Best Books Iโ€™ve Read So Far In 2017

The first half of 2017 has come and gone! I’ve been meaning to write this post since June ended but we all know how real life gets in the way of things so I’m only able to do this now, when we’re already halfway through July. Better late than never! I’ve shared best books I’ve read for the first half of the year in 2016 as well as 2015, and wanted to do it again this year. While I haven’t been blogging that much, I’ve still been reading a lot. And it’s nice to look back on what titles have stood out for me. Also, it makes things easier for me at the end of the year when I share my Best of 2017 list. Here the books that I’ve read and loved in the first half of the year:

White Hot Clean Sweep One Fell Sweep

A Crown of Bitter Orange pretty face

thick-as-thieves Hunted

Four titles by Ilona Andrews (the Innkeeper Chronicles got me out of a bad slump in April), three contemporary romances from authors I love, and two YA fantasy titles. Of course THICK AS THIEVES is here… we’ve only waited SEVEN YEARS for this latest installment to be released! All of these books except for Hunted were written by my trusted authors so it’s not surprising that they’ve become favorites for this year. Hunted is a beautifully written, Russian-inspired retelling of Beauty and the Beast and my introduction to Meagan Spooner’s writing. Note to self: I need to try more new-to-me authors in the second half of the year to see if I’ll love any of them. Also, I need to read more books written by Filipino authors because I only have one on my list so far.

What about the rest of you, what have been the best books that you’ve read in 2017 so far? ๐Ÿ™‚ Do you have some of my picks in your own list? I would love to check out the books that would come highly recommended by bookish friends so please feel free to leave a comment.

Advertisements

Favorite Literary Couples VII

I’m aliiiiiive! Some of you might be wondering why I haven’t been posting lately but real life has been taking up most of my time, and honestly whenever I have some free time, all I want to do is read (or take a nap). I have been on Litsy A LOT (username: Chachic) because that’s easier to update on my phone than WordPress. But I wouldn’t want to miss this yearly post! I’m here to present a list that has become one of my blog traditions. Every year on Valentineโ€™s Day, I post a list of fictional couples Iโ€™ve loved from books that Iโ€™ve read in the previous year. You can check out posts from years past through these links: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016. Whoa, how awesome is it that this is the eighth edition of this post? I’m so glad I’ve been able to keep it up.

I will be inserting some of my bookstagrams below, and the captions are automatically displayed… some of them aren’t applicable anymore (e.g. I posted a pic before I read the book) so please feel free to ignore them.

.

Lily and Luc from Pretty Face by Lucy Parker – I’m cheating a bit with this one because it hasn’t been released yet but I’m grateful I was approved for an early copy. Lucy Parker was in my list last year so I knew I would enjoy her latest romance, and I wasn’t disappointed. I loved how she was able to portray such a strong connection between Lily and Luc in spite of their age gap and the obstacles in their way. They just understood each other, they have the kind of relationship that you’d want for yourself. It was just so much fun reading about them. The West End setting was another aspect that I enjoyed, and of course I loved that Lily is a reader as shown by this passage:

.

Malorie and Tristan from A Crown of Bitter Orange by Laura Florand – All of the books in Laura’s La vie en Roses have been a delight to read and A Crown of Bitter Orange is no exception. Aside from the strong sense of place, Laura just makes scents and textures leap off the page. Malorie and Tristan were both secretly infatuated with each other while growing up and it was funny that they both had no idea. I liked the contrast between their personalities, their work/passion and the way they think… and also how well they knew each other even though they’re so different. They admired each other not because they don’t recognize the other person’s flaws, but because they could see past those to what makes them the person they are. I’m not sure I’m making any sense here but they really just saw each other clearly. As always, I enjoyed the Rosier family dynamics and absolutely can’t wait for the next installment in this series.

