Event Recap: #NBSFeelsCafe Spark Books Group Book Launch and Discussion

Last February 18, I was able to catch the Spark Books Group Book Launch and Discussion, one of the many events lined up for #NBSFeelsCafe. #NBSFeelsCafe is a series of events hosted by National Book Store featuring local authors. Spark Books is an imprint of Anvil Publishing which releases romance new adult titles.

Photo: National Book Store FB Page

On the days leading up to the event, I was not really decided on going for trivial reasons: 1. I have a massive pimple breakout, ergo confidence crisis and 2. I don’t have anyone to accompany me. But I really wanted to meet the 2017 #SparkNA authors especially Carla De Guzman, author of Midnights in Bali, which is a novella I recently reviewed here on the blog. I was also hoping that Dawn Lanuza would also come to the event because I loved her YA book, What About Today. So what I did was hatch an excuse so I can get my lazy ass out of the house and go. My sister and I were planning to cancel our cellphone postpaid lines and shift to prepaid for the longest time so I asked her that Saturday if we can do so on the mall where the event was happening. I was planning to segue to the event after. On our way to the mall, it rained heavily and my sister wanted to go back home but I insisted. After dealing with a mediocre customer service representative and paying our outstanding bills, we found out that we could have done the cancellation of our accounts thru the customer service hotline. It was already past 2PM by the time we have finished so I hurriedly dragged my sister to the event. She was not happy because we were both drenched from the rain and all she wanted at the moment was to go home already. I convinced her that it would not take long and she tentatively agreed to come with me.

 We arrived just in time when the event is about to start. We registered our names and sat down with the audience. They did the group book launch first. #SparkNA titles were grouped according to their themes. Then the authors went on stage to talk and read the blurbs of their respective books. I took photos of them onstage but they were blurred or grainy so I decided not to post them here. After all the 2017 #SparkNA titles have all been introduced, they also called up on some previous year’s #SparkNA authors and lo and behold, Dawn Lanuza was among them!

After the book launch, they facilitated a Bring-Me game with prizes from Anvil Publishing. Then Mina Esguerra, the highly esteemed mover and shaker of #romanceclass and #SparkNA titles took the stage and spoke a little about the discussion topic which is about dealing with what’s yours and not yours. It was a short and sweet talk, then she went on and introduced a surprise part of the program: a live reading of some titles from the authors featured in the event. I was not able to catch the names of the readers but they both did a good job on breathing life to the characters. UPDATE: Thanks to Annete The Wicked's #romanceclass love post where I got the names of the talented readers: they are Gracielle So and Miguel Almendraz!

With Mina Esguerra

The live readers giving life to Spark Books characters

The first book that they read was Welcome to Envy Park by Mina Esguerra. I was so fascinated by their reading that I was compelled to buy a copy. I stood up and went to the area where the books are displayed for sale. I picked up Welcome to Envy Park by Mina Esguerra, The Boyfriend Backtrack by Dawn Lanuza and five other 2017 #SparkNA titles. I swear I would’ve bought all the titles in there if I have more money. While milling around the area, I spotted Dawn Lanuza. I approached her and introduced myself. She recognized my Twitter handle (yay!) and I fangirled all over her: asking her to sign my copy of What About Today and The Boyfriend Backtrack, asking for a photo with her and asking if she’s considering a sequel for What About Today because, as evident from my review here on the blog, I can’t get enough of all the feels from that book. Then the emcee introduced the next book to be read live and it was What About Today! Dawn commented that she did not know that they are doing her book. The readers lend their voices to Aiden and Gemma and of course, I was all smiles during the whole thing.

With Dawn Lanuza

Carla De Guzman and Six Delos Reyes were both standing near listening to the live reading. Some people were approaching and talking to them so I decided to do the same. Carla asked me if I am enjoying the event then she and Six signed my copy of Midnights in Bali and Sounds of Summer, respectively.

With Carla De Guzman
With Six Delos Reyes

I saw Kate of The Bookaholic Blurbs taking videos and photos of the event. Kate was one of the blogger panelists in last year’s Philippine Readers and Writers Festival. I said hi and talked to her for a bit after the program proper.

With Kate Manalo of The Bookaholic Blurbs

The 2017 #SparkNA authors sat down on their designated seats for the book signing and the swarming bookworms like me lined up to meet them.

With C.P. Santi

With Brigitte Bautista

With Chi Yu Rodriguez

With Clare Elisabeth Marquez
For the full list of all the #SparkNA Books launched that day, visit National Book Store's blog here. And thank you to National Book Store and to all the sponsors for making the event possible. Braving the rain, getting over my confidence crisis and dragging my sister was all worth it because I enjoyed getting new books and meeting their authors.

How about you? Were you able to attend any of the events lined up for #NBSFeelsCafe? Tell me about your own experiences in the comments.

P.S. I am not totally evil so I made it up to my sister when we got home by making chocolate pancakes for her for merienda.

