New Blog Banner by Clarissa Ines

The last time my blog banner was updated was in 2013. As much as I loved the previous design, I wanted a fresh new look for the blog! So I contacted Filipino graphic artist Clarissa Ines to request for her to design artwork specifically for Chachic’s Book Nook. She has designed book covers for romanceclass titles in the past, some examples of which are:

Bucket List to Love Learning to Fall - Anvil Promdi Heart

The Kitchen When It Sizzles What About Today Tame The Kitten

Aren’t they pretty? She doesn’t just design book covers, she’s a romanceclass reader too! That was a pretty good sign that we’d get along well. 🙂 I love pretty things but unfortunately, I can only draw stick figures so I relied on Cla’s expertise in the design process. She gave me some sketches to start with, basically to choose what design to use as a base before moving forward:

chachic-sketches

I loved all of these! I had to stare at them for a long while before I could decide what to go for. Of course they’re all book-themed, but I feel like all of these designs would have worked well for my blog. Cla said the third one was actually based on my bookstagrams and flatlays. 😛 After seriously considering my options, I went with the second one because I love how it’s a throwback to Cla’s work in designing book covers. I gave her some details that I wanted to be included on the design and she got started on it. She does her own calligraphy and she mentioned that it will be included as part of the design, isn’t that awesome? This was the black and white digital artwork that I got as an update:

Cla Ines blog banner draft

No colors yet but even in just black and white, I think the design is already pretty. 😛 I told her that I would love to have a color scheme that we call “malamig sa mata” in Filipino which I think can roughly translate to cool colors that are pleasant to look at. I said I preferred blues and purples, and she really followed my suggestions! This was the next update, which is a colored version:

Cla Ines blog banner - draft color

I absolutely love the color scheme she used, and look at all the details in the book spine. I had mentioned earlier that I would love for the book cover to have the feel of an antique fairy tale book and I think Cla’ss design is spot-on. I can’t get over how beautifully detailed the book spine and cover edges are. I also asked for cake and coffee to be included because you probably all know by now that I equally love both food and books. 🙂 The genres in the book pile that the girl is sitting on are the genres that I mostly read (with a special shout out to romanceclass). This is close to the final design and she just needed to add in some textures and tweak a few details to get to this:

ChachicsBookNook 2017 banner FINAL

IT’S GORGEOUS! I’m so happy with the final outcome, I told Cla that I’ll probably use this blog banner until I decide to give up on WordPress (which isn’t too much of a strech, given how seldom I blog nowadays :P), and I can also use variations of the design in all my other social media accounts. As a bonus, she sent me the full book cover design that she used as the base before cropping and tilting it:

Cla Ines blog banner - book spread

It was a real pleasure working with Cla because she’s super accommodating, she really paid attention to my requests and incorporated them into the design. If you need to commission graphic art, then I highly recommend that you reach out to Cla because I’m sure she’ll do an amazing job like she did with my banner. THANK YOU SO MUCH, Cla! You are the best. 😀

YAY, now my blog looks amazing! I hope this encourages me to write even more posts for this blog. 🙂 What do you guys think of this new blog banner? Would love to hear from you, and I’m sure Cla will also appreciate getting some feedback.

Recent Haul: Graphic Novel, Lipstick and Bookish Shirts

Quick post to share some of the book-related stuff I’ve acquired. I actually only bought one book: Monstress Vol. 2 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda, which I’m been waiting to become available here in the Philippines. I loved Vol. 1 and I can’t wait to dive into Vol. 2. On the same day, I also bought a sort of bookish lipstick because it has a Beauty and the Beast theme. Check it out:

Swipe right to see more pics. 🙂 Next is my haul of bookish shirts! I found a local seller here in the Philippines who does custom prints and I ordered the designs below. Honestly, it was so hard to narrow down the choices to just five designs. I wanted to many more. But then I can always order more later on, right? 😛 The last time I had bookish shirts was when I ordered them from Threadless, and sadly those shirts don’t fit anymore. These new shirts of mine will be perfect with my bookish skirts.

