Chachic's Book Nook


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Amour et Florand: How did you discover Laura’s books?

Amour et Florand

Welcome to Amour et Florand, a blog event celebrating Laura Florand’s writing! I’m excited to be hosting this event, with guest posts from other Laura Florand fans throughout the week. If you’ve known me for a while then you’re probably aware of how enthusiastic I can get when it comes to the authors I love. I can’t stop talking about them and I keep pushing friends, both online and in real life, to read their books. Because I want more readers to pick up books written by favorite authors, I started hosting blog events to focus on their work. This is the first time I’ve featured a romance author in one of these events, which makes Amour et Florand special. Some of the other events that I’ve hosted were Queen’s Thief Week (about Megan Whalen Turner’s writing), Marchetta Madness (about Melina Marchetta) and EWein Special Ops (about Elizabeth Wein).

Let’s kick off Amour et Florand with stories of how we discovered Laura Florand’s books. I first found out about her last year. In March 2013, I traveled from Singapore to LA to attend a cousin’s wedding. While I was there, I was fortunate enough to get the chance to meet one of my long-time blogging buddies: Michelle of See Michelle Read. I will always be thankful that Michelle was willing to drive a couple of hours in order for us to finally meet in person.

withMichelle

Michelle and I at Barnes and Noble

We had lunch, dropped by a bookstore and of course, chatted about books. Michelle was raving about Laura Florand, this contemporary romance author who writes about chocolates and Paris. I was immediately curious because Michelle and I tend to have similar tastes in the books that we read. I take her recommendations seriously. I can still remember inquiring at the B&N branch we visited if they had copies of The Chocolate Thief and The Chocolate Kiss. I would have bought them right then and there if they were available but unfortunately, they weren’t. Good thing I was planning to order books online and I was able to include those two in my haul. I read The Chocolate Thief a few weeks later and that started my love affair with Laura Florand’s books. She became an auto-read author for me and I’ve read all of her books since then. I’ve also traveled to Paris and Aix-en-Provence last April and Laura’s books were constantly on my mind during the time we were there. It’s a good thing two of the friends I was with have read her books because I kept talking about them. Unfortunately, I didn’t encounter any handsome chocolatiers or perfumers.

On one hand, I feel lucky that I discovered her work early – she only had two books out at that time. But on the other hand, I envy those who will be able to have a nice glom of all her work. It’s a good thing there isn’t a long wait in between her books because I really can’t get enough of Laura’s writing. I’m really looking forward to her next release, Once Upon a Rose.

So that’s how I found out about Laura’s books, through the recommendation of a very good friend. What about the rest of you, how did you find out about Laura Florand’s books? Was it through a friend, a book blogger or just by browsing in a bookstore? What was the first Laura Florand book that you read? Share your stories! I would love to hear them. Let the Amour et Florand discussions begin. :) Feel free to leave a comment or please use the hashtag #AmouretFlorand on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram if you plan to talk about the event over there, just so we can all follow the posts.

Links to my reviews of Laura’s books:
All’s Fair in Love and Chocolate by Laura Florand
The Chocolate Thief
The Chocolate Kiss
The Chocolate Touch
The Chocolate Rose
(Novel Gossip discussion)
The Chocolate Temptation
Turning Up the Heat
A Rose in Winter

Snapshot from a Book:
The Chocolate Thief
The Chocolate Touch


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The Chocolate Temptation by Laura Florand

Apparently I’ve had a draft of a review for The Chocolate Temptation by Laura Florand sitting in my dashboard for the past few months. I dusted it off and tweaked it just in time for Amour et Florand this weekend. It’s always a pleasure to read a book by one of your favorite authors. The Chocolate Temptation is part of the Amour et Chocolat series and the books can be read out of order because they stand well enough on their own. However, the characters in The Chocolate Temptation were earlier featured in The Chocolate Heart so I think it would be a good idea to read the latter first. I was intrigued by Patrick in The Chocolate Heart so I’m delighted that he got his own book.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

The Chocolate TemptationShe hated him.
Patrick Chevalier. The charming, laid-back, golden second-in-command of the Paris pastry kitchen where Sarah worked as intern, who made everything she failed at seem so easy, and who could have every woman he winked at falling for him without even trying. She hated him, but she’d risked too much for this dream to give up on it and walk out just so he wouldn’t break her heart.

