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. 😀

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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

What You Wanted by Mina V. Esguerra

What You WantedAndrea and Damon first meet in the short story Wedding Night Stand, and their story continues in What You Wanted. This title is the latest in Mina V. Esguerra’s Chic Manila collection, which has romance books featuring female twenty-something professionals in Metro Manila. Not too long ago, I was also a female twenty-something working in an office in Manila so these books are fun for me to read because I can relate to them. They feel realistic, like the stories can happen to someone I know. Which was why I dove into What You Wanted sooner rather than later. I also like how Mina keeps partnering with Filipino fashion bloggers for her book covers. What You Wanted’s cover was designed by Tania Arpa, featuring fashion blogger Rhea Bue. Note to self: start posting OOTD shots so I can potentially be featured on a book cover.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

It’s the classic one-night stand: Beach wedding, bridesmaid, groom’s friend. When Andrea and Damon meet, sparks fly, and they give in to the attraction. Sounds simple, but Andrea’s still getting over someone, and Damon thought he’d be hooking up with another person that night. It could still be simple, really, if they chalk it up to a weekend tryst and move on.

But one night becomes lunch the week after, and then dinner the next weekend…and before they know it, Andrea and Damon are still together, dealing with the feelings they know they might still have for other people. How hard can it be to get exactly what you want? How do you even know what it is?

I enjoyed Andrea and Damon’s story of how they met and got together in Wedding Night Stand. I thought it was cute how they danced around their flirtation. What You Wanted is a continuation of their story and because they already got to spend a weekend together, the two of them are much more comfortable around each other. And I really liked that about them, how their sort-of-relationship felt really cozy. I liked both Andrea and Damon’s personalities and I thought they were great together. Andrea has a bit of wild side and seems like a fun person to hang out with. She likes doing spontaneous things like suddenly going off to a secluded beach hours away from the city by herself. She also tended to be flighty when it comes to relationships and the one time she was ready to become serious with someone, she got hurt pretty badly. Damon is the type of guy that seems like he has everything going for him – handsome, smart, polished and financially well-off. And yet the girl he’s been interested in for the past two years keeps dragging him along. For two people who haven’t had a stellar record in the relationship department, Andrea and Damon sure handled things well between the two of them. But maybe it’s because they tried to keep things casual – heck, it was supposed to be just a one night stand. That just kept being extended.

Like I said, I really liked how cozy Andrea and Damon were together. From how willing they were to meet the other person’s friends and family, to how Andrea kept sleeping over, to how they had their meals together, to how they kept meeting around their office area… it just felt like they were meant to be together because it seemed effortless and drama-free (when it’s just the two of them). The drama only happens when other people come into the picture. It made me root for them as a couple, and I wanted them to get over their hang ups and just be together. Overall, What You Wanted probably isn’t my favorite Mina V. Esguerra romance because while I liked Andrea and feel like I could be friends with someone like her, I couldn’t relate to her in the sense that I can’t see even a sliver of myself in her. I probably have more in common with her older sister Julie, who is more steady and acts a bit like an old maid (“manang”). Damon, however, might be one of my favorite Mina V. Esguerra heroes. He’s not perfect but even his imperfections seem appealing. Plus he loves to eat good food! Always a plus in my book.

The author’s Chic Manila books can be read as standalones but the latter books have cameos from the characters in earlier books. In What You Wanted, Damon and Andrea meet at a wedding where he’s a co-worker of the groom and she’s the sister of the bride. That was the wedding of Anton and Julie from That Kind of Guy. Damon also lives in the same condo as Ethan and Moira from Welcome to Envy Park. I think these little overlaps make it a little bit more fun to read the books because it makes the reader feel like all the characters are connected somehow. What You Wanted was an interesting addition to this collection and I’m looking forward to reading more romances set in Manila.

My reviews of the rest of the Chic Manila titles:
Wedding Night Stand Welcome to Envy Park That Kind of Guy Love Your Frenemies 2 No Strings Attached My Imaginary Ex Fairy Tale Fail 2

Freebie Alert: Wedding Night Stand by Mina V. Esguerra

Wedding Night Stand by Mina V. Esguerra is free on Amazon now until the 17th. It’s the prequel to Mina’s upcoming Chic Manila book, What You Wanted. While this short story is a freebie, I thought it would be the perfect time to write an equally short review for it. 🙂

Wedding Night StandHere’s the summary from Goodreads:

A wedding, a moody bridesmaid, a man in pursuit – of someone else.

