What You Wanted by Mina V. Esguerra

What You Wanted coverPlot description 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?

What You Wanted follows Damon and Andrea’s story after Wedding Night Stand. Don’t fret, you can still read this book without having to read Wedding Night Stand. Considered as a standalone, readers will still be able to understand the story of What You Wanted. I’ll be the living proof of that.

Moving on to the story, I can say that Andrea is seen as someone who is always on the move. Afraid of being in a commitment, she loses the guy who would’ve wanted to be in a relationship with her. The result: the desire of her heart and mind clashes. She can’t move on from the guy and at the same time, well, she becomes the opposite of a conservative. She might not be my ideal heroine, but I understand her situation and this book helps me empathize with her. Moreover, the more I read about the “relationship” between Andrea and Damon, the more I’m rooting for them.

As for Damon, he “teams up” with Andrea to make the girl he’s after jealous of them. With some motive at hand, Damon and Andrea spend more time together. Being the hot guy that Damon is, it’s obviously inevitable that there would be intimate moments here and there between the two. Part of an act or not, I’m loving their developing close friendship. As a reader, I’m hoping that it would become something more. And true enough, it seems that the universe is in favor of Damon and Andrea. As I read through the story, I find myself being in love with them as I get to know more about them. They’re independent and yet they help each other grow to be better and more mature individuals. In the end, I’m glad they’re able to overcome their emotional struggles and move on.

Overall, What You Wanted is an interesting read that will, at times, make readers fan themselves due to hotness overload. What makes it even more interesting is the crossover of some characters from one of Mina’s previous works (That Kind of Guy). At the end of the day, I’m very much satisfied that both Damon and Andrea eventually get what they truly wanted.


Always the Bridesmaid by Lindsey Kelk

Always the Bridesmaid coverSynopsis from the back cover of the book:

EVERYONE LOVES A BRIDESMAID

Except Maddie, who’s perpetually asked to be one.

EVERYONE LOVES A WEDDING

Except Maddie’s best friend, who’s getting divorced.

AND EVERYONE LOVES THE WAY MADDIE’SHAPPY BEHIND THE SCENES

Except Maddie herself.

One best friend is in wedding countdown while the other is heading for marriage meltdown. And as Maddie juggles her best chance at promotion in years with bridezilla texts and late-night counselling sessions, she starts to wonder – is it time to stop being the bridesmaid?

In Lindsey Kelk’s works where female characters dominate the fictional world, Always the Bridesmaid also holds such stance. While I often immerse myself more in love stories / romance, I still find myself drawn into Lindsey Kelk’s books, and this book is no exception.

The story introduces us to Maddie and her two best friends – both at different stages in life which eventually puts Maddie in a complicated and confused state of mind – as they embark on this challenging journey of this so-called life. Reading through the things that Maddie goes through, I don’t know how she manages to remain sane. Her worries and struggles range from her family to love life, to friends to work – basically everything! As her story unfolds, I’ve wanted to find out what happens next. And boy, what an interesting turn of events the book has become.

Maddie works in a company where they specialize in organizing events. Her relationship with the boss of their team drives her crazy. And I can’t deny that I feel bad for Maddie. Every time her boss appears in the book, my blood begins to boil and I have this urge to pull her hair. Her boss keeps pulling Maddie down and destroying her self-esteem. Hence, when a job position opens, Maddie has been presented with events-organizing opportunities to prove that she deserves her new position.

Her story doesn’t end there, though. In the midst of Maddie’s adjustment period, Lauren hires her as her wedding planner to her upcoming wedding. As she juggles between work and wedding planning, there’s also Sarah to be worried about. Maddie has to put on a friendship hat and comfort Sarah as she goes through divorce phase. I really don’t know how Maddie ends her day with all those things happening. Even as I write these parts, I feel stressed. On the brighter side, I’m definitely entertained by the men that entered Maddie’s life. Is it Will or will it be Tom? One thing’s for sure, though, her love story helps me gain an insight that our true love might just be right around the corner, or even just right under our nose. With a little nudge, everything will fall into place.

I’m truly impressed by Lindsey Kelk’s portrayals of her characters in this book. The characterization is realistic enough that range of emotions are felt during the span of my reading – from giddiness, happiness, and laughter to sadness, bitterness, and anger. It’s as if I’m also involved in the story. There are moments when I want to warn Maddie of her actions or at other times, just being there for Maddie as a friend. Lindsey Kelk manages to capture the essence of a human being in her characters. There are flaws and imperfections, and yet she maintains the fun in the story.

Indeed, there’s never a dull moment in this book. I’m spellbound by Lindsey Kelk’s narration as the story is written in detail with a right amount of wit, humor, sweetness, and seriousness. I can easily visualize the story in my mind. The dynamism in the characters also helps me empathize with them and easily feel their emotions. While there’s a bit of a love story in the book, Lindsey Kelk never disregards the importance of women. She is able to portray the different sides of women – the happy-go-lucky, good sides to the bad, bitchy sides. Nevertheless, as we’ve seen them at their worst, Lindsey Kelk shows the strength in their personalities on how they’ve recovered from occasional fall-outs. At the end of the day, I love the outcome of the book and who Maddie ends up with is a great satisfaction to me. Always the Bridesmaid does not disappoint. I’ll definitely look forward to more of Lindsey Kelk’s books.