But he didn’t hate her.
Sarah Lin. Patrick’s serious, dark-haired American intern, who looked at him as if she could see right through him and wasn’t so impressed with what she saw. As her boss, he knew he should leave her alone. The same way he knew better than to risk his heart and gamble on love.

But he was never good at not going after what – or who – he wanted.

He could make magic out of sugar. But could he mold hate into love?

Out of all the Amour et Chocolat novels, The Chocolate Temptation stands out because one of the main characters is a female pastry chef. I know how male-dominated the industry is since I have a cousin abroad who works in that field, so it’s pretty interesting to get a better idea of what things are like from Sarah’s point of view. I think Sarah is a great character. I love how brave she is in terms of changing career paths. She’s an intelligent person, with an engineering degree from Caltech. She could have been living comfortably in the States while working as an engineer and yet she chooses to throw that away to pursue a culinary career. I admire her guts and her passion for what she feels is the right path for her. Patrick is also very passionate about being a pastry chef. He was once a foster child but he has risen to the top of the culinary ladder and is now one of the best pastry chefs in Paris. I liked Patrick’s easygoing nature and how he’s constantly being likened to a beach bum/surfer guy. What a contrast to the demanding and hectic workplace that they thrive in. He also has a terrific sense of humor, which he uses to relieve the pressure that everyone feels in their work environment. I also loved the dynamics between his relationship with Luc, especially after getting Luc’s POV from The Chocolate Heart.

Sarah thinks of herself as the lowly intern and she obviously looks up to Patrick as her mentor. Being attracted to each other, without knowing what the other person is feeling, gives their relationship tension that stretches out over the months of Sarah’s internship. They both feel that liking the other person is inappropriate – since Patrick is essentially one of Sarah’s bosses – and yet they can’t help feeling that way. I loved this bit of comparison of their romance to their creations:

“This thing between them was like this beautiful fairytale of a dessert constructed out of work and caution and risk and whimsy. Leaping and twirling, full of color and taste, a wrong breath could break it. And yet night after night, in the kitchens, they made such fragile magics and waiters got that fragility all the way to the tables they were meant for.”

Such a beautiful way of describing what began as a tentative romance that slowly developed into something deeper. Given how passionate they are about their work, it’s not surprising how strong their feelings are for each other. I’m not usually a fan of workplace romance but Laura Florand handles it so well. I had such a lovely time reading about Sarah and Patrick – from how they started getting to know each other outside the workplace to how much they’re willing to sacrifice to make the other person happy. At this point, I feel like I’m a broken record because I keep recommending Laura Florand’s books. But that’s only because they’re SO GOOD. Go forth and read them.


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Wildlife by Fiona Wood

I read Six Impossible Things years ago and I remember enjoying it but unfortunately, I couldn’t remember details of the story now. I would have loved to reread it prior to reading Wildlife but my copy is in Manila, I’m not even sure which friend has it at the moment. I have been looking forward to Wildlife ever since it first came out and I saw Aussie bloggers raving about it. I was able to get a copy last year when a friend from Australia passed by Singapore on his way to Manila. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to read it!

Wildlife in the wild

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Life? It’s simple: be true to yourself.
The tricky part is finding out exactly who you are…

In the holidays before the dreaded term at Crowthorne Grammar’s outdoor education camp two things out of the ordinary happened.
A picture of me was plastered all over a twenty-metre billboard.
And I kissed Ben Capaldi.

Boarding for a term in the wilderness, sixteen-year-old Sibylla expects the gruesome outdoor education program – but friendship complications, and love that goes wrong? They’re extra-curricula.

Enter Lou from Six Impossible Things – the reluctant new girl for this term in the great outdoors. Fragile behind an implacable mask, she is grieving a death that occurred almost a year ago. Despite herself, Lou becomes intrigued by the unfolding drama between her housemates Sibylla and Holly, and has to decide whether to end her self-imposed detachment and join the fray.

And as Sibylla confronts a tangle of betrayal, she needs to renegotiate everything she thought she knew about surviving in the wild.

