Review | Stay A Little Longer by Dawn Lanuza

Stay A Little Longer by Dawn Lanuza

AmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository

Genres: New Adult, Romance

Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

***

9781524851057_frontcover (1)They were perfect strangers—all perks, no strings. Until they weren’t.

Elan wasn’t supposed to meet Caty. She lived halfway around the world, and he barely left Manila. Yet here he was, giving her a ride to the airport. Convinced that they would never have to see each other again after that day, Elan and Caty started to bond over truths, dares, stolen kisses, and games in hotel rooms and bars.

With brief encounters that turned them from acquaintances to friends — tipping to the point of lovers, always — will Elan and Caty keep settling for a day, or will someone finally dare to stay long enough to discover: Is this love?

***

Based on an ancient Chinese myth, the gods tie an invisible red cord on the ankle, or a finger, of two people who are destined to be lovers, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. The strings can stretch and tangle and delay their story, but it can never break.

Perhaps it was me quickly associating the idea of a story based on fate to an internet-favorite myth, but the legend of the red string of fate was what immediately popped into my head upon the first few chapters. The book started off unconventionally (as if letting us peak into what the rest of the story would be like), with Caty who, eager to get away from her brother’s and friend’s sexual tension, practically forced Elan to give her a ride to the airport. What followed was a series of only hours-long dates, inconveniently once a year, because Elan is a lawyer based in Manila while Caty’s a prop stylist/assistant/bagel eater in New York. These dates, while never planned, developed an interesting, sometimes platonic, mostly romantic, relationship between the two.

They never had enough time, but he would give this to her. Not as a parting gift but as a reason, a way, to convince her he was worth coming back to every time.

What I love about this book is that, while having that charm you’d find in YA, the characters readily acknowledged the issue of time, distance, and attraction- that sure, the latter was very present, but the first two factors are way too loud to ignore. Both have their reasons of staying where they were, and while they are valid, I was also asking the whole time- who’ll cave first? While this isn’t, ideally, a romantic notion, it’s a completely rational thought.

“When you’re in love, everything seems urgent. Everything has to be now. You have to be with them now. You have to know now.”

This had me thinking, because it does make sense, and I figured it doesn’t just apply to romance but also on things you’re passionate about. I’ve always believed it’s better to do things sooner than later, because what’s the use of postponing something you know you really want when you can have it now? Granted, this may not be appropriate for a lot of things, but it does get the message across. For Elan and Caty, the mindset didn’t apply- originally, because at first they were just these two people who met through a mutual friend, and saw each other naked, but went their separate ways with the Pacific Ocean between them. Eventually, across their dates, the attraction was something they had to address.

I’m unsure if I should consider this as a slow-burn, because right off the bat, from their first meeting, the attraction is obvious. What seemed to be the problem was that terrifying, expensive distance. As a wise girl (Caty) pointed out, “Nothing about [this] is convenient.”

“I’ve always thought that for a relationship to begin, one person had to be braver than the other. Someone has to dive in first. It’s never the two of you, together. It’s nice to think of it that way, but there’s always someone who lays out all the cards first.”

Like I said earlier, I kept wondering who would take the leap, because I honestly wanted them both to stay a little longer wherever they were. Caty’s childhood dream was apparently to live in New York, and while it hasn’t been easy, nothing ever is supposed to be. And as a law student grueling long hours on books and codals, I couldn’t imagine shipping myself out of the country after four years of studying plus that bar exam, if Elan were to do it.

I can say though, that I was left completely satisfied with the ending. At first, I thought I wasn’t going to like it (because as all stories go, someone does have to do the adjusting, and it’s not always something you agree with as a reader), but this one ended beautifully. Not exactly a What if It’s Us kind of ending, but it left me with the same feeling.

Elan and Caty’s story felt so authentic and mature, which fits right into the bill of the kind of stories I’ve been looking for lately. This definitely goes on my must-read of 2019. It’s not too complicated, but it gets the message across.

***

Stay A Little Longer

***

Check out the rest of the blog tour participants here:

May 22 | Erika @ The Nocturnal FeyRafael @ The Royal Polar Bear ReadsJen @ Jen D Bibliophile

May 23 | Angela @ Hiding Behind BooksJenny @ Levicorpvs BlogAlice @ Married to Books Reviews and Blog

May 24 | Shaa @ Moonlight PagesCathrina @ Puggyreader WritesJennilyn @ Rurouni Jenni Reads

May 25 | Ynnah @ The Youngvamp’s HavenBryan @ Bryan Hoards BooksRachel @ In Between Book Pages

May 26 | Naadhira @ legenbooksdaryGerald @ Gerald the BookwormDanielle @ dmcireadsblog

May 27 | Kat @ Reading After TenPrincess @ Princess and Pages • Bon @ Provocatrix

May 28 | Kath @ The Last ReaderJessica @ Endless ChaptersRebecca @ Bookingway Reads

***

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Dawn Lanuza writes contemporary romance, young adult fiction and prose poetry. She has two first loves – music and writing – and is lucky enough to surround herself with them. She currently lives with her family and a very loved cream toy poodle.

She sometimes blogs at dawnlanuza.com.

Advertisements

Review | Play It By Ear by Tara Frejas #romanceclass

Play It By Ear by Tara Frejas

(Amazon Goodreads)

Genres: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance • Release Date: May 15, 2019

Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

***

SYNOPSIS:

What does it really take to be a champion?

When East Genesis Project’s Jo Yihwan reluctantly pinch-hits for injured band mate Steven Bae in a reality TV-slash-talent competition, he decides he’s only in it to win. After all, he is representing his band, and the All-Kill Champion title had some handsome perks attached to it.

But he didn’t expect to meet a gutsy, driven teammate like Ha Yoojung, or feel drawn to her incandescent spirit week after week after week. He didn’t expect her to be carrying a devastating secret that could cost them the grand prize, either.

What starts as a competition becomes so much more. With careers, a long-held dream, and honor at stake, can Yihwan and Yoojung’s hearts survive?

Content warnings: Mentions of sexual assault

***

They say it’s free to dream, but mine has cost me more than anything money could pay for.

My first thought when I read the blurb was whether I needed to be knowledgeable of K-pop culture and the Korean entertainment industry to keep up with this book. Basically, you don’t really need to, but if you’re like me who has to be familiar with every single thing to build up the image in your head, you might need to keep the search bar on in the background. I received a copy of this book nearing finals week so I was reading the first half during my breaks- after studying, while waiting for food, when queuing up.

This proved to be difficult on my part, especially since I don’t always have my data or wifi on when I’m out or when I’m studying, because I kept needing to Google things! My knowledge of Korean language, embarrassingly it may be to admit, is limited to annyeong and kamsahamnida, with a few scattered phrases or expressions from bingeing on K-drama from college. Anyway, that was why I kept having to rely on context clues when I chance upon a Korean word in the book. Then again- this is more of a personal thing and I doubt others would share my woes.

This is fine, Yoojung. This is perfectly fine.

I can’t tell if it’s because of the unfamiliar words or initially unrelatable characters that made it difficult for me to finish the book at first- but as I quoted above, it was fine. At the beginning, I guess, I didn’t see the appeal or how big of a deal the televised talent competition was for our lead characters, Yihwan and Yoojung. This is what we’re given to start with: both are in their mid-twenties. Yihwan is the lead of the band East Genesis, while Yoojung is a thirteen-year trainee holding on to her last hope for making it in the entertainment industry.

Now, I’ve been informed by K-pop fans of how the e-industry works in Korea, but reading this book just made me gasp of how absolutely hardcore it is for these people. Evidently, it is much more difficult for girls, and Yihwan was able to summarize it as such, after Yoojung shared her share of horror stories:

They were laughing about it now, but he was certain nothing about this was funny while it happened. If there was something trainee life taught him, it was that girls had it tougher. Sheer talent just wasn’t enough. If you didn’t conform to society’s ridiculous standards of beauty, you wouldn’t stand a chance.

It’s interesting to see the parallel between Yihwan and Yoojung. While disparities among genders isn’t foreign (in any industry), I appreciated how the author wrote about it in the book. There were even news and blog ‘articles’ which included ‘comments’ from fans, trolls, that I think aptly captures what stardom really comes with. For Yihwan, though he gets free meals at restaurants, it also means things from his past may keep coming up. For Yoojung, being written as a has-been who was never even famous to start with, tries to keep the dream alive while shutting down the secrets she so desperately tried to hide. But of course, when you’re famous and talented, life has a way of screwing you over.

The matter of the sensitive topic was also tactfully approached by the author, coupled with the different reactions people have over it. The underlying message for me, though, is that you never know whose support you’ll get. Yoojung, having focused most of her young adult life in making it big in a highly competitive industry, didn’t even have a list of people she can confide in. To think that she found them all during the competition— her single, final chance before she forces herself to accept defeat behind the cashier of her parents’ convenience store— is telling of how funny things work out for us, one way or another.

As a pair, Yihwan and Yoojung do make an interesting couple. They’re not very in-your-face. In fact, I’d consider their pairing as cute, light- but mature. I like how Yihwan never missed the chance to show his support to Yoojung, assuring her he’s got her back, in and out of the show. The level of romance could hardly be called cheesy, if at all. I felt more of friendship, support, and loyalty from these two before romance came into play. What a refreshing take, which I’m thankful for. I’ll miss these two, and could see myself rereading their story after finals or during summer just to hear again their banter and interactions with each other and the rest of the characters.

However, I have to give it to G/F, the secondary characters who totally stole the scenes for me and who deserve their own book:

Undisclosed fact: Gabriel liked being needed. More so when it was Fi who needed him. So when she came home that night yelling, “Gabe, I need you!” some primal instinct in him took over. He shot out of his computer chair and made a dash for the foyer, thrilled to be of service.

And, I can’t help but adding:

“The devil works hard, but Gabriel Park works harder.”

I would, without a doubt, give up all the Jo Yihwans of the world for my own Gabe Park.

***

PIBE-TourBanner.jpg

Cover Illustration: Shaira Bea San Jose | Cover Design/Layout: Tara Frejas

#PlayItByEar #PlayItByEarBook #romanceclass #BackstagePass2 #YihwanKoSaIyo

***

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Tara Frejas is a cloud-walker who needs caffeine to fuel her travels. When she’s not on work mode, she keeps herself busy by weaving her daydreams into stories.

Aside from her obvious love affair with words and persistent muses, Tara is very passionate about being caffeinated, musical theatre, certain genres of music, dancing, dogs, good food, and romancing Norae, her ukelele. She owns a male bunny named Max who sometimes tries to nibble on her writing notes.

Fun fact: She’s a Piscean. Go figure.

Author Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Newsletter | About #romanceclass

Review | The Hate Vow by Nicole French

The Hate Vow by Nicole French

(AmazonGoodreadsNookKoboApple)

Genres: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary

Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

***

The convenient marriage trope is a romance favorite ranging from comedic (The Proposal, Fools Rush In, Because This Is My First Life) to dramatic (Marriage Contract, The Unwanted Wife, The Trophy Wife) versions. Nicole French’s latest book of the new Quicksilver trilogy adapts both.

French is the same person who authored my recently reviewed Spitfire series (Legally Yours, Legally Mine, Legally Ours). We first met Eric de Vries and Jane Lee Lefferts, the main characters of THV, in LY, as they’re both good friends and classmates of Skylar Crosby from Harvard Law. Despite the closeness, E/J’s relationship is one of snarky commentary and petty insults— similar to Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel in Life As We Know It. When we were introduced to E/J, their genuine hatred and underlying sexual tension, controlled by reluctant tolerance, was pretty obvious, which made my live-tweet so much more fun but at the same time difficult, because I didn’t want to give anything away for anyone who hasn’t read Spitfire yet. Thing is, the only thing mentioned regarding their backstory is that they had a one night stand as 1Ls, before they ended up hating each other.

