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August 2014 Recap

Extraordinary Child by Lim Xiufen Silver

Extraordinary Child by Lim Xiufen Silver in the Singapore Art Museum

September is here! Once the ber months have started, that means that Christmas is just around the corner. I still haven’t booked my flight to Manila in December, I really should do that soon since prices are steadily going up. Anyway, here’s a list of the books I’ve read in August:

Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews – Review can be found here.

Fiancee for Hire by Tawna Fenske – I read this based on Mina V. Esguerra’s recommendation since I’m always on the lookout for fun contemporary romance books. However, I was disappointed because I didn’t enjoy this as much as I was expecting. I didn’t think it was as good as other romance novels that I’ve read.

One Night of Sin by Elle Kennedy – Quick, fun and smexy read. There are two more books in this series and I look forward to reading them.

(Reread) Fire by Kristin Cashore – Review can be found here. Still can’t believe that I’ve never reviewed this earlier!

Isla and the Happily Ever After plus Paris postcard

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins – Review can be found here. I bet a lot of book bloggers read this one in August!

Firelight and Moonglow by Kristen Callihan – I believe I saw Laura Florand recommending this author on Twitter and the premise for this historical paranormal romance looked intriguing so I gave it a try. Firelight is also a Beauty and the Beast retelling and I’m a sucker for those. Overall, I thought these books were just okay. Not bad but not great either. Not sure if I’ll continue reading the rest of the series, I started the third book but couldn’t really get into it.

Another author that has been recommended by Laura Florand and book blogging buddy Li is Kelly Hunter. I’ve been glomming through her backlist the past couple of days and have finished the following titles:

The Man She Loves to Hate
Wife for a Week
Bedded for Diamonds
The Maverick’s Greek Island Mistress

I have mini reviews on Goodreads for these Kelly Hunter books and I’ll try to consolidate all of them into one blog post later on.

That’s it for my August reading month. In summary, I would say that the highlights of the month for me were Magic Breaks, Isla, Fire and discovering Kelly Hunter. How about the rest of you, how was August as a reading month for you?

Recap of previous months:
January
February
March
May
June
July


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Sola Musica: As Heard on TV by Marla Miniano

Today is SOLA MUSICA‘s release day! Go and grab a copy.  My copy has already been downloaded in my Kindle.

A beach cove, a hot summer weekend… SOLA MUSICA is where everyone’s going, to enjoy the best new music from all over. Bestselling Filipino YA/chick lit authors Mina V. Esguerra, Marla Miniano, Chinggay Labrador, and Ines Bautista-Yao each tell a story about this festival: the music, the people, the hearts that will soar (or break).

Sola Musica

BREAK by Marla Miniano
Natalie is about to watch her favorite band in the world, with a guy she’s crazy about — if only she can get through forced family bonding with her grandmother, her little brother, and her grandmother’s boyfriend.

Author links:
@marlamini
marlaminiano.blogspot.com

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As Heard on TV by Marla Miniano
I believe in the right song at the right time.

Sola Musica was brought to life because Ines, Mina, Chinggay, and I all understand and acknowledge the power of music: it can summon and create memories, fuel joy, foster relationships, and either exacerbate or soothe heartache. It can also make pivotal moments in your favorite TV shows absolutely perfect. Here’s a quick list of my favorite songs in TV soundtrack history.

1. “With or Without You” by U2 on FRIENDS

At several pathetically heartbroken points in my early twenties, I sat on the floor and stared out the window at the vast night landscape while blasting this song on my computer. This is mostly because a lot of my romantic decisions back then were greatly influenced by Rachel Green—a fact that I am both thrilled with and embarrassed of. I love how this song resurfaced the following season, when Ross cheated on Rachel at an office party. I know, I know though: they were on a break.

2. “Dice” by Finley Quaye and William Orbit on The O.C.

It’s New Year’s Eve, and Ryan needs to kiss Marissa before the clock strikes twelve, because that’s how it works when you’re a nobody from Chino trying to get with the popular blonde girl strategically sighing into her champagne. There are no functioning elevators in the building, of course, but Ryan bursts into the room just as everyone shouts “3, 2, 1,” and there is confetti and a belated declaration of love and glorious making out. Cut. I watched The O.C. religiously in college, and although I’ve always been more attracted to the Seths of the world, Ryan’s mad dash to midnight inevitably became my (slightly misguided) benchmark for grand gestures.

