Bookbed reviews: ‘Bone Talk’ by Candy Gourlay

by KB Meniado

THE STORY

More than a hundred years ago, a boy named Samkad thinks he knows everything about the world. He knows the mountains he lives in. He knows his people. He knows his blood enemy, the Mangili. And he wants to become a man, to be given his own shield, spear and axe to fight with. His best friend, Luki, wants all the same things – but she is a girl, and no girl has ever become a warrior.

But everything changes when a new boy arrives in the village. He calls himself Samkad’s brother, yet he knows nothing of the ways of the mountain. And he brings news of a people called ‘Americans’, who are bringing war and destruction right to his home . . . Get a copy from national and online bookstores / Read reviews: Goodreads

WHAT I LIKED

If you’re not a regular reader of historical fiction like me, this one’s going to be a slow start for you too. I admit it also didn’t help I didn’t connect and empathize with Samkad right away, and instead gravitated towards the secondary characters, like his strong willed girl (space) friend Luki, and his mysterious long-lost brother, Kinyo.

But that changed when the world-building became more vivid, sweeping me right into the action. And that’s what kept me turning pages—the chase for answers and adventures, packed with very Filipino nuances. I imagined being in the Cordillera, putting my self in the lives of highlanders mingling with lowlanders and foreign captors. I imagined how it was to be in the middle of an invasion, of a war, my knowledge of what already existed and what remained to be unexplored clashing and coming together. I imagined living a version of Filipino culture that’s untainted and faithful to the ‘original’ norms. And I appreciated the very fact that I could do so because the author didn’t hold back, from animal sacrifice rituals down to battle bloodshed.

In spite of my initial disconnect from most of the characters, this book reawakened my excitement to pry and probe our identity and history again. I couldn’t be any more delighted when I found the Enrichment Guide and short Q&A in the appendices.

tl;dr

This is my first Candy Gourlay book. I had just picked it up when it was announced it had made the Carnegie Medal shortlist (congratulations!). So naturally, my expectations climbed, so to speak. Happy to report that this book met me right at the peak. Bone Talk is one-of-a-kind, a book meant to remind and enlighten us of our story as a people. ☁️

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Bookbed reviews: ‘Monsters in the Cereal Bowl’ + An Interview with Alina R. Co

by Allana Luta

THE STORY

In this collection of short stories, Alina R. Co conjures the monsters and other worldly creatures we’ve seen as children. These are characters that have piqued our bottomless pits of imagination, both real and imagined, and friendly and frightening.

Here are winged creatures in cereal bowls, a man who collects suicides, a mysterious elevators and its hidden doors, and a grandmother whose obsession for long, lustrous locks of hair drives her to madness. Here, she also tackles life’s everyday horrors, hardly macabre, but things that makes us confront the deepest recesses of our beings—a taboo love, mental illness, the loss of innocence, and extramarital romances. Everyone has their monsters and Co’s prove to be both terrifying and forthright, with a healthy serving of whimsical and fascinating in this mix of horror, tragedy, romance, comedy and thriller multi-genre.

To purchase the book or contact the author, you can check out the Facebook page for MICB here.

WHAT I LIKED

I’m not much of a fan of horror fiction but I can take them in small bursts. And in Monsters in the Cereal Bowl, Alina Co provides us with 13 of them!

I liked how Alina made the seemingly mundane seem creepy by pointing out certain aspects that, if exaggerated, suddenly become horrific, like people’s obsession with hair. Other times, she put in fantastical elements to everyday situations, like eye exams where, when asked what she wanted to see, the protagonist responds with “everything” and see everything she does, even those that aren’t mean to be seen. As a glasses-wearer myself, I don’t think I want my vision to be that clear.

I also appreciated the stories about real horrors that can scar someone for life—parents fighting, an extra-marital affair, accidentally dropping in on your friend having sex. Just like how some heroes don’t wear capes, not all monsters have claws or live in the dark. Like what Alina said in “Stitches,” “the most gruesome of horrors can happen when there is light.”

The shortness of each story made it easy to read and left a lot to the imagination. Some will leave you wondering what the hell the point was but then life is like that. I know there are people who like having closure and might find unsolved mysteries unsettling but that’s also the fascinating thing about unexplainable events in the human experience. Some things just happen for no reason.

HOWEVER

The inconsistent verb tenses throughout the book really pulled me out of the stories. My brain struggled to place whether the events happened in the past or in the present or if it was a flashback but told in the present tense. This was probably my biggest pet peeve while reading.

tl;dr

If you want a quick read with monsters you can still face in the night, this might be for you. But verb tenses are inconsistent throughout, so you might want to look out for that.

We also asked Alina a few questions about the background behind MICB and her personal monsters. Read on to get to know the author!

Hi Alina! Congratulations on publishing Monsters in the Cereal Bowl. We just wanted to ask a few questions to help our readers get to know you more as a person and an author.

Hi Allana, thanks so much! I’m so nervous for the Saturday launch! I’m an extrovert but not really into facing a crowd and public speaking! Haha.