Upon reading the blurb when I participated in the cover reveal, I thought we’d get to know more of what could’ve led to their animosity, before THV spans throughout the events of Spitfire. However, the book actually takes place five years after the initial trilogy. By this time, Skylar is married with two kids and is founding partner of Copley Associates in Boston along with Kieran Beckford and Eric. She’s living this amazing debt-free life with her beautiful family while Jane’s… well, not as fortunate.

At the beginning of THV, Jane had just dyed her hair Pepto-Bismol pink, right after losing her job as a prosecutor. Despite years of working her butt off as a public servant at the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, she was pulled out of her job and her apartment while being terribly reminded of over two hundred thousand dollars’ worth of student loan debt. This comparison is not to pit two equally wonderful (albeit fictional) women against each other. It actually stems from Jane’s insecurity, one that I believe we can all recognize at one point in our lives.

Okay, yeah. So I was jealous. Maybe I was annoyed that now, when I was twenty-nine, I was basically in the same place I was five years ago. I sacrificed the last five years of my life doing what I was supposed to do. I put away baddies in the great city of Chicago. But what had that gotten me? Five years later, I was jobless. Homeless. Futureless.

So with this quarter-life crisis clear, in comes Eric and his unlikely proposal— twenty million dollars in exchange for her hand in marriage. Eric’s offer has his own reasons, one that I’ll save myself from spoiling. While that’s already intriguing enough, what made me really want to read the story is because of E/J’s history and relationship. There was a time in Spitfire when these two settled their sexual tension in the bedroom. After their falling out, though, things were worse— they literally (according to Skylar, anyway) couldn’t even be in the same room together, so it’s interesting how things took a turn for this book to come to fruition.

When I mentioned E/J in my Spitfire review, I said I loved them as a couple. Here, I am reminded again of their appeals as individual characters. Jane is smart, beautiful, confident, and unabashedly herself, palpable in these lines from the very first chapter alone:

When the sun went down and the courthouse was closed, I lived my life as God intended a young, sexually active woman to live: without fear or boundaries.

He wasn’t good enough for me. He wasn’t worth my time. The world was a shitty place for women like me— women who wanted to have just as much fun as men.

I have to admit, though, I am quite disheartened that these girls (Jane and Skylar) had to adjust something about themselves or their lives to fit into their leading men’s. What’s even saddening is this does happen in real life, one I’ve been reminded of constantly, even, by my professors in law school. While intelligence is attractive for males, not all males think the same towards educated, ambitious, and successful females.

Though Eric and Brandon both embraced Jane’s and Skylar’s, the latter two still had to give up something while the former went on with their lives. In Spitfire, it was when Brandon ran for mayor. For Jane, it’s to fit in Eric’s old-money family and affairs. This point though, was eventually revealed to have been a breakup issue between E/J, before the events of this book.

“I would never ask you to give up your career, but you, just like every other man on the planet, think it’s completely acceptable to ask that of a woman. Love doesn’t mean asking each other to give up anything.”

That line may have been taken completely out of context but is nonetheless a valid argument. I guess we can also blame it to the fact that Eric does tend to be arrogant, though probably not as much as Jared (the WASP boy from their Harvard days). While Eric tried to distance himself from the DV family name and business, he still carried himself in a way that betrayed strict upbringing and expensive education. Then again, I wouldn’t consider this as his main characteristic, because while reading THV, and his nightly dalliances aside, I didn’t find Eric’s personality to be as strong as Jane’s. He’s too (for lack of a better word) cool. Sure, they bantered, but I was given the impression he was only like this to her, which seems to have been seconded by the last person I thought would make the observation:

“Sometimes it’s good to have someone in your life who humbles you.”

Unfortunately, without Jane, I didn’t get much of a sense of Eric’s character, and I hope he will have better character development after this, and that the following book isn’t just another push-and-pull moment that would be reminiscent of S/B circa Legally Ours.

That aside, and despite the onslaught of sweet moments between E/J scattered more than the steamy ones, they also argued a lot, and sometimes this didn’t translate to the bedroom. However, the way they fought made me realize that even when the characters made it appear that they let bygones be by bygones, the fact that the past kept being brought up meant that they most probably weren’t over it yet. In a way, both of them were to blame. They were both crappy to each other in the past, adding to that the stress of law school and the bar exam. That particular scene really did convince me, though, that perhaps their relationship so far in THV leaned more towards lust than love.

The in-between drew on way too long for me to the point that I found certain chapters boring. I guess the scenes weren’t new— variations of catty and jealous girls and unlikable family members. Then E/J fought, someone said “Because you broke my heart!”, and bam! The book ended.

I have to say though, I totally didn’t see the cliffhanger coming. The gatecrasher scene was pretty obvious from the beginning, but I didn’t think Girl in Red would make a comeback. I’m certainly looking forward to how these will affect the events of books two and three. I mean— were they or weren’t they? To answer Jane’s last question, I’d say they were, but that’s probably the optimistic law student in me claiming that all the requisites were present.

Like I mentioned earlier, French used both comedic and dramatic turns in writing this book, and I felt all of that in the last chapter. I can’t wait for The Kiss Plot, to be released in late June 2019.

THVBanners_fight you_nowlive.jpg

Book Details: Publisher: Raglan Publishing | Photographer: Sara Elrew Photography | Model: Lucas Bloms | Genre: Contemporary Romance | Release Date: March 29, 2019

Author’s Note: The Quicksilver Trilogy is a companion series to the Spitfire Trilogy. Both can be read separately, but readers may enjoy meeting Eric and Jane for the first time in Legally Yours, available free.

***

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Nicole French is an East Coast/West Coast hybrid creature, Springsteen fanatic, hopeless romantic, and total bookworm. When not writing fiction or teaching writing classes, she is hanging out with her family, playing soccer with the rest of the thirty-plus crowd in Seattle, or going on dates with her husband. In her spare time, she likes to go running with her dog, Greta, or practice the piano, but never seems to do either one of these things as much as she should.