Note to self: do not start reading books late at night if you have a feeling they’re going to be good. I spent a good chunk of one weeknight reading Wildlife and stayed up until 2:30am to finish it. Yes, I needed coffee to survive work the next day. Narrated from the points of view of two characters, Lou and Sibylla, this Aussie YA novel is an engaging read. My heart went out to Lou because of her loss and the grief that she’s still coming to terms with. It’s understandable how closed off she is at the start of the novel. Sibylla is a likeable character, very low-key and cares deeply for her friends. We didn’t get to see his POV but another character I really liked was genius and quirky Michael, who is also very loyal to his friends. I also found the setting refreshingly different, high school students spending a term out in the bush. It’s like a combination of boarding school and camp, away from the city and family homes. I can imagine how difficult it would be for a teenager to adjust to that kind of set-up. Constantly surrounded by others and absolutely no privacy. I find that living on such close quarters like that can either strengthen or destroy relationships. People can either become very comfortable or very annoyed with each other’s quirks. It was interesting to see how the dynamics between the characters changed as the book progressed.

I have to be honest, there was a point in the book when I got frustrated with Sibylla and how passive she is with her relationship and friendship. I was all, “C’mon girl, learn to push back a little.” But it’s not like she’s not aware of the situation she finds herself in because she definitely is. She knows that the balance is tilted in Holly’s favor when it comes to their friendship and she’s also aware of the nuances of dating a popular guy like Ben. It then occurred to me that Sibylla is still in the process of getting to know herself, she hasn’t fully settled into her own skin and as a result, she’s also not sure of how to react to and interact with those around her. It’s a very truthful and realistic portrayal of teenage life. Looking back on my own experiences, I have to admit that not all of the relationships and friendships that I’ve had were healthy or good for me but that’s just how life is. We all make mistakes and that’s how we learn and become better people. So even though I was initially annoyed by some situations, in hindsight, I loved the accurate descriptions of relationships (both romantic and platonic) in Wildlife. It’s all messy and complicated and confusing and feels very real. This is one of those books that I would gladly give to my teenage self because I know I will be able to relate to it. Wildlife reminded me of how brilliant Aussie YA is and I’m so glad I still have a couple of Aussie YA titles in my TBR pile. One of my favorite reads for this year, I recommend Wildlife to fans of realistic young adult fiction.

Other reviews:
Inkcrush
Chasing Words


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Open Road Summer

I have seen several rave reviews about Emery Lord’s debut novel Open Road Summer. Based on what I’ve heard, it seemed like a YA contemp with a sweet summer romance. It is eternally summer here in Singapore (and also in Manila) so I felt like I could read Open Road Summer anytime I was in the mood for it.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Open Road SummerAfter breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind… and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts.

But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence.

This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking.

Reading Open Road Summer was a case of the right book at the right time for me. I made the mistake of starting it late at night and stayed up until 2am to reach the halfway mark. I wanted to go on but I had to get some sleep to avoid being a zombie at work the next day. What I loved about this book is that it is in equal parts a story about two best friends who have supported and loved each other for years, and also a sweet summer romance. I loved how strong the friendship is between Reagan and Dee, they’ve been there for each other throughout all the problems that they’ve had. They also don’t let their relationships come between their friendship. It just feels like such an honest and true friendship between the two of them. They planned Dee’s summer tour as the ultimate road trip which will let them spend as much time together and hopefully will heal their broken hearts. Their friendship reminded me of how thankful I am to have good friends in my life. I may not have a specific best friend like Dee and Reagan but I have girl friends who help keep me sane.

Another aspect of Open Road Summer that I really enjoyed was the romance. Oh boy, such a good slow burn romance! Sparks flew the moment Reagan and Matt meet but they couldn’t act on the attraction for reasons that you will find out when you read the book. Given how much they’re thrown together because they’re traveling on the same tour, they try to get to know each other as friends instead. Reagan has made some bad decisions in her life but she’s choosing to follow a better path. Over the years, she’s learned to develop a prickly nature as a defense mechanism for all the issues that she’s faced. Matt is quite the opposite in the sense that he’s an easygoing, friendly guy who has had the support and love of his family his whole life. Reagan and Matt have led such different lives and yet they feel a connection right after they meet – not just attraction but the recognition that someone understands life the same way you do. Because they both have experiences with loss and grief and just had different ways of coping. Because of this, it felt like the author highlighted how important it is to have friendship as the foundation of a relationship.