Swipe right to see more pics of the shirts, and a pic of me wearing one of them. 🙂 I shared the pic on Twitter and Ilona shared it, yay:

I’m traveling for a few days, so I wouldn’t be online here on WordPress that much but I will be updating all other social media apps that I have on my phone.:D What books or other bookish stuff have you acquired lately?

#BuwanNgMgaAkdangPinoy – Week 1 Round Up

It’s been more than a week since #BuwanNgMgaAkdangPinoy started! Find out more about the event here, and as mentioned earlier, I hope you guys take this chance to read books written by Filipino authors. Since I’m a supporter of romanceclass authors (Indie pubbed Filipino romance written in English), I made a thread on Twitter of books that are currently on sale for just 0.99usd. Go and browse through the list of more than 20 titles. More will be added in the coming days.

Look at that, I finally figured out how to center align an embedded tweet on WordPress, yay! Okay, moving on to the topic on hand… I wanted to do a round up of the posts I’ve made on Instagram so far. I wasn’t able to do posts on a daily basis, I missed a few days but hoping to do more in the coming weeks! Let’s see how it goes.

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If you’re interested in featuring or reading Filipino books, there’s still lots of time for you to join #BuwanNgMgaAkdangPinoy. What books written by Filipino authors are in your TBR pile?

Book Hungry vs. Book Full

As a book lover, I think I usually have two modes when it comes to book acquisition: book full vs. book hungry. Book full means that I feel like I have way too many books in my TBR pile and I would never be able to read all of them (and that’s okay, I wrote a blog post about that years ago). While book hungry means I feel like I do NOT have enough books or that I need more because I don’t feel like reading the ones that I already own. In another older blog post, I shared this quote which nicely sums up why we keep hoarding books:

“Of course anyone who truly loves books buys more of them than he or she can hope to read in one fleeting lifetime. A good book, resting unopened in its slot on a shelf, full of majestic potentiality, is the most comforting sort of intellectual wallpaper.” – David Quammen

Whenever I’m book hungry, I’d go buy one or two books that I REALLY, REALLY want. Enough to justify a purchase when I already have such a huge TBR pile. Nowadays, I try to control my book buying tendencies by only getting physical copies of either signed books or graphic novels. Those are the only titles I allow myself to get, because I can get the rest in ebook format. I’ve noticed that I don’t really go book hungry that often anymore because I always just one-click Kindle deals or freebies whenever I come across them. 😛

When I’m feeling extremely book full, that’s when I want to pass on physical copies of my books either to friends, a book drive or a book cafe. I did a somewhat ruthless culling of my bookshelves last year because I hated that my books were sitting unread in my bookshelves in Manila while I was in Singapore. And it’s not like they would stay in good condition forever, foxing and yellowing is a constant problem in a hot and humid country like the Philippines. Some of my friends in real life got a huge TBR pile because of it, and I also donated some books to a book cafe and a book drive.

I thought my pile of books has gone down to a more manageable size after last year’s cull but I was feeling book full again as I unpacked the books that I sent home from Singapore to Manila. If only I could convert these books into ebooks so I can save them in my Kindle! Then I wouldn’t have to worry about the space they occupy or that their pages have foxing and yellowing. So again with the culling, and I tried be ruthless again by telling myself that I need to give up even the books that I haven’t read because if I’ve had them for more than three years and I still haven’t read them, then it’s unlikely that I ever will. It’s not always easy to give up books especially when you don’t have access to good public libraries, but I think I’ve gotten to the point where I know that if I want to read something, I’ll find a way to get it (e.g. buy another edition so I can read it on my Kindle or borrow a copy from a friend). Also, I keep thinking that someone else might enjoy these books instead of them sitting ignored in my shelves. So here’s another pile that have gone to a friend’s book cafe in Cebu:

book donation August 2017

And here’s a section of my shelves after the cull, the books are randomly arranged wherever they could fit because I didn’t have the energy to arrange them properly:

Manila bookshelf August 2017

I think it looks pretty. 🙂 I haven’t decided if I’m done with culling or if I should go through the books that I’ve already read and think about passing them on to other friends. For now, I’m glad I was able to pass on a significant number of them. What about you, do you cull your bookshelves on a regular basis or you keep your books forever? Let me know in the comments because it’s interesting to hear what other readers’ habits are.

