Love at First Sight: Chi Yu Rodriguez (Author Interview)

Photo: Dan Whale/Unsplash

Welcome and step right up to Love at First Spark, a blog event featuring #SparkNA authors! Get a bit intimate and learn more about the awesome people behind your next favorite romance reads. Check out the blog event schedule and the list of participating authors here.

Today, author Chi Yu Rodriguez is behind the wheel of this blog. Enjoy the ride as she talks about her new book, "The Art of Shifting Gears".

Questions and Answers

  1. What is your inspiration in writing “The Art of Shifting Gears”?
    It was actually an old story... fan fiction, specifically. I wrote it I think in 2008 but I never got past 2 chapters. When SparkNA came around, it was the first story that came to mind. So I decided to write it again. That being said, it's turned into something completely different. What inspired this version of that little story I started years ago was SparkNA's required theme: "Be brave." It turned into something extremely personal. Though not a mirror image of actual events, what Rae goes through is a reflection of the same feelings I felt  when I was in college and trying to survive life.

  2. How is your writing process like? Do you have any quirks in your writing process?
    I have a very stressful writing process. At least I think people will probably find it stressful? Because most people I know write in increments... 500 words today, another 500 tomorrow, maybe 300 after that or a thousand, something like that. But in my case I write in bulk. For example, I wrote The Art of Shifting Gears mostly in Starbucks. I set aside one day in the weekend when I would arrive at Starbucks at 8am, set up shop at my favorite table, and go home at 8pm or sometimes even 9pm if my muses are feeling particularly loud. I bust out 3000-7000 words per I go through two orders of coffee every single time (with some tv series or movies in between to give myself time to breathe). I take down two orders of coffee, and maybe some cake too if I'm proud of myself. I did that weekend, after weekend, after weekend until a few days before final manuscript submissions.

  3. If you will be given a minute of face to face encounter with any of your book characters, who would you want it to be with and what would you say to him or her?
    I'll just pick one from The Art of Shifting Gears too because I've actually thought about this a lot...

    I would've wanted to talk to Rae after her parents died and they moved to Pampanga. I would've tried to talk her out of shutting her friends out of her life completely. Though she dealt with the blows the way she thought would be best for her, I as a friend would've tried to tell her that she didn't have to leave her life behind too along with the city.

  4. Do you believe in love at first sight? Why or why not?
    Love at first sight, no. The seed of love being planted after meeting a person for the first time... yes.

    I just think that love itself is not something you can quantify, and especially not with a single glance. Love, as most of us know it, takes time to become real I think. Yes? No?

  5. Give us your best banat or pick-up line.
    I am single and have been single for the better part of three decades... that should explain why I have absolutely no answer to this question. :p

  6. Finally, use “spark” in a sentence.
    All it takes is a little spark to start a raging fire.

About Chi Yu

Chi Yu Rodriguez has many feelings. Sometimes these feelings find their way to paper in the form of short stories and fiction online. Sometimes they don't come out at all and end up as unresolved sexual tension or terrible internal angst.

She prefers making imaginary people go through these feelings for her pleasure. Her muses hate her for it, and they repay her by being forever fickle.

She wrestles with them in her head everyday.

Find more about Chi Yu: Blog | WattpadTwitter | Goodreads

About The Art of Shifting Gears

Rae de los Santos was en route to a perfect adult life. She knew what to major in, she knew what career path she was going to pursue, and she knew who she was going to be with all the way to the realization of her dreams—until her seamless journey made a turn for the unimaginable and skidded to a stop.

All of a sudden she was facing every roadblock possible, and the people she held dear ended up running over her heart.

For a year, she distracted herself with hot lead and burnt rubber, using karting as a lifeline until she was strong enough to face the world that shunned her.

But during Rae’s junior year in college, she was again blindsided by signs that weren’t supposed to be there. Will Rae go full speed ahead? Or will the seduction of the past slow her down?

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Spark Books, an imprint of Anvil Publishing
ISBN: 9786214201037
Year Published: 2017
Number of Pages: 120
The Art of Shifting Gears is available at National Book Store and Powerbooks branches or order online here: Amazon | Anvil

Love at First Spark: Farrah F. Polestico (Author Interview)

Photo: Dan Whale/Unsplash

Welcome and step right up to Love at First Spark, a blog event featuring #SparkNA authors! Get a bit intimate and learn more about the awesome people behind your next favorite romance reads. Check out the blog event schedule and the list of participating authors here.

I am back at it again with bringing you another interview, this time with "First to Fall" author, Farrah F. Polestico.

Questions and Answers

  1. What is your inspiration in writing “First to Fall”?
    Inspiration for me isn’t just one thing. I get inspiration from everywhere-- movies, music, TV, even on social media. For First to Fall, my biggest inspiration would be the movie 500 Days of Summer. But I’ll be honest, most of my (yet to be published) books are inspired by that movie. I really like that movie. Another inspiration for me was the song Dark Paradise by Lana del Rey. Also, it’s no secret that I really want to visit New York someday, and that city plays a huge part in the story.

  2. How is your writing process like? Do you have any quirks in your writing process?
    I research everything from recipes of food my characters eat to how long they have to commute from one place to another. Research is my favorite part of writing. My least favorite would be revising and editing. I can no longer count how many finished first drafts I have. I’m going to publish them all someday but they need a lot of polishing.

