Chachic's Book Nook


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Anything But Broken by Joelle Knox

Well, this was a nice surprise. I’ve been breezing through romance novels lately because I’ve been in mood for them. I found out about Anything But Broken when the writing duo (Donna Herren and Bree Bridges) behind the pen name Joelle Knox was a guest at The Locker Room Facebook group. I saw some snippets that they posted and was intrigued. Tried a few chapters of the book and I was hooked.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Anything But BrokenAfter five years, tragedy brings Hannah Casey back to Hurricane Creek to bury what’s left of her family. She’s flunking out of college, haunted by scandal, and the only person who cares is Sean Whitlow, an irresistible bad boy with a soft spot for her. The problem? He’s her dead sister’s ex.

Sean doesn’t bleed red, he bleeds motor oil. During the week, he struggles to turn his auto repair shop into a profitable business. But when Saturday night rolls around, he’s the reigning stock-car king of the local race track. He doesn’t know how to lose – or how to walk away and leave Hannah alone with her grief.

Between her grades and her wealthy family’s dark secrets, Hannah’s barely holding her life together. And the last thing Sean needs is to get tangled up with another Casey girl. As the attraction between them spins out of control, they’ll either find a love with no limits – or go up in flames.

At first I was wary of the premise because I thought it would be more than a little awkward that Sean used to date Hannah’s sister Cait. But I didn’t have to worry because it actually worked in their favor. It’s been years since Cait suddenly passes away but she’s still mourned and remembered by her sister and her ex-boyfriend. Hannah has always had a bit of crush on Sean even though she recognized that he was with Cait. While Sean feels responsible for Hannah because she’s Cait’s younger sister. That’s initially how they see each other but of course, that changed pretty quickly. Sparks fly the moment they reconnect. They both know it’s a bad idea for them to get involved, but they also recognize the chemistry between them. So they start slow. Hannah’s family is pretty messed up and she has a lot to deal with. Sean is the calm within the storm of her life. He keeps her steady and lets her lean on him. He may seem like a bad boy on the surface because he races cars and works in a garage. But then again, he owns that garage and he’s such a good driver that he’s always in control whenever he races. I really enjoyed Hannah and Sean’s interactions and while I wouldn’t exactly call their romance slow burn, I wouldn’t call it instalove either. Here’s a non-spoilery snippet:

“I reach up, letting my hand hover for a second before I give in and brush my fingertip across the crooked bridge of his nose. He races cars and gets in fights and takes girls on romantic dates when he knows better.

And when I’m touching him, my life isn’t spinning out of control. When I’m touching him, the world might be spinning, but I’m here, in the moment, in my own skin, and that’s what I need more than anything.”

And it’s descriptions like this that convinced me that it makes sense for Hannah and Sean to be together. When Hannah comes back home, she really doesn’t have anyone to help her. Aside from Sean, she also rekindles an old friendship with her middle grade best friend Evie. I really liked that Evie and Sean’s best friend Gibb are both a big part of the story. It was nice that Hannah found a good friend in Evie because she really deserves to have every little bit of happiness that she can find. Sean and Gibb have had each other’s back for years, and I really enjoyed seeing their strong friendship all throughout the story. I also really enjoyed the scenes that had Sean’s loving family in them. His warm and affectionate relationship with them provided a nice contrast to Hannah’s dysfunctional family. The small town setting also worked well for the story. As you can see from the premise, I wouldn’t really describe Anything But Broken as a light and fun read. There is definitely drama in there, because of what Hannah is going through and also because of certain events that happened in the past. But to me, it never felt like there was unnecessary angst. The writing is the kind that makes you feel and ache for the characters. I really just wanted things to work out for both Hannah and Sean. Anything But Broken kept me absorbed until the end. I stayed up late to finish reading it. I will definitely watch out for the next Hurricane Creek novel, which will be featuring Evie and Gibb. Recommended for new adult fans, like readers who have enjoyed Sarina Bowen’s Ivy Years series or Elle Kennedy’s Off-Campus series.

Other reviews:
Smexy Books
The Book Hammock
Booklovers for Life


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Top Ten Tuesday: Worldbuilding 101

Top Ten Tuesday2

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish. It was a little difficult for me to decide what topic to focus on for this week but I decided to Worldbuilding 101 because I love reading books that let me sink into their world. If I ever teach or join a worldbuilding class as a student, I would love to read and discuss the books in my list below. I feel like they represent books or series that have detailed, imaginative and intelligent worldbuilding.

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling – This series was a huge part of my teen years and I definitely loved the magical world that Rowling created. Although I was past the right age, I wanted to receive an invitation to attend Hogwarts!

Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis – Another magical world which I loved reading about as a child. Who wouldn’t want to spend time in Narnia, with all its magic and talking animals and Aslan?

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – How can a class about worldbuilding not have Tolkien in it? Such a classic example of intricate worldbuilding that includes history, language, and everything else.

Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner – One of my favorite series of all time, I feel like I keep mentioning it in my TTT lists. But it’s really appropriate for this one because MWT created an amazing world reminiscent of ancient Greece, complete with gods and goddesses who influence major events but in such subtle ways.

Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews – I really like the magic vs. tech background of this world. And I like how each book deals with a different kind of magic and mythology originating from various countries. (Bonus: I’m also a fan of the worldbuilding in the authors’ Burn for Me, with the mafia-like magical families.)

Cesky - view from palace

A shot of the fairytale town of Cesky Krumlov, which seemed like a good choice for this post.

Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore – Technically these two books are set in the same world but they’re so different. I liked both kingdoms that had different sorts of people with magical abilities – in Graceling, they have a special skill called a Grace while in Fire, there are radiantly beautiful (and colorful) animals and humans called monsters who can control minds.

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley – One of the first YA fantasy titles that I fell in love with, I really enjoyed being immersed in this world. I liked that Harry is a character from a world similar to our own, with a magical world bordering it. Aside from the magic, I liked the tension between the two cultures and how it represents colonization. (Bonus: I also loved the worldbuilding in McKinley’s Pegasus. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll get the sequel for that soon!)

Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith – This is actually just one of the titles set in Smith’s fictional world Sartorias-deles. She’s been writing that setting ever since she was a child and I like how her books are set in different time periods of the same world, so that it keeps building the history. There’s a little bit of magic in this book but focuses more on court intrigue while a new government is being built after the fall of previous ruling family.

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman – I remember being amazed that the two main characters came from parallel worlds, and the series of events lead them together. I was really impressed with Lyra’s world and intrigued by humans and their daemon counterparts.

Touchstone trilogy by Andrea K. Host – I had a hard time choosing between Host’s Medair and Touchstone because both have excellent worldbuilding. I’m going with Touchstone for this list because I liked that the heroine was just walking home from school one day when BAM, she makes a turn or something and steps into an alternate universe that’s way more technologically advanced than our own. I also love that she’s from Australia.

If you taught or studied a Worldbuilding 101 class, what books would you include?


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A Wish Upon Jasmine by Laura Florand

Laura Florand is one of my favorite romance authors and I’ve been a fan of her books ever since I discovered them in 2013. Her La vie en Roses series features the fictional Rosiers, one of the most prominent families in the perfume industry. I was charmed by the Christmas novella A Rose in Winter and was delighted by the first full-length novel, Once Upon a Rose. I was thrilled when I found out that the second book, A Wish Upon Jasmine, will also be released this year! I’m seriously amazed at how prolific a writer Laura Florand is. I didn’t think we’d get another book in the series until next year, and I thought it would be about Tristan. Looks like Damien shouldered his way in and stole the limelight.

Here’s the book summary:
A Wish Upon JasmineRuthless.
That was what they said about Damien Rosier. Handsome. Wealthy. Powerful. Merciless. No one messed with his family, because to do so they would have to get through him. No one thought he had a heart. Not even the woman he gave his to.

Cynical.
That was what they said about Jasmin Bianchi. A top perfumer of her generation, Jess had achieved commercial success by growing a protective shell over a tender heart. The one time she cracked it open to let Damien in, he crushed it—after a night of unbelievable passion.

Lovers.
That one magical night couldn’t survive the harsh light of dawn. When Jess woke up to discover the man in bed beside her had stolen her company, she fled.

