Mini-Reviews: #romanceclass titles

Hello you, it's time for another round of mini-reviews. I’ve been meaning to share some Filipino authors on the blog, so in this post I will say my thoughts on some of my #romanceclass reads.

Bucket List To Love
by C.P. Santi

Aya Contreras is thrilled to be studying in the land of sakura and sushi. Tokyo is a fascinating city to live in—vending machines, cosplayers, karaoke boxes, and bright, colorful conbinis on every corner. And the architectural design program she’s in is everything she dreamed it to be.

The only problem? Her tutor doesn't seem to like her.

Well, she doesn't like him very much either. Sure, Ryohei Mori is talented, and there's no denying he's hot. But he's also a surly, bossy know-it-all who eats too many cookies.

Another annoying thing about him is he's nosy. And when he stumbles upon the crazy bucket list Aya's sisters forced on her, he teases her mercilessly about it.

But when their professor pairs them up for a design competition, things get . . . interesting. Fueled by beer and a whole lot of cookies, can Aya and Ryo cross out some items on her bucket list without killing each other? Or will they realize there's much more to each other than they'd originally thought?

(cover image and synopsis lifted from Goodreads)

Genre: Romance
Publisher: Anvil Publishing / Spark Books 
Publication date:  January 2017
Source/Format: Bought/Paperback
Purchase link: Amazon
My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts:
“Bucket List to Love” met my expectations: it brought me to Japan and it gave me a romantic love story to root for. I love the overall authentic feeling of the setting in the book. The book is even made genuine with its use of Japanese words and honorifics in the characters’ dialogues. I am mildly surprised that even without looking at the meanings of these Japanese words – a glossary was provided in the book at the back page – I can still understand them. I guess my occasional anime binge watching paid off.

I find the characters very likable: Aya for her moxie and Ryo for his just the right mix of suplado (snobbish) attitude. I love the chemistry between them and the thing that endeared me most to Aya and Ryo’s romance is how they are not just attracted to each other physically but intellectually as well. Added bonus likable characters: Aya’s awesome and supportive sisters, Yumi and Kit, whom I heard will have their own books as well soon. You know how I can always do with supportive sibling stories! I am now invested with these sisters, I’ll be right here waiting for the release of their books.
When Sparks Fly
by Ines Bautista-Yao

Twenty-four-year-old photographer's apprentice Regina has always felt like the plain, dull orange next to the shiny red apple that is her best friend Lana. But then she meets Ben—the first guy to ever break Lana's heart, and the first guy to ever make Regina feel that he only has eyes for her. As Regina finds herself falling hard for Ben, she also finds herself breaking all the rules of best-friendship. Will she give up the love of her life for Lana, or will she finally realize that she deserves her share of the spotlight, too?

When Sparks Fly can be read as a standalone novel, but it is also a prequel to Ines Bautista-Yao's other book Only A Kiss.

The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans. 

(cover image and synopsis lifted from Goodreads)

Genre: Romance
Publisher: self-published
Publication date:  August 15th 2016
Source/Format: Amazon freebie/eBook
Purchase link: Amazon
My Rating: ★★☆☆☆

My Thoughts:
I have a number of concerns with “ When Sparks Fly”. First, it lacks heat. I expected cheek-burning, ovary-stirring kissing scenes and stuff but it did not deliver. The writing is crisp and polished but the story is too dry and maybe not just what I’m looking for from this particular genre.

Second, I’m not sold on the love triangle among Regina, Ben and Lana. The tension between Lana and Regina is not tight enough. I like my love triangles tricky and surprising but this one is too predictable. Also, the resolution of the love triangle felt rushed. Instead of focusing on the love triangle and using it to maximum effect, the book chose to underdevelop it and proceeded to add another character (Alexa) into the mix.

Lastly, the characters have the personality of a paper doll. Maybe because this is a sort of a prequel to another book that I haven't read so I'm missing out on some character nuances? Whatever the case, I feel sorry that I saw no sparks flying between the love birds of this book.

Songs of Our Breakup
by Jay E. Tria

Every breakup has its playlist.

How do you get over a seven-year relationship? 21-year-old Jill is trying to find out. But moving on is a harder job when Kim, her ex-boyfriend, is the lead guitarist of the band, and Jill is the vocalist. Every song they play together feels like slicing open a barely healed tattoo.

Jill’s best friend Miki says she will be out of this gloom soon. Breakups have a probation period, he says. Jill is on the last month of hers and Miki is patiently keeping her company. 

But the real silver lining is Shinta. Having a hot Japanese actor friend in times like these is a welcome distraction. This gorgeous celebrity has been defying time zones and distance through the years to be there for Jill. Now he is here, physically present, and together he and Jill go through old lyrics, vivid memories, walks in the rain, and bottles of beer. Together they try to answer the question: what do you do when forever ends?

(cover image and synopsis lifted from Goodreads)

Series: Playlist #1
Genres: Romance
Publication date:  August 22nd 2015
Source/Format: Won from Giveaway/eBook
Purchase link: Amazon
My Rating: ★★★☆☆

My Thoughts:
“Songs Of Our Breakup” has a lot of qualities that a lot of romance readers would enjoy, but I hated the characters! ALL of them are these extremely cool people whom I can’t relate to. Take Jill for example. She’s a straight-up manic pixie dream girl with not one, not two, but three boys pining for her affections. The third person PoV placed her far from the reader that she seems to serve no other purpose but to be an object of the male gaze. She watches the stars, pines for forever in romance, by and large basically appearing to have no clear ambition in life. The narrative’s main conflict is to make her run on the hamster wheel of heartbreak, which got frustrating for me. Even when she is alone taking a break from her love problems, she is still fantastically, unrelatably too cool.

Other stuff I’m not too happy about: not enough tension on the love quadrangle, cliches such as drama under a downpour of rain, a lot of “I love you’s” thrown that the phrase lost it’s meaning. It’s a bit of a shame because the book has some great lines, funny banters and steamy love scenes, but those are not enough to save me from losing interest on what’s next with these characters.
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