Thursday, October 13, 2016

Book Review: Songs to Make You Stay (Playlist #3)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Title: Songs to Make You Stay (Playlist #3)
Author: Jay E. Tria
Genre/s: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Released Date: October 9, 2016
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Love isn't supposed to be this hard.

Now that he’s finally won Jill, the girl who's always rocked his world, you’d think life would be heaven on earth for Shinta Mori. In a way, it is. But maybe he’s underestimated the fact that he’s a hunky movie star in Japan while his girl is ruling the indie music scene all the way in Manila.

When he spends a long-awaited vacation with her--through impromptu performances, frenzied flyer distribution, and unhinged radio guestings--he realizes how imperfect his seemingly perfect life is. And he begins to wonder if what they have is strong enough to survive years of being apart.

Can Shinta prove he’s worthy of the spotlight the universe shines on him? And more importantly, deserving of the devotion of a young girl in love?

Friday, May 27, 2016

Author Interview: Catherine Torres, Sula's Voyage

Friday, May 27, 2016

There are two reasons why this post today is special. First, because I interviewed one of the Filipina authors who won in the Scholastic Asian Book Awards 2014 and second is because today is the publication day of Sula's Voyage. That means you can now go to your local bookstore and see her book in the shelves. Isn't that awesome?

But before you go there, let's get to know the author behind Sula's Voyage and her journey to publication.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I'm a diplomat and writer based in Berlin, Germany. I'm also a mom and my seven-year-old son, Sam, recently landed his first book deal (he sold me a comic book he made for 5 Euros). My husband, Jay, is Korean and teaches English at a university in Busan. He also loves books and doesn't mind when I buy lots of them (he'd probably mind if I buy lots of shoes and clothes, but I don't care too much for those). I was born and bred in Manila, and have also lived in Tokyo, New Delhi, and Singapore. I love coffee and dream of having my own book cafe someday. Oh, and I play the ukulele!

2. Can you describe Sula's Voyage in 15 words or less?

Dark-skinned drifter finds her moorings with help from family, friends, and the sea.

3. Just like superheroes, I think it's safe to say that books also has an origin story before they became what they are right now. It might started out as a thought, an experience, a dialogue you heard, a conversation with a friend, or an idea that has been plaguing your brain for quite sometime. So tell us, what's your book's origin story? And what made you decide to write it?

Elsewhere, I have mentioned that I was inspired to write the story after having seen the Diwata ng Lahi, a 'reincarnated' Balangay, sailing into the Singapore harbor in 2010. But let me go deeper and farther back in time than that experience--many things we do have reasons or motivations beyond the immediate ones. I have always been something of a closet environmentalist. Back in grade school, a friend and I put up this 'Sisters Against the Destruction of the Earth' or SADE (obviously, I had not yet heard of The Marquis at the time). Unfortunately, it didn't prosper: the one project we were planning, a cleanup of the banks of the Marikina River, did not even push through. But deep inside, I have always wanted to be something of a warrior for the earth. The sea, in particular, has a special pull for me--maybe because we live in an archipelago, and our ancestors were wave-riders. So the story is a sort of vicarious wish fulfillment. And I hope it inspires the same love and protectiveness of the sea among its readers, some of whom might be braver than I am and become real sea warriors someday.

4. While you were in the process of writing this book, did you ever doubt yourself or second guess the reason why you are writing this story? If yes, how did you overcome those obstacles?

Oh yes. Even from the start, I knew I wanted to submit the manuscript to the Scholastic Asia Book Award (SABA)--that was my prompt and incentive to write in spite of my hectic schedule. So sometimes I questioned my motives. Was I writing the way I was writing in order to win the prize? But when I finished the book, I knew I could be at peace with myself and that I had accomplished a labor of love. One of the things I learned in college, having majored in Psychology, is that extrinsic rewards can actually be less effective that intrinsic ones. But sometimes, a combination of both can be quite effective.

