Chachic's Book Nook


Welcome to Envy Park by Mina V. Esguerra

I think it’s pretty clear by now that I’m a Mina V. Esguerra fangirl. I grab copies of her novellas and short stories when they’re released and I try to read and review them as soon as I could. The early chapters of Welcome to Envy Park were uploaded to Wattpad so I was able to sample part of the story. I was really looking forward to reading this particular title because it’s about a Filipino lady in her mid-twenties who worked in Singapore for five years and is now back in Manila, trying to figure out what her next move is. I think Welcome to Envy Park’s cover looks pretty good. I like how bright and happy the colors are. I think it’s a great idea for Mina to partner with Filipino fashion bloggers for her book covers. I think the outfit that the girl is wearing is cute and girly although I don’t really picture Moira wearing something like that.

Welcome to Envy ParkHere’s the summary from Goodreads:

Moira Vasquez is a doer. A planner. A get-up-and-goer. At twenty-two, she left her hometown to work in Singapore, to satisfy a need to travel as well as give her savings account a boost. Five years later and she’s back in Manila, with a shiny new apartment to her name, but no job, no career, no boyfriend. She meets Ethan Lorenzo, the quiet hunk of an IT consultant on the ninth floor of her condo building, and he’s a welcome distraction during this period of having absolutely nothing going on in her life.

But she has a plan – of course she does – and this is just a short layover on the way to the next country, the next job, the next big thing. Or will she be missing out on something great that’s already there?

I’m glad that Mina gave us a character who has lived and worked abroad because that’s such a common occurrence for Filipinos. I’m proof of that. I think half of my friends are currently studying or working abroad and I’m not sure when they’re planning to go home or if they’d rather settle down outside the country. I could totally relate to Moira because of the similarities in our working experience and because we’re about the same age. Her descriptions of what her life was like in Singapore is pretty accurate, although I was hoping it included more details. I would have wanted to know what her hobbies were, where she hung out, what her favorite restaurants or dishes were, etc. But maybe I’m just curious about those things because I’m currently based in Singapore. I feel like I could be friends with Moira, we would have conversations about OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) life while trying out new restaurants. Once she’s back in Manila, it was expected that she’d compare herself to her friends who stayed back home and here’s a section of the book that I really liked:

Maybe it was the tequila buzz, but I really did think that I had come out ahead. Surely the lessons in independence that leaving home provided a person counted for something. Counted for more, at least, in terms of emotional growth, and maturity, because those years were the most difficult and humbling of my life so far.

You got that right, sister. Living independently, away from the support system of family and friends, is definitely good for emotional maturity and growth but it’s damn hard. It’s the second most difficult experience of my life, the first was when my dad passed away. I can’t believe that in the five years that she was away, Moira only came home for Christmas visits. I think I wouldn’t last here if I didn’t get to go home three or four times a year. I liked that Moira was also not sure about her career plans, that she was still trying to decide what to do next. I’m also at that stage in my life and I believe most of my friends are also like that – in the process of understanding in what direction our career should go or figuring out what our calling is. The one big difference between me and Moira is that’s she’s a doer and I’m more of a go with the flow type of person, which makes me more like Ethan in that regard. I didn’t really plan to move to Singapore, the opportunity presented itself and I knew it would be stupid not to take it. Anyway, I liked how Moira and Ethan got to know each other through their gym sessions and food trips. I always enjoy reading Mina’s books because of the romance and while I have no complaints about how Moira and Ethan’s relationship developed, I would have loved to see more swoon-worthy scenes. That’s a minor quibble because I enjoyed it overall. What I really liked was that while Welcome to Envy Park is a light and fun romance, it still makes you think about life choices – why people choose to work abroad and why others would rather stay in the Philippines. I will definitely be recommending this title to my friends because I feel like they would be able to connect with the story, regardless of what their choices are. There’s just something about Mina’s novellas that make it easy for me to both read and review them. In my dashboard, there are several other drafts of reviews for other books that I’ve read but here I am talking about Welcome to Envy Park.

