. But since I moved, there are only a few stops from my current flat to the office so I don’t get to read while traveling. I barely get enough time to check messages on my phone during that train ride. There are times when I could squeeze in some reading time while having dinner but I read mostly after dinner and before going to bed. This is also the time when I try to do anything else that I need to do – like blogging or catching up on chores – but I tend to ignore those other tasks when I’m immersed in a good book. And when I’m in the middle of a wonderful book, I’m also willing to give up sleep and stay up late to have more reading time or to finish the book.

Kindle on bed

However, there are also instances when I stay up late to read not because the book is good but because I just want to get it over with. It may be because something has thrown me out of the story – an annoying character or a frustrating situation – and I just want to find out what happens in the end. Very rarely do I DNF a book. Plus there are times when I would rather not DNF because even if I’m not really enjoying the book, I still want to know how it ends. But then when I stay up then the next day rolls around and the lack of sleep affects me, I get irritated with myself for wasting precious sleeping time over a book that is less than amazing. The point of this random rambling is to ask the rest of you if you also encounter this situation. Does staying up late to read or finish a book always mean that you’re reading a good book? Or do you also stay up late just to get things over with, like I do? I’m curious to hear what you guys think.


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Happy Independence Day, Philippines

June 12 is the Independence Day of the Philippines and there are some things going around the interwebs related to this. On Twitter, Paolo Chikiamco is hosting the #RP612fic hashtag. Learn more about it from Paolo’s intro post. Alexa and Rachel have come up with Filipino-themed posts on their blogs under the blog event Mabuhay. I contributed to one of them, where they asked Filipino book bloggers what we want to see more in literature. Please drop by and take a look at what everyone had to say.

lomo intramuros

A shot of Intramuros, an old district in Manila

Since I have Filipino literature in mind, I was thinking of what books I would write if I ever felt the urge to do so. I haven’t really considered writing a novel or even a novella but I think it’s only natural that if I do write a book, it would be something similar to what I enjoy reading. That would include either YA or adult literature in genres like contemporary or realistic fiction, romance, epic fantasy which has been influenced by the Filipino culture or urban fantasy which is set in the Philippines. It would be interesting to talk about my own experiences like moving to a different country for a better work opportunity because that’s something that’s fairly common amongst Filipinos. My high school and college experiences would be outdated by now but it would be fun to talk about the Philippine school system and what are the norms in schools. Maybe highlight the fact that English is the medium of instruction in our schools. If I did write realistic fiction, I would definitely want to have a Filipino reader as a character – someone who loves books just as much as I do. It would also be a good idea to write a historical fantasy or alternate history novel set during the pre-colonization era with magic and political intrigue – I believe that this is something that would involve a ton of research.

In Anawangin, a cove in Zambales

In Anawangin, a cove in Zambales

Like I said, I don’t really plan on writing anything at the moment so I’m basically just thinking out loud here. To my fellow Filipino readers, what themes are you interested in writing about if you had the capacity to do so? Fo everyone else, would you be interested in reading books similar to what I described above?


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Book to Movie: The Fault in Our Stars

TFiOS movie poster

TFiOS movie poster at The Cathay

I was pleasantly surprised when I checked movie schedules last Friday and saw that some cinemas had limited show times for The Fault in Our Stars. I found that surprising since movies here in Singapore usually do not have the same release date as the US. Since everyone else was talking about the film on Twitter, I wanted to grab the chance to see it as soon as I can. I watched the movie with a couple of friends on Saturday afternoon.

I thought it was a bit weird that Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort were cast as brother and sister in the movie adaptation of Divergent and then they’re cast as a couple in TFiOS. It didn’t bother me that much since Ansel didn’t have that big of a role in Divergent and Shailene really looks different in both films. After watching TFiOS, I can say that both actors did a good job in portraying the two main characters Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters. They were believable as teens who have both led difficult lives because of cancer.

