From This Day Forward

From This Day Forward by Marla MinianoFrom This Day Forward by Marla Miniano
Publisher: Summit Books

Number of pages: 144
My copy: signed paperback, bought from Book Sale

When a couple gets married, it isn’t just their lives that are thrown into chaos.

For Nicholas and Nala’s wedding, there’s the mother of the bride who is forced to face her failed marriage; there mother of the groom, who revisits her past — an old love; the bride’s best friend who has lost the only boy she thinks she will ever love and with him, all her happiness; the bride’s cousin who fooled around with her boyfriend’s best friend (who inconveniently turns out to be the groom); and the groom’s sister who cannot understand her brother’s choice of a future wife.

Surrounding the bride and groom’s happiness are the heartache, joys, hopes, dreams and realizations of the people who care about them. It makes you think: does everybody get a chance at happily ever after?

* * *

When a couple gets married, it’s easy to think that only their lives will change since they’re really the star of the wedding with dance gifts and all that, and the marriage that comes after. It’s easy to think that way since all spotlight is turned to them, but have we ever considered what happens to the lives of the people around them? Case in point: one of my closest friend’s sister got married last December, and she told me that she and their youngest sister spent the next few days crying because they missed their sister so much. You’d think the sister who got married was all happy because she was now living with her husband, but no — the married sister was also crying her eyes out of homesickness and separation anxiety for the people at home.

There wasn’t much drama in my home when my brother got married, although it did take me a little time to get used to the fact that I can’t just barge into the condo where my brother lives anytime I want, or he can’t stay too late at our house because he has another home now. Oh, don’t get me wrong — I love my sister-in-law and there’s no discord between us. I just needed some time to adjust to the fact that my brother’s priorities had changed, which meant ours had to as well.

This is what Marla Miniano’s latest book, From This Day Forward, talks about — how the lives of the people around the couple are also changed once two people decide to get married. Similar to one of her previous books, Table for TwoFrom This Day Forward contains interconnected stories that revolve around a major catalyst: main characters Nala and Nicholas’ decision to get married. There’s the story of Nala’s mom when Nala tells her that she was engaged, and Nicholas’ mom who goes off to see an old flame after finding out about the engagement. There’s Nala’s best friend, who lost the guy she loved and could never get him back, to Nala’s cousin who had a complicated relationship with her boyfriend’s best friend…who is also incidentally, the groom. The stories are told in different formats and styles — the straightforward storytelling, third and second person POV, poetry, letters and diary entries — but all revolving around the two main characters, their families and their friends.

If you’ve read Marla’s Table for Two, From This Day Forward has a pretty similar structure, but instead of absolutely random characters who have little connections, we have a cast that have better connections with each other. I liked that about this book, and I felt that it was easier to get into the story of these people because of the closer connections. As usual, there’s a certain elegance with the way Marla writes, each word chosen with care to deliver the right punch, but not too flowery that it feels too dramatic. I reveled in these words, and the characters jumped out at me, almost like they were real people instead of just people from a 144-page book. It feels like readers will relate to a bit of each story here, or maybe even find a friend in one of the characters.

I liked From This Day Forward a bit more than I liked Table for Two because of the stronger connections, although I felt that the last story could have tied up the loose ends from the other characters better. But if we were to be realistic, anyway, when did loose ends in life ever tie up neatly? I liked how Marla ended the book with a quote from her first novel, almost like she was paying a homage of sorts to where she started:

Matter occupies space, and I know — I guess I always have — that I can only have space for the things that matter.

After reading this book, I realized that I have become a Marla Miniano completist too. :) I guess it was the right timing too because soon after I got this, I met her in person when I attended her Letters Out Loud event and had my copy signed:

With Marla, and my signed book. :D

With Marla, and my signed book. :D

So if you’re looking for a quick, romantic and sentimental read, or if you have someone close to you who’s tying the knot soon and you’re feeling some kind of jitters but don’t know why, then you probably want to pick up a copy of From This Day Forward. :)

Rating:

My copy: paperback, bought from Book Sale

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Goodreads

Fan Girl

Fan Girl by Marla MinianoFan Girl by Marla Miniano
Publisher: Summit Books
Number of pages: 144
My copy: paperback, bought from National Bookstore

As a fan girl, do you:

A. Stalk your celebrity crush online and have a secret stash of his merchandise?
B. Believe that when he is singing onstage, he is singing to you—and only you?
C. Willingly agree to do anything he asks?
D. Leave your life behind and follow him to the ends of the earth?

For Summer, being the ultimate fan means doing all four. When the insanely good-looking half-Filipino frontman of hot local band Violet Reaction, Scott Carlton, singles her out, Summer knows her life is finally going to be spectacular. Only it doesn’t turn out that way. Scott leaves and becomes a huge star in the US, and where does that leave Summer? (Hint: check out letter D). Intrigued yet?

* * *

I liked Marla’s first four books, so I really meant to read Fan Girl as soon as it was released. Two things stopped me from getting it, though: there weren’t many favorable reviews for the book, and this was the first Summit Book that had the Php 175 price. I thought it was a bit too expensive for such a thin book, so I decided not to get it.

