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National Book Store’s #ReadOutLoudChallenge

National Book Store, the most popular bookstore in the Philippines, is hosting a #ReadOutLoudChallenge. They are inviting every reader to post a video on Facebook or Instagram, reading a few lines from their favorite books, using the mentioned hashtag. For every 75 videos posted, they will help build one public school library. The goal is to reach 75,000 videos. This is a pretty big deal since I’ve talked about how public libraries aren’t very common (nor are they well-supplied) so anything that would help promote reading in the country is a good thing. Anyone can join! Just make sure your post is visible to the public. If you do decide to join, please feel free to send me a link. 🙂

National Book Store ReadOutLoudChallenge

My entry is posted on Instagram and linked below. For those of you who are wondering how my name is pronounced or what my voice sounds like, you can check out my video. Good thing I have a friend who knows her way around shooting and editing videos because I wouldn’t have been able to do come up with something this professional looking otherwise. We did it in one take though, so it’s not super polished. It’s probably obvious that I’m sitting in my desk at work, with my mini lomo wall as the background. As always, it feels a little weird seeing myself on video. 😛

@nbsalert's #ReadOutLoudChallenge accepted! I was challenge by @fantaghiro23 to participate - for every 75 videos posted, National Bookstore will help set up a library in a public school, and the goal is to reach 7,500 videos!📚📖 I've mentioned more than once that the Philippines doesn't have good public libraries, so any initiative that helps give children access to books is awesome. I read from one of my favorite @minavesguerra books, Learning to Fall, which has a book blogger heroine.💖 I challenge everyone to do this because more videos means more libraries! But I specifically challenge @dementedchris @alexalovesbooks @bookthingo. . . Special thanks to multimedia expert @karen_mrsg for shooting this video! 🙌 . . . #NationalBookstore #readoutloud #reading #bookblogger #booknerd #bibliophile #IGbooks #bookstagram #bookworm #instabooks #romance #romanceclass #LearningtoFall #MinaVEsguerra

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I know I keep apologizing for not being more active on WordPress lately, but there’s just so much going on in real life that I can’t keep up! Happy to report that I’m still plugged into the book blogosphere through Twitter, Litsy (username: Chachic), and Instagram because I have all of those on my smartphone. Click here, here, here, here, and here, to see some samples of my posts on Litsy, where you’ll be able to see that I’ve learned to utilize scrapbook embellishments in my books pics. So even if I’m not on WordPress a lot, I hope I still get to see all of you in all those other channels. 🙂


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2017 International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day! 🙂 On this day last year, I did a post about books that I liked or loved that feature awesome females in fiction. I’m hoping to make it yearly thing. I’m choosing to highlight books written by female authors, that I enjoyed reading within the past year, and have ladies who have shown strength in various ways. One of the reasons why I liked these books is because the female main characters have demonstrated physical, emotional, or mental strength. They fought, they endured, they persisted. And that’s always something that I would admire.

Same as last year, I’m going by genre:

Speculative fiction:
White Hot magic-binds The Mountain of Kept Memory fresh-romance Monstress
master-of-crows Warprize a-promise-of-fire a-darker-shade-of-magic
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms the-broken-kingdoms

Contemporary:
Summer Skin Iris After the Incident A Crown of Bitter Orange Pairing Off

What about you, who are some of the fictional female characters you enjoyed reading about? 🙂 As always, if you have recommendations for me based on the titles I featured here, please feel free to share them!


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Why The Edwardian Philippines: Guest Post by Author Jennifer Hallock

I’ve been hearing about author Jennifer Hallock for a while now, mostly from fellow Filipino romance readers. I was intrigued from the first time I found out that she writes historical romance set in the Philippines. I’ve been meaning to read her books for the longest time and finally found time to start Under the Sugar Sun, which is still my current read. I find the Philippine setting so refreshing compared to other historical romance reads! I asked Jennifer why she chose to write about this setting, and she was generous enough to write a guest post about it. Please give Jennifer a warm welcome and find out why her historical romances are set in my home country! As always, I hope this guest post will also encourage more readers to pick up her books. 🙂

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Why The Edwardian Philippines
by Jennifer Hallock

I am often asked why I set my romance novels in the middle of the Philippine-American War. Why not Regencies, which are far more marketable? I do love my dukes—I do. But, as you will see, I’m just too much of a history geek to pass up the complex, conflicting legacy of the Americans in the Philippines.

