Friday, May 23, 2014

Heat of the Moment from Hot and Bothered Bundle: #BuqoSteamyReads Blog Tour + Giveaway

More #buqosteamyreads! When I first saw the list of titles and authors, I knew that I wanted to read EA Martelle's Heat of the Moment. From the cover alone, this promises to be a good one.

About the Book
She needs the diversion...

Noelle Sanchez is looking for a distraction from the pressure of organizing a company-
wide event and her recent heartbreak after a two-year relationship. She gets more than what she asked for in Aiden, the smoking-hot bartender at the resort where she and her colleagues are staying for the next two weeks.

...then Mr. Sex on Two Legs arrives.

Aiden Bennett has been on fire since the day he first saw Noelle. He tries to pursue her, but she turns the tables on him and amps up the heat, leading to one night of mind-
blowing sex and an insatiable craving to take care of her. But before he can tell her the truth about himself, she discovers his identity.

Will one lie be too many for Noelle whose trust is already damaged, or will Aiden manage to win her trust...and maybe her heart?

Now here's a short excerpt (I want more Aiden!):
Aiden wasn’t the type of person to get distracted at work. He had built Island Paradise Resort from the ground up, and he always took pride that it turned out to be more of a home than just a piece of property he inherited from his parents. With over eight people under his wing, Island Paradise was home to each and every one of his employees, and all of them depended on him. Aiden cursed himself for not being at the reception desk when the group checked in. The woman who made his senses go haywire talked to Cheryl at the front desk and checked in their group for the next two weeks. The second they left and headed to their cabanas, Aiden asked Cheryl about the group and learned her name—Noelle Sanchez. She was part of the HR team that made arrangements in behalf of Invictus. He said a silent prayer of thanks for the interesting turn of events.

Aiden caught Joe looking at him quizzically. Joe was one of the waiters at Café Mirasol, the resort’s main restaurant, and he had been working there for the past three years. Aiden pursed his lips, threw the wet rag in the sink, and turned the faucet on. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

Joe shrugged and rearranged shot glasses on the counter. “Nothing much, boss. You just got that look on your face that says you got hit hard in the nuts,” he replied, then chuckled.

“Something funny?”

Joe grinned. “I don’t want to sound like I’m meddling in your personal life, boss, but I’d say it’s about time you devoted some time to it. You work too hard.” He nodded towards the direction of the beach where the woman still lounged. “She seems like a nice person.”

“You talked to her?” Unbelievable. Why did it seem like he was the only person in their resort who hadn’t spoken to her yet? Damn, he had to ramp up his game. Fast.

Joe was about to reply when the woman in question stomped back into the shade of the resort. Her long hair waved behind her like a dark flag as she made a beeline to the bar and sat on one of the stools just a few meters within Aiden’s reach. Her face was a mixture of anger and sadness.

The lanky waiter winked, gave Aiden a thumbs-up sign, and sauntered to the kitchen.

Aiden turned his attention back to the woman in front of him. She was even more breathtaking up close. With her sunglasses over her head, he was able to see her strong profile—a delicate jawline, pert nose, high cheekbones, and almond eyes framed by incredibly long lashes. She was also wearing a low-cut, see-through floral dress. Underneath the flimsy clothing was a hot red bikini. Aiden sucked his breath when she leaned on the counter, unconsciously giving him an enticing view of the valley between her breasts.

“I’d like a margarita, please,” she said without even looking up. She clutched her cellphone in a death grip while reading something on it.

He found it unusual for anyone to be in a sour mood while in a peaceful place. One of the things he loved about owning a resort was its close proximity to the ocean. There was something peaceful and calming about the area, and he had made it a point to enhance that feeling by creating a place where people can relax and leave their worries behind.

But the lady in front of him paid no attention to the serene atmosphere, or to the fact that she was in an upscale resort-hotel. Aiden wanted to know what ticked her off. More importantly, he wanted to make her smile.

“Did you have lunch already?” He tried to play it cool by heading over to the other side of the counter to put away the shot glasses Joe had been cleaning.

She had a puzzled look on her face. He tried to curb his compulsion to kiss those full lips.

