Book Thoughts: The Boyfriend Backtrack by Dawn Lanuza

I may have been known as the author of the heartbreaking A Miracle, an author who loved “sad” endings. (In my defense, most of my novels end with a positive note. Readers just won’t forgive me for a few “sad” endings⁠—sad with quotes because they weren’t to me. Hehehehe.) But no, I actually love happy endings more, and this why I started reading Romance Class books (plus the fact that I shifted from print to digital).

Anyway, when Taal erupted last January, they released a bundle comprising 22 ebooks for only $10 (you can add, by the way) to help fund Rock Ed Philippines‘s relief activities. That’s only around Php 510.00 for 22 HEA stories! The authors went that far to help, so the least I could do as a reader is to make sure these books don’t get lost in my memory card.

My original plan was to write a review after I’ve read all novels, but I decided against it after it took me ten days to finish the first book I decided to read, The Boyfriend Backtrack (because adulting). The short review below contains spoilers, so read at your own risk. (I can’t suppress my feelings, sorry. Thank you for understanding.)

I didn’t know that that could be possible, that you could be in love and not know it until something shakes you to your very core.

Dawn Lanuza, The Boyfriend Backtrack

The Boyfriend Backtrack, Dawn Lanuza

Regina Cortes just got engaged, and it was supposed to be a happily-ever-after with her fiancé Kevin, except that she had flashbacks of her exes—Thomas, Josh, and Dirk, as well as Chase, one of her guy best friends in college—while he was proposing. Together with her friends, she tries to figure out what the somewhat roll call of her relationships means by making peace with her past.

I was contemplating which part I liked better: Josh’s or Dirk’s. Regina’s relationship with them had an interesting turn of events, unlike how it turned out for Thomas—theirs was anticlimactic. And it was okay, as it seemed that every ending of her relationship represented a “kind” of ending, if you know what I mean (i.e., choosing oneself, getting dumped, being cheated on, denying one’s feelings, mutual decision).

“We could have been together if you didn’t feel the need to pursue that. We could have been living in suburban hell with a kid if you didn’t think you could be all that.”

Oh. I let out a laugh. I try to hold it back but I couldn’t control it. This is what I missed out on for breaking up with him? Suburban hell?

Dawn Lanuza, The Boyfriend Backtrack

Going back, the humor incorporated in Dirk’s part made it one of my favorite parts of the story, particularly “The Ballad of the Burnt Mattress” (I am willing to pay extra just to hear Dirk’s album). I could somehow relate because I wrote songs for one guy when I was in college, though Dirk was on another level.

But if we are talking about Regina’s character development, Josh’s part stung. I could see how Regina was magnetized by Josh’s charisma, only to get trapped (and choose to stay trapped) in a third-party situation. But just as she thought she was no longer an option, everything felt wrong. I guess it was her conscience activating, and I appreciated this side of her.

Guilt ate me up. I couldn’t hold his hand. Couldn’t even look at him. I couldn’t forgive myself for being the reason why someone else got hurt. I didn’t want to parade that around.

Dawn Lanuza, The Boyfriend Backtrack

To be honest, however, I had a different ending in mind. A different “happy ending,” that is, somewhat like Portia’s. I didn’t even realize it was really what the author intended until I backread the first chapter after reading the last one, and everything suddenly connected. I wanted to stop reading in Chapter 9 (reader tantrums, LOL), but I’m glad I stuck around because Chapter 11 had the kilig I was waiting for. I just wish I had the chance to know Chase better.

Book Thoughts: Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga

The first time I read Here We Are Now was during one lunchtime when I had sauteed mushrooms and steamed salmon and broccoli.

This book has been in my bookshelf for a year already, and I feel guilty for not having the time to read it (and I even started buying ebooks on Amazon Kindle). Now that I am more in control of my time, I made a routine where I can do the things I love doing, which includes reading. (I’ll write about this in another blog, and I’m excited to share with you how I got my shit together this 2019. Haha!) I read at least two chapters every weekday, and I swear . . . it gets more and more difficult to drop the book as I read further (but self-discipline is key).