I really enjoyed watching the movie and I think it’s a good adaptation of the book. More often than not, the book is better than the movie version but in TFiOS’ case, I enjoyed reading/watching both. I’m not sure how involved John Green was in the production of the film but based on his social media posts, it seemed like he was there throughout the whole process. He was even supposed to have a cameo but the scene got deleted. Maybe the author’s constant presence had something to do with how well the film represented his book. All of the aspects of the book that I liked were also present in the movie, such as the humor, the smart conversations, the slow burn romance that started with friendship and a mutual love for a certain book. I’ve never been to Amsterdam so I loved the scenes that were filmed there, more so because the trip to Europe is a big deal for the two main characters. It’s a once in a lifetime kind of trip for the two of them.

I like it when there’s enough suspension of disbelief or I’m invested enough in the characters while reading a book or watching a movie that I get emotional. I cried when I read TFiOS back in 2011 and I got choked up and teary-eyed while watching the movie last weekend. I also smiled and laughed at certain scenes.

After seeing the movie, I have friends who asked whether I enjoyed watching it and would I recommend that they see it. I told them that yes, I thought it was a good movie but I recommend reading the book first. I do think TFiOS movie can stand well enough on its own but I think it’s more enjoyable if the moviegoer has read the book. It’s a quiet sort of movie that focuses on human interactions and emotions and I believe I was able to appreciate it because I’ve read the book and I was more familiar with the characters. Also, I have this preference of reading a book before watching a movie adaptation of it because I don’t want my reading experience to be influenced by the movie. But maybe that’s just my own thing.

What about the rest of you, did you go and watch TFiOS last weekend? What did you think of it?

TFiOS display at Kinokuniya

TFiOS display at Kinokuniya


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May 2014 Recap

I didn’t have an April 2014 update because I was traveling and only managed to finish one book, Thorn, that month. I decided to write a review instead of making an update. I also reread A Rose in Winter by Laura Florand and was finally able to review it – it was one of my Christmas reads last year but I didn’t get to review it. Yay for posting more reviews! They may be shorter than some of the ones I used to write but hey, at least I’m no longer in a slump.

Moving on to my May 2014 update, these were titles that I read last month:

It Happened One Wedding by Julie James – Really enjoyed this one, review in draft mode.

Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane – Gritty, dark and bleak, this really isn’t my cup of tea but I wanted to give the series a try since my friend Maggie has been raving about it. I heard that the second book is a lot better than the first so I’ll probably try reading that as well to see if I want to keep going with the series.

Sun-Kissed by Laura Florand – I’m a Laura Florand fangirl so it’s not surprising that I really liked this even if it has a different feel from her other books – it features an older couple and it’s set in the States instead of France. I’m thinking of coming up with a post about this and Snow-Kissed, we’ll see how it goes.

Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart – Retro Friday review can be found here.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart – Review can be found here.

Dare to Resist by Laura Kaye – I read this prelude to the Wedding Dare series which includes Baiting The Maid Of Honor by Tessa Bailey. Quick and fun read, I liked that the heroine is a computer whiz and that she works in the same field as the hero. Also liked how the heroine’s favorite book plays an important role in the story.

A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty – Review in draft mode. I’m thinking of reviewing it together with the sequel, which I haven’t finished reading.

I think it was a pretty good month in terms of books read and reviews written. I hope it won’t take me months to finish the reviews that I have in draft mode. At least now that I’ve mentioned them here, there would be more of a push for me to finish them.

Last week, I also participated in ArmchairBEA 2014 and had a great time writing posts for the daily topics, posting Instagram pictures and commenting on posts. Here’s a wrap-up of what I did for the blog event, in case you want to check it out.

