What books have you read in March and what did you think of them? Any stand out reads?
Oh wow, February passed by so quickly! Maybe because it’s a shorter month? I didn’t even get to do this round-up of bookstagram reviews on the last day of the month. So here I am catching up on them today. You can check out my January bookstagram reviews here.
Take the Lead by Alexis Daria
Ghost of a Feeling by Celestine Trinidad
A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole
Sagala #3 by Tori Tadiar
It was a pretty good reading month, I enjoyed reading four out of the five books I finished. I planned to read only romance titles in February but couldn’t help but read the latest issue of Sagala when I got a copy of it at Komiket. I’m planning to read whatever I want in March. I’m really a mood reader and I mostly stuck to a theme in January because I wanted to read more fantasy and February seemed like the perfect month for romance. Maybe I’ll read some of the comics I just bought, let’s see how it goes.
What about you, what were the books you read in February?
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:
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. 😀
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:
Falling 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.
Act Like It by Lucy Parker surprised me with how good it was. I even included Lainie and Richard in my recent list of favorite literary couples. I immediately wanted to read more books written by the author but saw that she only had one title that was out. Then I followed her on Twitter and discovered that she self-published another book under a different name: Artistic License by Elle Pierson. To make things even better, the Kindle edition was available for free for a few days. Of course, I grabbed a copy and read it as soon as I could (also because I was gently nudged by my friend Angie).
Here’s the summary from Goodreads:
When of the world’s prestigious art collections comes to the resort town of Queenstown, New Zealand, shy art student Sophy James is immediately drawn to the pieces on display – and to the massive, silent, sexy presence keeping watch over them. She’s completely fascinated and attracted by the striking planes and angles of his unusual face, and can’t resist sneaking out her pencil when he’s not looking.
Security consultant Mick Hollister is used to women looking at his ugly mug – but not with the genuine pleasure he sees in the face of the girl with the charcoal-smudged fingers and terrible skills at covert surveillance. A security breach brings the two into fast and furious collision, and an unlikely friendship begins to blossom. And an even more unlikely – and very reluctant – love.
Introvert Sophy is content with her independence and solitude. She’s never looked for a long-term relationship, and isn’t sure she wants one now. Mick, apparently born with a face that not even a mother could love, has given up all hope of having one.
They have nothing in common. They shouldn’t even like each other. And they can’t stay away from one another.
Going by how Act Like It sucked me in, I knew I should start reading Artistic License on a weekend or I would lose a lot of sleep. I was right. I read most of the book on a Saturday and ignored everything else that I had to do (as usual, I was supposed to do some chores). I couldn’t put it down once I got in the swing of things. It was just too much fun to read about Sophy and Mick. I liked the unusual circumstances of their meeting, and how that incident brought them together. While there’s initial attraction, both of them weren’t looking for a relationship so they started off as unlikely friends. Unlikely because at first glance, it seems that they don’t have much in common. In spite of their differences, they soon realize that they’re able to read and understand each other very well. Sophy is an introvert and is painfully shy. She rarely opens up to strangers, only her family and friends truly see her bright and vibrant personality. She’s happy in her solitude and she immerses herself in her art. For some reason, she instinctively trusts Mick from the moment they meet and she quickly lets her guard down around him. Mick has a tough exterior, matched by his looks, but is really such a sweet guy. He’s had some nasty experiences in the past and definitely deserves all the friends that he could get. He needs people to back him up and stand up for him, and Sophy becomes on of those people in just a short amount of time.
