#JustWritePH: For Love Blog Tour – Excerpt and Review

JustWritePH-blog-tour-banner

And it’s time for another blog tour! I watched the #JustWritePH from the sidelines via Facebook and Twitter, and I want to say how proud I am of this initiative. I’ve always said that the PinoyWriMos were the most inspiring bunch of writers I know, and I’m even more inspired now that this has happened and there are a lot of new stories for everyone to enjoy.

What is #JustWritePH? The #JustWritePH workshop, which ran from July 1 to August 8, 2015, challenged participants to write a story and prepare it for publication in a little under 6 weeks. Tips and lessons were delivered online & in person. The reward? Guaranteed distribution on Buqo, plus marketing opportunities like a bundle launch (held at Bo’s Coffee Megamall on August 22), a Facebook party, and a blog tour.

And since I’m a romance fan and author, I’m going to review the For Love bundle, specifically, Sigh No More by Carla de Guzman. :D

#JustWritePH—For Love
Authors: Beth G., Carla de Guzman, Giselle Bacalla, and Amae Dechavez

Bundle description:

Love is never easy, but the journey to that happily ever after is what makes it worth it. Witness the struggles of these characters as they work their way through both new romances and second chances at love in this four-story bundle. Features “I Still…” by Beth G., “Sigh No More” by Carla de Guzman, “Velvet Valentine” by Giselle Bacalla, and “One Sweet November Day” by Amae Dechavez.

JustWritePH-ForLove-CoverSigh No More by Carla de Guzman
Connect with Carla: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Website

Beatrice and Claudia never thought they would see Benedick and Hiro ever again, not that they wanted to. But when the business opportunity of a lifetime hinges on Ben and Hiro’s work, they find themselves head over heels and crashing into the boys again. But why did they ever have to be apart in the first place? Can Hiro win Claudia’s heart back? Can Beatrice and Benedick ever stop fighting? This book is a modern retelling of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

I read and liked Carla’s two previous works, Cities and Marry Me, Charlotte B! so I was very happy when I saw that she had a story in this bundle. I liked the set up from the very start, with Beatrice and Claudia and their stationery/art store. I liked their friendship and their banter, and they were two very fleshed out characters from the start. Then Ben and Hiro arrived, and madness ensues. But seriously, Ben and Hiro were just as charming characters, and funny, too, especially when Carla brought us back to how they met and what happened then and now.

Ben and Bea were the main characters here, so most of the focus was on their love story, and I loved it. I liked that both their perspectives were shown, and it was very entertaining once some plans went into action. I liked the panic in Ben and the hesitation that Bea felt, and it made me curious why they weren’t together when they were so obviously good for each other. The story unfolded gracefully, and I was really invested in them, so much that I already saw who was the real problem in the story even before the characters decided to do something about it.

Sigh No More was incredibly enjoyable, really, It was funny and romantic with just the right depth to make the story believable and make you wish for your own dorky Ben. ;)

Still need convincing? Here’s an excerpt from the story:

Right. Morning outfit selfie. Here we go.

I really looked awful in the morning, all messy hair and puffy eyes. That last beer really was a mistake. I adjusted the angle of my phone slightly, before I gave the camera my brightest, still-slightly-sleepy smile. I hadn’t really thought about what I was going to wear today (horror of horrors) and I ended up with my loose, ripped drawstring jeans, my favorite chunky sandals and a loose white shirt. It was going to be another hot day in DC, so a pair of plastic cat eye glasses went with the outfit. I put my hair up in its usual half-topknot and grabbed Claudia’s peach lip tint to swipe over my lips. I looked into my vintage full length mirror and snapped the photo.

“Beatrice Noble: Up and ready by 10 am and I’m already working,” I typed out on the phone’s notes. “Had a back and forth conversation with our printer regarding our new greeting card line while in bed, now heading off to meet with Claudia at Petit Jolie.”

That sounded good, didn’t it? I frowned little at myself in the mirror. I widened my eyes until I looked crazy and puffed out my cheeks. Gaze into the eyes of an underpaid, overworked, under-slept self-starter!

Claudia Crowne and I quit our jobs two years ago to start our baby, the Noble Crowne Paper Company. We started out with small jobs, making invites for relatives’ weddings, postcards and notepads. Then the next thing I knew, my life turned into a whirlwind of printers and paints, clients and meetings. Suddenly my social media posts were more important than times in and out, my 9 to 5 had turned into 24/7, and the voice in my head telling my that there was something inherently wrong with doing what I loved had finally dulled into a whisper.

