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

 

Cover (Story) Girl

Cover (Story) Girl by Chris Mariano Cover (Story) Girl by Chris Mariano
Publisher: Independent
Number of pages: 122
My copy: ebook from Smashwords

1) She has amnesia.
2) She’s on the run from her father’s creditors.
3) She’s enjoying her last days on earth.

Ever since Jang Min Hee walked into Gio’s small museum, she’s given him one excuse after another about why she’s vacationing at scenic Boracay Island. Rarely has Gio’s neat and organized world been shaken like this. Soon he finds himself scrambling over rocks, hiding in dressing rooms, and dragging her out of bars. But how can Gio tell what’s true from what isn’t? Their worlds are getting unraveled — one story at a time.

* * *

The first time I went to the island of Boracay in the Philippines ended in some sort of disaster, and I haven’t really “recorded over” that memory yet. To the uninformed, my month-old phone took a dip in the saltwater on our last day at the beach, so the last few hours on the island was kind of stressful. Not to mention that moment where I thought I was going to drown at Ariel’s Point while I was snorkeling, and that it was rainy half the time. It was a good vacation in some ways (Hello, Boracay PubCrawl!), but you know, not exactly the most relaxing one.

I haven’t had the chance to go there again, but I got a taste of the island when I read Chris Mariano’s Cover (Story) Girl. Chris is a fellow book blogger and a classmate in #romanceclass, so it was no question that I will buy her book the moment it was released. Cover (Story) Girl is about Gio, who works in a museum in the island of Boracay, keeping it neat and organized and ready for visitors. In the middle of preparing for an exhibit, Jang Min Hee walks into his life, and starts messing with it — literally and figuratively. Thing is, Gio wasn’t sure what’s keeping her in the island and why she’s sticking with him. She tells him all these stories and he goes along with her, sometimes even saving her from some trouble. Gio is mystified…but how will he know which among Min Hee’s stories are the truth?

Okay here’s the thing: I was just a teensy bit hesitant about this because of the Korean angle. I’m not a fan of K-pop, or K-drama or anything Korean, really, except maybe for the food. And maybe Daniel Henney. Every time some friends squee over Korean stuff, I just look blank, like how I look blank over anime. I was kind of worried that I wouldn’t get or like the story, because of the Korean things…but I’m glad to say that it didn’t. I liked Min Hee a lot. I liked what I learned about her from Gio’s eyes, and how she seemed so flighty at first and then had more depth later on. She provided a fun contrast against Gio, who likes his routines and his organized life. Okay, maybe he can be a little boring, but it worked well for the story, and I liked how he lost this as he spent more time with Min Hee. Gio reminds me a little of Macy from Sarah Dessen’s The Truth About Forever, all organized and perfect until people came and threw her out of the loop. Gio is the kind of good guy I like reading in fiction, and it was fun being in his mind in this story. I liked reading his POV, and I think Chris did really well with it.

The story can feel a little slow and quiet, but I think that adds to the charm. You won’t really get too many exciting things at the start, except for Gio and Min Hee’s banter. The quiet flow of the story fits into its setting, which was my favorite part. I really liked that this was set in Boracay. I’ve only been there once, but reading this made me miss it. I liked how Chris focused on the quiet part of it and not much on the partying that happens there. I was never really a party girl, so I appreciate how there was more of the lesser known side of Boracay (and Aklan) in the story than the usual. And of course, the calamansi muffins. Oh my Lord, this book will have you craving for Real Coffee’s calamansi muffins, if you’ve had them before. If you haven’t, then  you might want to bake some on your own, instead. (I really should do that.) Because calamansi muffins are yummy.

I really liked Cover (Story) Girl, if it’s not too obvious yet. By default this can be considered as a summer romance read because of the beach elements…but if it’s rainy and cold where you are now (which is also how it is on my side of the world now), Cover (Story) Girl is also a really good rainy day companion. Come to think of it, it’s a perfect companion anytime you want some swoon. :D And again, don’t forget your calamansi muffins!

Number of dog-eared pages: 9

Favorite dog-eared quote(s):

He wondered what it would be like to be blind as the proverbial bat, flying in the darkness boldly, content with what his other senses told him instead of the distractions that sight might offer. Maybe he’d just follow the scent of vanilla home.

They were both looking elsewhere, as if trying not to care about contact and intimacy and things that trembled.

But her soft vanilla scent still clung to the air, stubborn and unyielding. He thought it smelled like regret.

Rating:

Other reviews:
Rachel Neumeier

Other features:
* Chris talks about how her cover came about
* Interview with Chris by Mina V. Esguerra at Publishing in Pajamas

Vintage Love

Vintage Love by Agay LlaneraVintage Love by Agay Llanera
Publisher: Self-published
Number of pages: 114
My copy: ebook from Amazon Kindle Store

26-year-old Crissy Lopez’s life is in dire need of a makeover. Her wardrobe revolves around ratty shirts and beat-up sneaks; her grueling schedule as a TV Executive leaves no room for a social life; and worst of all, she’s still hung up on the Evil Ex who left her five years ago.

When her fashionable grand-aunt passes away and leaves behind a roomful of vintage stuff, the Shy Stylista inside Crissy gradually resurfaces. Soon, she feels like she’s making progress — with a budding lovelife to boot! But the grim ghost of her past catches up with her, threatening to push her back into depression. To finally move on, Crissy learns that walking away is not enough. This time, she needs to take a leap of faith.

