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.

Review and Giveaway: All’s Fair in Blog and War by Chrissie Peria

I heard about All’s Fair in Blog and War as soon as it came out. While I’ve never met Chrissie Peria in person, we share some common friends (she’s good friends with my flatmates as well as fellow Filipino book blogger Chris of Ficsation). Plus, she wrote her novella for Mina V. Esguerra’s romance class so Mina is another person who is actively promoting this title. I was planning to read All’s Fair in Blog and War sooner or later because I was curious about the premise and I think the cover is pretty cute. I just decided to bump it up the TBR pile because of all the recommendations floating around.

All's Fair in Blog and WarHere’s the summary from Goodreads:

Five Cuevas @fivetravels
Three guesses to where I’m going next. Starts with an M. Ends with a U. Has a lechon named after it. #travel

Travel blogger Five thinks she has hit the jackpot when the Macau Tourism Board invites her over for an all-expense-paid blogger tour in exchange for blogging about Macau. But while she happily signs up for the trip, she didn’t sign up to be travel buddies with the infuriating Jesse. Will her dream vacation turn into a nightmare junket? Or will falling in love be on the itinerary?

It’s always fun to read about bloggers even if they don’t blog about books. The last novella that I read that had a blogger main character was All’s Fair in Love and Chocolate by Laura Florand (funny that the two titles are so similar). I really enjoyed the blogging aspect of Five’s life because I could relate to it – how her blog shapes her vacation plans and how it’s more than just a hobby for her. That’s how I feel about my blog as well, a niche blog can take over your life like that. She’s a lot luckier than me though because look at how she won a contest to visit Macau to blog about it! Would love to have a similar huge blog-related experience. I was also interested in reading more about the tourist attractions in Macau because I’ve never been there. From what I heard from friends, I always thought there wouldn’t be a lot to do in Macau if you’re not into gambling but looks like I made the wrong assumption because Jesse and Five found more than enough things to occupy their time. As a foodie, I also enjoyed hearing details about what kind of dishes and snacks are available in Macau. This novella made me want to have an egg tart! Good thing they’re pretty common here in Singapore. One other thing that Five and I had in common was this:

I knew I was early, so I found a comfortable spot and pulled out a well-worn copy of Pride and Prejudice. I always revert to Austen when I’m in between books. P&P has always been my favorite, so it was the book I decided to pack for this trip.

That little snippet was while she was waiting at the airport. I always bring a book (or my Kindle) with me whenever I travel so I can’t even count the number of times I’ve read books in airports. And Pride and Prejudice is also my favorite Austen. *P&P high five* While I think that All’s Fair in Blog and War is a light and fun read, I also felt like it would have been better if it was a little longer. I’m not sure if word count was a factor that had to be considered for the romance class which produced this novella, but I would have liked to see more character development, more tension or kilig (swoon-worthy) moments between the two main characters. Other than that, I found this an enjoyable read. Recommended for contemporary romance readers who would like to try Filipino fiction. This is the kind of book that you can finish in one sitting, maybe while waiting to check in or board or even during a flight. For a more interactive experience, readers can follow the characters on Instagram: fivetravels, and Twitter: @5travels and @wanderingcamera.

Macau postcard from Anj

What a coincidence, I received a postcard from Macau today!

All right, giveaway time! Chrissie was generous enough to provide codes for free copies for the Smashwords edition of All’s Fair in Blog and War. To join the giveaway, leave a comment letting us know what country in Asia are you most interested in visiting? Aside from Macau, I’d love to go to Cambodia, Vietnam and South Korea. Giveaway ends July 19 and three winners will be chosen randomly. Open internationally to anyone who has a Smashwords account. Oy, if you don’t win, the book is only USD 0.99 so feel free to grab your own copy.

Giveaway has ended and winners have been notified.

Other reviews:
One More Page

Icon of the Indecisive by Mina V. Esguerra

Icon of the Indecisive by Mina V. Esguerra is the third book in the Interim Goddess of Love trilogy. The first two books in the series are Interim Goddess of Love and Queen of the Clueless. Do you need to read the books in order? Yes, unless you want to get really confused. They’re all tied together, with Hannah as the main character, tasked with helping college students with their love problems. Mina compared the series to a TV show, with the first two books as different episodes and Icon of the Indecisive as the season finale. I received an advanced review copy of this for the audio commentary that Mina organized with several other bloggers. Here’s my account of that experience and feel free to download the file over at Mina’s website.

