#JustWritePH: For Love Blog Tour – Excerpt and Review


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


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

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. :)


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.


If You Feel Too Much

If You Feel Too Much coverIf You Feel Too Much: Thoughts on Things Found and Lost and Hoped For by Jamie Tworkowski
Publisher: Tarcher
Number of pages: 208
My copy: ebook, advance readers’ copy from Netgalley/Publisher

In 2006 Jamie Tworkowski wrote a story called “To Write Love on Her Arms” about helping a friend through her struggle with drug addiction, depression, and self-injury. The piece was so hauntingly beautiful that it quickly went viral, giving birth to a non-profit organization of the same name. Nine years later, To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) is an internationally-recognized leader in suicide prevention and a source of hope, encouragement, and resources for people worldwide.

Jamie’s words have been shared hundreds of thousands of times online. They’ve shown up on T-shirts and posters and even tattoos. Now, for the first time, Jamie’s writing is available in the form of a book. If You Feel Too Much is a celebration of hope, wonder, and what it means to be human. From personal stories of struggling on days most people celebrate to offering words of strength and encouragement in moments of loss, the essays in this book invite readers to believe that it’s okay to admit to pain and it’s okay to ask for help. If You Feel Too Much is an important book from one of this generation’s most important voices.

I first heard about Jamie Tworkowski from my friend Isa, after she shared with me this quote:

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that i don’t like love. i love love – i think it’s the best thing that happens on the planet. It’s the biggest dream inside me. But i bought a lie somewhere along the way. i bought the lie that says i’m not alive if i’m not in love. i bought the lie that says if i love someone but then they stop loving me or they start loving someone else, then i must have no value or power or worth. i bought the lie that says if i’m not in love, then i’m as good as dead.

I had no idea who he was until then, until I found out that he is the founder of To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA), “…an American non-profit organization that aims to to present hope for people struggling with addiction, depression, self-injury and thoughts of suicide while also investing directly into treatment and recovery.”1 I found out about TWLOHA back in college, I think, because some of my favorite bands (Switchfoot, Anberlin, Dave Barnes, Matt Wertz, etc) support the organization. That’s the most that I knew about Jamie and TWLOHA, and I was vaguely aware that there was a book coming out. When I received an email from the publicist asking if I wanted to review the book, I immediately said yes because if most of the book contained nuggets of wisdom like that quote that Isa shared to me last time, then I definitely want to read this book.

If You Feel Too Much is, at its core, a collection of Jamie Tworkowski’s blog entries through the years. The topics range from work, family, friendships, romance, love, addiction, depression, self-injury, and brokenness. That’s a lot to digest, but since these came from blog entries, they’re really easy to read. If you’re reading this as a memoir with a chronology of events, you might get a bit disappointed because some of the chapters feel a little bit disjointed, and sometimes some of them seemed to carry the same thought. Some of them may even be seem too short, but that’s easy to overlook because the everything here is full of heart. More than being readable, this book is super relatable. It doesn’t matter if the context of the entry is different – there’s some sort of universal truth that makes the reader connect to the things you read in this book.

Jamie’s thoughts focused a lot on reaching out, on being a friend, on opening up to people and offering love. Inversely, he also talked about how if we don’t have the strength to reach out and to offer love, then it’s okay. We don’t have to be strong all the time — sometimes, we need to be on the receiving end, too. If You Feel Too Much does not just tell its readers that we are not alone, but more importantly, we all have a part to play in this life. As Sierra De Mulder (who was mentioned in the book, too) wrote: your voice is someone’s favorite voice, your face is someone’s favorite face. 

If You Feel Too Much is all about the pain and beauty and loss and hope that makes up our being human. If you feel too much, too, then this is the book for you. Read it all in one sitting, or read it bit by bit – if only to remind yourself of the truths that we often forget about ourselves.

If you feel too much, don’t go.

You are not alone in these places.

Other people feel how you feel.

You are more than just your pain. You are more than wounds, more than drugs, more than death and silence.

There is still some time to be surprised.

There is still some time to ask for help.

There is still some time to start again.

There is still some time for love to find you.

It’s not too late.

You’re not alone.


Number of dog-eared pages: 42

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

Your heart is writing a poem on the world and it’s being turned into a thousand songs.

That guy with tears in his eyes and ghosts in his heart. He loved her, and you could see it. You could see it and you told him it wasn’t his to carry. You told him about grace, and you told him about the song. And you believed it. You were certain of it. So if it’s true for him, isn’t it also true for you?
Wake up. You’re alive.

And that diamond ring. I know you think about it a lot. That ring does not define you. It never did. Then or now. You can wear it around your neck. You can throw it in the sea. It doesn’t matter. It’s not your name. You are free.

Love is a thousand things but at the center is a choice. It is a choice to love people. Left to myself, I get quiet and bitter and critical. I get angry. I feel sorry for myself. It is a choice to love people. It is a choice to be kind. It is a choice to be patient, to be honest, to live with grace. I would like to start making better choices.

If you do some losing or you walk with someone in their defeat, live with dignity and grace. It is a middle finger to the darkness.

If you love somebody, tell them. If there is conflict, let it go and fight instead for peace. Break the numb false silence and break the distance too. Laugh and cry and apologize and start again. This life is short and fragile but friendship is among the greatest miracles.

