March Bookstagram Reviews

Here’s a round up of bookstagram reviews I did for March. You can see my round up posts from previous months here: January and February.

The Queen’s Game by Carla de Guzman
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The Queen's Game by Carla de Guzman is a #romanceclass title set in the fictional kingdoms of Cincamarre and Concordia, located north of the Philippines. They're based on Batanes, a province that has long been in my list of aspirational travel destinations. I hear it's gorgeous, and the descriptions in this book strengthens that knowledge. I can't say that I'm a big royal romance reader but I was fascinated by the idea that hey, we can have one set here! This was such a fun and cute romance with a feisty heroine and a soft boy of a hero. I wanted it to be longer, probably because the fantasy reader in me wants Cincamarre and Concordia to be explored further. But I'd be happy to read companion novels set in the same world. Please write more, @carlakdeguzman! If she releases more titles, you first heard the request here. Recommended for readers of royal romance, especially the ones who have loved A Princess in Theory by @alyssacolelit (*whispers* Alyssa herself recommends this title). . . . 📸 @milestan.author #TheQueensGame #CarladeGuzman #Filipinoauthor #Filipinobooks #readlocalPH #diverseromance #royalromance #romancereads #Kindlebooks #IGreads #readersofIG #instabooks #bookstagram #bookstagramPH

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Palaso by Marianie
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Palaso by Marianie is a standalone Filipino comics about Dark Cupid, the being in charge of pulling out the arrows from individuals who were mistakenly shot by Cupid (they fall in love but it doesn't work out). With one catch, they have to be ready to move on before he can pull out an arrow. . . This was such an interesting concept and premise for me! But given the nature of Dark Cupid's work, the whole story had a bittersweet tone to it. As we say in Filipino, hugot kung hugot. I know a lot of readers will be able to relate but I didn't love the whole thing as much as I wanted to, I'm chalking it up to me not being the target audience for this. The art is lovely, and I found the vibrant coloring enjoyable. This is Marianie's first work and I look forward to seeing more from her. I'm just waiting for her Nagmamahal, Maria Clara series to be finished before I buy it. That might be more my thing. . . In full color, written in Filipino. I bought my copy at Komiket but you can probably contact Marianie or Komiks Sundays if you're interesting in getting a copy. I picked it up based on @komikninja's recommendation, and you can read her review for an additional take on this. . . . #Palaso #Marianie #Pinoykomiks #diversecomics #comics #graphicnovel #artPH #readlocalPH #Komiket #IGreads #readersofIG #instabooks #bookstagram #bookstagramPH #bookphotography #bookandcoffee #coffeetime #coffee #cafehopping

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The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli
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I really wanted to love The Last Namsara but unfortunately, this was a debut YA fantasy that didn't really work for me. It had a promising start, I really liked the theme of old stories having so much power. And that dragons craved storytelling. Also, yay dragons! But I just wasn't invested in any of the characters. I felt like Asha being a dragon slayer was supposed to be a strong female character, and yet she just keeps doing what others tell her to do without questioning why. It also got on my nerves that Asha kept believing that she was wicked, because that's what she's been told. This is one of those times when a book just wasn't a good fit for me. I'm glad I gave it a try because I was curious about it. Go and look up the summary and read this if you find it interesting, I know a lot of readers enjoyed this much more than I did. . . . #TheLastNamsara #KristenCiccarelli #HarperTeen #fantasyreads #YAfantasy #Kindlebooks #IGreads #readersofIG #instabooks #bookstagram #bookstagramPH #booknerd #bookphotography #bookreview

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Tabi Po by Mervin Malonzo
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Tabi Po by Mervin Malonzo is a comics series steeped in Filipino folklore and set during the Spanish colonial period. It features the aswang, a supernatural creature that hungers for flesh and blood. I've heard of Tabi Po before but probably wouldn't have picked it up if it hadn't been highly recommended by friends @fantaghiro23 and @komikninja. Tabi Po Isyu 1 is an intriguing start to the series, where we are introduced to main characters Elias, Tasyo and Sabel. They are all aswang, but have their own distinct personalities. Given the nature of the characters, the artwork shows violent scenes, full of blood and gore. It is not gratuitous violence though, and is necessary to the story. I'm mentioning it only because I'm not sure this is something that everyone would enjoy reading. If you've read Monstress, Saga and The Wicked and the Divine, then you'd have no issues with this series. Maybe check a browsing copy first to see if this is something you'd be interested in. Personally, I found it a refreshing palate cleanser in between my Kindle reads. Smooth storytelling with beautiful artwork and interesting worldbuilding, I'm definitely looking forward to seeing more in Isyu 2 and Isyu 3, which I already own. But I'm pacing them because I'm going to admit that I can't take that much violence in one go. Written in Filipino and in full color, I bought my copy at Komiket and had it signed by the author, which you can also ask for if you order from his website. Also available in local bookstores. Hopefully as ebook editions soon! . . . 📸 @readbyher #TabiPo #MervinMalonzo #Visprint #Pinoykomiks #comics #diversecomics #graphicnovels #artPH #readlocalPH #Komiket #Filipinoauthor #diversebooks #IGreads #readersofIG #instabooks #bookstagram #bookstagramPH #booknerd #bibliophile #bookphotography #cafehopping #cafe

