Alternative Alamat: Stories Inspired by Philippine Mythology

Buzzer beater post for today – I just wanted to give a shout out to Alternative Alamat: Stories Inspired by Philippine Mythology, which has been released today. It’s a book edited by my friend Paolo Chikiamco. I keep meaning to read more books written by Filipino authors but the giant TBR pile doesn’t always let me. I added this book to my wishlist because it looks pretty interesting and I’m always up for stories revolving around mythology. It doesn’t hurt that this one focuses on Philippine mythology, that makes it easier for me to relate to the stories, right? Plus I love the title (alamat is the Filipino word for legend or myth) and the pretty cover. Another nifty thing about this collection? It’s internationally available. So you can check it out if you’re interested in learning more about Filipino myths. You can buy Alternative Alamat in Amazon or Flipreads.

Here’s the description of the book from Rocket Kapre:

Philippine mythology is full of images that ignite the imagination: gods of calamity and baldness, of cosmic time and lost things; the many-layered Skyworld, and weapons that fight their own battles; a ship that is pulled to paradise by a chain, and a giant crab that controls the tides… yet too few of these tales are known and read today. “Alternative Alamat” gathers stories, by contemporary authors of Philippine fantasy, which make innovative use of elements of Philippine mythology. None of these stories are straight re-tellings of the old tales: they build on those stories, or question underlying assumptions; use ancient names as catalysts, or play within the spaces where the myths are silent. What you will find in common in these eleven stories is a love for the myths, epics, and legends which reflect us, contain us, call to us–and it is our hope that, in reading our stories, you may catch a glimpse, and develop a hunger, for those venerable tales.

“Alternative Alamat” also features a cover and interior illustrations by Mervin Malonzo, a short list of notable Philippine deities, and in-depth interviews with Professors Herminia Meñez Coben and Fernando N. Zialcita.

Let me know what you think if you ever get around to reading this!

Love Your Frenemies by Mina V. Esguerra

Wow, Mina writes fast! I knew she was planning to set Love Your Frenemies out in the wild soon but I didn’t expect it to come out this week. The main character in this book is the antagonist in one of her other books, My Imaginary Ex. I admire Mina for writing something like this because it must have been challenging to write about a character who was very easy to hate.

Here’s the summary from Mina’s blog:

Kimmy Domingo was the kind of girl everyone hated and envied – until her fiancé dumped her a week before their wedding. Soon after, she quit her job, hopped on a plane, and just hid from everyone who knew her. A year later and she’s back in Manila to be maid of honor at a wedding she can’t miss.

Kimmy’s home because she’s ready to start over, but she also knows that some people at that wedding were responsible for the mess her life turned out to be. The first step to recovery? Cutting off the ones who caused her troubles to begin with: her best friend and her first love.

First off, I want to say that I love how simple yet appropriate the cover for this and Mina’s other ebook, Fairy Tale Fail, are. I like them much better than the covers of My Imaginary Ex and No Strings Attached. I also find it convenient that Mina decided to go with an ebook for this one because it’s much easier (and cheaper) to obtain a copy. You can buy it from either Amazon or Smashwords. I know it’s a sequel of sorts to one of her other books but I believe it stands well on its own and there’s no need to read that one first. It would be a good idea though because you’d get a picture of how other people see Kimmy instead of just being inside her head. Love Your Frenemies is told from alternating past and present situations so you get an idea of what Kimmy was going through during the events of My Imaginary Ex. Kimmy got dumped by her fiancé days before their supposed wedding. He suddenly realized that he’s still in love with someone else and that he couldn’t go through with the wedding. Harsh, right? But a lot of people believe that Kimmy deserved what she got because she’s such a bitch.

