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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Guardians of Tradition (Blog Tour Review + Excerpt + Giveaway)

Guardians of Tradition Blog Tour

Guardians of TraditionGuardians of Tradition: The Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan by Mae Astrid Tobias, Rommel E. Joson (Illustrator), Renato S. Rastrollo
Publisher: Adarna
Number of pages: 32
My copy: print, review copy from author, for the Guardians of Tradition Blog Tour

Who are the indigenous and folk artists of the Philippines? Guardians of Tradition by Mae Astrid Tobias and illustrated by Rommel Joson is full of facts about 11 of the best Philippine master weavers, folk musicians, performing artists, mat weavers and metal smiths whose talents and skills have earned them the title Manlilikha ng Bayan. Designed to help children recognize native Filipino ingenuity and creativity, the book includes fun activities to promote appreciation for culture and arts. Guardians of Tradition has a fun and colorful design that appeals to young readers.

* * *

When I was a kid, I loved watching those early morning educational shows on TV. I thought it was such a genius thing but I felt really bad because they weren’t available in my school. I mean, why can’t we watch it at nine in the morning? They’re educational! So come summer vacation, I end up watching them religiously every morning, over breakfast, before I get asked to do chores. I loved the historical shows the most, more than the science ones, because I loved how they were told and it helped me remember history a little easier than just simply reading it.

Reading Guardians of Tradition: The Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan reminded me of those days when I watched those shows. This book by Mae Astrid Tobias, illustrated by Rommel E. Joson and with photos by Renato S. Rastrollo, is a children’s book about the different indigenous and folk artists of the Philippines. These are people who were awarded by the government the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan to let the country know about their art. These people are the best weavers, folk musicians, performing artists, mat weavers and metal smiths in the Philippines. The book talks about them, who they are, what they do, and it even includes some fun activities to help the readers appreciate what these people do. The book is narrated by two characters Kiko and Banog, and it is filled with colorful photos and illustrations for not just young but also the old readers.

In a nutshell, I really enjoyed this book. It’s not often I read a children’s book, and this one is a really pretty one. I loved the binding, and the glossy pages. I also love the illustrations and how the two main characters (or tour guides) seem so fun. They make it easier for the books to be read, and it didn’t seem like a simple history/arts/culture book. I honestly haven’t heard of anyone in the book, and it was fun reading about them and what they do. I figure I’ve probably seen some of these pieces, but I never knew the history behind it, and more importantly, the people behind them. There’s also a glossary of terms at the back for review, and a map of the Philippines that points out the locations of the people featured in the book.

I could easily this book as an app, or a TV show, especially since the two characters seem to be drawn for that. I would love to have another volume for this book, because I’m pretty sure there are more than 11 of these people in the country! They truly are guardians of our tradition, and it made me proud to be born and raised in a country with such colorful culture. :)

Rating:

For the duration of the Guardians of Tradition Blog Tour, Guardians of Tradition is available at discounted price at the Adarna showroom in Scout Torillo corner Scout Fernandez Streets, Barangay Sacred Heart, Quezon City 1103 Philippines (Trunkline: (632) 352-6765, Fax: (632) 352-6765 local 125, Email Address: adarnahouse@adarna.com.ph)

For international readers and Filipinos abroad, an ebook version is coming soon. Click here to order paperback copies online.

Here’s an excerpt:

Lang Dulay

Lang Dulay – Photo by Renato S. Rastrollo

Lang Dulay of Lake Sebu, South Cotabato has been weaving t’nalak since she was twelve years old. T’nalak is what the T’boli call the three-colored cloth made from fine abaca fiber. The three colors of the t’nalak represent the three places where the T’boli believe the soul goes when one dies. Hitem (black) is for people who died because of natural causes. Hulo (red) for those who died violently like by a bullet or a blade. Bukay (white) is for those who take taken their lives and those whose deaths were untimely.

The T’boli weavers, like Lang Dulay, get the designs for their t’nalak from their dreams. They believe that when Fu Dalu, the spirit of the abaca, shows them the design in their dreams, they must immediately weave it into cloth or else they might fall ill and soon forget the pattern. Sometimes, the designs are passed on from generation to generation, from grandmother to grandchild. Lang Dulay knows a hundred designs like the bulinglangit (clouds), the bangkiring (hair bangs), and the kabangi (butterfly).

When Lang Dulay became a Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan awardee, she was able to build a traditional long house where she teaches younger women how to weave.

Lang Dulay

Lang Dulay – Photo by Renato S. Rastrollo

Suggested activity:
The T’boli get their ideas for t’nalak designs from their dreams. Dreams are good sources of ideas for stories, poems, and drawings. Why don’t you try to keep a dream journal? Get a small notebook and a pen. Keep it near your bed. Every morning when you wake up, write down or sketch what you remember from your dream the previous night.

About the Author:

Author - Mae Astrid TobiasMAE ASTRID TOBIAS (1979-2009) was a Palanca-award winning author of children’s books. In addition to Guardians of Tradition, her books include Blue Bananas (Crucible), Bayong ng Kuting (Lampara Books), My Forest Friends (Haribon), Bakawan (Adarna Books) and two books retelling the Ifugao traditional chant, hudhud. These are Halikpon: A Retelling of an Ancient Ifugao Chant and Pumbakhayon: An Origin Myth of the Ifugao Hudhud. Both are finalists for children’s literature and best design in the 2006 National Book Awards of the Manila Critics Circle.

She also spent several years in the field of children’s television. She served as the Manila Bureau Manager of Kabataan News Network, a project of UNICEF and Probe Media Foundation that trains young people nationwide how to produce their own broadcast quality documentaries. She also also wrote episodes for children shows like Sirit!, and ABS-CBN and Eskuwela ng Bayan, as well as worked for Philippine Junior Inquirer and Shell Foundation. She was a member of Kuwentista ng mga Tsikiting  (KUTING), an organization of Filipino writers for children.