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Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
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Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi is a debut YA fantasy novel that has been getting a lot of hype all over the online book community. It's an epic fantasy that has a rich culture inspired by West Africa. I can see why so many readers loved this book, it's a well-written and action-packed adventure story that features strong chatacters. It moves at a fast pace that keeps readers engaged and entertained. At its core, Children of Blood and Bone is a story of how people capable of magic rise up against the oppression they have endured under a tyrant of a king. I recognize the relevance of this kind of writing, and that it's a story that deserves to be told. However on a personal level, I can't say that I loved this book. Purely because there's only so much pain and suffering that I can read before I distance myself from what's happening in the story. I keep reading just to find out what happens but I'm not as involved with the characters, and that stops me from loving them. I'm willing to see characters go through difficult situations but I need the darkness to be balanced with enough hope and light for me to keep going. Sadly, I didn't feel that was the case with this one. Still, look up the premise to see if it's something you'll enjoy. I know mine is an unpopular opinion about this book. You might love it a lot more than I did. . . . #ChildrenofBloodandBone #TomiAdeyemi #Macmillan #bookreview #YAfantasy #youngadultlit #diversebooks #Kindlebooks #IGreads #readersofIG #instabooks #bookstagram #bookstagramPH #bookworm #bibliophile #booknerd #bookphotography #bookandcoffee #coffee #coffeelover #coffeetime #cafehopping #cappuccino

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Kabuwanan anthology by Haliya Publishing
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I loved the concept behind @haliyapublishing's Kabuwanan anthology: seven stories from various female comics creators. I'm always happy to support Filipino authors and artists and I'm glad Haliya shined the spotlight on women in this anthology. . Each story has its own distinct artistic style and way of storytelling. In full color, which I'm always a fan of. They're all interesting in their own way, but as with any anthology, not all stories worked for me. Even though I could appreciate the art, I wasn't able to connect with some of the stories. I chalk it up to me not being the target reader for them. I did love two stories though: the ones from @hulyen and @deadbalagtas. Hulyen's was hilarious and so relatable, and I've shared snapshots of her story because it resonates with other readers as well. Emiliana Kampilan's was a gorgeously drawn short story about a babaylan character. I loved the rich detail and history that she included in this tale. Would definitely love to read more from these two comics creators. . Kabuwanan is a title that I'd still recommend overall because out of seven stories, you're bound to love at least one or two of them. Kudos to Haliya, and I hope they publish more books like this. . . . #bookreview #GGSSG #artPH #Kabuwanan #HaliyaPublishing #Hulyen #EmilianaKampilan #Filipinoauthors #Filipinobooks #Pinoykomiks #readlocalPH #diversebooks #ownvoices #comics #graphicnovel #IGreads #readersofIG #instabooks #bookstagram #bookstagramPH #bookworm #bibliophile #booknerd #bookphotography

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What books have you read in March and what did you think of them? Any stand out reads?

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February Bookstagram Reviews

Oh wow, February passed by so quickly! Maybe because it’s a shorter month? I didn’t even get to do this round-up of bookstagram reviews on the last day of the month. So here I am catching up on them today. You can check out my January bookstagram reviews here.

Submission Moves by Camilla Sisco
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My first #romanceclass read this year is Submission Moves by Camilla Sisco, brought upon by leftover lemony feels from #FeelsSoProm. I thoroughly enjoyed the excerpt presented as a live reading during the event, and it made me want to read the book as soon as I can.🍋 I chose a good one to kick off my romanceclass reading year because this was so much fun to read. Smooth writing that's easy to get into, featuring a professional MMA fighter as a hero and a feminist heroine who works in a women's crisis center. They hook up in Vegas but part ways soon after, only to see each other again in Chicago four years later. I have to admit that it's the hero who makes this story shine. He's cocky and arrogant but tempered with enough self-awareness for it to not be overbearing. It just seems like he's comfortable in his own skin, and he knows his own weaknesses and strengths (and plays it to his advantage). One minor quibble was that I wanted to like the heroine as much as the hero, but I needed to see her let her hair down a bit more for that to happen. That didn't keep me from enjoying the book overall. There were scenes that sparkled with wit and humor, and the sexytimes were smoking hot.🔥 It's such a strong debut novel and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the author will keep writing more. I'm probably going to read and reread a lot of romance this month. LOL who am I kidding, I read a lot of romance regardless of the time of the year. But for the rest of you, are you planning to read romance this February? What are some of the romance titles that you highly recommend?

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Take the Lead by Alexis Daria
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Take the Lead by Alexis Daria is a contemporary romance that has gotten a lot of buzz on #romancelandia Twitter. I jumped at the chance to read it when the title went on sale for 1.99usd. Partially set in Alaska, New York and California, this is a romance between a professional dancer and a celebrity on a survival TV show, as they're paired together on a dance competition. The heroine has to teach the hero to dance as they compete with other couples on the reality TV show. I thought it started off strong, I really enjoyed the way the hero and heroine met. They obviously had chemistry and I was looking forward to seeing how that would play out. Unfortunately, there was way too much dramarama in this book for me. I felt like the characters kept on harping on the same issues, and they were being stubborn and petulant instead of trying to find a compromise. I think I also enjoyed this less than other readers did because I'm not a fan of reality TV, and I've never even seen a single episode of Dancing With the Stars, which this book is based on. The pace was so slow that I found myself skimming some parts. I really wanted to enjoy this but sadly, I have to say that Take the Lead wasn't my cup of tea. Still planning to read more romance this month, and keeping my fingers crossed that I'll come across some titles that will stand out for me. Have you recently read any romance titles that you've loved?

