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

Rating:

Other Reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook

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