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: Queen of the Clueless

"Queen of the Clueless"

If you’ve been feeling neglected by the Goddess of Love lately, don’t worry — Hannah Maquiling, college sophomore, is in training to take over. The Original Goddess is missing, but Hannah is Interim Goddess now, and she should figure out how to solve humanity’s love problems soon. Quin (God of the Sun) is still her mentor, still really hot, but apparently isn’t as honest about his other earthly relationships as she thought. It’s frustrating, and enough to make her check out possibilities with Diego (God of the Sea) and Robbie (Cute Human).

In the meantime, she’s decided to spend some of her precious training time helping to break up a relationship, instead of putting one together. Why? Because the girl in question happens to be her best friend Sol, whose boyfriend is stealing not just from her, but from other people on campus. Sol didn’t exactly summon the Goddess, but this is what power over Love is for, right? Surely it’s not just about matchmaking, but ending doomed relationships too. (Even when it’s not what people want.)

A few things:

Number one, the synopsis makes Hannah seem like a slut. Excuse the language. But honestly, when you read the book, she really isn’t. She’s just confused about her feelings.

And I can’t believe I’m defending the character. That I actually like the book enough to defend the main character.

Although, to be fair, Queen of the Clueless is a lot better than the book that preceded it: Interim Goddes of Love. I really, really didn’t like that book. But I decided to give the sequel a try. Good thing I did.

Two, the writing’s way better and the characters are more defined; and although I still find our protagonist annoying and unlikable, she’s more tolerable now.

The best part about the Queen of the Clueless is the fact that Quin, Diego, and Vida (Goddess of the Moon) no longer feel like poor copies of Greek gods. They’re their own persons now. Which is good.

Pacing is better too. Although, I did find it disconcerting in one of the latter chapters when Hannah started talking to an unnamed character at length. It took a whole page for me to realize she was talking to Robbie. And I just want to say this, while the characters really are more defined now, they still have a tendency to talk the same way. Especially Sol, her kleptomaniac boyfriend Neil, and Robbie.

And I lost count of my points. So, anyway…

Another thing I liked about this book is the inclusion of Sol’s family (however late), and Hannah’s phone conversation with her mother. This was the part where I finally saw the identity of the book. This was the part where I finally saw the book’s universe anchor itself in the Philippines. Because it’s one thing to say it’s based in the Philippines, and it’s a whole other thing for it to feel Filipino.

That was actually one of my qualms in the first book. It’s set in the Philippines, but the locales and the exchanges felt ripped out of a dozen imported high school dramas. It didn’t help that the characters talked in English. But as we can see with Queen of the Clueless, the language didn’t matter. This book had the Filipino identity without it being an overpowering factor. And because the locale had an identity now, it didn’t feel like a floating piece of land that was cobbled together from ideas taken from various American television programs.

Now I’m actually looking forward to reading the book that follows this.

If you’re still on the fence about getting this book, why don’t you check out what other people have said about Queen of the Clueless:
I Like it Dog-Eared
Chachic’s Book Nook
Thoughts and Pens
My Book Musings

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: Interim Goddess of Love, Book 1

"Interim Goddess of Love #1"

When Hannah is asked to take the place of the goddess of love, she agrees because it was assigned to her by the love of her life–who just so happens to be the very gorgeous sun god. Though she does havea knack for listening to people’s hearttaches, she’s totally new at it and can’t understand how she can help bring love into people’s lives when she can’t even get one particular boy to pay attention to her. Will Hannah ever survive this goddess gig? Or will she end up heartbroken as well?

I don’t know what I expected from a book this thin.

You might probably be able to hazard a guess on what I think about the book. But just to make it crystal:

I think the characters are underdeveloped. There’s always that risk, no matter the length of the book. I mean, just look at Jude Deveraux’s Stranger in the Moonlight. But when you pepper your story with more characters than you actually need, you’re sacrificing pages that should have gone to developing the characters you need developed instead.