Here’s the summary from Mina’s website:

Icon of the IndecisiveCollege student Hannah Maquiling, also temporarily working as the Goddess of Love, has had enough of everyone asking for her help when it comes to relationships. It’s her turn to find romance! She deserves it, after serving as matchmaker and confidant to everyone else in Ford River College for the past year. She’s had a crush on handsome senior (and God of the Sun) Quin forever, but he’s destined to fall in love with an extraordinary mortal woman, so she’s figured her chances with him have pretty much dropped to zero.

It’s not like she doesn’t have any options for a classic college romance though. There’s Diego, God of the Sea and Quin’s best friend/enemy. And regular guy Robbie is stepping up, making sure she knows how he feels about her. How hard can it be for a goddess to find someone to love, and be loved in return?

It was nice to be back in Ford River College, a setting that I enjoyed reading about because it reminded me of my own college experience. I feel like I keep saying this but since I had fun in college (in spite of not loving my major), I take pleasure in reading anything that takes me back to those years. Even though Hannah and the other characters in the series weren’t ordinary college students, because they had abilities as gods and goddesses, I could still relate to them. To be honest, I was a little worried about Icon of the Indecisive. I felt like we were left hanging at the end of the second book and there were too many questions that needed to be answered in the final book. I shouldn’t have worried because the whole trilogy was wrapped up quite nicely in this installment. In the first two books, readers were able to see glimpses of Hannah’s own love story interspersed with the cases that she needed to solve as interim goddess. I was rooting for Hannah to get her own happy ending – I felt like she deserves to have her own beautiful romance after going through the trouble of comforting and supporting other people through their love-related difficulties. I had no idea where things would go when it came to Hannah’s leading man and I liked not being able to predict what would happen. While I didn’t think the ending was perfect because I thought it could have gone in a different direction, I still found it quite satisfying.

The Interim Goddess of Love trilogy is different from Mina’s usual contemporary romance with main characters in their mid-twenties. The series is young adult, set in college and has a mythology aspect to it. Granted, it’s light on the mythology and doesn’t have as much worldbuilding as other fantasy novels that I’m used to. Still, I think it’s a good idea for an author to branch out and try writing something different. In this case, I think it worked well because romance is still a big element of this series, something that it has in common with the author’s previous work. Like all of Mina’s other books, Icon of the Indecisive was a quick read for me. Thank goodness it didn’t take long for this one to get published so the story was still quite fresh in my mind and I didn’t have to reread the first two. You’re pretty lucky if you haven’t started on the series and you’re curious about it, because now you can read all of them in one go. Recommended for fans of romantic novellas, readers who want something light and fun, and anyone interested in giving Filipino fiction a try.

It’s funny how Interim Goddess of Love has several cover designs. I just wanted to mention that I really like that it got redesigned and now all three installments have matching covers:

Interim Goddess of Love_digital coverQueen of the CluelessIcon of the Indecisive

All three covers were designed by Tania Arpa using photographer/blogger Rhea Bue’s photos. Aren’t they lovely? I like that the covers feature a Filipino fashion blogger and how all the photos give off a college vibe that represent the series well.

Other reviews:
The Girl Who Read and Other Stories
One More Page

Queen of the Clueless by Mina V. Esguerra

Queen of the Clueless by Mina V. Esguerra is the sequel to Interim Goddess of Love. Do the books need to be read in order? I think so because that will give the reader a better understanding of the story. In fact, I reread the first book before starting on this because I didn’t want to be confused about the characters and everything that happened before. These books are Filipino young adult fiction that has a hint of local mythology (so “goddess” in the title of the first book isn’t a metaphor). It’s going to be a trilogy and there’s no release date for the third book yet but I’m hoping it will be published soon.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Queen of the CluelessIf you’ve been feeling neglected by the Goddess of Love lately, don’t worry – Hannah Maquiling, college sophomore, is in training to take over. The Original Goddess is missing, but Hannah is Interim Goddess now, and she should figure out how to solve humanity’s love problems soon. Quin (God of the Sun) is still her mentor, still really hot, but apparently isn’t as honest about his other earthly relationships as she thought. It’s frustrating, and enough to make her check out possibilities with Diego (God of the Sea) and Robbie (Cute Human).

