Reread: Fairy Tale Fail by Mina V. Esguerra

Fairy Tale Fail was the first ever Mina V. Esguerra book that I read way back in 2010! It’s part of her Chic Manila series, which has several standalone titles that are loosely tied together only in the sense that the books are set in Manila and the main characters from each book know each other in some way. A new edition of this book has been released with a cover featuring theater actors Gio Gahol and Gab Pangilinan, and a short epilogue. Here’s the cover and synopsis:

Fairy Tale Fail 2017

Ellie Manuel is a hopeless romantic, stuck in a cubicle all day. She’s in her twenties and should be having more fun. But instead of doing what she really wants, like traveling wherever her Philippine passport can take her, she’s hung up on the guy who dumped her for not being “ambitious enough.” Someone should tell her that there are other cool guys — who probably even eat at the same office cafeteria! — who would encourage her just to be her fabulous self.

I couldn’t help but reread it when I got my hands on thew edition. I have fond memories of this book and have been recommending it to all my friends, along with the rest of Mina’s books. I’m still waiting for Litsy posts to become embed-able on WordPress so in the meantime, I’ll just copy and paste my Litsy review: I remember when I read this for the first time in 2010, I felt like the story was a slice out of MY real life. Philippine setting (complete with typhoons, bulalo and siomai), Manila corporate work environment. And I was the same age as the characters at that time. Reread it in one sitting today, and it felt like catching up with old friends. The kilig/swoon factor is still there and the new epilogue was a nice bonus.💖

I did notice that the heat level for Fairy Tale Fail was very low. It’s the same for all of Mina’s earlier books. I guess it was just the expectation and trend at that time for Filipino-romance-in-English to have fade to black love scenes. I’m very happy to report that this isn’t the case nowadays. 🙂 I had fun revisiting Ellie and Lucas, more so because I don’t get to reread old favorites as much as I would want to. Now that the rainy season is here, I want to have bulalo (a Filipino type of broth that has meat and marrow) because it was mentioned in one of the pivotal scenes in the book. I think every Filipino romance should mention at least one Filipino dish that would make readers crave for it.

If you’re ever in mood for Filipino romance, Mina V. Esguerra’s books are always a good place to start. 😀

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Act Like It by Lucy Parker

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:

Act Like ItThis 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.”

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“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.

Sleeping with Her Enemy by Jenny Holiday

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:

Sleeping with Her EnemyAmy 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.

What You Wanted by Mina V. Esguerra

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

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Freebie Alert: Wedding Night Stand by Mina V. Esguerra

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

Wedding Night StandHere’s the summary from Goodreads:

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

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

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

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

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

Loveless. Childless. Clueless. by Miren B. Flores

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sola Musica: As Heard on TV by Marla Miniano

Today is SOLA MUSICA‘s release day! Go and grab a copy.  My copy has already been downloaded in my Kindle.

A beach cove, a hot summer weekend… SOLA MUSICA is where everyone’s going, to enjoy the best new music from all over. Bestselling Filipino YA/chick lit authors Mina V. Esguerra, Marla Miniano, Chinggay Labrador, and Ines Bautista-Yao each tell a story about this festival: the music, the people, the hearts that will soar (or break).

Sola Musica

BREAK by Marla Miniano
Natalie is about to watch her favorite band in the world, with a guy she’s crazy about — if only she can get through forced family bonding with her grandmother, her little brother, and her grandmother’s boyfriend.

Author links:
@marlamini
marlaminiano.blogspot.com

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As Heard on TV by Marla Miniano
I believe in the right song at the right time.

Sola Musica was brought to life because Ines, Mina, Chinggay, and I all understand and acknowledge the power of music: it can summon and create memories, fuel joy, foster relationships, and either exacerbate or soothe heartache. It can also make pivotal moments in your favorite TV shows absolutely perfect. Here’s a quick list of my favorite songs in TV soundtrack history.

1. “With or Without You” by U2 on FRIENDS

At several pathetically heartbroken points in my early twenties, I sat on the floor and stared out the window at the vast night landscape while blasting this song on my computer. This is mostly because a lot of my romantic decisions back then were greatly influenced by Rachel Green—a fact that I am both thrilled with and embarrassed of. I love how this song resurfaced the following season, when Ross cheated on Rachel at an office party. I know, I know though: they were on a break.

2. “Dice” by Finley Quaye and William Orbit on The O.C.

It’s New Year’s Eve, and Ryan needs to kiss Marissa before the clock strikes twelve, because that’s how it works when you’re a nobody from Chino trying to get with the popular blonde girl strategically sighing into her champagne. There are no functioning elevators in the building, of course, but Ryan bursts into the room just as everyone shouts “3, 2, 1,” and there is confetti and a belated declaration of love and glorious making out. Cut. I watched The O.C. religiously in college, and although I’ve always been more attracted to the Seths of the world, Ryan’s mad dash to midnight inevitably became my (slightly misguided) benchmark for grand gestures.