Review: Mortal Danger by Ann Aguirre

Mortal Danger
by Ann Aguirre

Revenge is a dish best served cold.

Edie Kramer has a score to settle with the beautiful people at Blackbriar Academy. Their cruelty drove her to the brink of despair, and four months ago, she couldn't imagine being strong enough to face her senior year. But thanks to a Faustian compact with the enigmatic Kian, she has the power to make the bullies pay. She's not supposed to think about Kian once the deal is done, but devastating pain burns behind his unearthly beauty, and he's impossible to forget.

In one short summer, her entire life changes, and she sweeps through Blackbriar, prepped to take the beautiful people down from the inside. A whisper here, a look there, and suddenly... bad things are happening. It's a heady rush, seeing her tormentors get what they deserve, but things that seem too good to be true usually are, and soon, the pranks and payback turns from delicious to deadly. Edie is alone in a world teeming with secrets and fiends lurking in the shadows. In this murky morass of devil's bargains, she isn't sure who—or what--she can trust. Not even her own mind... 

(cover image and synopsis lifted from Goodreads)

Series: Immortal Game #1
Publisher:  Feiwel & Friends
Publication date:  August 5th 2014
Source/Format: ARC won from Fay of Bibliophile Soprano. Check out her review here.

My Thoughts:

Edith Kramer is dead set on jumping the bridge that morning because of something that happened to her in school but Kian stopped her. Apparently, Edith has an “exceptional potential” and she will become someone great in the future so she must not die yet. Kian claims that he is some sort of an emissary to  the “other beings” and offers Edith to ask for three favors now in exchange for three favors in return later. Edith, feeling that she has nothing to lose anymore anyway AND (more importantly) mesmerized by Kian’s good looks, agreed to the Faustian compact.

I buddy read this book last year with Lauren of Seriesous Book Reviews, read her review here. We agreed to read together some of the titles we both have on our TBR piles and I suggested that we pick up “Mortal Danger” first because her book blog is mostly about book series.  I decided to blog about the book just now because I recently found my notes about it lying around the house. It just feels such a waste of note-taking energy if I will not write something about it. So here goes. At the beginning I am genuinely intrigued by the Faustian compact and the revenge premise of the book. Both Lauren and I expected something badass like “Death Note” and “Black Butler” but we were disappointed. Honestly, there are lots of times when I wanted to quit the book but I kept going because of the buddy read.

My deep disappointment stems mostly from the fact that the book focuses more on romance rather than the revenge plot. The romance is not even that good to begin with. It’s INSTA-FREAKING LOVE. Plus, Kian is not good for Edith. The book established early on how smart Edith is, so I expected her to be cold, cautious and calculating, like Light Yagami and Ciel Phantomhive, but I was let down time and again by her blunders all because of her blind devotion to Kian. Her main motivation and efforts are driven by her attraction to this guy. There are these extremely annoying times when they are discussing something important, for example how the Faustian contract works, but then Edith will suddenly see how handsome Kian is and then they will start kissing. The revenge plot took a backburner. The vengeful bad things happened but it is on auto-pilot, ergo, unsatisfying.

Edith’s other relationships are shallow, too. Her newfound friends in summer school are just for convenience. Her parents are emotionally uninvolved at the beginning then suddenly showed concern near the end to bid for the readers’ emotions over some devastating thing that happened. Her anger towards her classmates that she’s supposed to have vengeance on is so weak that later on, she starts feeling sorry for them.

Aside from the revenge plot, Faustian compact and the romance, the book has other things going on: cross-culture mythology, paranormal, sci-fi on teleportation and plastic surgery and a bit of magic. These things are pulled and assembled from stories of old, and then placed in our modern world. The romance as a focal point and all the other elements as a backdrop does not entirely hold together.

The only redeeming thing about “Mortal Danger” that I can think of are when some paranormal elements of it managed to scare the living hell out of me. There were really creepy stuff here that involves mirror reflections and dancing shadows. And that’s that. The book ended with a lot of things still hanging. Edith has already exhausted all three favors in this book. It remains to be seen what “the other beings” will ask in return from her, but I do not think that I care enough to continue with the series.

My Rating:

My 2017 Discussion Challenge Sign-up Post

One of the things I resolved this 2017 for this book blog is to do discussion posts. It's actually my goal number two in my lunar new year's greeting and resolution post. I resolved to do this last year and even joined the 2016 Discussion Challenge but I failed terribly so I was a bit hesitant to sign up this year's challenge. Yesterday however, I was able to make this resolution a reality. Congrats, self! I talked here about the instances when I can easily spot an author lurking the pages of the books and decided to call my discussion features as "Wandering Thoughts". So now with one discussion post up and live on the blog, I feel more confident in signing up for this year's discussion challenge.

