Exes and Fairy Tales

Here’s one thing you should know about me: I can never resist a good chick lit story.

Before I got into YA (contemporary and fantasy), I was all for the pink covered books with glamorous women and all that. Although I don’t really grab every chick lit on the shelf — I’m quite choosy, but that’s for another post — I’d pick a fluffy chick lit read over other books if I was given a choice. The difference with chick lit and fantasy is I know what to expect in chick lit. I know there’s a girl, there’s definitely a guy and some kind of self-actualization problem somewhere there, all wrapped up in fluff, and done in a modern or at least, familiar setting. Fantasy books can surprise me a bit too often, leaving my brain trying to catch up as I try to visualize everything. Chick lit books leave me less mental stress.

I’m glad to say that local chick lit is kind of catching up with foreign ones, and they really are getting better. Ask me for a good local chick lit author? Let me introduce you to Mina V. Esguerra. :)

I “met” Mina when I got her first book, My Imaginary Ex, sometime last year, to pass time while I was at the mall. I had a vague idea of the plot, but I wasn’t really a fan of local chick lit yet, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I got it, read it, liked it and asked Mina to give a pep talk to the Pinoywrimos that November for National Novel Writing Month. I even gave away a copy of her book during the Thank God It’s Over party (and the prize when to a boy, how cute), and I was glad that there’s someone to represent the chick lit writers when it comes to inspirations for the Wrimos.

Fast forward to a couple of months later, I got an email from Mina about her second book, Fairy Tale Fail, which was available in Amazon as an ebook. Because of that, I ended up learning how to buy books from Amazon Kindle to my iPod, and yes, I got her book…and read it in a day because it was so awesome.

Fairy Tale Fail

Fairy Tale Fail by Mina V. Esguerra
Publisher: Independent
Number of pages: 110
My copy: ebook from Amazon Kindle Store

Of all the twenty-something women who are hopeless romantics, Ellie Manuel is more “hopeless” than “romantic.”

Even after her Prince Charming broke up with her, she just won’t give up … because fairy tale heroines don’t live “happily ever after” right away, silly, they’re tested first!

Determined to pass the test, she spends the next year restoring herself to the girl Prince Charming had fallen in love with in the first place.

Until she discovers that life without him might not be so bad after all: her career is taking off, her confidence is back, and the cute guy at work is no longer a stranger.

So when is it okay to quit on a fairy tale?

* * *

I’m not being biased because I sort of know Mina. Fairy Tale Fail really is a cute book, one that has the right amount of fluff and life lessons for the everyday working girl. It’s very easy to relate to Ellie, the protagonist, with her fairy tale whims and romanticism. While I never had a Prince Charming like her, I knew the feeling of wanting to have a fairy tale romance, one where I have a set guide for who Prince Charming should be. I know about obsessing about a guy, and I sort of know how it feels to restoring yourself when experiencing a loss.

I have to admit that like Ellie, I think I’d also prefer to have a guy like Don, but I would find someone like Lucas intriguing. Out of my league, but very intriguing. Lucas and Ellie’s development was done gradually, and it was nice to see that it wasn’t a rushed romance — nothing is more disappointing than a rushed romance in a chick lit novel, I swear. Lucas seemed sexy, yet he had a good heart, even if he seemed a bit hard to see. I kind of wish I got to know more of him through the story, but since the story was told in Ellie’s point of view, we only know as much as she does.

Here’s my favorite part (a spoiler, so if you’re reading/planning to read this, skip this!):

“You think you’re funny,” I said ruefully. “I have no idea what my life is going to be like now.”

…”You told me that your life wasn’t all about work. That you had a lot of things you looked forward to when you got out of the office…Then that’s exactly what your life is going to be. You’ve still got your family, your hobbies, your friends, and none of that will change…And I’m probably going to, you know, start calling. Driving you home. Taking you to movies you hate…And then you’ll probably want to introduce me to your mom. Your nephew Dylan will love me because kids like me, and I’ll tell him about my brother’s job and our pirate story, and he’ll just be so attached to me. And then you’ll want me to go to church again, and we’ll probably discuss that at length. But I probably will go to church with you at least once, and it will be in your college church, to erase the memory of what that douche did there.”

Ah Lucas. Where can I find someone like you? ♥ Fairy Tale Fail is a fresh and cute story that’s sure to make you sigh and be kilig. :)

I loved Fairy Tale Fail so much, that it made me pick up My Imaginary Ex again, for a re-read. And here’s the requisite book image and blurb!