    I have a list of plot bunnies in my notebook so whenever I’m about to start writing another book I just choose whatever plot bunny I like and start fleshing it out. I’m also a huge believer of the outline. Outlining is life! But I also leave room for improvisation when I write. If someone would ask me whether I am a pantser or a planner, I’d answer I’m a pantser! Haha

  3. If you will be given a minute of face to face encounter with any of your book characters, who would you want it to be with and what would you say to him or her?
    It would have to be Zang. He’s one of Georgie and Atkins’ co-workers. He’s loud and sociable and an all-around extrovert. *whispers* He’s getting his own book soon too! I feel like our sense of humor is so in sync. If I ever get the chance to come face to face with him, we’d probably just talk about the most mundane things. I’d say something funny and he’d say something witty and we’d probably look like loons laughing and giggling.

  4. Do you believe in love at first sight? Why or why not?
    I do believe in attraction at first sight. Especially physical attraction if the person is really good looking. I’ve personally felt that. I totally get that kilig feeling when you spot someone cute.

    But love is a commitment. It’s a choice. I don’t think you can just know if it’s love the first time you see someone. Attraction, definitely. But love, probably not.

  5. Give us your best banat or pick-up line.
    I’m not good with banator pick-up line but I saw something on the internet that’s pretty funny. It goes like this: My love for you is like diarrhea, I can’t hold it in.

  6. Finally, use “spark” in a sentence.
    I’m so bad at this I Googled “use spark in a sentence.” Oops. But okay here it goes.

    Their eyes met and sparks flew instantly.

About Farrah

Farrah F. Polestico wanted to be a lot of things in life— an engineer, a nurse, an astrophysicist. But it wasn’t until she was thirteen when she knew she was going to be a published writer. When she’s not up all night writing her next book, you can find her reading anything and everything from a Charles Dickens novel to old grocery receipts.

Find more about Farrah: Blog | Twitter | Goodreads

About First to Fall

Georgina Harrington knew right from the start that she and Matt Bishop were meant for each other. He was The One. Or so she thought, until she caught him making out with his co-worker—in their sofa! Now Georgie has to face the music and start packing her things and look for a new apartment, because she can’t bear to stay in the same roof with a cheating bastard.

And then, the newly hired software developer, Atkins Rosenfeld, came strolling into the firm where she works. He had everything a woman would want from a man—angular jaw, day-old stubble, long lashes. What’s not to like? She can’t deny her attraction to him but is she ready to jump into a new relationship after her last one ended so disastrously?

Meanwhile, Matt comes crawling back to her. Will she forgive him? Was five years of being together that easy to toss to the curb?

Georgie is terrified to entrust her heart to someone again after Matt cheated on her. But deep down she knows she loves Atkins. Just when everything is falling into place, Atkins screws up big time and breaks her heart all over again. Will Georgie and Atkins be able to fix it before she finally throws down the towel and turn her back on love? 

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Spark Books, an imprint of Anvil Publishing
ISBN: 9786214201129
Year Published: 2017
Number of Pages: 124
First to Fall is available at National Book Store and Powerbooks branches or order online here.

Review: One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

One of Us Is Lying
by Karen M. McManus

One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
    Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
    Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
    Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
    Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
  And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon's dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

(cover image and synopsis lifted from Goodreads)

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Expected publication date:  May 30th 2017
Source/Format: eARC via Netgalley
Pre-order links: Amazon Barnes&Noble

My Thoughts:

TRIGGER WARNING: depression, suicide

HOLY MOLEY, SWEET MOTHER OF MILKSHAKE MAKING MURDERERS! I don’t know where to begin, I love everything!

THE CHARACTERS! The book is in a quartet alternating PoV among Bronwyn, Addy, Nate and Cooper. I’ve warmed up to Bronwyn almost instantly. I love her spunk and how she tries so hard for even the most mundane of things. Nate has this mysterious air about him that made me read more about him just so to discover what’s his deal. And then Addy surprised me with her transformation from an “airhead homecoming princess turned badass ninja investigator”. And even Cooper whom I thought had a personality of a cardboard became interesting and even turned into a kind of a superhero in the end.

THE FRIENDSHIP! Just like I don’t like insta-love, I also hate insta-friendship. “One of Us Is Lying” is gladly nothing like that. The book showed a dynamic and complex forged connection among the four main characters. Bronwyn, Addy, Nate and Cooper are the contradictions of each other’s images. They have no interest whatsoever on becoming friends even the day after the whole Simon incident. How could they, when they are all murder suspects? But then the investigation becomes more and more oppressive that they have no choice but to rely on each other. So they start sitting on the same cafeteria table after their own cliques ditched them. They sneak out on abandoned construction projects and hold “murder club” meetings in order to piece together the puzzle that is Simon’s death. Did they become friends even then? Well, to paraphrase Cooper’s words: they are not exactly friends but not nothing either.

THE ROMANCE! Just like in the iconic John Hughes movies this book is loosely made after, two of the “murder club” members start being attracted to each other. As expected, their romance has a forbidden love element to it and I love how their relationship is so well-developed and made me wish for a happily ever after for them. There are also two romantic sub-plots that are too cute for me not to mention. 

