Author Guest Post from Thessa Lim

Hello, bookish friends! Today, I have a guest post from Filipino author Thessa Lim. Both Thessa and I are based in Singapore (and also studied in the same university) but we’ve yet to meet. Hopefully we can do that soon. 🙂 She has recently launched her debut contemporary novel in her Of Heads and Hearts series. I’ve received a review copy of it but because of my huge TBR pile, I have no idea when I’ll be able to read or review it. But because I’m always interested in promoting Filipino authors, I invited her over on the blog to give all of you a better idea of what her life as a writer is like. Please give Thessa a warm welcome!

================================================================
All in a Day’s Work
By Thessa Lim

thessa-lim-1

Since I’ve published my first novel, people have been asking me how I find the time to write. At first, it might seem like a writer is able to set a whole day simply and purely for writing. He would just drive to a nice café and write effortlessly as inspiration runs loose in his head. But a lot of writers maintain day jobs and have families to tend. And so here goes my version of a working-mother-slash-writer’s day.

thessa-lim-3The Early Morn Apparition – My day as a writer does not start at eight a.m., with me lounging next to my laptop, having a slice of toasted baguette and a cup of hot cocoa on hand. It starts at three a.m., which is when I usually rouse into some state of consciousness after having put my little boy to sleep five hours back. My husband is out like a light too. Yes! I position my Lenovo Yoga at the foot of the bed, sit on my son’s little blue chair, turn on my book light, and start working. I look pretty much like a White Lady staying by people’s bed at night, but my husband knows better. So if he somewhat awakens while my mouse goes a-clicking, he doesn’t scream. Although it is spent in semi-darkness, this is my writer’s me time. It’s like gold.

thessa-lim-2The Lunch Hour Rush – I grab my tablet, hurry out of the office, and head to the nearest café. While silently condemning the customer before me in the queue for taking time with his order, I check that my favorite spot is free. I then quickly chope it. Later, I settle down at the table and take a bite out of a cheap eat from the menu. Didn’t I just have this the other day? I scan the food list again for more scrumptious offerings. I see the prices. This’ll do. Nomnomnomnom.

thessa-lim-5The Final Fix at EOD – I step onto the station’s platform. Two trains going in opposite directions whizz by. I glance at the clock. Fifteen minutes before I definitely have to head home—this window is good enough. I sit on a bench. After ten trains have come and gone, I’ve either edited half of a chapter or added in a couple of paragraphs. I then squeeze into a train with the rest of the throng and continue tapping on my device’s screen, like a freaking nerd who won’t give it a rest, balancing the gadget so that I could work on it without hitting other people.

I reach home, where my husband and son would be — my two other great joys.

My days are hectic, tiring. And while I look forward to more leisurely days, I’m grateful that I’m inspired, able to write, and able to publish.

This is my writer’s daily grind. What’s yours like? 🙂

================================================================

Thessa is the author of the book Of Heads and Hearts in the Metro, a new adult fiction for women set in modern-day Philippines. The book, which revolves around the struggles and triumphs of four Filipinas and which is the first installment in the Of Heads and Hearts series, reveals the life-saving element of friendship and the intricate dynamics within it. To know more, visit her website at http://www.thessalim.com or like her Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/ThessaLimOfficial.

thessa-lim-4

Beginner’s Guide: Love and Other Chemical Reactions by Six de los Reyes

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:

Beginner's Guide - Love and Other Chemical ReactionsFalling 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.

Other reviews:
Oops! I Read a Book Again
bibliophile soprano
Back Porch Reader

Cover Reveal: Iris After the Incident by Mina V. Esguerra

Iris After the Incident is the latest book in Mina V. Esguerra’s Chic Manila series, and will be released on August 5. These are books set in the Philippines that have some overlaps (e.g. cameos of characters) but each can be read on its own. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, then you know that I’m a strong supporter of Mina’s books. My reviews of her Chic Manila books can be found here, and all my other posts about her books can be found here. The cover for Iris After the Incident was just released today! Cover design by Tania Arpa, photography by Pach R. Urrea and features one of the shots from #romanceclasscovers. I think it’s awesome how Mina keeps trying to properly represent her characters through her book covers. She has partnered with Filipino fashion bloggers for some of her other covers, and the photo for Iris After the Incident was from a shoot specifically intended for Asian/Filipino book covers. How cool is that? I really like the simple and clean design of this cover, and it seems like the photo matches the book description well. The cover makes Iris look like she’s at a turning point in her life. I still need to read the book to find out if the cover is a good fit for the story… looking forward to it!

Iris After the Incident

Which moment has defined your life so far?

Whether she likes it or not, Iris’s life has been divided into two: Before the Incident, and After the Incident. Something very private was made very public, and since then life has been about recovering from being shamed, discovering her true friends, and struggling to find a new normal.

Two years into this new life and she finally connects with a guy again. He lives in the apartment down the hall, he’s hot, and he doesn’t look at her that way. He doesn’t know what happened. But he also won’t give her his name, not right away—which has to mean he’s got something to hide too.

Iris wants to start over. Should she do that with the only person who will understand, or is this the same idiotic decision that got her in trouble in the first place?

Social media sites for Mina:
Website
Twitter
Instagram
Facebook
#romanceclass

Snapshot from a Book: Loveless. Childless. Clueless.

