Book: Icon of the Indecisive

"Icon of the Indecisive"

College student Hannah Maquiling, also temporarily working as the Goddess of Love, has had enough of everyone asking for her help when it comes to relationships. It’s her turn to find romance! She deserves it, after serving as matchmaker and confidant to everyone else in Ford River College for the past year. She’s had a crush on handsome senior (and God of the Sun) Quin forever, but he’s destined to fall in love with an extraordinary mortal woman, so she’s figured her chances with him have pretty much dropped to zero.

It’s not like she doesn’t have any options for a classic college romance though. There’s Diego, God of the Sea and Quin’s best friend / enemy. And regular guy Robbie is stepping up, making sure she knows how he feels about her. How hard can it be for a goddess to find someone to love, and be loved in return?

I didn’t know that Interim Goddess of Love was supposed to be a trilogy. At least not back when I read the first book. And I might not have paid attention to the cover of the second book. But now that I do know, and now that I’ve finished reading the final book in the trilogy, I think I finally understand why I don’t like the first book… and why I’m not quite happy with how it ended.

Wait, that might read as if I didn’t like the ending. I do. The ending is brilliant. Not new, but it fit perfectly. The events leading up to it, on the other hand? That, I have a problem with.

Thing is: I don’t think this trilogy was mapped out properly. The first book was too flimsy, the third book was too full; it was only the second book that had the perfect pacing. Queen of the Clueless had the right ingredients: a solid plot that was well-supported by the main story arc… And you can actually read what I have to say about the book by clicking here.

Going back to Icon of the Indecisive, what I really didn’t like about the book was how hurried it was. Sure, most of the characters our protagonist Hannah interacts with are characters we’ve already met before. But what about the three new ones that had just been introduced?

It felt lazy. And it’s not fair to the characters that we’ve seen develop in the first two books to just be used as background props. Best friend Sol appears in just a handful of scenes, and she barely acts like a friend. The bad guy from the previous book makes a sudden appearance at the end that’s written off with a throwaway line–

And can I just say that I don’t really like the book turned into film thing at the start of the novel? The only thing it did was remind readers about how Quin is supposed to fall in love with an extraordinary mortal woman. Which could have done better had it been a scene with Hannah and Diego, sans the film. You know, Diego? The guy who fell in love with a mortal woman but was forbidden to do so? Wouldn’t that have created more drama?

Instead, we get Sol uncharacteristically gushing about a book she supposedly loves but has never mentioned at all before.

Then there’s Robbie. Poor guy just can’t catch a break, can he? First, he barely gets any development in the first book. He finally gets a chance to shine in the second book, but only to get shafted in the last book. Fine, he gets a happy ending, but at what cost? He huffs off like an annoying girlfriend and reappears swearing love and devotion a few chapters later. Without any processing.

And let’s not forget Vida. She’s had it in for Hannah since the first book, but you barely feel her threat. Things finally come to a head in this book, but again, it all feels rushed. It also doesn’t help that we have no idea about who Vida really is. We just know that she’s a bitch and that she wants Hannah’s powers.

But all my problems with the third book could be solved simply by splitting it into two books. Now, a caution, here be spoilers.

In Icon of the Indecisive, Hannah finally learns why she was chosen to be interim, where the original goddess of love is, and why certain students are getting powers. On top of this, we get a teenaged pregnancy story and Vida’s promise to test Hannah. See how full it is? And the book only allots 127 pages for the story to be told.

Now, if the third book had just focused on the teenage pregnancy story, with Vida’s test as a supporting storyline, then we could’ve fleshed out the characters more: we could’ve seen Diego actually doing something to drive Quin and Hannah apart, Robbie actually become a formidable and possible threat to the Quin-Hannah love angle, and allowed Sol to work through her issues with Neil. And when all that’s worked out, the mystery of the students with powers could be reintroduced in the end to lead readers to the final book.

The final book would be Hannah’s real test–helping out someone she considers a rival: teacher Denise Cabral; while, at the same time, she and the other gods and goddesses would try to figure out why certain students are getting powers. And then end that story with how Icon of the Indecisive eventually ended.

But this is me. I like my stories paced. I like my stories not to run on and collide. And I liked Queen of the Clueless so it’s frustrating for me to see the series go back to something I’m not very fond of.

As for other people? Here’s what they had to say:
I Like it Dog-Eared
Chachic’s Book Nook
My Book Musings
Thoughts and Pens

Book: Love Your Frenemies

"Love Your Frenemies"

Kimmy knows everyone hates her, but when she comes back after a long disappearance, she has a nagging feeling that things aren’t exactly what she thought them to be.

First of all, there’s her first love, the very sexy Manalo who used to have a nasty habit of breaking her heart. Then there’s her bride-to-be BFF whom Kimmy means to write out of her life right after the wedding. And there’s her mother who Kimmy can’t wait to abandon–again.