THE SISTERLY LOVE! I am a sucker for books with large helpings of sibling love and let me tell you, the sister affection meter went off the charts with this one. Bronwyn has this feisty younger sister Maeve, whom she is so protective of. Addy has this older sister Ashton, whom supported her through and through with the whole Simon thing. Then there’s this one time when Addy casually invited Bronwyn and Maeve over for a “sisters’ night” and I am like beyond ecstatic with the whole idea of these four girls hanging out! OMG, I can’t get enough! Something came up tho and the sisters’ night did not happen in canon. But in my mind, sisters’ night happened after the book’s timeline and became a regular thing among them.

THE DIVERSITY! The diversity of characters is not just there in order to tick off a box in a checklist. The diversity bears an importance with the story. It also helps, in a way, to move the narrative forward. For example, in Bronwyn’s case, being half-Colombian means avoiding association with Nate because her father hates the Colombian drug cartel related stereotype. And Mikhail Powers being a gay investigative journalist, eventually helped our main characters to sway the public opinion to their favor.

THE DETAILS! The author’s attention to details are just astounding. I cannot think of another contemporary YA that takes notice to the littlest of things such as this book. For example, there are these things that were mentioned just in passing that made the characters real and relatable: Addie checking for her period, dealing with a pimple, and the chore of maintaining a pixie hair cut. Cooper’s Southern accent is also a character nuance that is effectively detailed. When the narrative is in his PoV, his dialogues are mostly straight and un-accented but when the narrative’s PoV shifts, Cooper’s accent is visibly there to the other characters. And the blurb does not joke when it said pay close attention so you can keep up with solving the murder. Just a hint: take note of the characters’ hair and eye color.

THE WHODUNIT ELEMENT! So as not to give away a lot, let’s just say that I am beside myself guessing who the murderer is. Who among the four main characters is lying?! The ending is just brilliant. It’s not much of a shocker but it is extremely satisfying.

“One of Us Is Lying” is “The Breakfast Club” on steroids!!! If you’re a fan of the iconic movie, this book is that and so much more.

Diversity Watch:
Bronwyn Rojas is described having dark ponytail, gray eyes. Her father is Colombian. Her mother is fourth generation Irish.

Keely is Cooper’s girlfriend. She is described having tawny skin. Swedish dad and Filipino mom.

Yumiko Mori is one of Bronwyn’s friend. She is black haired. Her name suggest Japanese heritage.

TJ Forrester is a periphery character described as having cocoa colored skin.

Aiden Wu is a periphery character. His last name suggests Asian heritage.

Principal Gupta's name suggests Indian heritage.

Detective Chang's name suggests Asian heritage.

Mikhail Powers is gay and described as having dark skin.

Robin Staffod is Bronwyn’s lawyer. She is described as having dark skin.

My Rating:

How To Buy eBooks from Amazon Without Using a Credit Card via Codashop

I cancelled my credit card centuries ago and alas, last week I was consumed by a deep need to buy eBooks. So I thought that maybe I can use Paypal in Amazon, which turned out is a close to impossible feat because they are somewhat from competing owners? I googled and scoured the internet to no avail. Most search hits that I got advised that I go through a reliable e-giftcard store first then use Paypal as a mode of payment to purchase an Amazon gift card. But most of the e-giftcard stores that I have found accepting Paypal (Gyft, eGifter, Newegg) have territory restrictions. So I gave up clicking next page and re-entered my search adding “Philippines” to the keywords. And that’s how I found Codashop. It does not accept Paypal though but it will do for now.

Full disclosure: I am not affiliated to or paid by Codashop. I just thought that someone like me must be struggling with the same trouble of having no plastic money at the moment. I am actually not familiar with Codashop until now. I did some research a.k.a more googling and found little to no info about it. It looks like gamers are its frequent users. Of course, I was a bit wary throwing money to an unknown online seller but yeah, I am notorious for always acting against my better long story short, I tried Codashop and I want to share my experience with using their service here in the blog.

This is what it looks like upon clicking the google search link:

I picked the $10 voucher and the amount of voucher is automatically converted to Philippine peso. Different payment modes have differing conversions and they will highlight the best deals. I chose to pay via Bayad Center because we have a branch nearby. Actually 7-11 is the nearest but P600 is a bit too much. The exchange rate that day was $1=P49.11 so it appears that there is a “service charge” amounting to P38.91. Pretty reasonable, eh?

Next is provide them with your email address where they will deliver the gift card code.

This is the screen that appeared after I check-out.

I immediately received two emails: one from Codashop confirming my purchase and another from Dragonpay which contains the payment instructions. I have dealt with Dragonpay before for my discount voucher purchases (Metrodeal, CashCash, etc.) so no panic there. I placed my order Thursday afternoon, April 20 and the payment instructions gave me a deadline to pay until Saturday, April 22.

I paid the next day and within minutes, I received an email confirming my payment along with the Amazon gift card code. I immediately used it to buy eBooks in Amazon and the code worked! So there you go, Codashop is legit and I’m pretty satisfied with their service. I just hope that they accept Paypal in the future tho.

If you have other ways of purchasing from Amazon without using a credit card, or specifically if you know how to use Paypal money in Amazon, please share with me in the comments.

