Blog Tour: The Hometown Hazard – Review + Author Playlist

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The Hometown Hazard by Dawn Lanuza
Published on January 29, 2016

Genre: New Adult, Romance
Goodreads | Amazon | Buqo

Jules Coronado has been away from her hometown for almost a decade but when an intruder breaks in to her childhood home, she finds herself coming back. Changes evidently took place in her small town, including her childhood best friend’s younger brother, Kip – now tall, slightly scruffed, all grown up and caught climbing into their garden wall.

Kip Villamor has a mission and despite Jules’ doubts, they team up: going on fieldtrips, tackling unsuspecting men, and trespassing offices to dig up dirt. But Jules has secrets of her own, one that might be exposed – unless she keeps her walls up. But climbing walls are Kip’s forte, remember?

Will her secrets keep her on his side, or will it force her to disappear again?

TheHometownHazardEbI wasn’t completely sure what to expect with Dawn Lanuza’s The Hometown Hazard, except that it was romance because it seemed like it. I read and enjoyed Dawn’s first book, The Boyfriend Backtrack, and I love spin-off stories, so when the blog tour came up, I signed up immediately.

This was different, definitely. Like I said, I came in expecting romance – and there was romance, definitely – and finished the book finding more. The Hometown Hazard had a small town, childhood friends, secrets, and a mystery that will keep you on your toes, wondering if there is really something in what Kip and Jules were following.

First, the mystery: what fun. I liked how Jules’ small town came alive in this story, and how all the people that the duo contacts rises from the pages, too. It was easy to imagine why Jules left without really finding out why because if you’ve been in a small town for so long, it’s just natural to go to the city, right? But don’t take my word for it, because there’s more in the main character Jules, and even more in the lead interest Kip. The mystery was unveiled skillfully, and like any good mystery, it makes you want to reread to get the clues again.

And of course, the romance: oh, Kip. I think anyone who’s read this will agree that Kip is his own character, totally different from the other boys that Dawn wrote about in The Boyfriend Backtrack. Kip was charming and adventurous and I totally get why one would want to follow him around. In some ways, I felt that the romance didn’t really take centerstage here, but I didn’t mind because it played off great with the other aspects of the book.

The Hometown Hazard has great pacing, lovely characters, and an adventure you wouldn’t want to miss. It’s the kind of book you’d want to bring home to a trip to the province…and then you’d end up wishing there’s a Kip wherever you’re staying. :)

Favorite quotes:

I think it’s possible for you to love someone but not necessarily like them at times. Do you get that?

If I haven’t forgiven myself, I wouldn’t be strong enough to love someone this much.

“How do you undo a ghosting?” Leslie asked.
“You make an appearance,” I laughed. “And stick around.”

Check out The Hometown Hazard playlist:

About the Author:

Dawn Lanuza started writing stories when she was just a kid (they weren’t good or even finished). She works for the music industry by day and writes meet cutes and snappy comebacks by night. ‘The Boyfriend Backtrack’ is her first book. She currently lives with her family and an adopted dog.

Author Links: Amazon / Goodreads / Twitter / Facebook

 

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Paper Planes Back Home

coverPaper Planes Back Home by Tara Frejas
My copy: ebook/print
Number of pages: 147

When Gianna wakes up on a cloud, she is disoriented yet fascinated. She thinks she’s only dreaming until she gets a storm of paper planes—”They’re thoughts of people who remember,” a man on another cloud tells her—each pleading for her not to leave. The man tells her these planes are the key to get out of there, and while she thinks it’s hard to believe, she decides everything is worth trying if it meant finding her way back home.

Gianna wakes up on a cloud, and she’s confused. What was she doing there? Then she meets Skylar, a soldier on another cloud, who tells her that the paper planes that were landing on their clouds were thoughts and messages of people who remember. It turns out they were in some kind of limbo, and the paper planes were their way back home.

I wasn’t really sure what to make of Paper Planes Back Home when I first read its synopsis, because it didn’t seem like the usual romance novel for me. But then again, it wasn’t really just a simple romance novel. Tara Frejas’ debut had love in almost all of its forms – romance, family, and friendship, and this is what makes this book the kind I think people will read regardless of the genre they usually try.

There’s something heartwarming with how Tara wrote this book, and you can see that there’s already a lot of heart in it. I loved the four main characters – Gianna, Skylar, Aaron, and Anna. They had very distinct voices, and they all had different goals and motivations in the story that tied up nicely when you get to the end. In a way, you can kind of see what’s going to happen after all the situations were laid out, but even if it was predictable in that way, you won’t really mind because you just want to have a good ending for all these people. They deserve it, after all that they’ve gone through.