A new Laura Florand is always something to be happy about. She's one of my favorite romance authors. I've loved all of the other titles in her La vie en Roses series set in Grasse, France, featuring a family in the perfume business. I'm pretty sure I'll enjoy this one too. I couldn't resist taking a pic of A Crown of Bitter Orange with this bottle of orange blossom EDT (I bought the cologne version). Maybe I should have done this for Once Upon a Rose and A Wish Upon Jasmine too? ๐Ÿ“–๐ŸŒน FYI, Once Upon a Rose is on sale for just 0.99usd now. Such a good bargain! . . . #LauraFlorand #ACrownofBitterOrange #LavieenRoses #romance #bookblogger #reviewcopy #bookstagram #instabooks #bibliophile #IGreads #IGbooks #booksPH #Litsy #ChristineLhuillierParfumerie #fragrance #perfume

A post shared by Chachic (@chachickenpie) on

.

Iris and Gio from Iris After the Incident by Mina V. Esguerra – Filipino romance (#romanceclass) at its finest! I have been reading and actively promoting Mina’s books ever since I discovered her writing way back in 2010. I think it’s amazing how she’s been exploring and growing in her writing. I think this one has such a unique and intriguing premise, with a plot that I thought was a brave choice for a Philippine setting. Iris and Gio both have painful experiences that have shaped and scarred them, and I felt that their romance and their issues were handled thoughtfully. I’m purposefully being vague because I don’t want to share any spoilers!

.

Lila and Kell from A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab – These books are awesome and the romance(s) are not the central part of the story but of course, I enjoyed reading about them! I loved Lila and Kell’s interactions right from start, from trying to one-up each other to slowly realizing that maybeee what they feel for the other person goes beyond friendship (or unwilling partnership?). Some of the best scenes in the books were the ones where they were together (even better when Rhy and Alucard were also there). I’m so glad the third book will be out soon because I need to know what happens next! These two seriously deserve all the happiness they can get so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for them.

.

Jess and Mitch from Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar – I’m basically just going to quote my own review: “I seriously could not get enough of Jess and Mitch! I loved all of their interactions, and I kept waiting for scenes that had the two of them together. Iโ€™m normally not a fan of drama in a romance but everything that Jess and Mitch went through felt necessary. They needed to experience all of it to grow and develop both individually and as a couple. I wouldnโ€™t call their romance slow burn because sparks fly the moment they meet and they do act on it, but the depth in their relationship is earned the hard way. Also, I thought it was really cute that their family and friends were invested in their relationship.”

.

Runners-up for the past year are:
Jess and Blake from Good Boy by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy
Daniel and Rex from In the Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish
Cat and Griffin from A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet
Martise and Silhara from Master of Crows by Grace Draven
Catherine and Andrew from Ruined by Sarah Vaughn and Sarah Searle in the Fresh Romance graphic novel anthology (is there any news about the next volume??)

.

I feel like I read a lot of romance and even the fantasy novels I’m usually into have some sort of love story in them, but when the time comes for me to round up my list like this, I keep thinking I WANT MORE. ๐Ÿ˜€ What about you, who are your favorite fictional couples from books that youโ€™ve read within the previous year? Are you planning to do anything special for Valentine’s Day? It’s going to be a regular work day for me but I’m hoping I’ll have time to read a good romance after work. ๐Ÿ™‚ Also hoping I won’t be too sleepy in the office because I stayed up late to work on this post. Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! โค

Holiday Book Haul

I think I may be allergic to the office. I went back to work on Tuesday and then I got a fever and a sore throat that evening. I kept going to the office and just slept as early as I can at night but I lost my voice yesterday evening so today, I gave in and went to the doctor to get a medical certificate so I could take the rest of the day off to rest.

.

While I was able to take a nap this afternoon, I wasn’t able to get any reading done. In fact, I should be getting ready for bed now but I wanted to squeeze in a quick post about my book haul during the holiday season. The order is kind of a mess but these were the books I acquired:

.
Last Friday's brunch meet up with Filipino readers and authors: Celina, Chris, Mina, Honey and Kim

Brunch meet up with Filipino readers and authors: Celina, Chris, Mina, Honey and Kim

.
.

Some other books I bought/downloaded for free, but were only posted on Litsy and not Instagram so I can’t embed them here:
Dark Horse by Michelle Diener
The Future Chosen by Mina V. Esguerra
Big Rock by Lauren Blakely
The Art of Deception by Stephanie Burgis
Alex + Ada Volume 3 by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn

I was also very excited to receive these review copies of my anticipated books:

.