Was it scary? It was still, in a lot of ways. Sometimes I think that it’s all been a fluke, or a dream of some kind, but then I check my ratty old filofax and the list of things I have to do just make me feel happy. It’s so weird.

One of the lifestyle blogs Claudia and I religiously followed finally responded to Claudia’s emails and asked for a ‘day in the life’ article from the girls of Noble Crowne. It was a big deal for us, and both Claudia and I were determined not to screw it up

Which was why, when I arrived at Petit Jolie, I wasn’t at all surprised to see that Claudia was wearing a short, sleeveless tunic printed with orange roses, mums and little red flowers that I used to pick from bushes as a child. Claudia made that dress from a pattern I gave her when I was first starting to paint. Now almost every piece that we produced in our little stationery company featured my hand painted flowers.

“You couldn’t be just a bit more subtle?” I teased, kissing my best friend’s cheek as we sat on our usual table of the corner cafe. Claudia and I lived within walking distance of each other on Kings’ Street in Old Town, Alexandria, a little neighbourhood in Virginia that still had wrought iron street lamps, twinkle lights on the main street, small Victorian buildings, shops and boutiques just by the Potomac River. I loved our neighbourhood. It was so pretty and quaint, despite being a stone’s throw away from Washington DC. Petit Jolie was a small boulangerie in the middle of an American street and smack dab in the middle of the town. It was also where the idea for Noble Crowne was born.

The #JustWritePH – For Love bundle is 75% off (Php45/$0.99) until September 27  from Buqo! You can also enter the raffle below for a chance to win a free copy! :)

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Open Road Summer

openroadsummerOpen Road Summer by Emery Lord
Publisher: Walker Children’s
Number of pages: 353
My copy: ebook, from Scribd premium subscription

After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts.

But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence.

This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.

I think I’ve said it here before: I like band books – Books with bands, books about music, books about friends with singers. My secret dream of being a roadie or a band manager is still hanging around, but because I don’t think I can handle the stress of all of that, I live vicariously through fiction. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Emery Lord’s Open Road Summer, but it’s been a while since I last tried a contemporary YA book from a new author. I like tried and tested ones, plus most of the contemporary YA now are NA, and I’m not a super fan of NA.

But I had  Scribd subscription that was about to expire, so I need to make use of it. I picked Open Road Summer from the selections, because of the good reviews, plus singers! The book tells the story of Reagan, who’s trying to turn over a new leaf by joining her friend Dee aka Lilah Montgomery, country superstar, on her summer tour. Reagan is nursing a broken heart, and so is Dee, so the summer was their time to bond and to help each other heal. But the music industry is a big, crazy ground for seemingly fragile Dee, so her management brings in Matt Finch, childhood friend and the guy who makes Reagan rethink her plans of a boy-free summer.

I enjoyed reading Open Road Summer because it was so easy to get into. It was so easy to feel like you’re in the bus with the girls, or in the audience or the backstage, and it was so easy to fit in the Reagan and Dee’s friendship. Figuratively, because if Reagan were real and you tried to be friends with Dee, I bet Reagan would have snapped at you. With all of Dee’s charm, Reagan is very abrasive to the point that it was almost annoying, and I wanted to tell her, “Chill out, girl. Not every girl is your enemy.” She was judgy, and at times harsh, but she had a heart devoted to Dee all the way.

Their friendship was my most favorite part of the book. I liked how they were for each other, and how even if they had a fight, they were still for each other. This kind of friendship is rare, and it’s really a good thing to have one in the midst of a broken heart. My favorite parts were always when the two of them were together, and how Reagan watched Dee stand up for herself, and how Dee pushed Reagan to be slightly softer towards Matt, and softer towards herself.

The romance was cute, in a slow-burn kind of way. I really liked Matt, and while I’m not a country singer, I would have probably been a fan of his given his description in the book. I liked how he sparred with Reagan, not backing down from her jabs, and how he stood up to show Reagan that he really cared. The grand gesture at the end really made me smile, too.

And as with any book with music, I wished the songs here were real! I really liked the lyrics, and I wished that they also released a soundtrack to accompany this. It’s just right for books like this, don’t you think?