Author Website | Newsletter | Goodreads | Twitter

Instagram | Facebook | FB Group | Pinterest

Review | Flipping the Script by Danice Mae P. Sison #romanceclassflicker

Flipping the Script by Danice Mae P. Sison

(AmazonGoodreadsFor PH PrintFor International Readers)

Genres: Young Adult, Romance

Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

***

Sometime in 2012, I visited the Mowelfund Film Institute, a museum tucked in Cubao, Quezon City that houses old movie props, costumes, tapes, and a ten-feet empty pool used for underwater shoots. This was my first and last time in a movie museum, and it’s actually funny because I wasn’t even initially part of the tour. It was exclusively for the film club, where all my friends were, but because I didn’t want to have a bad case of FOMO, I offered to write a school paper article just so I can join the field trip. Though it’s been almost seven years since my visit, this helped me visualize the setting better for Santelmo Pictures.

Santelmo Pictures is the fictional film studio where seventeen-year-old Miri dela Merced spends her summer as an intern, along with four other senior high students I’ll be dubbing collectively as The Army. Miri’s love for movies has partly to do with her late lolo, a former movie director. However, before her lolo even reached the height of his career, he had a falling-out in the 90s with the matriarch of Santelmo over pito-pito films. Now, we see this family feud element in other books and films (Romeo and Juliet, Little Italy, Descendants, Once Upon a Time) but in FTS, we see less of the deep-rooted animosity and more of how this affects the MC and LI’s relationship. Like the classic boy meets girl formula, Miri meets Pabs early on in a(n albeit non-literal) meet-cute that involves red wine and this inner dialogue:

“My god, what a stupid haircut he has. I don’t know what’s more annoying- that nineties bob or the fact that he’s actively avoiding our table.”

So basically, a very confident drunken me thinking I have a chance with that cute guy across the room. In my live-tweet, I’ve put the blame on Tetet from the get-go. Tetet, by the way, is Miri’s best friend who is basically the type of friend we need in our life. But, come on Tetet, I love you but you just do not challenge the universe by saying this:

“I guess it’s okay. It’s not like you’ll ever see that guy again or anything.”

Of course, we all know what happens next- Pabs and Miri meet again, because Tetet is the harbinger of summer drama. They don’t only meet, though, because the world and film gods (and probably a still feuding Lolo Ikong dela Merced and Lola Barang Santelmo) do not do things halfway. Miri and Pabs end up in the very same summer internship program hosted by Santelmo. Why would Miri end up there, you ask? It’s pretty anticlimactic, but I’ll let you find out yourself by reading the book. Pabs, the precious down-to-earth cinnamon roll that he is, joins, I think, because there are two paths in front of him: the business side versus the creative side, and he’s only interested in one, ideally without preferential treatment.

Ava, Eboy, and Aldrin, join Pabs and Miri to complete their version of The Breakfast Club. The quintet immediately bond over their mutual hate towards a certain production assistant who “looks like an angry twelve-year-old” likened to Snowball (from The Secret Life of Pets). In Miri’s second day, she’s sent back and forth fetching masking tapes and umbrellas for Snowball, while wearing a knit sweater and platforms under the dreadful summer heat. A couple of my favorite lines take place during this scene: “tiis-ganda, but more of the tiis and less of the ganda”, and the ongoing wager whether or not prideful Miri shrugs out of the sweater (my heart also melts a little for Pabs here). I guess nothing brings a group of interns closer than a toxic superior. The beauty of the film industry aside, Sison also highlights the harsh realities, for indeed, “Maliit lang ang industriya”, so you suck it up and be polite and civil to said superior and the heir of the studio-owner that sent your grandfather’s film directing dreams on fire.

Still- Miri’s only human (and a teenager, at that!), and at one point in our lives we do end up asking how far we’re willing to go for our dreams. I do hope we were given more of these scenes (not just with Miri, but with the rest of The Army, too). Anyway, thank goodness we have friends like Tetet who’s not afraid to give her two cents, even at the risk of being too invested in someone else’s problems.

“Gaga ka ba?” Tetet says. “Maybe you’re too focused on what you aren’t learning than what you actually are.”

Let’s not forget my favorite side character, Kiko, who had me worried for a heartbeat thinking we only get one chapter with him. I’m not sure if he has a substantial role in the book, other than as a goofy and candid post-production editor who renders frames while loudly jamming along to his K-pop playlist.

“What are you guys, Gremlins or something? You’re multiplying!” [But] Kiko finally wises up and puts the four interns he has at his disposal to good use instead of just using us for entertainment value.

This is an ideal summer read. It’s light, funny, and charming. Like I mentioned earlier, the book focuses more on Pabs and Miri than their grandparents’, which is great, actually. As interesting as lolo Ikong and lola Barang’s fall-out is, a lot of family feud backstories feel too petty for me (though I think they’re actually supposed to be?). On that note, though, I wasn’t completely sold with how Miri found out about her co-intern’s Santelmo background and thought it’s a bit of a nonevent when I was so hyped as a reader. It’s quite funny how Da Boy, who grew up in Macau and is basically clueless of Pinoy pop culture references, keeps dropping truth bombs and twenty-year-old gossip in The Army.

Though not a film buff, I could tell how so much thought and research has been put in this book. In Sison’s blog post, she shared her WIP journey with FTS, which included articles on film restoration, film festival schedules, and even notes on the K+12 SHS Arts and Design track (unfortunately, few schools offer this). Surprisingly, I was not bored reading through all the studio tour scene and film talk, and it even had me Googling ‘flatbeds’ for the sake of Mickey and Minnie. I guess the thing about this book is that it’s set in the film industry, where you’d expect there to be drama, but it’s actually just a cute fluffy story of a bunch of teens trying to dodge Snowball and Killjoy (side note, not really feeling KJ- it’s like, oh you need a villain? Here’s a villain. Next!) while trying to complete their eighty hours. Even more, our MC and LI aren’t the usual film staff/actor pairing- just two aspiring film directors who want to create. Miri further talks about this desire in a scene:

My ultimate dream is making something as well-researched and richly detailed as a Peter Jackson film. It would be so awesome if I ended up directing a movie as well-loved as The Lord of the Rings trilogy right here in the Philippines.