5. As an aspiring author, hearing about how authors got published is always fascinating and inspiring to me. So can you tell us your journey to publication? And what was the first thing you did or said after you got the news about the book deal?

That's the wonderful thing about SABA. Winning it, or even just being a finalist, could land you a book deal. Sula's Voyage was first runner-up in SABA 2014. That was announced in May of that year. Two months later, an editor from Scholastic Asia contacted me and said they were evaluating the manuscript for possible publication. A month later, she e-mailed me again with the news that they would, indeed, like to publish it. The first thing I did, diplomat that I am, was to reply to her e-mail to say thanks. Then I posted a long status update about it on my Facebook timeline. I suppose I should have popped a bottle of champagne or something, but I wanted to share the news with my family and friends who had always believed they would see my name on a book spine someday.

6. Tell us what it's like to become a published author? What was your most favorite moment in this whole experience, aside from seeing and holding a physical copy of your book?

Let me tell you a secret--I haven't actually held a copy of the book, yet. As we speak, I am in Berlin, miles away from the launch in Singapore. At the same time, I have another book scheduled for release in Manila, a short story collection, Mariposa Gang and Other Stories, to be published by UST Publishing House. So within a month, I go from unpublished author to having two titles under my belt. It's a little intoxicating, especially for someone who loves the printed word, but I'm taking it with a grain of salt. In one of my favorite books on writing, Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott says, "If what you have in mind is fame and fortune, publication is going to drive you crazy." I've been warned enough by other writers whom I've spoken to and whose books on writing I've read so I don't expect those things at all. I'm thrilled simply to be able to let my stories out of their cage, to let them spread their wings, and sit on the shoulder of someone who, at that very moment, might need to hear some bird song.

7. What is your advice to all the writers who are just beginning their writing journey?

Embrace the adventure of writing, but not to the exclusion of everything else. Go out into the world and see what it's like. Read, every chance you get. Sit by the sea or under a tree and be alone with your thoughts now and then. Trust your inner voice and seek to be authentic, and you'll be fine.

Thank you so much Catherine, for dropping by my blog! Congratulations on being a published author. Have an awesome publication day!

About the Author:
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Catherine Torres (Catherine Rose Torres) is a diplomat and writer from Manila. Her work has taken her to postings in New Delhi, Singapore, and now, Berlin. When foreign affairs, as well as domestic ones, permit, Catherine travels around the world on boats made of words. Occasionally, as with Sula’s Voyage, she even builds the boat herself. Her short story collection Mariposa Gang and Other Storieswill also be released in 2016.

Title: Sula's Voyage
Release Date: May 27, 2016
Publisher: Scholastic Asia
Genre/s: YA Coming of Age, Fantasy

Fifteen-year-old Sula has always known she is different. Even though her parents have shown her nothing but love and acceptance, she sees her dark skin as a reminder of how she doesn’t fit in with the rest of her family.

What’s worse is she also feels that her parents are hiding something from her. After getting expelled from school, Sula reluctantly goes to stay with her mother’s friends. There she unexpectedly finds herself on a journey of self-discovery — a journey that keeps drawing her to the sea. Sula must not only figure our her parents’ secret, but also just how different, and possibly magical, she really is.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Songs to Get Over You Blog Tour: Double Book Review

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Hey, everyone! How you've been? Well, I'm glad you're still dropping by my virtual abode. Today, I'm  breaking my hiatus for a double book review. Yes, you heard that right! Two review in one blog post. So here it goes.

Title: Songs of Our Break-Up (Playlist #1)
Author: Jay E. Tria
Genre/s: NA Contemporary Romance
Released Date: August 22, 2015
Buy on Amazon | Buqo

Every breakup has its playlist.

How do you get over a seven-year relationship? 21-year-old Jill is trying to find out. But moving on is a harder job when Kim, her ex-boyfriend, is the lead guitarist of the band, and Jill is the vocalist. Every song they play together feels like slicing open a barely healed tattoo.