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Ghost of a Feeling by Celestine Trinidad
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Ghost of a Feeling by @luckychanmd is a strong #romanceclass debut novel. It starts off with a meet cute of sorts (meet sad?): the heroine is a medical student who loses a patient during her junior internship. She's subsequently humiliated by the resident in charge, and becomes overwhelmed with everything. She hits rock bottom and decides to end it all, she's stopped by what she thinks is her building's resident ghost but is actually the hero in costume for Halloween. Thus begins an unlikely friendship that blossoms into something more. A slow burn romance that was handled with the sensitivity needed for the heavy themes depicted in this book. . . I was equally curious and worried about how this story will unfold, given its unusual premise. But there was no need to worry because Cris and Nathan were in good hands, and I gladly let myself be swept away by their story. For such a short book, the characters had real depth with both of them learning to deal with their own baggage, and trying their best to move on. It was interesting to get a closer look at the difficulties of becoming a doctor in the Philippines. I've heard stories from friends who eventually became doctors, but I guess it's different when you get to experience it through the eyes of a fictional character. Brings it somewhat closer to home. One thing I enjoyed was how present Cris and Nathan's family and friends are in their lives, it wasn't just their budding romance that was a significant relationship for each of them. . Heartfelt and hopeful, this is one Filipino romance title that I will happily keep recommending, and I will definitely be watching out for more books from this author. Here for your upcoming Pisay romance, Leslie.😂 . . . 📸 @bentchbites (Good job bes, kita na yung book cover this time)

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A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole
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A Princess in Theory was my introduction to @alyssacolelit's writing and I have no idea why I waited so long to read a book from her. This was such a good read! A royal romance between an epidemiology grad student and a prince from the fictional African country of Thesolo. Naledi's parents passed away when she was young so she has no idea that she was born in Thesolo. She grew up in the US foster care system and has learned to take care of herself at a very young age. . . I loved how fully fleshed out the hero and heroine are: smart, independent and hardworking individuals who also have their own hang-ups and issues about letting someone get close to them. They're very competent in their professional lives, but have never really had a successful romantic relationship. They feel a connection with each other but had their reasons for trying to keep the other person at a distance. It was so much fun waiting to see them to break down each other's walls. And their interactions were hilarious! I kept laughing and smiling while reading. I enjoyed their banter right from the moment they meet. Their conversations with their friends (Naledi with her best friend Portia, and Thabiso with his assistant Likotsi) were also funny and provided even more depth to their characters. There were emojis used in their convos and that's such an accurate portrayal of how people converse these days.🙌😂👏 . So glad to have discovered a new romance author to love. A Princess in Theory will be released in February 27 and it's a romance title that you should take note of. Go forth and pre-order! The cover and blurb for the next book has been released and I'm excited to reading Portia's story. And I will also be diving into Alyssa's backlist. . . 📸 @readbyher

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Sagala #3 by Tori Tadiar
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Sagala 3 is an excellent continuation of what has fast become one of my favorite Filipino comics. This is a Filipiniana fantasy series focusing on siblings Riel and her protective older brother Constantino. Set in a fictional land called Hiraya, an independent nation with tenuous ties to a larger and stronger continental neighbor. Elegent storytelling, strong character development, solid worldbuilding with a light dose of magic, peppered with political intrigue. Mix all of these together and I'm one happy reader. I'm not an expert but the art style reminds me of anime, very easy to follow with expressive characters. It had an even pacing that flowed really well. I continue to be in awe of how much depth is packed into just 40 pages. There are certain scenes that I would have loved to see a few panels dedicated to, but hopefully more clarity will be provided as the story develops. Happy to report that Sagala is written mostly in English, and @haitori.art is working on making it digitally available for purchase so readers abroad can buy it too. I'd be very, very curious about what non-Filipino readers would think of this. Bought my copies at Komiket but you can reach out to the author directly should you be interested in giving this a try. Definitely looking forward to the fourth and final installment in this series, which will probably be released with the earlier three as one volume, hopefully in color.🤞🏻 I mean, just imagine kuya in full color! My #KuyaUmayosKa campaign continues, but I do understand him better now. Just give me the link and I will pre-order as fast as my fingers can type.

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It was a pretty good reading month, I enjoyed reading four out of the five books I finished. I planned to read only romance titles in February but couldn’t help but read the latest issue of Sagala when I got a copy of it at Komiket. I’m planning to read whatever I want in March. I’m really a mood reader and I mostly stuck to a theme in January because I wanted to read more fantasy and February seemed like the perfect month for romance. Maybe I’ll read some of the comics I just bought, let’s see how it goes.

What about you, what were the books you read in February?

