Another Word For Happy by Agay Llanera | Book Review + Discussion

32607764Title: Another Word for Happy

Author/s: Agay Llanera

Publication: Kindle Edition, 140 pages published October 8th 2016

Source: From the Author

Get Your Copy Here:

Amazon (Kindle)

Plot in a Nutshell (from Goodreads):

What does it take to come out of the closet? Since he was thirteen, Caleb has always known he’s gay. Now a college freshman, he falls in love for the first time. If it’s true that love conquers all, then will Caleb finally find the courage to reveal his secret?
In this tale about family, friendship and self-discovery, find out how Caleb discovers the path to the freedom he’s always longed for. Here’s a hint: it involves doing things outside his comfort zone, such as joining a spoken word group!

Thoughts in General:

Another Word for Happy by Agay Llanera is one of the few LGBTQA+ novels I’ve ever read and I’m happy to say I enjoyed myself with Caleb’s story. It is a novel about coming out and the struggles of being a homosexual in a contemporary Filipino setting. I felt that Agay Llanera tackled the topic with earnestness and class. If you are in the mood for a not so typical Filipino coming of age Young Adult novel, then you should definitely go for this!

Aesthetics

Another Word for Happy‘s cover is really spot on. Although I can only judge the cover image of the book since I only read an e-copy of it, I do believe that it encapsulates the main characteristics of the protagonist. It’s simple and straightforward.

Story

As the tagline of the novel clearly states, it is a coming out story for the protagonist but you should not dismiss it for sounding cliche. It is still a delightful novel to read. I like how the book did not focus on the romance but on the character development of our main protagonist instead. However, I will admit that the love subplot was a bit problematic for my taste, which I will discuss in detail later on.

I also like how music and poetry played a role in the novel. Caleb is piano prodigy, which is why there’s a significant amount of music talk here, but it isn’t overwhelming. The slam poetry included in the prose were written well and it didn’t feel out of place, since one of the major characters is a poet.

Lastly, the novel was written in such an accessible way that you will feel for the main protagonist’s struggles and triumphs.

Characters

Caleb, the MC, was an interesting character. Frankly, I did not like him at the beginning of the book because of how stuck up he sounded.  He eventually had a good character development arc, but to be frank I’m just not 100% enthusiastic about him still.

I love Ginny, Caleb’s best friend, because she was such a colorful character, both figuratively and literally (if you read the book you’ll know what I’m talking about). She was such a good friend to him and I just love her how bubbly she is.

For the rest of the characters, I think I might discuss them in the spoiler section so I could fully express myself, but I did like most of them, except for the romantic interest of Caleb.

I think if you are a fan of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda you might like Another Word for Happy by Agay Llanera. This is a wonderfully Filipino take on the coming out story that you should give a chance.

Thoughts in Details (SPOILERS):

I just want to discuss a few things in this section freely without the fear of spoiling anybody. So please only read on if you have finished the novel. Ready? Let’s go!

The reason I was really annoyed with Caleb was the way he treated everyone  when he and Franco started “dating.” God, I really wanted to kick some sense into this dude because clearly, he was just a rebound for Franco and he fell for it. I know that the author might have done this intentionally to get the plot going and, also, to show some sort of a downward spiral for the main character, but Caleb really got on my nerve during this phase. He acted like a lovesick puppy and he actually allowed his so-called infatuation to get the most out of him (he even skipped classes for this dude, like wtf). Sorry I just had to get that out of my system.

As you can tell, I didn’t like Franco. I know that he was just human and he needed somebody to take his mind off of his ex (at that time) Drew, but the way he handled the situation was just infuriating.

However, weirdly enough I like how their “romance” ended because it did not go the traditional route. There wasn’t a clear closure for their relationship, which I’m still fine with that because Caleb deserved someone better.

On a different note, reading the part when Caleb finally confessed his true identity to his mother was nervewracking. Then when she actually called him a “disappointment” that just saddened me because it read so real and true. From there on I think that the story got better because it depicted a sound and rational approach in the situation.

Ginny’s aunts were so cool and so sweet (I love their cheesy wedding speeches). I also loved the fact that they talked to Caleb’s mom and recommended that book. My favorite scenes from Another Word for Happy was where Caleb performed at that gig and he thought his mom wasn’t going to be there but at the end there she was, so proud of her son. Also, that last part when they were both at the beach and Caleb’s mom remarked that the boy her son was eyeing was cute, made me smile. It was so nice to see her grow to accept her son’s identity and it was the perfect way to end the book.

Have you read Another Word for Happy? What are your own thoughts regarding the book? Feel free to discuss them by commenting below (please be mindful of spoilers).

happy2breading

Advertisements

Blog Tour: Just A Little Bit of Love by Ines Bautista-Yao | Mini-Book Review + Author Interview


MINI-REVIEW:
(NOTE: I received a digital copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review. This fact did not affect my opinion regarding the book and the content of this review.) 

Only A Kiss was a really fun coming-of-age story that I’ve had the pleasure of reading earlier this year and, on that tangent, Ines Bautista-Yao recently published Just A Little Bit of Love which is an anthology of three short stories which is set in the same universe as the aforementioned book. Right of the bat, I’ve got to hand it to Ines for writing short stories that still had similar effects of the novel that inspired it. 

This short anthology of stories really personifies what a cute contemporary story is. The only qualm I encountered when I finished the stories was that they were really quick reads! I wish some of the stories were longer because it felt like such a tease for my imagination and I would have loved to explore deeper in the stories, specifically of Anita and Carla. I still think that the writing style was effective enough to spark those kilig (or swoon-worthy) moments, despite the fact that they were all short stories.
You might be wondering, should you read Only A Kiss to be able to enjoy Just A Little Bit of Love
For the sake of understanding some minor character references, it would be good to start off with Only A Kiss. But you are not going to be confused otherwise, so you’re still in a win-win situation!  
AUTHOR Q&A:
In celebration of the e-book’s release last November 18, 2015 and this being my very first blog tour activity (yes it is a momentous event), I got in touch with the author and we had a little Q&A session for you… 