“You don’t want to drink an alcoholic beverage on an empty stomach. Trust me; you’d get drunk faster than you could say ‘I shouldn’t have had a margarita on an empty stomach.’” It wasn’t one of his wittiest lines, but a smile peeked out from the corner of her lips. He felt like shaking his fist in triumph.

“You got me. I guess I just wanted to do something bad for a change, like get crazy drunk. I feel like I’m too much of a goody two-shoes.” She glanced at her cellphone and her expression darkened once more.

He leaned over the counter and glanced at the phone in her hands. “Guy problem?” He hoped not.

She sighed, blowing a lock of hair away from her face. He found the gesture to be quite endearing. “I wish it wasn’t.”

“Tell you what, sweetcakes.” He pulled out a bottle of champagne from the shelf and a couple of fruit juices from the fridge. “I’ll fix you a Mimosa to help get you out of that rut, but you have to promise me you won’t feel bad about yourself just because some jerk had balls for brains.”

That made her smile. He poured the concoction in a tall glass and garnished it with a slice of lemon on the side and a cocktail umbrella. “You should smile more often…” He let that statement hang for a bit, hoping he made the right cue.

Her blush showed through the slight tan on her flawless face. Oh boy, was he a goner.

#BuqoSteamyReads is the collective term for mature short stories produced by a writing workshop conceptualized by author Mina V. Esguerra and Buqo. Download the Buqo app ( on Android and for iOS) to get this short story, as well as the others in the Hot and Bothered Bundle:

Just for the Record by Six delos Reyes
Just for the record, the heat can get to even the most calculated of minds.

Let it be stated that Rhys loves Ryan forever and ever. But certain needs are not being met, leaving her frustrated and asking for too much than the conservative and almost-rock star, Ryan, is willing to give. Uncooperative (or cooperative, depending on your point of view) weather provides her an opportunity to ask not what she can do for her friends, but what a friend can do for her.

Isaiah likes to say that the best thing about Rhys is that he can stand in her breathing space and feel nothing. Something of a breather when dancing with Lia short circuits his entire operating system. But all his beliefs are challenged when Rhys chances upon him in a steamy practice room in the middle of a heat wave.

Intoxicated by VM Blanc
Deke, Sam and their new relationship will take you on a journey of friendship, love and complications.

Lights Off by Asha Carpio
Broadway Star Olivia Rivera knows exactly what she wants: fame, successful career, and to prove herself. She even has a “script” to get this: find the next big thing, grab it, then move on to the next one.

Her plans get shaky when the sultry and equally ambitious Jacob Pecson makes a surprise comeback in her life. Jacob knows exactly what Olivia wants, and he has a mission of his own: to turn her life around.

With their paths crossing again, Olivia finds herself troubled as she rekindles her fire with Jacob. Will Olivia finally give in to what her heart desires or will she runaway again this time?

Plus, you can join the giveaway to get the chance to win great prizes:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Whole Latte Love Blitz Blog Tour + Giveaway

Whole Latte Love
By Rachelle Ayala
Publication date: April 16th 2014
Genres: New Adult, Romance

About the Book
Investment banking intern Carina Chen doesn’t need any distractions—especially the sexy, guitar-playing barista she rooms with for the summer.

Free spirit Dylan Jewell appreciates the delightful universe of women who vie for his attention. His goal in life is to do good, make happy coffee, and help the homeless.

When Carina moves in, she insists on rules of conduct to quell her instant attraction to Dylan. But when her boss asks her to turn Dylan into a businessman, she can’t think of a reason not to take advantage of his hospitality.

Their chemistry is white hot, but Dylan refuses to play Carina’s game, unable to understand how he can fall in love with a woman who puts profits in front of people. When Carina realizes Dylan isn’t budging, she risks all to gain a single night with him. Will her gambit backfire or will Dylan discover Carina’s true heart before she runs away with his?

Whole Latte Love is an opposites-attract romance mixing bluesy rock music, hot, steamy love scenes, and financial shenanigans.

Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble

I've read Ms Ayala's Taming Romeo (New Adult Romance)before and her writing is filled with believable characters and great sexual tension. Let's see a sample, shall we?