January Bookstagram Reviews

I have been going on and on about not being more active here on the blog, and how it’s easier for me to update both Twitter and Instagram because I can do that on my phone. So I figured I might as well write shorter reviews as bookstagrams and tweets, instead of longer ones here on WordPress. Path of least resistance, my friends. So here I am doing a round-up of books I did bookstagram reviews for. I’ll be doing this on a monthly basis and today, I’m sharing the ones from January. You can also check my Twitter profile where I have an embedded tweet that’s the start of a thread with similar content.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
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My first read in 2018 was The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden, which came highly recommended by my friend Kristen (fantasycafe on Twitter). So glad this fantasy debut novel was a Kindle deal a few days ago, and I was able to buy it for just 2.99usd. It started off real slow, I feel like the first half could have been edited better. But the pace picked up and I enjoyed it overall. An atmospheric read that has a fairytale feel, set in medieval Russia, steeped in folklore of that era. I've been itching to read a good fantasy book and this hit the spot. The sequel is already out so I'm going to try a sample before deciding if I want to shell out 13.99usd for it or wait for another Kindle deal. Why are fantasy ebooks so expensive compared to romance ebooks?😭 . . . How about you, have you finished your first book this year? If not, what are you currently reading? Also, what was the last fantasy title that wowed you?

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Sagala #1 and #2 by Tori Tadiar
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I have been curious about Sagala by @haitori.art ever since I saw that both @itstimeana and @minavesguerra loved it. I wasn't able to attend the last Komikon so thanks to these two ladies for offering their copies! Sagala is a Filipino historical fantasy in comics format, featuring siblings Riel and Constantino. I was surprised at how the author was able to include such strong worldbuilding and character development in the short length of these issues. I really liked the artwork and found it fitting for the story. Good thing I was able to read two issues back to back because one wouldn't have been enough. I'm fully invested in these characters and can't wait to find out what happens to them next. Having said that, I have one minor quibble about the end of the second issue. To avoid spoilers, I will just say this: OMG KUYA, WHHHYYYY??? #KuyaUmayosKa

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Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh
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I'm not a huge fan of Regency romances, I enjoy them while I'm reading them but they all tend to blur together in my mind afterwards. I normally don't read one unless it comes highly recommended, which was the case with Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh. @lucyparkerauthor was very enthusiastic in recommending this Pride and Prejudice retelling, and I have to thank her for it because I stayed up until early morning to read this in one go. I was hooked right from the time Christine meets Wulfric! Actually I was laughing so hard. Christine is a smart heroine who is just so vibrant and full of life, a very pleasant character to read about. And she takes the dark and broody Duke of Bewcastle completely by surprise. I really enjoyed how Mary Balogh took elements of Pride and Prejudice but made the story completely her own. Had so much fun reading this book. Highly recommended for historical romance readers and fans of Jane Austen retellings. . . . What's your favorite retelling of a classic? Or Pride and Prejudice in particular, if you have one?

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Kindling the Moon by Jenn Bennett
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Kindling the Moon by Jenn Bennett is the first book in the Arcadia Bell urban fantasy series, which came highly recommended by @lucyparkerauthor. She first mentioned it when I asked for book recs similar to my all-time favorite Ilona Andrews, and it was brought up again recently. I'm still in a fantasy kind of mood and this was just 1.99usd so I gave it a try. I enjoyed reading this overall but found some parts of it a bit slow, which can be expected since it serves as the introduction to this world. The magical system involving human magicians and demons with abilities had to be explained. I found the main characters (Cady, Lon and Jupe) interesting and I had fun getting to know them. I really enjoyed the age gap, slow burn romance. Both heroine and hero have trust issues but I liked how easy things were between them, no unneccessary drama. Plus points for the hero being a single dad. A solid urban fantasy title that I think can be read as a standalone. I was curious enough about the series to keep going. Also planning to check out the author's contemporary YA and paranormal romance titles, which I've heard good things about. Have you guys read Jenn Bennett's books? What did you think of them? If you're an urban fantasy fan, please feel free to comment with your fave titles. Included in this shot was my mocha the other day. Fair warning: don't try this pose unless you're willing to spill coffee on your skirt.😂

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Summoning the Night by Jenn Bennett
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Summoning the Night is the second book in the Arcadia Bell urban fantasy series. I enjoyed reading the first one so I dove straight into this. . . I like how the main characters (Cady, Lon and Jupe) have all developed since the start of the series. And the age gap romance remains strong and drama-free. But I liked this a less than the first book because I found bits of it creepy, it gave off more of a horror vibe than urban fantasy. I'm willing to admit that I'm a huge scaredy-cat, which is why I stay away from the genre in all its forms (e.g. books, movies, etc.) Maybe this was a bit darker than the first one because it's a murder mystery? It never got too much but I was still a bit nervous while reading it. And again, this is probably just me. I'm still waffling on whether I want to continue with the series because I like the characters or give up because the last two books might have a similar feel to this one. . . What about you, do usually finish the whole series once you start it or you're okay with quitting in the middle of it? I usually try the first two books before deciding if I want to quit the series.

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I think this is a pretty good mix considering that it has epic fantasy, comics, historical romance and urban fantasy. I have a few other bookstagrams that aren’t reviews and I’m trying to decide whether I should also do a different round-up for these miscellaneous shots. What do you guys think of these bookstagram round-ups? And what were the books that you read in January? Were there any titles that you loved? 🙂

Reread: Fairy Tale Fail by Mina V. Esguerra

Fairy Tale Fail was the first ever Mina V. Esguerra book that I read way back in 2010! It’s part of her Chic Manila series, which has several standalone titles that are loosely tied together only in the sense that the books are set in Manila and the main characters from each book know each other in some way. A new edition of this book has been released with a cover featuring theater actors Gio Gahol and Gab Pangilinan, and a short epilogue. Here’s the cover and synopsis:

Fairy Tale Fail 2017

Ellie Manuel is a hopeless romantic, stuck in a cubicle all day. She’s in her twenties and should be having more fun. But instead of doing what she really wants, like traveling wherever her Philippine passport can take her, she’s hung up on the guy who dumped her for not being “ambitious enough.” Someone should tell her that there are other cool guys — who probably even eat at the same office cafeteria! — who would encourage her just to be her fabulous self.