A new Laura Florand is always something to be happy about. She's one of my favorite romance authors. I've loved all of the other titles in her La vie en Roses series set in Grasse, France, featuring a family in the perfume business. I'm pretty sure I'll enjoy this one too. I couldn't resist taking a pic of A Crown of Bitter Orange with this bottle of orange blossom EDT (I bought the cologne version). Maybe I should have done this for Once Upon a Rose and A Wish Upon Jasmine too? ๐Ÿ“–๐ŸŒน FYI, Once Upon a Rose is on sale for just 0.99usd now. Such a good bargain! . . . #LauraFlorand #ACrownofBitterOrange #LavieenRoses #romance #bookblogger #reviewcopy #bookstagram #instabooks #bibliophile #IGreads #IGbooks #booksPH #Litsy #ChristineLhuillierParfumerie #fragrance #perfume

A post shared by Chachic (@chachickenpie) on

.
.

When I woke up this morning, I saw the notification that @berkleyromance approved my NetGalley request for Julie James' latest novel. Thank you!!๐Ÿ“–๐ŸŽ‰ One of my most anticipated titles in 2017 because she writes the best romantic banter.๐Ÿ’– I'm always surprised (in a good way) whenever I'm approved for a review copy because as an international reader/blogger, my default expectation is to be rejected.๐Ÿ˜‚ @fantaghiro23, we were just talking about this book yesterday! . . . #JulieJames #TheThingAboutLove #BerkleyRomance #romance #bookblogger #reviewcopy #bookstagram #instabooks #bibliophile #IGreads #IGbooks #booksPH #Litsy #NetGalley #Kindle #bookandlunch #CafeBreton #cafehopping #foodstagram #Manilafoodie #foodieManila

A post shared by Chachic (@chachickenpie) on

.
.

I feel like this moment of my book blogging experience should be highlighted because I have review copies by my favorite authors: Ilona Andrews, Andrea K. Host, Julie James, Laura Florand and Lucy Parker! ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve already read White Hot and In Arcadia (short review on Litsy) but I’m having a difficult time choosing which one to prioritize among the remaining three. Now I just need Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner and The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein and I’ll be all set. ๐Ÿ˜€

I was also able to pass on some of the physical books that I have in my Manila bookshelf to friends when we had a get together. I really feel bad that my books have just been sitting neglected on my shelf and they’re aging fast because of heat and humidity. I feel better that they’re now with people who would potentially enjoy reading them. I think I’ve culled like half of my bookshelf back home, I’ve mostly kept signed books and the ones that I plan to reread.

I hope this post wasn’t too confusing with its mix of Instagram and Litsy links. As you can see, I’ve tried to be active on other social media sites but I know it’s also a good idea to consolidate all of those posts here on WordPress. I’m off to rest! What about you, have you received or bought any books recently? ๐Ÿ™‚

Cover Reveal: A Crown of Bitter Orange by Laura Florand

If you have been following my blog for a while, then you would know that I’m a huge Laura Florand fangirl. She’s an auto-read author for me ever since I discovered and fell in love with The Chocolate Thief back in 2013. I’m a (slightly) bigger fan of her La vie en Roses series set in Provence and featuring a family that has been in the perfume business for generations. Two of the earlier books in the series, Once Upon a Rose and A Wish Upon Jasmine, were included in my best of 2015 list so I’m pretty excited to read the next installment. I’m also itching to reread a novella in the series, A Rose in Winter, because it’s such a charming story set during Christmastime in the South of France. The next book in the series will be released early next year, and the cover and premise have been shared just this week:

______________________________________________________________________________________

A Crown of Bitter Orange by Laura Florand
Book 3 โ€“ La Vie en Roses โ€“ on sale February 2016

Laura Florand, bestselling author of The Chocolate Kiss, combines lush description, smart dialogue, provocative sensuality, and the perfume of love itself in A Crown of Bitter Orange, an irresistibly lush novel that is an ode to the scents and pleasures of the south of France and the beauty of falling in love.