3. “Dancing on My Own” by Robyn on Girls

Holy Horvath, this scene… where do I even start? It’s funny and tender and sweet and a little bit sad and ridiculously, painfully real. None of the characters, with their less than stellar EQs and erratic bouts of self-awareness, can seriously be considered great defining forces in my journey to adulthood — not at this point, anyway. But I do grasp the intricacies and complexities of friendship the show illustrates so well: how platonic relationships are supposed to get easier as you grow up, but rarely do. In the end we are all “adventurous women,” and if a dance break is what you need to survive, then go ahead, grab a partner, and press play.

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Salamat, Marla! Love the topic that you chose. I also get hooked to certain songs because of how they accompany scenes in the TV shows that I enjoy watching.

Sola Musica: 5 Songs from My Sola Musica Playlist by Mina V. Esguerra

SOLA MUSICA will be released on August 28. To celebrate, I’m hosting guest posts from the authors throughout this week.

A beach cove, a hot summer weekend… SOLA MUSICA is where everyone’s going, to enjoy the best new music from all over. Bestselling Filipino YA/chick lit authors Mina V. Esguerra, Marla Miniano, Chinggay Labrador, and Ines Bautista-Yao each tell a story about this festival: the music, the people, the hearts that will soar (or break).

Sola Musica

GEORGIA LOST AND FOUND by Mina V. Esguerra
Georgia wants to finally talk to Ken about this “thing” that’s between them, but he seems intent on avoiding it, even if they’re spending a weekend at a music festival together.

Author links:
@minavesguerra
minavesguerra.com

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5 Songs from My Sola Musica Playlist by Mina V. Esguerra

I need music when I write. For people who wonder how someone like me can keep writing about people who aren’t real… don’t underestimate the power of using music to set you in the right mood. This includes placing yourself in someone else’s shoes, imagining someone else’s life, even if it’s someone you just created.

For practical reasons, music also helps me focus on the story at hand. I’ve written from my dining table, a coffee shop, the waiting area of my office building, and while the location may be inconsistent, the right music can at least bring me back to the right frame of mind.

Sometimes I have songs I keep going back to, even before I write, just to get myself back to that same emotional spot. I prep for angry breakup scenes with P!nk, love scenes with Portishead, epiphanies with Ivy.

For Sola Musica, my story “Georgia Lost and Found” starts off on the road, and flashes back to different times in Georgia and Ken’s lives when they’ve been on the road together. I liked imagining that each time was different, because they felt differently toward each other every time. I put together a playlist of songs I consider to be great driving music, taking a person through different moods. Sometimes you need the music to keep you up, or get you grooving, or simply be part of the atmosphere.

Here are some songs from the playlist you might want to start with:

1. Myriad Harbour by The New Pornographers

2. Burn by Ellie Goulding

3. Hard Out Here by Lily Allen

4. Give Me Love by Ed Sheeran

5. Fidelity by Regina Spektor

And here’s the complete Georgia Lost and Found playlist on Spotify: https://play.spotify.com/user/minavesguerra/playlist/7CtpyLFqykZH9AXDhBcS5K

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Salamat, Mina! I agree that music is important in setting the mood. I also love books that come with playlists. 🙂

Sola Musica: Beach Trips I Love by Chinggay Labrador

SOLA MUSICA will be released on August 28. To celebrate, I’m hosting guest posts from the authors throughout this week.

A beach cove, a hot summer weekend… SOLA MUSICA is where everyone’s going, to enjoy the best new music from all over. Bestselling Filipino YA/chick lit authors Mina V. Esguerra, Marla Miniano, Chinggay Labrador, and Ines Bautista-Yao each tell a story about this festival: the music, the people, the hearts that will soar (or break).

Sola Musica

SPECTATORS by Chinggay Labrador

Jack is the go-to behind-the-scenes guy for electronica group, Box Trap, and finds himself inexplicably drawn to the lead singer he’s tasked to work with.

Author links:
@superrrfudge
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Beach Trips I Love by Chinggay Labrador

I used to be the biggest anti-beach person. I didn’t like getting sand on my legs, the sun beating down on me, and the fish freaked me out. A couple of years ago, I decided to turn things around, one beach trip at a time. It’s taken me on tons of incredible adventures, trying out surfing and snorkeling, and has also gotten my skin about five shades darker (haha!).

All the beaches I’ve visited came in handy when Mina, Ines, Marla and I came together to work on Sola Musica. While we agreed to set it in an imaginary cove in Anilao, I definitely pulled inspiration from my favorite places. Happiness does come in salty water!

salty water

Anvaya Cove

This is my go-to spot when I want a quick escape from the chaos of Manila. I love coming here on quiet weekdays, laying out on the sand, taking a dip in the pool, playing pingpong, riding golf carts around the casitas, and just chilling with friends and family. This beach, though small and private helped me situate Sola Musica’s wide and expansive Pebble Cove in my imagination.

anvaya

La Union

Since taking a shot at surfing, I’ve been to the popular wave-ridden beaches of La Union for a FLOW Boho surf yoga samba retreat, and a Roxy surf camp. I love staying at Flotsam & Jetsam for its casual vibe, delicious pizza, creative drinks, and all the colors that encapsulate the free spirit of surf. Plus, there’s no resisting this gorgeous sunset.

