Required Reading: March 2014 + February Recap

This post comes a little late, mostly because I was out almost all weekend, and then I got sick with a nasty bout of stomach flu last Monday. And then the blog silence, I really have no excuse other than I was busy for most of February with trips, and reading, and writing. So yeah, I am letting myself off the hook for the blog silence. We all should do that for ourselves, right?

Anyway, so February. If January was such a good month for all the books I said I’d read…on February, I didn’t finish anything.

Well, okay, I finished reading some books, but I didn’t finish the books I said I’d read. (I’m almost done with Raymond Carver’s Cathedral…but you know, I could have finished it earlier, except I didn’t.)

So, instead of wallowing on that fact, I will just list the books I finished reading on February, because I think they’re pretty good:

  • Kids These Days: Stories from the Luna East Arts Academy, Vol 1 by Various Authors (4/5) – Love your own! So proud of this anthology, and I hope I can make it to Volume 2! :)
  • The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg (4/5) – Such a sweet, sweet novel about love and life and letting go. May you always have love. :)
  • Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling (3/5) – What a laugh-out-loud read. I want to be friends with Mindy Kaling.
  • Quicksilver by RJ Anderson (4/5) – I really liked Ultraviolet, and I’ve had its sequel in my Kindle for the longest time before I finally got around to reading it. It was a little confusing at first because I forgot the events of the first book, but after a while I got into the groove, and wow, this one was just as explosive as the first one.
  • This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales (4/5) – I picked this up randomly while I was on my trip to Cagayan de Oro. I was surprised that I read through it so fast. It’s good, and I thought it was a light, feel-good novel but it’s not. Not so much, anyway. I think I’m going to really add Leila Sales to my list of must-read contemporary YA authors.

See, it wasn’t a bad reading month. Just that I didn’t follow my reading plan. It happens, right?

Required Reading: March 2014

March is my favorite month, so normally I would pick books that I really want to read — books from favorite authors, books I’ve heard good stuff about but reserved it on my shelf for the reading slump days. I had a partial list of books ready for this month, like The Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen, More Than This by Patrick Ness, and The Woman Who Died A Lot by Jasper Fforde. But when I was composing this post in my head earlier, I realized that if I was enjoying just picking up whatever book I want to read from my TBR pile, even if it’s not the book I said I’d read for the month.

And with that, I decided: I will not have a Required Reading list for March.

Nope. I will read whatever I want this month, whatever I feel like reading, and whenever I want it. And no pressure to finish. :)

My OC tendencies and my need to trim down my TBR pile is kind of complaining, but I dunno. This sounds like a good plan to me. :)

So there. :D I leave you with my new favorite photo of our not-so-little book club, from our book discussion that happened last month:

Photo c/o Ella

Photo c/o Ella

Happy March, everyone! I hope you have a splendid one. :)

Luna East Blog Tour: Interview with Chrissie Peria

Luna East Blog Tour Header

It’s still Luna East week! Can we officially set this as the school fair week, or something? :D I’m so excited for this anthology not only because I was there when it started, but mostly because the contributors in this first volume are my #romanceclass classmates. :) They know how to bring in the feels, my friends, trust me on this. :D

Today, I have Chrissie Peria, author of All’s Fair in Blog and War (the first #romanceclass novella released last year) for an interview! Join us as we tour a bit inside the Luna East halls, particularly the cafeteria. ;)

sittinginatreeSitting in a Tree was so cute! And it was the perfect story to open this anthology, I think. :) What was your inspiration in writing this?

Thank you! Sitting in a Tree came from memories of my own high school’s annual fair. Particularly the one from my senior year, when I had to help man the Marriage Booth. No kissing booths for us, Catholic school and all, so the marriage booth was the closest thing. (Yes, marriage was more acceptable than kissing. Go figure.) We had students whispering requests on who they wanted to be paired with. Kilig for all, and we made money. Perfect, right?

Oh, I totally had my moments at our high school’s marriage booth. :D

If you were a student in Luna East Arts Academy, what kind of student would you be? Would you be a jock, or a writer in the paper, or maybe part of the drama club like Samantha?

 A writer for the paper, definitely, because it’s fun to be one. In fact, I have a half-written Luna East story that draws heavily on my own high school days as a campus journalist (eons ago). Maybe it’ll show up in the second anthology? I’ll cross my fingers for that one.

What do you suppose the food in the Luna East cafeteria is like? Do you think it’s something you’d post about in your food blog?

Art is influenced by things we come in contact with, food included, so I’m sure the school administration will provide a diverse array to ensure that the kids are exposed to a variety of influences. I’m betting that the choices are limitless: hearty comfort food, international fare, healthy and ethical food choices, and everything bacon.

And bacon is always blog-worthy.

You had me at bacon. Mmm.

An All’s Fair in Blog and War question: who do you think would fit in the Luna East crowd better – Five or Jesse? If they were students in Luna East, do you think they would have acknowledged each others’ presence there?

Jesse! He’ll fit in perfectly, in that ironic-hipster-I’m-an-artiste (with an e) way. He was probably stalking the fringes of the student body, taking artsy black and white photos for exhibits.