Just A Little Bit of Love is set in the same world as Only A Kiss. What sparked you to write these three short stories within the same setting? 
I wish I had a nobler reason or even just a cooler reason for using the world of Only A Kiss, but I don’t. What I had originally set out to do was to write short blog posts to promote Only A Kiss. Then my husband said, “Why don’t you put those blog posts together and give them away to readers and potential readers?”
When I put them together, I realized I needed to fix them so they could be a proper anthology I’ll be happy to give away. I started adding to Anita’s and Carla’s story and I wrote “On The Sidelines”. It was meant to be just as short as the other two but I got carried away! And when I sent the stories out to my beta readers, they were upset that I wasn’t going to release the stories. And since more than one said I needed to get them out there, I listened. And I’m glad I did!
Have you taken inspiration from any real life experiences or people you know of and written it into Only A Kiss and Just A Little Bit of Love? Can you share some of these tidbits?
Sadly, no. When it comes to my stories, maybe some events will inspire me and I would include them but nothing significant like someone’s love story or personality. Like for example, when I wrote the soccer scenes in “On The Sidelines”, I thought back to when I watched my cousin’s football games on the Ateneo field. For Carla’s story, I just had to think back to the numerous weddings I’ve attended and the preparation that went into them. Anita’s story … well, I’ve always wanted my own shop. Maybe not necessarily a coffee shop but some form of shop. 
Was writing short stories easier or tougher for you compared to writing a full-length novel?
Short stories are so much easier for me. I can finish them in days and still inject a full dose of kilig! Novels or novellas have more substance but they do take more out of me. What I love about writing short stories is I can finish them on my phone. I can’t do that with a 30,000 word manuscript. And sometimes I can’t get to my laptop and all I have to work on is my phone. I’ve written six short stories this year and a novella. You can see which is easier for me based on that haha! 
Have you considered writing a spin-off book to any of the characters within Just A Little Bit of Love? If so who would it be and why?
Oh wow, I still haven’t. I’m getting requests for more of Anita’s story or a full-length story of John and Ina. I still don’t know though. I feel as if there are so many characters waving their hands in the air begging me to get to them! I hope I will someday, soon. 
What books or which authors (either Filipino or International) had a major influence in your writing career?
I love getting this question because I have a very specific answer! As a teenager, I fell in love with the Sweet Dreams books written by Jahnna Beecham. I scoured the shelves for her titles and collected them all. Then she came out with a YA detective romance series called Hart and Soul and I collected those too. But she wrote under Jahnna N. Malcolm because, apparently, it was she and her husband who wrote the books (Jahnna Beecham and Malcolm Hillgartner). I loved the quirky characters, the sweet yet swoon-worthy boys, and the chemistry flying all over the place. In fact, because I couldn’t find my books anymore, I recently ordered the second-hand ones from Amazon and they have a place of honor on my nightstand. 
What is your secret in writing kilig (or swoon-worthy) moments and do you have any pieces of advice for aspiring fiction writers (like myself) that you would like to share? 
I think it’s about knowing what makes you feel kilig as a writer. If you’re kilig over a scene you wrote, then it’s a good chance your reader will be too. Then you take it up a notch. But not too much that it’s cheesy. Read the scene again and again. If it holds up and is still kilig after several readings, you’ve got a winner. 
Advice to aspiring writers: Don’t give up. There will be times when you’ll feel like you’re the worst writer in the world or that no one will ever read your books, but if you keep at it long enough and hard enough, and work on improving your craft every single day, the readers will come. But at the same time, don’t quit your day job just yet! J
There you have it ladies and gents! Please don’t forget to grab your own copy of Just A Little Bit of Love, an anthology filled with cuteness and charm! See the following links: 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Ines Bautista-Yao is the author of One Crazy Summer, What’s in your Heart, and Only a Kiss. She has also written two short stories, “Flashbacks and Echoes,” which is part of a compilation called All This Wanting and “A Captured Dream,” one of the four short stories in Sola Musica: Love Notes from a Festival. 
She is the former editor-in-chief of Candy and K-Zone magazines and a former high school and college English and Literature teacher. She is also a wife and mom and blogs about the many challenges and joys of motherhood at theeverydayprojectblog.com. She has recently launched The Author Project, a section in her current blog devoted to the stories in her head.
She tweets and take Instagram photos @inesbyao and her author page is at https://www.facebook.com/inesbautistayao/ 


BLOG TOUR LINKS:
Thank you very much Ines for answering my questions and for letting me be a part of this blog tour!

Only A Kiss by Ines Bautista-Yao | Mini Book Review

Title: Only A Kiss
Author: Ines Bautista-Yao
Publication: November 29th 2014 by Chamber Shell Publishing
Format: Paperback, 141 pages

(Disclaimer: I won this book in a giveaway. This fact did not affect any of my opinions regarding the book.) 

Plot in a Nutshell:

When she was nine-years-old, Katie knew she wanted Chris to give her her first kiss. It wasn’t because she was in love with him (no way, he was her best friend! Besides, she was in love with his fourteen-year-old big brother), it was because she could make him do anything she wanted. 

Besides, it didn’t really mean anything. It was only a kiss after all. 

But then things started to change. They grew up. They parted ways and went to different high schools. And other girls and boys—well, just one particular boy—came into the picture, throwing their lives upside down. 

Told from the alternating points of view of Katie and Chris, this love story between two best friends will tug at your heartstrings and leave you thinking how the simplest things can mean so much.
-Synopsis from Goodreads


Thoughts in General:


You all know that I really love a good contemporary romance and Only A Kiss is a book that satisfied my inner hopeless romantic. The book mainly follow Katie and Chris, who are best buds since they were little and it tells the story of how they slowly grow up and trudges the territory of friendships, first loves, and romance. The author managed to capture both of their perspectives into a 141 page novel with sincerity and lightness.  
The coming-of-age style the author used was a great way to introduce this simplistic story. Even though the tropes and the plot twists were predictable, I still cared about where the story went and I wanted to find out how the characters will react to certain situations. I did find some knots in the plot easily resolved, but I guess that was part of the charm of the novel. It wasn’t overly complicated and heavy, which I was expecting in the first place. 
I did find one of the main characters, namely Katie, quite annoying. She was such a bossy pants to Chris and I wasn’t 100% charmed by her at the beginning of the novel. Eventually my annoyance towards her lessened as the story progressed, but until now I still have reservations towards her. 
Chris is my favorite! You don’t normally get to see the perspective of a guy in these types of stories and I was happy that author didn’t fold into that convention. I related to him the most and everything he went through felt real and honest. 
Both of the MCs had their distinct voices and I never encountered a problem with mixing up any of the characters, which is a really good point for any book. 
Only A Kiss is a book I will highly recommend to those who want to venture into the Philippine Literary scene. It’s practical prose and familiar tropes will enlighten your own inner hopeless romantic.     
P.S. The cover of the book was just incredible and the chapter illustrations were gorgeous! Great job book designers!
Rating:
I give Only A Kiss a…
It’s such a feel good book that you should definitely pick up!
Have you read Only A Kiss? What are your thoughts regarding it? Feel free to comment down below or link your post so I could read your own review!

Thank you very much to Dianne at Oops I Read A Book Again and also the wonderful author Ines Bautista-Yao for creating the giveaway! You guys rock! 

A and D by Louisse Carreon (or fallenbabybubu on Wattpad) | Book Review

Title: A and D
Author: Louisse Carreon (a.k.a fallenbabybubu)
Publication:  First Printing December 2013 by Pop Fiction
Format: Paperback, 251 pages
Source: Personal Purchase from National Bookstore
STAND-ALONE

Plot in a Nutshell:
Everyone at school thinks that Dakota Evans and Aaron Ford shouldn’t be friends.

Why?

Because Dakota is a huge nerd, and Aaron is… well, not.

He’s only the most popular guy in school (and a jock to boot!), and dating the most popular girl, head cheerleader Annabelle Lacy (but, of course).

They’re not supposed to be friends. But they are.
And Dakota isn’t supposed to be in love with her best friend.
But she is.

“I don’t just love him. I’m in love with him,” she whispers to herself one night.

Will Dakota opt to remain friends with Aaron? Or will she give up their friendship and finally confess her love to him instead?

Synopsis from Goodreads

Thoughts in General:

Honestly I did not expect a lot from this book at all but the impact it had on me was really surprising. I really enjoyed myself whilst reading A and D although the plot and characters were predictable. I guess the familiarity of the story was such a comfort for me that I just whizzed through this book. Yes, there were some minuscule grammatical errors (more on the punctuation) but the way it was written was quite remarkable. I can definitely say that I am kind of envious of the talent of Louisse Carreon in writing. The book was written in a really simple manner that justified the story she told. 
Thoughts in Detail:
Characters
The cast of characters this book had was, to me at least, reminiscent of High School Musical. Don’t ask me why but that’s the vibe that I got as I read this book.
The book is told from the First Person POV of the protagonists Aaron Ford and Dakota Evans.
Aaron Ford can be described as the quintessential popular jock archetype. He is the captain of the basketball team and everybody seems to see him as this High School hero thus he is extremely popular in school (ala Troy Bolton). I liked him and his traits although there were times I wanted to punch him on the face so that he could have a wake-up call much sooner. He also has a best friend and that is our second protagonist Dakota Evans. 
Dakota, on the other hand, is the nerd of the school. Totally unpopular yet incredibly witty and sassy. She was probably my favorite character in the book. I got to see the complexity in her characterization. She is smart, headstrong yet she is also vulnerable and insecure. Like Aaron, I had moments I wanted to shake her vigorously just to make her understand certain things.
As you guys might have guessed already, given that the synopsis itself let the cat out of the bag, Dakota is irrevocably in love with Aaron. The thing is, Aaron only sees Dakota as his sisterly best friend. He acts totally protective of her and he is totally oblivious regarding his best friend’s emotions towards him which sort of annoyed me. I get that’s the whole point of the story and it does happen in real life so I let it pass. 
Then we have the side characters. Ethan and Luke, Aaron’s Best Buds were really comical at times and I saw that they were really good friends. Allyson, Dakota’s other BFF, was also sassy and a really caring friend as well. 
Then we have the adversary. Annabelle Lacy, you might have guessed already, was such a two-dimensional character. I felt that her character development was really abrupt.