Andrea Crisostomo is no longer your Ms. Right Now, thank you very much. She’s had enough of guys who like her “free spirit” but then break up with her before things get serious. One guy in particular screwed her over so much that she now hates weddings, but she has to suck it up to attend her sister Julie’s big day.

Damon Esquibel enjoys the slow and steady chase, and it looks like his two-year pursuit of Geraldine is about to pay off. He’s at his friend Anton’s destination wedding only because of her. But then he meets the sister of the bride, who doesn’t seem to want to be there, and it’s enough to question his plans for the evening – and the rest of the weekend.

As the title and the premise suggests, Wedding Night Stand is set during a wedding a few hours away from Manila. The happy couple who tied the knot? Julie and Anton from That Kind of Guy, another book from the author’s Chic Manila series. I think it’s pretty cute how these books are loosely connected. They’re standalones but it feels like a treat whenever I see cameos of previous MCs. Also, it feels realistic because even though Metro Manila has a population of almost 12 million (according to Wikipedia), it still feels like such a small world sometimes.

I started reading Wedding Night Stand past midnight last Sunday. You might be wondering why I would start a book that late when I would have to wake up early the next day for work. That’s because I was in denial that the weekend is over. Anyway, this was the perfect choice because I was able to finish it in one go. And I didn’t have to give up that much sleeping time for it. It’s short, flirty, and steamy with just the right amount of sexual tension for two attractive individuals who happened to be assigned seats next to each other. Can I just say that Damon’s a really hot guy? Kulang na lang ng kanin. There’s also a tiny bit of sweetness in there, when the two characters side with each other after learning about the other person’s story. I picked this up, knowing that Damon and Andrea’s romance would be continued in another book. But I think it can stand well enough on its own. So grab it while it’s free!

Loveless. Childless. Clueless. by Miren B. Flores

Loveless Childless CluelessI first found out about Loveless. Childless. Clueless. by Miren B. Flores from Filipino romance authors Mina V. Esguerra and Chris Mariano. I saw them posting about it on social media and that made me curious. Both the cover and the premise looked interesting so I decided to try a Kindle sample. I bought a copy after finishing the sample because I liked it well enough to continue.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:
Standing amidst the wreckage of a fifteen-year relationship, Anna finds herself single, unmarried, childless and, at the rickety age of thirty-five, trying desperately to pick up the pieces.

There’s a lot of crying and punching, a trip or two, and a list of things to do and be to get her self back. There’s the heady scent of a (possible) spankin’ new man sparring with the memory of the boy who first captured her heart — and may have stomped all over it.

But what would she know? After all, here she is — loveless, childless, and totally, utterly clueless.

At first glance, I had a feeling I would be able to relate to this title because I am loveless, childless and clueless too (although I’m a few years younger than Anna). But more than anything, Loveless. Childless. Clueless. is a breakup book and it’s about Anna trying to pick up the pieces of her life after her fifteen-year relationship ends. It reminded me a little bit of another Filipino chick lit title Breakup Dairies by Maya O. Calica, but this book has a much more serious tone because of the age and maturity of the characters. It was easy enough to like Anna. I could understand why she chose to end such a long relationship, she could see that she and Miggy were stuck in a rut and they could see no way out of it because both of them weren’t willing to change. That kind of breakup is probably even harder to endure, because it’s not like they fell out of love. The relationship just became too much work, on top of everything else they have to face in their lives.

I thought Anna handled the moving on process well. Sure, there was some drama but it never felt like it was too much. There’s the usual crying and drinking wine and meeting up with friends. But she didn’t just wallow in her own misery. I liked how proactive she was in going after the things that she wanted to do, the things that she felt she missed out on while she was busy trying to keep her relationship afloat. It felt like she was going on mini adventures while trying to find herself. I was rooting for Anna and I wanted her to have, if not a happy ending, at least some closure. I just have a minor quibble with how she kept waffling near the end. I know how confusing her situation must be but I just wanted her to make a decision and stick with it, not go back and forth questioning whether she’s right or wrong. Anyway, there were more things to like than dislike in Loveless. Childless. Clueless. and I enjoyed the book overall. I think the writing is pretty solid and consistent, always a good thing in an indie debut novel. Non-spoilery snippets that I particularly liked, plus some pictures that I took that I think go well with the quotes:

We talk about how Paris is a city built for both lovers and loners; about how it can be both familiar and new, how she can feel like home but never get old. We talk about the museums and the gardens, the bridges and the streets, and wonder how every corner can be so darn pretty.Lomo - Montmartre

The sea is for me. I make this declaration silently, standing chest-deep in the water, staring at that point where the horizon meets the sea. I close my eyes and revel in my favorite natural sound in the world – the waves. It’s a hypnotic rhythm, a soothing rhythm, the sweetest, I’m-so-glad-I’m-alive rhythm.ScorpioLomo

A woman after my own heart! Paris was the first city in Europe that I ever visited and I will always have fond memories of it. And I can relate to how Anna describes the sea and the waves, how they soothe her and manage to give her perspective. I don’t know if that’s something that’s common to most Filipinos, having experienced the ocean and beaches throughout our lives. Like I mentioned earlier, Loveless. Childless. Clueless. has some pretty solid writing and it will be interesting to see what Miren B. Flores will write next. It makes me happy whenever I find another Filipino author to follow.

Addison Hill Series by Mina V. Esguerra

I’ve been meaning to review Mina V. Esguerra’s Addison Hill series for a while now but real life keeps getting in the way. I read the books months ago, and now the series has been revamped with new covers and new titles. As mentioned in my cover reveal posts, I really like how there’s a consistent look and feel to the covers of these books. I’ve been reading and enjoying Mina’s books since I discovered Fairy Tale Fail five years ago (wow, I didn’t realize it’s been that long). I like how she keeps branching out to try different things like with these Addison Hill books which are new adult romance and set in the US, instead of the Philippines. With American characters instead of Filipino characters. Like with the rest of her earlier books, I read each of these pretty quickly… definitely faster than it took to write their reviews.

Falling Hard shareFalling Hard
She knows it won’t last…

Nicholas Cevasco is unlike anyone Daria Kramer has ever dated. But they aren’t really even dating – a fast fling is all they have time for. He’s heading to Japan to play pro rugby, and she’s graduating in three weeks with plans of her own.

That doesn’t mean they can’t have fun… as long as they don’t fall hard.

This title was previously published as The Harder We Fall.

I had an ARC of Falling Hard for months. I have no idea why I kept putting it off, I think I just wasn’t in the mood to pick it up. I felt like reading something light and fun just as my new Kindle Paperwhite arrived so this title had the honor of being the first book I read on it. I literally finished this book in one sitting. I think I started reading it while having dinner and finished it before going to bed. Aside from being set in the US, other factors that made this book different from Mina’s earlier titles are: 1) it’s a lot steamier *fans self* and 2) it’s sports romance.

Surely there was a pulsing heart inside of this stinking pile of guys on the ground. Massive, sweating, dirty, powerful, virile pile of… what?

I knew next to nothing about rugby but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the book. It was easy to like Nicholas and Daria, and I liked how the trope of the two of them being from different social circles played out. It felt natural, and it was nice that there wasn’t any unnecessary drama. They knew from the start what they were getting into, and what conflicts might arise. Even though this was a short book, I also liked that the theme of trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives was present in the story. I think that’s always something that new adults worry about. I obviously enjoyed reading Falling Hard and was immediately curious about the rest of the titles in the series. I jumped right into the second book after reading this first one.

Fallen Again shareFallen Again
It’s too easy to fall in love with Jake. Don’t do it.

Despite living in two different countries, Lindsay Kresta and Jake Berkeley have loved each other as friends since their senior year in college. She’s his emergency contact, his “zombie apocalypse buddy,” and his holiday dinner companion.

But now that he’s known as Jacob Berkeley, star of a wildly successful TV show, he shows up with big news days before her big work conference. He wants to save forests again, work in environmental research…and he wants her.

Don’t fall in love with Jake. Easier said than done.

This title was previously published as Never Just Friends.

Just like Falling Hard, I finished reading Fallen Again one sitting (those titles can get a little confusing). I liked the first book better but this was still a fun read. Jake and Lindsay have been friends for years, they didn’t want to label themselves as best friends so they call themselves zombie apocalypse partners instead. They never really talked about whether they can date each other, but both of them have thought about it. I liked Jake’s no-nonsense approach to this – that he finally made a move because he knew he wanted to be with Lindsay and he wanted to see if she felt the same way. Similar to the first book, I felt like there was no unnecessary drama in their story, more of a slow realization (in Linday’s part, because Jake was already convinced) of how things could be if they gave themselves the chance to be together. I also liked how involved Lindsay’s family is in their friendship/relationship. It was interesting to read about Lindsay’s job and the development work that she does. Nice way of making people more aware of the difficulties in conservation and preservation work. I thought it was nice that Jake is also interested in that line of work and they’re thrown together when he becomes a spokesperson for Lindsay’s firm. I think it’s kind of hot that Jake is a famous actor who wants to be in development. Another short and fun installment in Mina’s Addison Hill series.

Learning to FallLearning to Fall
“Go out with a stereotypical romance novel hero WHO ISN’T YOUR TYPE.”

Avid reader and art student Steph is participating in a monthly blog challenge to Live Like Fiction, and this was the task for October. When Grayson, former co-captain of her university rugby team, walks into her class, she knows it’s meant to be – she has to go out with this guy. Even if she’s never been attracted to big, hunky, athletic types. With Grayson’s “player” reputation off the field, Steph thinks he’ll be good for one date that’ll be worth blogging about, and that’s it.

But you know how it goes: Soon, it becomes more than just one date – and Steph and Grayson are caught up in “living like fiction.” How long can they keep up playing their roles, before reality steps in?

This title was previously called as Someone Else’s Fantasy.

So one day, I asked Mina if she’ll ever consider writing a main character who was a book blogger. I told her that I don’t think I’ve read a book with a book blogger MC before. A few months (or about a year?) later, Learning to Fall is out in the wild! I could really relate to Steph’s life as a book blogger, especially since she’s a blogger on hiatus. So many of my blogging buddies have also gone on breaks or have stopped blogging altogether and I have to admit that I’ve also thought about doing that. It’s pretty much a given that I loved that Steph is a big fan of books and would happily spend hours reading. I also thought it was awesome that through her blog, she’s found good friends who know her so well. Because that’s something that have also happened with me. I feel like we do reveal more of ourselves than we realize through book reviews because our thoughts and feelings about books are very personal (I think I can write a whole blog post about this topic). A non-spoilery snippet:

In theory, blogging shouldn’t take a lot of time. Read a book, then write about it. Simple, right? Obligation fulfilled to the publisher or author who sent the book, to the readers who read the blog.

Not quite.

Blogging found me at a time when I needed people. I knew this, didn’t need a therapist to tell me. Moving to another state, starting college, figuring out how to be a fully functional adult and artist… there was so much comfort in being friends with people who liked the same things. Believe me, I tried being friends with real people, but the friendship offers stopped coming when I missed one too many dorm parties.

I think Mina was able to portray a pretty accurate depiction of Steph’s blogging life. Steph wasn’t the only one I liked in this book, I thought Grayson was a great guy too. A hot athlete who’s also very sweet… what’s not to like? He’s pretty driven too. He knows what he wants and tries to go after them, the challenge is that he seems to want too many things that can’t be balanced together. From their meet cute until the end of the book, I was rooting for these two to find a way to be together. As with the earlier titles in the series, Steph and Grayson also had to figure out what they wanted to do with their lives after college. Again, I thought it was realistic for characters in that age bracket to be in that kind of mindset. Like the earlier two titles in the series, I enjoyed reading Learning to Fall. I liked the book blogging aspect of it so much that I sent it off as a Kindle gift to my own blogger friends.

