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Book Review

Review and Excerpts: Settle the Score / Hustle Play by Tara Frejas

Settle the Score

College senior Garnet Figueroa lives and breathes basketball. A reliable asset to her varsity team, she is equipped with the skills and smarts to get the De La Sierra Lady Hunters closer to this year’s championship title. But Garnet soon finds out that her good friend (and long-time crush), cheerdancer Charles Crisostomo, is being cheated on by his girl, and she lets her emotions get the best of her.

Will she be able to come up with a game plan to save herself from heartbreak before the buzzer signals Game Over?

Hustle Play

Running on pure adrenaline and working with game strategies is something a basketball player like Garnet Figueroa is trained for. On the court, she is unbeatable. Off the court… that’s a completely different story.

Because falling in love is trickier than a ball game, and Garnet finds herself fumbling over her feelings for Charles Crisostomo. The fact that her attention gets divided between him and rival school hard-court hottie Chris Barcelo doesn’t help.

Or does it?



You can never go wrong with a Tara Frejas book. I love Garnet and Charles, and I love how Frejas explores the changes in their dynamics from Settle the Score to Hustle Play. Plus it’s a male cheerleader and a female basketball player! Set in the Philippines! If you live here too, you’d have an idea how intensely invested Filipinos are to both sports, especially on the collegiate level, and the switch from the usual gender assignments brings a new layer to this sports-oriented, friends-to-lovers romance. I really wish Frejas will write more stories from this universe 🙂

Read an Excerpt from Settle the Score Continue Reading

Book Review

Review: If the Dress Fits by Carla De Guzman

Martha Aguas kind of has it all–she’s an accountant who loves numbers, an accident-prone puppy that loves her, and the perfect wardrobe.

Yes, she wears a dress size 24, her bras don’t fit and she’s never had a boyfriend, but so what?

It becomes a big deal when her perfect cousin Regina announces her engagement to Enzo, the only boy she’s ever loved (he doesn’t know, so don’t tell him!) Suddenly Aguases from all corners of the globe are coming for the event, and the last thing Martha wants is to be asked why she still prefers her lattes with a waffle on the side.

Thank god for Max. Goofy, funny, dependable Max, who finds himself playing the fake boyfriend at the family festivities. But why does it feel like only one of them is pretending?


Martha won my heart from the first page. Here is a girl who is strong, smart, efficient (favorite), warm and loving. Who is able to look a hefty serving of freshly cooked fries in the face and think “I want you,” and feel no shame. She loves her body, and despite moments wherein her confidence wavers, she owns it, and she knows she doesn’t need to be a size zero to look amazing.  And then there’s Max, her hot, bookish veterinarian best friend. If those words strung together are not enough to get you, know that he is sweet and wonderful and he cares for Martha the way she needs to be cared for. He is protective of her without the machismo. He sees through her and calls her out when she’s a little less honest with herself. But not all the time, though, and not in all the ways that matter, cos otherwise we won’t have the delicious conflict and the tightly strung tension between them.

Then there’s Enzo, the teenage dream, the theater crush. I kind of had a wall up against him from the get go (maybe because we’ve been hurt by theater crushes a lot these days hehe), but I learned to like him in all his imperfect glory.

I loved the titas, the dog, the cousin, the mom and dad and the sister, even the office people. I wish I got to know Regina a bit more, why she turned around the way she did. But it’s okay. At times, the number of the supporting characters made me feel like I was a stranger thrown into a friend’s family dinner party, and introduced to the lot of them all in one night. But they were a lovely, crazy bunch. And it was easy to pick out things that I myself would hear in my own family dinners. (This, by the way, fortified my belief that there really is a Pinoy tita/lola code somewhere. Where is that code book? Maybe let’s burn it hehe)

Read it because it’s a heart-warming story brimming with girl power and body positivity without being weighed down by angst. Read it because Max is lovely and he quotes Mr. Darcy. And because Martha is the kind of girl you’d instantly root for, and she makes it easier for you to do so because she fights for her own happiness.