My reviews of Mina’s other books:
My Imaginary Ex
Fairy Tale Fail
Love Your Frenemies
No Strings Attached
That Kind of Guy
Interim Goddess of Love
Queen of the Clueless
Icon of the Indecisive
Young and Scambitious


Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer

I have been meaning to read another Liza Palmer novel ever since Seeing Me Naked surprised me by how good it was. So many other titles have distracted me and I wasn’t able to get back to her writing until I recently picked up Nowhere But Home. I was feeling a little homesick and thought it would be a good idea to read a book about coming home. I found it funny that the main character is named Queen Elizabeth because this isn’t the first time that I’ve heard of someone with that name – Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao chose that name for his second daughter. I had a feeling it would be interesting getting to know Nowhere But Home’s Queenie and I was right. Also, how pretty is that cover? I like the vintage, nostalgic design of it and I think it goes well with the story even though the picture portrayed in it isn’t an actual scene in the book.

Nowhere But HomeHere’s the summary from Liza Palmer’s website:

After Queenie Wake is dismissed from her restaurant job, she returns to North Star to cook meals for death row inmates.

Hopeful that the bad memories of her late mother and promiscuous sister (now the mother of the captain of the high school football team) have been forgotten by the locals, Queenie discovers that some people can’t be forgotten — heartbreaker Everett Coburn — her old high-school sweetheart.

When secrets from the past emerge, will Queenie be able to stick by her family or will she leave home again?

A few pages in and I knew Nowhere But Home will be a very good read. Right from the start, I kept highlighting lovely passages that stood out for me. Queenie and her sister Merry Carole, grew up with the stigma of being daughters of the town slut. Nothing much was expected of them and Queenie wanted nothing more than to leave all of that behind. Which is why she has been flitting from one city to another, doing any kind of work that would let her stay away from her hometown. My heart went out to Queenie and Merry Carole for the difficult life that they’ve had, for everything that they’ve had to go through because of their mother’s reputation. I used to think small towns must be charming with how close-knit and warm everyone is but there’s an ugly side to it. Queenie is such a prickly character at the start of the novel but I liked her right away. She has more than enough reason to be like that. I might not have had the same experience that she did but I understood her reactions. Here’s a passage early on, before Queenie decides to go home, that resonated with me:

“I can’t be the only one faking it. I’m not the only lonely small-town girl drowning in this big city. I’m not the only refugee feeling invisible and alone. I’m not the only one who wants to scream, “NOTICE ME! I MATTER!” Maybe everyone is faking it. Maybe they’re just better at it than I am.”

THIS. Even though I was born and raised in a city instead of a small town, I get what Queenie feels. Maybe that’s why home is such a comforting place – it’s where you don’t have to feel invisible or alone. Even if being visible means being judged by others, like in Queenie’s case. I loved that each chapter heading was about a meal – either one that Queenie just had or one that she cooked. Seeing as I’m a big fan of food, I was able to appreciate this. Queenie is passionate about the meals that she cooks, she believes in the comfort that food is able to provide. When things get too much for her, she also turns to cooking:

“I need to cook something. I need to lose myself in something else besides the fractured light of my own memory.”

Beautiful wording, right? Another instance where I could relate to Queenie – just replace cooking with reading because I lose myself in books all the time. The reason why Queenie cooks is the reason why I read. Nowhere But Home is filled with the heartaches of Queenie’s life but all that pain is soothed away by a strong sense of family and belonging. Plus there’s such a beautiful, bittersweet romance that I was more than happy to devour. If anything, I would have loved for there to be more romance in this book. As it is, I loved spending time with Queenie as she tries to battle her demons and figure out what she’s meant to do with her life. Queenie’s hometown, North Star, is also very big on football (one character mentioned that it’s like Friday Night Lights with how serious everyone is about the sport) and that’s something that I’m familiar with and yet it didn’t affect my reading experience. I only mention it now because I know some readers might be drawn to the book because of that aspect. I feel like Nowhere But Home is contemporary romance (or literature for women? I’m not really sure what to call it) that has more depth than chick lit. It is more emotionally layered and complex, and can make readers ache and feel for the characters. I would love for more readers to pick up Liza Palmer’s novels because I feel like they aren’t getting the attention that deserve. Nowhere But Home is one of the best books that I’ve read this year, I feel like it was exactly what I was looking for when I picked it up. I look forward to reading the rest of the author’s back list. I think Nowhere But Home has the same tone and feel as Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols and All I Ever Wanted by Vikki Wakefield, it just has older characters instead of teens. I recommend that fans of those two books give Liza Palmer’s latest a try.

