Kids These Days (Stories from Luna East Arts Academy, Vol. 1)

Luna East Blog Tour Header(See all the other #LunaEast tour stops here!)

luna east vol 1.front.coverKids These Days (Stories from Luna East Arts Academy Vol. 1) by Various Authors
Luna East Arts Academy, Vol. 1
Number of pages: 145 pages
My copy: ebook review copy

The stories from LUNA EAST ARTS ACADEMY are about love. And also, friends, food, kissing, rumors, mean people, insecurities, birthdays, breakups, making up. We set it in an arts academy because we wanted everyone to have a talent, and know it. Because no one is ordinary, if you know them well enough.

Who are you, at LUNA EAST? Are you a popular kid, a wallflower, a drama club diva, a debate whiz? Visit lunaeastacademy.org to read more stories from #LUNAEAST, and submit your own. For readers 16 and up.

* * *

It all started at a #romanceclass meet-up, when Mina mentioned that she dreamed of writing a Sweet Valley-esque type of series, but set in the Philippines. Everyone who attended that class had read Sweet Valley at some point in their lives, so it was a pretty exciting idea. We all started chattering excitedly about it, like where the school would be and the activities, and started calling dibs on characters in the school – the jock, the teachers, and the like. Stories started getting written over the next few months, a website was set up to house the stories, continuity was established, and now, the first volume of the book is out. (Well, almost out, because as of this writing, it’s still a few days before the launch. :D)

The stories in Luna East were cute and fun, and there were no two stories alike. I liked how there were so many eyes to see high school in, and so many people to rub elbows with. Since this is just volume 1, the stories barely scratch the surface of what could be happening inside the school, but it’s a good start to get yourself acquainted with the environment. True enough, it felt like the school was a playground for the imagination, and reading through the stories got me more excited to finish mine, and mention some of the characters who were already in the other stories.

And that’s my favorite part of this, really – the continuity. I’ve always loved it when characters have a cameo appearance in other stories. I loved how one character would even have speaking lines in other stories, giving them more depth. Don’t you love it when authors work with each other and come up with completely original stories? :) (And if you’ve read #romanceclass novels, you’ll probably spot a familiar place used in several stories, too. :D)

I didn’t study in a school like Luna East, but even so, reading this was almost like I was back in high school. In a good way, though, because my high school life was pretty tame and I could use a little excitement. As the summary said, the stories here are mostly about love — you know, the high school kind of love. Crushes, unrequited love, love-hate, unexpected type of love from the popular people to the people who consider themselves nobody inside the halls of Luna East. But more than love, they’re also stories of friendship — from kids who grew up together to kids who just got to know each other. You might see yourself in one of these stories, because even if the setting is completely fictional (and artsy), and even if you never had to wear unnecessary vests, high school is pretty much a universal experience for all of us. You might hate it or like it (or like me, you’re pretty ambivalent about it), but there’s always that one (or two, or three) high school memory that you will always tell the friends you meet post-high school.

But yeah, even as I read this, I found myself shaking my head at times while saying, kids these days. Hmf. Seriously, though, the first volume of Luna East was such a fun read. Come and see what’s inside, and you might just find a spot for yourself. And when you do, perhaps you’d like to write about it? :)

Favorite dog-eared quote:

She was still holding her sword. He touched its tip, fingers walking until they reached her hand. She let them stay here. (Fifty-Two Weeks by Mina V. Esguerra)

Luna East, with its unnecessary vests and unnecessary crest, was where you went in a decent and down-to-earth person and came out a snob. (Yours is the First Face that I Saw by Ronald S. Lim)

Our family helps us become the best versions of ourselves. While with friends, we discover and learn to come to terms with our desires. (The Letter by M. Protacio-de Guzman)

“Maybe it’s about time that we quit this dance.” (Where Do We Go From Here by Jen C. Suguitan)

Rating:

Come join us at the #LunaEast launch on February 8, 2014, 6pm, Ayala Museum! :) It’s also the first year anniversary of #romanceclass, so if you want early feels for February, then join us! Get to meet the authors, mingle with other fans, and have some cookies! We’d love to see you there. :) Go, Wolves!

Luna East Book Launch Details

 

All I Ever Wanted

All I Ever Wanted by Kristan HigginsAll I Ever Wanted by Kristan Higgins
Publisher: Harlequin
Number of pages: 409
My copy: Kindle edition

One Happily-Ever-After Rocking Chair…

…and no sign of any forthcoming babies to rock in ol’ Georgebury, Vermont. For Callie Grey, turning thirty means coming to grips with the fact that her boss (and five-week fling) is way overdue in his marriage proposal. And way off track because Mark has suddenly announced his engagement to the company’s new Miss Perfect. If that isn’t bad enough, her mom decides to throw her a three-oh birthday bash in the family funeral home.