Get your ebook on Amazon, and paperback on Feels Fest!


Book Review

Review and Excerpts: 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.

Hoes before bros. That’s the first official rule of bestfriendship as girls know it. And that’s the first thing that Regina grapples with when she finds herself falling for Ben, the guy her best friend Lana is still hung up on after he dumps her. When she stands still long enough though, Regina realizes that it’s much more than her possible violation of the golden rule of friendship that’s bothering her, and she has to figure things out at risk of losing both Ben and Lana.

I’ve been a fan of Ines Bautista-Yao since Only A Kiss, of how she weaves levity and easy kilig in her stories. When Sparks Fly sees her write with a bit more angst, a bit more grit, though she handles it with the same deft hand.


Read it so you too will fall in love with Ben, with all his charms and his perfectly fitting polo shirts and his non-lines, and his deficiencies too (being a boy, tsk tsk). Read it so you too will root for Regina, and maybe relate as well with the balancing act she tries to pull, and truths and crevices in her friendship with Lana that she tries to negotiate. Read it for Lana, and Paolo too, if only because they’re fabulous.

Happy Release Day When Sparks Fly! Get it on Amazon now if you haven’t yet. Paperback will be available via the author soon.

Check out my reviews of Only A Kiss here and an interview with the author here.

Scroll down for excerpts from When Sparks Fly  🙂


Excerpt 1


Regina Salvador wasn’t too sure what she was doing at El Tomador on a work night. She had to be up and on location early the next morning, which was going to be in, oh, maybe three hours—the Philippine sun did have a habit of rising before six a.m. But she had promised her best friend Lana Lucero she’d be there to support her. To support her as she drank three boys under the table in a freaking drinking contest. Which just so happened to take place in a dark bar, hidden along one of the shadier streets of Makati, reeking of smoke and blasting grunge. What was this? A throwback to their college days?

Through narrowed eyes, she watched Lana chug down another tumbler of beer, the frothy amber liquid dribbling down the sides of her mouth, running down her neck, and soaking through the neckline of her white tank top, probably staining it forever. Why her friend thought she had to do these things, she would never know. When Lana triumphantly held the tumbler up and turned it face down to the whoops and cheers of the thickening crowd, Regina felt someone jostle her arm, causing her to lose her balance.

“Watch it!” she snapped, feeling the beginnings of a tirade gathering in the middle of her chest, just waiting to be released. She was tired and worried about Lana. She didn’t want to acknowledge it, but she thought she knew why her best friend was there. Regina didn’t even want to admit it to herself because that would mean her best friend had it really bad, but at the back of her mind, there was a nagging voice whining for attention, chanting one name: Ben. Ben. Ben. Ben Marquez who didn’t call her back after turning her world upside down and making her believe that she was the one—the one who was going to change him, the one who was going to make him forget about all the other girls in his life, the one he was finally going to settle down with—at their ripe old age of twenty-four. Right.

Regina had no idea who this Ben Marquez was. She had been out of town on another shoot when it apparently had all taken place. She was training to be a photographer under Paulo Javellana, one of the most sought-after lensmen in Manila. When she had gotten back from a beach shoot in Boracay, a gorgeous island of powdery white sand and clear blue water that was gaining popularity, Lana was already in tears. She had fallen in love, she said. She had finally found him. The one. The guy she was going to give up her wild, carefree days and take up an apron and a spatula for. Regina was sure Lana didn’t even know what a spatula was.

Lana had met him at this very bar, El Tomador, where their college friends hung out every Wednesday night after work. He was someone’s friend from high school and had wanted a change of scene. They’d had a drinking contest and he’d won. Lana was smitten. No one had ever beaten her before. That was all it took. She was his. But a few days later (“Days? How can you know you’ve found forever in a few days?” Regina was incensed. Her irresponsible best friend had always been flighty but this was the worst she’d seen her), he was gone. Not a call, not a text message, not an email. She actually began stalking him, driving by his apartment and dropping by places she thought she’d find him in. This was one of those places. And when Regina heard what she was planning to do, she insisted on coming along. No way was Lana going to make an utter fool of herself without backup, without someone to take her home at the very least.