Update: Aside from Bayad Center, I also tried using over the counter bank payment (BPI) but they have a bank service charge amounting to Php50 on top of the Php530, so I'm sticking with the Bayad Center payment option.

Love at First Spark: Six de los Reyes (Author Interview)

Photo: Dan Whale/Unsplash

Welcome and step right up to Love at First Spark, a blog event featuring #SparkNA authors! Get a bit intimate and learn more about the awesome people behind your next favorite romance reads. Check out the blog event schedule and the list of participating authors here.

Today's featured author wrote a very summer-y book. Find out more about Six de los Reyes and discover her nerdy side (YAY, NERDS ARE SEXY!) from my interview below.

Questions and Answers

  1. What is your inspiration in writing “Sounds Like Summer”?
    Like most stories, Sounds Like Summer is a product of my imagination, my fascination and love of music festivals, and my inevitable propensity to write about conversations I’m not invited in. Sounds Like Summer is part of the #SparkNA class mentored by Mina V. Esguerra and sponsored by Spark Anvil. The theme was “Be Brave” Write in striking clarity the truth you’re afraid of. At the time, I was on field with several research associates and one drunken night at the beach, we shared stories about our lab lives and the dark clouds that follow us along. I did not set out to write about depression or touch on mental health. I just wanted to write about the beach and a music festival, but the character of Lux had anchored herself in my mind and I knew I had to write about her and her journey.

  2. How is your writing process like? Do you have any quirks in your writing process?
    I outline! Outlines are very useful. They give me structure and provide a reference point for each part of the story. As for quirks, every book has a “personality”, and some are more demanding than others. Lux and Micah were nicer to me. While they did set me off into a frenzied panic, afraid I’d lose the words before I wrote them down, they didn’t demand to be written at odd hours of the night and they didn’t wake me up after only two hours of sleep. I can’t multitask, so when I write it’s the only thing I need to be doing. Can’t have snacks or drinks—I always forget about them.

  3. If you will be given a minute of face to face encounter with any of your book characters, who would you want it to be with and what would you say to him or her?
    Can I cheat and say instead of meeting with just one character, can I just attend an EDR concert and watch NICO, Rhys, Egosonic, Arabella and everyone else perform live? (with a backstage pass and a meet and greet HAHA!)

  4. Do you believe in love at first sight? Why or why not?
    I don’t think about it as “love” at first sight, but I think sometimes you get this feeling, this inkling like how an object gains potential energy, gravitational or elastic, and then it reaches that instantaneous point when force is released and sparks fly, so to speak. I guess in short, it might not be love, but a potential love. 

  5. Give us your best banat or pick-up line.
    Hi. Would you like to conduct an experiment with me? I can talk nerdy all night.

  6. Finally, use “spark” in a sentence.
    Sorry, was that a spark? Let me review the voltage applied to the current, I can’t seem to resist you.

About Six

Six de los Reyes has been reading and making up stories for as far as she can remember. In fifth
grade, she learned to wield dragons and phoenixes through written word. As a pretend grownup, she writes contemporary romance novellas. Her day job doing science has something to do with being part-time labrat. She currently lives next to the sea.

Other works include Just for the Record and Beginner's Guide: Love and Other Chemical Reactions.

Find more about Six: Wattpad | Twitter | Goodreads

About Sounds Like Summer

It’s not just a weekend for Lux Castelo. She has a plan, of course.

Phase One: Escape to the beach for a music festival.
Phase Two: Deal with what she can’t control.
Phase Three: Return to reality whole and ready.

Nowhere in that plan is Micah Jacinto, self-proclaimed adventurer and the kind of boy with his head stuck in the clouds and the moon inked on his arm—everything her rational sense tells her to stay away from. And yet Lux finds herself welcoming the distraction. As they spend the entire weekend together, Micah leads her to rediscover the lost pieces of herself amidst the excitement and the confusion of a raving mosh pit.

But all weekends come to an end and Lux needs to return to the dreaded reality she’s running away from. Does being brave enough to leave summer behind mean being brave enough to ask Micah to stay?
Series: Summer Storm Book 1
Publisher: Spark Books, an imprint of Anvil Publishing
ISBN: 9786214201013
Year Published: 2017
Number of Pages: 128
Sounds Like Summer is available at National Book Store and Powerbooks branches or order online here: Amazon | Anvil

Love at First Spark: Katt Briones (Author Interview)

Photo: Dan Whale/Unsplash

Welcome and step right up to Love at First Spark, a blog event featuring #SparkNA authors! Get a bit intimate and learn more about the awesome people behind your next favorite romance reads. Check out the blog event schedule and the list of participating authors here.

Are you ready to meet our featured author for today? Sit back and relax. Read on and meet Katt Briones, author of Chasing Mr. Prefect.

Questions and Answers

  1. What is your inspiration in writing “Chasing Mr. Prefect”?
    I was reading a story written by a friend back then that featured a main character / love interest that were complete opposites. It made me want to play around with this trope and then I decided to use it for my #SparkNA pitch.

  2. How is your writing process like? Do you have any quirks in your writing process?
    Process - I don’t usually use outlines. Most of the time I just write what I want and work from there, but I learned how much easier it is to write with an outline thanks to the #SparkNA class haha! As for quirks… sometimes when I’m out of ideas I turn to liquor. I also try to go out when I’m stuck since I tend to get a lot of scene ideas while in transit.