In the meantime, she’s decided to spend some of her precious training time helping to break up a relationship, instead of putting one together. Why? Because the girl in question happens to be her best friend Sol, whose boyfriend is stealing not just from her, but from other people on campus. Sol didn’t exactly summon the Goddess, but this is what power over Love is for, right? Surely it’s not just about matchmaking, but ending doomed relationships too. (Even when it’s not what people want.)

Hannah is still the temporary Goddess of Love and while she’s still pretty clueless about certain aspects of the job, she’s learning slowly and surely. She gets regular training sessions with Quin, God of the Sun, on how to improve her game as a goddess. She enjoys these sessions with Quin but keeps hoping that they will lead to more than just doing “work” stuff. What’s funny about Hannah’s situation is, she helps other people navigate the tricky waters of love and yet she’s hopelessly in love with someone she can’t have. I think that’s what makes Hannah a relatable character – even if she’s part-time goddess now, she’s still a normal college girl in so many ways. Clearly, she doesn’t have things figured out and like any non-goddess person does, she just goes with her instincts and what she feels is right. I also think it’s ironic that the main plot thread in this installment is Hannah trying to break up a couple instead of bringing them together. I liked that Queen of the Clueless focused on Sol’s love story, it was nice to get to know Hannah’s best friend since we really didn’t get to do that in the first book. I also liked that we learn more about some of the other secondary characters, like Diego and Robbie. Although I wish there was more of Quin in the story, I felt like he didn’t get enough face time in this book. I would have liked to learn more about Quin’s character, a little more insight on how he is both as Quin the mortal guy and as God of the Sun.

I’m really, really curious about the third book in this series. If I had a copy of it right now, I’d dive into it right away. I have no idea how Hannah’s story arc will get resolved and I’m hoping it won’t feel rushed because these books are on the short side. I found Queen of the Clueless an enjoyable read but I definitely wouldn’t have minded if it was a little longer. I think it was a good idea on Mina’s part to try writing a different genre from her usual contemporary romance featuring women in their twenties. I’m all for Filipino fiction with a college setting, especially if it reminds me of my own college experience. I know I’ve mentioned this before but I really couldn’t help but feel that Hannah’s school is like a smaller version of my own alma mater. So many details about the school was reminiscent of my own school – the cafeteria, some of the classes, the rich kids and scholarship kids. I know that Mina attended the same college so maybe it served as an inspiration for her writing. Since I loved my school, I think that’s a good thing. I recommend this to fans of Mina’s writing and readers curious about Filipino fiction. I know I don’t feature enough of them here in my blog so I would gladly recommend this.

Some lomo shots of my college, which can pass off as Ford River:

LomoAteneo

lomoateneo5

lomoateneo4

The Breakup Diaries by Maya O. Calica

I don’t get to feature Filipino fiction as often as I’d like here on the blog so it feels like a treat when I get to do so. I can still remember the first time I read The Breakup Diaries a few years ago. I was still in college then and this title was my favorite out of all the Summit Books that were available at that time. After I finished reading it, I worked on convincing my girlfriends to pick it up as well so we could discuss it. Preferably while hanging out in a cafe because Monica, the main character, is a barista. When I saw that it has been reissued, I decided to grab a new edition and read it on my flight back to Singapore from Manila. I ended up enjoying the book just as much as when I first discovered it.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

the breakup diariesTwenty-three-year-old self-proclaimed nice girl Monica Tanseco is finding out the hard way that in order to survive a breakup, you have to grow up – fast. Sure, breaking up is hard to do, but who knew it involved:

– Denial, followed by desperate bid to get back together involving promises to do everything to make him happy
– Sever loss of sleep, appetite and self-esteem
– Acute paralysis – or maybe death – of good judgment
– Compulsive tendencies to document every event, feeling and fantasy in a manner of reporter trying to make sense of things
– More compulsive tendencies to over-examine relationship carcass and over-analyze cause of death as couple
– Getting a life

When her perfect boyfriend – college hoop star certified hottie and young hotshot eagle Itos Ongpauco – decided to call it quits, Monica, barista by day and dreamer by night, found herself stepping out from behind the coffee counter and out of her comfort zone – into the mad world of magazine publishing.