Bad goes to worse when she stirs up a crazy relationship with the town’s not so warm and fuzzy veterinarian, Ian McFarland, in order to flag Mark’s attention. So Ian is more comfortable with animals…. So he’s formal, orderly and just a bit tense. The ever-friendly, fun-loving and spontaneous Callie decides it’s time for Ian to get a personality makeover. But dang, if he doesn’t shock the heck out of her, she might actually fall for Vermont’s unlikeliest eligible bachelor….

* * *

All I ever wanted — at least, at that particular time — was a nice, fluffy novel to sink my teeth into. The last time I read a Kristan Higgins novel was some sort of research for #romanceclass. I had fun, and but it was still partly research and I didn’t really breeze through it when I read it. This time, I just really wanted something fluffy, something that wouldn’t really make me think too much but I would still enjoy. So I scanned my library, picked All I Ever Wanted and settled in.

Then I met Callie Grey, and nothing is ever the same again.

Okay, perhaps that’s a little exaggeration. But Callie is one of the brightest heroines I’ve read in all the Higgins novels I’ve read so far. Callie just turned thirty, and she was coming to terms that maybe her boss Mark wasn’t going to fall for her, especially after he announced that he was dating the newest addition to their small advertising company. Callie tries to move on, and she meets the formal-but-really-kind-of-stiff veterinarian, Ian McFarland. It wasn’t love at first sight, because Ian was a little too formal for Callie’s fun-loving personality, but she gives him a chance with a personality makeover to help his business. Callie wasn’t really interested in him…but he was cute. And single. Why not?

Callie, Callie. I loved her from the start, from her emotional diarrhea to her family to her cheerful outlook in life. I loved her dog Bowie, and her rocking chair, her grandfather and how she has the little town of Georgebury wrapped around her finger with her sunny personality. I’m pretty sure I would have been friends with Callie if I were there, mostly because she’s pretty much everyone’s friend there. But she had me right from the very start, and I knew how exhausting it must be to try to be so happy all the time even if there were people around her that broke her heart. I loved her, maybe because I saw a bit of myself in her, especially with how she talked to herself about moving on from Mark. Her thoughts felt real, and well, sometimes too real that it hurt a little.

I can’t remember having so much fun with a Higgins novel. I can’t find anything not to like in All I Ever Wanted — it was such a fun read with just the right amount of swoon and tension. I liked how Ian and Callie were such opposites but still so seemingly perfect for each other. It’s like Ian gets Callie, even if half the time he seemed to get annoyed at her for being so bubbly and everything. I remember grinning like an idiot at one of their first few “moments” together. I was giggling happily at that turkey scene that led to so many things for the two of them. They balanced each other off quite well — they’re all cute and awkward and sweet, but not too much to make it too cheesy. It was fun reading how the two of them stumbled around each other, like putting together a puzzle where some pieces didn’t seem to fit at first, until you find their perfect place.

I really liked All I Ever Wanted, if it’s not obvious yet. :) I think the trick with reading Higgins novels is that you don’t read one after the other so you get enough time to savor the swoon and enjoy the feels. All I wanted was a nice, fluffy and romantic read, and All I Ever Wanted pretty much nailed it. I’m really glad I picked this one up. :)

Number of dog-eared pages: 19

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

I felt a warm and fuzzy glow in my heart. People were just the best. I loved people. Most people, anyway.

“Look, Callie,” he said quietly, “I didn’t meant o insult you, but it’s clear I did. I meant only that…” His gaze drifted to his dog, then to the bookcase. “You don’t have to try so hard.” He paused, then met my eyes with some difficulty. “Not with me, anyway.”
Oh. Oh.

Then again, I was excellent at misinterpretation.

I’d tried so hard to get him to notice me, and when he finally did, tried so hard to be perfect. Even after he’d put our relationship on pause, I’d tried so hard. Tried to be cheerful, tried to be upbeat, tried to not let my feelings show, not to blame him, not to mind when day after day, week after week, his nonchalance eroded my heart.
Sometimes being an optimist was quite the fucking effort.

You fill up the whole room, sweetheart, to try to fix everyone’s problems, be everyone’s friend. You don’t have to try to hard. We’ll love you just the same.

Rating:

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Welcome to Envy Park

Welcome to Envy Park by Mina V. Esguerra Welcome to Envy Park by Mina V. Esguerra
Publisher: Bright Girl Books
Number of pages: 142
My copy: Kindle edition

Moira Vasquez is a doer. A planner. A get-up-and-goer. At twenty-two, she left her hometown to work in Singapore, to satisfy a need to travel as well as give her savings account a boost. Five years later and she’s back in Manila, with a shiny new apartment to her name, but no job, no career, no boyfriend. She meets Ethan Lorenzo, the quiet hunk of an IT consultant on the ninth floor of her condo building, and he’s a welcome distraction during this period of having absolutely nothing going on in her life.

But she has a plan – of course she does – and this is just a short layover on the way to the next country, the next job, the next big thing. Or will she be missing out on something great that’s already there?

* * *

Ever since I reached my mid-20′s, or at least, ever since I started experiencing the so-called “quarter-life crisis”, I started categorizing some of the books I read into a “QLC” category. This list includes Astigirl by Tweet Sering, and Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist, both of which are non-fiction. After reading Mina V. Esguerra’s Welcome to Envy Park, I finally had a fiction book in that QLC books list.

Moira Vasquez is on a break, and she’s taking this break in her brand new condo in NV Park after five years of working and saving in Singapore. And this break it meant: no job, no boyfriend, but with some plans on where she’s jetting off next. She has no plans of staying too long, really, even if Ethan, the cute guy who lives in the same building is proving to be a really good distraction. Moira is convinced that she’s home for a quick stopover, but what if what she needs is already right in front of her?

Welcome to Envy Park didn’t feel like the usual contemporary romance that I’ve known Mina for. Somehow, this book feels a little bit more mature and perhaps it’s because the romance felt like a side story to what Moira was going through. I admit that I’m not a Moira. I’m not the type of person who’d shake things up just because (until lately, anyway). I tend to become comfortable, and just settle there until the restlessness finally hits me and I drag myself up. I never thought of working abroad, and until now I still don’t think about it, but I do admire Moira for her guts to do it, and to keep on doing it. It takes a certain kind of personality, I guess, to be willing to uproot yourself every time.

But you can’t always uproot yourself, right? At some point in your life, you have to start thinking of settling down (I got that feeling when I turned 27. Then things happened, and now I felt the need to uproot myself again, heh), and this is basically Moira’s story. I liked how Moira was exposed to so many people in the book and how she observed them, and how she compared her life to them with her lists. Her voice is fun and fresh and her struggles with her thoughts, her career, her family and her love life felt true, like it’s something someone her age experiences.

The story flowed easily, although it may not be as gripping as other romance novellas are — perhaps it’s because again, it really didn’t feel like one for me. I thought it was more about self-discovery, and yeah, a certain kind of coming of age, and romance just happened to come with it all. And isn’t that how it really often happens in real life?

Welcome to Envy Park is a book about choices, how it makes us, how it affects the people around us, and the things that come with it. It’s a bit different from Mina’s other books, but it’s a good one. Definitely for people my age who are thinking of making major decisions in life (don’t worry, you’re not alone!). :)

Number of dog-eared page(s): 9

Favorite dog-eared quote(s):

I swear, he just lets things happen, like he’s a leaf in the wind.

I don’t rock the boat if it’s not worth rocking just yet. As opposed to what, declaring to the universe things that haven’t happened yet?

Maybe I needed to place a tiny portion of my happiness in someone else’s hands, and not completely control it.

Rating:

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A Little Bit of Everything

Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David LevithanWill Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Publisher: Speak
Number of pages: 301
My copy: paperback, Christmas gift from a colleague

will grayson, meet will grayson

One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two strangers cross paths. Two teens with the same name, running in two very different circles, suddenly find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, culminating in heroic turns-of-heart and the most epic musical ever to grace the high school stage.

* * *

There was a time soon after I graduated college that I was so obsessed with High School Musical. I was unemployed, and I was a kid at heart who can’t stop watching Disney Channel all day while I did nothing, so when I saw the trailer for High School Musical, I was curious. Then I watched it, and watched it and I couldn’t stop. I loved the entire thing. I even bought the book, and then watched the movie(s) and played the songs until I got sick of it all. But I have fond memories of those movies, and sometimes I kinda wish that I can break into song any time and people will just join me in singing…even if I can’t sing. Haha.

But anyway. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan features two Will Graysons who meet one night in the strangest place in Chicago.. There’s the “don’t speak, don’t participate” Will Grayson, best friend to Tiny Cooper, a large and gay guy who heads their school’s Gay-Straight Alliance. All Will is concerned with is not getting noticed, but being friends with Tiny Cooper makes that difficult. And then there’s Tiny’s friend Jane, who seems nice, but Will wasn’t sure if she’s straight or not. And then there’s Will # 2, or will grayson (without the caps), who lives a hard and isolated life, with just an online friend named Isaac making his life easier. The two Wills meet one night, and then their lives change…and it all goes down in a high school musical made by Tiny Cooper.

It seemed like the best time to read a John Green book where he wrote with someone else is always around the holiday season. Or maybe I’m just saying that now because last year, I read Let It Snow around Christmas time too, and I enjoyed it, so when I was looking for a happy book to read during the holidays this year, I decided to read this book. I was already tickled by the first chapter — classic Green, introducing his main characters: a lead who isn’t really interested in standing out, a girl who seems partially unattainable, and a loud sidekick (except this time we have a louder and bigger sidekick). It was cute, and then I go into the other will’s world and I was plunged into a dark, depressing world. I almost stopped — what was this? Why is this will so sad? And why is it taking so long for the two Wills to meet?

I honestly thought I wouldn’t like it, especially since I felt that will’s chapters were too depressing. Granted, will was depressed, but I wanted to finish his chapters so I can go back to the other Will, who was partially pleasant. That, and it was kind of fun reading Tiny Cooper, even if it seems like the book should have been about him because…well, it was all about him. Suddenly he didn’t seem like a sidekick. But anyway, I found Will’s chapters funnier, and I liked the cute little “dancing” thing he had with Jane. It was something you’d expect from John Green, really, and it was really nice to read.

I really thought I wouldn’t like the book, but then I got to the end and I actually found myself tearing up at some parts. I think the best part of this book isn’t the romance, or even the Will Graysons meeting, but Will’s friendship with Tiny. It reminded me a little of my own friendships with people and how true it was with how we all just happened to be friends, and we didn’t really seek each other out at first. Although I don’t completely buy the fact about you can’t pick who your friends are, I like the sentiment that Will expressed when he told Tiny that if he could pick his friends, he would still pick Tiny. That was really heartwarming.

The ending did feel a little contrived, but I thought it was sweet and funny, especially at the exchanging numbers part. Hihi. But it was a nice way to end it, especially since I’ve long suspended my disbelief with how the musical came together and all that. Just like in High School Musical - you don’t really think what they did could happen in real life, right? But still, it was fun to watch, and it was a nice and sweet ending. Same with Will Grayson, Will Grayson: the ending was nice and heartwarming, and I actually found tears in my eyes by the time I ended the book.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson isn’t exactly the best holiday read (or…I don’t think it really counts as one, really), but I enjoyed reading it. Oh, and I remember people telling me that Tiny Cooper is the best John Green sidekick…but I think I’m still a Radar – Paper Towns kind of girl. :D

Number of dog-eared pages: 30

Favorite dog-eared quotes:

When things break, it’s not the actual breaking that prevents them from getting back together again. It’s because a little piece gets lost – the two remaining ends couldn’t fit together even if they wanted to. The whole shape has changed. (p. 174)

It seems to me that all things we keep in sealed boxes are both alive and dead until we open the box, that the unobserved is both there and not. (p. 197)

When you date someone, you have markers along the way, right. You kiss, you have The Talk, you say the Three Little Words, you sit on a swing set and break up. You can plot the points on a graph…But with friendship, there’s nothing like that. Being in a relationship, that’s something you choose. Being friends, that’s just something you are. (p. 260)

We’ve been friends too long to pick, but if we could pick, I’d pick you. (p. 260)

Rating:

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Why We Broke Up

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and Maira KalmanWhy We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, art by Maira Kalman
Publisher: Hardie Grant Egmont
Number of pages: 357
My copy: borrowed from Kai

I’m telling you why we broke up, Ed. I’m writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened.

Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.

* * *

I think I mentioned it before that sometimes, you need to be in a certain mood to appreciate some books. Sometimes, no matter how other people like a book, if you’re in not in that kind of mood, you won’t be able to relate to any of the characters no matter what you do, or you won’t be able to feel what the book wants you to feel. (Of course, there are some books that are just really hard to get into, even if you are in that same mood, but that’s another story.)

So, Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (and illustrated by Maira Kalman). I’ve seen this book and wanted this book when it was published, but I think I saw a not so good review of it somewhere, so I stopped wanting it. I have to admit that this is the kind of book that is right up my alley, especially since I was all about embracing your inner romantic last year. Then the book fell out of my radar, until it came back again and a friend lent me her copy because I figured it was time to read it.

Then I tried. I read the first few chapters, and then had the extreme desire to throw the book away so I stopped. I didn’t want to throw the book away because it was bad, no. I wanted to throw the book away because it was getting too close for comfort. And the truth comes out. :P Suffice to say, maybe I was in the mood for this book, but it was too hard to read it because I was too much in that mood. Did that make sense? Anyway, months later, I decided to try reading this book again because some girls in our book club was reading this. I figured, why not join them? It could be some sort of release, as a good friend told me when I mentioned it. So I put my brave face on and started again.

