Love Your Frenemies

Love Your Frenemies by Mina V. EsguerraLove Your Frenemies by Mina V. Esguerra
Publisher: Independent
Number of pages: 144
My copy: ebook from Smashwords

Kimmy Domingo was the kind of girl everyone hated and envied — until her fiancé dumped her a week before their wedding. Soon after, she quit her job, hopped on a plane, and just hid from everyone who knew her. A year later and she’s back in Manila to be maid of honor at a wedding she can’t miss.

Kimmy’s home because she’s ready to start over, but she also knows that some people at that wedding were responsible for the mess her life turned out to be. The first step to recovery? Cutting off the ones who caused her troubles to begin with: her best friend and her first love.

* * *

The release of Love Your Frenemies by Mina V. Esguerra totally made my Monday morning happier, and it also made me lose sleep because I couldn’t put it down. I was so excited to read this that I put all other currently reads down, and the need to write my thoughts on feels more urgent than writing reviews for the two books that I need to review first. I can only think of two reasons why I have this urgency: it’s because I really liked this book and I need to share my thoughts ASAP, and because I’m such a Mina fan. ;)

Love Your Frenemies features Kimberly Domingo, a familiar character for those who have read Mina’s first book, My Imaginary Ex. For the uninitiated, Kimberly, also known as Kimmy, is the b*tch in her debut novel, the villain in Jasmine and Zack’s romance. It’s easy to hate her in that book as she was painted completely in black and white. More of a companion novel than a sequel (so you don’t have to read My Imaginary Ex to understand this…spoiler warning for that novel, though, if you haven’t read it!), this gives us a different picture of Kimmy, one year after she left after being dumped by Zack. Kimmy goes back home for her best friend’s wedding, changed from her one year absence. Determined to start over, she slowly faces all the things she left behind — her family, her Country Club friends, her old job. She’s also ready to cut off the people she’s declared toxic in her life, namely her bride-to-be best friend, Chesca, and her first love, hunky and charismatic Manolo.

I love spin-off stories featuring other characters, especially the villains, because it gives readers an entirely different perspective. It’s also a great character study and a perfect example of how our first impressions of people don’t tell us much. I like how Mina built Kimmy’s back story here, making her less evil and just another person who had issues to deal with on her own, issues that happened to entangle other people. It shows that people aren’t always black and white, but mostly gray.

I also liked that this one focused more on Kimmy’s self-discovery and friendships than the romance. Oh sure, Manolo’s hot (but I still find Lucas of Fairy Tale Fail hotter, LOL), but Kimmy’s relationship with him wasn’t the sole focus of the story. Love Your Frenemies isn’t really just about love but about, well, frenemies. :) I liked how Mina made the other characters three-dimensional. Like the first Kimmy in My Imaginary Ex, some of them were easy to hate at first, but as the story unfolded, I started to somewhat understand why they did what they did, even if it’s not what an ideal friend would do. I found myself feeling somewhat affectionate towards them in the end, and it further proves that people are not what you always believe them to be.

Love Your Frenemies is filled with flawed characters that paints a very accurate picture of how complicated and messy relationships — family, friendships, and romantic ones — are. It doesn’t have any of those heart-stopping, tingle-inducing romance, but more of the introspection of a woman who’s trying to build her life back from the mess that it has been and is determined not to make another mistake. The characters are far from perfect, and honestly I don’t think they’d be my crowd, but they’re definitely the kind of people that you’d want to be on your side even if they can be a pain in the neck more than half the time.

I think Love Your Frenemies show how much Mina really thinks about what she writes. It’s difficult to give a voice to a villain and make her human and deserving of sympathy, but Mina does it almost effortlessly in her newest novel. Kimmy isn’t your most lovable character, unlike Jasmine or Ellie or Carla from Mina’s previous novels, but she’s the type of character that will stay with you long after you’ve reached the last page, teaching us important lessons on discovering yourself, forgiveness and the ties that bind.

Highly recommended, and don’t think I’m saying that only because I’m such a fan. ;)


Other reviews:

No Strings Attached

No Strings Attached by Mina V. Esguerra
Publisher: Summit Books
Number of pages: 146
My copy: paperback from National Bookstore

Carla is a whiz at her job: she’s efficient, reliable, and a total genius when it comes to putting something together at the last-minute. The snag is she’s single and turning the big three-oh in a few months. Her girl best friend (yes, she’s married just like the other girls in Carla’s barkada) keeps trying to set her up with stable banker-types, while her guy best friend (single – the other single one) encourages her to play the field – no strings attached. Then, through no set up or extraordinary circumstance, Carla meets Dante. Hot, smug, sexy Dante. Definitely not a banker-type and seemingly too good to be true. So there’s got to be a catch. There is. He’s five years younger. Is the universe telling Carla to finally let loose and enjoy a fling with a younger man? Or is there a lot more to this awkward situation that she bargained for?