3. “Dancing on My Own” by Robyn on Girls

Holy Horvath, this scene… where do I even start? It’s funny and tender and sweet and a little bit sad and ridiculously, painfully real. None of the characters, with their less than stellar EQs and erratic bouts of self-awareness, can seriously be considered great defining forces in my journey to adulthood — not at this point, anyway. But I do grasp the intricacies and complexities of friendship the show illustrates so well: how platonic relationships are supposed to get easier as you grow up, but rarely do. In the end we are all “adventurous women,” and if a dance break is what you need to survive, then go ahead, grab a partner, and press play.

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Salamat, Marla! Love the topic that you chose. I also get hooked to certain songs because of how they accompany scenes in the TV shows that I enjoy watching.


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Sola Musica: Growing Up on the Beach by Ines Bautista-Yao

SOLA MUSICA will be released on August 28. To celebrate, I’m hosting guest posts from the authors throughout this week.

A beach cove, a hot summer weekend… SOLA MUSICA is where everyone’s going, to enjoy the best new music from all over. Bestselling Filipino YA/chick lit authors Mina V. Esguerra, Marla Miniano, Chinggay Labrador, and Ines Bautista-Yao each tell a story about this festival: the music, the people, the hearts that will soar (or break).

Sola Musica

A CAPTURED DREAM, Ines Bautista-Yao
Gem has the chance to make her dreams come true and perform at Sola Musica, with one crippling problem: all her talent left her six years ago when a boy kissed her.

Author links:
@inesbyao

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Ines beach baby

Diving equipment behind me and socks on my feet because I didn’t like walking barefoot on the sand.

I grew up near the beach. Most weekends were spent driving to the water, pitching a tent, and hunting hermit crabs.

I still remember getting all excited about finding those perfect little holes in the sand that were built sideways. I would squat down next to them and wait for the hermit crab to come out. Then I would try to catch it and put it in my little plastic pail. It would always scurry away of course, but I can’t forget my elation on chancing upon another diagonally built hole.

I also remember my dad’s fishing boat. It wasn’t a yacht by any means, but it wasn’t a banca either. It was a big fishing boat that my fun-loving parents and their friends converted into a floating party. We got on when the sun was still making its way up in the sky and got off when we were surrounded by darkness from above and below. It was named Ines. I found it very weird, especially when my dad joked that he named me after the boat. It was only later that I realized it must have been the other way around.

Ines beach toddler

All I needed was my green plastic bucket and I was all set!

One of my favorite memories on that boat was eating freshly grilled fish while trying to keep my balance as we gently rocked on the waves. I loved eating anything sugba or inihaw because that meant we were outdoors and the fish was swimming in the water just a few minutes before. In fact, when the fishermen pulled the dark green net bursting with fish onboard, I was right there watching. They teased me that they had caught a mermaid. I wished with all my heart that they had so I could finally meet one, jump into the water, and swim next to her. My excited little eyes were glued to the coils of the net, looking for a dark green tail—or anything that resembled a mermaid. But all I saw were little silver fish glistening in the sun and frantically flopping around on the boat’s wooden deck.

There was one night when the grownups pitched tents along the shore and sent all the kids into a house to sleep. I wasn’t too sure about sleeping away from my parents, but I wanted to sleep with the other kids. So I bravely agreed. I recall staring up at the ceiling fan, studying the long-legged spiders crawling across the beams, wondering if one would fall on me. Eventually, I got up and made my way out the house and to the beach. I stared at the different tents (there were many of them) and counted the third tent from the left—which was most probably where my mom told me their tent would be—and zipped down the flap. I remember saying, “Mama?”, breathing a huge sigh of relief that I had found the right tent, and crawling in next to them, finally falling asleep.