Why We Broke Up is a break-up story, a long letter from Min Green to Ed Slaterton, her ex-boyfriend, telling their story from her side based on the items in the box that she was returning to him. These items (the illustrated parts of the book) were remnants of their short-lived relationship: bottle caps, a box of matches, movie tickets, a protractor, a note, a book, among other things. Take it, it’s yours. This is why we broke up. Either you have the feeling or you don’t, Min writes, and we are left to wonder what exactly happened that led to Min and Ed’s break-up.

Warning: this is a book full of drama. Every page is dripping of Min’s bitterness and anger and heartbreak, and…well, it was kind of expected because of the title alone. The hard part of it, I think, is that I was kept in the dark why they broke up. I just know they broke up, but I didn’t know why, and Min just kept on repeating “this is why, this is why” with every item she wrote about. It wasn’t until the very, very end that we know, but the entire time, she just rambles on and tells their love story without a hint of the real reason why. And it’s hard to see, too, especially since Ed seems a perfectly good guy from the start. Okay, perhaps he’s not perfect — he seems secretive, he has this thing about saying “no offense” and he seems judgmental about some guys who aren’t into sports and labels them “gay”, but he seemed to really like Min, so why is Min being so damn dramatic about everything?

Since I was reading the story from Min’s POV, it was easy to pin the blame on her. You know how when a friend tell us a love problem, the first thing we often do is to try to find what our friend is doing wrong because it’s something we can fix, because we know our friend better than the other party? It’s that kind of thing. I read everything from Min’s POV, so it was easier to try to find something that she did wrong…until I found out the real reason why they broke up and then, damn it. Ed, you’re an asshole. I understood why Min is so angry. Granted, she wasn’t perfect, either — she shouldn’t have jumped right in ahead in the relationship, she should have took her time, she should have seen the signs from the start…but well she’s a teenager. This is young love. We have all been there. And I guess even if we have the wisdom of the years with us, things like this still hurt just the same.

The best part of the book, though, is Min’s friends. I loved Al and Lauren (there was another name, but I forgot, eep), and to some extent, Jillian, that girl that Ed dated before Min. I loved them, and what they did for Min in the end. They didn’t do anything so special, really, but they did what good friends do in times like this. I reread the last parts of the book because of them, and I was glad that Min had them with her in the fallout.

I’ve never been in a relationship, so it follows that I’ve never been in a break-up…but there were some times in my life where it seemed like the pain I was feeling is something akin to a break-up — at least, based on what I read and saw on TV. And maybe that’s why I ended up liking this book, because in some ways, I have been there. I know at least a fraction of what Min felt. Whether it’s a relationship ending, or an almost-relationship that never became one, there’s still pain there, and it hurts just the same. But the good thing I got out of all of this is…well, reading Why We Broke Up was strangely cathartic. Huh, my friend was right. Reading this book at the end of the year was a surprising release of feels. ;)

So yeah, I liked Why Why Broke Up. Perhaps if I read this last year, or any other time later, I wouldn’t have liked it as much. But I liked it, and I am glad I read it, despite all the drama. (Because trust me, I’ve had enough of drama in the past year. :P)

Either you have the feeling or you don’t.

P.S. The illustrations were a good touch. :)

P.P.S. And no, I don’t think I’m the “return all things” type person. I think I’m more of the “throw things away” one. ;)

Number of imaginary* dog-eared page(s): 7
* Because the copy isn’t mine. :)

Favorite imaginary dog-eared quote(s):

…let’s go, let’s go together toward something extraordinary and I started making plans, thinking we would get that far. (p. 39)

…thinking there was time, plenty of time to see what pictures we’d made? But we never developed them. Undeveloped, the whole thing, tossed into a box before we really had a chance to know what we had, and that’s why we broke up. (p. 65)

A note, who writes a note like that? Who were you to write one to me? It boomed inside me the whole time, an explosion over and over, the joy of what you wrote to me jumpy shrapnel in my bloodstream. I can’t have it near me anymore, I’m grenading it back to you, as soon as I unfold it and read it and cry one more time. Because me too, and fuck you. Even now. (p. 69)

We couldn’t only have the magic nights buzzing through the wires. We had to have the days, too, the bright impatient days spoiling everything with their unavoidable schedules, their mandatory times that don’t overlap, their loyal friends who don’t get along, the unforgiven travesties torn from the wall no matter what promised are uttered past midnight, and that’s why we broke up. (p. 86)

Rating:

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