I’m sure you’ll do great! I really liked the concepts behind each story in MICB and was wondering if any of these were influenced by stories you heard when you were a child. What was your favorite scary story growing up? It doesn’t have to be a book, maybe it was something your parents or guardian told you and it just stuck.

There used to be a vacant lot beside our home, na medyo magubat. And our yaya used to scare us, don’t go there, baka may nuno sa punso.

I don’t remember my dwarf friend anymore, what he looked like, what he said to me. Only what my mom and yaya said. I had a dwarf friend daw named Morphan, who I visited and talked to at the vacant lot. Yes, it was a he. Medyo nakakakilabot. Did we play? Did he do magic over me? I don’t know!

I was scared of kapre, too. My yaya said there was one in an old tree in that same vacant lot.

Also, I used to be scared of mangoes. Medyo weird because my mom ate a lot of yellow mangoes when she was pregnant with me. But I think there was an incident that made me scared of mangoes. We were having dinner, my parents were eating mangoes. Right after that, right after they finished dessert, they started fighting. So that made me associate mangoes with fighting. And for a year, I think I didn’t eat mangoes, believing it makes people behave badly.

In your introduction, you mentioned you had been writing on and off for 15 years as a creative outlet. How has your writing style evolved over the years? Were there any stories that did not make it into MICB?

The greatest challenge for me was compressing or rewriting most of the stories in this collection. I’m not a very patient person, I’m kind of like “tapos na, ok na! happy na’ko!” so I found the revising, rewriting part really hard. Kasi nga parang therapeutic lang siya sa’kin.

But then I asked some friends and even a well-known speculative fiction [writer] to take a look at some of the stories. He recommended tightening the stories. That’s the main thing that changed. I learned to rewrite, to revise. You know how at your first draft, you’re smug and content. But I learned to kind of forget the story, bury it at the back of my mind. Then when I’m ready, I’ll read it again with fresher eyes and see how I can improve it.

Yes, there were some stories that didn’t make it. One of them was “The Predicament of Mr. and Mrs. P,” which my husband felt wasn’t strong enough. Another one was “The Maiden,” an old story from 2005 or 2006, about an old maid. I really love that story, but it contained similar elements to “Ice Candy Love Affair,” so I had to drop that. “Playing in Hotels” also didn’t make it. It was about my experience as a child living in hotels. My mom used to run away from my dad a lot and I was her preferred companion.

Originally I was also planning to include essays, but I realized it would deviate from the overall theme of the book.

What has been the biggest “monster” you’ve faced, whether real or imaginary? Was this incorporated in any of the short stories in MICB?

Hmm… biggest monsters. I would have to say issues in our family. You’ll see this in “Middle Eart” and “Mistress & Machang.” I have a brother who has a mental illness. For a time, he had trouble distinguishing between what’s real or not. It’s really an uphill battle. Our family found it hard to accept it at first. That time there wasn’t a mental health bill yet, wala pang mental health awareness month and advocacies. So we had to deal with it ourselves. We had to keep it a secret. But now, iba na, a lot of people know that it’s not something to be ashamed of. It’s a real disease and it can be treated. And the first step is acceptance.

Also, as a child, I witnessed the crumbling of a marriage. That kind of shatters your ideals, especially when you’re a Disney and fairytale fan. You meet your prince and you will live happily every after. Pffft!

When you’re a clueless kid, those family problems become your world. Thankfully, I’ve grown up. Ganun talaga, life is not perfect. It becomes part of you, and you become the person that you are because of these flaws.

You also said that you had not intentionally sat down and wrote with the goal to publish a book. Had you decided to publish MICB before you attended Mina V. Esguerra’s seminar or was it a result of attending that seminar? What changed your mind?

When I attended Mina’s seminar, I had the intention of publishing the book already. Learned a lot from the seminar. Sabi ko, yes, kaya naman pala! I thought kasi before you need to have a big publisher backing you. 

As a first-time self-published author, what have been the challenges you’ve faced? What can you advise to authors who want to be independently published as well?

At least in my circle, a lot of people have great stories to tell and they tell you they intend to write a book soon, or a manuscript is in the works. But to actually push through is a different matter altogether. To actually go ahead and take the plunge was the biggest thing for me.

I have a very demanding job, so this passion project tends to get sidetracked, hehe. But I didn’t want to be one of those people na “may balak siya gumawa ng libro.”

Also, since it’s self-published, the challenges are how to fund it and how to market it. Funding, kinaya naman. I get a lot of Producer projects and I was paid well. Marketing na lang, how do I market this? Wala naman ako sa National (Bookstore). Thankfully, there are a lot of people who want you to succeed, such as Bookbed. This feature is such a big help, thank you! For me, I just want to tell my stories, and to be able to find a reader base, however small, is a win in itself!