My Imaginary Ex

My Imaginary Ex by Mina V. Esguerra
Publisher: Summit Books
Number of pages: 144
My copy: paperback, from National Bookstore

Here’s what happens when you play pretend.

When Zack asks Jasmine to pretend to be his ex-girlfriend, she gamely agrees, thinking it would be fun. A few years later, she still has to keep convincing people that they were never together! Then one day, she finds out he’s getting married—to someone she’d just met once! All of a sudden, things aren’t so clear-cut anymore. Can Jasmine sort out her feelings (sometimes, she can’t even tell real from pretend when it comes to her and Zack) before it’s too late?

* * *

Now this one is quite different. Just like in Fairy Tale Fail, the characters in this novel were strong and unique, each of them having a different voice, even if it’s just a minor character. The supporting characters, Lena and Marjorie, were fun, and convincing, while Kimmy, the main antagonist, was just as hateful. The story was painted over a setting that was very believable, and I could actually imagine where they went at this party or

I think the strength of My Imaginary Ex is not just in its characters, but in how the story was told. The jumps back in time is enough to show us how Jasmine and Zack’s friendship grew, and how he met his exes and how things changed. The transitions between the past and present were straightforward so it wouldn’t leave you wondering where you are in the novel’s time line. And I absolutely loved it when Jasmine came to an epiphany — I felt like I was with Lena and Marjorie, heaving a sigh of relief when Jasmine finally agreed to their plan.

My Imaginary Ex is the type of story where you’ll find yourself rooting for the characters to get together in the end, because if they don’t…well, what’s the use? While I didn’t really liked a particular scene in the book (sorry, I’m just conservative, I guess), the ending was still very satisfying, and would make you want a Zack of your own. I know I did.

So if you’re ever deciding to pick up some good local chick lit, go look for Mina’s books. I promise you won’t regret it. :)

Rating:
Fairy Tale Fail
My Imaginary Ex

Just Like Christmas Lights

12 Steps to Quitting AJ12 Steps to Quitting AJ by Faye Ilogon
Publisher: Summit Books
Number of pages: 142
My copy: paperback, bought from NBS

Grace and AJ are like Christmas lights—off and on, again and again. But their last breakup was devastating. It was enough to make Grace want to run him over in her pale pink Beetle. She even composed 12 steps to quitting him, which wasn’t easy because he admittedly was her first love—the boy she lost her heart to when she was still collecting Hello Kitty stationeries; the boy she never stopped loving since. But something happens that changes Grace’s life forever. Now it’s time for her to reevaluate everything she has going for her and make a decision. Is this the end of Grace’s life as she knows it? Or is she finally going to have the happy ending she so desperately needs?

* * *

I can’t remember if I mentioned it before,  but I’m not really sold on what local chick lit can offer. Blame it on bad experience with the first few books I read, I guess. Plus, sometimes I feel like the story is too short for the price of P150/book. I mean, I can read the entire thing in a couple of hours, for crying out loud.

But I’m kind of glad to see that the stories are improving and are being slightly more relevant at this time, and the protagonists are more spunky and interesting and less flat than the others I read a couple of years ago.

Of course, I may be just deciding that the other characters are flat on the old books I read because they’re not really my kind of stories, you know?

Anyway, 12 Steps to Quitting AJ is one of those greatly improved books that I’m referring to. The story seemed simple at first, and I half-expected it to be another story about a girl who can’t let go of the guy, who’d meet a new guy and she’d realize that she had the best guy all along. It wasn’t that — there wasn’t even another guy. There was a gay friend, another girl, and a whole lot of personal issues with Grace, and even a bit with AJ. It was a bit hard to really get into the story immediately, because the story wasn’t written in a chronological order. The story tends to jump from one time frame to another, but I think it’s quite effective because it gives us a view of how Grace thinks.

Grace definitely had issues, and they’re not the light issues like what are the safest fat burners around. While I didn’t agree on how she finally got over them (sort of), I thought AJ was a very nice male protagonist. AJ seems like a bad boyfriend at first, but he redeemed himself at the end very well, and he may just be the right person to offset Grace’s neurotic tendencies.

Oh, and what’s fun about this book is there were so many references to 90’s stuff! Betty and Veronica, songs for Grace’s playlists, and even a poke at the pink MMDA fences, care of one of Grace and AJ’s friends.

Overall, it’s a nice novel, one you’d like to lose yourself in for a couple of hours. 12 Steps to Quitting AJ reminded me that love isn’t really a step-by-step formula, it requires a lot of honesty for a relationship to work and loving someone is ultimately a decision to stick with them through thick and thin. :)

Rating: