Chachic's Book Nook


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Best Books I’ve Read So Far In 2017

The first half of 2017 has come and gone! I’ve been meaning to write this post since June ended but we all know how real life gets in the way of things so I’m only able to do this now, when we’re already halfway through July. Better late than never! I’ve shared best books I’ve read for the first half of the year in 2016 as well as 2015, and wanted to do it again this year. While I haven’t been blogging that much, I’ve still been reading a lot. And it’s nice to look back on what titles have stood out for me. Also, it makes things easier for me at the end of the year when I share my Best of 2017 list. Here the books that I’ve read and loved in the first half of the year:

White Hot Clean Sweep One Fell Sweep

A Crown of Bitter Orange pretty face

thick-as-thieves Hunted

Four titles by Ilona Andrews (the Innkeeper Chronicles got me out of a bad slump in April), three contemporary romances from authors I love, and two YA fantasy titles. Of course THICK AS THIEVES is here… we’ve only waited SEVEN YEARS for this latest installment to be released! All of these books except for Hunted were written by my trusted authors so it’s not surprising that they’ve become favorites for this year. Hunted is a beautifully written, Russian-inspired retelling of Beauty and the Beast and my introduction to Meagan Spooner’s writing. Note to self: I need to try more new-to-me authors in the second half of the year to see if I’ll love any of them. Also, I need to read more books written by Filipino authors because I only have one on my list so far.

What about the rest of you, what have been the best books that you’ve read in 2017 so far? 🙂 Do you have some of my picks in your own list? I would love to check out the books that would come highly recommended by bookish friends so please feel free to leave a comment.


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#romanceclass events: #FeelsSoHot and #romanceclasscovers

I have been back in Manila for a little over a week and it’s about time I gave an update! I flew back home just in time to attend two bookish events and both of them were so much fun. You might be wondering why my blog post’s title has so many hashtags, but I just got use to talking about these events on Twitter and Instagram where hashtags are used. I’ve talked about romanceclass before but as an introduction, romanceclass is a community of authors and readers of indie Filipino romance. You can find out more here. It is a pretty active group here in Manila and they’ve had a lot of events. Feels So Hot is the tenth romanceclass event where they host live readings of books, certain scenes from some titles are read out loud by local actors and actresses. It’s a great experience because everyone gets to see the actors breathe life into the story with the nuances and expressions that they act out for the characters. I had fun watching the live readings but for me, the best part was seeing the reactions of all the authors and readers during the event! I could really see how passionate everyone was about these books. Here are some pictures from the event, click the right arrow to see all of them:

#romanceclass is a community of authors and readers of indie pubbed Filipino romance. #FeelsSoHot was the 10th event organized by the group, and the first one I was able to attend because I was in Singapore for all the previous ones. During the event, books were sold and the authors were there to sign them, as well as chat with the readers. Pic of my haul at the end of the album, all of those books will be given as gifts! . . Also, actors and actresses did live readings of certain scenes from the books (theme for the night was steamy romance 🔥🔥🔥), and I think this is such an interesting way of bringing the story to life. More than anything, I enjoyed seeing how responsive the audience was to these readings. Fangirling at its finest. There was even a sleepover at a nearby hotel so attendees can process ALL THE FEELS. Always, always incredible to see so much passion in one place. I'm glad I was able to be a part of this community in whatever capacity I'm able to. It's moments like this that make me feel it's SO GOOD to be home.💖💖💖

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Feels So Hot was also the first romanceclass event where the live readings were of steamy scenes from the books. For extra feels! I think I arrived in Manila just in time? 😛 I haven’t read all of books that were part of the program but after seeing the live readings, I’m now curious about all of them. Watch this space for future reviews (or maybe not since I haven’t been very good in reviewing books this year. Real life, tsk tsk).

The next romanceclass thing I was lucky enough to be a part of was a photo shoot for book covers! Since their books are indie pubbed, some romanceclass authors have relied on stock photos as the basis of their book covers. Unfortunately, there are slim pickings for Filipinos or Asians in stock photos. They came up with the brilliant idea to contribute and sponsor photo shoots for their books. For each photo session, models or actors are hired to pose for the authors and their cover artists. The authors contributing to the session have a say in what kind of outfits the models will wear and how they will pose for the photos. This was such a fun experience for me, especially when I got to help out with the blocking and staging of some of the poses (a friend mentioned later on that this is what art directors do?) I felt that the models, Cora and AJ, deserved a round of applause for being like chameleons for every photo set. They were able to channel different types of romances and it was amazing. Here are some photos from that day:

Today's super fun activity was a photo shoot for @romanceclasscovers. #romanceclass is a community of authors and readers of indie pubbed Filipino romance. Stock photos have slim pickings when it comes to pictures that could be used as covers for Asian/Filipino books. So romanceclass authors chip in to fund photo shoots!📷📚 In this session, models AJ and Cora took on various looks for books-to-be-published. These two were like chameleons - they were able to change their look and style for every backstory. Some themes they represented were young adult love story, beach romance, friends to lovers, hate to love. Authors, editors, cover artists were there to provide input. And everyone became even more energized about these upcoming titles because of the shots that came out. Really, really looking forward to seeing these books published! Such a vibrant and passionate community to be in.🙌🙌🙌 Check out @instapach's feed for some high res samples.

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I honestly can’t wait to see the covers that will be designed based on these photos! Some of them I’m tempted to one-click without even knowing the synopsis. I wanted to share some romanceclass book covers that have photos from past sessions, to give you guys an idea of what the outcome will be:

No Strings Attached_New Cover Iris After the Incident

You Could Be the One Kate Finally


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Snapshot from a Book: Better At Weddings Than You

Snapshot From a Book is a sporadic feature that I have on my blog where I match snippets of books I’ve read with pictures I’ve taken. I rarely get to do this because I don’t always get to visit the settings of the books I read. Last Sunday, as I was heading to TWG tea salon for brunch with friends, I remembered that there’s a scene in Better At Weddings Than You by Mina V. Esguerra that was partially inspired by TWG. TWG is a Singaporean tea brand and they have tea salons all over the country, and even abroad. They have an extensive list of hundreds of different kinds of teas and part of the fun in going there is trying to decide what to get. I love how fragrant and delicious their teas are, and I’m also a fan of their scones served with tea-flavored jelly and clotted cream. I’ve previously mentioned this place in this post.

Here were the pictures from last Sunday, when I brought Better At Weddings Than You with me:

Swipe right to see all of the pictures, or hover over the image and click the right arrow. The scene in the book that’s set in a tea salon is actually the first time that the heroine gets to meet the hero. Both of them are wedding planners and they set an appointment at a tea shop:

He asked to meet her at a tea shop, exactly the one she’d been planning to visit as soon as she had a chance. It was suspicious, like he had tapped into her idle thoughts somehow. She walked into the coziest little tea place she’d ever seen and couldn’t help it, couldn’t help feeling the delight that unfurled in her chest, then letting it make her smile. She caught herself looking happy a split second later and tried to wipe it off.

This was a job.

It was not a date.

TWG cafe - flower tea, scones and macarons

“Need a recommendation?”

She knew from reading reviews that this place carried dozens of variants of tea. Also, she liked it. She was a tea person. Friends knew this about her; she got tins from all over the world as gifts.

Need a recommendation, my ass.

“No, thank you.” Her eyebrow reacted to this though the rest of her face hopefully did not. There was a menu in frond of her and she looked down at it instead. “I love tea. I’ll make my own choice.”

That she did, calling the server and asking for a grape-and-cherry blend with a black tea base, and asked for it hot.

I hope these snippets from the book has made you more curious to read Better At Weddings Than You by Mina V. Esguerra, it’s a stand-alone title from her Chic Manila series, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I also hoped you enjoyed seeing these pictures of TWG that I shared. I hope I manage to do another Snapshot from a Book post soon!

TWG tea book

Previous Snapshot From a Book posts:
Pinto Art Museum, Loveless. Childless. Clueless. by Miren B. Flores
Anawangin Cove, Zambales, What You Wanted by Mina V. Esguerra
Prague, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Ateneo de Manila University, Interim Goddess of Love by Mina V. Esguerra
Paris, The Chocolate Touch by Laura Florand
Paris, The Chocolate Thief


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Restaurant André

So I know it’s not really book-related to post about a meal that I had at Restaurant André, but I first found out about two and three-starred Michelin restaurant from books that I read. Specifically, in Laura Florand’s The Chocolate Heart, The Chocolate Temptation and The Chocolate Rose from her Amour et Chocolat series. The heroes in these books are pastry chefs in two and three-starred Michelin restaurants.

I never thought I’d be able to try out super fancy restaurants like these until I went to Les Amis for my birthday last March. I figured that I might as well eat at these places while I’m still in Singapore, at least I don’t have to travel and pay for flights and lodgings just to try them out. Apparently some die-hard foodies do that. So far, I’ve gone to Les Amis and Restaurant André. If I manage to go to Odette, I would have experienced the three French restaurants in Singapore that have two Michelin stars. The two other restaurants at that level are Japanese, and I’m not sure my palate is refined enough to try that.

I actually wanted to book a slot for Restaurant André on my birthday but it was fully booked by the time I started making plans. Apparently, reservations had to be made weeks in advance. Restaurant André has been award two Michelin stars, is placed number two in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, and is the only restaurant in Singapore to be included in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. I was pretty sure a meal at this restaurant would be the best meal that I’ve had in Singapore, so I was curious to try it out. And was also delighted when my friend agreed to join me.

Restaurant André is rated no. 2 in Asia's Best 50 Restaurants, and the only restaurant in Singapore included in the World's Best 50 list. It also has two Michelin stars, and has to be booked weeks in advance to get a slot. @nj_reyes and I were understandably excited to experience the best meal that we've had in Singapore.🙌🙌 Culmination of our foodie explorations together in this country. This was the lunch menu for today: - black cherry, red coral capsule - Hokkaido bird cockles brined in seawater onion slaw in clam velouté - broccoli eclair preserved lemon confit, kailan flower - spring sugar pea and wasabi sauce, goat cheese ice cream, charred white asparagus (the prettiest course in this menu!) - all about crab: crab fat emulsion (in Filipino, sosyal na aligue), crab canneloni with granny smith, crab custard with fresh sorrel - steamed marble goby, textures of leek, broth of bouillabaise - pigeon dry-aged in hay and salt koji, bitter chocolate oatmeal (in Filipino, sosyal na champorado) - pear melba, burnt marshmallow, pink finger lime caviar - pickled plums, purple shiso granite, creme fraiche - petit fours and coffee . . . #RestaurantAndre #ChefAndreChiang #AsiasBestRestaurant #Asias50Best #WorldsBestRestaurant #Worlds50Best #MichelinStar #Michelin #SGfood #SGfoodie #SGdesserts #foodstagram #IGeats #finedining #ExploreSingapore

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Swipe right to see all of the dishes, or hover over the image and click the right arrow. This was the lunch menu for that we had:
– black cherry, red coral capsule
– Hokkaido bird cockles brined in seawater onion slaw in clam velouté
– broccoli eclair preserved lemon confit, kailan flower
– spring sugar pea and wasabi sauce, goat cheese ice cream, charred white asparagus (the prettiest course in this menu!)
– all about crab: crab fat emulsion, crab canneloni with granny smith, crab custard with fresh sorrel
– steamed marble goby, textures of leek, broth of bouillabaise
– pigeon dry-aged in hay and salt koji, bitter chocolate oatmeal
– pear melba, burnt marshmallow, pink finger lime caviar
– pickled plums, purple shiso granite, creme fraiche
– petit fours and coffee

Taste-wise, my favorite parts of the meal were the appetizers and the desserts! The pea and white asparagus dish was both pretty and delicious too. I noticed that this menu kind of had a seafood theme going on. Aside from the food, I also loved the cozy and warm vibe that the restaurant had. It’s inside a renovated house and we were seated on the third floor, which only had a few tables in it. On the way up, we got to glimpse the kitchens where the chefs happily waved hello from the stations. Chef André himself left the kitchen after the meal was finished to say hello to the patrons. I thought that was very thoughtful of him.