The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

I’ve become a fan of Kasie West ever since I’ve read The Distance Between Us. Her works are something that I always look forward to. Hence, after finding out that she’ll be releasing a new book, I anticipated its release date and bought a copy from The Book Depository.

Here’s the plot description from the back cover of the book:

The Fill-In Boyfriend coverWhen Gia Montgomery’s boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she’d been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend—two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley.

The problem is that days after prom, it’s not the real Bradley she’s thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn’t even know. But tracking him down doesn’t mean they’re done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor, and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend’s graduation party—three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.

Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship.

We’ve read books told from the point of view of an outcast, an average student, or someone “who doesn’t belong” can see past the high school cliques and make a difference. Yes, we’ve also seen (or read) Mean Girls and The DUFF, and other books or movies that portray the life of a high school student. This book also tells such story, but it now centers on a character that is part of a popular group who eventually challenges the norm and herself.

Forming cliques in school is inevitable and it doesn’t limit itself to one country. I guess wherever school one goes to, there’s always that. And most often than not, we associate certain personalities per clique. Focusing on the popular group, there are these preconceived notions about them – bitchy, vain, snobby, always in the “in” – and some hope to belong in that group. In The Fill-In Boyfriend, Kasie West opens the door of the popular group to the readers and lets them get a closer look and experience what it’s like to be part of the popular crowd.

The beginning of the story already introduces us to Gia, the heroine, who ends up with no date as her boyfriend, Bradley, breaks up with her on prom night. Conscious of what her peers might say and think, she takes on a random guy – the only guy – in the parking lot to act as her boyfriend. That’s where Fill-In Bradley (FIB) comes into existence. I must say, their role playing is quite good and convincing. FIB’s personality adds to his mysteriousness that would make him unforgettable. He keeps entering into Gia’s mind which forces Gia to look for him. And as she slowly spends more of her time with FIB, her views on certain things start to change.

I like how Kasie West portrays Gia as a seemingly-perfect student and daughter, but once we get to know her, everything she does is merely the tip of an iceberg. Told from Gia’s point of view, the book describes how the walls start to break and begins to reveal more of Gia’s true feelings. We’ve seen her previous self who only focuses on superficial characteristics and social media to someone who learns to empathize and gain self-esteem. I guess what I’m trying to say is that Gia proves me wrong. She’s not this spoiled, bitchy girl who wants to be the alpha of the group. From the beginning, I don’t hate her. In fact, the more I learn about her, the more I want to be her friend.

As for FIB, well, I love how he’s a sport as he agrees to pretend to be Gia’s boyfriend and play along without any hint of nervousness. His confidence and charisma make him attractive. A plus point added for him also since he shows to be a gentleman. His growing friendship with Gia convinces me more to root for them. They’re just perfect together! One way or another, they have helped each other grow and become better persons. And yes, I won’t reveal his name because just like in the book, it takes a while for Kasie West to reveal it. It adds to the mystery of his character, but in the end, readers will eventually know him better and fall in love with him as well.

Apart from the dynamic characterization of the hero and heroine, the minor characters have also played a significant role in the story. FIB’s sister is one unique, quirky character who will definitely add flavor to a friendship. She shows her true self more than Gia’s friends. Jules, on the other hand, always gets on my nerve. She pisses me off. I don’t like her attitude and the way she approaches things. She’s the very definition of a mean girl. Furthermore, despite Claire being the middleman of Gia and Jules, as well as being Gia’s best friend, I see her personality quite off. In the end, though, I can still sense some hope for her.

Overall, The Fill-In Boyfriend is a satisfying read. The book is not just about the cute, love story between FIB and Gia, but it also tackles issues on family, friendship, peers, and self-confidence/esteem. I may not have completely connected with Gia, but Kasie West’s narration helps me understand and empathize her better. Kasie West surely delivers her story well. She manages to let readers become part of her story as mixtures of emotions fill me throughout my reading of this book. I become engaged in everything that happens and I can’t help but wish to interact with the characters.

The Fill-In Boyfriend is definitely one of the books one couldn’t miss out on. This book is another successful masterpiece of Kasie West. It may not be my favorite work of hers, but The Fill-In Boyfriend catches my attention in such a way that I find myself engrossed in it. And perhaps at the end of this book, readers may have a changed view about cliques. The book teaches a lot and while it does that, it also brings enjoyment and swoon-worthy scenes to the readers they surely will not regret. This won’t be my last book to read by Kasie West. I look forward to more.


Learning to Fall by Mina V. Esguerra

Learning to Fall coverSynopsis from Goodreads:

“Go out with a stereotypical romance novel hero WHO ISN’T YOUR TYPE.”

Avid reader and art student Steph is participating in a monthly blog challenge to Live Like Fiction, and this was the task for October. When Grayson, former co-captain of her university rugby team, walks into her class, she knows it’s meant to be – she has to go out with this guy. Even if she’s never been attracted to big, hunky, athletic types. With Grayson’s “player” reputation off the field, Steph thinks he’ll be good for one date that’ll be worth blogging about, and that’s it.

But you know how it goes: Soon, it becomes more than just one date – and Steph and Grayson are caught up in “living like fiction.” How long can they keep playing their roles before reality steps in?

I enlisted myself to the list of those who wanted to receive an e-ARC copy of this book. Mina V. Esguerra has been one of my favorite Filipino authors, so knowing that she has a new book coming out excites me. Judging by the cover of the book, I know for sure that this will be a worthwhile read.

One of the things that pique my interest is the portrayal of the main character – because she’s a book blogger! As a book blogger, I’m curious to know the life of another blogger and true enough, reading this book confirms that being one paints a more lively color to life. Aside from that, despite it being a work of fiction, this book also seems to bring its characters to life and convinces the readers that it’s possible for them to experience a fictional life in reality once in a while.

I love the concept of this Live Like Fiction Challenge. The monthly challenges surely look exciting to do and Steph, without any hesitation, grabs the opportunity to be part of it. It’s because of the challenge that Steph meets Grayson and from that point on, their lives become intertwined more than they expected it to be. At a glance, it seems impossible to think that an artist and/or bookworm won’t mix well with a sports enthusiast, especially with a rugby player, but surprisingly enough, Mina V. Esguerra manages to successfully make Grayson and Steph look perfect together. And boy, what an interesting read this book has become.

Just like what the title says, I, too, am learning to fall for the hero and heroine. This would be the first time I encountered a character portrayed as an artist and what Steph does just fascinates me. She has the talent and passion to do what she loves. As for Grayson, he may be perceived as a player, but giving him the benefit of the doubt changes everything I think about him. As I read further, I learn that he possesses qualities of what women call “man of her dreams”. I may not be a sports enthusiast, but I’ve become so invested in their relationship. Their undeniable attraction and chemistry are evident and I like the fact that despite their independence, they still complement each other. There’ve been struggles along the way, each finding their own goals and dreams, but I’m impressed by how they still help each other reach for their goals.

As much as this is the story about two persons’ journey towards their desired future, Learning to Fall also tells Grayson and Steph’s unique love story. One cannot ignore the very steamy scenes included in this book as well. Kudos to Mina V. Esguerra for writing detailed, stimulating scenes for readers to enjoy. She definitely delivers the story well that it had me devouring the book in a day or two. The book convinces me enough that living a fictional life isn’t too far-fetched. Overall, Learning to Fall entertains me more than I expect it to. I would have wanted to see more of Steph’s work, though. Aside from that, I’m definitely on Team Stayson all the way.


Plain Vanilla by Ines Bautista-Yao

I also won an ebook copy of this book via Buqo from a giveaway hosted by Ines Bautista-Yao during the #MoreLoveinPH Romance Writers of the Philippines Multi-Author Bash last June 27-28 on Facebook.

Here’s the synopsis:

Plain Vanilla coverDespite her quirky name and equally quirky family, 16-year-old Tempest Juan knows she’s ordinary. After reading a comment on Facebook which likened her to vanilla ice cream, Tempest decides she has to do something about it or be forever branded as plain, lukewarm, and well, vanilla. It doesn’t help that the comment was made by Paco Lorenzo, her cousin’s cute friend (no longer cute in her book!). When she happens upon a book of dares, she decides to attempt each one, no matter how hard. This is her personality at stake, after all. But somehow, Paco, the cause of all this, finds a way to be at every dare Tempest attempts, confusing her and forcing her to question what’s really going on inside her heart.

High school, crushes, prom – if these are what you’re looking for in a story, then Plain Vanilla is the right one for you. Having been introduced to the title, I don’t know what to expect. What does an ice cream flavor have to do with the story?

Being surrounded by family members full of energy and crazy ideas, Tempest stands out the most. Not because she has the craziest ideas of all, but merely the opposite. Right from the beginning, I can easily connect with her in terms of personality as I can see similarities between us. Aside from being an introvert, I also sense Tempest’s neatness and orderliness – a state of condition I always want my place to be in. But with a single comment from Paco, Tempest proves to become just like her family – “not boring”.

I like the analogy Ines Bautista-Yao creates between one’s personality and an ice cream flavor. Readers will eventually understand what plain vanilla means and why this pertains to Tempest. Reading this story pushes me to reminisce my high school life. Looking back, life in high school has its fair share of dramas and fun. I can totally understand the different cliques formed in school and the feeling of excitement over the highly-anticipated prom night.

Overall, Plain Vanilla is a short but interesting read that would make one look back to his/her teenage years. But apart from it being a cute love story, Plain Vanilla also centers on friendship, family, and building one’s self-esteem. I must say, kudos to Ines Bautista-Yao for nailing the ending scene. At the end of the day, not only does Tempest learn to be herself, but she also gets to have her sweetest prom night ever!