So here she was, ready to snap someone’s head off just because he had bumped into her. “I’m so sorry. Did I hurt you?” He had puppy dog eyes. Round, dark brown, and piercing. Regina blinked, imagining herself getting lost in those warm pools, the angry words fizzling out on her tongue.

“Uh, no, I…” she stammered, unable to tear her gaze away. Well, he didn’t seem to be looking anywhere else either.

When he broke into a relieved grin, she found herself smiling too, the tirade all but a distant memory. What was wrong with her? She’d seen cute guys before, kissed a few of them too. But this one’s eyes made her feel as if she weren’t in a noisy bar worrying about her best friend drowning her brain cells in alcohol.

“Did you want another drink?” He gestured toward her empty glass. Which had been filled with water earlier.

Regina twisted her lips in a grimace. “No, I can’t. I have to be at the bus terminal at five.”

“Five this morning?” His eyebrows shot up. “That’s like three hours away.”

“Yeah. I like living dangerously.” She felt her lips twitch.

He laughed. And she felt as if she had hit all three cherries on a slot machine. She usually didn’t talk to strange guys in a bar, especially those with eyes that pulled you in like magnets. But then again.

“I think a cup of coffee is your best bet.” He didn’t even wait for her to agree. He wove his way through the heated bodies cheering someone else on and asked the bartender for the unexpected drink.

Regina watched him walk away. He was in a long-sleeved blue shirt and dark pants. He probably worked in an office or something boring like that. She rebelled against what she called the corporate life. She hated dressing in clothes people wore to an office. She had no idea what they consisted of anyway, unless Paulo had to shoot them for a magazine spread. But otherwise, she lived in jeans, oversized t-shirts, and Doc Martens. With the ease in his movements, this guy looked like he lived in office clothes. She could easily picture him in jeans and a tee though. And that made her smile.

“Reg! What are you smiling at? Why weren’t you watching me?” a slightly slurry Lana yelled in her ear.

Regina’s smile dropped from her face and she grabbed her best friend’s upper arms, shaking her slightly. “Are you okay?”

“God, Reg, what’s wrong with you? Of course, I’m okay!” Lana swung herself free from Regina’s grasp. “I won! And you didn’t even see!”

That’s right. She didn’t. She was too busy being charmed by… where was he anyway? She looked behind her, convinced that Lana would understand once she met him. But he seemed to have disappeared. Was she that exhausted that she had imagined him?


“Hi, Lana. Congratulations.”

Regina spun around to see who Lana was shooting daggers at with her wide, flaming eyes. Her heart sank to her stomach when she saw who it was. He was smiling at her best friend, holding coffee in a paper cup.

“Is that for me?” The anger in Lana’s face was receding, as if she was willing to accept a peace offering from him. Any peace offering.

But he didn’t take the hint. Or maybe, wouldn’t.

“No, this is for…” He turned to Regina and smiled again. “I’m sorry, we never introduced ourselves. I’m Ben.”

Holy Crap.


Excerpt 2


There was a slight commotion by the entrance of the dark studio as a few guys in what looked like different kinds of Nike shirts walked in. The ubiquitous swoosh (or what Regina called the check mark) gave them away. They headed straight for the throng around the makeup chairs and began chattering with the players. Since she had nothing to do, Regina watched them. They were probably sponsors and wanted to make sure the players wore their clothes and no other brand. She rolled her eyes. How was this even relevant when they were hardly going to be clothed?

“You look like you’re hard at work.”

“You know how it is,” she mumbled, thinking it was one of the magazine editors or advertising executives she had met earlier. Her eyes were still on the guys who had just entered.

“Hi, Regina.”

That made her look up. Goodness, what was he doing here? Her heart began to hammer in her chest.