Advice: stop planning and dreaming and just go ahead and DO IT! Huwag puro “balak” or “wala akong oras.” Be that kind of person that when you look back, whatever the result is, I effin’ did it, no regrets. ☁️

Bookbed reviews: ‘Mandirigma 173’ by Ellena Odde

by Lausanne Barlaan

THE STORY

Hinihintay lang naman ni Chi sa beach ang bestfriend niyang nilamon ng Kpop, nang lumitaw ang pusang nagsasalita at asal millennial.

Tapos, napili na siyang isa sa mga Mandirigma sa pa-contest ni Bathala, susuungin ang mga misyon sa mundo ng mga engkanto. Dagdag stress pa ang kabataan problems niya sa mundo ng mga tao.

The struggle is real! Paano ni Chi malalampasan ang lahat ng mga ito?

Limang Mandirigma.

Dalawang mundo.

Isang malupit na adventure. Get a copy: Facebook / Read reviews: Goodreads

WHAT I LIKED

At its core, Mandirigma 173 is a coming of age story and has the makings of a good one—a bunch of misfits put together by circumstance (in this case, anitos in various animal forms), united to complete a series of missions and discover great qualities within themselves along the way. It just so happens that this story is set where K-pop and high school drama coexist with a world inhabited by powerful, although sometimes troublesome mythical creatures.

The mythical world reads like a wonderful world to visit. The novel shows us three realms within the mythical world and introduces us to creatures we usually hear from stories—from tikbalang to manananggal to duwende. As a longtime enthusiast of Filipino mythology and its creatures, I I was glad to find a novel written by someone so young and so ready to introduce these creatures to her peers.

It’s also great that the novel is written in Filipino and with language that’s current and relatable (at least, if you’re updated with today’s slang), making it accessible to its target market—teenagers experiencing the turmoil of growing up, channeling all their feelings through crushes and their current fandom obsessions.

And with a novel filled with a lot of characters led by Chi, the protagonist and reluctant Mandirigma, the four other Mandirigma chosen to participate in Bathala’s contest, Chi’s classmates and family, and the anitos in the mythical world, it’s hard not to find a character that you can relate with, or at the very least take a liking to.

HOWEVER

(Spoiler alert!)

In a story that’s full of characters both from the human and mythical world, the characterization on some key players is bound to feel thin. This is especially evident in the four other Mandirigma: a teenage celebrity, a bookworm, an arrogant son of an ambularyo, and a perpetually scared and often-bullied boy. Aside from these bare-bone descriptions, not much else is known and shown about them outside of the missions, and it’s a shame because knowing them more would have pushed greater emotional investment in their adventures.

On the other end of the Mandirigma spectrum, Chi as a lead character feels a little thin. Even though the novel was written in a third person perspective, the story was told through Chi’s life and because of that, I expected greater development in her journey. But aside from her meet-cute with her anito (it involved pastillas), her initial reluctance and eventual embracing of being a Mandirigma, I did not see much reason for her to be the main character at all. And since she’s the only character the novel got to follow outside of the mythical world, we’re shown the usual high school drama that’s supposed to add a layer to Chi, but the plot felt like a filler and only made me want to go back to the land of the mythical creatures.

There was also language used by one anito that felt uncomfortable to read, especially in the age of #MeToo. Dianne, the teenage celebrity character, is described to be pretty, kikay and a little vain. This still doesn’t call for her anito to address her Babes or Bebot and joke that she needs to take care during the missions so as not to damage her pretty face. Sure, this may seem harmless, in the spirit of teasing, and I may just be a grumpy tita, but with the highly impressionable target market for this novel and its purpose (I think) to may Filipino mythology accessible to today’s teens, it’s still not the best idea to instill.

tl;dr

A fun read for people who want to see a modern take on Filipino mythical creatures. ☁️

The reviewer received an ARC from the author in exchange for honest thoughts. Excerpts and quotes may not reflect final version. Read our Review Policy here.

5 Readers Share Their Favorite Women Authors and Literary Characters

Happy International Women’s Day! In celebration, five readers talk about the women they read, and why that’s important. Enjoy the reminder!


“I grew up reading two female authors: Francine Pascal and Anne Rice. One reflected my childhood, the other my visions of adulthood. Between Pascal’s famous Wakefield Twins, I identified with and wanted to become Elizabeth—smart, good-natured, down-to-earth, and sensible. We even shared the same dream of becoming journalists one day, and joined campus newspapers because of it. I soon outgrew that and moved on to Anne Rice after getting intrigued by Interview with the Vampire. But, it was her Lives of the Mayfair Witches series that I found most interesting, short as it was. I was fascinated by the neurosurgeon Rowan Mayfair, who discovers that she has psychic abilities.

I consider the two female authors as the driving force that got me hooked on reading early. Through their books, I first learned how women can be anything they wanted to be. How their writings made ideas and imagination come to life vividly in the minds of their readers. They became perfect examples of why women deserve to have a voice. It may be true that we women have sentimentality, intuition, and attention to detail ingrained in our psyche, but intelligence, excellence, and great ideas know no gender.”—Joy Celine Asto

My fave female lit character is Margaret Hale from North & South, while my fave female author is… Anne Rice? Haha!

I’m not sure how else I can talk about why women should be read because it’s 2019 and we should know why already, right??”—Allana Luta

“I grew up reading the Harry Potter series, and the seven books made me a bookworm. Hermione Granger is one of my favorite female characters because I see so much of myself in her. Bow to J.K. Rowling for not giving up with her story and her dream that someday it would turn out to be a book.

It is important to read books that promote feminism because we are more than that damsel-in-distress to be saved, they are a lot of female lead characters that are strong, smart and independent. Our opinion matters and we can bring change.”—Pau Alagao

“When it comes to favorite literary characters, here are my top five literary superheroes—all female. Also taking this opportunity to give a shoutout to female Filipino authors like Arli Pagaduan, Cindy Wong, Isa Garcia, Jay Pillerva, Mary Ann Ordinario-Floresta, Mayumi Cruz and the women of #romanceclass! Love the work they do, writing about the different faces and experiences of the Filipino, and supporting one another. Read women that represent and do the work, and help each other shine!”—KB Meniado

“Anne Shirley! My favorite female authors are Lois Lowry, Tracy Chevalier and Tamora Pierce.

Why should women be read, you ask? Why the hell not?? Pwede ring women’s stories are part of the human experience and we should be seeing them as universal too, ‘di yung kalokohan na puro men/male as default/neutral tapos women writers separate pero sa totoo lang yung actual answer ko is why the hell not.”—Agnes Manalo

☁️

What We Bought From The Big Bad Wolf Book Sale Manila 2019

The Big Bad Wolf is back in Manila! If you haven’t been—or just want to check out other people’s hauls, here are the experiences and book buys of five readers who attended VIP Day. We hope this helps make you look forward to your trip to the BBW Sale!


“I had a great time! Spent at least 4 hours yesterday roaming around and deliberating which books to get, as I was on a budget. I have to admit I was a little sad that one of the titles I wanted to get wasn’t out yet. I also hesitated getting a book, and when I went back to get it, the pile was gone. But I’m actually thinking of going back one weekday tapos madaling araw just to see of they have new titles (and I hope I finally get that one TIME collection that I’m looking for!).”—Joy Celine Asto

“It’s my first attending, so the abundance of books was quite overwhelming! I didn’t have an actual list of books to buy (except my sister’s, whom I was shopping for) so I took my time exploring each section. But I have to say I’m a bit sad because they didn’t have stocks for some books I’ve been wanting to have for so long. In the end, I bought both fiction and non-fiction books. I would like to return and get those books I forgot to put in my cart :)) All in all, it was an awesome experience for a first-timer wolfie!”—Jea Inguito

“It was overwhelming but ah, the happiness it brought us! There were definitely a lot of YA books. I was hoping there were more graphic novels, fiction and non-fiction, but they said there will be new books coming along! It was my first time,and we really took our time last night, kahit mahaba na pila at mag-e-11 na rin nung natapos kami. Haha! Queuing was surprisingly fast; I just don’t know if it will be the same during the regular days now. Balik ‘pag madaling araw!“—Arli Pagaduan

“Here’s a funny story. My friend and I were already in the middle of the looooong line when my history nerd self urged me to go back to the History Books section and get that book (The Month That Changed The World) that I saw while going around. And sobrang nakakaloka. Because I couldn’t remember where I saw it. Nakailang paikot-ikot na ako at nagpapanic na ako kasi baka nakalayo na sa pila yung friend ko sa tagal ko. Good thing I found it! Kasi kung hindi, di ako makakatulog ng mahimbing!“—Cathy Calzar

“As a memorable experience. The large tables were stacked with books that are easy to pick up, unlike some book sales I’ve been to, where the books are filed horizontally, which is hard when trying to return a book.

Almost all the books—a huge part of is YA—have a sample copy, so you can peek inside. I failed to see any New Age books, as well as books about Philosophy, but I’m pretty sure that most people will enjoy the selection.

As a regular bargain hunter when it comes to books, I can tell you there are other places were you can see books peddled at lower prices than compared to some of the ones at Big Bad Wolf. However, most of those are either very old copies, or damaged or stained. When it comes to Big Bad Wolf, all are brand new and most of them sealed in plastic. If you have a place in your house where you can safely store books, I suggest you start buying from the Big Bad Wolf right now!”—BJ Medina

☁️

Special thanks to Big Bad Wolf for the VIP Day tickets. For more info, visit Big Bad Wolf Books PH on Facebook.

Bookbed recommends: ‘Flipping The Script’ by Danice Mae P. Sison #romanceclassFlicker (plus an interview!)

by KB Meniado

Flipping the Script is the second release from the #romanceclassFlicker imprint, and dare I say again, it’s flipping engrossing. It has a well-paced plot, no-nonsense writing style and sharp voices. And the hate-to-love teen romance between two aspiring filmmakers? Worthy of LizQuen level of investment. This homage to the Filipino film industry is a definite must-watch, especially that it’s injected with real-life experiences (is there any other way to write, really) from the author, Danice Mae P. Sison, who’s a film grad herself. Read on to know more!