A Crown of Bitter Orange

Childhood friends. Tristan Rosier might have asked Malorie Monsard to marry him when he was five years old, but things had only gone downhill from there. Sheโ€™d spent the rest of their lives ignoring him, abandoning him, and destroying his perfumes. Now she was back, to wreak who knew what havoc on his life.

Lifelong enemies. Tristan might choose to dismiss the generations-long enmity between their two families, but Malorie didnโ€™t have that privilege. Like all the other privileges wealthy, gorgeous Tristan took for granted that she couldnโ€™t. But if she was going to restore her family company to glory, she might just need his help.

Or the perfect match? Theyโ€™d known each other all their lives. Could these childhood friends and lifelong enemies ever uncross their stars and find happily ever after?

______________________________________________________________________________________

Laura FlorandABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Florand burst on the contemporary romance scene in 2012 with her award-winning Amour et Chocolat series. Her international bestselling books have appeared in ten languages, been named among the Best Books of the Year by Romantic Times and Barnes & Noble, received the RT Seal of Excellence and starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Booklist, and been recommended by NPR, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal, among others.

After a Fulbright year in Tahiti and backpacking everywhere from New Zealand to Greece, and several years living in Madrid and Paris, Laura now teaches Romance Studies at Duke University. Contrary to popular opinion, this means she primarily teaches French language and culture and does a great deal of research on French gastronomy, particularly chocolate. For more information, please see her website: http://www.lauraflorand.com.

______________________________________________________________________________________

I can’t wait to read this book! I had initially thought that the next book would have a title like Love in Lavender or something like that, but I’m not picky. It would be interesting to find out what the significance of bitter orange in the story is. I think the cover is beautiful and I’m loving the redesign of the earlier books to match this one. Behold the prettiness:

Once Upon a Rose redesign A Wish Upon Jasmine redesign

What do you think of these new covers? Do you like them as much as I do? If you haven’t read any of Laura Florand’s books, you should definitely get started on them as soon as you can.

Influenced by a Book: #LauraFlorandDiscussion

As a reader, there have been times when something that I read in a book has influenced some of my actions. Influenced by a Book is a feature that lets me share experiences like that. You can view some of my previous posts here.

My friends Kim and Mina are co-moderated a discussion of Laura Florand’s Amour et Chocolat series. I wasn’t able to join the face to face discussion in Manila earlier today, but I participated in the online discussion. A common reaction to reading this series about chocolatiers and pastry chefs is to crave delicious desserts and chocolates like the ones described in the books. Because of this, Mina requested that we share photos of our chocolate adventures on social media and use the hashtag #LauraFlorandDiscussion. I’ve shared pictures all over Twitter and Facebook, and I wanted to consolidate all of them in this one blog post. I don’t know whether I should be proud of myself for using #LauraFlorandDiscussion to indulge the dessert addict in me, or be embarrassed by how sinful some of these creations are. Sharing these pics in no particular order because I’ve forgotten the exact dates when I had them (also not giving a timeline on when I had these ๐Ÿ˜› ).

Paris Baguette is a Korean bakery that has a branch near our office. I get some of their pastries for breakfast from time to time. I love their chocolate earl grey cake (more like a mousse) because I’m a fan of both chocolate and tea-flavored desserts:
Paris Baguette - chocolate earl grey

Another cafe near the office is Paul, a well-known cafe in France. I’ve seen branches of it in French airports and train stations. I dropped by to grab a croissant and chocolat chaud for breakfast one day:
Paul - pastries

Paul - macarons

Paul’s macarons have two sizes: tiny and huge.