I was surprised by how much I liked this book more than My Imaginary Ex. You know the saying that goes, “there’s always two sides to every story”? This is Kimmy’s side. I can understand why other people find her rude, manipulative and heartless. Kimmy is smart, beautiful and she knows it. She admits that she tends to be overconfident. She doesn’t go out of her way to hurt and manipulate other people, it’s just that she can’t be bothered to be nice. Kimmy has a turbulent relationship with her best gal pal, Chesca, because they’re the epitome of mean girls. Kimmy and Chesca ruled their high school – they got to decide who would become members of their clique based on how useful their classmates were. Both girls understand how the other person thinks and that’s why they’re such good friends and why they also have the worst fights. They know what to say to get the other person riled up. Another person who is one of the major reasons why Kimmy’s so messed up is her first love, Manolo. Handsome, charming and witty Manolo. Can I just say that I can’t get over his name because it’s such an old school Filipino name? I feel like if I knew someone named Manolo, he’d be nicknamed something shorter and more modern like Manny or Nollie. Ever since they were teenagers, Manolo has been blowing hot and cold and Kimmy knows it’s stupid to hope for a steady relationship but she can’t help it. Kimmy’s story isn’t centered on the romance but instead focuses on her relationships with the Country Club set of people that she grew up with. It’s not surprising that she’s not a nice person because of all the drama in her life – it’s like a constant soap opera.

What I love about Mina’s books is how believable they all are. I may not love all of her books but I can believe that her stories actually happen to other people. It’s everything about her work – the familiar places, the situations that you can relate to, the characters that feel like they could be your friends. Maybe it’s also because I feel like I’m the target audience of her books – a twenty-something Filipina. This is another enjoyable read from Mina V. Esguerra and as always, I look forward to reading her next one.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
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From Page One

No Strings Attached by Mina V. Esguerra

No Strings Attached is Mina V. Esguerra’s latest chick lit novel. As usual, it’s set in Manila, featuring a girl in her late twenties. I did a post about the book here when I bought it a few days ago. It’s available in all Book Sale, National Bookstore and Fully Booked for P150.

Here’s the summary from the back of the book:

Carla is a whiz at her job: she’s efficient, reliable, and a total genius when it comes to putting something together at the last-minute. The snag is she’s single and turning the big three-oh in a few months. Her girl best friend (yes, she’s married just like the other girls in Carla’s barkada) keeps trying to set her up with stable banker-types, while her guy best friend (single – the other single one) encourages her to play the field – no strings attached. Then, through no set up or extraordinary circumstance, Carla meets Dante. Hot, smug, sexy Dante. Definitely not a banker-type and seemingly too good to be true. So there’s got to be a catch. There is. He’s five years younger. Is the universe telling Carla to finally let loose and enjoy a fling with a younger man? Or is there a lot more to this awkward situation that she bargained for?

It’s funny because the main character in this one reminded me somewhat of the main character in Amazing Grace. I think it’s because they’re both in their late twenties and they’re both being pestered by friends to settle down and get married. That’s a pretty accurate portrayal, actually. I’m in my mid-twenties and three of my friends got married this year. I’d like to think that the Philippines is more liberal nowadays but most people still believe that a girl should be married by the time she reaches her thirties. Carla feels like she’s different from the rest of her barkada (group of friends) because most of them have their own families already. The only other single person in their group is her best friend Tonio and he’s single because he enjoys playing the field. Carla’s fed up with all the set-up schemes of her friends. Even if she’s turning thirty, she’s not exactly worried about finding someone to marry. Aside from that, her friends also keep telling her to move up the corporate ladder and that it’s not good to be stuck as an admin assistant forever. When she meets Dante, she agrees to date him on the condition that they should keep things simple – they should just have fun when they’re together and not worry about the future.

Carla thinks that her age gap with Dante is a big deal but I don’t think it matters that much. I think it’s funny that even though it seems like Carla and Dante don’t have much in common and they have different personalities, they still get along really well. I enjoyed reading No Strings Attached but Fairy Tale Fail is still my favorite out of all the local chick lit books that I’ve read. Even though Dante’s described as a hot guy, there aren’t that many kilig (swoon-worthy) moments in this one. The focus isn’t the build up of the love story but rather the complications involved in their relationship. It’s a quick and light read and the kind of book that you can finish in one sitting. Recommended for fans of chick lit. I hope Mina comes up with something new soon because she’s already in my auto-buy list.