Jill’s best friend Miki says she will be out of this gloom soon. Breakups have a probation period, he says. Jill is on the last month of hers and Miki is patiently keeping her company.

But the real silver lining is Shinta. Having a hot Japanese actor friend in times like these is a welcome distraction. This gorgeous celebrity has been defying time zones and distance through the years to be there for Jill. Now he is here, physically present, and together he and Jill go through old lyrics, vivid memories, walks in the rain, and bottles of beer. Together they try to answer the question: what do you do when forever ends?


Songs of Our Break Up is the story of Jill, vocalist and guitarist of the indie band, Trainman, as she went through the three-months probation period of her break-up with their lead guitarist, Kim. Complicated, was a weak word to describe their relationship and Songs of Our Break-Up summed up, beautifully, the messy stages of moving on and falling in love again.

There were a lot of things I love about this book; the memorable characters, the silly bantering, the atmosphere of the indie music scene and the lyrics of Trainman's album. I wish the Trainman album was real because the lyrics just speaks volume. Even without the melody, it already has a huge effect on me. How much more if someone put some notes and sang it? I'd probably cry myself to sleep while listening to their album.

Jill was all of us as she went through the process of moving on, but failing a few times because she still has to be around her ex. Good thing she has Shinta (the super charming and handsome AF Japanese actor who used to be their fan but now, became their friend) and Miki (their rhythm guitarist and her best friend who is secretly in love with her). Between the two, I'm rooting for Miki. It was heart-breaking to see his efforts were disregarded yet he's still waiting in the wings.  But Shinta is awesome, too, don't get me wrong. He was the sliver of Japanese sunshine in Jill's gloomy world.  

I was a bit confused with the non-linear narration, though. I guess, I'm just not used to it and it sometimes threw me off of my reading trance. But that's just a minor issue. Overall, it was a good and unique contemporary story that I would highly recommend to anyone who likes contemporary story about music and moving on.


Also watch this live reading of Songs of Our Break-Up because if you're not yet convinced by my review, I'm sure this will.

Title: Songs to Get Over You (Playlist #2)
Author: Jay E. Tria

Genre/s: NA Contemporary Romance

Released Date: February 29, 2016
Buy on Amazon | Buqo

It's harder to get over someone who was never really yours.

They say rock stars get all the girls. But Miki knows that's not always true. He, for one, though the guitarist of popular indie band Trainman, just can't seem to get the girl. It's kind of his fault, really. No one told him to fall in love with Jill. No one told him to stand still and watch as she moved on from a terrible breakup into the arms of another guy—a Japanese celebrity with the face of an angel and the body of a god.

So when someone else comes along, someone who finds him cute, smart, and funny (sometimes in the haha sort of way), will Miki finally move on? Or will he continue to pine for Jill?

When I heard that the second book in the Playlist series is Miki's story, I immediately squee. I love Miki but I pity his unrequited love for Jill. He's such a caring and loving guy and he doesn't deserve to be in the friend-zone. Good thing, Ana saved him from that place.

"She's cute and perky and obviously socially adept." Jill paused as she processed this. "She's like the anti-me. That's so strange. But then she's also tall and skinny and moves like a boy, like me." - Songs of Our Break-Up

Ana was Miki's classmate in one of his elective classes in college. She's a CPA and loves to work as a corporate slave. She's not the anti-Jill for me now that I read this story, I think she's the version of a left-brain-dominant Jill that doesn't have hung-ups and emotional baggage.  She's pretty cool, sweet and patient. She knew Miki's secret feelings for Jill and she waited and taught him how to break the habit of pining for his best friend.

Their relationship was more realiztic than the first book but is as beautiful. I was really happy that Miki finally found someone. Overall, it's a swoon-worthy sequel to the Playlist series.

About the Author:
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Hi! I'm a writer of contemporary Young Adult and New Adult romance. These days I'm writing paranormal/fantasy too, and it's a fun exercise. I'm often inspired by daydreams, celebrity crushes, a childhood fascination of Japanese drama and manga, and an incessant itch to travel.

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