I have loads of beach memories because it was so easy for my parents and their friends to make the drive. It didn’t matter that the sand wasn’t powdery white like Boracay’s (my city-born-and-bred husband only likes white sand!), that there were no air-conditioned rooms and we had to sleep in tents, and that our food was whatever we caught in the sea. I cannot imagine doing that today or taking my daughters to a beach without running water and an air-conditioned room to escape the heat, but when I was growing up, that was how it was. And I happen to have great beach memories. But come to think of it, if that mermaid had showed up, they would be even better!

I cannot believe I found this photo of the tents and the house! I wrote this post before looking for photos. The yellow and blue one was ours.

I cannot believe I found this photo of the tents and the house! I wrote this post before looking for photos. The yellow and blue one was ours.

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Salamat, Ines! Seems like the beach was your playground when you were a child, I’m jealous. :P


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Sola Musica: 5 Songs from My Sola Musica Playlist by Mina V. Esguerra

SOLA MUSICA will be released on August 28. To celebrate, I’m hosting guest posts from the authors throughout this week.

A beach cove, a hot summer weekend… SOLA MUSICA is where everyone’s going, to enjoy the best new music from all over. Bestselling Filipino YA/chick lit authors Mina V. Esguerra, Marla Miniano, Chinggay Labrador, and Ines Bautista-Yao each tell a story about this festival: the music, the people, the hearts that will soar (or break).

Sola Musica

GEORGIA LOST AND FOUND by Mina V. Esguerra
Georgia wants to finally talk to Ken about this “thing” that’s between them, but he seems intent on avoiding it, even if they’re spending a weekend at a music festival together.

Author links:
@minavesguerra
minavesguerra.com

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5 Songs from My Sola Musica Playlist by Mina V. Esguerra

I need music when I write. For people who wonder how someone like me can keep writing about people who aren’t real… don’t underestimate the power of using music to set you in the right mood. This includes placing yourself in someone else’s shoes, imagining someone else’s life, even if it’s someone you just created.

For practical reasons, music also helps me focus on the story at hand. I’ve written from my dining table, a coffee shop, the waiting area of my office building, and while the location may be inconsistent, the right music can at least bring me back to the right frame of mind.

Sometimes I have songs I keep going back to, even before I write, just to get myself back to that same emotional spot. I prep for angry breakup scenes with P!nk, love scenes with Portishead, epiphanies with Ivy.

For Sola Musica, my story “Georgia Lost and Found” starts off on the road, and flashes back to different times in Georgia and Ken’s lives when they’ve been on the road together. I liked imagining that each time was different, because they felt differently toward each other every time. I put together a playlist of songs I consider to be great driving music, taking a person through different moods. Sometimes you need the music to keep you up, or get you grooving, or simply be part of the atmosphere.

Here are some songs from the playlist you might want to start with:

1. Myriad Harbour by The New Pornographers

2. Burn by Ellie Goulding

3. Hard Out Here by Lily Allen

4. Give Me Love by Ed Sheeran

5. Fidelity by Regina Spektor

And here’s the complete Georgia Lost and Found playlist on Spotify: https://play.spotify.com/user/minavesguerra/playlist/7CtpyLFqykZH9AXDhBcS5K

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Salamat, Mina! I agree that music is important in setting the mood. I also love books that come with playlists. :)


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Sola Musica: Beach Trips I Love by Chinggay Labrador

SOLA MUSICA will be released on August 28. To celebrate, I’m hosting guest posts from the authors throughout this week.

A beach cove, a hot summer weekend… SOLA MUSICA is where everyone’s going, to enjoy the best new music from all over. Bestselling Filipino YA/chick lit authors Mina V. Esguerra, Marla Miniano, Chinggay Labrador, and Ines Bautista-Yao each tell a story about this festival: the music, the people, the hearts that will soar (or break).

Sola Musica

SPECTATORS by Chinggay Labrador

Jack is the go-to behind-the-scenes guy for electronica group, Box Trap, and finds himself inexplicably drawn to the lead singer he’s tasked to work with.

Author links:
@superrrfudge
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Beach Trips I Love by Chinggay Labrador

I used to be the biggest anti-beach person. I didn’t like getting sand on my legs, the sun beating down on me, and the fish freaked me out. A couple of years ago, I decided to turn things around, one beach trip at a time. It’s taken me on tons of incredible adventures, trying out surfing and snorkeling, and has also gotten my skin about five shades darker (haha!).