A memorable story to me is more important than fancy special effects, or huge explosions. It’s a gigantic dream, and one I choose to keep to myself so I don’t jinx it. It sounds impossible, but that’s what’s at my core. I want to direct someone’s next favorite movie.

Honestly, as far as the plot is concerned, I found myself less interested in the teen love aspect and more hooked with the friendship. The Army is made up of likable comedic characters, who all just want to be assigned away from Snowball, hang out with Mang Fred, and watch old movies in UP’s Sunken Garden. While it didn’t leave me feeling unsatisfied, my fingers are crossed that we see more of the quintet’s film adventures in the future. I guess this is the effect that #romanceclass titles give me- I just can’t get enough of their stories, young and new adult.

tourbanner.png

Book Cover Info: Cover Models: Liane Palomo, Boo Gabunada | Cover Designed by: Tara Frejas | Flicker Design Identity: Clarissa Ines | Photographed by: Chi Yu Rodriguez | Makeup by: Carla De Guzman | Styling by: Alex Lapa

***

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Danice Mae P. Sison realized she wanted to be Harriet the Spy when she was very young. Since then, she has been digging out from real life experiences, pop culture obsessions, and her growing TBR pile of young adult and romance books for inspiration. She works in pay television as a channel manager, and has previously contributed as an author on the anthology Start Here. Flipping the Script is her first book.

Author Website | Twitter | Email: hastyteenflick@gmail.com

Review | Spitfire Trilogy by Nicole French

Spitfire Trilogy by Nicole French

Legally Yours (AmazonGoodreads)

Legally Mine (AmazonGoodreads)

Legally Ours (AmazonGoodreads)

Genres: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary

Note: This is a compiled review of all three books and will contain spoilers.

***

For someone who has very anti-love opinions, I am utterly obsessed with romance. To be accurate, though, I think what I love reading is how romance is portrayed. Perhaps it’s because I personally prefer writing heartbreaking pieces (breakups, moving on, all that dramatic jazz), over falling in love, and that’s why I read about them instead. Spitfire isn’t the first set of contemporary romance I read this year, but so far it’s my favorite (and I don’t use this word very lightly)!

Recently, I’ve taken a liking to checking out books on Amazon’s discount section without spending too much time reading blurbs (just to keep things interesting, plus there are some hidden gems catering to even the most specific of preferences). Sharp and sassy Legally Yours was one of those books that ended up in my library- maybe it was the law student in me that drew my pointer to click the ‘buy now’ button. These books are lengthy but I finished each of them overnight, which goes to show how easy it is to get lost in the story.

First off, let’s talk about Brandon and Skylar. At the beginning of LY, Skylar is a Harvard law student one semester shy from graduation. She is just capping off her last few days as an intern in Sterling Grove (a top firm in Boston) when she meets Brandon after narrowly escaping an obnoxious analyst with a bad tongue.

How they meet isn’t forced and actually pretty cute, but what follows after almost turned me off, mainly because of Brandon’s character. It was initially difficult to get a grasp of his personality because he basically comes off as just another lust-filled rich guy. However, his actions are explained further in the story, and while he’s still lust-filled until LO, it’s comical how he gets awkward around Skylar especially in the first book, with his tendency to shell out surprises worth more than her own apartment.

“A plane to Paris? Really?” I huffed as I wrenched my hand out of his clutch. My accent was starting to come out now. “It’s our first date. I’m a poor student. I would have been impressed with anything more than Dunkin’ Donuts.”

As superficial as I am, all I could do was nod at her in this particular scene, muttering, “Same.” When you’re not used to having disposable money, grandiose gestures like that will make you uncomfortable.

Another thing I like about them is that they’re not overly possessive. I can’t say I’m a fan of characters spouting things like “You’re mine”, or doing some primal, jealous-driven stupidity, because normal guys don’t do that. As passionate as it may sound (for some, if you dig that), this is kind of flag-worthy in real life. Personally, I feel like this is an unhealthy way of expressing your affections. I think this only happened once throughout the books, actually, and I’m glad Skylar speaks up about it.

He looked at me again, eyes full of love. “I just want to be there with you. I want to be your center, where you come back to. Because you’re mine, babe.”

I frowned and shook my head. “I’m not yours. I don’t belong to you, like all your fancy things. I’m a person, Brandon, not something to collect.”

Feisty, redhead Skylar, on the other hand, is pretty headstrong (as you can tell from that quote above. I wanted to give my phone a high-five when I read that line). She came from a poor and lovely, tight-knit family, but with ambition that could rival her wealthier well-connected peers. While there are still some scenes where she acts out of character for me, given how she’s initially portrayed, what’s consistent is that Skylar wouldn’t accept anything— gifts, plane rides, crap, even Brandon’s love.

“You essentially want me to be your weekend call girl.” Two throw pillows fell off the couch as I stood up. Blood rushed from my head in a way that only provided increased clarity. “Should we establish a rate, Mr. Sterling? A Harvard brain like mine doesn’t come cheap, you know. What’s the going rate for summa cum laude?”

Another thing I like is the accurate depiction of how law school is like (though if you ask me, I don’t even have the time to find a beau. Some of us are lucky, I guess?). In the post-bar exam scene, Skylar went out with her fellow law school friends and headed for drinks, even describing the experience to be similar to Plato’s ‘Allegory of the Cave’, being blinded by the summer sun after spending too long in the dark.

Two more shots and several rounds of drinks later, the entire bar was effectively shitfaced. I had already seen at least three soon-to-be-prominent Boston attorneys sprint to the bathrooms to throw up, and a few others had just skipped the line and dashed outside to hurl over the pier. We were messier than a frat house during Rush week.

We all sacrificed a lot to get to this point, financially and personally. The road to becoming a lawyer took a lot of time and money that most people couldn’t understand. While many of our friends from college and high school were well into their careers, we were just starting now, and wouldn’t be able to take a reasonable break for another several years.