It’s a funny thing how excitement, like hope, can feel a whole lot like fear.

Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga is a young adult fiction novel that focuses on a young girl named Taliah. She has been writing letters to Julian Oliver, a member of the popular band Staring Into Abyss, whom she believed was her father. Taliah decided to stop after years of no reply until one day, Julian came to her doorsteps, telling her that he was indeed her father while insisting her to go on a trip to Oak Falls with him because her grandfather, whom she will first meet, was dying. Refusing to tell her mother about her trip, Taliah tries to uncover what happened between her parents while discovering herself as well.

No one puts an ocean between themselves and their home who isn’t wildly, madly in search for more.

The cover fooled me that the story will turn to something romantic, but it didn’t, although it had some kilig parts with a supporting character. It seemed a pretty fast move though, given that the two characters have met for five days (and yes, the whole grandfather dying thing is awkward).

The problem was that it seemed like I was never the one who changed. It seems like it’s harder to watch the people you love change and grow when you feel like you’re staying exactly the same. When you feel stuck.

What I loved about the book was how it portrayed change. It was very “human,” for lack of a better word. And it assured me that I wasn’t alone about thinking that change was oftentimes scary. Nonetheless, you have to face it, make decisions, and move forward to learn. In this aspect, I could relate to Taliah and Lena, Taliah’s mother.

I had no issues with the flashbacks concerning Julian and Lena; in fact, it was neatly told. But there were a few parts that I had to read twice since the scene kept jumping from Taliah’s thoughts to what was currently happening.

The ending left me confused, however, and the conflict felt unresolved. Maybe I had a different ending in mind, but overall, it was a good read.

Next read: This Is Where the World Ends by Amy Zhang

My First Purchase on Amazon Kindle: You, Me, US by Brigitte Bautista

You, Me, U.S. written by Brigitte Bautista, author of Don’t Tell My Mother, is a slow-burn F/F romance about two friends, Jo and Liza. Jo is a sex worker whose singer dreams have been shattered by rejections here and there, while Liza is a contractual salesperson who believes that the only way to “living happily” is going to the US. The latter found her chance when her American boyfriend whom she met online proposed to her, but things got complicated after she and Jo shared an almost kiss and when Jo had realizations in the middle of a sex dare.

What made this my first purchase was how the urban setting molded the characters’ personalities. The descriptions of both the characters and their carefree dialogues easily carried me from one page to another, not realizing I was at the end of the sample, hence the purchase. I could easily connect to them, especially in the parts that told about how they came to be. They have forgotten idealism—an inevitable event when you try to pursue your dreams but consecutive rejections scream at you to forget about them.

Jo found out the hard way that chasing your dreams was a lie. The best you could do was make them smaller and smaller until they came true.

At first I thought it was uncomfortable reading about a sex worker. But reading You, Me, U.S. made me understand what made their choices. I was attracted to Jo, perhaps, because she gave me a new perspective on life.

On the surface, it was comforting to blame something else for your troubles. But at the root of it, if she couldn’t blame herself, then she wasn’t in control.

Cheating and domestic abuse are present though, and these take maturity for one to understand why a certain character had done this and that. Not that this book romanticizes the aforementioned; it “desanitizes” them, making sure that the characters are responsible for their own actions. Jo as a sex worker, on the other hand, was not really an internal problem; it was not portrayed to me that way. It was just described as her work just as how Liza was described as a salesperson. Nothing more, nothing less.

However, the chapter near the ending seemed a bit off. The book could have ended in that one meeting, but it was extended to another chapter, dragging me to another series of questions asked by the characters.

It was a good read, especially if you’re into F/F romance, contemporary literature, and the friends-to-lovers trope. You, Me, US is available at Amazon Kindle for $2.99, or Php 153.00.