Other reviews:
Ivy Book Bindings
write meg!


Young and Scambitious by Mina V. Esguerra

I grabbed Young and Scambitious while it was available for free on Amazon. I think the cover looks great, it has an intriguing and glamorous feel that goes well with the premise. Yesterday, I couldn’t decide what to read next so I thought I’d start on this short story because it would be easy to get into. I started reading it on the train ride on the way to work in the morning and was able to finish it on the way back in the afternoon.

Young and ScambitiousHere’s the summary from Goodreads:

Who is Elizabeth Madrid, exactly? She’s Manila’s latest It Girl–stylish, staple of the club scene, new best friend of famous-for-being-famous Chrysalis Magnolia. She’s also a jewelry clan heiress, a former model, an Ivy Leaguer… except no one actually knew of her until last year. Shouldn’t her new society friends be more suspicious? Especially “BFF” Chrysalis, who reportedly already lost an expensive ring to a friend who turned out to be a thief?

I like that this story focuses on the Manila socialite scene and the people who prey on the rich. While I’ve never been into that kind of scene, I think it’s interesting to read about it. Even though Jane is a con artist, I really liked her as a character. I feel like she’s only doing what she has to do in order to survive. She’s good at playing out different roles and she takes advantage of that skill. I also like that she’s a reader, I think it’s always nice when a character likes to read.

“Jane liked to go to libraries. She spent a lot of time in them growing up, and she had had to grow up in several places. Later she started seeing how each building was different. In one place, old and regal; in another, shabby and musty.

So since the preparation for the Chrysalis Magnolia job had her visit Singapore, a city with a (shiny and modern) public library, she naturally had to go there on her only day free.”

I thought it was pretty cool that the story was partially set in Singapore, in a library! I could totally relate to that. I also liked that even though the story is so short, there was still enough room for some romance. My only issue with this short story is that I felt like the whole thing ended a bit abruptly. I kind of got the feeling there should be more to the ending that what I got. Maybe I wouldn’t have minded if I knew that the ending was meant to leave readers hanging? According to Mina, there will are probable sequels to this but no definite date on when they will be published. I think that will give readers a fuller perspective of the story that was introduced in Young and Scambitious. Check this out if you want a quick read that you can finish in one sitting or if you want to give Mina’s writing a try.


Retro Friday: My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.

The moment I saw my good friend Maggie of Young Adult Anonymous give My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger such a glowing review, I knew I would want to read it. I went on Goodreads and also realized that another friend, Flannery of The Readventurer, rated it highly. I wanted to grab a copy as soon as I could but since books are expensive here in Singapore, I waited until I was in Manila before buying the paperback. I’ve had my copy since December last year and only felt like reading it recently. I was in the mood for a fun contemporary YA read and thought My Most Excellent Year would fit the bill. It was published in 2009 so I realized it’s the perfect choice for a Retro Friday review.

My Most Excellent Year outdoors

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Best friends and unofficial brothers since they were six, ninth-graders T.C. and Augie have got the world figured out. But that all changes when both friends fall in love for the first time. Enter Alé. She’s pretty, sassy, and on her way to Harvard. T.C. falls hard, but Alé‚ is playing hard to get. Meanwhile, Augie realizes that he’s got a crush on a boy. It’s not so clear to him, but to his family and friends, it’s totally obvious! Told in alternating perspectives, this is the hilarious and touching story of their most excellent year, where these three friends discover love, themselves, and how a little magic and Mary Poppins can go a long way.