“Great, let’s pop open a bottle of champagne and celebrate.”

“What are we celebrating?” Carina propped herself with one elbow on the counter, her jacket open to a low cut tank top that showed her slight cleavage.

She had perfect curvature. What he wouldn’t give to touch those puppies, suck on them. They’d be soft and oh, so sweet.

“Dylan, hello.” She snapped her fingers in front of him and smiled. “What are we celebrating?”

Oh, yeah. He cleared his throat and let out a chuckle. “BRF.”


“Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of BRF—Best Roomies Forever.”

“What are we, fourteen years old?” She made a gagging motion. “Barf.”

“You’ll love it, trust me.” Dylan fist bumped her. “Shall we have some rules? I know you like rules.”

“Sure, while you think up the rules, I’m going to serve myself some of this delicious food. I’m starving.” Carina grabbed a plate and stood with her back to him in front of the counter.

“Me too.” He put both hands on each side of her and leaned down. She smelled sweet and clean, her conditioner scented with a touch of jasmine. “Rule number one. BRFs get to hug and hold hands.”

She tipped her head back. “Is this an excuse to come on to me?”

“Oh no.” He feigned indignation. “Just making sure we get along, like when you had those rules for chores?”

“Which my cleaning service is taking care of.” She picked a snap pea out of the omelet and popped it into her mouth.

He leaned around toward her lips. “Rule number two. BRFs can kiss.”

She ducked and placed her index finger on his lips. “Barfs can kiss, except on the lips, and cuddle together while watching a movie.”

“Why not the lips?” He tucked a kiss on her temple.

“Because we’re Barfs.” She giggled. “That would be gross.”

“Bee. Err. Eff.” He enunciated each letter. “One more. Rule number three. BRFs can tickle and wrestle each other every night before going to bed.”

“Except …” She turned and poked his chest. “… no touching certain body parts.”

“Certain? Sounds too vague to me.” His erection knocked hard in his jeans and he was having trouble maintaining a casual note in his voice. “You’ll have to name the exceptions, one by one, or show me.”

“Oh, I don’t know. I’d think the exceptions should be obvious.” Carina trapped his left hand. “It means wherever you want to touch, you can’t.”

He moved his right hand around the small of her back and caressed her behind. She made a small gasp, still holding his left hand, as her other hand rubbed the muscles on his forearm.

Her sharp jeweled eyes, glittering like black onyx, opened wider as her mouth relaxed, inviting him to capture it. But she was the one who made the no-kissing-the-lips rule, so he’d let her suffer.

He worked his hand from her behind to the side of her waist, sweeping up her rib cage. Her eyes were still luminous, focused on him, daring him to brush her breast, maybe even roll her nipple.

The biker jacket was in the way. He lifted his eyebrow, asking permission, as he loosened it off her shoulder.

Her gaze still challenging him, she nevertheless let the jacket slip to the floor, baring her smooth, creamy shoulders.

He dipped his head and pressed his lips on her neck, eliciting a sigh as her arms went around his shoulders. Kissing a trail from her neck to her collarbone, he alternately licked and nipped her exquisitely delicate skin.

“Any more rules?” he mumbled as he gently rubbed his beard shadow over her chest.

“No, except—”

Her phone rang.
About the Author
Rachelle Ayala is the author of dramatic fiction featuring strong but flawed characters. She writes emotionally challenging stories and is not afraid of controversial topics. However, she is an optimist and laces her stories with romance and hope.

Rachelle is an active member of the California Writer's Club, Fremont Chapter, and a volunteer for the World Literary Cafe. She is a very happy woman and lives in California with her husband. She has three children and has taught violin and made mountain dulcimers.