Open Road Summer is one of those impulse reads that I don’t regret. I’m quite excited to read her next book, The Start of Me and You (lovely title) once I get my grubby hands on them. :D

Rating: 

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

This is the currency of friendship, traded over years and miles, and I hope it’s an even exchange someday. For now, I do what all best friends do when there’s nothing left to say. We lie together in the darkness, shoulder to shoulder, and wait for the worst to be over.

The exploration of guitar chords, Matt’s low voice, and Dee’s hoarse giggling make a summer soundtrack I’ll replay even when the tour is over—in the moments when I feel like being truly happy is an impossible puzzle, one I’m not meant to figure out. If you have a best friend you can laugh with and a few good songs, you’re more than halfway there.

It takes a long time to learn someone. It takes a long time to see a person as a whole spectrum, from worst to best—from the mismanaged heartache that lands them in AA to the pancake dinners, from the hurtful things shouted in a dressing room to the huge-hearted strength that only a best friend can understand. Once you get there, it’s forever.

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Love at First Page

Saint Anything

saintanythingSaint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Number of pages: 417
My copy: paperback, ordered from Book Depository

Peyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

But of course the newest Sarah Dessen will not escape my grubby hands.

Saint Anything is about Sydney, whose life changed when her older brother Peyton was convicted for drunk driving. Everyone loves Peyton, so when he was taken away, it felt as if Sydney’s life went with him, especially with how her family was left coping with the loss. Everyone was so concerned about Peyton, but Sydney couldn’t help but wonder about the his victim – what about him? Then Sydney meets the Chathams, a family that runs a pizza parlor near her school. They befriend Sydney, and soon, she gets into their world of pizza, the perfect fries, and bands. For the first time ever, Sydney feels that people are finally seeing her.

As with every Sarah Dessen I have read, Saint Anything starts out a bit slow, laying the groundwork for the story to come alive. I have read enough Dessen to know that this was her style, so I was patient, knowing it will all pay off in the end. And it did, as I was introduced to the Chathams. They charmed me, they really did. I loved their family dynamic, and how they were all crazy in a good way. I loved the pizza place, and Layla and Mac’s friends from school. The lunch scenes were perfect in so many ways and I looked forward to reading all of that.

Then there’s Sydney’s mom, who, I must admit, was a bit too much with holding Sydney to a certain standard. But again, it’s what mothers do, I think? It wasn’t really so surprising. But the real “villain” here wasn’t her mom, but that creepy guy who keeps on worming into their story. I suppose it was because I knew about him before I started reading, and that made him creepier. But either way, even if you don’t know him before this, I doubt you’d find him less creepy.

In a way, Saint Anything reminds me of my most favorite Sarah Dessen book, The Truth About Forever. There were many similar elements that make it almost a mirror novel, but not too much that they’re too similar. Mac is no Wes, but I still really liked him, and I really liked his slow-burn chemistry with Sydney. Bonus points to the Saint reference. :)

I really enjoyed Saint Anything, and if you’re a Dessen fan, this does not disappoint. I’m still waiting for a book in the POV of a Dessen boy – it’s about time, right? While I’m waiting, I think I’ll go and reread her previous books. :)

Rating: 

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

“There’s no shame in trying to make stuff work. It’s better than just accepting the broken.” I wanted to say he was lucky he even had a choice. That for most of us, once something was busted, it was game over. I would have loved to know how it felt, just for once, to have something fall apart and see options instead of endings.

You weren’t invisible, not to me. Just so you know.

Relationships evolve, just like people do. Just because you know someone doesn’t mean you know everything about them.

When faced with the scariest of things, all you want is to turn away, hide in your own invisible place. But you can’t. That’s why it’s not only important for us to be seen, but to have someone to look for us, as well.

Other reviews:
GReads!
Young Adult Hollywood

The Mysterious Benedict Society

mbsThe Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Mysterious Benedict Society #1
Publisher: Little, Brown
Number of pages: 456
My copy: paperback, bought from Powerbooks

Dozens of children respond to this peculiar ad in the newspaper and are then put through a series of mind-bending tests, which readers take along with them. Only four children-two boys and two girls-succeed. Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and inventive children could complete. To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules. But what they’ll find in the hidden underground tunnels of the school is more than your average school supplies. So, if you’re gifted, creative, or happen to know Morse Code, they could probably use your help.