2017 Discussion Challenge is hosted by Nicole of Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon of It Starts at Midnight! They created this challenge to encourage fellow book bloggers to not only read more, but talk more too! This particular challenge has been well-received and successful these past two years that Nicole and Shannon decided to bring it back again this year.

The rules are simple. Just create a sign-up post announcing the intention to join with link back to both the hosts, Nicole and Shannon. So this post is my discussion challenge sign-up post then. Link the participant's sign-up post here. Then at the beginning of every month, a new post will go up on both hosts' blogs where the challengers can put the links of their discussion posts for the month. Discussions can be book related or book blogging related (or generally blogging related—no discussions about things that are completely off-topic like travel or fashion, etc). Discussions can also be about the challengers personally if it’s a get-to-know-you type post. What's more, is that there will also be monthly giveaways. The Twitter hashtag for sharing and connecting with other participants is #LetsDiscuss2017.

At the end of the year, the participants' discussion posts will be counted so we know what level of talkativeness we have achieved. Here are the discussion challenge levels:

1-10 – Discussion Dabbler
11-20 – Creative Conversationalist
21-30 – Chatty Kathy
31-40 – Terrifically Talkative
41+ – Gift of the Gab

This year I am aiming low and will try to become a "Discussion Dabbler"

Wandering Thoughts: Instances When I Can Easily Spot the Author Lurking on the Pages

Image: Kaboompics

Wandering Thoughts is where I let my mind stray, think and talk about non-routine things. This is Rurouni Jenni Reads’ avenue for bookish personal stories musings and discussions.

In a way, authors are like puppetmasters. The book is a puppet show. The stage is on the pages. The book’s characters are the puppets. An author pulls the strings and makes things happen. The author dubs dialogues and makes it appear that the puppets are saying the words.

A good puppet show is when the audience get absorbed by the story and forget that there is a puppetmaster behind the show curtains. One of the puppetmaster’s concern is not to be seen by the audience while the story is unfolding. So is also true with a good book. The author’s presence and machinations must not be felt by the readers in order for the story to build a strong sense of verisimilitude.

Getting even the briefest glimpses of an author’s shadow may result to being jolted out from the reader’s suspension of disbelief. That’s irritable, we do not want that. In this post, I want to share these instances when I’ve been thrown off from the book by authors lurking on the pages.

    Out of character voice

    One case of this is when young characters talk too eloquently or know too much of this world for their age. I have seen this mostly true for middle grade and young adult books when authors, whom we all know too well to be adults, seem to take over the voice of their characters. Another case is when a character uses writer metaphors instead of figures of speech more suited for what he/she really does in the book. For example, a soldier’s voice does not sound like a soldier but that of a writer.

    Information dump on dialogues

    I stumble upon this quite often on stories involving sports where a character feels a sudden urge to explain the rules of the sporting game or a technical word applicable for the game. Same can be found in some historical fiction where a character is compelled to narrate the historical context of the particular era the story is set. Such dialogue would be like this: “As you know, in 1800’s we are like this and like that...” Okay, the author may have the good intentions of feeding a very relevant key point to the readers but sometimes it’s more fun to work things on our own. I think our dear authors need not worry for us too much because we can easily google what a line drill is or how the way of life was back in 1800’s.

    Unmindful introduction of new characters

    Inserting new characters without care is like dropping a new puppet unceremoniously on the stage. An example of a new character’s jarring introduction for me goes something like this. A first person point of view character is about to bump into a new character. The author, in an attempt to give the new character’s background sends the first PoV character to a long trip down memory lane. It usually goes on the whole duration when first Pov character bumps into new character in the lockers up to the time of their first period class. I mean, it is so unnatural for me because I do not make a habit of downloading people’s backstories so I can play it on my mind when I meet them on the hallways.

    Another thing that bothers me is when an author using a 1st PoV narration always introduces a new character with a full name. Let me try to explain here with my attempts of sample scenarios: ”Greg Gozon (new character, author uses full name) comes heading towards me. Greg is one of those people I hang out with if we are in groups but we never talk to each other when it’s just the two of us.” And then on to the next chapter where another character for example is to be introduced: “Stacey Santos (new character, author uses full name again),our class president, stands up and silenced the rowdy students. She has always been a leader for as long as I can remember. I don’t take any grudge for that because she always gets things done with her natural girl boss attitude.” I know it’s a minor concern but if repeatedly done, it shakes my enjoyment a bit. I mean, why can’t the 1st PoV character just call them by their first names, Greg and Stacey? I think doing so sounds more casual and natural.

So there you go, those are some of those instances when I can see the author lurking on the pages. You may have additional items to add here, share them with me in the comments below. I am not saying that these are a hard no-no for me. I may still choose to ignore a flaw or two if the book is really great in all the other aspects. Also, if there is an author reading this, I am not berating you if once or twice you loitered around your book and did any of the above things in the past. Just try hiding better next time. Be a puppetmaster. Or be a ninja. Or maybe wear an Invisibility Cloak.