Book Review, Favorite, Recommendations

[REVIEW] The Royal Treatment by MJ Summers

The Royal Treatment
By MJ Summers
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Age Category: Adult
Rating: 4/5
Release Date: Summer 2017
Blurb:

Enough laughs to satisfy fans of Bridget Jones. Enough sparkly shoes and breathtaking ball gowns for fans of Cinderella…

Twenty-eight-year-old Tessa Sharpe, a.k.a. The Royal Watchdog, hates everything about Prince Arthur. As far as she’s concerned, he’s an arrogant, lazy leech on the kingdom of Avonia. When he shocks the nation by giving her the keys to the castle in an attempt to boost his family’s dismal public approval ratings, Tessa has no choice but to accept and move in for two months. It’s lust at first sight, but there’s no way she can give in to her feelings—not if she wants to have a career or a shred of pride left when her time at the palace ends.

Ultra-private, ultra-hot Crown Prince Arthur has always gotten by on his charm. But that won’t be enough now that the Royal Family is about to be ousted from power once and for all. When Prince Arthur has to rely on the one woman in the kingdom who hates him most, he must learn that earning the love of a nation means first risking his heart…

Can two natural enemies find their forever in each other’s arms, or will they ruin each other to save themselves?

[PLEASE NOTE: The Crown Jewels Series is not a typical MJ Summers book. It’s a light romantic comedy, very heavy on the laughs with a low steam level (but lots of delicious sexual tension and some swearing).]

Review

I absolutely loved every second I spent reading this book! I can’t believe I haven’t read any of MJ Summers book yet. The Royal Treatment was a breath of fresh air in the contemporary royal romance trope. It has that perfect blend of romantic fantasy and contemporary reality that pitch the readers into a rollercoaster of emotions and adventure.

I wasn’t too keen on the royalty thing, to be honest. There are lots of royalty romance books floating around that disappoints more than they satisfy the readers so I developed a tread-carefully perspective before reading one. I am so delightfully surprised with MJ Summer’s writing style and world building! She has a very engaging tone that easily lures in the readers into the wonderfully rich world, or kingdom to be more precise, of Tessa Sharpe and Prince Arthur.

I particularly love the fact that the story did not pander to any possibly predictable outcome. (I hate to spoil so you have to read to know what happens!) From the beginning to the very end, Tessa holds on to her principles strongly. While she and Prince Arthur did come to realize their faults, neither one changed into something their characters are not. They grew into their characters beautifully, even when the journey to get there was painful and full of sacrifices.

There is also the always-present reminder that at the end of Tessa’s stay, her commoner problems, problems we all have, are still waiting for her. Ultimately, she finds a way to resolve everything through her own courage and talents and I absolutely loved that above everything else. The Royal Treatment doesn’t set you up to any unrealistic expectation that falling in love with a prince will magically solve all your problems. (Well, there are problems they can handily solve but) There are more problems that come with the responsibility that tests the mettle of anyone stepping up to the plate. Tessa did not let anyone down.

A large part of the reason why I absolutely enjoyed this book also happens to be the comedic timings it has in delivering punchlines. They give a nice break for the really complex and serious crisis the story has.

Will I read the next book MJ Summers has? Absolutely! I wish it’s the next book already. Meanwhile, I’ll try to read some of her past works and know I’ll be shelving on a trusty author I know I’ll always re-read.

Dive into this goodness by getting a copy from Amazon here.

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Book Review, Favorite, Recommendations

[REVIEW] Promdi Heart

5/5 stars LET’S GO TRAVEL ❤
promdi heart

Promdi Heart

Take a quick tour of the Philippines with six hometown love stories.

Visit Jimenez, Misamis Occidental where a priest might just set you up with a man whose dimples are to die for.

Visit Silay, Negros Occidental and get on a horse alongside hunky, hazel-eyed Negrense royalty.

Visit Kalibo, Aklan and find yourself in the arms of a cute drummer boy who just happens to be your kuya’s BFF.

Visit Hagonoy, Bulacan and spend All Saint’s Day next to a distracting boy who promises to write you a song.

Visit Vigan, Ilocos Sur and meet the hot man you used to bully when he was a shy, chubby boy.

Visit Pundaquit, Zambales and find love in a bronzed fisherman whose eyes hold depths you’ll want to explore.

REVIEW

I’m not really great with anthologies. I always feel uprooted whenever a short story ends and disconcerted when a new one begins. But to my surprise, Promdi Heart delivers beautifully in how I find closure and a thirst to learn more about the people and the places in the stories.