What’s wrong with Regency? Well, nothing. But do you ever wonder the odds of throwing a rock in a Regency romance and hitting a duke? Just exactly how many dukes were there in 1814? Only 25, actually—and only 576 peers above the degree of baronet. This means that out of a British population of almost 19 million, there was one duke for every 756,000 Brits, and one peer for every 33,000. That’s not many—but that’s their appeal, I suppose. Dukes are the billionaire trope of historical romance: desirable, virile, chiseled, strong, and dominant. But were they these things? Let’s start with: were they even young? Dukes in 1814 averaged over 50 years old—my hasty calculation based on Wikipedia peerage lists. And given the average Regency diet and sedentary lifestyle, the rest of the conceit might not hold up, either. But nevermind, because Regency romance has become a world unto itself—a fantasy of masked balls, flavored ices, and daring carriage races through the park. As escapism, these books have huge appeal.

For those of us who like a little more authenticity, historical romances set in Europe and the United States are growing more diverse. Authors like Beverly Jenkins, Courtney Milan, Alyssa Cole, KJ Charles, Rose Lerner, andAmara Royce, to name just a few, are more inclusive as regards to race, class, sexuality, and nationality. They bring a more representative picture to the romance reader.

English-language books with geographic diversity—set outside North America—are harder to find, though not impossible. Take Laura Kinsale’s sweeping love story, Dream Hunter, set in the Syrian desert — with nary a sheikh trope in sight! Or consider Jeannie Lin, who writes Tang dynasty historicals that make the China of a thousand years ago feel both fresh and familiar at the same time.

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It’s fabulous stuff. You get to travel in your head for (nearly) free! So, of all the places you could travel, why choose the Philippine-American War? How about because it is the most important war that America forgot? It’s barely studied in US high schools today, but that’s a mistake. It was a watershed moment that launched the American Century. Before the Philippines, the US swore off overseas possessions and entanglements. Not interested. But when America seized the Philippines in the Spanish-American War (1898), everything changed. The US began to talk about a special mission to shape the world in its own image—but not before engaging in vigorous internal debates over national debt, trade agreements, nation-building, immigration, and the use of military force. Do these issues sound familiar? They should. The America of today was defined by what happened in the Philippines. George Santayana said, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” But it is not good enough to just remember the past. You should experience it yourself. That’s the garden where empathy grows. That’s where you get all the feels.

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And you need the feels. Writing happily-ever-afters is a needed tonic to digest all this history. As author Alisha Rai tweeted, “our basic genre requirement…[is] that there’s no black moment that love cannot overcome.” Thus, I wrote a story about an American schoolteacher, one of a thousand sent to the Philippines to establish the first co-educational, secular public school system in Asia. (When I began Under the Sugar Sun, I was also an American schoolteacher in the Philippines. “Write what you know,” as they say.) My heroine, Georgina Potter, represents the best of what America has to offer, but it may not be good enough for Filipino nationalist Javier Altarejos—a sugar baron who is better educated, better traveled, and a better linguist than the Yankee colonial officials sent to “civilize” him. (Their word, not mine.) As Georgina questions her country’s agenda, so does the reader. And, of course, love conquers all because—hello!—romance!

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With the exception of the prequel novella, Hotel Oriente, all my books are interracial romances. These couples forge a path that is not easy, but totally worth it. This moral of multiculturalism is a little advanced for the time period—a deliberate anachronism—but no more so than any of the little lies in Regency romance. My latest novella, Tempting Hymn, is about finding love in the time of cholera*, colonial inequities, and church politics. It is a story of second chances, redemption, and compassion. Because today, in a world of fake news and a remorseless internet, we need empathy more than ever. And love. We need lots and lots of love.