All-in-all I felt that the ensemble of characters worked well together and they were the one who made the book totally enjoyable to read.  

Setting
The book was set in New York City and I didn’t feel the authenticity of it. Even though I haven’t been to NYC I just felt that the book lacked descriptions that could have made me believe the setting. However it did not defer me to the story and it didn’t totally bothered me that much. (UPDATE: I am so sorry but the setting was actually in New Jersey. Thank you for the author for pointing it out.)  
Story
This book was extremely cliche but oddly enough I didn’t mind it at all. It was light, fun and there were moments that made me giddy and happy. Although there was this one twist that just caught me off guard and I kind of questioned the purpose of that twist (honestly I felt that it wasn’t necessary at all). The ease and simplicity of reading this book was really comforting and that added to its charm.
Rating:
I give A and D a… 
Thumbs Up!
I will definitely pick up more Pop Fiction books because of this!
Have you guys read A and D? What did you guys think of it? Please share your thoughts by commenting down below.

Happy Reading, 

Queen of the Clueless (Interim Goddess of Love #2) by Mina V. Esguerra | Book Review + Discussion


Plot in a Nutshell:
If you’ve been feeling neglected by the Goddess of Love lately, don’t worry — Hannah Maquiling, college sophomore, is in training to take over. The Original Goddess is missing, but Hannah is Interim Goddess now, and she should figure out how to solve humanity’s love problems soon. Quin (God of the Sun) is still her mentor, still really hot, but apparently isn’t as honest about his other earthly relationships as she thought. It’s frustrating, and enough to make her check out possibilities with Diego (God of the Sea) and Robbie (Cute Human).

In the meantime, she’s decided to spend some of her precious training time helping to break up a relationship, instead of putting one together. Why? Because the girl in question happens to be her best friend Sol, whose boyfriend is stealing not just from her, but from other people on campus. Sol didn’t exactly summon the Goddess, but this is what power over Love is for, right? Surely it’s not just about matchmaking, but ending doomed relationships too. (Even when it’s not what people want.)
-Synopsis (from Goodreads)
Thoughts in General:
I have to hand it to Mina V. Esguerra, she really did a great job with this sequel and I actually like this one much better compared to the first book. The plot in Queen of the Clueless is more complex and intriguing with twists and turns that isn’t prevalent in Interim Goddess of Love. The characters in this book seems more palpable to me and their growth and personalities shines through which is a major factor why I liked this book. Though, in my opinion, there are certain questions that did not tied up nicely by the end, still I had a good time reading this book.
Thoughts in Details (Contains Spoilers):
I kind of anticipated that Queen of the Clueless will have a much trickier plot line but I did not expect so much intrigue and mystery in this installment at all.
The main character Hannah has really grown in this book. She’s sassier, more in control and courageous. I like how she stands up for what she believes in but there are times that she is becoming a little too compulsive with her actions and too controlling for her own good (which annoyed me). I also got to see a more realistic side of her friendship with Sol.
Speaking of, Sol has a leading role in this book, being Hannah’s brand new project. Sol is having a problem with her brand new boyfriend, Neil. He’s nice, kind, polite and all but there is this one major thing that is kind of a turn off (I won’t say anything I don’t want to spoil you guys too much). This particular conflict, in my opinion, made the book more interesting. The book did not center itself around a full-blown love dilemma (like the first book) instead we got some mystery and intrigue.
There are still loads of romance in this book. Let me begin by saying that it really annoys me that Hannah kept on pushing herself to get Quin’s affection even though the guy is acting like a total a**hole! I think Hannah needs to have a serious intervention herself because she would rather waste her time crushing on Quin than turning her attention to Robbiewho genuinely likes her. I am just saying she needs to have a serious wake-up call (Am I alone in this?). Don’t get me started with the Diego thing that happened.
The gods in this book (Quin, Diego and Vida) finally felt more humane to me. We get to see Diego, the god of the sea and labor, do some divine intervention himself and I am starting to like him. Quinis starting to develop other personality traits other than being a stoic dude. Though we didn’t get to see a lot from Vida I am quite excited with what she has planned for the final book (that ending is a total cliffhanger).
The writing style in this book greatly improved with the way the author articulated the scenes which felt more vivid. I still do have TONS of questions (like why did the gods choose Ford River College to be there playground? And what is up with the Original Goddess? And what is up with that Neil situation?) but I guess I have to just wait and see what will happen in the final book.      
Rating:
I give Queen of the Clueless a…
Thumbs Up!
 I can’t wait for the final book to be released in print format!
How about you guys? What did you guys think of this book? Please do share your thoughts by commenting down below, I would highly appreciate it!