I am happy to report that My Most Excellent Year lived up to my expectations. It is such a feel good, heartwarming kind of read. I have no idea why it isn’t more well-known. It’s been out for a while now and I think only a handful of my blogging buddies have read it. It’s a good thing I love spreading the word about under-the-radar titles because I need to convince more people to read this. At first glance, I didn’t think My Most Excellent Year was the kind of book that I would enjoy mostly because the story has alternating POVs (T.C., Augie and Alé) and their interests lie in American history and politics, baseball and musicals. While I love seeing musicals, I’m not a die-hard fan who knows all the songs, actors/actresses and notable performances. And I know next to nothing about baseball and American history. In spite of that, I was absorbed by the story because at its core, My Most Excellent Year is about family, friendship and first love. I was charmed by the thought of two boys, T.C. and Augie, deciding to be brothers when they were 6 years old. Not like two best friends who think of each other as brothers, they really act like siblings to the point that even their parents have gotten used to having two sons instead of just one. So they have a Mom, Dad and a Pop. They share their rooms in two households and they have vacations together. I thought it was so sweet how warm and accommodating their families were. This book has such great parents in it, I think it’s worthwhile to point that out since we rarely see wonderful parents in YA.

My Most Excellent Year - headings

During ninth grade, both T.C. and Augie have to deal with falling in love for the first time. It was so much fun to see them struggling to adjust to what they’re feeling (especially Augie, who hasn’t even figured out that he likes boys instead of girls). It was sweet how supportive they are of each other, not just in their love lives but also in their interests in general. Like T.C. would watch musicals with Augie even if he doesn’t really enjoy them. Being great guys, it’s not surprising when T.C. befriends a lonely, deaf six-year-old boy called Hucky and Augie was right there along with him. T.C. wanted to reach out to Hucky because he sees a young Augie in the little boy, while Augie thinks Hucky was exactly like T.C. when they were that age. I hope it doesn’t seem too confusing that there are a lot of characters in the book because it was very easy to get to know the characters. I also really liked the format of the book – emails between various characters (I loved how even the parents email each other about their kids), IM messages and diary entries. I could relate to the format because that’s also how I communicate with friends and family, especially now that I live away from home. This was such a lovely, immensely readable book, the kind that lets you end on a happy sigh. While younger in tone and feel compared to some of the other contemporary YA novels that I loved, I still highly recommend My Most Excellent Year to anyone who needs an uplifting type of read. I’m mighty curious about the rest of Steve Kluger’s back list.

My Most Excellent Year - Augie

Other reviews:
Young Adult Anonymous
The Readventurer
The Book Smugglers
Book Nut


The Chocolate Touch by Laura Florand

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.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

The Chocolate TouchDominique Richard’s reputation says it all — wild past, wilder flavors, black leather and smoldering heat. Jaime Corey is hardly the first woman to be drawn to all that dark, delicious danger. Sitting in Dom’s opulent chocolaterie in Paris day after day, she lets his decadent creations restore her weary body and spirit, understanding that the man himself is entirely beyond her grasp.

Until he touches her…

Chocolate, Dominique understands — from the biting tang of lime-caramel to the most complex infusions of jasmine, lemon-thyme, and cayenne. But this shy, freckled American who sits alone in his salon, quietly sampling his exquisite confections as if she can’t get enough of them — enough of him — is something else. She has secrets too, he can tell. Of course if she really knew him, she would run.

Yet once you have spotted your heart’s true craving, simply looking is no longer enough…

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.

Reading order of the Amour et Chocolat books:
All’s Fair in Love and Chocolate
The Chocolate Thief
The Chocolate Kiss
The Chocolate Rose

The Chocolate Touch ebook

Other reviews:
See Michelle Read
A Girl, Books and Other Things
Smexy Books


Line of Duty Series by Tessa Bailey

I found out about Tessa Bailey’s Line of Duty series through romance blogger Mandi of Smexy Books and author Mina V. Esguerra. I decided to give the first book a try since it came highly recommended. After reading Protecting What’s His, I went ahead and purchased the next two books in the series and read both in one weekend. There’s something to be said for protective police officers who want to keep their love interests safe and away from harm. I like how the heroines are all spunky, not just damsels in distress waiting for the hero to come along and rescue them. If anything, they’re used to standing on their own two feet instead of relying on other people. That’s a common theme that I was able to appreciate in the series. Another thing that these books had in common was the back and forth banter between the MCs.