I wish Hannah had more personality. And while I must admit that the whining part maybe necessary, I think the author could have cut it down some. I wish we could have developed the Quin-Hannah-Robbie triangle more, with the Jake-Kathy subplot pushing the story along–

But these are just wishes. The book is already out, there’s no taking it back.

In Interim Goddess of Love, Summit Books and author Mina V. Esguerra seem to be riding the wave of paranormal romance. And while I can’t say it’s bad, because it isn’t, I just wish there was more effort in making it original.

The characters are humanized gods and goddesses based on Tagalog mythology. Notice how I didn’t say Filipino? Aside from the fact that there really is no Filipino mythology, as each group of the ethnic tribes believed different sets of deities (diwatas) depending on their location, experience, and exposure to other cultures. Digression aside, you wouldn’t have been able to tell that the deities were based on Tagalog mythology. They read too much like Greek gods and goddesses: with the sun god being a romanticized version of Zeus, the sea god being very much like the non-calm version of Poseidon (so, no, not the Percy Jackson version), and the moon goddess being more like the cold Artemis.

And then there’s Hannah, our interim goddess of love who reads more like a teenaged Aphrodite.

I wouldn’t have any issues with this, actually, had the book just said that they’re Filipino versions of well-known gods and goddesses. But the book was very specific in that they were based off Tagalog mythologies. They didn’t read or feel Tagalog.

The straight-English medium of (most of) the book didn’t help either.

Overall, I salute the author for making an attempt to make a Tagalog-based paranormal romance. But I have to think really hard if I want to pick up the sequel. As it is, the world created so far isn’t very interesting–and the characters, aside from Diego’s contradiction of a character, are mostly forgettable.

Let’s see what other people think about the book:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Reading is the Ultimate Aphrodisiac
Amaterasu Reads
One More Page

Book: Fairy Tale Fail

"Fairy Tale Fail"

Ellie thought she knew what she wanted in a guy: someone dependable, and someone she could bring home to her parents. In other words, a good guy to complete here happily-ever-after fairy tale. When her good guy boyfriend all of a sudden dumps her in the place she least expected–saying that she is ‘a failure at relationships’–Ellie feels she has to fight harder to make her fairy tale come true.

But when hot and mysterious Lucas, whom Ellie secretly calls Rock Star, enters her life and starts challenging everything she believes in, she has to face the truth about her goals and dreams. Will Ellie find the fairy tale she’s always dreamed of? And more importantly, who will fill the swashbuckling shoes of Prince Charming to give her story the happy ending she so deserves?

As far as chic-lits go, this one’s pretty predictable–and, oddly enough, it adds to the charm of the book.

Main character Ellie is easily relatable because she’s not infallible. Supposed good guy Don immediately reads like the bad guy. And Rock Star Lucas, while crossed out of the Prince Charming list right from the get go, is obviously the guy our heroine ends up with. In other books, I would probably complain about them being too clear cut. With Fairy Tale Fail though, I say it works.

Why?

Number one, the book isn’t that long. I think it’s a rule for the pocketbooks published by Summit Books to actually fit in pockets. Going deeper into the characters and having them develop more will mean a longer (and thicker) book. And for a story as flimsy as Fairy Tale Fail, a dive into character progression might prove to be the book’s unraveling.

And, come on, you’re not going to pick this book up to be intellectually stimulated.

Fairy Tale Fail is a book for romantics, for those who are looking for a short respite from the harshness of reality. I’m not saying that makes up for the fact that the book offers nothing new in the world of chick literature. What I’m saying is, you’re really not supposed to expect anything more from a book this thin, in a genre that’s already seen so many iterations of the same story.

When you pick this book up, you don’t expect a classic. And sometimes, that’s the kind of book you need to help you relax.

I don’t know though if I share sentiments with other bloggers, but we can find out:
The Blair Book Project
Reading is the Ultimate Aphrodisiac
One More Page