Flipping The Script by Danice Mae P. Sison Pink Cover - Bookbed

Miri dela Merced’s film director grandfather and Pabs Paglinauan’s studio head grandmother had a huge falling out that ended Lolo Ikong’s career. At seventeen, Miri finds herself in the same summer film internship program as the down-to-earth film studio heir Pabs, whom she’s decided to automatically write off, just because of his lineage. As Miri gets a crash course in her expectations vs the reality of what it’s like to work on a real movie, her true feelings for Pabs become harder and harder to ignore. In between attending outdoor screenings of classic Pinoy movies and battling monster production assistants together, can flipping the script on a decades-old grudge be only a few sequences away? Read reviews: Goodreads / Get a copy: via the Author (print), Amazon


Danice Mae P. Sison - Bookbed

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.

Visit her website / Follow her @danicemaepsison on Twitter / Buy her book: via the Author (print), Amazon

Hi, Danice! I can remember us talking about this with Romy in October of 2018… and finally, it’s here! Congrats! The first thing to ask of course is this: Which scenes from the book are your personal experiences? Was it hard to relive some of them, or was it cathartic to do so?

There are *a couple* of scenes that were *ahem* somewhat directly lifted from personal events, but the part that was *slightly* triggering for me would be writing Ate Armee [a kontrabida]. Like her whole vibe calls to mind very unpleasant memories of some seniors in the biz I’ve encountered as a young media intern. Sadly, there are (and always will be) people like that not just on a film set, but in any workplace, I think. The good news is, as we get older, we learn to use the correct tools to deal with people like Ate Armee.

“Expectation: that I’d get to observe the best practices of real film workers up close in a controlled environment, preferably an indoor studio. I’d get to learn about the art of filmmaking—from screenwriting, to cinematography, to editing. I’d get feedback on concepts I’ve been developing and be mentored by industry professionals and up and coming directors. Reality: honing skills in standing by and waiting for instructions, getting used to call-times at the butt-crack of dawn, running around a movie set sticking strips of masking tape to the ground, sleeping on any available surface, and growing a thicker skin from getting yelled at by an irate over-caffeinated, sleep-deprived production assistant.”—Miri

Ate Armee sure awakened some of the demons of my past, lol. Kidding aside, now that we’re talking film, do you have any strong Pinoy movie recs for us, ahem, young ones, to see?

The films that I included in the book are great movies to start with. I saw Batch ‘81 (directed by Mike De Leon) when I was my characters’ age and my mind was blown pretty much the same way theirs were. It’s a heavy film, but I find that I need to see it every so often. It’s about a young fraternity pledge that bites off more than he can chew, but there’s a larger message there about the dangers of blindly following/subscribing to a whole mindset. I think any message that reminds young people to think critically for themselves is important, especially today.

I think I also saw Moral (directed by Marilou Diaz-Abaya) for the first time around that age, and the themes found in that film are still relevant—friendship between female friends, love, self-respect—[and] those resonate. Plus, it’s always a trip seeing the world through an analog, pre-internet lens. YAs of the now should also check out the very first Shake, Rattle & Roll movie for fun. I like to imagine that Lolo Ikong might have contributed something to the film franchise!

Speaking of contributions… if your books* had the opportunity to be adapted into the silver screen, which producers and actors would you like to be in it with you?

I’m about to namedrop some famous director friends because I will always want to work/collaborate with them, but especially for a project like an LGBTQIA+ movie for young adults: Jade Castro, Irene Villamor and Tara Illenberger. I grew up learning about the teenage years watching John Hughes and Amy Heckerling movies, so any film project I’d want to produce needs to have that feel—funny, smart, treats teenagers like human beings that have their own identities, dreams, thoughts, fears and ambitions.

As for actors I would like to work on a project like that, I would like to work with non-celeb Twitter folk who are dying to act. I know you’re out there! 😉

“I feel something shift between us. We don’t look at each other, but it’s like we both come to an agreement at the same time, and our hands come together, our fingers intertwined.”—Miri

*The author also has a M/M story titled Shipping Included in Start Here.

One day, right 🙂 Now, it’s to everybody’s shock you’re 40 years old. Hindi halata! We’re all young at heart but how was your experience putting yourself back in a teenage mindset? Have you ever imagined Pabs and Miri at your age?

Hahaha! It’s not a secret, but based on people’s reactions, I’ve learned to reveal it like a well-timed punch line. I think in a lot of ways, I never left my teenage mindset. I think of myself as an “adultescent,” really, especially in terms of where my tastes are directed. I guess it’s because I haven’t forgotten what it was like being younger. There’s a quote I came across about people being the current age they are while also being all the ages they once were, and I relate a lot to that. I can only hope that when Pabs and Miri get to their middle ages, they don’t lose the sense of fun they have right now! I certainly hope Pabs doesn’t grow up to be like Uncle Killjoy! And also, I hope they’d get enough sleep once they’re my age.

