Start Here Blog Tour: Short Story Blurbs and Quotes

This week is Start Here’s blog tour! Late last year, I shared the cover reveal for this Filipino romance anthology featuring male/male, female/female and female/non-binary short stories. Today, I’m here to share blurbs and quotes from each story and I hope these will encourage you to give this anthology a try. Both print and ebook editions are available internationally and links on where to order them are shared below. I already have a copy on my Kindle and I’m looking forward to reading it. 🙂

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Start Here - print cover

Start Here

Edited by Ronald S. Lim and Brigitte Bautista. Featuring short stories by Agay Llanera, H. Bentham, Ella Banta, Danice Sison, Yeyet Soriano, Barbie Barbieto, Katt Briones, Bobbi Moran, Motzie Dapul, and Brigitte Bautista. This anthology contains M/M, F/F, F/NB romance stories with happy endings. Some stories have a high heat level.

Release Date: January 27, 2018
Book Cover Design: Dani Hernandez

SYNOPSIS
There’s a first time for everything. Gatecrashing a KPop concert with an oppa in a business suit. Taking shelter from the storm with the girl you’ve been meaning to shake off. That kiss that blurs the line between friendship and something more. A one-night stand (or, is it?) with your best friend from across the hallway.

Dive into these 10 stories of first encounters – unapologetically queer, happy endings required, with a smattering of that signature #romanceclass kilig. Whether you’re recalling your own firsts or out there looking for one, there’s a story in here for you.

So, go on.

Turn the page.

Start here.

Add Start Here on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37880247-start-here
Order Start Here on Amazon (int’l ebook and print): https://bit.ly/rcStartHere
Order Start Here on paperback (PH only): https://bit.ly/StartHere-PrintPH

Start Here - ebook

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In the Moonlight by Agay Llanera

Seventeen-year-old Caleb has been burned by a previous relationship. While on vacation, he meets Ezra of the sculpted calves and disarming smile, who surprises him with a moonlight kiss. Caleb retreats – and regrets his decision. Thanks to the internet, he knows where to find his summer crush, but the more pressing question is, will Caleb have the courage to bare his heart again?

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Come Full Circle by Bobbi Moran

You know you’re in love when you put somebody else’s happiness before yours. But waiting for fifteen years for someone to realize you are THE ONE may be taking this to the extreme.

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Gorgeous by Motzie Dapul

New love in New York with a twist!

Two home-grown Filipinos fall in love after a chance meeting on a train to Little Manila in Queens, NY. They learn, over time spent enjoying the colorful culture of New York City’s streets, that they are, by all accounts, perfect for each other — before some unexpected baggage and a surprising history threatens to tear them apart.

Some things just don’t heal with time alone, but sometimes it’s only when it hurts that you know it’s worth trying for.

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Shipping Included by Danice Sison

Two cute guys sneak into a K-pop concert. Neither one could be called a fan of the music, but by the end of the night, they might just find themselves with a new favorite song and a few romantic possibilities.

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Delubyo by Barbie Barbieto

Pebbles has a strict four-month rule when it comes to relationships. But she’s about to find out what happens when you meet a woman who defies all your ideas of how long the space between endings and beginnings should be.

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The Other Story by H. Bentham

A bored twenty-something goes to a sex club he frequently visits to while away the night and find that love sometimes comes at unexpected places.

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Blooms and Hues by Ella Banta

Experience love in color and flowers.

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Another First by Yeyet Soriano

Jess finally gets to have a long-delayed romantic get-away to Bohol with her hot but busy boyfriend Matteo. Beautiful resort, check! Romantic ambience, check!

But wait… Lily Rose, the resort’s resident singer and self-proclaimed mermaid, is distracting the hell out of everyone.

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Luck From the Skies by Katt Briones

Asher Lee knew from the beginning that he was going to win the teen model search, but didn’t expect to share the title with his biggest competitor, Chan Valiente. Previously threatened by his former adversary’s talent and looks, Asher kept his walls up, only to find them crumbling down with Chan’s charms.

Would Asher be brave enough to take the leap and actually find his chance at love? Or will he and Chan remain to be a fan-made bromance?

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Lemon Drop Friday by Brigitte Bautista

Tala has been secretly in love with her best friend Liv for years. Living right across the hallway, she has seen through Liv’s revolving door of Friday one-night stands. The rule: they always say goodbye in the morning. But, what happens when a rainy Friday night leads Tala to Liv’s apartment in what looks like another one-night stand?