I couldn’t help but reread it when I got my hands on thew edition. I have fond memories of this book and have been recommending it to all my friends, along with the rest of Mina’s books. I’m still waiting for Litsy posts to become embed-able on WordPress so in the meantime, I’ll just copy and paste my Litsy review: I remember when I read this for the first time in 2010, I felt like the story was a slice out of MY real life. Philippine setting (complete with typhoons, bulalo and siomai), Manila corporate work environment. And I was the same age as the characters at that time. Reread it in one sitting today, and it felt like catching up with old friends. The kilig/swoon factor is still there and the new epilogue was a nice bonus.💖

I did notice that the heat level for Fairy Tale Fail was very low. It’s the same for all of Mina’s earlier books. I guess it was just the expectation and trend at that time for Filipino-romance-in-English to have fade to black love scenes. I’m very happy to report that this isn’t the case nowadays. 🙂 I had fun revisiting Ellie and Lucas, more so because I don’t get to reread old favorites as much as I would want to. Now that the rainy season is here, I want to have bulalo (a Filipino type of broth that has meat and marrow) because it was mentioned in one of the pivotal scenes in the book. I think every Filipino romance should mention at least one Filipino dish that would make readers crave for it.

If you’re ever in mood for Filipino romance, Mina V. Esguerra’s books are always a good place to start. 😀

Graphic Novel Challenge: The Stonekeeper (Amulet #1) by Kazu Kibuishi

I read The Stonekeeper (Amulet #1) by Kazu Kibuishi months ago when I was in Manila for a vacation. I brought it with me to the hair salon and was able to read a good chunk of it while I was there, and I finished reading the rest of it when I got home. Months have passed and it’s taken me this long to write a review. I was thinking about catching up on my 2016 Graphic Novel / Manga Challenge when I remembered that I had already read the first Amulet book and I just needed to review it.

Amulet The StonekeeperHere’s the summary from Goodreads:

After the tragic death of their father, Emily and Navin move with their mother to the home of her deceased great-grandfather, but the strange house proves to be dangerous. Before long, a sinister creature lures the kids’ mom through a door in the basement. Em and Navin, desperate not to lose her, follow her into an underground world inhabited by demons, robots, and talking animals.

Eventually, they enlist the help of a small mechanical rabbit named Miskit. Together with Miskit, they face the most terrifying monster of all, and Em finally has the chance to save someone she loves.

I can’t even remember who specifically recommended the Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet graphic novel series to me but I’ve had it in my radar for a while. For some reason, I was curious enough about it to grab a copy from Kinokuniya during one of their book sales. I’m so glad I decided to give the first book in the series a try because I had a lot of fun reading it! I was pleasantly surprised at how much depth there was to the story right from the start, something that I didn’t expect from a middle grade series. I sympathized with Emily, Navin and their mother and I wanted to give all of them a huge hug. The three of them bravely move to a new home, hoping to make a fresh start. Instead, they encounter one adventure after another and they all get to show their courage in unexpected ways. The Stonekeeper is an action-filled introduction to the series, and I can just imagine how fast the pace will be in the next installments in the series. It was really easy to get into The Stonekeeper – I liked all of the main characters and I wanted to keep reading to find out more about them. I found the worldbuilding intriguing and would be interested in learning more about it. The artwork reminded me of Japanese cartoons that I used to watch as a child, and it went very well with the story. This would definitely have been a book that I would have loved as a young reader, and something that I can recommend and give as a gift to my godsons and younger cousins. As it is, I have already passed along my copy to two other friends who have read and enjoyed The Stonekeeper too.

I’m looking forward to reading the sequels. I believe there are currently seven books in the series and I’m not sure when it will end. If you’re planning to read this series then I suggest having a few of the books on hand so you can read all of them together. I’m sure I would have enjoyed doing that if I had the chance. I saw copies of the other books in the series at a Manila bookstore, and wanted to get them but the lines to the cashiers were super long at that time because everyone was busy buying school supplies. Just means I need to find another way to get copies! In the meantime, I will keep my fingers crossed that I’ll enjoy reading the rest of the books in the series.

Here’s a link to the 9th Annual Graphic Novels & Manga Challenge 2016, credit to Kim for the graphic below:
graphicnovelmangachallenge by espressodream

Graphic Novel Challenge: Monstress, Vol. 1 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

I feel like I’ve been waiting for Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda to be released for ages! I’ve been hearing good things about it from various sources since the first issue was released but I don’t want to start reading graphic novels per issue, so I to wait for Volume 1 to be released before I could read the series. I was thrilled to find that not only did Kinokuniya Singapore carry copies of Monstress, they also had a variant cover for it:

 

I recently finished reading a graphic novel that I wasn’t such a big fan of, which made me want to pick up another graphic novel that I was more likely to love and that led to me reading Monstress. I read this along with my good friend Kim of Dreaming of Espresso, who is based in Malaysia but was also able to get the Kinokuniya variant copy. Also, this counts as another book for me to include in my 2016 Graphic Novel and Manga Challenge, which hopefully I’ll be able to catch up on in the coming months.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Set in an alternate matriarchal 1900’s Asia, in a richly imagined world of art deco-inflected steampunk, Monstress tells the story of a teenage girl who is struggling to survive the trauma of war, and who shares a mysterious psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, a connection that will transform them both.

