I Am Buried in Romance Books by Filipinos (And You Should Be Too)

If you’re like me, you’re probably familiar with the agony and ecstasy of having a gigantic book pile. You’re probably also familiar with its random growth spurts, triggered by book sales and events like the recently-concluded Manila International Book Fair.

Want to know the reason why I was quiet for a long time? It’s because I was trying to embark on a clearly fruitless quest to make a dent in my pile of books.

To be fair, this wouldn’t be so hard if I didn’t have to work. Or sleep. Or eat. The spirit is most definitely willing, but my flesh is weak and I find myself just staring at (without actually seeing) pages so often that I sometimes just give up and go on YouTube instead.

Give me some credit, though. Over the last few months, thanks to the amazing people in #romanceclass, my bookworm self has been nourishing itself with loads and loads of romance books written by super talented Filipino writers. And I’m quivering with feels because they’re so good.

Wanna browse my current bookshelf? Here are the books I’m currently reading (or have read recently):

Sexy Suspense – The Takedown Trilogy

Image from romanceclassbooks.com

I’m swept up in Bianca Mori’s Scorched Earth (the third book) right now, and I’m equal parts afraid of it never ending—because the stakes are so high—and afraid that it will—because that means I’ll have to say goodbye to Peyton and Carson. I mean, how can you NOT love two characters who have complex souls and a complicated attraction to each other? I’m finding it hard to not spoil this book for everyone else because there are so many cool bits here.

5 word summary: Clandestine operations and European travel

Buy it here: Print

LGBTQ Love – Another Word For Happy and Don’t Tell My Mother

ReadinginBetween_Another Word for Happy and Don't Tell My Mother
Images from romanceclassbooks.com

I read these two books by Agay Llanera and Brigitte Bautista back-to-back because…well, it just felt right to do it that way. And frankly? I’m so freaking happy that I did. Even though it felt like I got heavily punched in the feels at certain points in these books (for a person who has near-pathological attachments to her family, the parent issues were so painful), you ultimately get some catharsis at the end. If you’re going to read these books, please read them one after the other. They’re enlightening and satisfying.

5 word summary: Coming of age and LGBTQ

Buy Another Word for Happy here: Amazon Smashwords Print

Buy Don’t Tell My Mother here: Amazon Print

Strange Romantic Realities – Wired Differently

Image from romanceclassbooks.com

Describing all the feelings I have for this book by Chris Mariano is tricky. Quite frankly, I’m still digesting it all even though I’d read this a couple of months before. Something about it stuck with me, burrowed into my bones the way “Instructions on How to Disappear” did. All I can say is that all the pieces are beautifully written and wonderfully structured. It pretty much blew my mind and my soul, and I think it should be required reading for everyone.

5 word summary: Chris Mariano is a genius

Buy it here: Amazon Print

Beautiful Body Positivity – If the Dress Fits

Image from romanceclassbooks.com

I’ve been beating myself up for not buying a copy of this book by Carla de Guzman sooner, since I’m a huge fan of fabulous girls who are totally okay with who and what they are. Martha definitely falls into that category, and damn if I didn’t relate to her from the beginning (in which there were lots of yummy, yummy takeout). I’m not plus-sized, but I do like to eat and there are people who feel the need to comment on that. And then there’s Max, who reminds me of a human puppy even though he’s actually a veterinarian. This book is so good, you guys!

5 word summary: Food, family, fake boyfriend, doggies

Buy it here: Amazon Smashwords Print

Of course, I’ve read tons of other books over the last several months; and the only reason why they weren’t featured here is because I binged by author and I can’t pick just ONE from their work (I’m looking at you, CP Santi). Someday, I might start writing full-blown reviews for each of them again.

But right now, I just want you to know that these beauties exist and that they deserve your money.

To find more awesome romance books by Filipinos, visit #romanceclassbooks

Exercises In Mindful Reading

Will It Blend Writer Edition

I’m trying to be more mindful when I’m reading again.

Over the last few years, I’d fallen into the habit of reading purely for pleasure (losing myself in fiction, poetry, and memes) or reading to learn new things and improve my skills for my day job (also enjoyable, in a different way). I’d find myself just sailing through narratives or reducing pieces to bite-sized pieces of facts I can incorporate into my thought processes.

And while my brain thinks just the same when I do these things, it’s stopped chewing and savoring the significance of the stuff I read. It’s not bad that I do it. It’s just that it’s made me impatient for the next thing, the future that always looks better before you get to it.

What I mean to say is I rarely stay present for the present anymore, especially when it comes to reading.

I really suck
I really do.

It’s part of the reason why I signed up to be a beta reader for BookBed Fictory. One of the things I used to do as a teen (about 15 years or so ago, and I’m not ashamed to admit it!) was read other people’s work and really take the time to evaluate them:

  • Did I enjoy it? (Important question)
  • Why? (REALLY important question)
  • How could it improve? (Helpful AF question)

Beta reading stories for Fictory will push me back into the mindful reading state of mind that I used to really get into. Its added bonus, of course, is that it forces me to really think about the stuff I write too. Will readers enjoy this? Why will they enjoy it? Can I write this in a way that will make them enjoy it MORE?

Will It Blend Writer Edition

The long and short of it is it’s a great mental exercise if you want to be more present, which in turn is absolutely helpful if you want to be a better writer than you were before.