All the beaches I’ve visited came in handy when Mina, Ines, Marla and I came together to work on Sola Musica. While we agreed to set it in an imaginary cove in Anilao, I definitely pulled inspiration from my favorite places. Happiness does come in salty water!

salty water

Anvaya Cove

This is my go-to spot when I want a quick escape from the chaos of Manila. I love coming here on quiet weekdays, laying out on the sand, taking a dip in the pool, playing pingpong, riding golf carts around the casitas, and just chilling with friends and family. This beach, though small and private helped me situate Sola Musica’s wide and expansive Pebble Cove in my imagination.

anvaya

La Union

Since taking a shot at surfing, I’ve been to the popular wave-ridden beaches of La Union for a FLOW Boho surf yoga samba retreat, and a Roxy surf camp. I love staying at Flotsam & Jetsam for its casual vibe, delicious pizza, creative drinks, and all the colors that encapsulate the free spirit of surf. Plus, there’s no resisting this gorgeous sunset.

la union

El Nido

Nothing has been quite as breathtaking to me as the limestone cliffs and crystal blue waters of El Nido. I went on vacation with a huge bunch of friends to this island and was floored by all the scenery. One of the charms that the place had was its town—walking through the small streets, riding large tricycles and taking the jeep. This definitely inspired the treks that Jack would take between the water and his hotel in the book.

el nido

Anilao

I kicked off the start of 2014 with a day trip to a small island in Anilao. This was a groundbreaking trip for me because it was my very first time snorkeling—a huge deal because of my consistent fear of fish swimming all around me. It was great that I’d actually been to the place where we were setting our story in (although I’d be hard pressed to find a musical festival on this tiny island!).

anilao

Honolulu

I’m proud to say that I surfed my first real wave in Hawaii! Granted, I only stood up twice and was terrified of the urchins underneath my feet, but it was a proud moment for me. If not for the friends I made in this popular hotspot, I don’t think I’d ever find the guts to go for it.

hawaii

Byron Bay

I went on a life-changing trip to Australia last year and met a group of amazing people. Every beach story in my mind, I dedicate to this group of like-minded good-hearted people, especially to Justin (seated at the center) who passed away a few months after.

australia

Bali and Lombok

This was my last beach adventure, with the super fun girls of FLOW Surf Yoga Samba. It was such an adventure to walk and hike to beaches day after day, seeing the huge waves and meeting tons of people. Indonesia definitely has something different to offer beachcombers, but the trip also made me thankful that I live in a place where the best beaches are just a short ride or flight away from home.

bali

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Salamat, Chinggay! Your post makes me want to go the beach. I haven’t gone on a beach vacation in ages.


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Authors I Should Read

Authors to read

I wanted to participate in last Tuesday’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Brooke and the Bookish) with the topic of “Top Ten Books People Have Been Telling Me That I MUST Read” but unfortunately, I missed it. I fell asleep earlier than usual that night instead of working on a blog post. But I really like the topic so I wanted to do a spin off. Instead of books, I wanted to talk about authors that have been broadly and specifically recommended for me.

Mary Renault – This particular author was brought to my attention when Elizabeth Wein recommended it for Megan Whalen Turner (MWT) fans in her guest post for Queen’s Thief Week. I have copies of both The King Must Die and The Bull from the Sea in my TBR pile.

Dorothy Sayers – Here’s another author who has been recommended several times for MWT fans, especially the books about Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. I’ve read Strong Poison but it didn’t have that much of an impact with him. I do have copies of Have His Carcase, Gaudy Night and Busman’s Honeymoon and I just need to find time to read them.

Connie Willis – I can’t even remember how many people have recommended this author’s time travel books. I’ve had a copy of To Say Nothing of the Dog for a while not but I heard that it would be better to start with the duology Blackout and All Clear.

Simmone Howell – I haven’t read any of this author’s books but I’ve heard that Girl Defective is an amazing Aussie YA novel so I got a copy of it late last year when a friend passed by Singapore from Australia.

Guy Gavriel Kay – So many fantasy fans have recommended this author’s work and I still haven’t read any of his books. I have copies of Tigana and the first two Fionavar books but just haven’t been in the mood for them. Especially Tigana, which is such a doorstopper.