Five, on the other hand, would’ve been a photographer for the school paper. She was probably in the middle of everything, covering everything from sports events, campus assemblies, to what’s being served in the school cafeteria.

I don’t know if they’ll acknowledge each other’s presence just because, but if circumstances threw them together, I’m sure sparks would’ve flown—and that trip to Macau would’ve been totally different.

Do you plan on writing other stories set in Luna East?

Yes! I currently have two pending stories: the one about the campus journalist and one about Sam’s BFF Trisha, the drama queen. Here’s to hoping they get written!

Chrissie PeriaAbout the author:

Chrissie Peria is the author of All’s Fair in Blog and War, a contemporary romance novella featuring feuding travel bloggers in Macau. When not writing, she serves her tiny overlord Miffy and Miffy’s poodle/minion, Cooper. She also enjoys cooking, taking photos and playing with dolls. Chrissie is currently working on a contemporary YA romance featuring books and boys who like books.

Thanks so much, Chrissie! You can read her Luna East story, Sitting in a Tree, in the first volume of the Luna East Arts Academy Anthology, Kids These Days. And you can meet Chrissie, and the rest of the authors, at the #LunaEast launch and #romanceclass anniversary party on February 8, 2014, 6:00pm at the Ayala Museum. That’s this Saturday! See you there, okay? :)

Luna East Book Launch Details

About the book:

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.

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

 

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:

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
A Little Bit of Everything

Don’t Forget the Soap Blog Tour: Excerpt + Giveaway

DFtSHeader2

So I’m back, after a stressful two weeks. I promise to catch up on some reviews, but for now, let’s do some promotional blog tour stuff. Today on the blog is a new nonfiction collection of stories from Marie Claire Lim Moore, Don’t Forget the Soap. First off, I love the title. Second, the blurb reminds me a bit of Tweet Sering’s Astigirl, but you know, for moms. And perhaps for daughters, too? Hm, sounds interesting.

About the Book:

Don't Forget the Soap Book CoverAt the center of many good stories – inspiring, entertaining, admittedly corny – is Marie Claire Lim Moore. Ask her about the time she and her family sat down with former Philippine President Corazon Aquino. Or the time she built houses in Mexico alongside former American President Jimmy Carter. Equally engaging are her every day experiences and perspective on life. You will be interested to hear what she thinks is a relationship “deal breaker” or why Christmas should be regulated or why kids shouldn’t say, “I’m bored.”

Don’t Forget the Soap is a collection of anecdotes from different points in Claire’s life: stories from the tight-knit Filipino community in Vancouver mix with memories of her move to New York, experiences at Yale and travels as a young executive. Underlying this narrative is the story of a global citizen who does not want to forget the fundamental values that come along with the “immigrant experience” as she and her husband raise their children in the increasingly glitzy expat bubble of Singapore. Her parents continue to remain a big influence in her life and her mother’s reminders a grounding force. These stories will warm the heart and resonate with people of any culture.

Goodreads | Ebook | Paperback

Excerpt:

My parents were extremely supportive of my pursuing opportunities in different parts of the world (not exactly conducive to settling down), and they didn’t bat an eyelid when my long-term relationship (on path to marriage) ended abruptly just as so many of their friends’ children were walking down the aisle. People would comment, “You must be feeling some pressure from your parents to meet someone.” No, actually, I wasn’t.

Not until the year I turned 30 and met Alex did my mother make any comment in this regard. It was after I finished my assignment in the Philippines and was deciding whether to go back to Brazil, stay on in the Philippines or return to New York. Most of my colleagues in the program continued working abroad (it was considered the faster path to running a business since many of these roles were in emerging markets where one had the opportunity to take on a relatively big job, the equivalent of which would not be available in global headquarters).

“At this point in your life it’s OK to let a ‘friend’ factor into your decision,” she would say. (My parents never used the term “boyfriend.” It could be a “close” friend or a “special” friend but in their minds nothing was official until marriage, so why give anything in between a title.) She continued, “You’ve put a lot of focus on your career, which is great, so now you can balance it by putting some attention on other important things.” After our assignments had finished in Brazil, Alex went back to New York and I went to the Philippines. We left more as friends than anything else but soon found ourselves staying in close touch while on opposite sides of the globe. We spoke at least two times a day despite the time difference, and he even came out to see me in Manila. I decided to take a job back in New York and see where the relationship could go.

About the Author:

marie claire lim moore - author photoMarie Claire Lim Moore is a Filipina-Canadian-American working mother and author of Don’t Forget the Soap. After spending the early part of her childhood in Vancouver, Claire moved to New York City and attended the United Nations International School. She went on to study at Yale, climb the corporate ladder at Citi and travel around the world. She met her husband, Alex, while working in Sao Paulo, Brazil and they married in Manila, Philippines shortly before moving to Singapore. Now Mom to Carlos and Isabel, Claire also manages the Global Client business for Citi in Asia. She enjoys juggling career and family and likes to throw in community and politics for fun by campaigning for US political candidates, fundraising for organizations that advance the role of women in business and promoting foreign direct investment in the Philippines. She is also a guest contributor at Sassy Mama Singapore. She tweets at @MarieClaireLM.

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