Monstress was brilliant! I loved reading every bit of it. If I wasn’t busy with work, I would have gulped down the whole thing in one sitting but I guess it was also lucky that I was able to stretch out my reading of this because I could savor both the gorgeous artwork and the intriguing storyline. I thought Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda did a fantastic job in collaborating on this graphic novel, and I could see why people have been raving about it. The first thing I noticed about Monstress was how detailed and intricate the artwork was, I couldn’t stop staring at the drawings. Looking at the artwork was like a visual feast. I’m not usually a fan of too much blood, gore and violence in graphic novels because I find them a bit more difficult to swallow than when I’m just reading about them as text. The violence was the one minor quibble that I had with this book, but that was overshadowed with how much I loved everything else about it. Monstress is dark in tone but I found that it was a necessary aspect of the storytelling. The setting of the story is not exactly a happy one.

The worldbuilding is incredible. It’s a world inhabited by humans, ancients, arcanics (half-human and half ancient), the old gods and last but not the least are (talking) cats. It’s a war-torn world with a rich history behind the current situation that the heroine finds herself in. I feel like we’ve only been shown the tip of the iceberg in terms of worldbuilding and there’s so much more that can be explored. I kept reading not just because I wanted to learn more about Maika and her past, but also about the world she lives in. Maika is not content to have survived the war, she won’t rest until she uncovers the secrets behind the psychic link that she has with the monster inside her. I thought the story was paced very well, and there was never a dull moment throughout the course of this volume. I loved that the setting is a matriarchal Asia in the 1900’s, and I thought it was awesome that I kept seeing strong female characters in this book. Considering the short length of Monstress, I was amazed at how it was able to tackle important themes such as identity, race, class, and power. There really was a lot going on in this volume and I have a feeling I’ll be itching to reread it sooner rather than later. Having said all of that, I guess it’s not surprising for me to say that Monstress is one of my favorite reads this year. I think the last graphic novel I loved this much was Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. I really, really hope I’ll keep loving the series because I’ve come across two Image Comics series (Saga and The Wicked and the Divine that seemed promising at the start but I eventually decided wasn’t for me after reading Volume 3.

Sharing my other bookstagrams of Monstress so you can see for yourself the gorgeous artwork that I’ve mentioned:

 

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Monstress readalong with @espressodream continues. I stayed up late reading this and I can't wait for the workday to be over so I can read more of it. Pretty sure I'll finish it tonight! I'm usually not a big fan of too much violence in graphic novels but the art in this one is beautiful and detailed, the storytelling is lovely, and it has strong worldbuilding. There's so much history behind this world and I want to find out more. Also, I noticed that all the major characters are female! And there are talking cats. What are your thoughts so far, @espressodream? Anyone else read this yet? . . . #Monstress #Awakening #Volume1 #MarjorieLiu #SanaTakeda #graphicnovel #comics #Kinokuniya #ImageComics #bookstagram #instabooks #IGreads #IGbooks #bibliophile #booknerd #bookblogger #book #reading #readalong #ChachicsBookNook

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And a link to the 9th Annual Graphic Novels & Manga Challenge 2016, credit to Kim for the graphic below:

graphicnovelmangachallenge by espressodream

Graphic Novel / Manga Challenge: This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki

I recently read This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki for my book club’s discussion and I wanted to share a mini review while the story is still fresh in my mind. Also, This One Summer can also be a contribution to my 2016 Graphic Novel / Manga Challenge, which I’ve sadly neglected because real life got in the way of things. I thought one graphic novel a month wouldn’t be too challenging, but I overestimated myself. I’m hoping I’ll be able to catch up on this challenge! My bookstagram for this title:

 

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

AN UNFORGETTABLE SUMMER.

Rose and her parents have been going to Awago Beach since she was a little girl. It’s her summer getaway, her refuge. Her friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had, completing her summer family.

But this summer is different.

Rose’s mom and dad won’t stop fighting, and Rose and Windy have gotten tangled up in a tragedy-in-the-making in the small town of Awago Beach. It’s a summer of secrets and heartache, and it’s a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.

I’ve had my copy of This One Summer for almost a year! I bought it back when I started to become more interested in graphic novels, and it took me this long to get to it. Sigh, the problems of an ever expanding TBR pile. I’ve seen mixed reviews from blogger friends regarding this title but I was feeling hopeful about it because I thought the summer setting would make for a fun read. Browsing through the pages, I could also see that the artwork is beautiful. And it really was, I thought the purple tones of the images and the artistic style fit the story well. However, I wasn’t such a big fan of this slice of life story. The writing flows in a stream of consciousness style and I found that a bit disjointed. Also, I felt that there wasn’t much that happened throughout the course of the book, which I wouldn’t have minded so much if I cared for Rose or Windy or the rest of the secondary characters a little bit more. As it was, I just wasn’t as invested in them as I wanted to be. I liked the friendship between Rose and Windy, and how they supported each other even though they bicker from time to time. I thought the other relationships in the book weren’t so great. I wish Rose’s parents were more open and honest with her about what was going on with their family. The local teens whom Rose and Windy were observing also didn’t feel like they had much to offer. The overall feel of the book was also bittersweet, so maybe I wasn’t in the right mood to read it. I might have enjoyed this more if I was the target audience for it, like if I read it as a middle grade reader. I feel bad that I didn’t enjoy reading this as much as I was expecting but I’m glad I finally picked it up because I’ve been curious about it for a while. As always, go ahead and give this graphic novel a try if you feel like it might work for you.