*With my apologies to Gabriel García Márquez.

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Jennifer Hallock is author of the Sugar Sun historical romance series, set in the American colonial Philippines. At her day job, she teaches a trimester course to high school seniors called America in the Philippines, a part of a larger sequence on the history of American imperialism. She studied Southeast Asian history at university and grad school, and then lived and worked in Manila for four years.

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Favorite Literary Couples VII

I’m aliiiiiive! Some of you might be wondering why I haven’t been posting lately but real life has been taking up most of my time, and honestly whenever I have some free time, all I want to do is read (or take a nap). I have been on Litsy A LOT (username: Chachic) because that’s easier to update on my phone than WordPress. But I wouldn’t want to miss this yearly post! I’m here to present a list that has become one of my blog traditions. Every year on Valentine’s Day, I post a list of fictional couples I’ve loved from books that I’ve read in the previous year. You can check out posts from years past through these links: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016. Whoa, how awesome is it that this is the eighth edition of this post? I’m so glad I’ve been able to keep it up.

I will be inserting some of my bookstagrams below, and the captions are automatically displayed… some of them aren’t applicable anymore (e.g. I posted a pic before I read the book) so please feel free to ignore them.

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Lily and Luc from Pretty Face by Lucy Parker – I’m cheating a bit with this one because it hasn’t been released yet but I’m grateful I was approved for an early copy. Lucy Parker was in my list last year so I knew I would enjoy her latest romance, and I wasn’t disappointed. I loved how she was able to portray such a strong connection between Lily and Luc in spite of their age gap and the obstacles in their way. They just understood each other, they have the kind of relationship that you’d want for yourself. It was just so much fun reading about them. The West End setting was another aspect that I enjoyed, and of course I loved that Lily is a reader as shown by this passage:

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Malorie and Tristan from A Crown of Bitter Orange by Laura Florand – All of the books in Laura’s La vie en Roses have been a delight to read and A Crown of Bitter Orange is no exception. Aside from the strong sense of place, Laura just makes scents and textures leap off the page. Malorie and Tristan were both secretly infatuated with each other while growing up and it was funny that they both had no idea. I liked the contrast between their personalities, their work/passion and the way they think… and also how well they knew each other even though they’re so different. They admired each other not because they don’t recognize the other person’s flaws, but because they could see past those to what makes them the person they are. I’m not sure I’m making any sense here but they really just saw each other clearly. As always, I enjoyed the Rosier family dynamics and absolutely can’t wait for the next installment in this series.

A new Laura Florand is always something to be happy about. She's one of my favorite romance authors. I've loved all of the other titles in her La vie en Roses series set in Grasse, France, featuring a family in the perfume business. I'm pretty sure I'll enjoy this one too. I couldn't resist taking a pic of A Crown of Bitter Orange with this bottle of orange blossom EDT (I bought the cologne version). Maybe I should have done this for Once Upon a Rose and A Wish Upon Jasmine too? 📖🌹 FYI, Once Upon a Rose is on sale for just 0.99usd now. Such a good bargain! . . . #LauraFlorand #ACrownofBitterOrange #LavieenRoses #romance #bookblogger #reviewcopy #bookstagram #instabooks #bibliophile #IGreads #IGbooks #booksPH #Litsy #ChristineLhuillierParfumerie #fragrance #perfume

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Iris and Gio from Iris After the Incident by Mina V. Esguerra – Filipino romance (#romanceclass) at its finest! I have been reading and actively promoting Mina’s books ever since I discovered her writing way back in 2010. I think it’s amazing how she’s been exploring and growing in her writing. I think this one has such a unique and intriguing premise, with a plot that I thought was a brave choice for a Philippine setting. Iris and Gio both have painful experiences that have shaped and scarred them, and I felt that their romance and their issues were handled thoughtfully. I’m purposefully being vague because I don’t want to share any spoilers!

