romanceclass origins: A New Blog Feature

romanceclass origins

I’m thrilled to introduce a new blog feature called romanceclass origins! If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you would have heard me mention romanceclass several times. If you’re new here, romanceclass is a community of:
– Authors who attended romanceclass, the steamy reads, YA classes organized by Mina V. Esguerra
– Readers of the books by those authors
– Readers of English-language romance books by Filipino authors

Basically a group of authors and readers who gather together to support indie published contemporary romance written by Filipino authors. The first actual class was held in 2013. Since then, 78 authors have written and published more than 150 books (some have gone on to be traditionally published both locally in the Philippines and internationally). Alongside that growth, the community has also gained a solid readership base that will hopefully keep growing in time.

Whether they’re a reader or an author, all community members have their romanceclass origin story… various stories of how and when they joined the community. These are what I want to highlight with romanceclass origins. The blog posts would be interesting for community members, and would also serve as an introduction to romanceclass for those who aren’t familiar with it. I would like to thank Mina and Layla for helping me come up with the feature name when we recently met up, and for Miles Tan for creating the logo for this feature. I’m keeping it simple with three questions, and I thought it would be fun to start things off with my own answers. 🙂

1) How did you discover romanceclass?
I met Mina and have read her books before she started romanceclass. Authors Chris Mariano and Ana Tejano were book bloggers like me before their romanceclass books were published, so I feel like we’re sort of batchmates. 😛 I love reading and supporting books written by Filipino authors so that’s what I’ve been doing ever since romanceclass books have been released, and that’s how I started meeting other members of the community.

2) What does being part of the romanceclass community mean to you?
I’m very grateful to be part of the romanceclass community, in various capacities over the years. I borrowed my good friend April’s words and have called myself a romanceclass ninja, because I feel like that best describes and encapsulates my involvement in the community. I’ve talked about having a sense of belonging in the worldwide online book community in a previous post, and that’s how I feel about being a member of the romanceclass community. I feel like I’ve carved out a niche for myself, and I’ve found people who enjoy reading as much as I do, read the same type of books that I like (ROMANCE), and are more than happy to have discussions about these books. More than that, I enjoy actively participating in the various events that the romanceclass community has, or even just the impromptu meet ups with other readers and authors. I love that being involved in the community simply means putting your hand up when something is needed, or randomly volunteering to do something that you think would be beneficial to other people. I feel like the romanceclass community is such a supportive, warm and welcoming group. I have met so many wonderful people through romanceclass, and it will take way too long to list all of them. You know who you guys are, and I want to thank all of you for making me feel like I’ve found my people. ❤

Some pictures to show how much fun we have, swipe left to see everything:

3) What are your recommended romanceclass reads?
Here are some of the titles I’ve enjoyed reading, linked to my reviews if I have them:

Fairy Tale Fail 2017 Learning to Fall Better At Weddings Than You cover Iris After the Incident What You Wanted

Cover-Story-Girl Choco Chip Hips Loveless Childless Clueless One Night at the Palace Hotel Feels Like Summer

Mina is one of the most prolific authors in the group, so I’ve read and enjoyed the most number of books written by her, but there are many other authors in my TBR list. I actually feel bad that my TBR pile is longer than the list of books that I’ve already read. Forgive me for being a slow reader! I feel like romanceclass authors publish books faster than I can read them. All of these books are available as Kindle editions on Amazon, so you can get a copy wherever you are as long as you have an Amazon account.

Hope you guys enjoyed reading this first ever romanceclass origins post! I’m hoping to make this a weekly feature, but we’ll see how it goes. I’ll be asking some of the romanceclass authors and readers I know personally to join this, but please feel free to reach out to me if you want to participate. 🙂 To those joining the FeelsFest 2017 event tomorrow, see you soon!