  3. If you will be given a minute of face to face encounter with any of your book characters, who would you want it to be with and what would you say to him or her?
    I would want to have a minute with Vinnie’s stepsister, Liana, so I could learn how to make the perfect Sansrival.

  4. Do you believe in love at first sight? Why or why not?
    I believe in lust at first sight (lol) but love, not really. Maybe you get really infatuated, but love, that’s a long stretch. 

  5. Give us your best banat or pick-up line.
    Are you my manuscript? Because I’m not doing you when I probably should. (Engk! That’s my last na!) >.<

  6. Finally, use “spark” in a sentence.
    Every great revolution begins with a spark :)

About Katt

Katt Briones writes Young Adult, fan fiction, and romance stories to unwind and de-stress. She graduated with a degree in Business Economics and is currently working as a financial reporting analyst. When not busy with work and writing, she spends her free time reading, sketching landscapes, fangirling over Korean girl groups, and looking up pasta recipes on Youtube. She currently resides in Las Pinas with her family, a pet dog named Kai, and a cat named Mr. Smith.

Find more about Katt: Wattpad | Twitter | Facebook | InstagramGoodreads

About Chasing Mr. Prefect

For the first time in her life, Vinnie finds herself on the brink of academic suspension.

While standing up to a bully is something she'll never regret, she has to take on additional responsibilities in lieu of punishment for the offense. This unfortunately involves working with Cholo, the head disciplinary prefect, who seems to take delight in other people's blunders. Her determination to match his expectations eventually leads her into a crazy chase to keep up.

Will Vinnie be able to carry on and eventually catch up? Or will the chase be too much for her to handle?

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Spark Books, an imprint of Anvil Publishing
ISBN: 9786214201099
Year Published: 2017
Number of Pages: 144
Chasing Mr. Prefect is available at National Book Store and Powerbooks branches or order online here.

Review: Antisocial by Jillian Blake

by Jillian Blake

Alexandria Prep is hacked in this exhilarating whodunit set in the age of social media and the cloud—Pretty Little Liars meets WikiLeaks.

Senior spring at Alexandria Prep was supposed to be for sleeping through class and partying with friends. But for Anna Soler, it’s going to be a lonely road. She’s just been dumped by her gorgeous basketball star boyfriend—with no explanation. Anna’s closest friends, the real ones she abandoned while dating him, are ignoring her. The endearing boy she’s always had a complicated friendship with is almost too sympathetic.

But suddenly Anna isn’t the only one whose life has been upended. Someone is determined to knock the kings and queens of the school off their thrones: one by one, their phones get hacked and their personal messages and photos are leaked. At first it’s funny—people love watching the dirty private lives of those they envy become all too public.

Then the hacks escalate. Dark secrets are exposed, and lives are shattered. Chaos erupts at school. As Anna tries to save those she cares about most and to protect her own secrets, she begins to understand the reality of our always-connected lives:

Sometimes we share too much. 

(cover image and synopsis lifted from Goodreads)

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Expected publication date:  May 16th 2017
Source/Format: eARC via Netgalley
Pre-order links: Amazon Barnes&Noble

My Thoughts:

TRIGGER WARNING: self-harm, suicide, bullying, social anxiety disorder

Anna Soler and her friends are in their senior year. Instead of spending her last days of high school with her friends, Anna chose to abandon them for her shiny jock boyfriend, Palmer, who eventually dumped her inexplicably over the holidays. After the breakup, she wants in again with her old group of friends. While working to earn back their friendship, something huge happened in their school. An email containing a list of google searches was sent to all the students. Then one by one, the hacker starts knocking off the popular kids from their thrones by revealing which (humiliating) google search entries are theirs along with other personal information such as photos and text messages. Anna who was briefly associated with the popular crowd via her ex-boyfriend becomes worried that her personal info will be leaked also and the image that she is projecting to the world will be shattered.

For context, I will mention that the students in this high school subscribe to social strata labels:  Instas are the popular, good-looking athletes, jocks and cheer squadders; Hoodies are the nerds and techies; Thesbos are thespians, artists, vloggers; and Future Leaders are the members of student council. (I know, I hate their clique names, too!) Anna and friends are the little rebels who do not hang out with their own kind. Anna paints and is therefore a Thesbo. Nikki is a stage crew in the drama club, so technically also a Thesbo. Andrew is a lacrosse player, an Insta. Jethro and Haven are both math geeks, the Hoodies. And Rad is the editor in chief of the school paper so she is a Future Leader.

The book depicted a really interesting setting of school frenzy which is caused by a leak of the intimate details the students themselves input in their smartphones. A perfectly stratified high school descended into chaos. It ruined reputations, friendships, prospects for college, and a lot of other things. It’s a crisis that tipped the balance of social order. For example, a bullied kid used the leak as ammo to get back on the popular kids who bullied him before. (This is wrong, kids!) Another instance is when one closeted gay student, whose secret sexuality was revealed by the leaks, took it upon himself to out the other closet gays. (Also wrong, do not do this!) Under normal circumstances, these displays of bad behavior are unacceptable especially under school premises but the leaks made it all happen. This is the most appealing part of the book for me because it sheds a light on how self-absorbed everyone can be. In the normal world order, the popular kids are the ones who seemed narcissistic and did all the stepping down on others. But when the world turned upside down, those on the dregs of the social strata became rabid with revenge and were quick to jump and topple them populars from their pedestal.