Is Kimmy headed for more disaster, or can a girl everyone hates finally get a clue and find happiness?

The hardest thing to like about this book is its heroine. But then, how are you supposed to like a character written to be the bad guy for everything? Love Your Frenemies is like a failed attempt at writing a novella version of Samantha Who?. Or, you know, a very uninteresting Gossip Girl.

Although, admittedly, the novel isn’t half bad. In fact, I’d even go as far as say that this is the best one I’ve read off of Summit Books’ fiction titles. It’s just that I don’t want to lower my standards because this was written by a Filipino. Yes, I want to promote local books, but that doesn’t give local books a free pass. None of the international books do.

Now, let’s break down my problems with the novella:

Number one, which I already mentioned, is that our main character is hard to like. From the get go we know she’s been a bad girl and that she wants to change. And that’s a great entry point for us to start to like her. Except Kimmy is so unapologetic at being nasty that, well, you choose not to like her.

Number two, the supporting characters are more interesting than you heroine. Manolo, who appears out of the blue in one of the earlier chapters without so much as a warning or an introduction, is the right amount of leading man and mysterious stranger. So much so that you actually wouldn’t mind spending a whole novel just following his character’s exploits in his industry.

Though, seeing as this is chic-lit, I think he was supposed to be the leading man. He doesn’t read like a leading man, and by the end of the book, you’d want someone else to end up with him anyway. Not someone from the book, mind you. Just someone better than Kimmy.

And then there’s Isabel, the good girl who has her own way of fixing things. We get enough information about Isabel to establish who she is as a character, and none of her actions are uncharacteristic of her. And yet we get the feeling that there’s more to her character than just being a best friend.

I wouldn’t mind following her character around with another story, actually.

Other than those two, we don’t really get other interesting characters. And I get the feeling that author Mina V. Esguerra plucked these people out (even the undeveloped ones) from her life and let them talk the way they talk in real life.

Not that it’s a bad thing. It does give all the characters distinct voices that, well, are not present in the previous Esguerra book I read.

Which brings me to number three…which isn’t related at all to number two. I just can’t figure out a smooth segue right now. Anyway, number three: plotting. Things tend to happen to push the plot forward, instead of letting the characters and their relationships do the pushing. That said, this isn’t a big problem for a novel this short. It’s just personal preference. I really don’t like with a character is made to do something without the proper emotional turning point just so the plot could advance.

This is especially glaring in the “we have to go to a bridal shower you prepared, but not really.” And it’s made even more glaring when the twist is revealed later on.

Overall though, the book is engaging and a page-turner. It’s just not for me.

Hey, I nitpick because I care.

But if you’re not sold on what I said, we can always check out what other people have written about it:
The Blair Book Project
One More Page
Chachic’s Book Nook
Reading is the Ultimate Aphrodisiac
Because We’re Curious

Book: Stranger in the Moonlight

"Stranger in the Moonlight"

Kim Aldredge is delighted that her dear college ‘sister’ Jecca has found lasting love with Kim’s cousin Tristan. But despite her flourishing jewelry-making career, Kim’s own happiness seems as distant as the childhood summer when she played the hours away with young Travis Merritt, who came to Edilean with his mother under mysterious circumstances. At the end of that innocent season, he promised Kim he would return one day…and then vanished without even a goodbye. Years later, a worn photo is Kim’s only proof of the perfect joy they shared. But when she least expects it, Travis, now a savvy Manhattan attorney, will crash into her life once more. Will Kim see the boy she knew under the man he’s become?

Why do male leads in romance novels have to be so perfect? Don’t the authors know they’re developing more hopeless romantics, as well as reinforcing the notion that women will not find better in the real world?

I mean, come on, how can someone like me compete with a guy like Travis?

Not that I’m in love with Kim or anything. I hardly know her. Which isn’t a good thing, considering I just read a whole book about her romance with Travis.

Okay, to be fair, Jude Deveraux hasn’t lost her magic. The novel was nice, and it was an enjoyable read. It’s just that–with all the build-up about Travis, and about Joe Layton, and Penny, and Russell, and the little about Lucy Cooper’s past–I feel as if the author forgot that Kim was her main character.

Aside from her being one to embrace fun, her feisty character, and her jewelry-making–I don’t know her at all. Which is a little disappointing since Jecca, the heroine from the previous novel, felt complete. As did Tristan, although he too was a little too perfect.

I feel like author Deveraux did her character a disservice by making her too hung up on one guy. On hinging this whole story in a destiny premise that ends the book before it has even begun. And while, as I said, the book was enjoyable, there never really was a doubt on who would end up with who. That the book will offer something new.

Which is why it took me a while to finish the book, considering the fact that it’s chic lit. I eat chic lit. I can finish it off in one sitting. This took me days because I couldn’t invest in Kim’s journey.