Another delayed post from me! I’ve been back in Singapore for a week now but was too busy starting at the new job so I wasn’t able to finish all the updates from my Manila trip. I had forgotten how lonely and awkward the first few days/weeks in a new job are, when you are still Clueless and Friendless (going by similar descriptors to the title of the book featured in this post). I’m sure it will get better though. 🙂 I hope I’ll have more time to read and blog once I’m more settled into my new role.

Anyway, Snapshot From a Book is a sporadic feature that I have on my blog where I match snippets of books I’ve read with pictures I’ve taken. I rarely get to do this because I don’t always get to visit the settings of the books I read. I have been wanting to visit Pinto Art Museum for the longest time, just that I haven’t been able to do so because it’s in the outskirts of Manila and traffic is always bad whenever I go home for a long vacation (because it’s usually at Christmastime). Luckily, I was able to venture to Antipolo during my recent trip! Pinto Art Museum such a gorgeous museum, garden, park, ideal photo shoot venue all rolled into one. If it was nearer to our house, I would have definitely visited it more than once. There’s a scene in Filipino romance Loveless. Childless. Clueless. by Miren B. Flores that’s set in that place, and of course I remembered it when I got there. Some shots that I took and two snippets from the book:

Pinto Art Museum 1

Pinto Art Museum 2

The museum is inside a gated community (we find out later that it used to be the home of a doctor who was a patron of the arts), nestled on top of a hill far away from the city. The walls are white stucco, rough and unadorned, cool to the touch.

We enter one of the galleries. Against white walls, the colors and textures in the modern paintings are stark, vibrant. There are swirls of midnight blue and dark purple, an ocean angry, tempestuous. A small canvas looks like the scene of a violent crime, a human heart beaten to a pulp, the words “You broke me” splattered over torn arteries.

Nice. Several months ago, I could’ve painted this.

Long arcades give us views of courtyards with little fountains. Curved staircases with colorful tiles lead to roof decks with wrought iron chairs and the occasional daybed; terra cotta steps reveal gardens dotted with sculptures.

I am half-expecting a Mexican drug lord to emerge from behind a tree, a Cuban cigar in one hand, the reins of a polo pony in the other.

Pinto Art Museum 3

Pinto Art Museum 4

Pinto Art Museum 5

Pinto Art Museum 7

Pinto Art Museum 6

Her hair is long, tight curls billowing around her shoulders. Her head is bowed, her face empty save for a small, upturned nose. Vines are crawling up her legs and thighs, wrapping themselves around her swollen belly.

The wind in her hair, the grace with which her hands touch her belly – it all looks so real, so warm, I can’t believe she’s made of metal.

Pinto Art Museum 8

Just looking at these pictures makes me want to go back! I hope I can find something as lovely as Pinto Art Museum in Singapore. Oh and by the way, I don’t have a physical copy of Lovesless. Childless. Clueless. so I asked my friend to bring the copy I gave her for Christmas last year. I knew I had to take a shot of it with that sculpture in the background.

Previous Snapshot From a Book posts:
Anawangin Cove, Zambales, What You Wanted by Mina V. Esguerra
Prague, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Ateneo de Manila University, Interim Goddess of Love by Mina V. Esguerra
Paris, The Chocolate Touch by Laura Florand
Paris, The Chocolate Thief

Snapshot From a Book: What You Wanted

Snapshot From a Book is a sporadic feature that I have on my blog where I match snippets of books I’ve read with pictures I’ve taken. I rarely get to do this because I don’t always get to visit the settings of the books I read. And interestingly, all of my posts so far have featured my lomography shots. Today’s feature is What You Wanted by Mina V. Esguerra. This Filipino romance is primarily set in Manila but the couple takes a trip to Anawangin in Zambales. I’ve been to Anawangin twice and it’s beautiful, which is why I’m choosing to share pictures of it.

I hope these snippets and pictures make you more curious about the book!

lomo Anawangin boat

“Have you ever been to Anawangin?” I’d asked, suddenly.

Hours later, we were there. It was a bright, beautiful day. The drive north felt effortless, even if we had little sleep. We checked into a resort along the beach in Zambales, left the car and our heavier things there, and then hired a small boat to take us to the island.

This was something I did, by the way. Take off, no plans, do something crazy. Not everyone was up for it; my sister had long since asked to be left out of the invite list, my parents only requested that wherever it was, it should have phones or a decent signal. Damon didn’t even blink when he said yes, and he packed like a pro. I had the advantage of having been there before, but with a group of friends.

ZambalesLomo3

We couldn’t spend the night on the island, although that was what other people did. No tent, no other supplies, so we asked our boat guy to pick us up later that afternoon. There were a few other groups of people there, mostly friends setting up camp, and we had to find a spot near the water where we could be as broody as we wanted. The view was spectacular – a wonderfully confused cove of pine trees, green hills, and white-gray sand. Perfect for reflecting on our sins.

ZambalesLomo5

ZambalesLomo6

Anawangin, Zambales, Philippines
October 2011
Camera: Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim
Film: Fuji Velvia and Fuji Sensia

Previous Snapshot From a Book posts:
Prague, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Ateneo de Manila University, Interim Goddess of Love by Mina V. Esguerra
Paris, The Chocolate Touch by Laura Florand
Paris, The Chocolate Thief

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

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.

____________________________

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?

Queen of the Clueless by Mina V. Esguerra

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

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

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

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

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

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

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

LomoAteneo

lomoateneo5

lomoateneo4

Interim Goddess of Love by Mina V. Esguerra

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

Here’s the summary from Mina’s website:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Your Frenemies by Mina V. Esguerra

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

Here’s the summary from Mina’s blog:

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

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

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

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

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

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