I think the transition from strangers to friends to lovers felt very natural in Artistic License. Even as friends, both Sophy and Mick were wary of each other. They’re both observant types, and they were careful around the other person. I thought Sophy’s introvert nature was a huge factor in this. Also, Mick has his own reasons for not getting too close to someone else. I also think it gave their romance an unusual flavor. While I have always been classified as an extrovert, there are times when I think I’m an introverted extrovert. I could relate to Sophy needing her alone time, and trying to reconcile the idea of opening herself up enough to let another person into her life. She’s worried of what she has to give up in order to be in a relationship, even if she does want to be with that person. It is a pretty big step for anyone, especially for someone who recharges by being by herself. Mick is the perfect gentlemen in the sense that he gives Sophy all the space that she needs. I really liked that there wasn’t any unnecessary drama between them. They were honest with each other and there were no mind games. All the conflict were from external factors. There’s a dash of mystery and suspense in this story, but the focus is definitely the development of Sophy and Mick’s relationship. I really liked how the secondary characters played a part in the love story, like Mick’s best friend Sean had some fun scenes and Sophy’s mom also gave some great advice.
I also enjoyed reading about the Queenstown setting of the book. It’s a refreshing choice of setting, not the more common US or UK locations in romances. I’ve never been to New Zealand but now I want to visit it because of the descriptions in Artistic License. Seems like a great place for a vacation. The author shared this picture of the setting on Twitter:
No matter what name she writes under, I will definitely be watching out for this author’s next book. I hope one will be released sooner rather than later!
Act Like It by Lucy Parker is a gem of a contemporary romance novel that I discovered when my friend Angie mentioned that it’s a good one. I found the premise intriguing and I settled down to read this book on a Saturday afternoon. Good thing I started it on a weekend because it kept me absorbed until I finished the whole book. I ignored chores and errands that I had to do because I just couldn’t stop reading.
Here’s the summary from Goodreads:
This just in: romance takes center stage as West End theatre’s Richard Troy steps out with none other than castmate Elaine Graham
Richard Troy used to be the hottest actor in London, but the only thing firing up lately is his temper. We all love to love a bad boy, but Richard’s antics have made him Enemy Number One, breaking the hearts of fans across the city.
Have the tides turned? Has English rose Lainie Graham made him into a new man?
Sources say the mismatched pair has been spotted at multiple events, arm in arm and hip to hip. From fits of jealousy to longing looks and heated whispers, onlookers are stunned by this blooming romance.
Could the rumors be right? Could this unlikely romance be the real thing? Or are these gifted stage actors playing us all?
I’m a fan of certain tropes in romance if they’re done well, and Act Like It has two of them which I really enjoyed: a pretend relationship and a brooding, arrogant, Darcy-esque male lead. Castmates Lainie and Richard are persuaded to have a fauxmance in order to boost the publicity of the play they’re in. While Lainie admires Richard’s acting abilities, she thinks he’s rude, full of himself and makes things difficult for everyone when he doesn’t get his way. And Richard doesn’t really know Lainie beyond what he sees of her during their rehearsals and performances. Like he doesn’t really think it’s worth his time to get to know her. Understandably, both of them were very, very reluctant to start a fake relationship and it was funny how awkward they were with each other at the start. Even though they’re both actors, they weren’t able to magically portray a happy couple right away. But they soon got the hang of things and for a pretend couple, they remained surprisingly honest and true to each other. There really wasn’t a lot of faking involved between these two… just a slow process of getting to know the other person and realizing that maybe they’ve been too quick to make judgments. I really liked the dialogue in this one, from snarky insults to more affectionate teasing to meaningful conversations. It really was a lot of fun seeing them interact.
As with all romance books that I truly enjoy, Act Like It is a story of two flawed characters. Both of them recognize the imperfections of the other person and yet they’re willing to accept them. Lainie was easy to like, she has a big heart and is generally a kind person. Also smart and sassy. But like I said, she’s not shown as a perfect person. It’s actually her past mistakes that come back to pester her and Richard more than once in the course of the story. She’s also very much a product of her large and loving family, and I really enjoyed seeing her relatives involved in her life. Richard is a little more difficult to root for but what really worked in this book was that it had his point of view as well. I wasn’t kept in the dark as to the thoughts running in his head. Like how it becomes obvious that he doesn’t really go out of his way to be mean to people, it’s just that he doesn’t have the patience to be nice. I believe this is the first time I’ve read a romance with a West End setting and I really enjoyed it. I felt that the author made the British theater scene come alive. I love watching musicals and it was entertaining to see the behind the scenes aspect of it. A sample of snippets that I liked:
“Occupational hazard: too much time spent amongst artificial sets, slight loss of grip on reality.”