“Maybe you’re too focused on what you aren’t learning than what you actually are.”—Tetet (Miri’s bestie)

In your blog, you talked about your seven-year itch, and your 15-year WIP (university degree). What would you tell kids of today about enduring, overcoming and succeeding?

Do you. Go at your own pace, and be kind to yourself. It will never be too late to do anything you set your mind to. Eff the haters, lol! ☁️

Flipping the Script is already available on Amazon and in print (via the Author). The reviewer received an ARC from the author in exchange for honest thoughts. Excerpts and quotes may not reflect final version. Read our Review Policy here.

Book Journaling: ‘Kiss and Cry’ by Mina V. Esguerra

by KB Meniado

Remember when Agnes wrote about “8 Things to Put in Your Reading Journal” last year? Well, I kind of took the advice. This 2019, I’m making BoJo happen. For me, at least. I just finished my eighth book (slooow but honor thy pace), and I wanted to show (off). Check out what I did for Kiss and Cry by Mina V. Esguerra, an emotionally-digging and steamy sports romance from the Six 32 Central series coming out March 1. (Related: “Bookbed reviews: ‘What Kind of Day’ by Mina V. Esguerra [plus an interview!]”)


THE STORY

Calinda met Ramirez when she was 20 and he was 22. She was the rising star of women’s skating, and he was the superstar forward of men’s hockey. Her parents and coach were against their relationship, and because Calinda wanted to prove that no hot guy would ever distract her from her dream, she chose skating over him — and also avoided him all together. 

Ten years later, they meet again as gold medalists and prominent sports advocates, still single and undeniably attracted to each other. It’s still not a good time for them, because Ramirez is retiring from hockey and moving back to the United States. Calinda doesn’t do relationships, really, and proposes they use his final three weeks in Manila to explore what might have been, and do all the things they wish they’d done (there’s a list!). Then he can leave for good, and they can both move on with their lives without this one regret. Get a copy: via the Author, Amazon / Read reviews: Goodreads

It’s BoJo-worthy, but is it also Bookshelf-worthy?

Yes. The book being about winter athletes in tropical Philippines should already pique interest but it’s also snappy, smart, and at times, really funny. The second-chance aspect is a thrill, especially with Cal and Ram being full of conviction, wisdom and ahem, long-held lust. Readers will also find Filipino quirks and norms easy to relate to, and will treasure the reminder of paying it forward and the challenge of redefining where home is and what it means. That said, immigration issues are tackled, just as breaking away from societal pressure and seeking freedom from parental expectations. Bonus: a bisexual character. Recommended For Keeps. ☁️

Kiss and Cry comes out March 1. The reviewer received an ARC from the author in exchange for honest thoughts. Excerpts and quotes may not reflect final version. Read our Review Policy here.

Bookbed reviews: ‘Kingdom Cold’ by Brittni Chenelle

by Nicai de Guzman

THE STORY

Attempted murder, that’s how sixteen-year-old Princess Charlotte’s engagement starts. It seems like the only thing she has in common with Prince Young of Vires is their mutual discontent.

When her kingdom’s attacked, Charlotte’s parents renegotiate her hand in marriage to a handsome stranger with a sinister plan. With the people Charlotte loves dying around her, and her kingdom’s future at stake, the only person she can turn to is the prince she betrayed. But, should she save her kingdom or her heart?

One must fall. Get a copy: Amazon / Read reviews: Goodreads

WHAT I LIKED

The racial diversity of the novel is #woke. Princess Charlotte is described as having brown skin and biracial. Prince Young and his brother Prince Minseo are Asian. There was this exchange of Prince Young and Prince Emmett in the forest which I particularly liked:

“Just look at you.” He [Prince Emmett, a Caucasian] grinned. “And more importantly, look at me.”

I [Prince Young] blinked in disbelief.

“Fair skin, eyes the color of beryl stone, golden locks.”

I huffed. “So, I imagine in your world that’s superior somehow?”

“In every world that’s superior.”

If there’s anything that one can take away from the book, it is this. Prince Young’s refusal to submit to Prince Emmett’s way of thinking is a statement. He is saying that this toxic white supremacy is outdated and should not be tolerated.

For a book supposedly set in medieval times, this is pretty forward-thinking… but in a good way. It may mean that the book is not so realistic in the way of traditional medieval-set romances but what the hell, it’s a fictional book and not an academic paper. Anything that advances the cause of equality should be welcomed.

Another likable thing about this novel is that when you think things were settling down and turning into a usual, sappy romance novel, something happens. Another twist here, another twist there. By ¾ of the book, I was worrying that the book is inching towards a happy ending despite having so many issues left hanging, but those were mostly resolved towards a tragic yet gripping end.

HOWEVER

The writing can be improved in the exposition. The setting, the kingdoms, the characters could have been explained better. First person POV through the eyes of different characters were used so we’re mostly privy to their thoughts. However, the author should have found a way to properly introduce the kingdoms in the first quarter—or first half of the story, at least. Towards the end, I was still learning some of the character’s names and some new kingdoms were still being introduced, which may confuse some readers.