Protecting Whats HisHis Risk to TakeOfficer Off Limits

Can I just say that I was surprised by how smexy the covers for these are? I think these are the steamiest covers that have been featured on my blog so far. *fans self* I think they’re perfect covers for romance novels and they’re done well. I like how original the pictures are instead of typical stock photos that we see on other covers. I also like that each book cover has a filter of color over it – green, blue, yellow. Each cover has a different image but the look and feel is consistent across all three. I read Kindle editions of these books but I wonder how people will react if I read these on the train? *grins*

I found Protecting What’s His and His Risk to Take a bit similar in the sense that the female MCs had less than stellar track records when it came to following the law and yet they ended up dating men in uniform. Maybe that’s why I liked Office Off Limits the best out of all three, the premise felt unique because it was a little different from the other two. I felt like I got to know the MCs better in that installment more than the first two before it. Story and Daniel are my favorite couple in this series but who knows if that will change when Tessa Bailey adds more books to the series. Overall, the Line of Duty is a fun contemporary romance series. The books can be read out of order since each features a different couple. I think it’s pretty obvious based on the covers, but in case you were wondering, these titles have smexy scenes that are not fade to black. Sparks fly the moment the hero and heroine meet and there’s tension and build up until both of them act on their mutual attraction. That kind of set-up makes a fun read, which was why I devoured these books.


Review and Giveaway: All’s Fair in Blog and War by Chrissie Peria

I heard about All’s Fair in Blog and War as soon as it came out. While I’ve never met Chrissie Peria in person, we share some common friends (she’s good friends with my flatmates as well as fellow Filipino book blogger Chris of Ficsation). Plus, she wrote her novella for Mina V. Esguerra’s romance class so Mina is another person who is actively promoting this title. I was planning to read All’s Fair in Blog and War sooner or later because I was curious about the premise and I think the cover is pretty cute. I just decided to bump it up the TBR pile because of all the recommendations floating around.

All's Fair in Blog and WarHere’s the summary from Goodreads:

Five Cuevas @fivetravels
Three guesses to where I’m going next. Starts with an M. Ends with a U. Has a lechon named after it. #travel

Travel blogger Five thinks she has hit the jackpot when the Macau Tourism Board invites her over for an all-expense-paid blogger tour in exchange for blogging about Macau. But while she happily signs up for the trip, she didn’t sign up to be travel buddies with the infuriating Jesse. Will her dream vacation turn into a nightmare junket? Or will falling in love be on the itinerary?

It’s always fun to read about bloggers even if they don’t blog about books. The last novella that I read that had a blogger main character was All’s Fair in Love and Chocolate by Laura Florand (funny that the two titles are so similar). I really enjoyed the blogging aspect of Five’s life because I could relate to it – how her blog shapes her vacation plans and how it’s more than just a hobby for her. That’s how I feel about my blog as well, a niche blog can take over your life like that. She’s a lot luckier than me though because look at how she won a contest to visit Macau to blog about it! Would love to have a similar huge blog-related experience. I was also interested in reading more about the tourist attractions in Macau because I’ve never been there. From what I heard from friends, I always thought there wouldn’t be a lot to do in Macau if you’re not into gambling but looks like I made the wrong assumption because Jesse and Five found more than enough things to occupy their time. As a foodie, I also enjoyed hearing details about what kind of dishes and snacks are available in Macau. This novella made me want to have an egg tart! Good thing they’re pretty common here in Singapore. One other thing that Five and I had in common was this:

I knew I was early, so I found a comfortable spot and pulled out a well-worn copy of Pride and Prejudice. I always revert to Austen when I’m in between books. P&P has always been my favorite, so it was the book I decided to pack for this trip.

That little snippet was while she was waiting at the airport. I always bring a book (or my Kindle) with me whenever I travel so I can’t even count the number of times I’ve read books in airports. And Pride and Prejudice is also my favorite Austen. *P&P high five* While I think that All’s Fair in Blog and War is a light and fun read, I also felt like it would have been better if it was a little longer. I’m not sure if word count was a factor that had to be considered for the romance class which produced this novella, but I would have liked to see more character development, more tension or kilig (swoon-worthy) moments between the two main characters. Other than that, I found this an enjoyable read. Recommended for contemporary romance readers who would like to try Filipino fiction. This is the kind of book that you can finish in one sitting, maybe while waiting to check in or board or even during a flight. For a more interactive experience, readers can follow the characters on Instagram: fivetravels, and Twitter: @5travels and @wanderingcamera.