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Lila and Kell from A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab – These books are awesome and the romance(s) are not the central part of the story but of course, I enjoyed reading about them! I loved Lila and Kell’s interactions right from start, from trying to one-up each other to slowly realizing that maybeee what they feel for the other person goes beyond friendship (or unwilling partnership?). Some of the best scenes in the books were the ones where they were together (even better when Rhy and Alucard were also there). I’m so glad the third book will be out soon because I need to know what happens next! These two seriously deserve all the happiness they can get so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for them.

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Jess and Mitch from Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar – I’m basically just going to quote my own review: “I seriously could not get enough of Jess and Mitch! I loved all of their interactions, and I kept waiting for scenes that had the two of them together. I’m normally not a fan of drama in a romance but everything that Jess and Mitch went through felt necessary. They needed to experience all of it to grow and develop both individually and as a couple. I wouldn’t call their romance slow burn because sparks fly the moment they meet and they do act on it, but the depth in their relationship is earned the hard way. Also, I thought it was really cute that their family and friends were invested in their relationship.”

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Runners-up for the past year are:
Jess and Blake from Good Boy by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy
Daniel and Rex from In the Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish
Cat and Griffin from A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet
Martise and Silhara from Master of Crows by Grace Draven
Catherine and Andrew from Ruined by Sarah Vaughn and Sarah Searle in the Fresh Romance graphic novel anthology (is there any news about the next volume??)

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I feel like I read a lot of romance and even the fantasy novels I’m usually into have some sort of love story in them, but when the time comes for me to round up my list like this, I keep thinking I WANT MORE. 😀 What about you, who are your favorite fictional couples from books that you’ve read within the previous year? Are you planning to do anything special for Valentine’s Day? It’s going to be a regular work day for me but I’m hoping I’ll have time to read a good romance after work. 🙂 Also hoping I won’t be too sleepy in the office because I stayed up late to work on this post. Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! ❤


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Best of 2016

Happy New Year! 😀 I think we can all agree that 2016 was a difficult year on so many levels. There was so many things happening on an international scale, as well as in the Philippines (which still affects me a great deal even if I’m based in Singapore for work). On a personal front, I resigned from my previous job and started a new one. It hasn’t been smooth sailing and I’ve been struggling with having a sense of belonging. Of course, all of these have affected my reading and blogging life, which is why I haven’t been posting as much as I would want to. I’m still online on a daily basis but it has been easier for me to constantly update the social networks that I have on my phone such as Litsy (username: Chachic), Twitter and Instagram. Going forward, I think this will continue for a while. It’s just so much easier for me to check, update and reply on my phone. My laptop has been acting up and it’s been a pain to open it up and go online. Plus real life stuff happening has made everything harder. The struggle is real!

Anyway, I have a tradition of posting my favorite reads for the previous year whenever the new year rolls around, I’m a few days late but it’s still within the first week of 2017! You can check out my previous posts through these links: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. In no particular order, here are the books that I loved in 2016 (linked to my reviews if I have them):

a-darker-shade-of-magic a-gathering-of-shadows The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms the-broken-kingdoms

a-promise-of-fire magic-binds master-of-crows

Act Like It Summer Skin In the Middle of Somewhere Out of Nowhere

Amulet The Stonekeeper Monstress fresh-romance

It’s safe to say that I read more than I blogged in 2016. 😛 That’s seven speculative fiction titles, four contemporary romance and three graphic novels. It’s funny because the easiest genre for me to get into is contemporary romance but it looks like the books that stand out more for me are fantasy titles. I think my sweet spot is fantasy with a well-written romance. In addition to these, if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you would know that I’ve been trying to read and promote books written by Filipino authors. I haven’t read that many of them this year but the ones I enjoyed reading have been:

Beginner's Guide - Love and Other Chemical Reactions Iris After the Incident

That’s 2016 for me. How was yours? What were your favorite reads from the past year? 🙂