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Top Ten Tuesday: romanceclass Recommendations

Top Ten Tuesday - That Artsy Reader Girl

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature previously hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish and have now been moved over to That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is a love-themed freebie. Since I’m always happy to spread the word about romance written by Filipino authors, I’m choosing to focus on my recommended romanceclass titles this week. For those who don’t know, romanceclass is a community of authors and readers who gather together to support indie published contemporary romance written by Filipino authors. If you’re new to romanceclass, here are ten titles that you can start with:

Ghost of a Feeling Submission Moves - ebook Beginner's Guide - Love and Other Chemical Reactions Feels Like Summer FLAIR You Out of Nowhere

Fairy Tale Fail 2017 Better At Weddings Than You cover One Night at the Palace Hotel Cover Story Girl Loveless Childless Clueless

Ghost of a Feeling by Celestine Trinidad
Submission Moves by Camilla Sisco
Beginner’s Guide by Six de los Reyes
Feels Like Summer by Six de los Reyes
You Out of Nowhere by Jay E. Tria
Fairy Tale Fail by Mina V. Esguerra
Better at Weddings Than You by Mina V. Esguerra
One Night at the Palace Hotel by Bianca Mori
Cover (Story) Girl by Chris Mariano
Loveless. Childless. Clueless. by Miren B. Flores

Special mention to these romanceclass YA titles that I don’t really consider romance but more of coming-of-age stories:

Another Word for Happy Choco Chip Hips
Another Word for Happy by Agay Llanera
Choco Chip Hips by Agay Llanera

This month, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to read a few more romanceclass titles from my TBR pile, these ones are high on my list:

Waiting in the Wings by Tara Frejas
If the Dress Fits by Carla de Guzman
Keeping the Distance by Clarisse David
Tame the Kitten by Bianca Mori
Swept Off My Feet by Ines Bautista Yao
The Princess Finds Her Match by Suzette de Borja

All of these books are available in Amazon, I believe most are available for free if you’re on Kindle Unlimited. Some are on sale and I’m linking to a Twitter thread I created which lists titles currently available for just 0.99usd:

What about you, how did you choose to spin this week’s Top Ten Tuesday? Are you rereading and recommending some of your favorite romances this month? 🙂

Cover Reveal: Start Here, a romanceclass anthology

I’m so excited to share the print and ebook covers for an upcoming romanceclass anthology: Start Here, Short Stories of First Encounters! This LGBT-themed anthology has 10 short stories from various romanceclass authors, and was edited by Ronald S. Lim and Brigitte Bautista. It will be released some time in 2018, and I really can’t wait to read it. The book covers were designed by Dani Hernandez, featuring cover models Migs Almendras and Fred Lo, and (real life couple!) Rachel Coates and Sam Aquino.

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Start Here: A #romanceclass anthology
Edited by Ronald S. Lim and Brigitte Bautista
Release date: 2018

Sign up for updates here.

Start Here - print

There’s a first time for everything. Gatecrashing a KPop concert with an oppa in a business suit. Taking shelter from the storm with the girl you’ve been meaning to shake off. That kiss that blurs the line between friendship and something more. A one-night stand (or, is it?) with your best friend from across the hallway.

Dive into these 10 stories of first encounters – unapologetically queer, happy endings required, with a smattering of that signature #romanceclass kilig. Whether you’re recalling your own firsts or out there looking for one, there’s a story in here for you.

So, go on.

Turn the page.

Start here.

Featuring stories by Agay Llanera, Bobbi Moran, Motzie Dapul, Danice Sison, Barbie Barbieto, H. Bentham, Ella Banta, Yeyet Soriano, Katt Briones, Brigitte Bautista

This anthology contains M/M, F/F, F/NB romance stories with happy endings. Some stories have a high heat level.

Start Here - ebook

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What do you guys think of these covers? I like how bright and colorful the rainbow design of the print cover is, and how fitting it is for the theme of the anthology… but I love the ebook edition A BIT MORE because it features cover models. A few months ago, I blogged about the cover shoot for this cover. Linking the behind-the-scenes shots I have here again, in case you guys want to check them out – swipe left to see all the Instagram shots and click on the embedded tweet to see the whole Twitter thread:

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Cebu: Vacation and #BuwanNgMgaAkdangPinoy

Hello, WordPress followers! If you also follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Litsy, then you would know that I was on vacation on Cebu for a few days. Cebu is one of the provinces in the Visayas region in the Philippines, and I went to Moalboal and Cebu City. It was my first time in Cebu and I had a great time! Also realized that the last time I traveled on a domestic flight was in 2011 when I went to Bohol. I’m hoping to be able to do more local travel in the near future. While I was in Cebu, I was able to do some #BuwanNgMgaAkdangPinoy posts so I’m including those in this update.