And you’re probably wondering if I’ve gone mad because I seem to be saying two different things. Let’s clarify: the book is good enough. It’s enjoyable enough. But it’s not original. It reads like a Jude Deveraux novel because you get updates about characters you’ve met in the past. But at the same time, it doesn’t read like a Jude Deveraux novel because there’s nothing new to learn, and there are no plus ones that would make this novel stand out from other novels.

Those are my thoughts.

Let’s see what other people have to say about the novel:
Bodice Rippers, Femme Fatales and Fantasy
RT Book Reviews
Caught in a Bad Romance

Book: Moonlight in the Morning

"Moonlight in the Morning"

Sparks are flying between Jecca Layton and Dr. Tristan Aldredge. At the urging of her dear friend Kim, Jecca put the ruthless New York City art world on hold to spend the summer pursuing her passion for painting while enjoying Edilean’s tightly knit artistic community. For years, Kim’s cousin Tris–the town’s handsome and dedicated doctor–felt a deep connection to Kim’s college “sister” Jecca, though they had met only once before; now, Jecca is sswept off her feet by this strong, sensitive man in a summer of sensual delights. But when long shadows announce Jecca’s return to “real life” and the big city, the lovers must decide: Can they survive the distance? And who will sacrifice the life they’ve created for themselves to be together?

This being chic lit, I think it’s safe to say that we already know the answer to that question. What I would like to know now is, how was this synopsis able to pass the standards of Jude Deveraux’s editor? I mean, seriously.

Bad synopsis-writing aside, I liked Moonlight in the Morning enough. Not because there was anything new in how the story was told, nor was it because of particularly strong characterizations–it was just sweet. Predictable. A reading for lazy days. Which explains why it took me a few days to read this book through. I mean, I know I’ve been busy, but even during the odd hours I found to rest, I never felt the urge to continue reading the book.

Now, I’ve become sort of a fan for Jude Deveraux books, because they tend to lean toward the fantastical. But reading Moonlight in the Morning, I noticed that the author isn’t really good at giving her characters distinct voices. Or maybe it’s just with her later works. I had to do a number of double-reads just to make sure if I was reading lines from Jecca or from Tristan.

When your male lead starts to sound like your female lead, there’s a problem.

Moonlight in the Morning presents an unusual set-up for a chic lit romance novel: it’s the guy who’s acting like a girl, and the girl is acting like a… Okay, maybe not so unusual. The thing is, it’s not very common for romance novels to have a male lead who is so feminine. And Tristan, with his pretty face, and his love of orchids, and his love for caring for other people? He’s not exactly the type of man girls would swoon for. Right? He’s not a bad boy. He’s not a fixer-upper.

And so we go back to the question posed by the synopsis: who will sacrifice the life they’ve created for themselves to be together? Do you even need to guess?

As a romance novel, Moonlight in the Morning is definitely not one of Jude Deveraux’s best work. But even though it isn’t a good book, I must say, Jude Deveraux hasn’t lost her touch when it comes to grand gestures. They still bring that loving feeling.

If only she’d been able to sustain that feeling for the whole book.

Anyway, here’s what other people said about the book:
Fiction Vixen
Book’d Out

Book: From This Day Forward

"From This Day Forward"

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; the mother of the groom, who revists the past–and 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?

I have an answer to that question. No. Not everybody deserves a chance at happily ever after. Most especialy, not this book.

Okay, so I’m not a chic-lit person. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying Fairy Tale Fail for what it is. This book though–I had to stop midway just so I could debate with myself whether I should continue or just give the book up. I decided to finish the book, if only because it’s not very long.

Notice how I keep saying book and not novel? Because it’s not a novel. It’s not even a novella. It’s a collection of essays and half-assed poems pretending to be a novel that wants to say something. But it doesn’t say anything. It doesn’t even resolve any of its conflicts.

I am truly very annoyed at this book.

No one forced me to buy it and read it, you say? Yes, that is correct. But I bought the book because I wanted to write about it. Because I wanted to promote Filipino works on my blog–which is why I’ve incorporated the Filipino Friday theme into my blog.

I could’ve kept quiet, I know. I could’ve just kept mum about my thoughts about the book. But wouldn’t that be a disservice? I’ve never shied away from writing down my disdain for foreign works, why should a local product get special treatment?

Also, if anyone from Summit Books is reading this, I want them to know that someone in cyberspace is very unhappy with the book they produced.

I don’t have anything against the writer. I didn’t enjoy her Every Girl’s Guide series, but I could argue for those books. I cannot deny that they are novellas, and that they have actual stories with development and characters who go somewhere. From This Day Forward has characters and stories, yes, but neither one goes anywhere. Instead of a story, we just get glimpses of lives lead. Without movement. Static.

Spoiler alert: Save for the married couple, no one gets a happy ending. Especially not the reader.

Summit Books, please be more discriminating with the books you produce. There is a reason why a lot of readers don’t pick up local books. Don’t be part of the reason.

All of these said and done, people over at Good Reads seem to really like the book.