Enemies.
Now she’s come to the south of France with a threat to his family heritage. If he wants to reclaim both it and the woman who walked away from him, he’s going to have to fight as dirty as only Damien can.

But Jess knows how to fight dirty, too. And these days, she has nothing left to lose.

Certainly not her heart.

As much as I loved Laura Florand’s Amour et Florand series, I think I’m starting to love her Provence series just a little bit more. The South of France setting is such a delight to read. I also love the dynamics of the Rosier family, and how difficult it is to grow up with highly competitive and assertive cousins. I think the Rosier men coped by finding a role for themselves within the family structure, and then deciding to stick with those roles. They do their damnedest to live up to what they believe is expected of them. It’s not that they don’t love the roles that they play, it’s just that each role comes with its own set of problems. In Damien’s case, he’s the one who grants people’s wishes. He’s the business guy, in charge of making money for the company so the rest of the family can pursue their dreams. So his cousin Matt can run the Rosier valley, so Tristan can make perfumes, and Raoul and Lucien can travel the world. In order to work in the business world, Damien had to toughen up and be ruthless. But anyone who has such deep roots and family values can never be truly heartless. No one outside his family really sees his vulnerable side, but he lets his guard down the night he and Jess meet.

Jess is a top perfumer known for her commercially successful Spoiled Brat creation. Which is funny because she made that popular perfume as a joke, she never expected it to rise to fame. And now she couldn’t shake the image that she has in the perfume world and everyone expects her to make perfumes that go against what she wants to do. Damien and Jess didn’t even know each other’s last names when they meet so they also had no inkling of the other person’s reputation. That allowed them to be a truer version of themselves than what the rest of the world usually sees. Things go downhill once Jess realizes who Damien really is, and that he’s acquired the fledgling artisan perfume company that she wanted to pour her heart into. Add to that the terrible fact that her father is seriously ill and is about to pass away. It’s understandable that she wasn’t willing to listen to reason when Damien wanted to give an explanation. A passage that resonated with me:

“It would have been like believing in magic, to believe in you,” she said suddenly.

“Yes.” His breath released roughly. “I know exactly what you mean.”

“In the morning. At night, it’s easier to believe in dreams.”

Six months after Damien and Jess spend the night together, they find themselves in Grasse, in a historical perfume shop that has been in Damien’s family for generations and was, surprisingly, inherited by Jess. Can I just say that I love how the Rosier boys’ great aunt Colette meddles in their affairs? I really think she’s pretending to have a less than friendly relationship with the Rosier patriarch but they’re secretly working together to get the guys to settle down. Matchmaking grandparents! Damien is supposed to get the perfume shop back for the family and he also aims to work things out with Jess. As expected, there’s a lot of tension between these two especially since their attraction for each other has been well-established by their one night together. Both of them are flawed characters and it takes a while for them to truly understand the other person but I think it was a beautiful journey. They kept butting heads but I wasn’t worried because I knew they never really mean to hurt the other person.

I loved Damien’s character, how he layers a protective shell over his vulnerability in order to accomplish the things that he has to do for the family. I really liked that Jess is a perfumer because this series is about the perfume industry. I’m glad that we got to see her point of view, ahead of what Tristan’s will be. I could also relate to Jess and her insecurities and doubts, how it’s so difficult for her to accept the possibility of a relationship with Damien because she thinks he’s way out of her league. It highlights how loving and believing in someone takes an enormous leap of faith and a whole lot of trust. Not just that, but also that she had to believe in herself first before she can even be ready to believe in someone else. Jess was the kind of character I wanted to hug and say, “everything will be all right.” So it’s really a good thing that Damien is more than willing to do that, and that he’s backed by a chaotic and wonderful family. I’ve noticed that these Rosier men tend to find women who don’t have big and supportive families like they do, and it’s just lovely to see how they react to being welcomed into the fold.

I was also tickled by the fairy tale theme than ran throughout the story, it was so much fun to pick up the references that peppered the story. A Wish Upon Jasmine is a beautiful read that stayed with me days, even weeks, after I finished reading it. It has a more bittersweet feel to it compared to Once Upon a Rose, which was kind of cute and cuddly, but I enjoyed it just as much. I’m itching to reread Matt and Raoul’s stories now. As always, I can’t wait for the next book.

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Other reviews:
Girl Meets Books
Ivy Book Bindings

Instagram shot of my copies: Once Upon a Rose and A Wish Upon Jasmine.

Other books in the La vie en Roses series (click on the thumbnails for my reviews):
The Chocolate Rose - new cover No Place Like Home Once Upon a Rose

Books in the Amour et Chocolat series (click on the thumbnails for my reviews):
Kiss the Bride The Chocolate Thief The Chocolate Kiss The Chocolate Touch The Chocolate Heart The Chocolate Temptation


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New Release: Sasharia en Garde by Sherwood Smith

Sasharia en Garde is a duology that was previously published as two books: Once a Princess and Twice a Prince. I read these two books before I started the blog and loved them. Naturally, I want to spread the word about them. I have a review that I posted way back in 2010. The duology has been redesigned and released as one book, the way it was meant to be. Sherwood Smith talks about her writing process for these books in this Goodreads post. I have fond memories of reading Sasharia en Garde so maybe I should revisit these characters. I remember that the writing had a similar feel to Crown Duel (one of my all time favorite novels) so be sure to check these out if you enjoyed reading that book.

Sasharia en Garde

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

First published as two books— Once a Princess, and Twice a Prince — this romantic fantasy has been published as one book, as first intended. It is set in the same world as Crown Duel, to which Sasha’s mother, Sun, was once swept away by a real prince.

But not to happily ever after. Her prince vanished, and a wicked king took the throne. Since then, Sasha and Sun have been hiding on Earth, both training in martial arts until Sasha is tricked into going back to Khanerenth.

She’s more than ready to kick some bad-guy butt, but is the stylish pirate Zathdar the bad guy? Or artistic, dreamy Prince Jehan, son of the wicked king?

Meanwhile Sun is determined to cross worlds to save her daughter. She might not have been a very good princess, but nobody messes with Mom!


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Top Ten Tuesday: My Most Read Authors

Top Ten Tuesday2

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish. For this week’s topic, I extracted my Goodreads database, did a pivot table and sorted the numbers to get the top ten:
Author Count - August 2015
Pretty eclectic list of authors right there! I didn’t even know some of the authors above had written that many books. I went and checked Goodreads and the numbers don’t lie.

But that list doesn’t take into consideration the number of books that have been published by the author. For example, there are some authors who have published less than ten books (the cut off for the list above) but I’ve read most, if not all, of those titles. Such as:

Melina Marchetta
Megan Whalen Turner
Laini Taylor
Kristin Cashore
Stephanie Perkins
Erin Bow
Elizabeth Wein (all except her latest)
Julie James (all except her latest)

So that extends my list a bit further than just ten but I wanted to be more accurate. Do we share anyone in our lists? Would you have recommendations for me based on this list of authors?


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Choco Chip Hips by Agay Llanera

Choco Chip HipsI found out about Choco Chip Hips by Agay Llanera when I saw friends posting about it on Goodreads. I was immediately curious because of the title. I read the premise and it also looked intriguing. I haven’t read anything else by the author and I thought this title would be a good one to start with. It’s Filipino YA and that’s something that I’ll always be interested to try.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Jessie, a baking aficionado, is shy, overweight, and worries too much about what people think. But one summer, a family emergency makes her realize that life is too short to live it on autopilot. Taking her life by the reins, she embarks on a journey that involves ditching the apron for her tank top, as she hip-hop dances her way to new friendships, stronger family ties, and into her school’s most elite club.

I enjoyed reading Choco Chip Hips and I know that I would have fallen in love with this book if I read it as a teen. I’m so glad readers are getting more Filipino fiction nowadays. I liked Jessie’s character and could relate to a lot of things in her life. Like Jessie, I also LOVE desserts (I think that’s obvious if you follow my Instagram account, which is basically bookstagrams and foodstagrams). I thought it was cute that Jessie’s dad runs a local dessert and cake shop. If it was a real place, I would have dropped by their store! Baking is also what brought Jessie and her best friend Kim together. The downside of eating too much sweets and not exercising is that Jessie is overweight. I can just imagine how difficult that is for a teenage girl to deal with. I also struggle with trying to lose weight and living a healthy lifestyle. So that’s another thing that made me empathize with Jessie. I could totally understand the beating that her self-esteem gets because of her weight issues. I thought that aspect of the book was handled very realistically, even with how crude Filipinos can get when it comes to weight-related topics. People here in Singapore are always surprised when I tell them that the first thing Filipino relatives notice when they see you is how your weight has changed. The last time I was home, an uncle said he couldn’t take my picture because he doesn’t have a wide angle lens (I actually thought it was funny but hey, I’m not a sensitive teenager). A non-spoilery snippet that I really liked:

I looked at the mug of thick, hot chocolate, like I was seeing it for the first time. The sides of the cup were smudged with dark brown liquid, dotted with grains. To get this thick consistency, you had to melt the tablea in water with milk, stirring the pot tirelessly with a wooden molonillo. You whisked and whisked until your arms protested, until the ingredients melded in a rich and silky brown. It was a labor of love.

I pulled the mug closer, bowed my head, closed my eyes, and inhaled. It smelled – what was it, exactly? – full. It smelled so many things: dark, earthy, and fruity. I held the rim to my lips and took a long, thoughtful sip.

“It’s not as sweet as you’re used to,” Dad said apologetically.

It tasted a hint of the sweet, a hint of the bitter – the way life always had been.

Argh, where can I get a nice cup of tablea hot chocolate in Singapore? Another thing that I could relate to was how Jessie enjoyed dancing. I’m a frustrated hip-hop dancer and it’s always made me sad that I don’t have the talent when it comes to singing and dancing. I even enrolled in a hip-hop class during one of my summer breaks in high school. The main thing I learned was that I don’t have what it takes to be dancer. Inspired by stories of how great a dancer her mom was back in the day, Jessie tries hip-hop dancing and discovers how much she enjoys it. I thought it was pretty awesome how she decides to break out of her shell and do something different. In the process, she gains some of her confidence back and learns more about herself. I loved how supportive Jessie’s dad is in everything that she does, the two of them were really a team. I also though both Kim and Dave were good friends to Jessie, in their own ways. I enjoyed seeing their interactions. One minor quibble that I have is that I felt like the romance in this book was half-baked. On one hand, it was refreshing that Jessie’s growth as a person was centered on herself and not on another person. But on the other hand, I felt that the story could have been stronger if there weren’t any hints of romance. I would have been satisfied with a blossoming friendship instead. That was a minor issue for me and it didn’t affect my overall enjoyment of Choco Chip Hips. Honestly, I believe this is a well-written piece of Filipino fiction. It felt like the author knew what she was talking about when it came to baking and dancing, two of the major themes of the book. I will be adding this title to my list of recommendations written by Filipino authors. I’m just not sure how well the story will work for non-Filipino readers because some Filipino words are in there but no definitions were included.

Choco Chip Hips - with cookies

I couldn’t resist getting some cookies while I was in the middle of this book. They’re from Cookies For Sid: chocolate chip, earl grey and chocolate mint.

Other reviews:
Will Read For Feels
Le Bibliophile


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#BuwanNgMgaAkdangPinoy – let’s read more Filipino books!

BuwanNgMgaAkdangPinoy

August is Buwan ng Wika in the Philippines, which is the month dedicated to celebrating the Filipino language. To coincide with this, a campaign has been launched by Edgar Calabia Samar, author of the Janus Silang series, to encourage people to read Filipino books. #BuwanNgMgaAkdangPinoy can be roughly translated as “Month of Filipino Authors”. Anyone can participate by using this hashtag on various social media platforms – Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

I’m going to take this chance to read more books written by Filipino authors. I actually have quite a few of them in my TBR pile, I just haven’t found time to read them yet. So far, I’ve made two posts on Instagram for this campaign: Una and Miguel by Lilledeshan Bose and Shine by Candy Gourlay. I plan to do a round-up towards the end of this month.

Of course it feels like the target market for this campaign is Filipino readers but I’m hoping that this will also encourage non-Filipino readers to pick up books by Filipino authors. I wrote a list of some of my recommended titles for TTT last month. Or feel free to ask me for recommendations if this is something you’re interested in!

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