As for Anna, the leak of her data means total collapse of the friendship that she is trying to re-build. Then, two of her friends, Haven and Jethro, are the suspects of the hacking incidents. Her other friends are not safe neither: Nikki is a collateral damage from the leaks of a Thesbo student, Rad’s data are leaked and it seems that she and Andrew are using each other to protect their reputation. There is a little romance in the book and I guiltily indulged myself in it. A bit of a love triangle because Anna is still a bit hang up with Palmer and then enter long-time in the friend zone Jethro who has a cute crush on Anna since forever.

“Antisocial” is about the absurdity of fiercely protecting our images in the society to the point of lying, backstabbing and betraying other people. It’s a dog eat dog world, welcome everyone! That seemingly nice and sweet guy is not what he appears to be. That supposed friend is badmouthing you to look cool. These kind of people do not deserve to be happy and end up being friends forever, but in the end the book copped out. The tension was there and it’s tight but it was let down by a loose ending. The whodunit element is nothing special. Then there is this school art show near the end that is supposed to be cathartic and eye-opening but I did not feel anything. The ending is not exactly that bad (others might love it?) but for me it is common and corny. The premise of the book has a lot of potential to have a fascinatingly dark ending, which is what I kinda want. Instead, it became adamant on delivering a lesson of how we should just hug it all out and forgive bad friends who do and say horrible things about each other because (apparently) toxic relationships are better than being alone. I wouldn’t advise against reading this book because it highlights and poses questions that are relevant in this day and age of social media but how about this for a moral story: when you have toxic friends, you can ditch them and find new ones.

Diversity Watch:

Anna Soler is half-Colombian. Her dad, Alejandro is Colombian while her mom, Susan is a Southern belle.

Radhika “Rad” Mehta is Anna’s other childhood bestfriend, and editor in chief of the school paper. “dark skinned like her father but has her mother’s blue eyes...” Her father is an Indian. It is mentioned that Rad has gone to India just once.

Andrew Yang is also Anna’s friend, lacrosse player, “his conservative Chinese parents don’t let him grow his hair long or wear jeans with holes or anyhting like that

Wallace Reid is the star center on the basketball team (implied person of color?) He refers to one redhead kid he was harrassing, “Man, you little white dudes crack me up.”, one of the hacker’s victims.

Aiden “Mac” McDonald is a student who turned out to be gay, force outed other alleged gays.

Sandy Gillis -  sophomore on football team, pushed out of the closet by Aiden.

Geoff Ames - a junior on basketball team, pushed out of the closet by Aiden.

My Rating:

Wandering Thoughts: One Simple Smooth Style of Book Pimping

Image: Kaboompics

Wandering Thoughts is where I let my mind stray, think and talk about non-routine things. This is an avenue for bookish personal stories musings and discussions. This post is linked up to Book Blog Discussion.

Look, I love listicles. Our thoughts are naturally and miserably messy (or is this just me?) but listicles are a neat way of expressing them. It’s quite an art form, really. Sadly, I have poor listing powers. One of the main reasons why I do not participate in Top Ten Tuesdays is because I CANNOT, for the life of me, reach making lists up to ten. But hey, I’ve already made this list once in the blog and got up to three items and I want to believe that it’s the start of my rise to list-making supremacy. (You just wait, world!)

While I do not make excellent lists (yet), I love browsing through them. Especially lists about books. Aside from the book blogs that I look up to, some of the sites I frequent when I itch for bookish listicle porn are Buzzfeed Books, Bustle Books and Book Riot. This listicle viewing addiction gradually led to my recent discovery of a simple smooth style of book pimping. I am sharing this personal technique because it is for a cause: propagating the love for books is one of our sworn duties, fellow book wandering minions!

It all started with this listicle about YA novels about grief and mourning in Book Riot. The article was one of the many others that were regularly sent to my inbox due to my massive habit of insta-clicking “subcribe” to all the bookish newsletters even though I can’t read them all, TBH. But this particular one caught my attention because I recently read and reviewed “Tell Me Three Things” by Julie Buxbaum and I was kinda expecting that it will be in the list since one of its major themes is about the main character’s loss of a parent. It’s not included though and I can’t shake the uneasiness that I haven't done anything to express my love for a really excellent book. So I left a comment of the title and author with a brief detail on why it should be in the list. 

Days after, I stumble upon another listicle that I think I might be able to contribute in again: it’s about #ownvoices YA reads on the Asian immigrant experience. This time, I kind of know beforehand that “All My Lonely Islands” by V.J. Campilan will not be in the list because it is quite under the radar and being recently released only by a local publisher. I was right, it was not there so again, in the name of love, I left a comment mentioning the book. I felt I did great too, since the writer of the article was actually asking for recs of other books on the immigrant experience.

So there you go, an easy peasy touch and go way to spread your love for a favorite book: leaving it in the comments section (of an appropriate article, of course). And it’s so conveniently cool for a book person like me who is deficient in creating listicles but equally rabid on my need to shove down my favorites on other book people. So while I await being a listicle empress myself, I think I have found a new calling in the mean time, which is invading bookish listicles and inserting my favorite titles in there. I came, I saw, I commented.