* * *

I attended my godsister’s wedding yesterday, the second wedding I attended this year. I came out of my brother’s wedding last October relatively unscathed with questions about my own wedding, but this time around, I wasn’t so safe. For one thing, I was called for the bouquet toss even if I was trying to make myself scarce at that point (my godsister called me out). Then as we were saying goodbye to the newly weds and my godsister’s parents, they were all saying to me, “Don’t forget to invite us to your wedding.”

Sigh. Sure I won’t forget. I figure it would be less exasperating question if I was actually nearing the altar, but alas, I’m not.

That is probably what Carla in Mina V. Esguerra‘s latest novel, No Strings Attached, felt, especially when her friends started getting married and having a life very different from her own. It doesn’t help that the only remaining single in her group of friends was Tonio, the guy who likes to play the field. Carla is tired of being set up with stable banker types that she doesn’t really like, and at the same time, she doesn’t like how Tonio does it. Then she meets Dante, and things go from cold to sizzling hot between the two of them. The only catch is Dante is five years younger. Does she stay or does she go?

I’ve been hounding the bookstores ever since Mina announced in Twitter that her new book would be out soon, and I was giddy when I finally got my hands on it (boo on Eastwood stores for not having them in stock as fast as the other branches). This is another light and quick read from Mina, albeit a little different from her first two novels, My Imaginary Ex and Fairy Tale Fail. I can’t really pinpoint if it’s more serious or not, but it is certainly different. Like what Chachic said, the story focused not on how the love story unfolded, but on the complications of the relationships, especially to the people around Carla and Dante.

Mina shows how chick lit does not always have to deal with heroines finding their soul mates or wanting to get married. Sure, it has romance and there is the set-ups and talks of weddings, but No Strings Attached has a different kind of romance. It’s one that we don’t really get to see on movies or TV or read in any other books. I liked how No Strings Attached tackles a different kind of love story, one that I am pretty sure some Filipinas experience as well. I liked how Carla seemed like a very real person, and her friends offer enough contrast to her for the readers to see the different sides of the story without telling it to them in a long monologue of sorts from the heroine.

I can’t really relate to Carla’s predicament, but I do know I see myself in her best friend, Mary’s shoes. I don’t necessarily set my friends up with stable banker types, but I’d probably react the same way she did if I find out that some of my close friends are in a relationship similar to Carla’s. I’m not proud of it, but the good thing about books is some characters act as a mirror, and it helps me to realize or remember things about myself that I need to keep in check (or sometimes even get rid of) in order to be a loving friend.

It’s not my favorite Mina book (that slot still belongs to Fairy Tale Fail), but it’s another good local chick lit to be lost in for a couple of hours (or days, if you’re not a fast reader). I guess I don’t have to say that I am her fan now, but if it needs saying: if there’s a Mina Esguerra fans club, I am definitely in. ;)

Oh, an in case you were wondering, I didn’t catch the bouquet. :P


Other Reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook

Girl Meets World

Girl Meets World by Claire Betita de Guzman
Publisher: Summit Books
Number of pages: 143
My copy: paperback, bought from National Bookstore

From the author of No Boyfriend Since Birth comes another modern-day romance that’s sure to tickle your funny bone—and touch your heart. Mia Tupas is your typical shy girl daunted by the idea of talking to strangers and content with a humdrum routine of shuttling between work and home. But right after a fortuneteller spies a man in her future, Mia meets Leo, and the two hit it off immediately. There’s just one problem: Leo lives in Bangkok, and Mia balks at the mere thought of getting on a plane—she’s never even been around the country!

Still, the possibility of romance is tantalizing, and Mia manages to keep in touch with Leo through e-mail. But when she finally works up the courage to fly to Bangkok and find out where she stands, she discovers that Leo has left for Bali on the very same day.

Will Mia get her much-awaited chance at love? Join her on this entertaining, cross-country quest through Bangkok, Bali, and Vietnam for the man who just might be The One.

* * *

I wasn’t very impressed with Claire Betita de Guzman’s first novel, No Boyfriend Since Birth. It was my first local chick lit read as a research for my 2008 NaNoWriMo novel, and I ended up getting irritated at the heroine and the story because none of it felt real to me. When I saw that the same author has a new book out, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read it because of her debut. The excerpt seemed pretty interesting, but I didn’t know if it was a justifiable impulse buy.

