Book Haul – Christmas 2015 Edition

I rarely receive books for Christmas, or even for my birthday. I usually only get books when I join bookish Secret Santa events. Most people tell me that they don’t give me books as gifts because they don’t know what to get for me. So it feels like a special treat whenever I get books for Christmas. In 2015, I got several of them! Which was why I thought I should put up a post to mark the occasion.

On the last work day of the year, right before I flew home to Manila, I got these two:

Christmas 2015 - SG haul 1

When I was in Manila, I was able to attend a bookish meet up and got the following:

Tweedle Book Cafe - book haul

Sadly, I had to go back to Singapore for work. But I did have some lovely snail mail waiting for me when I got back:

Christmas 2015 - SG haul

While on vacation in Manila, I bought a few graphic novels (Ms. Marvel, The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 2: Fandemonium, Halina Filipina and Maktan 1521). I received The Wicked + The Divine Volume 1 from a friend, and used the Kinokuniya gift vouchers I received from our office Secret Santa to buy Soppy and Giant Days.

Christmas 2015 - graphic novels

For someone who doesn’t usually get books for Christmas, this really is quite a haul! Here are the titles I was lucky enough to receive:

Chronicles of Elantra by Michelle Sagara
The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima
Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare
What You Wanted by Mina V. Esguerra
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith
The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis
The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 1: The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson, Clayton Cowles
Soppy by Philippa Rice
Giant Days by John Allison, Lissa Treiman

Thank you, Donna, Estara, Kim, Mina, Gene, Nellie and my office Secret Santa for these books! I’m really grateful for the generosity. 🙂 I’ve already started reading the first Elantra book and Soppy. Looking forward to reading the rest of the titles in this pile.

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