In Moalboal, we stayed at the gorgeous Hale Manna resort, which is owned by Liana’s family. Liana blogs at Will Read for Feels and I met her through the circle of romance readers in the Philippines. It never ceases to amaze me at how I keep meeting awesome bookish people, both online and in real life. I was able to meet with Liana while in Cebu, first at Moalboal and then we traveled together back to Cebu City. Here are some pictures of Hale Manna in Moalboal, swipe left to see all of them:

In Cebu City, first stop was Liana’s book cafe called Books and Brews. I love book cafes and if I lived in Cebu, I would definitely be a regular in this one. The cafe has an extensive selection of books written by Filipino and foreign authors which you can read while hanging out at the place. It’s also cozy and comfortable and a good place to study or work in, if you would prefer not to read.

When I was researching on what places I’d like to visit in Cebu, I knew I would want to check out ancestral houses if there were any in the area. We got to visit two of them: Casa Gorordo and Yap-Sandiego House. I’m a sucker for historic places and these two were a pleasure to view. They’re both typical “balay na tisa” or “bahay na bato”, built in the 1800’s with a mix of Spanish, Chinese and Filipino influences.

We also got to see Museo Sugbo, which is Cebu’s provincial museum. It was previously a provincial jail but has been converted to showcase the history of the province.

Last, but certainly not the least was getting to try the food options in Cebu that aren’t available in Manila! I loved both The Chocolate Chamber and AA Barbecue, and I’m sure you’ll be able to tell why based on these pictures:

I hope you guys enjoyed this update post. I had an amazing time in Cebu but it’s always good to be home in Manila. 🙂 If you’ve been to Cebu, please feel free to share your own experience. Also, would be happy to hear suggestions on what ancestral houses in the country should be included in my bucket list. For those who haven’t been to Cebu, I hope I’ve made you more curious about the province, and that you’ll get to visit it eventually.

Tweedle Book Cafe on a Friday Night

I’m back in Singapore soil but still behind on blog posts so I have a few more Manila-related posts that will (hopefully) go up in the coming days. I’ve been meaning to visit Tweedle Book Cafe again after my initial visit last December. So when friends asked me last Friday where I wanted to meet for dinner, I suggested this place. You know you’re a book nerd when you bring your friends to a book cafe on a Friday night. Woohoo, reading party! I’ve been encouraging them to read more so I wanted them to experience a book cafe. 🙂

Tweedle Book Cafe - May 2016 - long table

Dinner (TWG first edition tea, salpicao with egg and kimchi) and signed copies of Agay Llanera’s books:

Tweedle Book Cafe - May 2016 - dinner

Only Vintage Love is mine, given by Chris Mariano as a gift back when it was launched and recently signed by the author when I met her in person. I’ve yet to read it! The rest are copies I got for my friends Ena, Chuchay and Mich to read and share. These three have inherited and borrowed books from me before, and were also super excited to get signed books as Christmas gifts last year. I love it when real life overlaps with my book blogging life.

Here are #romanceclass books available at the cafe:

Tweedle Book Cafe - May 2016 - romanceclass

Delicious hot chocolate infused with hibiscus, made in Cebu by The Chocolate Chamber. Served in a pretty tea cup:

Tweedle Book Cafe - May 2016 - hot chocolate

Last but certainly not the least, I brought books that I wanted to pass on with me. Unread books are sad books so I’ve been passing on physical copies of my books because they just get neglected in Manila while I’m in Singapore. Some of these I’ve read, some I’m not planning to read anytime soon. Most of them have pages that have started foxing (getting brown spots) and yellowing because of heat and humidity, even when they’ve been stored in a bookshelf with a glass cover:

Foxing - donated books

I didn’t want them to waste away so I thought it would be better to pass them on. The upright ones on the left went to my friend Ena, the right-most stack went to my friend Chuchay and the two stacks in the middle were donated to the cafe. You can visit the cafe and read those books if you wanted to.

Tweedle Book Cafe - May 2016 - donated books

I think it was a Friday well spent. I was back in Tweedle a week later, but only to drop off more books to be donated. I passed by the cafe right before heading to the airport for my flight back to Singapore. This was the stash I donated:

Tweedle Book Cafe - May 2016 - more donated books

I’m glad book cafes are becoming more of a thing in Manila. They aren’t as common in Singapore but I believe that’s because Singapore has a pretty good public library system, something that the Philippines doesn’t have. Obviously I want these book cafes to flourish, which is why I will try to keep donating books whenever I can. 🙂

Cover Reveal: This Side of Sunny by Agay Llanera

I thoroughly enjoyed the first Agay Llanera book that I ever read, which was her YA novel Choco Chip Hips. It’s on my best of 2015 Filipino reads, and I even nominated it for the Cybils (because yay Filipino books). So when Agay mentioned that she’s working on another book that will be released in December, I was immediately curious. Here’s the cover (designed by Gerry Isaac) and book summary for her next title, This Side of Sunny:

This Side of Sunny

Like her boyfriend back in the States, 18-year-old Mela Connor is spending Spring Break by the beach. But the difference is she’s spending it on an exotic island in the Philippines, where she’ll spend the next six days finding her estranged mother, of whom she has no memory. In the process, Mela meets her self-appointed tour guide, Paolo, who helps Mela make amends with her past while struggling not to fall in love with her.