Choco Chip Hips by Agay Llanera

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

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choco Chip Hips - with cookies

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

Other reviews:
Will Read For Feels
Le Bibliophile

Welcome to Envy Park by Mina V. Esguerra

I think it’s pretty clear by now that I’m a Mina V. Esguerra fangirl. I grab copies of her novellas and short stories when they’re released and I try to read and review them as soon as I could. The early chapters of Welcome to Envy Park were uploaded to Wattpad so I was able to sample part of the story. I was really looking forward to reading this particular title because it’s about a Filipino lady in her mid-twenties who worked in Singapore for five years and is now back in Manila, trying to figure out what her next move is. I think Welcome to Envy Park’s cover looks pretty good. I like how bright and happy the colors are. I think it’s a great idea for Mina to partner with Filipino fashion bloggers for her book covers. I think the outfit that the girl is wearing is cute and girly although I don’t really picture Moira wearing something like that.

Welcome to Envy ParkHere’s the summary from Goodreads:

Moira Vasquez is a doer. A planner. A get-up-and-goer. At twenty-two, she left her hometown to work in Singapore, to satisfy a need to travel as well as give her savings account a boost. Five years later and she’s back in Manila, with a shiny new apartment to her name, but no job, no career, no boyfriend. She meets Ethan Lorenzo, the quiet hunk of an IT consultant on the ninth floor of her condo building, and he’s a welcome distraction during this period of having absolutely nothing going on in her life.

But she has a plan – of course she does – and this is just a short layover on the way to the next country, the next job, the next big thing. Or will she be missing out on something great that’s already there?

I’m glad that Mina gave us a character who has lived and worked abroad because that’s such a common occurrence for Filipinos. I’m proof of that. I think half of my friends are currently studying or working abroad and I’m not sure when they’re planning to go home or if they’d rather settle down outside the country. I could totally relate to Moira because of the similarities in our working experience and because we’re about the same age. Her descriptions of what her life was like in Singapore is pretty accurate, although I was hoping it included more details. I would have wanted to know what her hobbies were, where she hung out, what her favorite restaurants or dishes were, etc. But maybe I’m just curious about those things because I’m currently based in Singapore. I feel like I could be friends with Moira, we would have conversations about OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) life while trying out new restaurants. Once she’s back in Manila, it was expected that she’d compare herself to her friends who stayed back home and here’s a section of the book that I really liked:

Maybe it was the tequila buzz, but I really did think that I had come out ahead. Surely the lessons in independence that leaving home provided a person counted for something. Counted for more, at least, in terms of emotional growth, and maturity, because those years were the most difficult and humbling of my life so far.

You got that right, sister. Living independently, away from the support system of family and friends, is definitely good for emotional maturity and growth but it’s damn hard. It’s the second most difficult experience of my life, the first was when my dad passed away. I can’t believe that in the five years that she was away, Moira only came home for Christmas visits. I think I wouldn’t last here if I didn’t get to go home three or four times a year. I liked that Moira was also not sure about her career plans, that she was still trying to decide what to do next. I’m also at that stage in my life and I believe most of my friends are also like that – in the process of understanding in what direction our career should go or figuring out what our calling is. The one big difference between me and Moira is that’s she’s a doer and I’m more of a go with the flow type of person, which makes me more like Ethan in that regard. I didn’t really plan to move to Singapore, the opportunity presented itself and I knew it would be stupid not to take it. Anyway, I liked how Moira and Ethan got to know each other through their gym sessions and food trips. I always enjoy reading Mina’s books because of the romance and while I have no complaints about how Moira and Ethan’s relationship developed, I would have loved to see more swoon-worthy scenes. That’s a minor quibble because I enjoyed it overall. What I really liked was that while Welcome to Envy Park is a light and fun romance, it still makes you think about life choices – why people choose to work abroad and why others would rather stay in the Philippines. I will definitely be recommending this title to my friends because I feel like they would be able to connect with the story, regardless of what their choices are. There’s just something about Mina’s novellas that make it easy for me to both read and review them. In my dashboard, there are several other drafts of reviews for other books that I’ve read but here I am talking about Welcome to Envy Park.