Book Blogging Over the Years

I’ve been book blogging since 2010. That’s seven years of being active in the online book community. That’s longer than any romantic relationship that I’ve had and even longer than any of my work stints in each of the companies I’ve worked for. 😂 I keep doing it not because I earn any money from it, but because it’s so much fun to interact with fellow book lovers and authors, to discuss books with people who get you. Over the years, I’ve tried to influence family and friends to read books and I’ve been successful with some of them… but they’re not book nerds like book bloggers are. There are also fellow book bloggers who have become wonderful friends, and some of those have become more than just “online” friendships. I’ve met some of them in person when I traveled abroad and even the ones I don’t think I’ll ever meet, I’ve been comfortable enough with them to share more than just book updates. In a previous post, I mentioned that I feel like I have a sense of belonging in the online book community because I feel like I’ve carved out a niche for myself. I will keep doing this as long as it keeps me happy. And what makes me happy and engaged and excited to talk about books has changed from when I first started.

When I first started blogging about books, most of the posts that I made and the interactions that I had were through my blog (this WordPress site right here). I used to blog daily then it became weekly then it became monthly. Now I’d be happy if I manage to publish one post every month. There was a time when I would feel guilty about this, but like I’ve said plenty of times before, I want to keep my bookish interactions fun and part of that is blogging when I feel like it. I used to think that the reason why I didn’t blog as much was because I was busy – with work, with chores, with my social life. But now I understand that it has increasingly become more difficult to open my laptop and sit down to write a post. I don’t know why this is, maybe because being on apps on a smartphone just makes things easier? Or maybe because opening up a laptop feels too much like work, and blogging is something that I don’t want to feel like work. So now I’ve learned to not be too hard on myself. My WordPress blog will always be here whenever I’m in the mood to type out a post. I will keep updating my yearly posts like best books I’ve read in the year or my favorite fictional couples. But for more stream of consciousness type of updates, I’m on Twitter and Litsy (username: Chachic) on a daily basis, and Instagram whenever I feel like updating it. I know social media apps are not everyone’s cup of tea so please feel free to comment on any of my posts or send me a direct message in any of the apps I mentioned or an email if you feel like just chatting. 🙂

What about you, what are the things that you’ve done to keep blogging fun? Is it also easier for you to interact using bookish apps? Or do you prefer something more personal like sending an email or messaging directly?

#BuwanNgMgaAkdangPinoy 2017 – time to read Filipino books!

It’s that time of the year again! Today marks the start of #BuwanNgMgaAkdangPinoy, a campaign that I participated in last year and the year before that. August is Buwan ng Wika in the Philippines, which is the month dedicated to celebrating the Filipino language. To coincide with this, a campaign is being hosted by Edgar Calabia Samar (Twitter, Facebook), author of the Janus Silang series, to encourage people to read Filipino books. #BuwanNgMgaAkdangPinoy can be roughly translated as “Month of Filipino Authors” or even “Month of Filipino Books”. Anyone can participate by using this hashtag on various social media platforms – Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. So if you’ve been meaning to try reading a Filipino book, this is your chance!

There’s an overview of the campaign, which you can read over here (it’s written in Filipino). Since the title of the campaign is in Filipino, I believe the main goal is to encourage Filipino readers to pick up titles by Filipino authors. But I am also hoping that non-Filipino readers would be interested in picking up Filipino books. There are loads of books by Filipino authors that are written in English. Those are actually the type of books I plan to read. 🙂

I will mostly be posting on Litsy (username: Chachic) and Instagram with links shared on Twitter, but I will try my best to do round up posts here on the blog as well. I would love to see the rest of you join this campaign as well, even if you read just one book written by a Filipino author this month. 😀

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.

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.

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?

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. 🙂

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.