Would I call what they have a good relationship? You know what, I actually would. Anyone could do without the complications (but then what kind of books would these be? Troubled, or rather flawed, characters bring their own stories) but the crux of the matter is that Brandon and Skylar are inarguably in love with each other. It’s so easy to say that your characters are in love but actually showing it is a different story. These two argue, all the time, and mainly it’s because of their opposing views and statuses. They won’t meet. They don’t speak each other’s love languages, as Jane, best friend of the year, so eloquently put it:

“They just weren’t the right way to talk to you. But this isn’t about you anymore. It’s about him. And right now, he‘s the one who’s hurt, Sky. You want to win him back, maybe it’s time for you to start speaking his language, buttercup.”

So like I said, these two characters are so in love, but with all their differences, how do you realistically make them overcome it? In this case, Brandon tends to care way too much, whereas Skylar tends to run away, a lot, particularly when things get tough. In fact, she gets called out for this by none other than Brandon himself. How the author reconciles two opposites’ personalities, without completely losing their sense of selves, helps readers understand them better, and French does this well. From the first book, we see this when Brandon sent a gazillion flowers, with this promise:

“You deserve to pursue your dreams on your own without being chased. But should you ever want to share those dreams with me again, Red, I’ll be here.”

Clearly, this guy knows what’s important. For all his sides portrayed throughout the books, this one definitely won me. Here is a love interest who eventually accepts heartbreak and doesn’t end up punching everyone and the wall, who doesn’t suddenly take up an interest in speeding cars, who doesn’t start sleeping with half the city’s population. He let her live her life.

Now, when this happened (meaning for the latter part of LY and the initial part of LM), we get to see more of the minor characters as support system, mostly Skylar’s friends and family. On that note, can I just say that E/J as a couple- what a thrill. It’s almost as good as what B/S have, though to be honest I also was half hoping for the brief Zola scene in LO to follow through. As for Jared, I actually liked him, you know? To me, he’s just this beautiful, WASP boy in love with someone who didn’t love him back. Then LO happened, que adiós.

Legally Yours. Now, let’s talk plots. I’ve already explained why I think Brandon is unlikable in those first few chapters, coupled with Skylar’s indecisiveness. I put this aside as things element to the story (so that they could finally get together, you know? Anyway, who hasn’t done things differently from what they’d usually do for the sake of romance?).

The cliffhanger on LY? Not originally a fan, either. I think it’s very common with books like these, but oh, does it serve its purpose in LM and that’s what ultimately roped me in. If you’ve read it, you know what I mean— the repetition of “blue or green” makes what happened feel painfully real.

Legally Mine. LM is probably my least favorite, largely because I felt it went on for too long. Like, I know Janette’s got something up her sleeve, and I know Miranda wouldn’t let these two just run off to the sunset, it’s all a matter of when it’ll happen, and being the impatient person I am, I just wanted to fast forward. Now, the second book for me, is basically a book about Skylar’s guilt over the blue/green thing, and while I essentially and naturally sympathize with her hesitance, I felt like I was not directly convinced by the writing itself. I’ve also read reviews of people who stopped reading after this, because of “encouraging” what happened to blue/green, but please remember it’s always a choice and I think, ultimately, that’s what the author wanted to say, especially in a place like Boston.

Legally Ours. I did not like the beginning of LO, though it merely continued the events of LM (because #cliffhangers). No one’s a stranger to the damsel in distress trope when there are (typically rich) leads involved (e.g. Fifty Shades Freed, Twilight, and mostly tv dramas). I actually thought this subplot would span for a few more chapters because of the way the blurb was written, but it only lasts for a chapter— two, if you include the prologue. The upside though is that it, again, is constantly referred to for the rest of the book. You can tell French didn’t just add it for the sole reason of adding to the drama.

I didn’t think I’d enjoy LO because of the above reason, plus, sometimes, trilogies spiral by the third installment in the author’s haste to bring closure to everything as the book ends. Not for the first time, I was wrong, because this book is the most emotional one for me. All the secrets were out and this time, Brandon and Skylar have to move on with everything hanging over their heads. And for a couple who practically couldn’t take their hands off each other when they weren’t even together yet, they spent one-third of LO hardly doing it at all. For all of Brandon’s romantic gestures, including:

I love you. Always. Do you love me yet, Red?

—this is such a big change in their relationship, specifically because of how eye-opening it becomes for Skylar. In the first two books, Brandon does all the chasing (she eventually acknowledges this herself). I’ve read books where the LI falls head over heels with the MC that they literally change from the persons they are, kind of like casanovas in love (e.g. Gabriel Emerson, Jace Wayland, Adrian Ivashkov). Perhaps the fact that Brandon’s done the adjusting all this time finally knocks some sense to her, that Skylar eventually meets him halfway:

“I was never the type who liked having people’s attention. I wasn’t like either of my parents that way. I didn’t seek the spotlight; I never wanted to be the center of attention. But I was willing to do this for Brandon. He spoke a language of large gestures, and worked so hard to scale them back for my sake. How many times had he tried to give me the world, only to have me shove it back in his face?”

How’s that for character development, right?

My usual basis with deciding how much I enjoyed a series (particularly when reviewing them on Goodreads) is asking myself if I’d reread it again. For Spitfire, I absolutely would. In fact, I’ve already gone through my favorite LO chapters a couple of times since finishing it. Despite the many contemporary romances with similar basic plots, French gives a unique spin by delving more into her characters beyond the bedroom.

I’m interested in checking out what else Nicole French has written, which is great since she actually has her new book, The Hate Vow, coming out this March. This time, it’s about an heir who employs the help of a former lover (or fling?) to be his wife for twenty million dollars. Clearly, the plot isn’t something we haven’t heard of before, but given how much I enjoyed Spitfire, I think I’ll give THV a try and see how the author makes it truly her own.

spitfire1.png

***

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Nicole French is an East Coast/West Coast hybrid creature, Springsteen fanatic, hopeless romantic, and total bookworm. When not writing fiction or teaching writing classes, she is hanging out with her family, playing soccer with the rest of the thirty-plus crowd in Seattle, or going on dates with her husband. In her spare time, she likes to go running with her dog, Greta, or practice the piano, but never seems to do either one of these things as much as she should.