Spoiler alert! Highlight succeeding text to read.

There was also a hint in the story about the Arthurian legend and it was only explained in the end how this was connected to it. It’s a twist that some readers may like but others may find it too unrealistic or too far-fetched. First, even if the story is set in imaginary medieval kingdoms, it’s a general rule of fantasy that some rules have to be set. Second, the baby of Charlotte and Young turn out to be Morgana, the antagonist in the Arthurian legend. Morgana, however, has always been believed to have Celtic and Irish origins and in none of the legends does it state that she has Asian features. So while this twist may appear witty, it has to be consistent with the general knowledge of people about Arthurian legend. Maybe the author wants to reintroduce the legend but as a story that starts out as something truly original, alluding to a well-established story only diminishes its goal.

tl;dr

Kingdom Cold by Brittni Chenelle is far from being a light read. Its twists and turns are well thought-out and if you don’t mind some historical and fictional inaccuracies, then this book will make a good romance read. Just don’t expect a traditional, fairy tale ending. ☁️


Kingdom Cold comes out this February 14.  The reviewer received an ARC from the author in exchange for honest thoughts. Excerpts and quotes may not reflect final version. Read our Review Policy here.

Winning Over Love and Writing: An Interview with Author Ana Tejano

by Inah Peralta

When a favorite romance author tweets about a new novel, you take heed and action. I know I did! Here, I talk to Ana Tejano about her upcoming book Win Meah Over, plus her writing process and favorite characters. Happy month of love and romance!

Ana Tejano #FeelsFest 2018 - Bookbed

Ana Tejano has been in love with words and writing ever since she met Elizabeth Wakefield when she was in Grade 3. She’s been blogging for years and has contributed several non-fiction pieces in print and online publications using her other name, which isn’t really a secret identity. When she’s not writing romance, she works as a marketing communications manager for a payroll and HR company, extending the marketing things she learns at work back to her author life. She’s an active member of CFC Singles for Christ, lives in Metro Manila with several dogs and cats, and is always trying to catch up on sleep. And she loves peanut butter.

Visit her website / Buy her books: via the Author (print), Amazon

Hi, Ana! Thanks for being here today! I’ve long been a fan of your work, and I’m curious: What made you decide to venture into writing romance?

My romance journey started in 2006, when I decided I wanted to write that for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Or chick lit, really, because it was around that time that I started getting into the genre, and I loved how easy it was to read and how I see myself in the characters. I remember thinking, “We should have Filipino chick lit” so I started writing. What came from that was the (ugly) first version of Rain’s book. (Related: “Bookbed reviews: ‘Fall Like Rain’ by Ana Tejano”)

The shift to romance started when I joined the first batch of #romanceclass in 2013. I remember during one of the first meet-ups that I decided that Rain and Mark would have their Happy Ever After (I had an unknown ending in their first version), and it all picked up from there. When I started in 2006, I called it all fluffy reads, and in some way it still is because all the warm fuzzy kilig that makes romance books a joy to read, but now that I also write it, I realize how much work goes into the road to the characters’ HEA/HFN (Happy For Now) that it’s hardly fluff for the author. Still, this is a path I’m very happy to be on. All the feelings!

“Warm fuzzy kilig” is literally what #romanceclass brings! You’ve released three books so far (Fall Like RainKeep The FaithYou Could Be The One) and one short story for an anthology (Make My Wish Come True). Can you walk us a bit through your writing process?

Usually, there’s a plot bunny that comes in the most random times but I don’t really consider it as a real book idea until the characters make themselves known to me. Sometimes I pick a character from the universe I had created, sometimes they pick the story and I just let them be. But once I can already see/name the cast, I create an idea dump doc on Google where all the notes come in—character names, histories, quirks, bits and pieces of the plot that I want there, random lines of dialogue. I have a mobile version of it in the notes app in my phone because again, these lines come at the most random times and they go away if I don’t write them down.

I don’t start writing it immediately because there is a line that these stories have to follow. Of course, some of them are very disrespectful (I’m looking at you, Gabriel [from It’s A Match in You Could Be The One]) that sometimes I take a break from my current WIP to get a chapter or a scene out.

Then I outline, and here’s what I found out in the past years: I’m an obsessive outliner. I have versions of the outline on Excel, then in notebooks and sometimes they don’t even change much. I don’t really start writing until I have that opening scene, which changes so much as the writing goes on. I think the only piece that didn’t go through the many versions of an outline was Ruth and Ian’s short story (Fake It Till We Make It [You Could Be The One]) because I’ve had them in the back of my mind for so long that they feel like my own friends.

The writing is an entirely different process and it’s been different for all the books. Rain was written relatively fast because there was a class requirement, but I stopped in revising because of personal life things. I thought Faith would be easy, but what took time was the details of her work, but the Christmas story was easier because I knew what was happening (and I was already in love with Nico, haha). In You Could Be the One, Bottleneck (Gelo and Lara) took the longest to write because oh my gosh, how do I write YA again?