Visit her blog at or contact her at

Author Links:

If you liked what you've just read, then you'll be pleased to know that we have two international giveaways today! The first prize is one (1) ebook copy of Ms Ayala's Chance for Love Boxed Set. You have until June 12 to join. Since Whole Latte Love has a whole latte coffee in it, I've decided to make our giveaway drink-related. Just answer the question: Which drink best defines your idea of love? Leave a comment below to get a point or tweet about it (don't forget to tag me so your entry will count). Winners will be chosen via

The next prize is a $50 Amazon Gift Card. It's an international giveaway that ends on May 25; just check out the Rafflecopter list below to see how you can win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Boyfriend-Stealing Bitch from Passion Bundle: #BuqoSteamyReads Blog Tour + Giveaway

Early this year, author Mina V. Esguerra and Buqo came up with #buqosteamyreads, a writing workshop aimed to create mature short stories for readers 18 and older. Lots of authors came to play, resulting in five bundles of steamy goodness. One of them is Halina Cabrera's Boyfriend-Stealing Bitch:

About the Book
Jess Rodriguez always gets what she wants. That's why no one in her office has difficulty believing she tried to steal the gorgeous Martin de Guzman from his perfect girlfriend, Eliza. Now, the label "boyfriend-stealing bitch" has been slapped on her. Plus, Martin has to leave for the U.S. and Jess is left all alone to pick up the pieces.

Two years later, Martin shows up in the most unlikely of places: at Jess’s weekend getaway with her boyfriend, Joey. Will it be his turn to steal her away on a hot summer night? Is she finally going to claim the title she was so unfairly given back then?

Here's a short excerpt from Boyfriend-Stealing Bitch--and I guarantee you, you'll want to read more:
The week goes by really fast. And the next thing I know, we’re having a despedida party for Martin at a bar in Makati. Everyone’s there, and group pictures are being taken left and right. Martin, however, looks distant. He smiles and acts normally, but I know something’s wrong because he has that look on his face. Drinks in hand, I lead him away from the fray toward a balcony cocktail table far from the bar.

“Are you okay?” I ask him.

“I feel like shit. Eliza’s not talking to me.” I should have known.

“Maybe you should go patch up things with her.”

“I don’t know. Maybe I should,” he says, but he stays where he is. He’s quiet and, I suspect, a little tipsy, if not drunk.

“You could always go home.”


“Look, you’re in no condition to drive. Let me just call you a cab.” I start to head back toward the bar, but he puts his hand on my arm.

“Not yet, Jess,” he says. There’s a plea in his voice. His hand is warm on my skin. I’m not a very touchy-feely kind of person. And I’m sure we must have grazed elbows or arms at some point in the past, but this feels funny. Well, at least, the feel of his hand on my arm is making me feel funny. I know I should walk away, but I don’t.

“Just stay with me for a while.” I don’t say anything.

His hand is still on my arm.

“I’m going to miss you,” he says.

“I’ll miss you too.”

“Say it like you mean it.”

I look at his face. What is going on with him? Is it the alcohol talking?

“Look, Martin, I think you’ve had too much to drink—”

His hand has traveled up to my shoulder, and before I know it, he’s gently stroking my cheek and jaw. My heart is hammering in my chest. I know I should pull away, but stupid me, I feel frozen in place. I’m still waiting for something to make sense. Or I’m enjoying the way he’s touching me. I don’t know. Or maybe I’m realizing that he looks even better when his skin is slightly flushed.

“Jessica,” he says. He’s never said my whole name like that, like a half whisper. And then he’s kissing me. Slowly, at first, then hungrily. I can smell the vodka on his breath mixing with the scent of his cologne. I don’t know how it happened, but his arms are around me, and I’m leaning into his body. What am I doing? is the last thing on my mind before we hear a gasp behind us.

“Oh my God, Jess Rodriguez, you are a boyfriend-stealing BITCH!”

And there’s Eliza, tears streaming down her face. I think the whole floor has heard her.

Ready to read more? Download the Buqo app ( on Android and for iOS) to get this short story and the rest of the Passion Bundle:

Landing Dr. Right by Rylie Miranda
When Kayla Navarro storms Dr. Alexander J. Thomson's office to chew him out for his awful treatment of her mom, the last person she expects to see is AJ-slash-Alex, the hot, arrogant cousin of her best friend. Sparks ensue between them, but to Kay's discomfort, it's not just annoyance that she feels. The aloof half-Brit knows exactly how to get under her skin, and she’s not against giving as good as she gets.