* * *

There was a time in my life when I pored over fashion blogs, especially those blogs where the authors showcased the outfits they made with half the items from thrift store shopping (aka ukay-ukay). I can count the number of times I went thrift store shopping with one hand, so I am a little envious with those people who seem to score so much good stuff in these stores while I can’t seem to find any. I think this is some sort of talent, or you know, you just have to devote more time in it so you can actually find something. Anyway, it’s been a long time since I last scoured thrift shops, and reading Agay’s Vintage Love kind of made me want to go do it again.

We meet Crissy Lopez in Vintage Love – a 26-year-old producer from a local network, whose life needs a serious make-over. Her usual wardrobe consists of jeans and sneakers, and her schedule gives her little free time for herself. To top it off, she’s still hung up over her ex. When her stylish grandmother passes away, leaving her with all funky vintage items, Crissy decides to do something with her life. But what will she do if her past decides to catch up on her just as she is making progress? Can she make that leap to leave it all behind?

Vintage Love is as cute as its paper-doll cover. I liked Crissy from the start — she seemed like a very smart heroine who is caught up with her career, and it’s something that I think everyone her age can relate to. I liked how she was passionate for her art, but not really her job, and how she went for what she really wanted to do as the story went on. Plus, there was more to Crissy than just the romance — the story had her really trying to improve herself, and the romance seemed to just come along as a bonus. The secondary characters in the book were also quite interesting, with the sort-of subplot for her best friend, Bea. This subplot wasn’t intrusive and it fit the story well, and it makes me want to have a little spin-off for her too. Mama Maring is another secondary character I really liked, and her presence in the novel was really felt even if she wasn’t really there.

The romance angle is cute and swoony and I really liked the text messages part, where lead interest, Vince, tried to cheer her up. Hee, I liked it because that thing was one of those “moves” back in college, when text quotes were still the “in” thing. Using that style in the story just fits in the whole vintage thing. The romance was pretty grounded and realistic, and it gave the characters enough space for their attraction and their relationship to develop, and even heal from whatever issues they both had. We can learn a lot with what Crissy went through, and the story’s lesson on choice. My favorite quote in the book sums it up very well:

At any given moment, at any given struggle, you always had a choice. Even happiness was a choice.

Vintage Love is not just a romance story, but also a story of strength and recovery, finding yourself and going for what you love. You don’t have to be a fan of vintage stuff to appreciate this novel. I think we all have a little bit of Crissy in us, and I hope that after reading this book, our inner Crissy’s will find the strength to take a leap of faith, too. :)

Rating:

* Get Vintage Love from Amazon.com
* Get Vintage Love from Smashwords

All’s Fair in Blog and War

All's Fair in Blog and War by Chrissie PeriaAll’s Fair in Blog and War by Chrissie Peria
Publisher: Independent
Number of pages: 109
My copy: ebook, from Amazon Kindle Store

Five Cuevas @fivetravels
Three guesses to where I’m going next. Starts with an M. Ends with a U. Has a lechon named after it. #travel

Travel blogger Five thinks she has hit the jackpot when the Macau Tourism Board invites her over for an all-expense-paid blogger tour in exchange for blogging about Macau. But while she happily signs up for the trip, she didn’t sign up to be travel buddies with the infuriating Jesse. Will her dream vacation turn into a nightmare junket? Or will falling in love be on the itinerary?

* * *

I’ve been in a reading rut in the past month because I was too busy doing something else, and that “something else” is writing my novella. I took my own sweet time reading our book club’s book of the month because I couldn’t focus on it, and I didn’t have any desire to read anything else that isn’t contemporary romance because it was all my mind can handle that time. When one of our classmates in #romanceclass released her book into the wild last week, I automatically bought it and loaded it into my Kindle. For one, it’s contemporary romance, which is just what I need; it’s Filipino; and finally, it’s a classmate’s work, so I should support! (Plus, look at that gorgeous cover!) I finished reading this in a day, and when I was done, I found myself thinking, “What reading rut?

In Chrissie Peria’s All’s Fair in Blog and War, we meet Five Cuevas, a virtual assistant by night and travel blogger the rest of the time, reading an email from the Macau Tourism Board inviting her for an all-expense paid trip to Macau. It was something I would joyfully jump into, and Five does the same thing. It was exciting, until she meets Jesse Ruiz, the photoblogger who gets in her way and on her nerves. She’s determined not to let him ruin her trip, but it’s proving just a bit hard when she was partnered with him for the rest of the trip.

Okay, this is fun. So much fun. I love books with blogging, regardless of whatever kind of blogging that is. I love Five’s voice, and her passion for traveling and writing about it. I love the entire set-up and how she and Jesse met, and how their relationship grew in the story. It was a short trip, but it was believable, and reading the story made me want to go to Macau, or at least, find myself some egg tarts! There were so many lines in the book that made me smile, and it’s no surprise that I breezed through it because I just wanted to keep on reading to know what happens to them in the end.

Granted, the story could be longer, and there could have been more tension, but for a quick and light read, All’s Fair in Blog and War really works. It’s the kind you’d want to read on a trip, or the kind you’d recommend to a friend who’s going on a trip (I did that), or the kind you’d recommend to a friend who’s looking for a light read (I also did this). I was happy with the ending, and how they got to the ending, especially for a social media/blogging junkie like me. :P If you’re a blogger, a traveler or a reader (or, maybe even all)  who is looking for a light and sweet contemporary romance fix, then All’s Fair in Blog and War is a book for you. :)

Rating:

* Follow Five (@5travels) and Jesse (@wanderingcamera) on Twitter for more swoon online! :D