The collection starts with C.P. Santi’s Only the Beginning. As a fledgling #romanceclass reader, I am so happy to discover C.P. Santi’s works because they’re just my cup of tea. And her short story about bad first impressions and the richness of a culture a small town in Mindanao has given me the itch to travel to Jimenez, Misamis Occidental. The town was painted with a rustic touch but a sincerity in its people that perfectly complements the story-telling.

Ines Bautista-Yao’s Letters to a Boy is as surprising as this whole collection is. Again, I’m a little impatient for this style of stories–the one told in letters and missives although they are really fascinating. But god, I adored every letter. I’ve been to Silay and Bacolod recently and reading about the rich Negrense culture, with its quaint and picturesque town and the kind people who yes, they almost have a circle of the socially affluent family which borderlines royalty, is just so enticing. This is the royalty trope I’ve been wanting to read. I’d read more of this, to be honest.

Drummer Boy by Chris Mariano is the the big-brother’s-bestfriend trope that everyone loves. I love it even better because it managed to show us the preps and the hows in the Ati-Atihan Festival in Kalibo, Aklan. I don’t think anyone past elementary school has not heard of this festival, and to be honest, I wasn’t really sure what happens at the festival. Street dancing, maybe. But this story showed how dedicated some families are in keeping up with this tradition.  Sometimes, we may feel trapped and weak against the expectations of continuing traditions, but here is a perspective of acknowledging this fact and realizing how important some obligations are. And I really liked that fresh perspective.

We can skip Jay E. Tria’s One Certain Day because I hate Son’s ill timing and I just want to hug Alice. I mean, I live in Guiguinto, which is just three towns away from Hagonoy. I can go to Alice’s house and hug the shit out of her and just glare at Son’s nearby house. I’ll even rat him out to his parents. I hated Son here. I feel so invested in this story and god, the feelings are delivered. I feel so raw after reading it. There better be a book for Son, Jay!

Georgette Gonzales’s Once Upon a Bully was very uncomfortable to read and only because of the elementary kid bullying another kid gig. It was a great read that showcased the beauty of Ilocano language and dishes that made me want to go to Vigan! It also made me want to look for long-lost elementary classmates, in case anyone aged fine. (I do have a story to tell here, but maybe for a personal post some other time.) Because of this story, I was inspired to schedule a trip to Vigan before I leave the Philippines.

Lastly, Agay Llanera’s Back to the Stars was a nice ending for the book collection. I love how the main character has transformed into a cynical Manila girl who realizes just how much she’s changed and not for the better. I really loved the full circle feel of it – from her struggles as a girl from the (promdi, in its every sense) province and coming back as a Manila Girl. You will never really get a sense of happiness when you keep on measuring yourself against the standards of society.

Leah felt ill-fitted in Manila as a promdi girl, and coming back to Pundaquit, she is haunted by this outcast status. In the short time of her visit (and the story’s length), we find Leah finding peace about her roots, her place, and where she’ll be in the future. Wency is a precious cinnamon roll, so sincere and genuine. I love him. And I love how his sincerity and patience were exactly what Leah needed.

Overall, Promdi Heart is a nicely curated anthology of stories that will make you appreciate the diversity of Philippine Cultures. I love how this collection offers a view of the Philippines that we don’t see much and still offer fresh stories that needed to be told. To be honest, I was a little wary about how this collection would turn out. I tried reading this one book set in somewhere in the Philippines and I was just horribly disappointed at how detached and cookie cutter the plot was. I was afraid that the novel characteristics of the places would be compromised for the plot and I am so happy it didn’t go that way for this collection.

BUY LINKS

Get this book from Amazon at $2.99!

Did you love this anthology as much as I did? Leave them a review on their Goodreads page!

Book Review, Favorite, Recommendations

[REVIEW] Better at Weddings Then You by Mina V. Esguerra

5/5 stars I LOVED IT SO MUCH YES

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Better at Weddings Than You

Mina V. Esguerra

BLURB

Daphne Cardenas is the best wedding planner around, and everyone knows it. That’s why her friend Greg hired her as an emergency replacement one month before his wedding—because he fears his fiancée Helen is falling for the guy they first hired for the job.

Aaron Trinidad is new to the wedding industry but years of conference planning and loads of charm make him good at it. Really good at it. Planning the wedding of his friend Helen should be easy, and it is. To be unceremoniously fired isn’t good for his new career, but the chance to learn from the best might be the silver lining.