Click on the images below to see my reviews of Mina’s other books, Fairy Tale Fail and My Imaginary Ex:

Other reviews: (manually generated)
One More Page
From Page One

Out and About: No Strings Attached

Mina V. Esguerra is a Filipino chick lit author. The main characters in her books are usually twenty-something women who live in Manila, which I love because I could totally relate to them. I enjoyed reading her first two books and was happy to find out that she has another one due this December. I’ve been scouting the local bookstores for a copy of her latest work, No Strings Attached, since last week to no avail. Luckily, Celina told me that she sighted copies in Book Sale yesterday. So I headed over to Book Sale SM North right after work. Funny because they didn’t even have it on display, they had to get copies from the storeroom when I asked for the book. Without further ado, give it up for No Strings Attached: *clap clap clap*

Carla is a whiz at her job: she’s efficient, reliable, and a total genius when it comes to putting something together at the last minute. The snag is she’s single and turning the big three-oh in a few months. Her girl best friend (yes, she’s married just like the other girls in Carla’s barkada) keeps trying to set her up with stable banker-types, while her guy best friend (single – the other single one) encourages her to play the field – no strings attached. Then, through no set up or extraordinary circumstance, Carla meets Dante. Hot, smug, sexy Dante. Definitely not a banker-type and seemingly too good to be true. So there’s got to be a catch. There is. He’s five years younger. Is the universe telling Carla to finally let loose and enjoy a fling with a younger man? Or is there a lot more to this awkward situation that she bargained for?

Looks interesting, right? I think the cover looks great, so summery and fun. I’ve already started reading this and I hope to finish tonight so watch out for a review soon. 🙂 Mina, congrats on the release of another book!

Click on the images below to see my reviews of Mina’s other books, Fairy Tale Fail and My Imaginary Ex:

Undercover Tai Tai by Maya O. Calica

I loved Maya O. Calica’s The Breakup Diaries so I was ecstatic when I discovered that she has another book out. Undercover Tai Tai was initially published by Marshall Cavendish under its Asian Chic Series, which is good because that means it’s internationally available. Locally, it’s reprinted by Anvil Publishing and is available for P150.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Amanda Tay thinks she is losing her mind or starring in a surreal film by Stanley Kubrick.

You would be too if you’ve been knocked unconscious on your first date in 27 years only to awaken in a beautifully appointed apartment that looks like a page from Tatler Magazine.

Last time she checked, the film student-turned-book researcher was renting a tiny room in a flat, so what was she doing sprawled on a king-sized bed with 600-thread count bed sheets and a ponkan-sized bump on her head?

The Undercover Tai Tai is a hilarious journey of a young woman who, while pretending to be someone else, makes connections with her past and discovers parts of herself that she never thought existed.

I was expecting to love this one but sadly, that didn’t happen. I guess mostly because I was expecting something along the lines of The Breakup Diaries, a believable story of a young girl searching for love. Instead, I got an action-adventure type of story that required suspension of disbelief right from the start. Don’t get me wrong, Undercover Tai Tai is a lot of fun, it just didn’t work out for me. Amanda Tay is used to not being noticed by anybody. She’s been in Singapore for a couple of months and she doesn’t really have any friends. Even her flatmates can’t remember her name right. Everything changes when she gets drafted to work as an undercover agent to discover the whereabouts of a missing tai tai. Tai tais are the elite socialites of Singapore – Amanda’s mission is to pretend to be one of them to infiltrate their circle.

While I’m thrilled that Filipino authors are getting international deals, I wasn’t that enamored of this one. I wasn’t able to connect with any of the characters and I felt like the story wasn’t really plausible. The events were so sudden and there wasn’t enough build-up to make them realistic. I think the author was going for something that would read like a screenplay of a movie. Feel free to give it a try though because some of you might like it more that I did. Read this if you’re interested in the premise and you want something lighthearted. Some other chick lit books by Filipino authors that I enjoyed more than this are Fairy Tale Fail by Mina V. Esguerra and Amazing Grace by Tara FT Sering.