My reviews of Mina’s other books:
My Imaginary Ex
Fairy Tale Fail
Love Your Frenemies
No Strings Attached
That Kind of Guy
Interim Goddess of Love
Queen of the Clueless
Icon of the Indecisive
Young and Scambitious

Young and Scambitious by Mina V. Esguerra

I grabbed Young and Scambitious while it was available for free on Amazon. I think the cover looks great, it has an intriguing and glamorous feel that goes well with the premise. Yesterday, I couldn’t decide what to read next so I thought I’d start on this short story because it would be easy to get into. I started reading it on the train ride on the way to work in the morning and was able to finish it on the way back in the afternoon.

Young and ScambitiousHere’s the summary from Goodreads:

Who is Elizabeth Madrid, exactly? She’s Manila’s latest It Girl–stylish, staple of the club scene, new best friend of famous-for-being-famous Chrysalis Magnolia. She’s also a jewelry clan heiress, a former model, an Ivy Leaguer… except no one actually knew of her until last year. Shouldn’t her new society friends be more suspicious? Especially “BFF” Chrysalis, who reportedly already lost an expensive ring to a friend who turned out to be a thief?

I like that this story focuses on the Manila socialite scene and the people who prey on the rich. While I’ve never been into that kind of scene, I think it’s interesting to read about it. Even though Jane is a con artist, I really liked her as a character. I feel like she’s only doing what she has to do in order to survive. She’s good at playing out different roles and she takes advantage of that skill. I also like that she’s a reader, I think it’s always nice when a character likes to read.

“Jane liked to go to libraries. She spent a lot of time in them growing up, and she had had to grow up in several places. Later she started seeing how each building was different. In one place, old and regal; in another, shabby and musty.

So since the preparation for the Chrysalis Magnolia job had her visit Singapore, a city with a (shiny and modern) public library, she naturally had to go there on her only day free.”

I thought it was pretty cool that the story was partially set in Singapore, in a library! I could totally relate to that. I also liked that even though the story is so short, there was still enough room for some romance. My only issue with this short story is that I felt like the whole thing ended a bit abruptly. I kind of got the feeling there should be more to the ending that what I got. Maybe I wouldn’t have minded if I knew that the ending was meant to leave readers hanging? According to Mina, there will are probable sequels to this but no definite date on when they will be published. I think that will give readers a fuller perspective of the story that was introduced in Young and Scambitious. Check this out if you want a quick read that you can finish in one sitting or if you want to give Mina’s writing a try.

New Release: Cover (Story) Girl by Chris Mariano

Tuesday was a good day in terms of book releases. Three titles that I was excited to be published came out yesterday, namely The Chocolate Touch by Laura Florand, Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews and Cover (Story) Girl by Chris Mariano. I’ve finished reading The Chocolate Touch and I need to work on a review for that. Magic Rises is already waiting on my Kindle, I want to finish rereading the earlier books before I start on it though – I’m still in the middle of Magic Burns. Since I’m planning to review the two other titles later on, I want to talk about Cover (Story) Girl.

Chris of Ficsation is a pretty good friend of mine. I was excited when I found out that she wrote a novella for Mina V. Esguerra’s romance class. I offered to be a beta reader and provide feedback on her writing. Since I was a beta reader for Cover (Story) Girl, I don’t think it would be fair for me to review it. It’s a light and fun romance set in Boracay and the surrounding areas. Boracay is one of the most famous beaches in the Philippines because of its clear blue waters and powder white sands. Chris’ writing made me want to visit the place again since I haven’t been there in ages. I also like that the main character is a Filipino guy who works in a small museum in Boracay while the love interest is a Korean tourist. I think that’s an interesting set-up. I think the cover is really pretty and fits the story well.

Cover Story GirlHere’s the summary from Goodreads:

1) She has amnesia.
2) She’s on the run from her father’s creditors.
3) She’s enjoying her last days on earth.

Ever since Jang Min Hee walked into Gio’s small museum, she’s given him one excuse after another about why she’s vacationing at scenic Boracay Island. Rarely has Gio’s neat and organized world been shaken like this. Soon he finds himself scrambling over rocks, hiding in dressing rooms, and dragging her out of bars. But how can Gio tell what’s true from what isn’t? Their worlds are getting unraveled – one story at a time.

Amazon
Smashwords

It’s only USD 0.99 so I think that’s a pretty good price to try out a new author. Congrats, Chris! I’m so excited for your novella.