As for Meah [from the upcoming Win Meah Over]… she’s a monster. That’s all. Haha. But kidding aside, I’m still figuring out my pace but I’ve accepted that I’m a slow writer and I have to give myself time to sit, write, throw a tantrum then go back and write/run/crawl to The End. (Sorry to everyone who’s been waiting for too long!)

Is it harder to write for an anthology since it follows a central theme or is it just the same as writing a novel?

It depends! Having guidelines for a story makes it easy so you don’t have to figure it all out on your own. The word count limits can be challenging but it also helps you focus on what’s essential in the story and keeps you from over thinking things. The timeline could be challenging because life happens and we’re not full-time authors, but you learn to be flexible, and writing with people makes for great motivation to meet a deadline.

From my experience, You Could Be the One was fun because it’s just me and it’s my favorite trope. Make My Wish Come True was a dream project and while we had a tight timeline so we could launch it before Christmas, I was fortunate enough to work with a great team of people to make it happen. 🙂

This is one favorite question I like to ask authors: What’s one word to describe your main characters?

Ha, this was harder than I thought it would be.

Fall Like Rain:

  • Rain – Loyal (She’s the kind who will stand by you no matter what after she warms up to you.)
  • Mark – Patient (Because how long did he wait for Rain again?)

Keep The Faith:

  • Faith – Resilient (More than a job requirement for her.)
  • Nico – Favorite (Maybe I’m a little bit biased, haha.)

Win Meah Over:

  • Meah – Brave (Maybe a little cheesy, but she is my bravest girl. 🙂 )
  • Joseph – Complicated (Ha, that’s all I’m going to say about him right now.)

Compliiicated! Speaking of which, what shall readers look forward to in Meah’s book?

That the first draft is finally done! Meah’s book is a lot of firsts—first enemies to lovers, first third person alternating POV… and more, but I’ll stop here so I won’t spoil it. There’s also a concert tour, some dogs, a past fling, a proposal, and learning that one is always capable and worthy of love. And also a lot of familiar characters from previous (and future!) books because this is where I jump off from Rain, Faith and Meah’s world to the next group of friends.

I hope to share this with you guys soon, so I better start the editing. I’m also a little in love with Joseph but don’t tell Nico, okay? 😉

☁️

Follow the author on Twitter for more updates.

Bookbed reviews: ‘A Story About Cancer With a Happy Ending’ by India Desjardins, Marianne Ferrer

by KB Meniado

THE STORY

A Story About Cancer With a Happy Ending by India Desjardins and Marianne Ferrer - Bookbed

I think about everything I’ll miss if they tell me I’m going to die . . . my mom, my dad, my sister, cookies, TV shows I’ll never get to see the end of, walking outside when it’s really nice, the smell of fall, the starry sky on a full moon, my grandparents, my grandpa’s lasagna, kissing Victor, Victor’s eyes, Victor’s voice, Victor’s smell, Victor’s hands . . . Victor.

A teenage girl heads towards the hospital waiting room where the doctors are going to tell her how much time she’s got to live. As she walks, she thinks about her journey up to this point . . . the terrible decor in the hospital, wearing a headscarf, the horrible treatments, but also being with her friends, family, and her new boyfriend Victor. This is a story about cancer with a happy ending. It’s about life, love, and especially, hope. Get a copy: Amazon / Read reviews: Goodreads

WHAT I LIKED

As much as we have to face life and its ~real realities, I love that the title spoils readers about the story’s Happy Ending. With everything that’s going on in the world, we need all the happiness we can get, right?

But A Story About Cancer With a Happy Ending (by India Desjardins, illustrated by Marianne Ferrer and translated into English from French by Solange Ouellet; first published in 2012) isn’t a happy book for most part. It follows a 15-year-old girl diagnosed with cancer, and how it has affected her and everybody and everything else.

A Story About Cancer With a Happy Ending 4 - Bookbed

It’s heart-pinching—and a kind of scary read—because I don’t think anybody wants to live through (or relive) this kind of painful and emotionally charged situation, BUT the story actually nails it on reminding you to ponder on what it means to hold on in spite of.

My favorite is the love that centers this story. Unconditional love from family, friendship and teen romance with Victooor 🎵

A Story About Cancer With a Happy Ending 2 - Bookbed

A Story About Cancer With a Happy Ending 3 - BookbedA Story About Cancer With a Happy Ending 6 - Bookbed

The ‘dreariness’ of the art is, in my opinion, also perfection. The colors capture the tone, and the minimalist take allows the text to shine.

A Story About Cancer With a Happy Ending 1 - Bookbed

A Story About Cancer With a Happy Ending 5 - Bookbed

tl;dr

A sweet, quick illustrated YA read, A Story About Cancer With a Happy Ending by India Desjardins and illustrated by Marianne Ferrer is about enduring, hoping and accepting. Highly recommended! ☁️

The reviewer received an ARC via Net Galley. Excerpts and quotes may not reflect final version. Read our Review Policy here.