Aaron and Daphne have chemistry, but there’s history with Helen that at least one other person considers a threat. Who’s the planner who can fix this impending disaster?

(Part of the Chic Manila series, but can be read as a standalone.)

REVIEW

As a firm believer of Weddings Are Things I Should Not Be Thinking About Anytime Soon, I was not too excited to learn that this new book from Mina Esguerra would be about Wedding Planners. But then, I met Aaron Trinidad.

Hot–scorching hot, rather–tatted and long-haired Aaron Trinidad. And I’m like, yes yES WHERE DO I SIGN UP?

I’m not really sure if this still falls under New Adult. Both Daphne and Aaron are in their 30’s, having some parts of life figured out but still unsure on a lot of things. I enjoyed reading their story a lot maybe because there is some sense of relief I found in reading how, despite the difficulty of maintaining a career, they were doing as best as they could.

Of course, I am only reading this from the perspective of a twenty-something still lost in life, so I could only imagine the exhaustion they have from trying various things in life. And you can really sense this exhaustion and cynicism from Daphne.

Having gone through a lot of failed setups and blind dates and despite her success in her career, Daphne views the world in cold, unfeeling eyes. And she knows it. She knows how tired she was from the dating scene that she stopped it altogether, as also shown by the metaphor of giving up pork but that’s a topic for later.

It’s very ironic to see a wedding planner finding love, or the search for it, almost bland and tiresome. And from her own words, yes she makes happily ever afters happen but it doesn’t even occur to her to apply it to herself.

But. It also makes sense. I can almost imagine just how fed up she was that she had to give it all up together. Again, I still have the naivety of a twenty-something reading this book. And this is such an eye-opener for me. How yes, at some point we do get to give up on some things in life. How we stop caring altogether and I can imagine how liberating that must be.

I especially loved the part where Daphne was talking to Aaron how unfair the double standard for men and women are when it comes to dating and settling down. Yes, it really is unfair. And pair that up with how disappointed Daphne was with her choices in the Dating Game and suddenly, things get a little too real and dark.

As a woman, we still get this societal expectation and I guess at some point, we still carry the guilt of pleasure and satisfaction that is exacerbated by the expectations of a society who believes in institutions that are intrinsically repressive. Daphne mentions at one part of the book how weddings are not really for everyone, that it’s great if you’re doing it because you want it for the things it says it stands for — love, loyalty, trust. But not everyone goes into it with that same level-headedness.

And that’s true. Going back to society’s expectations on women, we have always been led to believe that sex and pleasure can only be accessed after the matrimony of marriage. Kudos to you if you subscribe to this belief wholeheartedly. But on the other side of the coin, we humans are sexual beings. As much as men have needs, we females also have them. And it needs to be acknowledged more often.

I’m not sure if I am reading too much on this but I guess how Aaron was almost the perfect partner for Daphne was a little disconcerting. It was great for Daphne. Aaron was a most accomplished lover by great lengths. But I guess the irony in here is that no one, aside from the two of them, thought that they’d be together, let alone hook up. Even weirder how some of Daphne’s friends seemed to think she was slumming it down with Aaron when in her experience, it was winning a jackpot.

And I guess the point I am making here is, to echo the book, a relationship is really just you and your partner. Not anyone or everyone else. At the end of the day, it’s just you two. I kept on thinking about A Midsummer Night’s Dream while reading this, because of the clusterfuck of everything. And I guess there is some truth from it. There’s a lot of mess and drama from Greg and Helen’s end that seems to exist less in Daphne and Aaron’s. If they are foils to each other’s couples, then wow. That is some great writing!!! But of course, Mina has always written great stories. ❤

I feel like this book is just the best yet. I’ve only read about three or four books of hers, but this book is just flawlessly written and has a depth that was as entertaining and enjoyable as it was real and woke AF. That perfect weaving of a story with the right amount of smut is just so on point on this book. I loved every second I spent reading this book.

BUY LINKS

Buy on Amazon
$1.99 pre-order price until April 30
$2.99 starting May 1
Free on Kindle Unlimited

 

Have you read this book yet? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below! You may also post your own review at this book’s Goodreads page.