Susanna Kearsley – I’ve seen other bloggers give positive reviews for this author’s books and that has made me curious. My friedn Heidi of Bunbury in the Stacks very kindly sent me a signed copy of The Winter Sea so I can start with that.

Genevieve Valentine – I’ve seen several bloggers (such as Ana of The Book Smugglers and Maureen of By Singing Light) rave about The Girls at the Kingfisher Club on Twitter so I’m very curious about it.

Virginia Kantra – I know my good friend Brandy of Random Musings of a Bibliophile loves Virginia Kantra’s books (which has been recommended by our favorite author Laura Florand). I grabbed a copy of Carolina Man back when it was on sale and it’s just waiting in my Kindle.

Kelly Hunter – Another Laura Florand recommendation! She mentioned that Kelly Hunter is a romance author who has written books with great dialogue, set in Singapore and Hong Kong. She recommended that I start with Wife for a Week, which is the first in a series about the Bennett family. Li of Me and My Books seconded the recommendation when I mentioned it on Twitter.

Joann Sfar – This is actually a bit funny since I found out about this graphic novel author through Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (which I still need to review). The two MCs are fans of his work and that made me curious. I’ve checked in a bookstore here and his books aren’t available in Singapore.

I hope I’ll be able to put a dent on this list before the year ends. I’ll keep the rest of you posted. Care to share authors who would be included in your must read/highly recommended list?


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One Less Lonely Person

blogging August 15 2014

The other day, my friends and I were talking about how it’s very difficult to adjust to living in another country, away from family and friends. Most Filipinos have very strong ties to family and friends so when we do move abroad to explore better job opportunities, more often than not, we get lonely and homesick. At least it’s easier to keep in touch because of messaging and calling apps nowadays. But we also talked about how important it is to have hobbies to keep ourselves busy. Of course, I brought up reading and blogging. My friends said it’s good that I’m able to do something that I love and I absolutely agree. I would be pretty lonely if I didn’t have reading and blogging to keep me busy.

In a blog post three years ago, I discussed how much reading is a part of my life so I won’t expand on that. I have also talked about how I love the book blogging community, how I think people are so warm and friendly and I feel like I’ve made some good friends over the years. I don’t mind talking about it again though. It may not seem obvious at this point in time because I’m not blogging as often as I want to and I don’t get as many comments as before but I still feel like reading and blogging are a big part of my life. It’s more than a hobby, in terms of how much thought, time and effort I put into it. It’s more like a lifestyle because I’m in constant conversation (through comments, Twitter, emails or even messaging apps) with blog friends about books. It’s not even as lucrative as other forms of blogging, like fashion or food where other bloggers can get sponsors through ads, but we keep doing it out of love for the written word.

Sometimes, my enthusiasm (or frustration) spills over to real life and I influence my friends to read the books that I love (or stay away from the ones I didn’t think were any good). I also have several friends who ask me for recommendations for themselves or for other people when they need ideas for giving books as gifts. My mom doesn’t really read my blog but it’s funny how she tells her friends that I’m a book blogger. There was also one time when I was telling her that I spend so much money buying books and she said that’s not really a bad thing, it’s better to spend money on books rather than harmful addictions.

I have to be honest and say that I really had a hard time adjusting to living in Singapore when I first moved two years ago. Actually, there are times when I feel like I’m working in Singapore but still living in Manila just because the latter is still home. But I’m very thankful with how reading and blogging has helped me. Reading affects my mood and I’m a lot happier when I just finished an amazing book. Same thing goes when something positive happens that is blog-related, like when I get a response from an author or when I win a giveaway. When I’ve had a bad day or when I’m worrying about something, I’ve said it before and I will keep saying it, I want to keep my blog a happy place. This is why I try to stay away from blog drama whenever possible. I’m an outgoing person but I also enjoy having alone time and I like how reading and blogging lets me do both. I can read by myself and then engage other readers in discussions whenever I feel like it. I can do that whenever and wherever I want to. Both are hobbies that have flexibility in that sense.

I just wanted to share these thoughts and also to thank everyone who has been part of my reading and blogging life so far. Maraming salamat!

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