Macau postcard from Anj

What a coincidence, I received a postcard from Macau today!

All right, giveaway time! Chrissie was generous enough to provide codes for free copies for the Smashwords edition of All’s Fair in Blog and War. To join the giveaway, leave a comment letting us know what country in Asia are you most interested in visiting? Aside from Macau, I’d love to go to Cambodia, Vietnam and South Korea. Giveaway ends July 19 and three winners will be chosen randomly. Open internationally to anyone who has a Smashwords account. Oy, if you don’t win, the book is only USD 0.99 so feel free to grab your own copy.

Giveaway has ended and winners have been notified.

Other reviews:
One More Page


The Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers

It took just one tweet from Mandi of Smexy Books to convince me that I needed to read The Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers as soon as I can. Thankfully, I found it on NetGalley and immediately requested a copy. I was thrilled when I got accepted soon after. I downloaded a copy on my Kindle right away. I finished it in one gulp and understood what the fuss was about because The Story Guy was a really good one.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

The Story GuyI will meet you on Wednesdays at noon in Celebration Park. Kissing only.

Carrie West is happy with her life… isn’t she? But when she sees this provocative online ad, the thirty-something librarian can’t help but be tempted. After all, the photo of the anonymous poster is far too attractive to ignore. And when Wednesday finally arrives, it brings a first kiss that’s hotter than any she’s ever imagined. Brian Newburgh is an attorney, but there’s more to his life… that he won’t share with Carrie. Determined to have more than just Wednesdays, Carrie embarks on a quest to learn Brian’s story, certain that he will be worth the cost. But is she ready to gamble her heart on a man who just might be The One… even though she has no idea how their love story will end?

When I saw the premise, I felt that it had echoes of Big Boy by Ruthie Knox. I was right, they do have similarities, not the least of which is how well-written they both are. Seriously, what is it with novellas filled to the brim with emotion? I’m surprised at how short fiction can make you feel so much. It was so easy for me to relate to Carrie, who is a librarian for teens, that in itself is enough reason for me to like her. I have a fondness for characters who get what it’s like to love books. I feel like she’s the kind of person I can be friends with, we would have long conversations about books, life and love. Carrie knows she has a pretty good life – she has a job she is passionate about as well friends and family who are always there for her – and yet a sense of ennui washes over her. She knows that she should be content and on most days, she is. But she can’t help feeling that something is missing in her life. She’s restless and couldn’t sleep one night so she peruses MetroLink ads because there’s something about the Men Seeking Women section that speaks to her. And one jumps right out at her. She answers the ad because she’s intrigued, and feels like she could use a little adventure in her life. The guy wants to meet on a weekly basis, only for kissing.

I have never had a first kiss like this. Is it that he’s a stranger? So beautiful? If so, I am ruined for anything but beautiful strangers for the rest of my life.

With that one encounter, Carrie knew right away that she would want more than just lunch hour on Wednesdays with this guy. But he’s not willing to share more of himself apart from those stolen moments. Carrie gets a lovely piece of advice from a friend, saying that she should try and see where this thing with Brian will lead because he might be a story guy.

“A story guy?”

“Yeah, a good guy with a bad story doing something stupid.”

“Explain to me why a story guy is better than a pervert.”

“Story guys are like life highlighters. Your life is all these big blocks of gray text, and then a story guy comes in with a big ol’ paragraph of neon pink so that when you flip back through your life, you can stop and remember all the important and interesting places.”

I like the idea of story guys because that’s something that is applicable to all of us. In the course of our lives, we have met (and we are bound to meet) people who stand out from the rest. I was more than happy to read about Carrie doing her best to unravel Brian’s complex layers and to see whether he really is a story guy. And just like how we meet remarkable people, we also come across wonderful books that are worth taking note of. If I had to write down a list of romance books that I’ve read, The Story Guy would have to be highlighted in neon pink because it’s just that good. I gave a happy sigh after I finished reading this debut. So if you are a romance reader, go forth and pre-order a copy. The Story Guy will be released on July 8, 2013. I can’t wait to see what Mary Ann Rivers writes next. If she had a back list, I would have downloaded those titles right after reading this one. As it is, I just have to try and be patient for her next title.