“It’s great to see you.” His eyes crinkled up when he smiled. He was in another long-sleeved dress shirt, a light pink one this time, and dark pants. His tie was a no-nonsense striped one, unlike the printed ones she was seeing more and more often on the corporate guys who hired Paulo.

She shook her head, leaning as far away from him as possible as he pulled up a plastic chair. “No, you’re not hanging out here with me,” she protested. “I’m getting ready for the shoot.”

He tilted his head for a few seconds, plopped himself down on the chair, and bent forward—close enough for her to see that his eyes were dark brown with flecks of gold. Or was that just the light coming from the makeup mirrors? Probably. It wasn’t like he was part vampire or something. “Yeah, you look really busy.”

“I am! I have to…” She couldn’t think of a single thing to say. Even the stupid box of Polaroids mocked her by just resting in her hand.

“You have nothing better to do. So why not just kill time with me?” He grinned. Then she saw him swallow and take a deep breath as if psyching himself up for something. “So, did you get my message?”

With a little sigh, Regina decided to ease her grip on the brick wall she’d conjured up around her heart. She didn’t have the energy to fight it anymore. Not after all those nights of cramming senseless cartoons and TV shows into her brain to push thoughts of him away. Not after berating herself for not being able to forget someone she had talked to for what wasn’t even a few minutes. Not with him sitting this close.

Putting the Polaroid box down, she turned her whole body to face him. She studied his expression. He looked confident, which was what she had noticed the first time they’d met. But there was something behind that playful, carefree grin. Was it actually vulnerability? She wanted to find out. Or at least, that was the excuse she gave herself.

“Yes, and I threw it away. Is that how you usually get the girls? By scribbling your number on a coffee cup?”

He closed his eyes and winced. “No it’s …”

She waited, crossing her arms, knowing all she had to do was keep her mouth shut and the truth was bound to come out.

“All right, it’s worked before,” he admitted with a shrug.

“So it’s one of your methods.”

“Look, Regina, I’m really sorry about Lana. But I made it clear from the start that we were just hanging out. She was the one who started talking about forever. Believe me, I quickly corrected her and she seemed to understand.”

Regina narrowed her eyes. She wanted to believe him. She wanted to believe him so badly. He looked so frustrated, open, sincere, and…cute. There it was. Her remaining hold on that brick wall crumbled. “Fine. I believe you. Lana can be a bit, uh, over the top sometimes.”

He broke into a huge smile. “Yes! I didn’t want to say anything, I know she’s your friend—”

“Best friend,” Regina corrected.

“Best friend.” He nodded, contrite. “But I did not lead her on. I didn’t even, well, you know.”

Regina tilted her head. “No, I don’t.”

His cheeks reddened. “Uh, nothing. So aren’t you wondering what I’m doing here?”

“Okay. What are you doing here?” Regina didn’t want to hear the details about him and Lana anyway.

“I actually have to interview a few of the players. I need some inside info for the game tomorrow and I want to be ready. Besides, a shoot like this is always something fun to add when there’s nothing else to talk about.”

Regina frowned. “What game? You stalk players because you need conversation topics when you pick up girls? That’s pathetic, Ben.”

His laugh was warm and loud. “No! I need it when I describe basketball games as they unfold. Makes things more interesting to have tidbits of information if it gets boring. You never know.”

“You describe games.”

“On TV!” He beamed, his chest thrusting out a little.

Regina couldn’t help the grin that broke her guarded countenance. “So you’re a sportscaster, is that what you’ve been trying to tell me? Or did you think I already knew that because you think being on TV makes you a celebrity?”

“No, of course not!” But he looked guilty. It dawned on her that besides his good looks and his charm, being a TV personality—even a mini one—could be a big draw for most girls. But see, she wasn’t like most girls. He’d have to try harder than that. But then again, that meant she wasn’t shutting the door on him. She was letting him try. Against her better judgment. Against all the rules of best friendship. “But I was….hoping you knew. At the very least it’s something I could impress you with.”