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Cover Reveal: Like Nobody’s Watching by Tara Frejas

Like Nobody’s Watching by Tara Frejas is an upcoming Filipino romance written in English, and the companion novel to Waiting in the Wings (learn more about that particular book here). I believe it can stand well enough on its own, but I plan to read Waiting in the Wings first to avoid any confusion. While I haven’t read any of Tara’s books, I have most (if not all) of them in my Kindle! Sigh, I have no idea when I’ll be able to conquer my ever expanding TBR pile but for today, I’m happy to be a part of the cover reveal for Like Nobody’s Watching. This book cover was designed by Filipino author and graphic artist Miles Tan, just like the cover for Ghost of a Feeling that I shared a few days ago. As always, Miles did a wonderful job with the cover design! The cover features Filipino theater actor Fred Lo as the model. Isn’t it awesome that a Filipino romance novel with a theater actor hero has an actual theater actor on the cover? 😀 Looking forward to reading this one!

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Like Nobody’s Watching
by Tara Frejas

Release date: October 24, 2017

It’s all fun and games until someone catches feelings.

If there’s something Pio Alvez is good at, it’s pretending to be someone he’s not. On stage and on-screen, the actor has mastered the art of becoming the characters he plays, and his new role should be no different. After all, how difficult would it be to pretend to be smitten with a beautiful, intelligent go-getter like Audrey Alonzo?

Perhaps it’s more difficult pretending not to be.

Add Like Nobody’s Watching on Goodreads
Pre-order Like Nobody’s Watching on Amazon

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tara Frejas is a cloud-walker who needs caffeine to fuel her travels. When she’s not on work mode, she keeps herself busy by weaving her daydreams into stories.

Aside from her obvious love affair with words and persistent muses, Tara is very passionate about being caffeinated, musical theatre, certain genres of music, dancing, dogs, good food, and romancing Norae, her ukelele. She owns a male bunny named Max who sometimes tries to nibble on her writing notes.

Fun fact: She’s a Piscean. Go figure.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram

Cover Reveal: Ghost of a Feeling by Celestine Trinidad

Ghost of a Feeling by Celestine Trinidad is an upcoming Filipino-romance-in-English that I’m very much looking forward to. I believe this is the first standalone novella by Celestine (nicknamed Leslie). I haven’t read anything of Leslie’s yet but I do have some of her short stories that are part of anthologies I own. Interesting tidbit of information, Leslie is actually a high school batchmate of mine but we didn’t really interact back then. Glad to have reconnected with her online due to our mutual love for fiction. 🙂

Today, we get to see the gorgeous cover for Ghost of a Feeling designed by the talented Miles Tan. September is the National Month of Suicide Prevention and since suicide is a theme of the book, it seems fitting to have the cover reveal before the month is over. I’m intrigued by the premise and I also think the book cover is so pretty! I love the starry night sky background and even the colors and textures included in the design. The silhouette of the characters, with the guy reaching a hand out to the girl seems very fitting for the story. Definitely looking forward to finding out more about this.

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Ghost of a Feeling
by Celestine Trinidad

Release date: October 31, 2017

Ghost of a Feeling

All Cris Villareal had ever dreamed of was becoming a doctor. But after the death of a patient under her care and the subsequent humiliation she suffers under a senior resident in her hospital, she begins to lose faith in herself. And no one else could understand her and her despair.

So one Halloween night, up on the rooftop of her apartment building, she decides to end it all.

She is stopped from jumping by Emilio, the ghost of a young man who haunts her building, who also committed suicide there many years ago. Eventually, Cris finds herself opening up to him, in a way she had never before, with anyone living or dead.

There is only one problem.

Emilio isn’t really a ghost.

He is actually a living young man named Nathan Morales, and Cris was just one of the unwitting victims in a prank he had once played on the tenants of her apartment. But being Emilio was the only way he could think of to stop her that night, and the only way now he could get her to open up to him. As Emilio, he was someone she could trust enough to help her, in a way Nathan himself never could.

As their relationship grows deeper and their feelings grow stronger each day, can he finally help her find a reason to keep living?