Amazing Grace by Tara FT Sering

Amazing Grace is another chick lit book by a Filipino author. I was browsing online when, surprise, surprise, I saw that it’s available in Book Depository. I think this is one of three Asian chick lit novels published by Marshall Cavendish. I think it’s great that Filipino authors of women’s fiction are getting recognition and that these books are available internationally. I believe they are also available in local bookstores in other Southeast Asian countries like Singapore. I reread and reviewed Tara FT Sering’s other book, Between Dinner and the Morning After, a few days ago and really liked it so I was hoping for the same reaction for this one.

Here’s the summary from the publisher’s website:

Grace has finally gotten The Ring! From whom she thinks is The One! And she’s thrilled to her toes about it, never mind the fact that Mike-The-One is moving overseas for work, that he hardly has time to talk, that he doesn’t answer her calls, that his emails comprise a serious dearth of words, and that a leggy blonde appears in nearly all his photos … right?

Determined not to lose Mike, Grace surprises him with a visit and finds herself on a furious chase spanning three countries in a bid to save her unplanned wedding, her unborn children, her heart and her sanity…

But it will all be worth it, won’t it? After all, The One wouldn’t — no, couldn’t — have found Another One, could he?

A lot of Filipino girls in their late twenties will be able to relate to Grace and what she’s going through – how she’s constantly pressured by friends and family to settle down and get married to the point that she agrees to go on several blind dates. She gets lucky on her seventh try when she meets Mike and they hit it off. They start dating regularly and two years later, he proposes. Unfortunately, Mike has to move to a different country for work and that’s when their relationship problems start. We all know how difficult long distance relationships are, more so when one of the parties doesn’t seem committed to the relationship. The writing style takes some getting used to as Tara FT Sering uses the second person point of view, which I don’t usually encounter.

While it was fun to read Grace’s adventures as she navigates the tricky waters of love, I don’t agree with some of the choices that she made throughout the book. I mean seriously, Mike was the one at fault and Grace still decides to go after him to try and salvage their dying relationship. I wanted to smack her and tell her not to bother going after someone who’s obviously not that into her anymore. I guess the author needed a reason for Grace to hop from one country to another and experience several things that will help her with her realizations. I still enjoyed reading the book as a whole as there were some funny scenes that made me smile. I also liked where the author went with the ending. I’m going to be on the lookout for Tara FT Sering’s other books and I hope she comes out with new titles soon. I recommend this to anyone who’s interested in chick lit and Asian cultures, it’s light and fluffy so very easy to read.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
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Philippine Online Chronicles

Between Dinner and the Morning After by Tara FT Sering

Between Dinner and the Morning After by Tara FT Sering is one of the local chick lit books that I collected back when I was in college. It was published in 2005 and I believed it’s now out of print because I haven’t seen it around local bookstores. I bought a copy of Amazing Grace by the same author recently and I thought it would be good to re-read this one before I read Amazing Grace. If anyone knows where I could but brand new copies of this book, please let me know!

Here’s the summary from Goodreads (which is the first page that I created as a librarian, yay):

Although it’s taking her eccentric boss forever to give Abi a break, its fine — at least she’s got a job. It pays the shopping bills and keeps her busy.

Although she’s no longer happy with her boyfriend, it’s cool — he’s perfect for her mother and her friends.

That is, until someone she was in love with eight years ago returns to the picture.

Suddenly, it all boils down to the past vs. the present: Current okay life or the possibility of something better?

She has overnight to decide.

Abigail Cortes is 29 and she’s stuck in a rut. She’s working for the number one furniture designer in the country but she’s stuck as a minion with tasks such as grocery shopping for her boss’ dogs. She’s in a two-year relationship with a guy that a lot of people would consider quite a catch but she feels like the relationship has lost its spark. Her prospects brighten up when she receives a random email from a guy she met in Dumaguete eight years ago. Juno isn’t quite Abi’s ex-boyfriend because they only spent a few days together but those days were memorable. So when Juno suggests that they meet for New Year’s Eve in San Francisco, Abi has to decide whether she’s willing to leave everything behind for a chance at true love.