While starting out at the bottom of the food chain as the overworked, unpaid intern at “M” magazine can obliterate any trace of self-esteem, anything – including bitchy bosses, temperamental photographers, rather dull but oh-so-hot male models – is a welcome balm to her pains. Never mind that her freebie-obsessed boss treats her like an on-call, 24-hour proxy service. Never mind, that, sometimes, when she’s had too much alcohol, male models become irresistible. Never mind that, despite having just had her heart-broken, the possibility of love presents itself again.

One of the main reasons why I enjoyed reading The Breakup Diaries so much is because it’s easy to relate to Monica’s situation: how difficult it us to pick up the threads of your life after a breakup, especially when you didn’t see it coming. Monica had no idea that her boyfriend would decide to call it quits on their anniversary dinner date. Pretty harsh, noh? I felt so bad for her but what I liked about the book is that it was still fun to read even though the character was experiencing a major setback. There were several hilarious moments within the story and all throughout everything, you’re rooting for Monica to heal her broken heart. Her reaction to the breakup felt realistic, from wanting to get back together with her boyfriend to re-evaluating her life and seeing things in a different light. It’s also nice that Monica had friends and family who were there to support her – as with any problem, it really helps to know that other people have your back. I also liked how The Breakup Diaries gave me a better idea of what it’s like working in a magazine publishing company. I don’t want to say too much about the book because it’s a short and sweet read, something that you can finish during a flight or an evening when you’re in the mood for something light. I think it’s fitting that my first review for 2013 is about an old favorite. If you’ve ever experienced a breakup, then you’ll probably be able to relate to Monica as well.

One thing I noticed about the new edition is that it had several typos. I don’t remember seeing those in the original edition – it’s a minor thing but I thought I’d just take note of it. I do like the new cover more than the old one:

the breakup diaries reissue

Kwentillion

Just a quick post to let you guys know that Kwentillion edited by Budjette Tan and Paolo Chikiamco, a magazine focusing on YA-themed Filipino fiction is now available in several National Bookstore and Powerbooks branches for the affordable price of P150. It’s pretty exciting because this is the first of its kind and I look forward to checking out the entire thing. I still don’t have a copy but I’ll try to do a more detailed post about it once I’ve gone through the whole magazine.

From Summit Media’s Kwentillion page:

Kwentillion Magazine is the country’s first publication dedicated to young adult literature and media, featuring YA-themed comics and fiction by Filipino creators. The bi-monthly, black and white magazine (with an eight-page colored spread in every issue) features reviews and previews of young adult books, interviews with creators, and articles which tackle a wide variety of topics of interest to the YA community.

I wrote an article with fellow Filipino book blogger Tina about our anticipated YA sci-fi and fantasy titles in 2012. Here’s a snapshot care of Tina:

Kwentillion article

I think this is the first time I’ve seen my name in print? This first issue is a trial publication and future issues would depend on how well this one sells so if you’re a YA reader and you’re hungry for Filipino fiction (like I am) then grab a copy and check this out. Feel free to share your thoughts about it because the editors would love to get some feedback.

Places where you can get updates about Kwentillion:
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads

Aaaand I’m sneaking this in because it’s always nice to meet up with reader friends in person and we did talk about Kwentillion. Here’s a picture of lunch last Saturday with Tina, Celina and Aaron:

Meet up with Celina, Tina and Aaron

Image also from Tina. It’s not obvious from the picture because all you can see is the food but we talked about books, of course.

That Kind of Guy by Mina V. Esguerra

I won a copy of Mina V. Esguerra’s latest, That Kind of Guy, when I joined the contest that she hosted. You can read all about it here. I enjoy reading her novels because I can relate to her characters and of course, the local setting.

signed copy of That Kind of Guy

Thanks again for my copy, Mina! Here’s the summary from Mina’s website:

Good girl Julie never expected her hot former-player boyfriend to propose marriage. But when he did, she turned him down for reasons even she couldn’t figure out. Will she settle for a nice, safe guy instead? Or will she let him find his way back into her carefully guarded heart?