His smile was genuine. He was making fun of himself now. And Regina’s heart melted. She didn’t fall for the celebrity. But the celebrity (okay, miniscule celebrity) who had the confidence to mock his status? Well, that was another story.



Book Review

Review and Excerpts: Maybe This Time by C.P. Santi

I’ve always thought of C.P. Santis writing as this delicious balance of sassy, sweet, and juice-out-of-your-nose funny. She has an innate grip on the culture of both countries she calls home, and that’s something that seeps out of her work (see Be Careful What You Wish For and When Cocoy Became Kikay). She brings all of these in her new book of short stories Maybe This Time, together with a couple of new aces, as she writes about second chance romance.  Continue Reading

Book Review

Review: Scandalized by Tara Frejas

Let me just put it out there. Scandalized by Tara Frejas spoke to my sleeping K-pop/K-drama fangirl heart. It has admittedly been too long since I last indulged in a good 20-plus-episode binge or boy band concert spectacle (because time and oh my gosh the expense). But fandoms such as these don’t really ever leave you. You only need one push, a small spark to reignite the madness–and Scandalized was just that.

Fi Legaspi is living the dream working in Seoul as a road manager for one of South Korea’s hottest bands, East Genesis Project. Until she isn’t.

When she finds herself in the middle of a scandal and a hostile fangirl witch hunt, Fi seeks the comfort of home, and to her surprise, not the person she had been pining for for years. All too suddenly it’s no longer her career on the line, but also her heart. Will she walk away from everything that matters to her or fight to keep her dream alive?

Anyone who’s ever been a fan of Korean idols is likely to nod in quick understanding upon reading the blurb. It’s all very familiar–the pretty, untouchable boys, the crazy saesang fans, the endless stream of Internet vitriol, freeflowing in comment threads once triggered by the vaguest of blind items and the most obscure photographs. Frejas delves into this mad world with equal parts fascination and disgust at the glitz and muck of it all. Obviously, Frejas is a fan too, and she is very curious about what happens behind the scenes. Her passion for the pop culture seeps through her words, and that is what separates this story from raw fanfic scribbles. What makes it such an enjoyable read.

So go ahead and read it for the pretty boys with the pimped out drums and guitars. Read it for the unapologetic wish fulfillment (come on, she’s a Filipina roadie in Korea! She’s surrounded by hot guys who like to walk around shirtless! The magnae calls her noona! Bet your daydreams didn’t get that far). Read it for Daniel Henney, Frejas’ peg for the band’s PR exec Gabriel. Read it for that Styroboat-in-the-flood scene. Yep, even for just that.

Scandalized will go live on Amazon on May 5! Make sure you pre-order while the book is still $0.99 🙂

AuthorPhotoAbout the Author

Tara Frejas is a cloud-walker who needs caffeine to fuel her travels. When she’s not on work mode, she keeps herself busy by weaving her daydreams into stories.

Aside from her obvious love affair with words and persistent muses, Tara is very passionate about being caffeinated, musical theatre, certain genres of music, dancing, dogs, good food, and romancing Norae, her ukelele. She owns a male bunny named Max who sometimes tries to nibble on her writing notes. Scandalized is her second novel after Paper Planes Back Home.

Fun fact: She’s a Piscean. Go figure.

Twitter: @tarafrejas

East Genesis Project’s website:
Twitter: @eastgenproject

Book Review

10 Books That Have Stayed With Me

This assignment has been going around on Facebook for a while now. I thought it would be good to put up here as well in case I wanted to go back to it. Because Facebook has no search option haha.

So the task: List 10 books that have stayed with you. Don’t take more than a few minutes. Don’t think too hard. They don’t have to be great works, or even your favorites. Just the ones that have touched you.

I think one true test that a book has stayed with you is if you’ve read it not only twice, but an unfathomable number of times that the book already wears its dog ears like a trophy. I have that kind of relationship with most of the books on this list:

Continue Reading