 
Book Review, Favorite, Recommendations

[REVIEW] Feels Like Summer by Six de los Reyes

5/5 stars! YES I’D LIVE IN THIS BOOK IF I COULD

feels like summer cover only

FEELS LIKE SUMMER (Summer Storm #2)

SIX DE LOS REYES

Release date: April 12, 2017

In print: April 30, 2017

Blurb

Five-minute girlfriend. This is what Jett signs up for when she meets Adrian and his band Arabella at beach music festival Summer Storm. One kiss and the attraction is too electric to ignore, but Jett has no room for love and Adrian is Mr. Relationship who’s getting over his recent breakup. The solution? Keep it simple. Keep it casual. For three months (that’s the rule about breakups, right?), Jett helps Adrian move on and Adrian shows up on Jett’s bed whenever she wants.

Then the three months are up and neither of them are in a hurry to be the first to leave. Does Jett walk away from a potential disaster or does she finally let someone into her closely-guarded heart?

REVIEW

Coming from Sounds Like Summer, I wasn’t expecting Feels Like Summer to be this wild and youthful. Sounds Like Summer might be the trip that will get you to the music festival but Feels Lile Summer is the main act, the festival itself. It has all the music, the boys, drama, and emotions are just amped up to the highest. I frankly can’t describe it better than that. Everything just makes me want to dive headfirst into the music scene!

Let’s start with Jett. I feel like Six’s MCs are the cool female characters I could only aspire to be but at the moment, I am not. They always start cool as cucumbers that cannot be touched by anything the mortal realm could produce and the LIs are just a little more emotionally liberated, which is always fun.

Jett was an experience. Being in her headspace is as punishing as it is liberating. There are so much guilt and suffering in that girl that I can understand and relate with. She comes into the scene cool and detached because she tries so hard to separate herself from her emotions. Her upbringing and her past are her baggage that she embraces tightly. And you can’t really fault her for it. Not when there is a Ziggy lurking and haunting her at every accomplishment she has.

Adrian. God, where do I even get an Adrian? His bandmates all describe him as intense, and yes, I could see that at the tail-end of the book. But from the first chapter onwards, he was just a big marshmallow, a precious cinnamon roll that must be protected at all times for me. (Maybe Franklin, too. But that boy… Franklin deserves his own air time. I mean, let’s be real here.)

The fact that he never really wavered from loving Jett was really the thing that sucks me in. Partner that fact with how hard Jett tries to overcome her own demons and we’ve got ourselves a perfect blend of New Adult romance book that I wanted to party all night long with.

To be honest, there is a lot going on in this book and that’s what you want to read. Jett’s life is as dynamic and colorful as could be. And every character shines and feels as real as can be. It felt really heavy to finish the book because it is dense and heavy–from the plot, the premise, the backstories of the characters, their personalities. Yes, I am here for all these things and I could not wish for anything more but maybe a continuation? A series. I want to be a part of these characters’ lives, that’s how much I loved this book.

Buy Links

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XRD7Q7G

Print (PH only): bit.ly/summerstorm2

 

Add it on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34609563-feels-like-summer

Cover design by: Porcupine Strongwill

Follow Six de los Reyes:

Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Wattpad: @sixdlr

Author Bio

Six de los Reyes has been reading and making up stories for as far as she can remember. In fifth grade, she learned to write about the stories she wanted to read. As a pretend grownup, she writes contemporary romance novels. Her day job doing science has something to do with being a part-time mermaid and a part-time labrat. She currently lives next to the sea.

Other works include:

Just for the Record

Beginner’s Guide: Love and Other Chemical Reactions

Sounds Like Summer

Anthology Contributions:

After the Moment, Taking Chances (#BuqoYA)

Nico Saves Christmas, Make My Wish Come True

Ocean Eyes, Summer Crush

Cover Reveal, Favorite, Recommendations

[Cover Reveal] Better at Weddings Than You by Mina V. Esguerra

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Look at this gorgeous cover!

I’m not sure if you guys are following me on my twitter account (@adgiecakes), but lately, I’ve been trying this thing called “livetweeting.” (That makes me sound like an old lady heh.) Basically, I just update the world the things that pop into my brain as I read. This weekend, I plowed through 3 (THREE!!) ARCs of upcoming #romanceclass books, which is just… *sigh* is the LAYF.

Better at Weddings Than You is the ninth book in Mina V. Esguerra’s Chic Manila series. (But it can be read as a standalone!) I was introduced to Mina through a class requiring us to read one of her books in this series. It’s almost like I’ve reached full circle!