Manang is a Filipino word that is roughly translated as “older sister” and is usually used as a term of respect. It’s hard to define but manang is also used to describe conservative girls. My friends and I say we’re manangs when we’d rather stay home on weekends (and in my case, read or blog) instead of go out and party. A girl can be a manang in so many different ways – from the way she dresses (no sleeveless tops or short skirts or dresses) to the way she dates (not willing to be set up on a blind date). Julie is a manang in the sense that she’s a good girl. She doesn’t do wild parties and she doesn’t date random guys. In fact, she’s never been in a serious relationship. When a friend suggests that she should loosen up by dating a fun guy, Julie agrees to try things out with Anton. She’s just as surprised as everyone else when it becomes apparent that Anton wants to start a serious relationship with her. I was curious about Anton when I first met him as Tonio in No Strings Attached. I wanted to see how Mina would write about a playboy settling down. I wasn’t disappointed, Anton turned out to be a really sweet guy in spite of how he was initially portrayed as a wild party boy. Here’s a quote from the book that I really liked:

“Before I met him, I wondered how I could possibly fit a relationship into my life. My days felt full, of people, things, and concerns, and I wondered what I’d give up to accommodate someone new. Anton made it seem easy. He didn’t take me out of my life; instead, he sort of slid into the empty spaces and made himself comfortable.”

It’s funny because even though the book is written from Julie’s point of view and I have manang tendencies, I liked Anton’s character more than his girlfriend’s. His actions and his lifestyle made sense when he explained them. I guess I just couldn’t understand why Julie wasn’t invested in their relationship but then again, that’s something that Julie herself is trying to figure out. What I like about Mina’s books is that I still enjoy reading them even if I can’t fully relate to her characters. Why? Because I feel like her books are stories that can actually happen to some of my friends. I guess a huge part of that is because of the local setting. I liked watching Julie and Anton’s love story unfold. I also think it’s nice that they have such different personalities and yet they go well together. I’m already planning to recommend this (andmaybe even buy copies to give as gifts) to my girlfriends. That Kind of Guy is available in local bookstores all over the metro and will be available as an ebook soon. Mina, when will your next book be released? 😛

Other reviews:
One More Page
Perfect Nostalgia
Girl Next Cubicle

Trese by Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo

Whenever I ask for Filipino fiction recommendations, the Trese graphic novels keep popping up. I thought I’d dive right in and check it out when I received the whole set for my birthday. There are four installments in the series right now: Murder on Balete Drive, Unreported Murders, Mass Murders and Last Seen After Midnight. I think I put off reading this one because I don’t read a lot of graphic novels or comics and I’m not a big fan of horror books either (because I’m a big scaredy-cat). But I keep saying I need to read more books written by Filipino authors so here we go. Here’s the summary of Murder On Balete Drive, the first book in the series, from Goodreads:

When the sun sets in the city of Manila, don’t you dare make a wrong turn and end up in that dimly-lit side of the metro, where aswang run the most-wanted kidnapping rings, where kapre are the kingpins of crime, and engkantos slip through the cracks and steal your most precious possessions. When crime takes a turn for the weird, the police call Alexandra Trese.

I want to kick myself for not getting into this series sooner but then again, maybe it’s better that I discovered it late because at least I was able to devour all four graphic novels one right after the other. I didn’t have to worry about the horror aspects of the Trese series – I read the books at night and wasn’t the least bit scared. I’d like to think of the series more as a blend of dark urban fantasy and mystery instead of horror. I had so much fun going through these books, the pages just flew by. It’s funny because even before I finished reading the series, I was already recommending it to my friends. I think that’s a sign that I’ve become a fan, yes? I love strong female protagonists and I’m delighted that there’s a kick*ss heroine in Filipino fiction that I can root for. You go, Alexandra Trese! She’s more commonly known as just Trese though. Here’s a snapshot that nicely describes Trese’s character:

Each graphic novel is composed of several short stories and by the time I finished the first installment, I had a lot of questions about Trese’s background. This is why the third book, Mass Murders, is my favorite – it focuses on Trese and how she became such an expert when it comes to Philippine mythology. Also, all of the short stories in Mass Murders are tied together so it’s like one story arc, broken out into several chapters. I felt like I was more invested in the story because of this and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that future installments will follow the same format. Aside from having recognizable local settings, one other thing that heightened my enjoyment of the series is my familiarity with the supernatural creatures that Trese regularly encounters. The stories are rooted in Filipino superstition and I’ve heard a lot about duwende, manananggal and aswang while growing up here in the Philippines. We’re not even halfway through the year but I’m pretty sure the Trese graphic novels will be included in my favorite discoveries in 2012.