graphicnovelmangachallenge by espressodream

Beginner’s Guide: Love and Other Chemical Reactions by Six de los Reyes

I’ve had Beginner’s Guide: Love and Other Chemical Reactions by Six de los Reyes on my wishlist for a while now. And I was pushed to grab a copy when I saw historical romance author Courtney Milan raving about it. I didn’t want to get left behind when it comes to supporting Filipino authors! I read it as soon as I could because I was curious. While I couldn’t say that I loved it as much as Courtney Milan did, I had a lot of fun reading this nerdy Filipino romance. I will definitely be watching out for other books written by Six de los Reyes.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Beginner's Guide - Love and Other Chemical ReactionsFalling in love is a chemical reaction.

Just ask Kaya Rubio, twenty-five year-old Molecular Genetics graduate student and research assistant. Fed up with her spinster aunts’ relentless reminders and unsolicited advice regarding her Single Since Birth status, she designs a scientific, evidence-based methodology to find her a suitable partner in time for her cousin’s wedding. As any good scientist knows, any valid experimental design requires a negative control. Enter the most unsuitable candidate for a potential boyfriend: the messy, easygoing, café owner Nero Sison. Her null hypothesis? Going out with Nero would establish her baseline data without catalyzing the chemical reaction she seeks.

But when Kaya’s recorded results refuse to make sense, she is forced to come to the conclusion that there are some things in life that are simply, by nature, irrational and illogical. And that sometimes, chemistry doesn’t always happen inside a lab.

I’ve always thought of myself as a nerd because I studied in a high school that had a strong focus on science and math subjects, and I majored in electronics engineering in college. Beginner’s Guide: Love and Other Chemical Reactions reminded me of all the subjects that I had in high school and college where we had to conduct various lab experiments. There was a time when I spent most of my hours in a lab too. I used to say that I loved science and math but they didn’t love me back because I never found both to be easy. Which was probably why I didn’t pursue a career in those fields.

Having read Beginner’s Guide: Love and Other Chemical Reactions, I can definitely say that I’m nowhere near Kaya’s level of nerdiness. It took a while for me to get used to her way of narrating but I eventually found her endearing. She’s super smart, but she’s socially awkward. The sad thing is she knows it too, and she’s given up on pursuing stronger social connections because of previous failed attempts. I would gladly have been Kaya’s friend if she was a real person! It’s a good thing she has the support of her large and crazy family, so it’s not like she’s entirely alone. But it’s also her family that drives her to try an unusual experiment to find a boyfriend. I think most Filipinos would be able to relate to Kaya’s extended family, even if our own families don’t plan such elaborate parties. The way the Rubio clan was described was just realistically Filipino. Including the presence of nosy relatives. And like Kaya, I have been the recipient of many, many questions about why I’m still single, when am I planning to find a boyfriend, and why haven’t I settled down yet. I guess that’s just how Filipino titas (aunts) are wired? So yes, I could understand why Kaya thought it would be worth her while to embark on an unusual experiment to find a boyfriend.

While Kaya’s experimental dates were fun to read, I liked her interactions with her friends even better. She’s always been on good terms with her colleague and flatmate Eugene, but their friendship becomes stronger as he tries to help her navigate the dating field. I hope Eugene will get his own HEA in a later book. Kaya also becomes more willing to open up to the interns in her lab, as well as other researchers in their science institute. And of course, there’s Nero. Good-looking cafe owner, part-time graphic artist and definitely more experienced when it comes to relationships. On paper, it doesn’t seem like Kaya and Nero would really get along but it was interesting to see them get to know each other. How they’re both in totally different fields and have personalities that are poles apart but at their core, they’re just both flawed individuals looking to find someone who can see and appreciate their true selves. I’m glad that Nero got enough page time for readers to understand him better, and to see that there’s more to him than meets the eye.

Nerdy, sweet and cute, Beginner’s Guide: Love and Other Chemical Reactions is an enjoyable romance with strong Filipino values. I’m glad to have discovered a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) romance series that is set in the Philippines. Looking forward to the rest of the books in the series! I need to mention that this book is indie pubbed and there were some sections that could have been edited better (missing words, typos, tense changes, etc.) but I wasn’t bothered enough to be pulled out of the story. Just wanted to give a warning in case that’s something that other readers watch out for.

Other reviews:
Oops! I Read a Book Again
bibliophile soprano
Back Porch Reader

Graphic Novel / Manga Challenge: Giant Days

graphicnovelmangachallenge by espressodream

Image designed by my friend Kim of Dreaming of Espresso. Thanks for letting me use it!