Recap of previous months:
January
February
March


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Mary Stewart

This morning I found out that author Mary Stewart has passed away. She was 97 years old. Announcement and obituary from The Guardian can be viewed here and here. A snippet from the obituary:

Stewart introduced a different kind of heroine for a newly emerging womanhood. It was her “anti-namby-pamby” reaction, as she called it, to the “silly heroine” of the conventional contemporary thriller who “is told not to open the door to anybody and immediately opens it to the first person who comes along”. Instead, Stewart’s stories were narrated by poised, smart, highly educated young women who drove fast cars and knew how to fight their corner. Also tender-hearted and with a strong moral sense, they spoke, one felt, with the voice of their creator. Her writing must have provided a natural form of expression for a person not given to self-revelation.

Loved that story about how she met her husband and how they got married three months later. It’s heartbreaking that she badly wanted to have kids and yet she couldn’t. I found it interesting that that’s what led her to write novels. While I discovered Mary Stewart’s books fairly recently (only a few years ago) and I’ve only read a handful of them, I wanted to write a post about her novels because I enjoyed reading them and I would like more readers to pick up her books.

STB Nine Coaches Waiting

I can still remember how I first discovered Mary Stewart. I was asking my book pusher friend Angie for recommendations that were similar to Eva Ibbotson’s writing because I love her books. Angie then mentioned Mary Stewart and recommended that I can start with Nine Coaches Waiting. I grabbed a copy and read it as soon as I could. I was charmed by this Jane Eyre-esque book and I knew it wouldn’t be the last Mary Stewart novel that I would read. I have read some of her other titles since then and I keep meaning to read more of them. One thing that I really like about her romantic suspense books is that each is set in a different town or city and she does such a great job of describing the place. In this website that focuses on Mary Stewart, it is mentioned that she and her husband “traveled extensively, and these trips provided inspiration for the spectacular and exotic settings that her novels are so famous for.” I’ve also heard good things about her Arthurian series, which I’m also planning to read. Mary Stewart is the kind of author that I wish I had known about sooner. Her novels would have probably ended up as old favorites if I discovered her when I was much younger. As it is, the best that I can do now is to catch up on reading her books and try to spread the word about them. I’m thinking of reading her first novel, Madam, Will You Talk?, soon since it’s set in the South of France and I would love to read more about that region. Please feel free to recommend and talk about your favorite Mary Stewart titles, I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.


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Europe 2014: Milan Update

Ciao! I always thought “ciao” meant goodbye but apparently, it also means “hello”. The last city that we visited during our Europe 2014 trip was Milan. From Paris to Barcelona to Aix-en-Provence and then on to Italy. How I wish we had time (and resources) to explore other cities in Italy – I would love to visit Rome, Venice and Florence. We chose Milan for practical reasons, the tickets were cheaper if we fly from there back to Southeast Asia. We only had a brief stay – two nights and one full day – in Milan. I’m a big fan of Italian food so of course, I loved the dishes that we got to try! We also visited Duomo di Milano, the city’s famous Gothic cathedral and also the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which is right beside it. The latter is one of the oldest shopping malls in the world.

Books I’ve read set in Italy:
Rome: Antonio & Carrie (Love Stories) by Rachel Hawthorne
The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

Books set in Italy that are in my TBR pile:
Wish You Were Italian by Kristin Rae

The scenery was beautiful on the train ride from Aix-en-Provence to Milan. I’m hoping that I could go back to France so I could visit Nice, Cannes, Eze and Grasse. Here are some shots of Cannes that I took from the train:

Cannes Cannes2

Milano Centrale is the grandest train station that I’ve seen so far:
Milano Centrale2 Milano Centrale

Here’s Duomo di Milano:
Duomo di Milano Duomo di Milano2

And here’s the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a lovely and historic mall where I wasn’t able to buy anything because all the shops are so fancy:
Vittorio Emanuele Vittorio Emanuele2

Milan also has such a nice post office. Unfortunately, it was closed when we passed by. It would have been great if we were able to get some philatelic stamps.
Milan Poste Milan Poste2

Last but not the least, some pictures of Italian food. I loved the prosciutto with melon, ravioli, ossobuco and tiramisu. And the coffee!
Italian food Italian food Italian food Italian food

I hope you’ve all enjoyed browsing through the pictures I’ve posted. Going through pictures is making me want to go back. Fingers crossed! In the meantime, I’ll console myself by reading books set in Europe. Please let me know if you have any recommendations that you think I’ll enjoy.


