I heard of Champions by Karren Renz Sena from a fellow book blogger who was tweeting about the book when she was reading it. I notedAlso posted here.
I heard of Champions by Karren Renz Sena from a fellow book blogger who was tweeting about the book when she was reading it. I noted it, seeing as it was published by Shepherd's Voice Publications, a local Catholic publishing house that I used to write for, and it was fiction - something new from them. It took me until after Christmas to get myself a copy, and I decided to read it while I was in the jeepney on the way home, and then I couldn't stop.
Champions is a story of seven men and women who were put together in a team to help retrieve the Sword of Sargatanas, a powerful weapon that is locked up in Cielterra, the stronghold of Cielos, the city closest to Heaven. This sword, when used on the day that the planets aligned, has the capacity to tear open the boundaries between dimensions, and when used on Gate Pandora, will unleash demons and monsters from Hell. These seven men and women - called Champions - are the only hope for this to be stopped, and to retrieve the Sword. One of these Champions is a Human called Gabriel, kidnapped from his life in Earth and brought to a battle that he didn't ask for, but even so, he felt that he somehow belonged. Perhaps this was the link to his past that he has been looking for all along?
Champions was fun. This is your good old fantasy novel with Christian references that is so well-written that I think anyone who just likes fantasy and action will just really sink their teeth into this. Though there were times when it felt like there were too many switches in the POVs as I was placed in the heads of almost all the characters, it was still quite fun, and I think the author did that to lay the foundation for the series. It gave me a bit of insight in every character, but I hope the next books in the series will focus on say, one or two instead of all of them so I'll be able to understand what makes these characters tick. If I were to pick a favorite, I really like the human Gabriel, followed by Solenn who seemed all fire at first but had a big heart inside of her. I would also love to learn more about Matteo, as I always felt affectionate to any group's tech guy. Oh, and I loved the judges - Samson, Gideon, and Deborah. Their banter was so fun. :D
As I said, the world building here was good, and I really liked the idea of how Eden was set to be the most protected place, and how Cielos being the city closest to Heaven, is the one in charge of its protection. This book makes the Bible seem more alive, and I love how the names used here were from the Bible - Samson, Gideon, Deborah, Memorare, Ark of the Covenant, Passover, etc etc. The names don't feel out of place, and even the things that they do - rallying aka worship, prayer and meditation - felt like they just fit right into the story, and not a bit preachy.
I wanted more at the end, especially after the revelations about some characters. I am really glad this is a series, so the next question is: when will the next book be out? Please let it be soon! ...more
I heard about this from my book club friends around two years ago, but it was already out of print so I knew my only chances of reading this was borroI heard about this from my book club friends around two years ago, but it was already out of print so I knew my only chances of reading this was borrowing it from someone. Of course, that plan never materialized because it wasn't such a high priority book for me. Come Komikon 2014, I saw some friends carrying copies of the new editions of The Mythology Class during the book discussions so I made a mental note to get it afterwards. So I did (and was pleasantly surprised that Arnold Arre was there and he drew me when I asked him to sign my copy :D), and told myself I'd read it perhaps during the long December vacation.
But I couldn't wait, so I read it today.
Halfway through reading, I didn't want it to end.
A few hours later, I was done, and now I understand why my friends were raving about this. The Mythology Class is so, so good. I loved all the characters and their quirkiness. I love the idea of a group of kids called on a quest that brings them into the world of Philippine myth and folklore. I loved everything about this, and I felt good chills and part sadness when I reached the end because I really didn't want this to end.
It's so, so, good. :)
Don't forget the stories I've told you. Can you do that for Lolo? For who knows, maybe someday you might find yourself in one of them....more
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 PhilippIt 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? :)
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 tEver 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!). :)
I can't remember the last time I was so excited to receive an email about a review request from the publisher until I got an email from Katz of FlipsiI can't remember the last time I was so excited to receive an email about a review request from the publisher until I got an email from Katz of Flipside, about A.S. Santos' new book, Corpse in the Mirror. I really enjoyed Voices in the Theater from last year, and it was one of those books that I didn't think I would like but I ended up enjoying, so I was really looking forward to reading the next book. So imagine my joy when I received an email about this. I practically jumped in my seat (and I was having dinner with my family), and right after that, I started to reread the first book just so I can get ready for the second. (Oh, and I enjoyed reading the first book just as much as I did on the first time :D)
In the second book of the Student Paranormal Research Group (SPRG) series, Sam's powers are growing, and more than just hearing things, she starts seeing things. But that's not what really is taking a lot of her attention now, because her friend and fellow SPRG member, Richard, is being all too showy with her, almost like they're dating but they're not. When their next case brings them to Richard's apartment where weird things have been happening lately, Sam realizes just how much her powers have changed. Now someone they know is in trouble, and only she can help her.