But how long can he keep lying to her?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Celestine Trinidad is a physician (particularly, a pathologist) by profession. In her spare time, she writes fiction of several genres, including romance, speculative fiction, crime fiction, and children’s stories. Her other stories have been published in other print and online venues, such as First Love, The Digest of Philippine Genre Stories, Philippine Speculative Fiction, Philippines Free Press, Philippines Graphic, and Insignia.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Ten Hidden Gems in Filipino Romance

Top Ten Tuesday2

I haven’t done a Top Ten Tuesday post in ages! As always, Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted over at The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is a freebie, we get to highlight hidden gems in any genre of our choice. Since August is Buwan Ng Mga Akdang Pinoy can be roughly translated as “Month of Filipino Authors” or even “Month of Filipino Books”. I mostly read romanceclass books (Indie pubbed Filipino romance written in English) so that’s what I choose to focus on for this post. 😀

romanceclass-logo

There are a few romanceclass titles that have gotten international recognition, such as Learning to Fall by Mina V. Esguerra which was reviewed on Dear Author or Beginner’s Guide by Six de los Reyes which was reviewed on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and was included in NPR’s Book Concierge last year. But most of the titles are more under-the-radar, which is a shame because I think they can have appeal to a wider audience. Here are five romanceclass titles that I consider as hidden gems:

Feels Like Summer Iris After the Incident Cover-Story-Girl One Night at the Palace Hotel

And here are five more that I haven’t read yet, but are high on my TBR pile because of recommendations… these books would be my introduction to these authors:

If the Dress Fits Songs of Our Breakup The Princess Finds Her Match What About Today Waiting in the Wings

All of these are available as Kindle editions on Amazon, so you can buy copies of them wherever you are. I actually created a Twitter thread of Filipino romance titles in English that are currently on sale, in case you want to go through the list which already has links to the Amazon page of each book:

Some of them aren’t 0.99usd anymore but still pretty affordable! Some will be on promo price until the end of the month. I’ve been adding titles to the thread as their prices drop, and I’ve also been one clicking like crazy and stocking up on books that have been on my wishlist. 😛

Have you read any romances by Filipino authors? Let me know what you thought of them. If you’re familiar with romanceclass and have read books from the community, please feel free to share your own favorites and recommendations in the comments section. 🙂

Best of 2016

Happy New Year! 😀 I think we can all agree that 2016 was a difficult year on so many levels. There was so many things happening on an international scale, as well as in the Philippines (which still affects me a great deal even if I’m based in Singapore for work). On a personal front, I resigned from my previous job and started a new one. It hasn’t been smooth sailing and I’ve been struggling with having a sense of belonging. Of course, all of these have affected my reading and blogging life, which is why I haven’t been posting as much as I would want to. I’m still online on a daily basis but it has been easier for me to constantly update the social networks that I have on my phone such as Litsy (username: Chachic), Twitter and Instagram. Going forward, I think this will continue for a while. It’s just so much easier for me to check, update and reply on my phone. My laptop has been acting up and it’s been a pain to open it up and go online. Plus real life stuff happening has made everything harder. The struggle is real!

Anyway, I have a tradition of posting my favorite reads for the previous year whenever the new year rolls around, I’m a few days late but it’s still within the first week of 2017! You can check out my previous posts through these links: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. In no particular order, here are the books that I loved in 2016 (linked to my reviews if I have them):

a-darker-shade-of-magic a-gathering-of-shadows The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms the-broken-kingdoms

a-promise-of-fire magic-binds master-of-crows

Act Like It Summer Skin In the Middle of Somewhere Out of Nowhere

Amulet The Stonekeeper Monstress fresh-romance

It’s safe to say that I read more than I blogged in 2016. 😛 That’s seven speculative fiction titles, four contemporary romance and three graphic novels. It’s funny because the easiest genre for me to get into is contemporary romance but it looks like the books that stand out more for me are fantasy titles. I think my sweet spot is fantasy with a well-written romance. In addition to these, if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you would know that I’ve been trying to read and promote books written by Filipino authors. I haven’t read that many of them this year but the ones I enjoyed reading have been:

Beginner's Guide - Love and Other Chemical Reactions Iris After the Incident

That’s 2016 for me. How was yours? What were your favorite reads from the past year? 🙂

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

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. 🙂

#romanceclass Meet Up at Books and Borders

According to the group’s website, #romanceclass are Filipinos who read and write romance and publish them independently. I know a few of the members through my blog and I’ve been jealous of all the meet-ups and activities that they’ve been having on a regular basis. Which was why I was thrilled to find out that there was going to be a meet up during the time I’m on vacation in Manila. We met last May 21 at the Books and Borders branch in Tomas Morato. A book cafe is the perfect location for a meet up with romance readers and authors. Here’s a picture of the cafe from my previous visit:

Book and Borders - tables

Book and Borders - couch

We talked about books, of course. From romance to everything else that we’ve read or we’re planning to read. We talked about the type of romances and type of heroes we like. And we also talked about the most random things, just anything that we could think of. We also passed around books and swag that we wanted to pass on to fellow readers. Being based in Singapore, I don’t get to attend bookish meet ups like this as often as I would want to, so I was somewhat starved for that kind of conversation. I think it goes without saying that I had a great time! Here’s a group picture from Kat of Book Thingo:

romanceclass meet up - May 2016

From left to right: Agay, Chris, Kim, Anna, Kat, Mina, Jothee, Tina, Ron and me. We all look like we’re having fun, right? My haul included signed books, a magazine, bookmarks, postcards, shortbread and Philippine MANGOES! Thank you for the goodies, friends. 🙂

#romanceclass - May 2016 haul

I also just wanted to share the awesomeness that is the back cover of Choco Chip Hips by Agay Llanera, which includes a quote from my review of the book:

Choco Chip Hips - back copy

Too bad it’s a limited indie edition and there probably wouldn’t be more copies of it. I bought three to give to my friends! 😀

Christmas Shopping – Manila Edition

In my previous post about Christmas shopping, I mentioned that I was planning to get Filipino titles to give as gifts to friends. I wanted to support the local writing community and at the same time, encourage my real life friends to read. So I ordered books from Filipino authors even before I flew home to Manila. To make the gifts even more special, I asked the authors if they could personalize the books and they very kindly agreed to do so.

When I got home, a package was waiting for me. It contained five copies of Loveless. Childless. Clueless. by Miren B. Flores:

Loveless. Childless. Clueless gifts

On the same day that I landed, I met up with my friend Chris Mariano, author of Cover (Story) Girl. We had dinner at Cibo in ShangriLa but I was super hungry so I wasn’t able to take any pictures of the food. Here’s a fangirl pic instead:

Chris Mariano fangirl shot

Cover Story Girl gifts

I also dropped by the bookstore in that mall and grabbed three copies of the first installment of the Trese graphic novel series:

Trese gifts

The next day, I met up with authors Mina V. Esguerra, Tina Matanguihan, my friend Kim and newfound friend Jothee at Tweedle Book Cafe (more about that meet up in a separate post). I was able to get the pile of books that I ordered from Mina plus a freebie of What You Wanted:

Mina V. Esguerra books as gifts

Here’s the whole pile of the various titles that I bought:

Filipino books as Christmas gifts

I was really excited to start giving these books as gifts that I didn’t even bother with wrapping them up, since I wanted my friends to see the signature and messages inside as soon as they could. Fellow book blogger Kim was the first recipient:

Kim with Loveless Childless Clueless

Followed by three girlfriends who were thrilled to receive personalized copies of books. I think this is the first time they’ve gotten books specifically signed for them. They were so happy that they took pictures of the books (here, here and here) as well as the messages (here, here and here).

Chuchay, Mich and Ena with gifts

They wanted to start reading the books right away. I made a point of giving them different titles so they can swap and borrow each other’s copies once they’re done. Based on my friends’ reactions, I think I can safely say that my mission has been accomplished. 🙂 Fingers crossed that my other friends will be just as happy with what they’re getting.