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Christmas 2016

The 25th of December is almost over in this part of the world but I just wanted to put up a quick post to greet all of you a very Merry Christmas! 🙂 Maligayang Pasko! I just traveled from Singapore to Manila yesterday and it’s so good to be home just in time for Christmas. I’ve mostly been spending time with my family but I plan to meet up with some friends in the coming days. I hope all of you are having a festive and joyous holiday season, filled with good food and great books. 🙂 Here are some Christmas-related pics:

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Merry Christmas, everyone! Maliyang Pasko sa inyong lahat! 🎄🌟🏰

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In keeping with a tradition I started last year, I’ve bought books written by Filipino authors to give as Christmas gifts to friends:

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Author Guest Post from Thessa Lim

Hello, bookish friends! Today, I have a guest post from Filipino author Thessa Lim. Both Thessa and I are based in Singapore (and also studied in the same university) but we’ve yet to meet. Hopefully we can do that soon. 🙂 She has recently launched her debut contemporary novel in her Of Heads and Hearts series. I’ve received a review copy of it but because of my huge TBR pile, I have no idea when I’ll be able to read or review it. But because I’m always interested in promoting Filipino authors, I invited her over on the blog to give all of you a better idea of what her life as a writer is like. Please give Thessa a warm welcome!

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All in a Day’s Work
By Thessa Lim

thessa-lim-1

Since I’ve published my first novel, people have been asking me how I find the time to write. At first, it might seem like a writer is able to set a whole day simply and purely for writing. He would just drive to a nice café and write effortlessly as inspiration runs loose in his head. But a lot of writers maintain day jobs and have families to tend. And so here goes my version of a working-mother-slash-writer’s day.

thessa-lim-3The Early Morn Apparition – My day as a writer does not start at eight a.m., with me lounging next to my laptop, having a slice of toasted baguette and a cup of hot cocoa on hand. It starts at three a.m., which is when I usually rouse into some state of consciousness after having put my little boy to sleep five hours back. My husband is out like a light too. Yes! I position my Lenovo Yoga at the foot of the bed, sit on my son’s little blue chair, turn on my book light, and start working. I look pretty much like a White Lady staying by people’s bed at night, but my husband knows better. So if he somewhat awakens while my mouse goes a-clicking, he doesn’t scream. Although it is spent in semi-darkness, this is my writer’s me time. It’s like gold.

thessa-lim-2The Lunch Hour Rush – I grab my tablet, hurry out of the office, and head to the nearest café. While silently condemning the customer before me in the queue for taking time with his order, I check that my favorite spot is free. I then quickly chope it. Later, I settle down at the table and take a bite out of a cheap eat from the menu. Didn’t I just have this the other day? I scan the food list again for more scrumptious offerings. I see the prices. This’ll do. Nomnomnomnom.

thessa-lim-5The Final Fix at EOD – I step onto the station’s platform. Two trains going in opposite directions whizz by. I glance at the clock. Fifteen minutes before I definitely have to head home—this window is good enough. I sit on a bench. After ten trains have come and gone, I’ve either edited half of a chapter or added in a couple of paragraphs. I then squeeze into a train with the rest of the throng and continue tapping on my device’s screen, like a freaking nerd who won’t give it a rest, balancing the gadget so that I could work on it without hitting other people.

I reach home, where my husband and son would be — my two other great joys.

My days are hectic, tiring. And while I look forward to more leisurely days, I’m grateful that I’m inspired, able to write, and able to publish.

This is my writer’s daily grind. What’s yours like? 🙂

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Thessa is the author of the book Of Heads and Hearts in the Metro, a new adult fiction for women set in modern-day Philippines. The book, which revolves around the struggles and triumphs of four Filipinas and which is the first installment in the Of Heads and Hearts series, reveals the life-saving element of friendship and the intricate dynamics within it. To know more, visit her website at http://www.thessalim.com or like her Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/ThessaLimOfficial.

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