February 26, 2020

Friends with ARCs | Once Upon a Sunset + Of Curses and Kisses

It’s already really exciting to be able to read traditionally published titles in the US that are by Filipino-American authors. But to also learn that a story is going to be partly set in the Philippines? That definitely heightened the anticipation I felt before I started reading Once Upon a Sunset. It’s the story of a daughter (Diana, a successful, driven OB-GYN being asked to take a break from her job after a split second decision she makes one stressful night on call) and her mother (Margo, an older Instagram influencer who is determined to make the most of the years she has left), and their complicated relationship dynamic. They’re thrown further into chaos when Margo finds letters from the father she’s always been told died in the war, and end up traveling to the Philippines to find out more about him and the family they never knew about. Unsurprisingly, the Philippine setting was a highlight for me. It’s a little different from how I see the Philippines, but I appreciated how her sentiments towards the place reflected some of my own. But, more than that, it was the family aspect of the tale that I liked. I’m all for reading about complex, loving, unconventional familial structures, and I got to experience that in a relatable way. Unfortunately, this novel isn’t a new favorite for two reasons: a lack of connection to either of our main characters and the execution feeling clunky and rushed at turns. I’d still consider Once Upon a Sunset a solid read, though I’d treat it as more of a borrow than a buy.

What's a spot in the Philippines that you want to visit? I've had the pleasure of visiting quite a few places in the Philippines since I lived there for ten years. But one place that is still on my Philippine bucket list is Palawan. My family has already gotten to go (on both sides), and I still haven't! I'd really like to go one day.

Once Upon a Sunset will be published on March 3, 2020 by Gallery Books.
I received an ARC from the author for review.

I first heard about Of Curses and Kisses from Menon in 2018. The idea of a contemporary take on Beauty and the Beast set at a boarding school was really appealing to me and earned this novel an instant spot on the list of books I wanted to read. The story is about two characters- Jaya Rao, a princess who is determined to exact revenge on the Emerson family after her little sister suffers the consequences of being their target, and Grey Emerson, who has spent his life isolated due to his (and his family’s) belief in an ancient Rao curse. Their paths cross at St. Rosetta’s International Academy, and as their relationship grows, the pair might just realize that they’ve got it all wrong when it comes to what they know and what they really want. It sounds like a fun story, and in many ways, it was! I enjoyed noticing the incorporation of all the Beauty and the Beast­-inspired details, the secondary cast of characters (who I’m hopeful will maybe possibly one day get their own stories) and I really liked Grey Emerson (though I’m sure a lot of that has to do with my bias towards solitary grumps who are also good-hearted guys). However, the one aspect that prevented my full enjoyment was Jaya. She was constantly frustrating in her choices, behavior and thought processes. Even though it made sense with her age and her position as a princess who is heir to a throne (of sorts), it still personally irked me and made me want to give her a very strong talking-to constantly as the novel progressed. This was primarily what had me docking stars on my rating, and why I didn’t fully enjoy the novel as much as I’d expected to! Still, though, I must say that Of Curses and Kisses was entertaining overall, and I’d consider checking out the sequel depending on who it happens to be about. (I also did feel like this one would make for a better film than a book, but that’s just my humble two cents.)

Do you own a piece of jewelry gifted by family and what occasion was it for? I’ve gotten jewelry a few times in my life from family (earrings and a watch from my grandmother, a necklace and a watch from my mother, pearl earrings from my mother-in-law, a variety of jewelry pieces from Macky), but one of the most special pieces was given to me after my grandparents traveled to London years ago. It’s a Tissot watch (that currently requires a battery replacement) that is sized perfectly to fit my wrist, and I adore it.

Of Curses and Kisses (St. Rosetta's Academy #1) was released on February 18, 2020 by Simon Pulse.
I received an e-galley from the publisher via NetGalley for review.


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