And the world-building in this was on point, too. No one really knows what limbo, or after life is about, but reading this book would make you want to believe that what Tara wrote was real. It was easy to see that the world was lovingly created by the author, and I admit that I always liked it when the book was back on those clouds. There was also an element of fear there, but more of fear for the characters and what could happen to them there.

This book left me with a smile on my face, and some tears, too. It’s not sad, although the premise seems like it. But trust me, warm, fuzzy feelings and happy tears will be around when you reach the end of this. :) And if you happen to be in the same shoes as Aaron in this book, Paper Planes Back Home will give you hope that will make you send more thoughts and prayers, hoping that these will be strong enough to bring the person you love home.

The stronger the love, the stronger the plane.

You can read an excerpt of Paper Planes Back Home here!

Rating: 

Other reviews:
Jay E. Tria | Bookbed

What You Wanted

What You WantedWhat You Wanted by Mina V. Esguerra
Chic Manila # 5
Publisher: Bright Girl Books
Number of pages: 137
My copy: ARC from author

It’s the classic one-night stand: Beach wedding, bridesmaid, groom’s friend. When Andrea and Damon meet, sparks fly, and they give in to the attraction. Sounds simple, but Andrea’s still getting over someone, and Damon thought he’d be hooking up with another person that night. It could still be simple, really, if they chalk it up to a weekend tryst and move on.

But one night becomes lunch the week after, and then dinner the next weekend…and before they know it, Andrea and Damon are still together, dealing with the feelings they know they might still have for other people. How hard can it be to get exactly what you want? How do you even know what it is?

The moment I started reading Mina V. Esguerra’s latest book, What You Wanted, I thought: I missed this. I’ve read some of Mina’s Spotlight New Adult books and liked them enough, but there was something that felt like coming home when she’s writing something based in Manila again. And it helped that I read and liked the prequel to this book, Wedding Night Stand, so I was pretty excited to have first dibs on this book.

Andrea met Damon at her sister’s wedding. It was just supposed to be a one-night stand, but days and weeks after the wedding, Andrea finds herself seeking out Damon, seeing and spending more time with him. But it’s not a completely simple romance as both of them have issues of their own: Damon is pining over Geraldine, known as the ice queen who he has been pursuing for a while, and Andrea is still nursing a broken heart from Thad, who dropped her after a weekend together and got married to someone else. Andrea and Damon agreed to use each other to get what they want…but what do they really want, anyway?

I wasn’t even halfway through and I was already charmed by Andrea and Damon, and I was rooting for the two of them to get what they wanted, whatever that was! I mean, I sort of knew what it was, being the reader, but I had such a good time watching things unfold for the two of them. I was a little surprised with how some of Andrea’s angst with Thad resonated with me but I’m not going to go there because that’s in the past. Let’s just say I get what she meant about that, and how awful it feels when there’s a Naomi. I remember feeling all ranty whenever Andrea was alone with Thad and how I wanted to shoo him away. (But other than that, I still think I am more of a Julie, haha)

And speaking of Damon! I liked Damon a lot. There’s so much about him that’s easy to like, in an alpha-male kind of way. Like how he was focused, and how he didn’t resort to manipulation and instead just proved himself to show that he deserved to get what he wanted. I liked how he seemed so dangerous and in some ways, wild, but also can be pretty gentle at times. I would probably be intimidated like hell if I meet someone like Damon in person, but I think I will still be secretly watching him. :P (Haha, see, I’m a Julie.) I liked him so much that I told Mina that it seemed like there’s competition for Lucas of Fairy Tale Fail’s spot in my heart. Gasp!

I really liked What You Wanted. While most of the story revolved around the “extended” hook-up, there’s a lot more in their story that gives reader a chance to see how characters like Andrea and Damon change, find out, and eventually, get what they really wanted. :)

Also – lots of food in this book, so yeah, don’t read this with an empty stomach. Sushi, grilled fish, juice, and siopao. :D

Rating: 

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

“You’re never going to be able to introduce him to them as yours, Andrea. He burned that bridge when he chose someone else. Walk away.”

That was it. This was where my first attempt at relationship feelings went to die. At a table for six, in a restaurant that served really fat duck. It would die among my closest friends, none of whom knew what had happened to me, what I had lost, and who killed it.

Food and coffee, was how you became friends with anyone, I learned.

It was legitimately scary for me to even attempt anything with Thad because when we were good together, it already felt like we were us. Committed.

And now we were nothing.

…If there’s one part of him you pretend doesn’t exist, then you don’t love the man; you love the version of him that exists in your head.

#JustWritePH: For Love Blog Tour – Excerpt and Review

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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