What about you guys? Do you also love reading lists of books? Where do you go looking for bookish listicles? Do you also comment the titles of your favorite books in listicles? And go share with me your book pimping stlyes and ways, please.

Love at First Spark: C.P. Santi (Author Interview)

Photo: Dan Whale/Unsplash

Welcome and step right up to Love at First Spark, a blog event featuring #SparkNA authors! Get a bit intimate and learn more about the awesome people behind your next favorite romance reads. Check out the blog event schedule and the list of participating authors here.

I'm back again to share with you my interview with C.P. Santi, author of Bucket List To Love. I am excited with this one because the setting of her book is in Japan, one of my dream destinations.

Questions and Answers

  1. What is your inspiration in writing “Bucket List To Love”?
    In a nutshell, Bucket List to Love is the story of a young architect (Aya) who does her masters in Tokyo and falls in love with her senpai (Ryo).

    People who know me will think this is my story. After all, I’m an architect who went to Tokyo to do grad school (under the same program and at the same university I mention in this book) and I fell in love with someone who was (technically) a senpai or senior. Even my own husband (aforementionedsenpai) thinks this is about us. I really hate to disillusion him, but it’s not.

    This is the second book I’ve written that is set in Japan. Whereas the first one (Be Careful What You Wish For, 2015) deals with older Filipino characters who are professionals in their respective fields, this story takes inspiration from the young and vibrant (and amazingly proactive) Filipino student community in Tokyo, of which I was once a part of. I want to show people what our life as students in Japan is like---the wonder of living in a foreign country for the very first time, the fields of study and the research we undertake, how we interact with and adapt to people of different cultures, what food we eat, how we party, and how we fall in love.

    Because yes, falling in love with your tutor is a thing. I’ve seen it happen often enough to know.

    And no, it didn't happen to me. Hahaha!

  2. How is your writing process like? Do you have any quirks in your writing process?
    My writing process varies. I’m a mom of two young boys, so I write whenever and wherever I can. I’ve seriously gotten used to writing steamy scenes with Barney or Mickey Mouse in the background.

    I usually write in the kitchen, with my laptop perched on my breadmaker, as I cook meals for my family. Or late at night when they’re all snug in their beds.

    My first book took five long years to write. But for this book, we all had to adhere to a strict 2-month schedule. It was really crazy! But I’ve found that having a deadline (and an outline) really helps. I’m a pantser no more!

  3. If you will be given a minute of face to face encounter with any of your book characters, who would you want it to be with and what would you say to him or her?
    I’d talk to Kit, Aya’s younger sister in Bucket List to Love. I’d tell her that I’m working hard on her story and I hope that I publish it before the end of the year. I’d also ask her to tell Yumi (Aya’s older sister) that she’s next.

  4. Do you believe in love at first sight? Why or why not?
    I believe that there are people who ‘recognize’ each other---maybe their energies match or they knew each other in another lifetime (this is the tarot reader in me talking)---and I believe that attraction at first sight can lead to love.

    But love is something a lot stronger than that initial attraction. You cannot exist in that moment, frozen in a time bubble. There are many challenges, both external and internal, that you have to deal with sooner or later.

    You have to work to deserve love. It’s never as easy as it seems. But it's oh-so-worth it :-)

  5. Give us your best banat or pick-up line.
    Hahaha! Borrowing this from my husband. He used this when he tried to ask me out the first time.

    Him: I hope you don’t find this awkward since I’m so much older than you.
    Me: Bakit? Ilang taon ka na ba?
    Him: 24
    Me: Wow. You’re really older ha.
    Him: Bakit? How old are you?
    Me: 23

    In all fairness, flattery will always score you points. Hahaha!

  6. Finally, use “spark” in a sentence.
    A spark is a start, but you’ve got to continually fan the flames to keep the fire alive.

    Naaaks. Ang corny ko.

About C.P. Santi

C. P. Santi is a Filipina writer based in Tokyo, Japan. She is a wife to an engineer / musician / jokester and a full-time mom to two energetic boys. She loves cooking and feeding people, gorging on chocolate, watching J-doramas, belting it out in the karaoke box, and running around the house playing tickle tag. She also loves dreaming up stories about the people she meets.

In another life, she is also an architect and academic.

Find more about C.P. Santi: Blog | Wattpad | Twitter | Goodreads

About Bucket List To Love

Aya Contreras is thrilled to be studying in the land of sakura and sushi. Tokyo is a fascinating city to live in—vending machines, cosplayers, karaoke boxes, and bright, colorful conbinis on every corner. And the architectural design program she’s in is everything she dreamed it to be.

The only problem? Her tutor doesn't seem to like her.

Well, she doesn't like him very much either. Sure, Ryohei Mori is talented, and there's no denying he's hot. But he's also a surly, bossy know-it-all who eats too many cookies.

Another annoying thing about him is he's nosy. And when he stumbles upon the crazy bucket list Aya's sisters forced on her, he teases her mercilessly about it.

But when their professor pairs them up for a design competition, things get . . . interesting. Fueled by beer and a whole lot of cookies, can Aya and Ryo cross out some items on her bucket list without killing each other? Or will they realize there's much more to each other than they'd originally thought?