Royce is a fancy Japanese chocolate brand and my go-to whenever I’m in dire need of chocolate. I think they’re reasonably priced for the quality that they provide.
Royce

Awfully Chocolate is a Sinagaporean chocolate store that offers a variety of dark chocolate desserts. My favorite from them is their cold poached chocolate, a kind mousse that’s so rich and yummy. I’m not a big fan of their truffles, I think the ones from Royce are better.
Awfully Chocolate

This post would not be complete without a Laduree shot! I’ve tried Laduree in Paris and Singapore and I think the quality is pretty consistent. I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite macaron brand in Singapore but I feel like they started the trend so they deserve the popularity. I tried their earl grey flavor when I visited this time.
Laduree - Laura Florand Discussion

Bonheur Patisserie is a brand that comes up whenever I search for macarons in Singapore. I didn’t love them the first time I tried their macarons but I’ve found two flavors that I think they do really well: lavender and rose.
Bonheur Patisserie

Bonheur Patisserie 2

Bonheur Patisserie with matcha

Bonheur Patisserie’s lavender and rose macarons paired with St. Marc’s matcha latte

I’ve been meaning to try Patisserie G for a while now and finally got to do so when I was in that area with my friend. We shared their signature dessert called the G spot and I had a lavender lemon macaron. We found the G spot just okay, but I thought the macaron was yummy.
Patisserie G pastries
Patisserie G macarons
Patisserie G

Last, but certainly not the least, is another well-known Parisian cafe that opened a branch in Singapore: Angelina. I previously blogged about their chocolat chaud and macarons. This time, my friend and I ordered their Negresco pastry (meringue, chocolate mousse, dark chocolate shavings ) and signature Angelina tea (light and fruity). My friend and I agreed that the Negresco is much better than the G spot mentioned above.
Angelina - Negresco and tea
Angelina - Negresco

OMG I’m feeling so guilty just looking back on these pictures. I need to have more salads in the coming days and weeks. I used to say that I would have started a food blog if I didn’t have a book blog. So it’s also been fun to go to these places, try their desserts and take pictures. Sometimes, I share my food adventures on Instagram. What do you guys think of all of these yumminess? ๐Ÿ™‚

Favorite Literary Couples VII

A few days ago, I posted a list of some of my favorite couples from non-romance books. Today, I’m back to present a list that has become one of my blog traditions. Every year on Valentineโ€™s Day, I post a list of fictional couples Iโ€™ve loved from books that Iโ€™ve read in the previous year. You can check out posts from years past through these links: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015. I’m a bit surprised that this is the seventh version of this list, it doesn’t feel like I’ve been blogging that long! Well, that’s a good thing, right? That means it still hasn’t gotten old for me and I’m having fun. ๐Ÿ˜€


Image from We Heart It

Steph and Grayson from Learning to Fall by Mina V. Esguerra – Filipino romance represent! How can I not love #TeamStayson? Book blogger heroine who’s also an artist but is clueless about what she wants to do with her life, of course I can totally relate to her. Add in a hot rugby player as her hero and I’m one happy reader. This has also been one of my favorite titles to give as a gift to blogging buddies because 1) it’s written by a Filipino author and 2) it has a book blogger (on hiatus) MC.

Lainie and Richard from Act Like It by Lucy Parker – Iโ€™m a fan of certain tropes in romance if theyโ€™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. Plus it has a theater setting and I’m a big fan of musicals. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this one, and I couldn’t wait to see what Lucy Parker would write next.

Jess and Damien from A Wish Upon Jasmine by Laura Florand – I am huge Laura Florand fangirl and I love her La vie en Roses series a tiny bit more than her Amour et Chocolat books. I don’t know how Laura does it but she achieves the perfect balance between strength and vulnerability in her characters. I love how Jess and Damien present a tough persona to the rest of the world, but they let their guard down around each other. As always, I also loved the Provence setting of the book and hints of a fairy tale within the story.

Agnieszka and Sarkan from Uprooted by Naomi Novik – I was blown away by the amazing storytelling in Uprooted and it reminded me of some of my favorite authors like Robin McKinley, Juliet Marillier and Diana Wynne Jones. I really enjoyed the development of Agnieszka and Sarkan’s relationship. Sarkan started as a reluctant mentor, and through their various adventures together, he gradually respects and admires Agnieszka. I’m delighted to have discovered another fictional couple in a non-romance book to love. I need to find more of those!

Petey and Finn from Bone Gap by Laura Ruby – Bone Gap was one of my favorite reads last year and while I haven’t written a review for it, I would enthusiastically recommend it to any fantasy or fairy tale retelling fan. I don’t think I’ve read anything like it. Laura Ruby’s writing is definitely unique. I loved the slow burn romance between two complex characters, Petey and Finn, who deserved all the love that they could get.