I really couldn’t remember anything about the story, which is a good thing in this case because it felt like I was reading the book for the first time. This goes to show how a book never changes but your perception of it does. I probably couldn’t relate to the characters five years ago so the story didn’t stick in my mind. I’m happy to announce that that is no longer the case now because I enjoyed reading about Abi and the trials and tribulations of her life. The story jumps back in time several times but it never gets confusing. Throughout the book, Abi interacts with a bunch of quirky characters that add depth to her story. Here’s my favorite line from the book:

“If he was meant for you, you will be brought together, and you should expect the world from that. You cannot wish for something without conviction.”

The ending left me smiling, I can’t say any more than that for fear of spoilers. If you get a chance to grab a copy of this book then I encourage you to do so because out of all the local chick lit books out there, I think this is one of the better ones. Sorry international readers but I don’t think this is available outside the Philippines.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
Book of Days – warning, this one has spoilers
Gladax Judai

Table for Two by Marla Miniano

Table for Two by Marla Miniano is another chick lit book by a Filipino author, which was recommended by Tina of One More Page. I’ve decided to read as many local chick lit books as I can because I’m planning to give them as gifts this Christmas. I’m even planning to read the ones that I bought back when I was in college so I could post reviews of them.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

A corner table at a cozy coffee shop witnesses many things:

A long-time couple about to break up after college graduation. A young teacher accepting a dare from her teenage brother to quit dating for two months. A wedding photographer trying to convince his best friend not to get married. A boy meeting up with the girl he never quite got over. And a girl sitting alone, reading romance novels, wondering if today is the day she will stop being lonely.

Do their lives intersect and intertwine – spiraling them through an obstacle course of love and loss and hope and heartbreak? And can they each find the happy ending they so desperately want?

Based on the summary above, you’d think I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that the book is composed of short stories about different people and yet I was. For some reason, I thought it was going to be one cohesive story with just multiple characters. As a result, I was confused at the start and I wasn’t able to connect with the characters as much as I’d hope because the narratives about them were so short. Also, the stories have varying points of view that added to the confusion – some of them were in first person and others in third person, some of them were from guys’ points of view and some from girls’ (although I think that’s actually a good thing). It really is a shame that I didn’t like the book that much because I think the writing was beautiful. I even added a couple of favorite quotes in the Goodread’s page of the book.

If the novel was lengthier, the author might have been able to pull off a Love Actually-esque story, where all the anecdotes are tied together by the cozy coffee shop where they all hang out. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Still, the writing is a redeeming factor of the book and I recommend this to anyone who likes reading Filipino chick lit. Again, I’m sorry to international readers out there but this book is only available locally.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
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Her Maldita-ness’ Shelf

My Imaginary Ex by Mina V. Esguerra

I read and loved Fairy Tale Fail by Mina V. Esguerra a couple of days ago and after reading it, I knew I was going to pick up her other book, My Imaginary Ex. I’m glad I found a copy yesterday in one of the local bookstores so I bought it, started and finished it in one sitting. Boy, I’m really enjoying this unexpected chick lit week.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

When Zack asks Jasmine to pretend to be his ex-girlfriend, she gamely agrees, thinking it would be fun. A few years later, she still has to keep convincing people that they were never together! Then one day, she finds out he’s getting married — to someone she’d just met once! All of a sudden, things aren’t so clear-cut anymore. Can Jasmine sort out her feelings (sometimes, she can’t even tell real from pretend when it comes to her and Zack) before it’s too late?

Zack and Jasmine went to the same high school but they were never that close. They reconnect when they bump into each other in college and they become good friends. Zack then asks Jasmine to pretend to be his ex because he’s never had a girlfriend before and the girl that he likes doesn’t want to be with someone who’s never been in a relationship. Jasmine agrees, not knowing the consequences of that little lie. Fast forward to the present day, Zack is about to get married to a girl that none of his friends and family really know. It’s up to Jasmine to confront Zack but before she can do that, she has to sort through her own feelings first. My Imaginary Ex was pretty easy to read even though the story is interspersed with flashbacks to fully flesh out Jasmine and Zack’s friendship. The story sort of reminded me of My Best Friend’s Wedding because it has a similar theme with the movie.