The tour reminded me of summers back home in the Philippines, which usually means road trips and beach trips with friends. Taking it easy, hanging out with friends and doing what you love. For Dee and Matt, that means focusing on their music – performing and writing songs. While for Reagan, it’s photography and capturing moments using her camera. A little detail that I liked was that Reagan has a Diana camera, yay for lomo! I’m always a fan of characters who are passionate about the things that they love so I think it’s great that these three characters are actively pursuing their goals and dreams. As with any book where music is a big part, I wish there was a way to hear the songs included in the story. I think it would have been perfect if there was a playlist at the end of the book, like similar songs to the ones featured within it. Open Road Summer was such a good read for me, I’ve added it to my best of 2014 list. Recommended for fans of Saving June by Hannah Harrington, Such a Rush and Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols.

Inspired by Open Road Summer, I made a collage of past trips with girl friends

Inspired by Open Road Summer, I made a collage of past trips with girl friends

Other reviews:
Alexa Loves Books
The Perpetual Page-Turner
Ivy Book Bindings


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Top Ten Blogging Confessions

Top Ten Tuesday2

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish. I thought this week’s topic is such a fun one. I’m not sure if the things I’ve listed here can all be considered confessions or if they’re just random facts about me. In any case, I had fun coming up with this list and would be interested to know if any of you share my sentiments in any of these things.

1. I have ARC envy from time to time. I can’t help it, it’s hard to wait for books that you want to read right away. So when I see other bloggers sharing pictures or tweets of books that I’m dying to read, I get jealous. Then I have to remind myself that I have so many good books waiting to be read from my own stash.

2. I also get jealous of all the author and book-related events or conferences that are held in other countries. Even Manila has started getting more author events organized by major bookstores (e.g. Stephanie Perkins in the Philippines). If Megan Whalen Turner or Elizabeth Wein or Melina Marchetta ever have a Manila event, I’m definitely booking a flight to see them. Sigh, I can’t even remember the last time I attended a book event.

3. I want a new Kindle. My trusty Kindle Touch is just about to turn 2 years old and it’s still working fine so it wouldn’t be very practical to get a new one. I love that I’ve brought my Kindle with me on my travels (it’s been to Manila, Singapore, Los Angeles, Paris, Barcelona, Aix-en-Provence and Milan) but I really want a Kindle Paperwhite. Mostly for the convenience of having a lighted device.

A shot of my Kindle on the train on the way to Milan. I was reading Thorn by Intisar Khanani

A shot of my Kindle on the train on the way to Milan. I was reading Thorn by Intisar Khanani

4. I tend to ignore the paperbacks and hardcovers in my TBR pile. I’ve become really bad at reading the physical books that I have just because my Kindle is so easy to carry around in my purse. But I still enjoy buying and receiving physical books and I like the comfort of having a bookshelf full of books so now I have quite a number of unread titles. I really should make more of an effort to read these paperbacks and hardcovers, maybe alternate them with ebooks.

5. I measure the prices of things based on books. For example, if I’m considering buying something – let’s say a pretty necklace or a cute dress – and it’s more expensive that what I would usually spend on a thing like that, I would think to myself, “This is expensive, I could buy *insert number of books here* with this price.”

6. Whenever I buy a purse or handbag, I have to check and make sure that at least my Kindle or one book will be able to fit into it. Even if I don’t really get a chance to read during the day, I just feel more comfortable having a book with me.

7. My mood is affected by what I read in the sense that I’m in a good mood when I’m in the middle of (or just finished) a really good book. I also feel a bit lost when I’m not reading anything or if I’m not really enjoying what I’m reading.

8. I used to unfollow people on Twitter but now just use the mute button. I check my Twitter and Instagram feeds on a daily basis so I unfollow or mute people for several reasons: I may find their tweets or posts annoying or I’ve replied to their tweets but they’ve never responded – I mean I get when famous authors don’t respond but for fellow bloggers? I just feel like it’s not a good thing when I’m not able to have a conversation with that person.