Alex scores himself an invite to her out-of-town birthday celebration, and it’s only a matter of time until fireworks explode. In the close confines of their vacation rental, there’s no escaping him. Will Kay find out that she was right about him all along, or will she land herself a doctor she never thought she needed?

Love Under Cover by Mia del Socorro
Jake and Nicole have been close family friends for many years. He first met her as a shy thirteen-year-old tomboy, saw her through high school, watched over her as she went through the Philippine Military Academy, where he himself graduated, and continued to keep tabs on her through her early years in the Philippine Army.

A special undercover mission in the isolated foothills of the Cordilleras will place both of them in grave danger. Will it also bring them to a new frontier in their relationship?

Passion Within the Stone Walls by Kali Ragilles
Sometimes, it’s okay to be selfish…

Unless you’re Paige De Guia, whose only concern is to make sure all the bloggers under her charge enjoy themselves during their sponsored trip. Everything goes as planned, until she meets a handsome and mysterious tough guy on the way to the island of Sabtang in Batanes.

And just like that, Paige’s priorities turn upside down.

Plus, you can join the giveaway to get the chance to win great prizes:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Kabanata Young Adult Writers' Workshop

One way to promote a culture of reading among Filipino youth is to provide them with reading material that can capture their imagination and tell their stories. I started reading YA when I was young (Nancy Drew at seven; Elizabeth George Speare's The Witch at Blackbird Pond at nine) and the truth is, I've never really stopped. I still read a lot of YA. Unfortunately, a lot of that is foreign material. I've always wished that there were more local YA books. We've always had a great selection of children's books but our YA selections pale in comparison.

That's way it's heartening to read that the Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY) is launching the KABANATA Young Adult Writers' Workshop. I hope that this will give us a fresh wave of YA books similar to the dark and rich storytelling of Janus Silang or the sweet romance of Una and Miguel -- and everything else in between.

Deadline for applications is July 31. You can view the application guidelines and other details on To learn more about the Kabanata YA Writers' Workshop, visit

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Janus Silang Blog Tour Giveaway Winners

Posting the winners of the Janus Silang Blog Tour Giveaway. You may claim your prizes on May 10 (Sat) at the Adarna House showroom (109 Scout Fernandez cor. Scout Torillo Streets) or email Ms. Ergoe Tinio at if you are unable to claim your prize by then.

The Janus Silang book tour kicks off on May 10, 3 pm at the Adarna House Showroom, where author Edgar Samar will give a short talk and sign books. Si Janus Silang at ang Tiyanak ng Tabon will be sold there at the special discounted price of Php140.00 (from the original Php175.00).

Thank you to everyone who participated!

5 copies of Janus Silang
1. Christian Benitez
2. April Grace Bonaobra
3. Anna Liza M. Gaspar
4. Ailla Magcamit
5. Rainfhild Malicdem

10 Pambihirang Raquel Tote Bag
1. Biena Magbitang
2. Theresa Cruz-Escaros
3. Luna Cassandra Vander Woodsen
4. John Patrick Solano
5. Kwesi Ian Jay Junsan
6. Jhoana Paula Dela Cruz
7. Alma Reynaldo
8. Omi Castañar
9. Jana Lirag Federico
10. Ches Berdin

20 Pambihirang Raquel Notebook
1. Phoebe Maxine Andamo
2. Aryl Jane Germin
3. Cheri Ramos
4. Theresa Cruz-Escaros
5. Osing Benedicto
6. Perps Cuevas
7. Hatsya Souji
8. Ivy Bernadette Concepcion Nobleza
9. Mark Norman S. Boquiren
10. Ruskin Peñalba
11. Jeremy James Sim
12. Luna Cassandra Vanderwoodsen
13. Noella Orozco
14. KunYan Centeno
15. Anne Cagalingan
16. Jaymar Santos Castro
17. Patrick Marasigan Lopez
18. Jzhun Agev
19. Christian Robert Nalica
20. Agay Llanera Reyes

Jenny Han in Manila!