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God, right after reading a preview of this book in Wattpad a few months back made me just want to get my hands on it! The first few chapters posted were enough to hook me right into the intriguing and dramatic story of Daphne and Aaron! (And it was super dramatic! Like, I’d say teleserye-level dramatic. It was so fun!)

BAWTY.fullcover.preview

Better at Weddings Than You comes out on April 15 on Amazon. If you live in the Philippines, I highly suggest you take advantage of your geographical benefit and get the paperback version of this out April/May. I mean, look at that spread! I’m just loving the purple and the on-point photograph. This cover really nailed it. Pre-order links down below!

Pre-Order Here

Buy on Amazon: bit.ly/chicmanila9
$1.99 pre-order price until April 30
$2.99 starting May 1
Free on Kindle Unlimited
Book Design by Tania Arpa
Photography by Alexandra Urrea
Book Review, Favorite, Recommendations

[REVIEW] Keep the Faith by Ana Tejano

[ I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. And it is quite a long review. I’m sorry. I ramble a lot. And I really loved this book. Please read it and discuss it with me because I actually cut this review short as it is!]

keep-the-faith-cover

Book Title: Keep the Faith

Release Date: July 31, 2016

Author: Ana Tejano

About the Book:

As a community development worker, Faith was quite familiar with heartbreak and recovery after all the time she spent on disaster relief missions. So when her five-year relationship ends right before she left for a mission trip to a typhoon-stricken town in Iloilo, she tries not to make a big deal out of it. How can she be broken up about a breakup when she’s with people who literally lost everything?

But now that she’s back, all Faith wants is for her life to go back to normal and have people stop looking at her with pity. Never mind that she still has a lot of questions about the breakup, or that she feels a tiny ache every time her ex comes up in conversations. She’s okay now, and happily distracted by Nico Tamayo, the attractive new guy at work.

With new possibilities in the horizon, Faith thinks she is well on her way to moving on. But when her past comes calling back to her, will all the good things in her present be enough to keep her on the path? Or will she finally learn that there was more to heartbreak and recovery than what she knows?

BOOK REVIEW

Before we begin with my review, let me ask you one thing? Why do we read?

We often take for granted the reason why we read things. Maybe, you want an escape from the mundane of life. Maybe, we seek to find a piece of our souls in one of the books we peruse. Maybe, we seek worlds greater and far more dangerous than ours. Or the contrary – finding a safe place to be who you are and finding the freedom in between the lines.

For me, the answer is a variety of all these things I mentioned.

But until I started reading Philippine Romance Literature in English, I never really thought that maybe I read because I am seeking a part of myself in the books that I read. Until Ana Tejano’s book, I never realized how much it meant to me, as a Filipino reader, to relate to the characters of the book I am reading that we share the same kind of culture, of environment, of hopes, doubts, and fears, more than just sharing the universal feeling of falling in love.

Reading Keep the Faith felt like jumping into a pool of cool water at the height of Luzon summer heat: refreshing, in a way you didn’t even know your body is craving for that sweet relief.

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Tejano’s book is about Faith Alvarez and how she tries to cope with life after her break-up with her boyfriend of five years. The story starts with her coming from a long relief mission in Iloilo, one of the island provinces in the Visayan region. For those unfamiliar with Philippine geography, Iloilo is uhm, really far from Manila. A few years back, Typhoon Haiyan struck the westernmost part of the region, destroying a lot of homes and taking a lot of lives as well. I am guessing that Haiyan is where we are getting this experience from.

But anyway, moving on.

So Faith is a development worker. She basically saves the lives of people who suffered from calamities and turned her passion into a career. But James isn’t exactly on board with her on that. He breaks up with her. He tells her, “He can’t do it anymore.”

(I agree with Nico; that reasoning is complete bullshit.)

Nico Tamayo is her love interest. He is also a new hire who sleeps on Faith’s desk while she was away at Iloilo. He is… God, where do I even begin with Nicolas?

 

*stuffs my mouth with a handful of French fries*

Nico Tamayo is the stuff of my dreams! (There, I said it!!) The first shot of him that endeared me to him was not the scene where he was first introduced. It was this scene where he was lighting candles at church, candlelight framing him. And GOOD GOD CAN YOU JUST IMAGINE A MANLY MAN, WITH THE ARMS THAT CAN LIFT MY EMOTIONAL UNAVAILABILITY, PRAYING TO GOD SOLEMNLY?