If you’re curious about Filipino mythology or want to try a different kind of graphic novel, I highly recommend the Trese series. I asked Budjette if these books are internationally available and he replied that they could be ordered through the National Bookstore website. I believe they’re also working on releasing ebook versions and I’ll gladly spread the word about those when the time comes. I’m curious how the series will stand up to readers who aren’t familiar with Philippine mythology. More samples of the black and white artwork in the novels:

Other reviews:
One More Page
Ficsation
Taking a Break
Code Name Blue
Bookmarked

Interim Goddess of Love by Mina V. Esguerra

I’m a Mina V. Esguerra fangirl. I’ve read and reviewed all of her books and even did and interview and giveaway last year. She’s my favorite Filipino chick lit writer and I keep recommending her books to my girlfriends because all of her novels are so light and fun. I knew she was planning to release Interim Goddess of Love in 2012 and I was really looking forward to it, not only because I’ll read anything she writes, but because she’s tackling a new genre. All of Mina’s other books are contemporary romance with women in their twenties as main characters. This time, she decided write a contemporary young adult novel, with a hint of Philippine mythology in it.

Here’s the summary from Mina’s website:

College sophomore Hannah Maquiling doesn’t know why everyone tells her their love problems. She’s never even had a boyfriend, but that doesn’t stop people from spilling their guts to her, and asking for advice. So maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise when the cutest guy in school tells her that she’s going to have to take on this responsibility — but for all humanity.

The Goddess of Love has gone AWOL. It’s a problem, because her job is to keep in check this world’s obsession with love (and lack of it). The God of the Sun, for now an impossibly handsome senior at an exclusive college just outside of Metro Manila, thinks Hannah has what it takes to (temporarily) do the job.

While she’s learning to do this goddess thing, she practices on the love troubles of shy Kathy, who’s got a secret admirer on campus. Hannah’s mission, should she choose to accept it, is to make sure that he’s not a creepy stalker and they find their happily ever after — or at least something that’ll last until next semester. (As if she could refuse! The Sun God asked so nicely. And he’s so, well, hot.)

I initially thought the “goddess of love” bit in the title and the premise was figurative. It’s not. Hannah is a descendant of one of those unions between a mortal and a god so she has enough magic in her to be the interim goddess of love. Basically, she has to help out fellow students in Ford River College with their love problems. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that one of my frustrations is not having enough Filipino YA novels to read. Which is why I’m thrilled that Mina has written Interim Goddess of Love and has two sequels scheduled to be released this year. I loved the college setting of the novel because Ford River reminded me of my own college. If you want to get a feel of what college (or university or uni in other parts of the world) is like here in the Philippines, then read this book. I know I keep saying this about Mina’s novels but I could really relate to the characters because they’re all Filipinos. Interim goddess role aside, I could connect with Hannah’s college experiences. It felt like I was back in my own school – attending core curriculum subjects, hanging out with friends in the cafeteria, participating in school organizations and getting to know classmates. Based on just the title, you know that romance is a focus of this novel and I think that’s pretty realistic because most college teenagers tend to worry about their love lives. Here’s a snippet that I really liked:

Some girls can’t stand to be around the guy they like. They get really nervous, and rather than make fools of themselves, they just stay away. I was the opposite; the more I liked a guy, the more I wanted to be around him. I was the type who’d join the same org, or pick the same elective. Sure I was probably looking like a fool five times a day over a bunch of things, but I liked being close to someone I admired.

The act of doing something about the feelings, no matter how futile the exercise, was still way better than sitting around just hoping they’d notice the girl who never said anything.

Hannah has never had her own boyfriend but she’s not willing to be a wallflower either and I liked that about her. The huge cast of characters in this short work of fiction may be confusing for some people but that’s one aspect of Interim Goddess of Love that I really enjoyed. Thank you, Mina, for giving us so many swoon-worthy guys in one book! I couldn’t decide which guy I should root for. This installment is about Kathy’s romance but in the process of finding her true love, we get hints about Hannah’s possible love story as well. I think the number of characters sets up the sequels quite nicely – I’m hoping to read more about the other characters in the next books. Interim Goddess of Love is a promising introduction to Mina’s YA work and it’s just as charming and fun as her other books. After finishing this, I went online so I could bug Mina about the sequels. I can’t wait to read them and I will recommend this one to anyone interested in reading Filipino fiction because I have a feeling they’d enjoy reading Interim Goddess of Love as much as I did.

Other reviews and interviews:
Ficsation
One More Page
Rocket Kapre interview