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What a bright and eye-catching cover! It’s definitely the type of cover design that would make you take a second look to check out the details. Based on the summary, it looks like the cover matches the story. It has a vacation/summer vibe going for it, with the suitcase, scooter and halo-halo (a type of Filipino snack). It makes me curious whether these things will play a part in Mela’s journey. Good thing the book will be released soon because I’m looking forward to reading this.

What do you guys think of this cover?

Ten Quotes I Liked from Books I Read in the Past Year

Top Ten Tuesday2

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish. I like taking note of passages that I like (I highlight them when I’m reading on my Kindle) whenever I read books. So this was a fun topic for me to put together. In no particular order, here are some of my favorite quotes from books that I’ve read in 2015:

Learning to FallLearning to Fall by Mina V. Esguerra

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

Not quite.

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

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Choco Chip HipsChoco Chip Hips by Agay Llanera

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

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

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

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

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Loveless Childless CluelessLoveless. Childless. Clueless. by Miren B. Flores

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

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I'll Meet You ThereI’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

In my essay for San Fran, I’d written about how I’d always felt like there was something magical about taking bits and pieces of the world around me and creating something whole. It gave me hope: if you could make a beautiful piece of art from discarded newspapers and old matchbooks, then it meant that everything had potential. And maybe people were like collages – no matter how broken or useless we felt, we were an essential part of the whole. We mattered.

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Once Upon a RoseOnce Upon a Rose by Laura Florand

She took a deep breath, and that sense of nothing shimmered like a mirage before all the things that filled her lungs. An air rich with scents and with the vitality of the man beside her. Cliff-hills rose and narrowed around them as they headed into the pass that led out of the valley. All the rest of the world seemed so far away here. Songs lurked in the scents of rosemary and thyme and pine and roses in this car, teasing at her to hit the right note and distill their essence into words and melody. That would be fun, to capture a scent in song, and nobody else but her might ever even realize what perfume teased through the notes.

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A Wish Upon JasmineA Wish Upon Jasmine by Laura Florand

Sexy and sophisticated required so much work and attention to unimportant things, like how much you ate and how you fixed your hair. It was a particular skill, requiring a certain amount of luck in your genetics and then, exactly like most other accomplishments, at least seventy-five percent hard work, practice, and persistence.

And she’d chosen to practice something else, something that mattered to her more. Those models who looked so great as they marketed her perfumes to the public could no more have made a perfume than she could have looked that sleek and alluring. They worked in symbiosis, she and those models, but she was the secret element of that symbiosis, the elusive magic, and they were the glamorous show.

So naturally, it made sense to assume that the elegant Damien Rosier might prefer the glamor.

And yet… here they both were. Together.

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Bone GapBone Gap by Laura Ruby

She closed the book and smoothed the quilt on her bed. Unlike the girl in the novel, she hadn’t made it herself, knew little about quilting or sewing or craftiness. And unlike the girl in the novel, she understood heat and wind more than ice and snow, and had no intention of breaking anyone’s heart, except maybe her own. Even Get Real had said nothing about this, about sitting on your bed in your room, stomach and head buzzing, nerves thrumming, heart beating in your earlobes and your toes, hoping so hard that there was one boy out there who wanted you as much as you wanted him, because you wouldn’t know what you would do with yourself if this were not true.

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Archivist WaspArchivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace

Find the girl with the knife in her belt and the scars on her face, they told me. She’s different from the other girls who’d come before her, even though they’d carried the same knife, worn the same scars. She helps the dead, when she can, even when the living punish her for it. She probably will not want to be found. But she is worth finding.

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UprootedUprooted by Naomi Novik

He looked at me, baffled and for the first time uncertain, as though he had stumbled into something, unprepared. His long narrow hands were cradled around mine, both of us holding the rose together. Magic was singing in me, through me; I felt the murmur of his power singing back that same song. I was abruptly too hot, and strangely conscious of myself. I pulled my hands free.

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Girl Before a MirrorGirl Before a Mirror by Liza Palmer

What do I want?

I want to be happy and not feel guilty about it. I want to be curious without being called indulgent. I want to be accepted regardless of what I look like, what I do for a living, my marital status, whether I have kids, or whether you think I’m nice enough, hospitable enough, or humble enough to measure up to your impossible standards. I want purpose. I want contentment. I want to be loved and give love unreservedly in return. I want to be seen, I want to matter. I want freedom.

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What about the rest of you, what are some of quotes you’ve liked from books that you’ve read this year?

Choco Chip Hips by Agay Llanera

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

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choco Chip Hips - with cookies

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

Other reviews:
Will Read For Feels
Le Bibliophile