I’m not a fan of best friend love stories probably because my high school boyfriend was my best friend and we didn’t really get our Happily Ever After together. Don’t get me wrong, we’re still good friends but now I feel like I have a certain fondness for love-hate relationships more than best friend love stories. In any case, I’m sure there are more people who will appreciate the friendship that is the foundation of Jasmine and Zack’s relationship. While I didn’t get to connect with the characters in this one as much as I did with the characters of Fairy Tale Fail, it’s still quite an enjoyable, light read. The characters are believable and the author does a good job of describing the life of a young professional in her mid-twenties, living in Manila. Mina mentioned over Twitter that Summit is going to release another book of hers any day soon. I’m looking forward to that!

To international readers out there, sorry but My Imaginary Ex is only available locally. I just have to say that I’m enjoying reading local chick lit. I just have a minor complaint – they’re all so thin! Small paperbacks less than 150 pages long. I’d be glad to read something meatier if the authors come up with something like that.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
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Fairy Tale Fail by Mina V. Esguerra

In my post asking for chick lit recommendations, Tina mentioned Fairy Tale Fail by Mina V. Esguerra. The premise was interesting and when I saw that it’s available in Smashwords for only $0.99, I went ahead and bought it. I felt like reading some chick lit so I started reading it and to my surprise, I ended up finishing the whole thing in just one sitting (note that I lost a couple of hours of sleep because of this). Looks like this week is turning out to be chick lit week for the blog!

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Of all the twenty-something women who are hopeless romantics, Ellie Manuel is more “hopeless” than “romantic.”

Even after her Prince Charming broke up with her, she just won’t give up … because fairy tale heroines don’t live “happily ever after” right away, silly, they’re tested first!

Determined to pass the test, she spends the next year restoring herself to the girl Prince Charming had fallen in love with in the first place.

Until she discovers that life without him might not be so bad after all: her career is taking off, her confidence is back, and the cute guy at work is no longer a stranger.

So when is it okay to quit on a fairy tale?

I always say that in order for me to like a book, I have to be able to relate to it somehow. No worries on that department when it comes to this one because I could TOTALLY relate to Ellie. Twenty-something Filipina working in a corporate job but really doesn’t know what her career path is? That could be me! Ellie’s thing is traveling and making plans for hypothetical trips abroad. While I do love to travel, I don’t get to do it that often so I guess it would be better to say that my thing is reading and blogging about books. I’ve never experienced an office romance like Ellie did but the breaking up with a boyfriend-who-was-a-friend-before-you-became-a-couple? Been there, done that. Ellie also has several circles of friends, from her high school barkada to her office mates and I’m like that as well. Each set of friends has a different personality and I like to think that each group brings out a different side of me. Ellie is really believable as a character – she’s a representation of me, my friends and every young Pinay out there looking for her own fairy tale.

I keep my reviews spoiler-free so I don’t want to mention any names but I want a guy like the male protagonist! Seriously.♥ I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Ellie and her attempts to get her life back in order after the breakup. Fairy Tale Fail is a light and fun contemporary romance that gives a glimpse of middle class life in the Philippines. If only the paperback was as cheap as the e-book edition, I’d buy lots of copies and give them as Christmas gifts to my girlfriends. Unfortunately, the paperback is more expensive at P350. The good news is the e-book is available both in Smashwords and Amazon so for all international readers out there, you could order this anytime you want. If you want a peek at what our lives are usually like (and by us I mean young professionals in the Philippines), then go and read this book! At $0.99, it’s cheaper than your average Starbucks coffee. It’s really short too, more like a novella than a novel. I’m interested to see how readers outside the Philippines will react to this one. One minor quibble though, I wish Mina included footnotes to define some of the Filipino words used in the book like kuya, barkada and bulalo so that foreigners will be able to understand them. That said, I’d like to thank Mina for coming up with a well-written Filipino chick lit novel. 🙂 I look forward to reading her other book, My Imaginary Ex and I hope she comes up with a thicker novel next time.

Other reviews: (manually generated)
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Book Harbinger