Runners-up for the past year are:
Skylar and Josh from I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
Hannah and Garrett from The Deal by Elle Kennedy
Ellie and Knox from Sacked by Jen Frederick
Amy and Dax from Sleeping with Her Enemy by Jenny Holiday
The couple featured in Soppy by Philippa Rice

Who are your favorite fictional couples from books that youโ€™ve read within the previous year? Did you do anything special this Valentineโ€™s weekend? I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary, it was just a usual Sunday for me but I did grab some nice chocolates as a treat. And I’ve been reading romance novels. ๐Ÿ™‚ Happy Hearts Day, everyone!

Cover Reveal: Chase Me by Laura Florand

I’m delighted to be a part of the cover reveal for Laura Florand’s next novel, Chase Me. It’s the second book in the Paris Nights (previously Paris Hearts) series featuring three young women striving to make their way in the male-dominated world of French haute cuisine. I’ve been a huge Laura Florand fan since I discovered her books back in 2013 and I feel like I keep talking about her here on the blog. Two of her releases last year, Once Upon a Rose and A Wish Upon Jasmine, were included in my best of 2015 so I’m looking forward to reading more from her this year!

Both the cover and premise for Chase Me look intriguing, and I find it very interesting that we’re going to get a Navy SEAL hero from the author. As always, I think it’s good that Chase Me’s cover design matches the cover of All for You, the first book in the series. The leather-clad blonde looks totally fierce and I look forward to finding out more about her when this book is released.

______________________________________________________________________________________

Chase Me by Laura Florand
Book 2 โ€“ Paris Nights โ€“ on sale April 2016

Laura Florand, bestselling author of The Chocolate Thief, combines smart dialogue, provocative sensuality, laughter, a touch of danger, and two irresistibly strong characters in Chase Me, an ode to the romance of Paris and the beauty of falling in love.

Chase Me

A Michelin two-star chef at twenty-eight, Violette Lenoir could handle anything, including a cocky burglar who broke into her restaurant in the middle of the night.

Or so she thought.

Elite counterterrorist operative Chase โ€œSmithโ€ had been through things that made Hell Week look easy. But nothing had prepared him for a leather-clad blonde who held him at bay at knifepoint and dared him to take her on.

Now if only saving the world didnโ€™t require he ruin her life.

Two people who thought they could handle anything now have to take on each other.
It’s a battle neither one expected.ย  But with their futures on the line, they have nothing to lose… but their hearts.

Warning: This book contains one arrogant Navy SEAL, nights of Paris passion, and a woman who wants to have it all.

Click here for a sneak peek of the first chapter.

Pre-order Links
Amazon
Kobo
iBooks

______________________________________________________________________________________

Laura FlorandABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Florand burst on the contemporary romance scene in 2012 with her award-winning Amour et Chocolat series. Since then, her books have appeared in ten languages, been named among the Best Books of the Year by Library Journal, RT Book Reviews, and Barnes & Noble, received the RT Seal of Excellence and starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Booklist, and been recommended by NPR, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal, among others. In 2015, NPR gave her the enormous honor of naming her Chocolate Kiss to its list of the Top 100 Romances of all time.

For more information, please see her website.

______________________________________________________________________________________

Influenced by a Book: Chocolat Chaud et Macarons

As a reader, there have been times when something that I read in a book has influenced some of my actions. Influenced by a Book is a feature that lets me share experiences like that. In a previous post, I talked about how A Wish Upon Jasmine by Laura Florand influenced me to give lavender oil a try. Today’s post is also inspired by another Laura Florand book, The Chocolate Kiss. The female MC of the book has a special way of making chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) while the male MC is renowned for his macaron creations.