Other reviews:
Smexy Books


Contemporary Romance Mini Reviews

I’m so behind on reviews and even though I enjoyed reading these contemporary romance titles, I don’t think I can write a full review for each. So I thought it would be a good idea to bundle mini reviews together in one post. I read all of these pretty quickly, just a few days for each. I’m reading more and more contemporary romance novels and novellas lately because they’re so easy to get into. Plus, I’m also seeing more recommendations that fall under this genre in the blogs that I follow. I wanted to talk about these titles in case other readers are curious about them.

Turning Up the Heat by Laura Florand

Turning Up the HeatAfter reading The Chocolate Thief, the first book in the Amour et Chocolat series, Laura Florand earned a place in my auto-buy author list. She was generous enough to send me the ebook for the novella Turning Up the Heat. This installment is different from the rest of her books because it’s part of another series set in Provence called La Vie en Roses. The Chocolate Rose ties both the Amour et Chocolat and La Vie en Roses series together. Having said that, Turning Up the Heat is still very much about food, a theme that is consistent in all of Laura Florand’s books. Daniel is a celebrity chef, one who manages a famous restaurant and has numerous TV engagements, while his wife Lea is his supportive manager. They fell in love as teenagers and got married soon after, the story is set after they’ve been married for more than ten years. I liked that this novella went in a different direction than usual – instead of giving us a couple about to start a relationship, Laura shows us how difficult marriage can get even though the love is obviously still there. Every marriage has its own problems and when husband and wife both lead busy lives, lack of communication is definitely an issue. After everything they’ve been through together, I was rooting for Daniel and Lea to figure things out so they can have a happy ending.

Sugar Rush by Donna Kauffman

Sugar RushI got the recommendation for the Cupcake Club series from Laura Florand. I wanted to try out more contemporary romance that centered around food, especially desserts because I’m a huge fan of sweet things. In Sugar Rush, Lani leaves behind a successful career as a pastry chef and starts her own cupcakery in a small town. I love that Lani was brave enough to leave New York to start her own business and that she feels it’s the right move for her even though others believe it’s a step down. Yay Lani for going after what she wants! I felt like the first half of the novel was a little slow and I was just waiting for things to happen. The pace picked up in the second half and just like the cupcakes that Lani bakes, I found the romance sweet. Baxter is a delightful and charming guy, it was fun to see him and Lani getting to know each other beyond their previous professional relationship. The small town setting of Sugarberry Island had its own charm as well and it was cute how the secondary characters were also important in the story. I’m planning to check out the rest of the books in the series.

A quote near the start of the novel that I loved: “She breathed in the mingled scents of dark chocolate and sweet berries. It was inspiring, really, how much power a single, sweet cup of baked deliciousness could wield. Cupcake salvation.”

Cupcake salvation, indeed! But while Lani finds salvation in baking cupcakes, I find it therapeutic to eat them.

On Dublin Street by Samantha Young

On Dublin StreetI first found out about Samantha Young when Angie started bibliovangelizing Down London Road. It definitely made me curious so I thought I’d give On Dublin Street a try first. The two books are companion novels but they stand well enough on their own and there’s no need to read them in order. I enjoyed reading On Dublin Street because of the characters – both Joss and Braden have a lot of issues that get in the way of having a relationship. Joss has never even had a serious relationship and she’d rather keep things casual between her and Braden. She’s a reserved type of person and doesn’t want to let anyone too close because of her past experiences. It was fun seeing Braden try to break the walls that Joss built around herself. Even though the romance was a huge part of the story, there’s more to On Dublin Street than Joss and Braden’s relationship – it was also about Joss opening up to other people and fighting her demons. I find that the characters are more developed, more nuanced, when different aspects of their lives are shown instead of just their interactions with one person. I’ve read Down London Road right after finishing this one and while I liked that one more than this, I would still recommend On Dublin Street to romance fans.