I eventually gave in and bought it last weekend using some expiring National Bookstore GCs and read the book in a couple of hours. Girl Meets World is the story of Mia Tupas, a homebody who writes brochures for a local tourism company and is perfectly content with her routine life – home, office, with the occasional restaurant delivery meal every now and then. One day, she meets her colleague’s friend, Leo, and they have an instant connection. Egged on by a fortune teller, homebody Mia decides to go to Bangkok to visit Leo to see if he is indeed The One, and finds herself on a sudden trip to Southeast Asia, following the guy who may or may not be The One.

Altogether now: what is wrong with that picture?

The moment Mia decides that she’s going to Bangkok to visit Leo in the story, I immediately wanted to shake her. Okay, the going to Bangkok was forgivable, and no matter how much she denies it, I know she knows that her goal there was to talk to Leo…but when she goes to Bali, well…I wanted to smack her. The Mia from the excerpt was interesting, but as the story went on, I found her too romantic. Perhaps it’s my pride talking, but I think anyone would know that Mia running after a guy she only really bonded over through chat is not a good idea.

Girl Meets World is a typical chick lit with love as the main goal, and while it is better than No Boyfriend Since Birth, I feel that it still lacked on what other good chick lit stories have. Mia’s growth and realizations about herself felt unnatural and flat, almost like she was reading it off some book. The supporting characters were interesting, but their exposure was too little that I couldn’t really connect with them. I’m willing to suspend by belief over the sudden change of course in traveling, but the different situations Mia encountered in the different places she went to felt too forced that I can’t buy it. I know chick lit is supposed to be fluff and this one has a lot of it…but I think chick lit must also be substantial, and I think the book kind of failed in that aspect.

This book had a lot of similarities with Amazing Grace by Tara FT Sering, which I really liked, so maybe that’s why I did not like how this book turned out so much. That, and maybe because I kind of have too high standards sometime. ^^ Girl Meets World isn’t a total waste of a read, so if you want to read something really light and fluffy, give this a try. Otherwise, go for something from Tara FT Sering, Marla Miniano or Mina Esguerra.


Other Reviews:
Girl Next Cubicle

Amazing Grace, Amazing Race

Amazing Grace by Tara FT Sering

Amazing Grace by Tara FT Sering
Marshall Cavendish, 184 pages

Pre-school teacher, Grace Lim, thinks that she has finally found her man at age 27. Mr-Blind-Date-No.-7, Mike, has turned out to be everything that she s ever wanted, dreamt about, and more!

With a marriage proposal in hand, Grace thinks that she is set for life. Trouble begins to stir in paradise when Mike informs Grace that he is re-locating from Manila to sunny Singapore because of work.

But the conveniences of modern technology aren’t enough to bridge the distance between Mike and Grace, and what of Mike s colleague Kaela who appears in every photo that Mike s uploaded online?

So Grace decides to give Mike a surprise visit in Singapore but is she ready for what she will find?

The thing with Summit chick lit books is they seem to be too thin for a Php 150 priced novel. That’s why I hesitate buying them because I feel like they’re a bit too expensive for such a quick (albeit enjoyable) read. So when I spotted Anvil Publishing’s reprinting of Asian chic lit by Filipina authors from Singapore in National Bookstore, I was curious!  Here are some thicker chick lit books at the same price.

The next question is: are they any good?

I finished reading Tara FT Sering’s Amazing Grace this week, and I can answer 1/3 of that question (since there are three Asian chic novels out as of now): it’s very good.

Amazing Grace is the story of Grace Chua, a 26-year-old Filipina-Chinese single woman who has been egged on by her friends and family to find a man and settle down before her biological clock stops ticking. Grace realizes that, and she allows herself to be set up for blind dates. However, none of the guys were deemed worthy, until guy #7, her Valentine’s Day date, Mike. She and Mike clicked, and after two years, he proposes to her. It would have been perfect if Mike hadn’t gave her the next bit of news: he got a job in Singapore and will have to move there for two years for his contract.

Grace was determined to make the long distance relationship work — after all, they were engaged, and there’s no way she’s letting go of that! — but things become complicated when Mike seems to have less and less time for her (acting like she has some kind of contagious eczema or something), and he always seemed to mention a woman named Kaela in their conversations. Grace goes to Singapore on a weekend to surprise him, and finds herself in a race around three countries, all in an effort to get her man back.

