Book Review, Recommendations

[REVIEW] Beginner’s Guide to Love and Other Chemical Reactions by Six de los Reyes

This one’s for my old [STEM gurl from Science HS] life. 😉

Beginner’s Guide to Love and Other Chemical Reactions
By Six de los Reyes
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Age Category: New Adult
Rating: 5/5

Blurb:

Falling 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.

Review

I’ve been meaning to read this one since Sounds Like Summer. The cover and the blurb were just instant wins for me. I mean, that minimalist blue cover with a test tube. Of course, it’s going to be about Science, my weakness. My love even when we did not exactly work out together.

And it lived up to my expectations! Granted, the start of the story needs a little getting used to. The pacing and the language of a scientific journal can be a little alienating. I get that the use of the clinical language could have been intentional, since Kaya is a scientist and this book is her headspace.

But power through it and you will be rewarded!

Characters

I am a little wary of falling in love with LIs lately. I want to firmly love the MCs first before loving the LIs. Maybe I just want to give more airtime to the female characters. I feel like I always owe them more time to gush over.

But then Nero happened. Nero, who was the perfect ideal guy for girls who refuse to face their emotions, for stubborn but passionate women bent on succeeding. And sigh, it’s hard to keep the love for LI from showing.

Six’s strength in her storytelling lies in the complexity of her characters. I love how dynamic everyone is, from Sounds Like Summer to Feels Like Summer. Her characters feel so real and the richness of the world building just follows.

I also love her way around steamy scenes. They are Really Fucking Steamy. I could feel how single I am with her stories. As in, I want a Nero to make out with, kind of awareness.

So yes, read this! Read this is if you’re a fan of Penny Reid. Science and romance can happen. There’s no binomial opposition here, only a union of two sets of amazing and awesome fields of passionate women.

Book Review, Favorite, Recommendations

[REVIEW] Promdi Heart

5/5 stars LET’S GO TRAVEL ❤
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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!

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!)

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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, Recommendations

[REVIEW] Waiting in the Wings by Tara Frejas

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Waiting in the Wings
by Tara Frejas

Rating: 5/5

Genre: Romance / NA / Contemporary
Release Date: February 21, 2017

SYNOPSIS:

At twenty-three, theatre actress Erin Javier has yet to fall in love or kiss a boy offstage, away from the klieg lights. She is the perfect leading lady—whose heart men would fight for, win, and protect—unfortunately, only until the curtains fall and the lights go down. In real life, Erin is a certified NBSB whose heart has been hoping for a song to dance to for quite some time.

But when two (two!) men enter from stage left and right, Erin is confused. Who deserves to take center stage in her heart—Mr. Theatre Royalty whose attention and displays of affection make her pulse race, or a good friend whose steady support has helped steer her to success and fulfill her dream?

BUY IT ON AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06WV7BPJ4

ADD IT ON GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34102210-waiting-in-the-wings

BOOK REVIEW

Waiting in the Wings serves up HEA in spades. It’s a fun and happy read that packs a punch of happy feelings as things progress. Of course, along the way, I can’t say the same. One of the things floating in my head while reading it was, this is one character away from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and as messy (in love) as it.

One of the things I love about Waiting in the Wings is how we see both MC and LI struggling to find things in life: love and career, respectively. While there are books who treat the LI as human as the MC, a lot of books still set up the LI as a perfect piece of flesh, meant to be desired and admired throughout the text.

Waiting in the Wings brings a refreshing LI in Ramon Figueroa’s character. We rarely see an LI owning up to self-esteem issues that usually plague the MC, but here’s the thing: flaws create character and depth that makes your LI, or any character for that matter, more dynamic. Dynamic characters are always a good thing. It endears the readers to them and creates for a more complex book.

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I just love how we see Ramon try and build himself up. I especially love how the book portrays him as someone who would do things to better himself. We don’t see much of that in books. Ultimately, my reading of Waiting in the Wings is a coming-of-age of both main characters, overcoming obstacles and growing together. I especially love how they both figured out things for themselves together.

Erin Javier is the cutest character I have read so far. She is this cuddly ball of sunshine, and in Ramon’s words, people just can’t help but fall in love with her. And it’s true. At her very core, you know Erin just wants to help out. But for me, her character begins her development a little earlier than Ramon. With her conscious decision to wait in the wings (see what I did there?), to allow herself to experience the things she usually portrays on stage, seemed not quite an easy decision to make for someone as giving and kind as Erin.