Goodness, yes. Yes, I am in love with Nicolas Tamayo and I am not even ashamed.

(He’s so perfect.)

So let’s go back to character analysis. Nico is perfect. And to a fault, I would say. He is a History major, passionate with his cause of championing education and children, like Faith, he is too giving, too forgiving. You can’t find anyone like Nico anymore. He is a rare and endangered cinnamon roll. And I guess, this may pain me to say, but yes, he does lack a little flaw to his character.

I love him, but I’d love to see more human fault in his character. (I’m sorry, Nico. I still love you, though.) The only time that he gets to be a little darker than his perfect, perfect self is at the precipice of the point of ritual death. (You’d know where this is when you read it! I loved that scene. I milk all the angst and heartbreak of that scene for all its worth.)

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Faith Alvarez is a character that my reading mind can easily slip into. I wouldn’t say I can totally relate to her. I think she’s far too giving and selfless for me to properly relate with. But I think what draws me into her is how this tiny detail of her character that just resonates with me: how she seems so fine, she thinks she’s moved on, that she can do it again—live alone.

But she’s actually way in over her head. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve been there. This shared experience with her just made it easy to slip into her mind. Maybe it’s all the signs of denial she exhibits at the beginning of the story. Maybe, like her, I want to believe wholeheartedly that she’s already moved on. That she’s okay.

But it’s just so easy to fall back into bad habits. It isn’t easy to let go. Five years is a long period of time to overcome in just a snap of your finger. Holding on, when all you’ve done for the longest time is to hold on, is a conditioning that is difficult to break.

I love how the book did not go to the easiest and most used path where the main character and the new love interest just gets into a relationship really quickly, like this new hope of love magically heals all the heartache and pain that the previous one had inflicted upon. It doesn’t happen that way in reality.

I love how, no matter how really perfect Nico is, Faith was every bit realistic and dynamic as a character. She believed, she fell in love, she fooled herself, she hurt, she cried. Through her readers break and find it in themselves to find the strength to move on.

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I really appreciate the pace and how the story handled this concept of moving on. Lately, this concept has been all the rage in Philippine Cinema. And reading this book is actually a little cinematic for me as well. Like, I can totally see it adapted for the big screen.

This vividness of the images and the story, for me, says more about how easy it was for me to resonate with the story because it’s just so very Filipino. More than just the settings, the way Tejano wrote the entire thing is engaging and captivating. And the little details of the life we live here in the Philippines? Our weather, our priorities in life, Metro Manila traffic, the disasters we always experience—all these tiny details perfectly, perfectly captures what and how it is to be a Filipino.

And books like Tejano’s Keeping the Faith is why I keep on reading and seeking myself.

Links to Purchase:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31228888-keep-the-faith

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About the Author:

Ana Tejano has been in love with words and writing ever since she met Elizabeth Wakefield when she was in Grade 3. She has contributed several non-fiction pieces in print and online publications, and has been blogging for years. When she’s not writing, she works as a communications manager for a payroll outsourcing firm, and serves in CFC Singles for Christ in every other time that she doesn’t spend reading or sleeping. She lives in Metro Manila and is also known by another name in her other circles (but it’s not a secret identity, really).

Contact Links:

Favorite, personal

Year-End Review: A #Blessed Post

2016 was a very challenging year for humanity, to say the least. As a friend said in her Facebook essay, it did kick our collective asses but it also had its good moments. At work, we have this bloggers’ group with monthly challenges, and this month’s challenge was to reflect on what good things happened to us this past year.

The goal was to realize that we are #blessed – and I’m using that word in that instant a little mockingly, but it did make me realize that yes, I have, indeed, been blessed this year.

It wasn’t all so bad.

Books in 2016

As I am a book blogger, I tried to tie this rather a personal blog challenge to my content: books. And once I was sitting down, alone at a coffee shop one rare very early morning on a weekday, I found that it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. This activity made me realize how intricately tied my life is with books, and how I still define moments of my life with the books I read. Some people recall songs in times of crisis or moments of clarity. The idea is similar to that but in my life, I have books.

1. Cinder and Cindy Ella

The year started with me trying to ignore the looming and very lethal undergraduate thesis deadline that I have. I was on a vacation in Dubai during the first days of 2016, seeking clarity and the much-needed space and motivation for an impending bloody 20k-word-to-10-k word revision. I was fucking scared and already halfway insane with the thought of chopping down a semester’s worth of work.