My friends Kim and Mina are co-moderating a discussion of Laura Florand’s Amour et Chocolat series. While I haven’t reread any of the books recently, I’m being reminded of them because of the discussion threads. So when I had an emotionally draining and stressful work day, I chose to drown my sorrows in Angelina’s chocolat chaud and macarons:

Angelina - chocolat chaud and macarons

Angelina - chocolat chaud and macarons 2

OMG this chocolat chaud was super thick. It’s rich enough for me to marry! I could have had it just by itself for dessert. But I’m a macaron fan so I went ahead and ordered a set that included dark chocolate, chestnut, lemon and chocolate passionfruit. I finished all of these by myself and yes, I did feel slightly better about my day after this particular indulgence. Just one more work day to get through before the weekend is here.

What about you, have you done anything lately based on something you’ve read in a book?

Influenced by a Book: Lavender Oil

As a reader, there have been times when something that I read in a book has influenced some of my actions. I’m starting this new feature Influenced by a Book to talk about things like that. I have no idea how often I’ll do posts like this so let’s just see how it goes.

First up is something influenced by one of my favorite reads this year, A Wish Upon Jasmine by Laura Florand. This lovely romance is set in Provence. It features a heroine who is a top perfumer and a hero who is a perfume executive (and is part of an old perfume family who has a strong presence in the business). So being the serious business guy that he is, the hero gets tension headaches which he usually just tries to live through. A thoughtful solution that the heroine suggests? Lavender oil. Check out this snippet:

It said: If you get a headache, try this.

And for some reason – it must be his fucking head – that made his eyes sting.

He uncapped the vial, and the scent of lavender hit him immediately, spicy, fresh, optimistic. The scent of a bee sting easing. The scent of a field on the plateaus, high up, away from the world, with a wind rippling waves of purple. The scent of an afternoon making love in a small, shadowy room above an old perfume shop.

He held the vial to his nose, his eyes closed, and his breathing slowing and deepening. That tight pain eased the minutest degree at the first breath, and then a little bit more with the second, and a little bit more, like a guitar string close to snapping being slowly, slowly adjusted back to proper tightness. It eased until he almost forgot about it, his lashes growing heavy, his face muscles relaxing.

lavender essential oil

Lavender essential oil that I recently bought

That scene makes me go awww. I love the way lavender smells and I’ve used lavender-scented perfumes, shower gels, shampoos, and other bath products. I also love its flowery taste and have eaten lavender-flavored cakes and ice cream, and I’ve savored lavender tea. But I’ve never thought to use lavender essential oil for headaches, which I get from time to time, especially when I’ve been working long hours. I try to avoid taking Biogesic / paracetamol if I can help it because I don’t want to depend on it. So when I felt a headache coming on, I decided to try the treatment that Jess suggested. While my headache didn’t completely go away, the lavender oil did help me relax. Maybe I need to inhale more of it.

What about you, have you recently done something that was influenced by a book that you read? Also, what do you think of this new feature of mine? ๐Ÿ˜›

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

Top Ten Tuesday2

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

Learning to FallLearning to Fall by Mina V. Esguerra

In theory, blogging shouldnโ€™t take a lot of time. Read a book, then write about it. Simple, right? Obligation fulfilled to the publisher or author who sent the book, to the readers who read the blog.

Not quite.

Blogging found me at a time when I needed people. I knew this, didnโ€™t need a therapist to tell me. Moving to another state, starting college, figuring out how to be a fully functional adult and artistโ€ฆ there was so much comfort in being friends with people who liked the same things. Believe me, I tried being friends with real people, but the friendship offers stopped coming when I missed one too many dorm parties.

_____________________________________________

Choco Chip HipsChoco Chip Hips by Agay Llanera

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

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

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

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

_____________________________________________

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

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

_____________________________________________

I'll Meet You ThereIโ€™ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

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

_____________________________________________

Once Upon a RoseOnce Upon a Rose by Laura Florand

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

_____________________________________________

A Wish Upon JasmineA Wish Upon Jasmine by Laura Florand

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

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

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

And yet… here they both were. Together.

_____________________________________________

Bone GapBone Gap by Laura Ruby

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

_____________________________________________

Archivist WaspArchivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace

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

_____________________________________________

UprootedUprooted by Naomi Novik

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

_____________________________________________

Girl Before a MirrorGirl Before a Mirror by Liza Palmer

What do I want?

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

_____________________________________________

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