Ride With Me by Ruthie Knox

Ride With MeAfter finishing Big Boy by Ruthie Knox, I knew I would have fun going through her back list. Ride With Me sounded intriguing because I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel that focuses on cycling. I have a confession to make: I don’t know how to ride a bike. No one taught me when I was younger and I didn’t feel the need to try it out when I got older. In spite of that, I found the details of going on a cycling tour interesting. It’s an intense kind of activity and it’s always fun to read about characters who are passionate about what they do. I really liked the tension in this one – the characters rubbed each other the wrong way since the moment they meet but there’s an undeniable attraction between them. They’re total opposites as well: Lexie is uptight about cycling and has taken years to map out her planned tour while Tom is laid back and does what he feels like doing. Lexie is also friendly, outgoing and talkative while Tom isn’t. It was fun to read about their cycling adventures and see how they both react to how they feel about each other.

All of these titles are fun contemporary reads that are quick reads. Whenever I feel like I’m about to have a reading slump or I can’t decide what to read next, I go for romance because it’s fun and I’m a sap when it comes to romantic reads. Let me know what you think if you’ve read any of these or if you have recommendations similar to these books.


Big Boy by Ruthie Knox

I’m always up for good contemporary romance and I get excited whenever a friend highly recommends something that falls under that genre. So it’s no surprise that when Angie does a bibliocrack review, I sit up and listen. And I end up getting a copy of the book in question right after I finish reading what she has to say about it. I can’t help it, I’m a sucker for good romance. I was looking forward to reading Big Boy by Ruthie Knox, especially since I found both the cover and premise intriguing.

recommended by Angie

Stamp created by fellow YAcker Laura

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Big BoyWhen Mandy joins an online dating service, she keeps her expectations low. All she wants is a distraction from the drudgery of single parenthood and full-time work. But the invitation she receives from a handsome man who won’t share his real name promises an adventure — and a chance to pretend she’s someone else for a few hours.

She doesn’t want romance to complicate her life, but Mandy’s monthly role-playing dates with her stranger on a train — each to a different time period—become the erotic escape she desperately needs. And a soul connection she never expected.

Yet when she tries to draw her lover out of the shadows, Mandy has a fight on her hands… to convince him there’s a place for their fantasy love in the light of day.

Big Boy was my first introduction to Ruthie Knox’s writing. I liked it so much that I immediately picked up her other novels right after finishing this one. I’ve read all of her books and I have to say that Big Boy is still the one I like best. I found myself surprised at the emotional depth present in such a short piece of work. I cared for Mandy right away. She felt like a realistic character with genuine problems. Although I haven’t had a similar experience to what she’s going through, I understood how difficult it is to adjust her life when motherhood is suddenly thrust upon her. She doesn’t even have time to grieve for her sister, she had to get her act together to take care of her baby nephew while balancing her workload. No wonder she feels the need to take a break and unwind, which she does on her monthly dates with a guy who won’t even reveal his real name.

“His weirdness was what appealed to me. I felt so unfocused so much of the time in those days – like I wasn’t myself anymore, but I wasn’t a new person either. I was a blob with feet.

This guy knew something I didn’t. He knew how to change identities nimbly, with a gleam in his eyes that said I’m having more fun that you are.

I loved how unusual their dates are. They meet in one of the trains in the train museum and they have to act as characters in a certain time period. Let’s say 1957 – both of them would show up dressed in historically accurate attire (and being history nerds, they take pains to do this) and come up with a back-story for their character for the duration of that date. The background they come up with doesn’t matter just as long as they stay in character. Doesn’t that sound so interesting? It definitely kept me reading. At the same time, it made me wonder how things will work out between them when they’re being less than truthful with each other. Well, you just have to read Big Boy to find out. I really liked the setting of their dates as well, such a creative venue for their role-playing. It made me realize that even though I used the MRT everyday, I don’t really know much about historical trains. If there was a train museum anywhere near where I am now, I’d go and check it out. I’m now a Ruthie Knox fan and will always be willing to read anything that she publishes, I’m keeping my fingers crossed I’d get to review them as well. Big Boy is definitely a title that any contemporary romance fan should check out.

Other reviews:
Bitching, Books and Baking
The Allure of Books


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