About the Illustrator:

Illustrator - Rommel JosonROMMEL JOSON is a painter and an illustrator. He graduated magna cum laude and College Valedictorian from the University of Philippines College of Fine Arts. He was also a Merit Scholar and a recipient of the Dean’s Awards for Visual Awards from the Ateneo de Manila University, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management. He worked in the advertising industry for several years before devoting his time fully to painting and illustration. He has received awards and citations for painting, illustration, comics, and design from various organizations such as the Philippine Board of Books for Young People (Honorable Mention), the Shell National Art Competition (3rd Place Oil/Acrylic Category), the Neil Gaiman/Fully Booked Graphic Fiction Competition (3rd Place in the Graphic Fiction category), the Adobo Design Awards (Silver) and the Philippine Araw Awards (Silver in Art Direction) and the Metrobank Art and Design Excellence Competition (Semifinalist in Oil). He is currently an active member of Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan (Ang INK).

About the Photographer:

RENATO S. RASTROLLO, is a photographer, graphic artist, book and exhibit designer. He earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts major in Advertising from the Philippine Women’s University. With over 25 years of experience in the field of documentary photography, his works have appeared in national and international publications. Presently, he is a culture and arts officer  at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Giveaway time! :)

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The Real Score

The Real Score by Kesh TanglaoThe Real Score by Kesh Tanglao
Publisher: Independent
Number of pages: 157
My copy: Kindle edition

Caitlin’s friendship with Marcus, the de facto frontman of the world’s biggest boy band Gezellig, has long been an object of scrutiny by almost everyone–their friends and families, the media, and his fans–ever since they “went public” a couple of years back. Who wouldn’t be interested? She was a nobody, catapulted into the limelight of his fame when he struck an unusual friendship with her.

To both Caitlin and Marcus, what they have is a “perfect little thing.” But then something comes along and threatens it.

In a no-holds-barred interview, will they finally be forced to settle the score?

* * *

On my way home from Singapore, I intended to make the plane ride home a chance to make progress in our book club’s book of the month, Lolita. But somewhere after I was able to open my Kindle back again, I realized that I couldn’t focus on the book anymore because my mind kept wandering off. I needed something quick and light, something to keep me company for the next three hours that won’t put me to sleep. So I decided to switch to the latest release from our #romanceclass, Kesh Tanglao’s The Real Score.

Caitlin Tan had a very unusual friendship with Marcus Wayans — unusual mostly because Marcus is a part of the biggest boy band Gezellig, while Caitlin is an ordinary girl working in a media company in Manila, Philippines. Caitlin wasn’t even a fan of their band, until that night she met them through a meet-and-greet that she attended as a favor to a friend. She found a kindred soul in Marcus, and they became best friends, making an effort to keep their friendship alive despite the limelight that accompanied Marcus. But are they really just friends? Because no one in the world thinks so, despite their denial of anything romantic. When something comes along and threatens their friendship, followed by a no-holds-barred interview for a good cause, will the world know what is the real score between them?

I read a few parts of this novella while it was still on Wattpad before Kesh published it. Frankly, it reminded me a little bit of the band fan fiction that I used to read — you know, how this ordinary girl meets the band she’s been a fan of for ages, and then one (or two, or three) fall in love with her, and all that jazz. I wasn’t sure if it was my cup of tea, really, because the type of musician/band fiction I read are the likes of Five Flavors of Dumb or Amplified. But I kept reading on, and I was pleasantly surprised.

This is an unusual friendship story, but it’s not so unusual that it couldn’t be real. I mean, anyone can be friends with a famous person, although perhaps not the way Caitlin met Marcus. Even so, I liked how real they were, especially the band. As I read the book, they became less of band members, and more just ordinary British boys who like to sing. I also liked how the friendship between Caitlin and Marcus progressed, and I saw immediately from when they decided to be friends that they mean it, and they will work for it.  And because the friendship didn’t seem forced, the romantic developments that followed seemed just as natural, like that is the most obvious thing that should happen after.

As with every music-related novel, I wished I could hear the original songs mentioned in the book, but I settled for listening to the ones on the title of the chapters. I really liked reading about the backstage things — how the crew of a tour becomes your family, and how it can go crazy there, and how it seemed so fun. I had this little crazy dream of becoming a band’s roadie, or at least, produce more concerts on my own, and it was fun to read a slice of that kind of life here.

So I take it back: The Real Score is actually far from the band fan fiction I used to read. I finished the book with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face, just as the plane started to descend to Manila. For a moment there, it almost felt like I was Caitlin, making a decision with how her life would go when she got off the plane. The Real Score is a story of friendship and romance, and all the mess that comes when the line between those two blur. Take away the superstar status of the guy and this can be anyone’s story, really. This novel hurt in just the right places, and it made me want the best for the two main characters. But more than the romance, The Real Score is also a story about taking risks, going out of your routine and allowing life’s curve balls to surprise you, both in good and bad ways. You never know what you will find when you decide to take the risk. :)

Number of dog-eared pages: 22

Favorite dog-eared quote(s):

“Is it weird if I ask you….to stay in my life and be my friend?”

“He’s one of the best friendships I’ve ever had. I think it was worth that much effort. If you want to make it work, make the effort.”

“Fight hard, Cait. Sometimes they only come once in a lifetime.”

“It’s okay,” I whispered, trying to assure him even when I know it’s not okay, and it’s never going to be. “You can let go now.”

Rating:

Other reviews:
Goodreads