Author Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Pinterest

Review | Secondhand Origin Stories by Lee Blauersouth

superhero-origins-tour-banner-large

Secondhand Origin Stories by Lee Blauersouth

Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing |Publication date: 15 March 2018

Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Note: I received a copy of this book for an honest review.

***

Synopsis:

Opal has been planning to go to Chicago and join the Midwest’s superhero team, the Sentinels, since she was a little kid. That dream took on a more urgent tone when her superpowered dad was unjustly arrested for protecting a neighbor from an abusive situation. Now, she wants to be a superhero not only to protect people, but to get a platform to tell the world about the injustices of the Altered Persons Bureau, the government agency for everything relating to superpowers.

But just after Opal’s high school graduation, a supervillain with a jet and unclear motives attacks the downtown home of the Sentinels, and when Opal arrives, she finds a family on the brink of breaking apart. She meets a boy who’s been developing secret (and illegal) brain-altering nanites right under the Sentinel’s noses, another teenage superhero-hopeful who looks suspiciously like a long-dead supervillain, and the completely un-superpowered daughter of the Sentinels’ leader. Can four teens on the fringes of the superhero world handle the corruption, danger, and family secrets they’ve unearthed?

Book links: Goodreads  and Amazon

***

While lurking on Twitter a month ago, I came across a tweet by the author, Lee Blauersouth, talking about how difficult it was to market a book by word of mouth. At the time, she was distributing eARC (advance reading copies) to bookworms willing to read, review, and promote her self-published Secondhand Origin Stories. When I finally decided to slide into her DMs (is this still a thing?), she told me she could either send me an eARC or I could join the book tour The Bookshelf Bitch was organizing.

Spoiler alert- I said yes.

I consider myself a picky reader- and while that’s not something you’d really want to admit out loud around bookworms, I pride myself in knowing the types of books I want to read and those that I don’t. SHOS has the makings of a book I don’t usually read because I felt it was so many things at once– which apparently, isn’t always a bad thing.

Blauersouth has blessed us with a powerful and socially relevant book that emphasizes sensitivity, diversity, and acceptance- and while it may not be contemporary, it is timely. I agree that we still need more diverse books that aren’t just about coming out and falling in love because people are more than that. To the author, you are one kick-ass superhero yourself. Thank you for bringing this book to life.

If you’re not yet convinced, here’s an excerpt:

“Sausage and flapjacks OK?”

She refocused on her host. “That would be amazing. Thank you.” He gestured to a blond wooden table and chairs, and she sat as he headed into the kitchen. He was silent for a few minutes, digging through the fridge. Opal took the chance to focus on the fact that she was in Capricorn’s house. He was making her breakfast. Mom was gonna kill her. She’d always had such a crush on Capricorn.

He wasn’t anyone Opal would ever have a crush on, but he was a black, gay superhero, and she felt as giddy about him as she would a crush. He’d been a beacon for her her whole life. He was the hero of the whole Detroit line. Everyone else in the first generation of the Detroit line had been kidnapped, forced into experimentation by a rogue biologist trying to create a system for mass-produced alteration. Even though people had tried it all over the world, and it didn’t work. When you messed with genes without customizing your alterations to the genes the person already had, you just caused more problems. Most people died. Opal guessed that particular evil scientist must have gotten closer than most, given how many did survive, but still – a ton of people died.

Capricorn was the only one who’d gone in deliberately. He’d risked the alternation, and used his new superpowers to save everyone else. What could possibly be more superheroic than that?

His voice was easy when he piped up from where he was, his head in the fridge. “So. What brings a fellow Detroit altered to Sentinel Plaza so early in the morning?”

“Well, first a train. Then a bus. I still haven’t made it to my cousin’s place yet.”

He gave an amused huff. “Well, Ms—?”

“Flynn.”

“Flynn?” He straightened up. “Bet you’re Nick Flynn’s girl, then.”

Opal was touched. She knew her dad’s “trial” had gotten a lot of press, but it was a long time ago, now. It was good to know a hero like Capricorn remembered. She nodded.

He nodded, opening a package of sausages and starting up the burner. “Staying long?”

Opal licked her lips. Was there something implied in his question? It felt like there was an answer he was expecting. “Maybe. It depends.”

“On?” He threw a couple sausages onto the pan. Yeah, he was definitely expecting some particular answer.

“Work, mostly. I’ve got a basic job lined up, with my cousin, but…” This time he made a general listening sound, but didn’t say anything else. Waiting for her to elaborate, and say what he was expecting. She let the silence stretch a little longer, but broke eventually. “I was hoping to book an appointment to try out for the Sentinels, actually. Since you’ve been down by one for a while now.”

Her heart was in her throat. She’d only been in the city like an hour, and already almost got shot trying to accomplish this. She felt isolated and over her head enough, she had to keep moving forward. He sighed, and she realized that actually had been the answer he was expecting. He poked a sausage with a fork, then turned to her, leaning his hip on his kitchen counter. “Mm-hmm.” He crossed his arms. “Thought I detected that on you.” His eyes were uncomfortably penetrating. Evaluating. “I’ve seen ones like you before. Sometimes. Sol was one, actually. Long time ago. You got stars in your eyes.”

Her return smile was crooked. “I don’t mind being compared to Helix.”

***

AUTHOR INFORMATION

After about a decade of drawing comics independently or with small presses, Lee started writing prose out of a combination of peer pressure and spite, then continued out of attachment to their favorite made-up people. They live in Minnesota even though it is clearly not a habitat humans were ever meant to endure, with their lovely wife/editor, the world’s most perfect baby, and books in every room of the house.

If you like categories, they’re an ENFJ Slytherin Leo. If you’re looking for demographics they’re an agender bisexual with a couple of disabilities. If you’re into lists of likes: Lee loves comics, classical art, round animals, tattoos, opera, ogling the shiner sciences, and queer stuff.