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But, this kindness of her is also her character flaw. She tries so hard to be there for and to help Ramon but it does more harm than help. But you have to give it to her, her grand gesture was one of the most beautiful Grand Gestures I’ve ever read—realistic, not too gaudy, artistic, and fits their characters just right. I am so down with that kind of Grand Gesture.witw-quote3

Should I talk about Pio? Okay, I guess so. Pio Alvez is the foil to Ramon’s character: he is confident, his career is stable, and there is just a deep rooted sense of self with him. He is the obvious, no-brainer choice for Erin’s LI if you think about it logically. But Pio is also the shiny boy you’d just love to stare at. I feel like Pio could be a great character but this is not his book yet and he is emotionally unavailable for Erin. His schedule and all his rules (baggage, tbh) make him just unfit for this book. It’s not his turn to grow yet. He is a prime character for another MC, though, but not for Erin.

There are lots of reasons to read this book: the characters, the growth, the story. And to add more reasons, read it for the intertextual material. There are wonderful songs penned for this book that snatches my heart and I can only just imagine if they were really singing in real life for a stage adaptation. I can’t even wrap my head around writing songs, for me that’s such a big task. Like writing poetry.

I just love this book to pieces. Ramon is a great character to fall in love with, and yes, I really identify with Erin’s affectionate character (hehe). And hey, I just realized now how ripe Pio is for a celebrity romance story! Heh. I hope we see a sequel with Pio.

 

 

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!]

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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:

Book Review, Favorite, Recommendations

REVIEW: Tara Frejas’s Scandalized

On my last review, I mentioned a genre/trope of romance novels I call as “rockstar romance.” Well, look no further for an example because Tara Frejas’s Scandalized is one very good example of the genre.

Fi Legaspi is living the dream of working in Seoul as a road manager for one of South Korea’s hottest bands, East Genesis Project. Until she isn’t.

When she finds herself in the middle of a scandal and a hostile fangirl witch hunt, Fi seeks the comfort of home, and to her surprise, not the person she had been pining for for years. All too suddenly it’s no longer her career on the line, but also her heart. Will she walk away from everything that matters to her or fight to keep her dream live.

Reading rockstar romances involving famous celebrities and a normal (civilian) main character affords us of certain fantasy that is almost akin to that of a princely type of character meeting a commoner. There is that sense of wonder that caused by the almost impossibility of it happening in real life. After all, do you get to see your celebrity crushes in real life and make them notice you romantically often?

Fresh, New Perspective

I am not sure if this is a reading quirk of mine, but I find books which bring new things to the proverbial table a lot more exciting.

I really love how creative authors can get when they work inside the formula of the genre. Granted that there really are beats that sound almost alike to each and every romance book, but they are all unique and have their own individuality in them that makes readers discern one book from another. Remember that Chinese proverb about a stream never being the same water you see when you touch it? I kind of see romance books like that as well.

In Scandalized, Frejas presented us a boyband that the South Korean audience, if not the world, loves to pieces. And yes, to have a great rockstar romance novel, of course, you have to have a musician or a band full of gorgeous men who the people love.

Then comes the main character. Usually, she is a person who has not heard of the band or not a fan. Maybe there is a humbling effect on the love interests that adds to the fantasy. A lot of books certainly think it’s effective.

And again, usually the main character and the rockstar realizes how they both grow and help each other overcome theirs. Crises. This development helps them fall in love with each other and thus, the Happily Ever After.

Frejas’s book shows Fi Legaspi, accomplished and independent woman, working abroad and interacting with the hottest boy band in South Korea like a friend. And while she maintains a great friendship with the boys, her proximity to them did not render her immune to their charms as she fell in love with bandleader Yihwan.

It would have followed the same outline as other rockstar romance books but it did not.

“You are all I can think of. You’re like… this persistent refrain I can’t get out of my head, and–”

“See that’s the thing. I never wanted to be a refrain in your head.” Her voice is laced with conviction as she speaks, but she’s blinking away tears.

“I wanted to be the song.”

Not only do we see a Filipina character interacting with the Kpop idols we keep on loving, but we also see a defiance of the genre that is welcome and effective.

At the risk of a minor spoiler, I have to say this: No matter how great to see Yihwan realize how wonderful a person Fi was, I love how the readers are treated to a chance that yes, maybe he is just in love with the concept of being in love and that in itself is more humbling than falling in love with a non-celebrity woman.

Bullying

The book, in its very core, discusses the ill effects of bullying. Cyberbullying, to be exact. There is a certain acceptance of this truth at the beginning of the book that creates a tension to the future events the book. Celebrities are never far-away from the public scrutiny as they are almost owned by the public. Without their fans, they don’t have a career.

But we cannot forget that they are humans, too. Like you and I, they have lives that are separate from their celebrity that a lot of people usually tend to forget. The distance afforded by the internet also gives more power to anonymous individuals to lord over the lives of these celebrities.

“You carry a truth in you. Feel free to burden everyone with it.”

I love how Frejas intricately weaved this sensitive topic to the story and created a seamless tapestry that refuses to be shove-on-your-throat didactic and presented the lesson to the reader more palatable. Ultimately, tackling pressing issues like these are the mark stones of really good romance novels: with the subversion of issues and the triumph of the female character.