la union

El Nido

Nothing has been quite as breathtaking to me as the limestone cliffs and crystal blue waters of El Nido. I went on vacation with a huge bunch of friends to this island and was floored by all the scenery. One of the charms that the place had was its town—walking through the small streets, riding large tricycles and taking the jeep. This definitely inspired the treks that Jack would take between the water and his hotel in the book.

el nido

Anilao

I kicked off the start of 2014 with a day trip to a small island in Anilao. This was a groundbreaking trip for me because it was my very first time snorkeling—a huge deal because of my consistent fear of fish swimming all around me. It was great that I’d actually been to the place where we were setting our story in (although I’d be hard pressed to find a musical festival on this tiny island!).

anilao

Honolulu

I’m proud to say that I surfed my first real wave in Hawaii! Granted, I only stood up twice and was terrified of the urchins underneath my feet, but it was a proud moment for me. If not for the friends I made in this popular hotspot, I don’t think I’d ever find the guts to go for it.

hawaii

Byron Bay

I went on a life-changing trip to Australia last year and met a group of amazing people. Every beach story in my mind, I dedicate to this group of like-minded good-hearted people, especially to Justin (seated at the center) who passed away a few months after.

australia

Bali and Lombok

This was my last beach adventure, with the super fun girls of FLOW Surf Yoga Samba. It was such an adventure to walk and hike to beaches day after day, seeing the huge waves and meeting tons of people. Indonesia definitely has something different to offer beachcombers, but the trip also made me thankful that I live in a place where the best beaches are just a short ride or flight away from home.

bali

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Salamat, Chinggay! Your post makes me want to go the beach. I haven’t gone on a beach vacation in ages.

It Happened One Wedding by Julie James

I love Julie James‘ books. They’re just so much fun to read with all the banter between the male and female leads. It’s so comforting to curl up with one of her books because they read like a favorite chick flick. Something that fills you up with good vibes. I had known about It Happened One Wedding months before it came out and I read it as soon as I could get my hands on a copy. I was supposed to do some things one Friday night but I just couldn’t stop reading so I gave in and stayed up late to finish the book.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

It Happened One WeddingSHE KNOWS BETTER THAN TO SAY “I DO”

After a humiliating end to her engagement, investment banker Sidney Sinclair is done with commitment-phobic men. But when her sister winds up engaged after a whirlwind courtship, she’s thrown in to close contact with exactly the kind of sexy playboy she wants to avoid — the gorgeous best man. She’s stuck with him, for better or worse, until her sister walks down the aisle, but that doesn’t mean she has to give in to his smooth advances, no matter how tempting they are…

BUT HE MAKES IT HARD TO SAY “I DON’T”

Special Agent Vaughn Roberts always gets his man on the job and his woman in bed. So Sidney’s refusal to fall for his charms only makes him more determined to win over the cool and confident redhead. Only what starts out as a battle of wills ends up as a serious play for her heart. Because the one woman who refuses to be caught may be the only one Vaughn can’t live without…

Julie James’ contemporary romance novels are consistently funny. Several scenes had me smiling or laughing while I was reading them. Sidney and Vaughn verbally spar while they keep denying that they’re attracted to each other. Aside from their banter, I also enjoyed how their friends – Sidney’s best friend Trish and Vaughn’s best friends Cade and Huxley – tease them and give them a hard time. Here’s a snippet that I really liked:

“What was that?” Trish demanded to know, in a hushed tone.

Sidney tried to play innocent. “What was what?”

“That look between you and Vaughn,” Trish said. “I can’t decide if you two should box a few rounds or go screw each other brainless in the pantry.”

“My god, Trish – his mother is standing right over there.”

“In that case, I’d strongly suggest locking the pantry door should you choose option B.”

I think it’s great that the focus of the story isn’t just on Sidney and Vaughn but also on how they interact with their family and friends. I’ve noticed that this is something that’s also present in her other novels. I really liked that the plot revolved around the wedding, where both Sidney and Vaughn played major roles as maid-of-honor and best man. I think weddings are fun so I like reading stories about them. If there’s one minor thing that I can complain about Julie James’ books, it’s that all of her heroes and heroines might seem a bit too perfect – amazingly good-looking with really successful careers. But that’s not a big issue for me since the characters in her stories are fully fleshed out, complete with insecurities and problems so I feel like that balances the scale. In It Happened One Wedding, Sidney feels pressured to find Mr. Right because she’s worried that her biological clock is ticking. I also feel like Julie James does her research when it comes to providing background information on her characters’ occupations. While I’ve never worked in investment banking or private equity firms (or the FBI, for that matter), I’m familiar with some aspects of Sidney’s job and the descriptions felt realistic. I felt a bit lost after reading It Happened One Wedding because I enjoyed it so much. I couldn’t decide what to read next because frankly, I just wanted another Julie James novel. Can’t wait for the next one to come out next year! It will be interesting to see who the lead for that will be.