Author website  | Goodreads | Pinterest | Twitter

Check out all the other posts from the blog tour:

23 April (Monday)

24 April (Tuesday)

25 April (Wednesday)

26 April (Thursday)

27 April (Friday)

Don’t stay single.

“Stay single until you meet a guy like this”, said the article that circulated my feed a couple of days ago. It listed in a short and dreamy manner the type of guy girls should wait for. I, along with hundreds of females I’m sure, like to think of myself as an independent woman who every now and then crosses her fingers for a similarly-minded man who’d respect me the way I’d respect him (insert inane amount of exclamation points for emphasis), but that’s it. I’ve thankfully outgrown my diary-keeping tween years of listing down the perfect guy, the perfect date, the perfect everything con mi novio. So, not only did I find the article a tad insulting bordering sexist (but let’s not get ahead of ourselves for one write-up), but its admittedly shallow and superficial approach is, in my opinion, built on a bed of roses. Before anything else, though, I’d like to state that I have nothing against the person who wrote it. I have everything against the idealistic view of staying single until a certain kind of man, someone so perfect beyond words, comes forth to sweep us off our feet in true Disney fashion.

So here is my response to that well-shared, well-versed article: Don’t stay single.

Don’t limit yourself to waiting for the guy who’ll open you doors, hold your hand, or kiss you in public, despite how lovely it is to actually experience them. Don’t wait for the guy who’ll apologize with a new watch or a new handbag. Don’t wait for the guy who’ll entitle you to things that are so pretentiously romantic that you become the envy of every similarly idealistic girl. Don’t, because you don’t need a guy to remind you that you deserve that. It’d be nice, but remember that love doesn’t revolve around the pretty packages after an ugly fight.

Date a guy who’s not Prince Charming. Date a guy who does these things but not because they are expected. Date a guy who, despite his incapacities to love the way society dictates him to, stays with you because you both care for each other regardless of what you don’t have or what he doesn’t do.

There are men out there so worthy to be loved, but they don’t know a thing about being in a relationship. They might not know that society wants them to stand on one end of the sidewalk while you on the inside, but that doesn’t make them less of a gentleman. They might not text back all the time, because they didn’t know that there was a time limit when texting back. They might not pay for every meal because it’s the twenty-first century and going Dutch is not unheard of. They might not kiss you in public or show you off to their friends, not because they’re not proud of the relationship, or they’re embarrassed for being labeled as the newly whipped friend, but because they don’t find the need to validate your togetherness. They might not drop everything for you when you need them, because they have other responsibilities and concerns aside from you. They might not apologize all the time, regardless of who’s wrong, because they do have some pride and sometimes, they want to play the hard-to-get game, too.

Don’t stay single by waiting for that seemingly perfect guy. They may exist, but they don’t exist solely for the benefit of a girl finding true love in the poster child for guy perfection.

The best part about dating is getting to know the person beyond their feed or their Tinder profile. Maybe he knows you from his friends, colleagues, or family but every other important and non-superficial thing that is to know, he only has spending time with you to find out. Learn with him. Spend time with him. Date him, and maybe love him.

Discover things that can make you happy, things that society or social media didn’t tell you. Try out each other’s hobbies or interests, don’t expect him to fit himself in yours. Go the extra mile without expecting any in return, and I swear to God, that is true love. That’s when you bring home a Tuesday gift or bake a cake out of nowhere, and not low-key hoping that in the next week he’d flatter you with a shiny piece of jewelry or a fresh bouquet of roses. Don’t do that. Don’t think he’s falling out of love, or that he doesn’t love you enough, when he doesn’t do certain romantic things, or when he doesn’t say ‘I love you’ first. Don’t doubt his uncertainty about his and your future together, because not everyone is lucky enough to know what the hell they want to do or to be. Relationships are messy but real, and sometimes, being with another person can get exhausting. Be patient. Be considerate. Push each other to become better versions of yourselves because sometimes change is good, and sometimes, they don’t come neatly packaged in someone’s first version.

Don’t look for the perfect guy. Don’t have such fantastical and unrealistic expectations, because trust me, that sort of extremity will hinder you from being happy, even when the guy you’re with is already as loyal, humble, driven, honest, and loving as he can be. Don’t demand for more. Give him space to try to become better, give him time to discover this out on his own—because that’s when it’s worth it.

So darling, put yourself out there. Don’t stay single. Don’t wait for one guy. Expect numerous guys with different personalities, beliefs, and interests. Expect guys who don’t know the difference about treating a girl friend from a girlfriend. Expect guys who won’t baby you. Expect guys who you think are out of your league. Don’t submit to a socially constructive standard that dictates the kind of guy you should see. Don’t think you’re wasting your life away by spending time with the ‘wrong’ guy.

There’s nothing wrong with waiting, and I think that’s also something that needs to be said here. It’s true that there are girls who believe that it’s exactly how a relationship is made extra special— when you save yourself for the person you think you’re spending the rest of your life with, or maybe you just don’t see the appeal of the complexities of dating. That’s not weird or wrong at all. It’s classic and yes, romantic, so you do you and make Jane Austen proud. The point is, don’t let yourself be swayed by the opinion of any other person. Don’t let your personal life decisions be dictated by someone else’s definition of love. Don’t limit yourself to the things you think you’re only allowed to have because, according to society, a guy is not worth it if he’s not everything and more. Don’t turn your back on the art of dating, no matter how terrifying it gets. Don’t be afraid of the heartaches, the fights, the incompatibilities, the cricket sounds on first dates, or the chaotic disaster of emotions. Don’t be afraid and put yourself out there. Make mistakes, love the hell out of every guy you see, even, because that’s what’ll make the real thing better.

Date him. Whoever you want, whatever he is, however he looks, regardless of age, religion, or any existing unseen barrier that contradicts the very definition of the beauty of romance, date him. As long as you’re happy, date him and don’t be single, because that’s not how you’ll always find true love.