“She knew from experience that spending hours every day pretending to be someone else could become a habit difficult to break. She could go off duty, so to speak, and find herself performing the role of Lainie Graham, which could seem as artificial as any character she inhabited onstage.”
Act Like It was a pleasant surprise. It’s one of those romances that gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling, a very cozy kind of read. I wouldn’t mind rereading this again, if I ever find myself in the mood for it. I will be anxiously waiting for Lucy Parker’s next novel.
I read Saving the CEO but wasn’t that impressed with it, so I wasn’t planning to read Sleeping with Her Enemy. But then I saw my good friend Brandy’s review and I decided to give it a try. It’s easy to give in when the book’s price is just USD 0.99! I’m glad I picked it up. I liked this a lot better than the first book (I’ve mostly forgotten what happened in that one).
Here’s the summary from Goodreads:
Amy Morrison is supposed to be at her wedding. But when her husband-to-be jilts her at the altar, a distraught Amy runs to the only place she feels safe — her office. Besides, everyone who works on her floor is at her wedding… except him. Dax Harris. Playboy, executive, and Amy’s official office enemy.
While he and Amy don’t see eye-to-eye on the best of days, Dax can’t help but feel badly when he sees Amy mid-meltdown. Next thing he knows, he’s gotten her good and drunk, and they’re making out like two teenagers. And since neither of them want anything serious, why shouldn’t they be frenemies-with-benefits? Because there is no possible way they could ever fall for each other…
The book summary makes it seem like the two MCs jumped into bed right after the girl was left at the altar but that’s not what really happened… sure, there was a lot of attraction between the two of them but they didn’t act on it until much later. They transitioned from office enemies to frenemies to friends. I really enjoyed their banter and several of the scenes made me grin. Also, I really liked that both of the MC’s families played a part in the story. I always enjoy seeing the involvement of friends and family in the couple’s lives, because that makes the romance even more realistic. Dax’s family is the best, I enjoyed all of the scenes that had his mom, dad and sister in it. While Amy’s family wasn’t as great, I’m glad they still got some page time because her relationship with them has been a big influence on her life.
I also liked the book’s setting (Toronto) and I even Googled some of the places mentioned in the book. The descriptions for Dax’s quaint and cozy house were lovely, and I thought it was pretty sweet that Amy was able to find refuge there. And yay for unnecessary drama. I think that was one of the main reasons why I enjoyed this book as much as I did. Recommended for contemporary romance fans! I’ll be interested in trying out Jenny Holiday’s other books.
Posting a short review of this one because even though I enjoyed reading it, I don’t think there’s a lot that I can say about the book.
Here’s the summary from Goodreads:
True love isn’t always about the big romantic gestures.
Sometimes it’s about sympathizing with someone whose tea has gone cold or reading together and sharing a quilt. When two people move in together, it soon becomes apparent that the little things mean an awful lot. The throwaway moments in life become meaningful when you spend them in the company of someone you love.
SOPPY is Philippa Rice’s collection of comics and illustrations based on real-life moments with her boyfriend. From grocery shopping to silly arguments and snuggling in front of the television, SOPPY captures the universal experience of sharing a life together, and celebrates the beauty of finding romance all around us.
I’ve seen some of Philippa Rice’s illustrations online but didn’t realize that she had a book until a few weeks ago. I couldn’t resist grabbing a copy when I saw it at the bookstore. Soppy was such an adorable read. It’s not really a graphic novel but a collection of illustrations of mostly ordinary (but also very sweet) moments in a couple’s life. Some pages have dialogue while some are just artwork. Of course, my favorites are the scenes that show the couple reading together! I thought the whole book was pretty cute and I’ll probably end up browsing through it from time to time. I really liked the red, black and white color scheme used in the artwork because it goes well with the lovey dovey theme of the book.
Andrea 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.
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. 🙂
Here’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!