I’ve had The Mysterious Benedict Society in my TBR pile for years, after I bought it when I read reviews about how “smart” this book was. Back then I was still a series completist, so I had to start with the first book and planned to get the rest of the books later on because it was just right, right? But anyway, that didn’t happen, and the book remained in my TBR pile until one day, I decided to pick it up because I wanted something else to read. And I figured it’s about time to get this off there.

An ad in the newspaper appears, looking for smart kids who were willing to go through a series of tests. Out of all who took it, only four children passed: Reynie Muldoon, Sticky Washington, Kate Wetherall, and Constance Contraire. The kids were brought to Mr. Benedict, who tells them of an evil plan that they need to stop and sent them as spies to the Learning Institute of the Very Enlightened, the school where all this evil seems to be coming from. Adventure follows, as well as danger, but there was too much at stake for them to just give up.

They were right. This book was fun and smart, and a lot of it made me think of just how they’d get out of the scrapes they get into. The kids were easy to like, even Constance, who started out so annoying and stubborn but later became endearing just because of those qualities. There was mystery, yes, and as a reader I had to keep on thinking, too, about  just what was happening and how they would ever get out of the messes they got into.

I just think the book was just a tad long. I know all scenes worked out to the ending, but I remember being a bit impatient with this at some point that I was almost skimming. It could just be a case of reader ADD, though, but I can’t deny the relief I felt when I was finally done. To be fair, the ending was pretty heartwarming, and it felt like a reward after reading the length of the book.

The Mysterious Benedict Society is a smart and fun book, and while I was a bit lukewarm about it (Maybe that means I won’t be one of those kids who will take that exam. Or pass it. Heh), I think I’d really like to keep this copy around once my nephew is old enough to read. :)

Rating: 

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

You must remember, family is often born of blood, but it doesn’t depend on blood. Nor is it exclusive of friendship. Family members can be your best friends, you know. And best friends, whether or not they are related to you, can be your family.

Other reviews:
Good Books and Good Wine
The Book Gaga

Please Ignore Vera Dietz

veradietzPlease Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
Publisher: Ember
Number of pages: 326
My copy: paperback, gifted by Maria

Vera’s spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she’s kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything.

So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to?

Please Ignore Vera Dietz was a book that I’ve been wanting to read for so long but I never got a copy, until Maria gave me a copy. Of course, it was parked on my shelf up until the book discussion activity by the person who gave me this book.

Vera Dietz has loved her best friend, Charlie Kahn, for so long. But he abandoned her to be with Jenny Flick and the Detentionheads. Now he’s dead, so Vera goes back to her life, working full time at her job and school, trying to ignore the ghost Charlies that haunt her and tell her that she needs to tell the truth to clear his name. Will she do it? Or will Charlie’s abandonment pre-death keep her from doing the right thing?

This is my first A.S. King book, and somehow it reminds me of Courtney Summers and E. Lockhart, with all the issues (from the former) and the mystery (from the latter). There’s a lot that was hinted about the overall story here that makes you just want to read to know what really happened. Vera is a smart kid. Despite her sucky situation – especially now that her best friend is gone – she sees what’s wrong and tries to avoid it. But despite all this show of “strength,” Vera is still ultimately a kid who is facing a whole lot of grief, not just with Charlie, but from her stripper mother and her father who tries to ignore the serious things.

The fun part of the narrative are the multiple POVs from Vera’s dad (and his flowcharts!), Charlie, and even a particular landmark in their town. The writing is very sharp, and very realistic, and at the end of it all, I just want to hug Vera.

We will learn to forgive ourselves in tandem.

I liked this, I really did. :)

Rating: 

Number of dog-eared pages: 15

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

I’m sorry, but I don’t get it. If we’re supposed to ignore everything that’s wrong with our lives, then I can’t see how we’ll ever make things right.

I felt a mix of wanting to kill him and wanting to kiss him at the same time. When I thought of what true love must be like, I figured it must be like this, and not the stupid eighth grade infatuation most girls my age felt. True love includes an equal part of good and bad, but true sticks around and doesn’t run off to Vegas with a podiatrist.

I want to tell her that the only thing you get from walling yourself in is empty.

I reminded myself that the one thing Jenny Flick couldn’t buy, no matter what she used as currency, was a ticket to drive on the high road next to people like me.

EVERYONE deserves to be happy. But no one gets there by freaking out or sulking or running. So. Here’s a tissue. Clean yourself up and start back at the beginning.

I have gone from invisible Vera Dietz to invincible Vera Dietz.