My thesis was about Cinderella retellings in contemporary genre fiction. It was a no-brainer that I would take the romance and genre choices as my thesis, as these are the books that brought me to the Literature degree path I’ve been taking. But taking Romance and Sci-Fi as my thesis options were also setting me up to always defending my choice – of thesis and I guess, reading preference – to people around me. It didn’t help that a lot of people, maybe my thesis adviser included, didn’t see the worth in Romance novels. This lack of interest and respect made it really difficult to find the reason to keep on going and the reason of why I was writing my thesis in the first place.

I am in love with genre fiction, particularly Romance. And I always get triggered whenever people talk shit about it. This passion fuelled me during the last days of the semester in letting go of a big chunk of my thesis draft and revising what would be the final version of my thesis. I realized then that a lot of people may think their undergraduate thesis is just a little requirement they have to complete to get their degree, but for me, my thesis had been a good test of passion. After graduating, I will continue reading, loving, and fighting for my little genre books.

2. The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

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Right after graduation, I was accepted to a local publishing house as an editorial assistant. If you have read my comeback post, you would know that this is a story of triumph and defeat, and I feel like I am finally ready to tell it now.

The Star-Touched Queen was a beautiful discovery before I plunged into my dream industry. In the book, the main character was spirited away into the world she thought she was better off in than the real world, a kingdom in which she was a princess. It was magical and empowering, and it lent me the strength and hoped that things would be as magical as it did for the main character.

So there I was, empowered and hopeful until the dream turned into a nightmare.
Like the main character in Star-Touched Queen, the magical place I was spirited into was not as beautiful and magical as I thought it to be. It felt like I was fighting for my beloved genre books against an army of patriarchal prejudice against them. And it is such a disappointment to find them in the one place I thought would be a refuge against such ideas.

I was miserable the entire time I was there. But I did learn some things I will carry with me until I am ready to face the publishing industry once again. Like, treating your employees with humanity in your heart and hire editorial assistants who actually like the books you are trying to publish.

3. Spark Books

So hey. These are books that tied me over while I was miserable and broken-hearted with my career. I loved each of these books and believed they are every bit as good as their western contemporaries.

I will defend New Adult Romance books until the last of my breath and these books made me realize how strong my love for the genre is. I’ll probably give a review some time in the future. Maybe.

4. The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

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In the interim between the disaster that was my first job and picking up the pieces of my broken dreams, I found The Hating Game. It was about a copywriter, who lost the meaning of her life after a disastrous relationship, going on a business road trip with an art director co-worker, who may be one of the biggest players in their office.

I try not to be the cliché that Easy A pointed out: the one where the main character identifies herself with the book she is currently reading. But I do get a sense of identification and healing with the books I read. It may be a beautiful serendipity but it was also magical in the way all books have a universal way of healing us.
(This book is fantastic and a great full-length Romance novel. I missed these kinds of books. *sigh*)

5. Best Women’s Erotica

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Yay! The last book of my year and it was a reader copy!

Things began to pick up for me in the last months of the year. I got a new job I was trying not to think too much about – I’ve learned that expectations have a way of hitting you rather forcefully at the back of your knees. And surprisingly, this time I think I got adulting right.

The job, which is partly the reason why I revived this blog, has been great. I am learning lots of new things every day and meeting people who are a lot more critical and fun than at my last job. (Oh my God, I just went there.) The work itself is challenging, but I think I love it. It’s the same feeling as the one I had when I shifted to English Lit after failing so hard at Engineering school. It was that “every day I create blunders and mistakes but nothing as terrible as not understanding an entire semester’s worth of lessons.”

With this renewed sense of hope, I am trying to make this book blog happen again. I volunteered to review this sexy book and I hope to receive and review lots more books this 2017. (Review should be posted before the week ends! Are you excited about what this anthology may have? I am, too.)

2017 Goals

Last year, I think my only goal was to survive thesis and finally get my degree. I did not plan anything about my career, only hopes that I may be able to get into the publishing industry. It did happen, although not as successfully as I would have liked. All in all, it was a very productive year. The realization that I have only graduated last year and that career success is not something I should get right off the bat took off a lot of pressure on my chest. I am new at this adulting thing and I am entitled to stumble and fall.

I am sure I will make lots of mistakes this coming year as well. I hope I create more content for this blog, get more free books (heh), and hopefully create something for myself. 2016 wasn’t so bad in terms of productivity. Here’s to hoping 2017 gets to beat 2016.