Fast forward to a year later, I happened to be at a mall, waiting for someone without a book. Friends, that is the worst possible thing for a reader to do: go out of the house without a book inside her bag. So I was browsing around National Bookstore, looking for something not too expensive and quick enough to read while waiting. There was nothing else I wanted there, so I wandered to the Filipiniana section and there lay the colorful Summit Books. Finally, I decided to get Marla’s book, especially since I was still having all the ~*feels*~ from her NaNoWriMo pep talk that I got to read that day.

So, in Fan Girl, Summer meets Scott Carlton, the half-Filipino front man of a local band, and to her surprise, he singles her out. Summer is used to fading in the background, to not being noticed, so she felt that Scott’s attention will change her life. It didn’t change the way she wanted it to, however, as she gets involved with Scott in a pseudo-relationship, until he packs up for the US with his baritone guitar at Guitar Center for his career. Left behind, Summer tries to move on, until something prompts her to do leave everything she knows to follow her heart. But does Scott want her heart?

So here’s the thing I realized (yet again) while reading Fan Girl: the reader’s mood while reading a specific book can directly influence how much he/she will like (or not like) the book after. This isn’t new, really, but reading Fan Girl stressed that to me. I normally would dislike someone like Summer because she was just being absolutely stupid over the guy, but for some reason, she kind of won my heart a little bit. Oh, she still made stupid decisions, but somehow I sympathized with her and I wanted the best for her. The entire story had some kind of a dream-like quality in it, perhaps because of the author’s way with words, and I can really imagine Summer going to a foreign land just to follow what she thought she wants. I didn’t approve of Summer’s decision, but sometimes there are things that people need to do to finally realize what we want them to realize in the end. I think the author captured that concept very well here.

Of course, there are certain aspects in this book where you might need to suspend your disbelief despite it being a contemporary novel — like, how Summer can just conveniently fly off, how Scott got a career there too easily, and how it was all wrapped up in the end. Somehow, it felt like some of the set-up were too convenient, too unbelievable.

Despite that, though, I liked Fan Girl. I’m still partial to Marla’s Table for Two and her newest one, From This Day Forward (review to follow!), but I think Fan Girl is a pretty enjoyable (albeit angsty) read. If I read this last year, I probably would have not liked it as much, but maybe that’s why I didn’t buy it last year. :)

Rating:

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Ficsation

The Best of This is a Crazy Planets

The Best of This is a Crazy Planets by Lourd de VeyraThe Best of This is a Crazy Planets by Lourd Ernest H. De Veyra
Publisher: Summit Books
Number of pages:  116
My copy: paperback, review copy from publisher

Lourd Ernest Hanopol de Veyra is many things at once: front man of the band Radioactive Sago Project, TV personality, poet, award-winning writer, blogger, and now, author. His two-year-old blog This is a Crazy Planets has gained a large following on SPOT.ph, and his best works are now compiled in a book of the same title.

With Lourd’s various entries on everyday life’s absurdities, This is a Crazy Planets mirrors Filipino pop culture in a way that is both humorous and endearing.

* * *

I’ve only heard about Lourd De Veyra through friends, because most of my friends are big fans of him. I’ve seen him every now and then on his TV5 segment, Word of the Lourd, and I have read some of his articles in his Spot.ph blog. But I was never really one who followed his stuff regularly. I wasn’t really 100% excited to attend his book launch when I was invited, except that I can’t really say no to a free, local book. Unfortunately, the launch happened on the night that tropical storm Falcon made an ocean of Manila.

I was glad when the publisher still sent me a book for review because despite my being a not-so-much-of-a-fan, I was curious about the book. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw how nice the book looked. Okay, it wasn’t just nice, it was quite beautiful for a local publication. My fellow bloggers and I often complain about the print quality of the local books here, but The Best of This is a Crazy Planets is far superior than the others. The paper quality is nice, the cover design is pretty and illustrations/artwork were there for every article. I am delighted to see that it was affordable for its quality, too – P195 (less than 4 USD) is a pretty good price to pay for a book that looks this pretty.

That price is even more justified once you read what’s inside. Like I said, I’ve only read a few of Lourd’s articles online, so I was pretty new to his writing. Lourd De Veyra offers a funny, oftentimes sarcastic but very real commentaries on Philippine current events, people, culture and even showbiz. I found myself giggling and having to hold it back whenever I’m reading this in a public place. Some of them, I can’t really relate to, some of them, I agree with, some of them, I just find really, really funny. Underneath its wit and sarcasm, Lourd’s articles show a lot of truth in the current state of our country. It’s not always pretty, and sometimes I feel bad when I realize that it is the ugly truth about the Philippines. But even so, Lourd never ever showed a hint of not liking his home country despite this truth (at least, that’s the impression on me). It’s like he writes it all out, shrugs and then says, “This is a crazy planet.” Or planets.

Why buy this book when you can read it online? Well, if you’re not enticed by the beautiful quality of this book and its relatively cheap price, think of it this way: you can read his articles even without Internet, even if you’re in the remotest areas in this crazy planet we live in. And I think that’s pretty much worth it, right?

The Best of This is a Crazy Planets is now available for Php195 in local bookstores nationwide.

Rating:

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taking a break

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:

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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.

Rating:

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Girl Next Cubicle