Amazing Grace was unlike all chick lit I have read so far, and it was mainly because of the second person POV used in the story. Second person makes use of the pronoun “you”, making it seem like the reader is also the main character in the story. I’ve managed to write one second person POV story, and I am not even sure if I did it right. From NaNoWriMo research, I’ve learned that its best to avoid writing in second person POV because it almost never works properly. For this novel, however, I think it really works. The POV effectively puts the reader in Grace’s place, but still maintaining enough character to distinguish Grace from the reader.

Grace is a quirky, relatable character. I loved being in her shoes, I loved reading her thoughts, I love her reactions to the situations she was in. It was easy to sympathize with her and that may be because I was in her shoes as I read it, but I also felt her pain when she found out about Mike. Grace is not exactly a woman scorned, but there was a sense of desperation in her that made her want to save the relationship even if her sister says to let him go. Her growth in the story was believable in the sense that there wasn’t really much drama over her epiphany. More often than not, there isn’t much grandeur whenever we reach a certain point or realize an important thing in our lives; it usually comes quietly. The same thing happened to Grace, although unlike others, she found herself in a hilarious situation. What is that exactly? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out. :)

Other than the effective second person POV, there were a lot of fun sequences in the story, all in respect to the humor of chick lit. There were the good life lessons, too — lessons that a single woman would definitely find useful. :) I’d also like to praise the epilogue of the novel — it had me chuckling all the way to the end. :)

Amazing Grace is a fun read, and it is worth the Php 150 I paid for. If you enjoy chick lit, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one too. :) If you’re not yet convinced, here are some quotes from the book that I found memorable/funny/both. :)

And factoring in the fact that only fictional chicks in movies get the guy they like on the first and second try (or after many cute pratfalls in equally cute outfits), you can expect a period of tumultuous hitting and missing, so getting together with someone by the time you’re 28 will require you to start looking around and dating about…well, last year. (p.15)

The truth is, you begin to suspect, a woman will go through great lengths designing the rescue, and then hurry back to the place of distress where she will recline and pine, and wait for the man she has chosen to act out the rescue. Then she will gloat and tell all her friends about it. The man, clueless on all unseen workings, will then appear extremely pleased with himself and feel entitled to act it out again — on someone else. (p.38)

In this day and age, a Bad Hair Day, contrary to what the term says, is no longer just a 24-hour nightmare. With a single click of a teeny digital camera, your Bad Hair Day will not end when the sun goes down, but rather, will continue to live on for as long as your friend’s Multiply account is online. (p.81)

Again, you wonder: How did you get here?

Lena calls out from the room. “What?”

Say: “Nothing!”

You really should do something about your tendency to think aloud. (p.151)


2010 Challenge Status:
* Book # 53 out of 100 for 2010
* Book # 8 out of 20 for Project 20:10

My copy: paperback, Php150 from National Bookstore

Cover image & blurb: Goodreads


Welcome to Cafe Carmelo

Table for Two by Marla MinianoTable for Two by Marla Miniano
Publisher: Summit Books
Number of pages: 144
My copy: paperback, bought from National Bookstore

A corner table at a cozy coffee shop witnesses many things:

A long-time couple about to break up after college graduation. A young teacher accepting a dare from her teenage brother to quit dating for two months. A wedding photographer trying to convince his best friend not to get married. A boy meeting up with the girl he never quite got over. And a girl sitting alone, reading romance novels, wondering if today is the day she will stop being lonely.

Do their lives intersect and intertwine — spiraling them through an obstacle course of love and loss and hope and heartbreak? And can they each find the happy ending they so desperately want?

* * *

I normally pick up chick lit books because there’s a bigger chance that I can relate to the characters and their plight. More often than not, I’d find myself sighing the same time as the character does, wishing for the same love as she does, and…that’s where the similarities ended, because the character finds love while I watch her and be happy for her.

Not that I’m bitter, of course. :P

Marla Miniano is back with a new book, this time telling the story of four people who happen to hang out in the same coffee shop, and sometimes even at the same table. Table for Two is a collection of five stories of people from all walks of life, choosing a coffee shop to witness the changes in their lives, and ultimately connecting them in one way or another.

A bit of a spoiler warning starts here, but there’s nothing major. Just be forewarned. :)

Table for Two starts out with Fresh, a story of the end of the relationship of a long-time couple when they realized that after graduation, they need to go their separate ways. Timeout is about Jill, a teacher, who follows her brother’s advice to stop dating for two months to stop herself from dating losers. All the Best is about best friends Carl and Blake, and Carl’s attempt at stopping Blake from marrying Vicky out of concern for his best friend but failing to recognize that he was in more need of relationship advice. This Closure is about Lucas who never really got over Bettina and their shared kiss. The last story, Table for Two brings us to a full circle with Mandy and her independence and her penchant for romance novels.

Continue Reading →