I thought that was pretty cute. As a book nerd, I noticed the bookish details inside the restaurant:

Dining at restaurants like these, I discovered that what they do is basically story-telling using food as their medium. I loved how beautifully presented the dishes were, how each dish was served with an explanation, kind of like the server telling you a story about the dish. They keep changing their menus based on what ingredients are the best during that season. It just felt like there was a lot of care put into each dish served. It was a feast not just for a diner’s taste buds but also for the eyes.

So, so, so. This goes to show how I can relate everything to books. 🙂 Also that I could have gone into food blogging if book blogging wasn’t difficult enough to maintain. Have you tried any Michelin starred restaurants? If yes, what was your experience like? Have you read books that have characters who are chefs in this kind of environment?


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Gift Idea: The Little Boy Who Lost His Name

I’m not a super active Facebook user. I usually just link to my bookish updates from Instagram or Litsy (username: Chachic) to my blog’s Facebook page and then I mostly stay off the site. One of the rare times I was on it, I spotted an ad that looked interesting. It was for a small company called Lost My Name and they publish personalized children’s books. I thought it was such a cute gift idea so I went ahead and ordered two books to given to sons of two good friends of mine (one of the little boys is my godson). I ordered The Little Boy Who Lost His Name, where a little boy loses his name and encounters animals or magical creatures that will help him spell out his name along the way.

Swipe right, or hover over the pic and click the arrow button to see more shots. And here’s a pic of the Saturday brunch that I had with my friend and my godson, where I gave one of the books to them. I think my friend was even more excited for the book that her son was! I usually give books as gifts to kids but it makes me a lot happier when I know for a fact that their parents enjoy reading to them. Otherwise, I get the feeling that the kids or the parents would have liked to receive toys instead. Anyway, the company isn’t partnering with me to promote their stuff but I just thought I’d share this gift idea since it’s something that every book lover should be aware of. 🙂


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May 2017 Update

May has come and gone and I just realized that I had zero blog posts for that month. When I first started blogging, I’d blog everyday. Then eventually when real life started getting in the way of things, I’d be happy if I’m able to blog every week. And now apparently I can’t even do one blog post a month! Sigh, that’s what happens when too many real life stuff needed to be taken care of. It’s not that I’ve stopped reading (although I’ve had a bit of slump in April), it’s just that I haven’t been able to update my blog because it’s more difficult for me to open up my laptop to type up posts than to update apps that I have on my phone. So my Instagram, Litsy (username: Chachic) and Twitter accounts are constantly update but not WordPress. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Litsy posts can become embedded on WordPress soon, because I will have more updates to share then! In the meantime, below are some Instagram updates.

As mentioned earlier, I found myself in a bit of a slump in April and I was got over it by reading Ilona and Gordon’s books:

I inhaled the three books that are currently out in the Innkeeper Chronicles and hopefully I’ll get to write a review for the series at a later date (not making any promises though!) Another major bookish event for me in May was the book release of Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner:

But I didn’t read Thick as Thieves right away! Because I wanted the earlier books to be fresh in my mind before diving into the new one – sort of prolonging the whole reading process. So I reread the earlier books first, and it took me a while to get through them.

Those are mostly pics of The Queen of Attolia because my updates for The King of Attolia and A Conspiracy of Kings are mostly on Litsy. Unfortunately, I can’t embed them here. I have finished rereading them though, and have started on Thick as Thieves:

Looks like it will take me a while to get through this too, we’ll see how it goes. I plan to reread both Burn for Me and White Hot after I finish with the Queen’s Thief series. Although I’m eyeing a certain Beauty and the Beast retelling because of reviews from two good friends, Angie and Holly. If they both loved it, then I have a feeling I will as well. I would have one-clicked it but the Kindle edition is still pricey.