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Europe 2014: Aix-en-Provence Update

Bonjour again! We started our trip in Paris then traveled by train to Barcelona and then back again to France for a few days in Aix-en-Provence, a city in the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. I loved Aix-en-Provence and it’s probably my favorite city out of the four that we visited mainly because I felt like I could live there. I like the small city charm of the place and how everything is within walking distance, although some places take a bit of a walk. It’s also only 30 minutes away from a big city, Marseille (which sadly, we didn’t get to explore). I liked that we were able to stumble upon quaint shops just by walking all over Aix. Plus, there were some pretty good restaurants which served good food at more affordable prices compared to Paris. It was expected that Musee Granet would have paintings of Cezanne since he lived in Aix but we were surprised that they also had paintings by Ingres, Van Gogh, Monet and Picasso.

I don’t think there are that many books specifically set in Aix-en-Provence so I’m broadening the scope to the whole region of Provence. Would love to read more books set in the south of France.

Books I’ve read set in Provence:
La Vie en Roses series by Laura Florand – Turning Up the Heat, The Chocolate Rose, A Rose in Winter

Books set in Provence that are in my TBR pile:
Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart

Aix has been referred to as the city of a thousand fountains and yes, we came across a lot of them:
Aix-en-Provence - La Rotonde Aix-en-Provence - mossy fountain Aix-en-Provence - four dolphins fountain Aix-en-Provence - modern fountain Aix-en-Provence - fountain at night Aix-en-Provence - more fountains

Cours Mirabeau is the main road of Aix, framed by plane-trees on both sides. There are cafes, pastry shops, souvenir stores and old houses along this road.

Aix-en-Provence - Cours Mirabeau Aix-en-Provence - Cours Mirabeau2

I found a picture posted on Tumblr of the facade of Bibliothèque Méjanes so we decided to look it up while we were there because we were curious about the giant books in front of the library.

Aix-en-Provence - Bibliothèque Méjanes Aix-en-Provence - Bibliothèque Méjanes2

Some of the shops we loved:
Aix-en-Provence - Expressions Aix-en-Provence - Place aux Huiles Aix-en-Provence - real chocolate Aix-en-Provence - more chocolates

We discovered Le Bistro Latin on our first night, just by wandering and checking out menus of the restaurants. We loved the food so much that we decided to return on our last night, and get bigger courses.

Aix-en-Provence - Le Bistro Latin Aix-en-Provence - Le Bistro Latin2 Aix-en-Provence - first dinner Aix-en-Provence - last dinner

Lavender and roses:
Aix-en-Provence - lavender Aix-en-Provence - roses

We were planning to travel to Grasse, the perfume capital of France (and the world?) but it’s too far away from Aix for a day trip. Good thing artisan soaps and perfumes made from Grasse are available in Aix.

Aix - perfumes from Grasse

I feel like Aix is a hidden gem of a city because it’s not as well-known as other cities in the south of France. I’m so glad we included Aix in our itinerary. Have you been to Aix? Know of any novels set in Aix or the Provence region that you think I might enjoy?


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Europe 2014: Barcelona Update

Ola! After Paris, the next leg of our trip was Barcelona. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t really excited to visit Barcelona because I hadn’t heard a lot about the city. As a result, I was pleasantly surprised at how vibrant the city was. It’s a place where we found delicious food (all those Spanish dishes like tapas, jamon and paella), architectural masterpieces, lovely artwork and warm, friendly people.

A book I’ve read set in Barcelona:
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

A book set in Spain that is in my wishlist:
Small Damages by Beth Kephart

I would gladly go back to Barcelona just for the food:
Barcelona - tapasBarcelona - pintxos Barcelona - paella Barcelona - jamon

There were so many creative and original art pieces all over the city and I was tempted to get some as souvenirs but decided not to since I don’t really have a place of my own to display them in.