More than anything, my wish for you is this: that when hour awful darkest days come, you will know you’re not alone. Pain will tell you to keep quiet, but that’s a lie. Life is fragile and we all break in different ways. I hope you know you can be honest. I hope you know you can ask for help. Did you catch that? It is absolutely positively okay to ask for help. It simply means you’re human.

About the Author:
Jamie Tworkowski, credit Jonathan FrazierJamie Tworkowski is the founder of To Write Love on Her Arms, a nonprofit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and thoughts of suicide. TWLOHA has one of the largest online audiences of any non-profit, and Jamie has been interviewed by NBC Nightly News, CBS’s Sunday Morning, andRolling Stone magazine, among others. He is the only nonmusician to win an MTVU Woodie Award. Jamie speaks frequently, telling the TWLOHA story and encouraging audiences at universities, concerts, and music festivals. A proud uncle, Jamie lives in Melbourne Beach, Florida, and loves surfing, music, and basketball.

Pre-order/order the book here!

  1. Source: Wikipedia []

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

colorlessColorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
Publisher: Knopf
Number of pages: 386
My copy: hardbound, borrowed from Ranee

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is the long-awaited new novel– a book that sold more than a million copies the first week it went on sale in Japan–from the award-winning, internationally best-selling author Haruki Murakami.

Here he gives us the remarkable story of Tsukuru Tazaki, a young man haunted by a great loss; of dreams and nightmares that have unintended consequences for the world around us; and of a journey into the past that is necessary to mend the present. It is a story of love, friendship, and heartbreak for the ages.

I’ve been wanting to read a Haruki Murakami novel for the longest time, but I can never choose which book to read. Everyone I ask seemed to have too many different recommendations, and some of them even hesitate because they know that there were some things in Murakami’s books that aren’t really my cup of tea. Then someone recommended Murakami’s latest book (at least, at that time) then, because I liked collecting train maps. But of course I didn’t get a copy, until I borrowed a copy from a friend.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (which I will call Colorless Tsukuru from here on out) is about Tsukuru Tazaki and his four friends – or at least, the story of their friendship, and how they just stopped wanting to be his friend. His friends’ abandonment hurt him deeply, and he carried this all the way into his adult life. Then he meets and dates Sarah, who forces him to confront his past for his own peace of mind.

Colorless Tsukuru is a surprisingly easy read. The prose was fluid, and it had some sort of dreamlike quality to it. There was a time when I stopped reading for a long time, but it wasn’t because I found it boring – it was just plain busy-ness. But when I picked it up again, I read through it so quickly and found myself so invested in Tsukuru Tazaki that I rooted for him.

There’s a lot about Colorless Tsukuru that resonated with me, and made me feel strangely sentimental. It’s not just his fascination with trains that got me — I like train maps and riding trains, but not necessarily how trains work — but more of Tsukuru’s friendships and how he lost them. I think that was what saddened me the most, how there were some things that you just couldn’t bring back, and the hard choices that people make for the sake of friendship. There’s a lot of sadness and regret here, and when the reason why all that happened was finally revealed, I was even more saddened to realize that it was an even harder situation. As expected, closure isn’t really as clean as we all wished it would be.

There’s something about being young and having friends and witnessing the changes that happen to all the people in the group that makes one a little nostalgic, yeah? But if anything, it made me think of my own friendships, and I can’t help but utter a little prayer that what happened to Tsukuru and his friends won’t happen to my own friendships.

I really enjoyed my first Murakami, and I’m glad that this was the first one. The book lingered with me even after I read it, and sometimes I still sigh a little when I think of Tsukuru Tazaki. I’m still undecided if  I will start working on reading Murakami’s other books – maybe I will, someday. But now, let me just savor the feeling and the memories of this book.

We truly believed in something back then, and we were the kind of people capable of believing something – with all our hearts. And that kind of hope will never simply vanish.


Number of (imaginary) dog-eared pages: 17

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

Still, he had a constant nagging fear that someday he would fall away from this intimate community, or be forced out and left on his own. Anxiety raised its head, like a jagged, ominous rock exposed by the receding tide, the fear that he would be separated from the group and end up entirely alone.

You can hide memories, but you can’t erase the history that produced them. If nothing else, you need to remember that. You can’t erase history, or change it. It would be like destroying yourself.

Unless you take the leap, you can’t prove it. And once you actually make the leap, there’s no need to prove it anymore. There’s no middle ground. You either take the leap, or you don’t. One or the other.

If something is important enough, a little mistake isn’t going to ruin it all, or make it vanish. It might not be perfect, but the first step is actually building the station. Right? Otherwise trains won’t stop there. And you can’t meet the person who means so much to you. If you find some defect, you can adjust later, as needed. First things first. Build the station. A special station just for her. The kind of station where trains want to stop, even if they have no reason to do so. Imagine that kind of station, and give it actual color and shape. Write your name on the foundation with a nail, and breathe life into it. I know you have the power to do that. Don’t forget – you’re the one who swam across the freezing sea at night.

You don’t lack anything. Be confident and be bold. That’s all you need. Never let fear or stupid pride make you lose someone who’s precious to you.