Happy Reading,

Interim Goddess of Love (Interim Goddess of Love #1) by Mina V. Esguerra | Book Review

Plot in a Nutshell:
When you’re offered to become the goddess of love, how can you refuse?
When Hannah is asked to take the place of the goddess of love, she agrees because it was assigned to her by the love of her life-who just so happens to be the very gorgeous sun god. Though she does have a knack for listening to other people’s heartaches, she’s totally new at it and can’t understand how she can help bring love into people’s lives when she can’t even get one particular boy to pay attention to her. Will Hannah ever survive this goddess gig? Or will she end up heartbroken as well?
-Synopsis (from Goodreads)
Thoughts in General:
Interim Goddess of Love is such a pleasant surprise! Truthfully I did not expect to have the reactions I had while reading this charming little book. The characters were all interesting and fun to read about, the plot is really simple yet it still resonates with me and I am so happy that I got to read a book set in my native country which is in the Philippines (I could actually relate to all the stuff they were doing or the things the author referenced about). I am really glad that I started off my Valentine’s week with this book because it actually made me gushy inside (not manly at all, I know).
Thoughts in Details (May Contain Spoilers):
Characters
Hannah Maquiling is the goddess of love (interim) and our lead heroine. I really liked her characterization. She is so kind and caring though at times she is overly committed to her job. The thing that kind of bothered me with her character is that she was totally cool with the idea of being the goddess of love, as in too cool. She didn’t even freak out when she learned that the Tagalog deities were actually real and that threw me off the story for a while. However I managed to wrap my head around it and just went with  the flow.  
Joaquin “Quin” Apolinario is the hot guy character, that is actually the mystical sun god who introduced Hannah to their magical existence. He is reserved, stoic at times and he felt like the typical brooding sort. He is so strict and formal about things and I got the feeling that there is something beneath the surface.
Then there’s Diego Simon, the very temperamental god of the sea who is always brawling with people. He is the complete opposite of Quin! He is brash, straight-forward and a total rule breaker. I imagine this guy as the bullying type which kind made me iffy about him but eventually he grew on me.
Vida Castillo is the most popular girl in Ford River College and the queen bee. She also happens to be the sly goddess of the moon. She is hell-bent to stop Hannah’s growth as the goddess of love. I really like how she is characterized in this book. She’s very subtle yet endearing to me and I liked that.
  
Kathy Martin is Hannah’s first “goddess project”. She is pretty, rich yet she has insecurities as well. I like how nice and humble she is and that she doesn’t even know her own beauty!
Other characters include Soledad “Sol” Delloro our protagonists BFF, she is funny and a great side character. Robbie Carlos is the mortal friend of Quin and Diego. He is a really sweet guy and I really ship Hannah and him.
Setting
The book’s central setting is Ford River College, a fictional campus located in the outskirts of Metro Manila (I got the vibe that it is a hybrid of UP and Ateneo). I am so happy that I could finally relate to the culture of the characters that I am reading. The author crafted a story that really did incorporate certain Filipino culture (like the characters eating turon and green mangoes with shrimp paste or bagoong as we natively called it). Mina V. Esguerra captured Manila and the Philippines beautifully.
Story
Told from a First Person POV, the plot of the whole book is really simple but the way the author executed the humor, mythology and romance in the story made this book quite unique. It is Hannah’s coming-of-age tale as she takes the role of the love goddess and how she handles everything is presented in a fun and quirky manner.
Rating:
Interim Goddess of Love deserves a…
Thumbs Up! I am surprised on how much I really liked this book!
Have you read Interim Goddess of Love? What are your thoughts about it? Please do share your comments down below!

Happy Reading,