Barcelona - graffiti Barcelona - portrait Barcelona - original ar

Plaça de Catalunya is a lovely park for tourists and locals:

Barcelona - Plaça de Catalunya Barcelona - Plaça de Catalunya (2)

A post about Barcelona would not be complete without talking about the architect Gaudi. I wasn’t familiar with Gaudi’s work prior to our trip in Barcelona but I’m impressed by his style. I like how he was inspired by nature and how there’s an almost whimsical aspect to his designs, making them seem like objects out of fantasy novels. Some shots from Casa Museu Gaudi:

Barcelona - Casa Museu Gaudi Barcelona - Casa Museu Gaudi2

Casa Batllo, probably my favorite Gaudi-designed house:
Barcelona - Casa Batllo Barcelona - Casa Batllo (2)

And of course, the awe-inspiring Sagrada Familia, which is still under construction after more than a hundred years:
Barcelona - Sagrada Familia1 Barcelona - Sagrada Familia2 Barcelona - Sagrada Familia Barcelona - Sagrada Familia

Have you been to Barcelona? What were your favorite aspects of the city? Have you read books set in Barcelona or Spain that you think I will enjoy reading?


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Europe 2014: Paris Update

Bonjour! There are so many things that I want to share about my first time in Europe, I don’t even know where to start. I thought I would do an update of each city that we visited. These will be picture-heavy posts, mostly from my Instagram account. It’s funny because at the end of each day, I would spend time uploading pictures (staying up late to do so) because I wanted to write captions while everything was still fresh in my mind. To make these travel posts a little more book-themed, I thought it would be a good idea to include a list of books I’ve read/plan to read set in the cities we visited.

Books I’ve read set in Paris:
Amour et Chocolat series by Laura Florand – All’s Fair in Love and Chocolate, The Chocolate Thief, The Chocolate Kiss, The Chocolate Rose, The Chocolate Touch, The Chocolate Heart, The Chocolate Temptation
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Books set in Paris that are in my TBR pile:
The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan

Ahh, Paris. I feel like Paris will always have a special place in my heart since it was the first European city that I visited. It’s such a beautiful city, oozing with its own charm – even a normal street or building looked wonderful in my eyes. I was surprised at how well-kept the old structures are – the bridges, the palaces, the museums, etc. We don’t really have things like that in the Philippines. But then again, we probably get more natural calamities like typhoons and earthquakes back home. Moving on to the pictures…

Here’s the iconic Eiffel Tower – before and after dinner shots, with the latter captioned by my friend as “Does the moonlight shine on Paris?”

Paris - Eiffel1 Paris - Eiffel2

Sacré-Coeur and around the Montmartre area:

Paris - Sacre Coeur Paris - view from Sacre Coeur Paris - Montmartre Paris - carousel

Arc de triomphe and Champs Elysee:

Paris - Arc de triomphe Paris - Champs Elysee2

The opulence of the Palace of Versailles:

Paris - Versailles1 Paris - Versailles2 Paris - Versailles3 Paris - Versailles4

Museums Orsay and Louvre – the former was previously a train station while the latter was a palace:

Paris - Orsay Paris - Louvre

Notre Dame and Point Zero, as mentioned in Anna and the French Kiss:

Paris - Notre Dame Paris - Point Zero

The bookstore Shakespeare and Company – several friends who knew I was in Paris kept saying that I should visit this place. What’s great is that all five of us ended up buying something from this bookstore:

Paris - Shakespeare and Company Paris - Shakespeare and Company2 Paris - Shakespeare and Company3 Paris - Shakespeare and Company4

Hope you had fun going through these pictures. They were all taken using my phone camera and some filters were applied in Instagram. If you know of any books set in Paris that you think I’ll enjoy reading, please feel free to recommend them!

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