Just like the first book in the series, Corpse in the Mirror is very readable. It's so easy to drop into Sam's world (although perhaps it's easier for me because the setting, again, was quite familiar) and be a quiet member of their group. The first few chapters of the book was equally creepy, so much that I realized I had to stop reading it when I realized I was reading it late at night, and I wanted to go to the bathroom to pee but there's a mirror, and who knows what I'll see there? :o But anyway, after the first initial creep-out part, it became more of a murder mystery with a supernatural twist, and it was quite interesting following the team in solving this mystery.
I think there's a little less of the angel aspect in this book. I mean sure, there was still a bit of it, but there were more interactions between Sam and the other characters in the group instead of Sam and the angels. I liked this, and it was interesting to see how their relationships grew here, both in the platonic and romantic sense. I think I especially liked the romance aspect in this novel -- it's not cheesy, but it's definitely a bit more complicated. But its complications felt grounded. A little spoiler: there's some sort of a love triangle, but it's not the usual triangle of the recent paranormal romance novels where one is the obvious choice. I liked how there were several voices of reason in the book when it came to the romance, and how the advice was sound and relevant. The lessons for the here were definitely something that everyone who's ever been confused with relationships and romance need to hear. (Well I know I sort of needed to read them at that time. ;) )
I also really liked how this one ended, even more so than the last one. In a way, you would need to suspend your disbelief at how things were resolved, but I thought it worked well with the story's universe. It reminded me a little bit of how the things worked in my favorite books, This Present Darkness, so I don't have much complaint over that. It's a bit of a cliffhanger, though, and now I can't help but wonder what could happen next to Sam and her group? I have a few predictions on the romantic side though, so I really, really hope it works out that way. :D
If you enjoyed Voices in the Theater, I definitely recommend that you pick this up. Corpse in the Mirror is a good blend of horror, suspense, faith and romance. I am definitely, definitely looking forward to the third book in the series. :)
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 theWhen 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 Bayanreminded 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. :)
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 someOn 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 Scoreis 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 Scoreis 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. :)
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 yetThe 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) Girlis 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) Girlis 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!
There was a time in my life when I pored over fashion blogs, especially those blogs where the authors showcased the ouOriginal post from One More Page
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 haveto 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. :)...more
I'm a fan ofJane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, although perhaps not as much of a big fan as other friends (I'm still very partial to Persuasion, beI'm a fan ofJane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, although perhaps not as much of a big fan as other friends (I'm still very partial to Persuasion, because hello, Captain Wentworth and that letter!), but I like reading books and watching adaptations of Pride & Prejudice because it's my first Austen and you don't forget your first. :) When I heard of Katrina Ramos Atienza's retelling of P&P set in the Los Banos, I knew I had to read it. Even if I'm not a huge fan of football.
Patrice Reyes is an incoming junior and she believes that it will be her best semester ever. She's sure her team will win the regional football championships, her grades look good, she has good friends at the dorm, and oh look, there's a crush. But when cold and arrogant math guy Paul becomes her partner in one of her major subjects, her days are thrown off course. How will she get rid of him to get her perfect semester back? Does she even really want to get rid of him?
I had a lot of fun with Well Played,mostly because it was so much fun matching the characters to the original. Almost everyone had a match, save for a few, which would have complicated the plot a little. I appreciate that the plot wasn't that complicated, though, because it made the story easier to read, with just enough drama to make me hang on. I liked Patrice and her wit, her loyalty to her friends and her fierceness and her passion for her sport. I wasn't always fond of her, to be honest, but she made for a great Filipino Lizzie Bennett. :) I also really liked Gia (the equivalent of Jane) and and Deenie, although I can't decide if Deenie is less or more annoying than Lydia. I really liked Migs (Bingley) too, and he seems like such a nice guy. Paul is such a true Darcy, with the angst and the grumpiness, and all the hidden layers that makes him a Darcy.
My favorite part of the book is the setting, most definitely. I loved how the setting just worked for the story. The setting was based on University of the Philippines in Los Banos, Laguna. I didn't study there, and the last time I was there was in 2003, but even if I can barely remember anything there, the setting in this book felt so real. I liked the dorm setting and how the setting seemed to be a character in itself. I liked it so much that it was so easy to imagine everything there, and I don't even have to suspend any kind of disbelief.
I think the only thing that niggled at me was how sometimes the characters didn't sound like they're Filipinos at all. They seemed just a tad too foreign when I read their dialogue, like they're all foreign exchange students. But other than that, I liked Well Playeda lot, and I think it's a pretty faithful and entertaining Filipino adaptation of P&P. Oh, and even if I still don't really understand (or even watch) football, I must mention that I liked how the sport played a role in the story, too. And that really cute ending after that football game? Oh, I definitely approve. :)