It’s also great when you’re a die-hard reader who wants to find more books to read without having to rely on “if you liked this, try reading this” types of articles on the internet. If you pay attention to what you like and dislike, it’ll be much easier to shortlist stuff for your TBR list and minimize the risk of getting a book you’ll regret spending money on.

It’s happened to me so many times, guys. So many, many times.

I’m not saying I’ve mastered this, by the way. I, like most bookworms, am easily distracted by shiny new things, which is why I’m still waffling over whether I’ll go to the MIBF this weekend (are you guys going? I hope you have fun!). I just know there will be books over there that I’ll want to buy for the sake of buying, without taking my established preferences into consideration. But then there are folks I want to support at the event, so…

Anyway, my real point is that I’m trying to re-establish an old reading habit I’d lost when the years piled on so I can be reacquainted with myself, and I believe it’s a habit that can help anyone. All it takes to read mindfully, after all, are a few simple questions.

What are you guys reading right now? Are you enjoying it? What parts do you like? What elements or tropes are a must-have for your reading material? What do you avoid reading? Let me know!

World Poetry Day!

It’s World Poetry Day, and I sadly haven’t written any in a while because I’ve been in a funk. But! That doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate the occasion with someone else’s poetry.

That someone else is Joel M. Toledo, who taught English at my high school and whose poems and Facebook grammar lessons I admire.

Poem quote Joel Toledo Persona

Above is the last line of an older work of his, titled “Persona” (you can find the whole poem here). ❤

If you want to see his latest poems, though, go grab a copy of his latest collection, “Fault Setting”. I’m certainly getting one for myself!

2 Ines Yao Books You Should Read Back-to-Back on Valentine’s

I’m back (sort of)! Viruses felled me and I didn’t get as much as I wanted done last week, but at least gave me time to savor some great books. 

Two of those books happen to be perfect for Valentine’s Day. The best part? They’re connected to each other!

Ines B. Yao published “Only a Kiss” in 2014, and its prequel “When Sparks Fly” came out in 2016. I was psyched to find copies of these on nearly the same day. I love reading stories set in the same universe, so being able to read them back-to-back was bliss for me. 
I had the luxury of reading these chronologically, story-wise. It really worked for me, though you don’t really need to do that to enjoy either book. But I really recommend that you guys read these back-to-back for Valentine’s because the characters just suck you in.

“When Sparks Fly” is about Regina and Ben, who felt an instant connection when they first met. Unfortunately, Regina’s insecurities plus Ben’s…interesting track record with women make the road to their happily ever after bumpy.

“Only a Kiss”, on the other hand, follows Regina’s little cousin Katie and the long and complicated road to romance she and her best friend Chris took. I can still help but compare it to “Saving Sally”, minus the abuse storyline.

My only real complaint over these books is that they should have been longer. There were so many interesting characters and plot points that I felt could have been explored a bit more. And the inclusion of all those made parts of the story feel rushed in light of the length. Those bits didn’t get to breathe.

Apart from that, though, you get complex characters with complicated emotional journeys, grand romantic moments (I want that restaurant in “Sparks” to exist), and great humor. Those more than made up for the hiccups.

Seriously. Read these for Valentine’s Day.

You can find Ines Yao’s books in National Bookstore – I think her newest release there is “All That Glitters” – and on Amazon.

(Late) Review: Instructions on How to Disappear

I’ve been doing a whole lot of poetry for this blog, and not enough prose. I figured I should do something different for this post, and do a book review again.

I actually finished reading this book back in December; but between holiday chores and career transition tasks (I was switching from “employed content optimization manager” to “self-employed writer/editor”, which entailed a ridiculous amount of paperwork), I never got around to finishing a review draft I was satisfied with.

I eventually realized that I will never be satisfied (cue Hamilfan jeering), because I don’t think I can write a review that can justify how good I think “Instructions on How to Disappear” by Gabriela Lee is. So I might as well just post my ramblings and be done with it.

The final story, which gave the book its title, was actually a piece I’d read before—it was originally included in an anthology of speculative fiction. But I absolutely think it’s her best work and deserves its place as the collection’s coup de gras. The exploration of heartbreak and the state of fragility we all go through in its wake is truly masterful.

I’m getting ahead of myself, though. There are other stories in this book, stories that lead you to consider the horror of love and the nature of truth; memories and how they make us (or destroy us). They have dragons and monsters and destiny, advanced technology and strange fantasy.

One of my favorites is “This Side of the Looking Glass”, in which a girl is allowed to live a different version of her life. It’s a lovely exploration of how events in our lives shape us, and how “better” really is a matter of perspective.

Another is “Tabula Rasa”, in which the act of making love leads to stolen memories and how this loss becomes loss of self and ultimately the loss of being.

Finally, there is “Eyes Wide as the Sky”, in which there are literal ghosts of the past and questions on how far people are willing (or should be willing) to go in the name of survival.

These are the kinds of stories that inspire quiet contemplation after the first read, and languid savoring at the second (I assure you, you’ll want to read these stories again and again). This is the kind of book that you need to devour late at night, in the soft glow of warm lamplight with a rich chocolate drink spiked with liquor, when the shadows settle over your shoulders.

I highly recommend reading this book, especially when you’re in a pensive mood.

Copies  of “Instructions on How to Disappear” can be found in National Bookstore and Fully Booked. Alternatively, you can buy it by emailing the publisher: bookorders@visprint.net. You can also visit the author’s website: Sometimes Sunlight.