Giant DaysThe only book challenge that I signed up for this year is the 2016 Graphic Novel / Manga Challenge, and I went for the Modern Age level. This challenge is kicking my ass! I thought it would be totally manageable, and I was half-right because it hasn’t been difficult to read at least one graphic novel a month. I just haven’t been able to keep up with the reviewing part. But hey, last month’s review was a 3 volumes in 1 review type of thing so I think I’m still good. 😛 Giant Days, Vol. 1 by John Allison and Lissa Treiman was supposedly my March graphic novel but I’m posting my review late, because this work week has been tiring and I wasn’t able to find time to sit down and work on a post.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:
Susan, Esther, and Daisy started at university three weeks ago and became fast friends. Now, away from home for the first time, all three want to reinvent themselves. But in the face of handwringing boys, “personal experimentation,” influenza, mystery mold, nuchauvinism, and the willful, unwanted intrusion of “academia,” they may be lucky just to make it to spring alive.

Giant Days, Vol. 1 was the book that I read during my birthday. I bought a copy of it earlier this year based on the recommendation of my good friend Maggie. I don’t think I’ve ever read a graphic novel with a college setting so I was curious when I found out about Giant Days. I was also drawn to the bright yellow cover and the illustration on it, showing a girl concentrating hard while she’s typing away on her phone. The art style seemed fitting for the storyline, and it reminded me a bit of some cartoons that I watched growing up. It had a young and fun vibe to it. Right off the bat, readers are introduced to Susan, Esther and Daisy. Three college girls who have totally different personalities but have become close friends in a short span of time. It was easy to sink my teeth into Giant Days and I found it an enjoyable read, but I couldn’t really say that I loved it. It was fun to get to know the girls and to see them supporting each other through their college-related adventures, but I wasn’t as invested in them as I would have liked to be. The length felt too short for me to get to know them enough. It would have been a stronger read for me if it had more character development. As it was, I felt that the storylines were spread a bit thinly to shine the spotlight on each of the girls. While it’s an interesting graphic novel, I’m a little undecided on whether I’d pick up the second volume due to be released sometime in April. I should probably read the rest of the graphic novels on my TBR pile before deciding to buy more.

Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar

I was introduced to Kirsty Eagar’s beautiful writing through Raw Blue, which I read and loved way back in 2011. Wowza, I didn’t know it’s been that long! I was pretty excited when I found out that she has a new book this year and with such a bright and fun cover too. I saw Aussie bloggers raving about Summer Skin, and I knew that I needed to have my own copy sooner rather than later. Thankfully, Book Depository now has stocks of some Aussie titles and I was able to order Summer Skin from their store. I couldn’t resist reading it as soon as my copy arrived. I was reminded of how good Aussie fiction is, and now I want to read ALL THE BOOKS.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Summer SkinJess Gordon is out for revenge. Last year the jocks from Knights College tried to shame her best friend. This year she and a hand-picked college girl gang are going to get even.

The lesson: don’t mess with Unity girls.

The target: Blondie, a typical Knights stud, arrogant, cold… and smart enough to keep up with Jess.

A neo-riot grrl with a penchant for fanning the flames meets a rugby-playing sexist pig – sworn enemies or two people who happen to find each other when they’re at their most vulnerable?

It’s all Girl meets Boy, Girl steals from Boy, seduces Boy, ties Boy to a chair and burns Boy’s stuff. Just your typical love story.

It was a good thing I started reading Summer Skin just as the weekend started because I was engrossed from start to finish. I stayed up way too late (or too early depending on your definition) on a Friday night to read it. I would have gobbled it up in one go if I didn’t have plans to go out with a friend. As it is, I devoured it as fast as I can. I’m going to try and be coherent in this review, but I basically just want to say, GO FORTH AND READ THIS BOOK. Summer Skin is the kind of book that makes me want to go back in time so I can give it to my teenage self. I think it would have changed my life back then. The Aussie college experience described in this is different from my own experience in the Philippines in a lot of ways, but strangely similar in certain aspects, especially in the emotions involved. Like the feeling of having more independence than you had in high school, without the responsibility that comes with being an adult in the workforce. And also trying to make sense of things but feeling clueless. I felt that Kirsty Eagar did an amazing job of describing the crazy roller coaster ride of college days, when the highs were so high and the lows were so low.

Jess intrigued me from the first scene. I thought she and her girlfriends were all awesome. I kept wanting to cheer them on, YOU GO GIRLS. The four of them have such distinct and varied personalities, and it was fun to see how they balanced each other out. I felt that they have just the right mix of flaws and strengths for teenage girls. They were far from perfect and they made mistakes, but they also tried to learn as much as they can from those mistakes. And they showed their strengths in ways that suited their personalities. They’re in that stage of their lives where they’re still trying to figure things out, and they’re starting to gain more awareness about themselves. It was helpful that all throughout that process, they have each others’ backs. It’s always a pleasure to read about strong female friendships because that’s always something that I would be able to relate to. I met some of the best friends that I have during college, and I can’t imagine life without them.

It’s obvious from the book’s summary that Summer Skin has romance in it, and I thought it was very well-written. 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. One of my favorite scenes was Jess and Mitch’s brother trying to get to know each other better. The adults in this novel were pretty great, they treated the younger characters with respect – giving advice whenever necessary but ultimately letting Jess and Mitch make their own choices.

As an aside, there’s a lot of music mentioned in the novel and while there isn’t a playlist found at the end, it can be found here. Summer Skin is the kind of book that you would hug to yourself after you turn the last page. I have a feeling I’d be sorely tempted to reread this sooner rather that later. Definitely one of my best reads in 2016, I’ve already started book pushing this to all my reader friends. Immensely readable, Summer Skin deserves to be read by anyone interested in realistic fiction about college experiences. I will be anxiously waiting for Kirsty Eagar’s next novel.