9. I feel like I already spend a significant chunk of time on my blogging and yet it’s never enough. I spend a lot of my spare time on reading and blogging because they are my main hobbies. But even though I do that, I’m still behind on blogging in the sense that I don’t get to review all of the books that I read and I don’t get to post as often as I would like. Back when I had more time in my hands, I would also read and comment on all of the posts of the bloggers I follow but nowadays, I’m not able to do that anymore.

10. I don’t think I’ve ever really talked about what got me to start a book blog. Prior to starting my own book blog, I had a personal blog and was a lurker in LiveJournal communities. My friends kept telling me that I should review books because I enjoy reading so much, and I just kept saying that I’m a reader and not a writer. I was in awe of some of the book blogs that I discovered and felt that I wouldn’t be able to come up with something similar. But then I also started seeing other book blogs that were poorly maintained and realized that I could do better (I’m sorry if that sounds mean!) and that pushed me to start my own blog.


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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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The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner’s Curse came to my attention when my good friend Nomes mentioned that it’s one of her favorite reads for this year. For some reason, this title flew under my radar when it first came out. I think the cover doesn’t really represent the story very well and might be one of the reasons why I wasn’t initially curious about The Winner’s Curse. I tried reading a couple of chapters just to see if it’s something that I would be interested in and I was fully absorbed. I was surprised at how easy it was to get into the story.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

The Winner's CurseAs a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him — with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

The Winner’s Curse is set in a make-believe world but has no magic or mythical creatures in it so it has more of a historical fantasy feel to it. Kestrel is the daughter of a well-known general, which is a pretty big deal since their society holds the military and warfare in high regard. The Valorian empire is already huge and yet it still continues to extend its reach and enslave the nations it conquers. The story is set several years after the Valorians have conquered the Herrani people. While Kestrel loves her people and she knows that slavery is part of their culture and their way of life, she doesn’t really approve of it. When she unexpectedly buys a slave at an auction, she has no idea what to with him. But she recognizes Arin’s strength of spirit and admires that. A friendship slowly develops between the two of them. Kestrel is bound by the constraints of the Valorian society – she only has two choices when she comes of age: to join the military or to get married, neither of which are very appealing to her. She’s not a good soldier even if she keeps training and she’s not interested enough in any guy to marry him. She’s great at military strategy, which is why her father keeps pushing her to enlist, but she’s not passionate about that kind of thing. What she loves is music, something which Valorians believe shouldn’t be taken seriously. A snippet to show how Kestrel feels when she plays the piano:

“Music made her feel as if she were holding a lamp that cast a halo of light around her, and while she knew there were people and responsibilities in the darkness beyond it, she couldn’t see them. The flame of what she felt when she played made her deliciously blind.”

I wish I felt that strongly about music but I don’t have the skill or talent for it. Instead, I will liken Kestrel’s passion to how I sometimes feel when I read – entirely focused in the world created by the author, paying no attention to other tasks that need to be done. Which is exactly what happened while I was reading The Winner’s Curse. To be honest, I have a hard time pinpointing why I enjoyed this book so much. I suppose it’s mostly because I like Kestrel, I like Arin and I like how their friendship developed. They’re both intelligent characters who slowly learn to respect and trust each other, in spite of their differences and the enmity between their nations. I also liked the setting and the contrast between the Valorian and Herrani cultures. How one was all about gaining power by expanding its borders, and one was a more peaceful culture centered around the arts. I was engrossed by The Winner’s Curse and yet I also feel like it could have been a stronger book. Let’s put it this way, this is a good introduction to the series and the story arc wraps up nicely but I feel like by the time the sequel comes out (maybe next year?), I would have forgotten most of the details in this one. It wasn’t mind-blowing but it was a pleasant and enjoyable read which I recommend to YA fans, even those who don’t usually read fantasy.

Other reviews:
Fantasy Cafe
Good Books and Good Wine
Ivy Book Bindings
Shae Has Left the Room
The Bookish Manicurist
Alexa Loves Books

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