So, so, so. How have you all been? Hope you’ve had a less hectic May than I did. As always, please feel free to leave a comment if you’ve come across a book that you think I’ll enjoy reading.


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Better At Weddings Than You Blog Tour: Food Inspiration

Mina V. Esguerra is a prolific Filipino romance author and the founder of #romanceclass, a community of Filipino romance authors who publish books independently. I have featured her books and her writing countless times here on my blog, and I’m delighted to be part of the blog tour for her latest release: Better At Weddings Than You. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I need to work on a review to share more of my thoughts about it. Aside from romance books, one thing that Mina and I share is our love of food! I noticed that Better At Weddings Than You had references to some restaurants and certain dishes, and I thought it would be a great topic for a guest post. I hope this guest post will make you curious enough to read the book when it comes out, and also to try the food mentioned here! 🙂

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Food Inspiration: As featured in Better At Weddings Than You
by Mina V. Esguerra

My books are not about food, but they may as well be. I write contemporary romance but I also love food… and I keep talking about it. Especially when I’m writing anything set in the Philippines. With Better At Weddings Than You, the premise that the main characters Daphne and Aaron worked in the wedding industry formed the “menu” for this book. Here’s a selection and the real-life counterparts!

  • Christmas Eve dinner (Real thing: Spiral Restaurant at Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel)
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Daphne and Aaron meet over Christmas Eve dinner at a fancy hotel restaurant by the Manila Bay, and if you’re familiar with the area it’s an easy guess that it might actually be Spiral Restaurant at the Sofitel. If you know me at all, then you’d be sure — I adore the large restaurant, the seafood, salads, meats, and the cheese room.

  • Tea shop meeting (Real things: Rustic Mornings and TWG)
.

So the tea shop I describe in an early chapter of the book doesn’t actually exist (that I know of) but it’s based on the many small restaurants popping up in the city. It would have a look similar to Rustic Mornings by Isabelo in Marikina, but with a tea list that would remind you of a page from the menu of TWG. Just a page, because TWG of Singapore’s full menu would be too much for a quaint neighborhood tea place!

  • Caterer Food Tasting scene (Real thing: K by Cunanan)

How do you choose your caterer for your wedding? You taste their food. While planning my own wedding I (seriously) sampled the menus of three caterers, and one of the visits kind of went like the scene in my book. K by Cunanan is one caterer you’d encounter in the industry, and they did our wedding. We loved the food and their reception venue styling.

  • Chicharon salad (Real thing: Chef Sharwin Tee’s Tempura Bacon Salad)

In one scene, Daphne gets to reveal something about herself and I get to describe a decadent salad. Everything I said about the salad is directly from a food memory – of eating my friend Sharwin’s Tempura Bacon Salad at his restaurant. I replaced the bacon with chicharon though. If you can make this salad happen, let me know! I think it works well with a fruit vinaigrette, by the way.

Believe it or not, I had to edit this list so I don’t go on and on. Thank you, Chachic, for giving me the space on your blog! Better At Weddings Than You comes out April 15 and its Amazon link is here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XKS8Y1T

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Book Description:
Daphne Cardenas is the best wedding planner around, and everyone knows it. That’s why her friend Greg hired her as an emergency replacement one month before his wedding—because he fears his fiancée Helen is falling for the guy they first hired for the job.

Aaron Trinidad is new to the wedding industry but years of conference planning and loads of charm make him good at it. Really good at it. Planning the wedding of his friend Helen should be easy, and it is. To be unceremoniously fired isn’t good for his new career, but the chance to learn from the best might be the silver lining.

Aaron and Daphne have chemistry, but there’s history with Helen that at least one other person considers a threat. Who’s the planner who can fix this impending disaster?

(Part of the Chic Manila series, but can be read as a standalone.)

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