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Spark Books, an imprint of Anvil Publishing
ISBN: 9786214201020
Year Published: 2017
Number of Pages: 160
Bucket List To Love is available at National Book Store and Powerbooks branches or order online here.

Love at First Spark: Brigitte Bautista (Author Interview)

Photo: Dan Whale/Unsplash

Welcome and step right up to "Love at First Spark", a blog event featuring #SparkNA authors! Get a bit intimate and learn more about the awesome people behind your next favorite romance reads. Check out the blog event schedule and the list of participating authors here.

Hello! Our guest in the blog is the only 2017 #SparkNA author whose book deals with LGBTQI characters and I think we need more of those books published,right? Fair representation in books is good for everyone so today, I'm glad to give you all the author of "Don't Tell My Mother", Brigitte Bautista.

Questions and Answers

  1. What is your inspiration in writing “Don't Tell My Mother”?
    I’ve always wanted to write about my experience in an all-girls school, that hilarious, ridiculous, colorful phase in my life. But, I didn’t want to poke fun for the sake of poking fun. I didn’t want it to be a baseless comedy. So, I pushed it back, pursued other first drafts, until #SparkNA came along. I wanted to do an f/f story and felt like an all-girls school experience presented the perfect back story for Sam, the main character. Her high school years weren’t the central part of the story, but it had a great effect on how Sam navigated this tangled-up web of religion, sexuality and identity. 

  2. How is your writing process like? Do you have any quirks in your writing process?
    Before the #SparkNA workshop, I used to be a fly-by-your-pants kind of writer. Anything goes. Anything is possible. Make it up as you go along. I have since come to my senses and realized the value of a good story outline. I start the plot with an idea, usually one or two sentences. Then, I expand that into a one-paragraph summary. Once I’m satisfied with the summary, I chop up the story into three acts, and draft an outline for each. For character building, Pinterest helps a lot with imagining what the character will look like. I also try to pin down my character’s main aspiration, flaws, values and figure out how these could help me tell the story.

    Quirks? I contemplate most of my plot and dialogue ideas while riding my bike. I may have run a couple of red lights (please don’t tell my mother), because I was so deep into the world of my story and characters. I also talk to myself a lot; it doesn’t matter whether I’m in a public space or in the bathroom. When the need arises, I will talk a scene out. One time, while riding my bike from work, I screamed ‘You don’t owe him a good fuck!’ over and over, in different voices and tones, because I wanted to have a sense of how my character would feel when she said that line. I got a cold stare from an old lady for that.

  3. If you will be given a minute of face to face encounter with any of your book characters, who would you want it to be with and what would you say to him or her?
    I would love to have a minute with Christina Guzman and try to understand her motivations. Did she have feelings for Sam that she struggled to deal with? Did her popularity force her to ditch Sam? I feel like meanness doesn’t exist in a bubble; basic bitches aren’t born that way. So, there has to be an explanation (not an excuse, mind) to her treatment of Sam at the tail end of their friendship. To be honest, I have all these questions for Christina. I don’t think a minute will be enough.

  4. Do you believe in love at first sight? Why or why not?
    I don’t believe in love at first sight. To me, love is something that develops over time. I do believe in attraction and chemistry in determining whether there’s something there or not; some sort of acid test, for sure. If everything aligns, attraction leads to a connection, and building on that connection is what results in love and attachment. So, no, I’ve never fallen in love at first sight. Love takes time.

  5. Give us your best banat or pick-up line.
    Oh, gosh. My pick-up days are behind me. I used to live for flirty banters, was rather good at them. But, now that I’m nearing tita territory, I kinda just want to have a cup of coffee and talk with my girlfriend about stuff: our nieces’ latest hijinx, sports, books, politics, physics, Kristen Stewart.

    If I have to pick one, though, I think a simple ‘You’re fucking brilliant.” trumps every pick-up line out there.

  6. Finally, use “spark” in a sentence.
    Why settle for a spark, baby, when we’re worth so much more? Come, take my hand, feel this beating in my chest, kiss me as they watch. Let’s set the world on fire.

About Brigitte

When she’s not chained to a desk writing software code, Brigitte writes lesbian fiction and poetry. She participated in Anvil Publishing’s very own #SparkNA writing workshop, where her first book baby, Don’t Tell My Mother was born. Brigitte is a huge sports freak and considers crying over sports strangely therapeutic. She has never met a doughnut she did not like and atones for the overeating by taking long walks or riding her bike around the city.all others in between.

Find more about Brigitte: BlogTwitter |  Facebook | Instagram 

About Don't Tell My Mother

With an overly zealous mother as her guide, 19-year-old Sam has never had a problem navigating through Christian suburbia before. But, all that changes when she befriends and becomes intrigued with Clara, her widowed neighbor and the village's social outcast. When their friendship grows into the 'unnatural', Sam is forced to examine her upbringing and come to terms with who she really is.

A story of second chances and risking it all for a journey to a lifetime love - Jake and Josephine will take you to laughs and tears, to the highs and lows, to knowing when to hold on ... or to let go.

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Spark Books, an imprint of Anvil Publishing
ISBN: 9786214201051
Year Published: 2017
Number of Pages: 112
Don't Tell My Mother is available at National Book Store and Powerbooks branches or order online here.