New York Times bestselling writer Jenny Han, author of the Summer series (The Summer I Turned Pretty, It's Not Summer Without You, We'll Always Have Summer) and the recently-released YA novel To All the Boys I've Loved Before) is coming to Manila! Catch her book signing events on June 21, 2 pm at National Book Store, Glorietta 1 and on June 22, 2 pm in National Book Store, SM Cebu.

I'm looking forward to this because I have all three of her Summer books (I've always been a summer girl). I'm also excited to read her To All the Boys I've Loved Before soon. What better time than right before her trip?

For more details, check out the events page here:

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Properly Scandalous (Mina V. Esguerra)

Properly Scandalous dives right into the action, unlike its predecessor Young and Scambitious, which understandably takes its time to introduce the characters and their world. In Scandalous, we already know what Jane del Mundy and her gang are into. They're a group with a very specific skill set (unlike Liam Neeson's in Taken, at least, not yet anyway), with access to well-paying clients and gullible marks. This time, they're approached by Gabriel Grande with the challenge of getting money from a government official. Jane comes up with the perfect scam, one that may be easy for them to set up but hard to pull off -- especially when it means rekindling old sparks between her and Gabriel.

Properly Scandalous moves fast. It sets a brisk pace and urges you to keep up. It's fascinating to see a scam unfold before your eyes and it's definitely a credit to Ms Esguerra that she can write something as deliciously diabolical as these then turn around and write a sweet YA romance.

One detail that I enjoy about the books is Ms Esguerra's deliberate use of colorful surnames. Scandalous has a Polly Masmagiting and an Esperanza Mandawit, for example. They're not quite the familiar surnames that you'd associate with Manila's high society (or even those climbing the social ladder), but I find that they serve a two-fold purpose: 1) they bring levity to a scene; and 2) they certainly help disassociate the events of the book from real people.

Plus, it maintains a great cast of characters. Scandalous even fleshes out previously secondary characters like Alexander and Wendy (they were my favorites from the beginning, I dunno why). Jane and her group live in a world with so much artifice but I still find myself drawn to the people behind their masks. By the way, their gang deserves a monicker. I'm just out of ideas at the moment.

The Scambitious series is one of my favorite among Ms Esguerra's works. There's a sharpness here that I rarely see in Filipino chick lit, and I don't mean the bitchy kind. It glints with a different kind of polish and charm. The dialogue is snappy but it doesn't take itself seriously. It moves in different circles: parties and bars and high-end condos on one hand, trashy gossip blogs and forums on the other. These worlds are brought together with convincing realism, walking the thin line between these two highly exaggerated worlds.

NOTE: Properly Scandalous is available on Smashwords. Holler if you want a gift code to get it free. Also, that's my old friend and fashion blogger Alex Lapa on the cover. She is one of my long-time blog readers. ;)

Scribbled: Last Call Cafe

I've taken on a couple of projects since the start of the year. My short story, A Rubbed Out Sky, is on Plural Online Journal's first issue. I wrote another short story, a YA one this time, for the #LunaEast project, which is a collection of short stories about a fictional high school in Manila. I also helped edit the second BLush Anthology called Secrets & Confessions, which was released at the BLush Con last May 3.

A few months ago, I picked up my pen and started writing a new novella, pretty much inspired by one of my sisters' childhood friends. Even though they hadn't seen each other in over twenty years, all anyone seemed to talk about was how he and my sister played together. It sparked an idea and gave me another opportunity to write about small towns, which I love doing. I've already shared the .pdf file of the first two chapters on Twitter but thought that I should also upload to Scribd to give my work-in-progress a more (semi-) permanent home while I finish writing. (Also, this looked like a good way to force myself to finish; I have all of you to remind me, right?)

I hope you'll enjoy reading it!

Last Call Cafe

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Si Janus Silang at ang Tiyanak ng Tabon Blog Tour + Giveaway

Si Janus Silang at ang Tiyanak ng Tabon
By Edgar Calabia Samar
Published by Adarna House, Inc. (2014)
Tungkol sa Aklat:
Sa tournament ng TALA Online sa bayan ng Balanga, namatay ang lahat ng manlalaro maliban kay Janus. Sunod-sunod pa ang naging kaso ng pagkamatay ng mga kabataan sa computer shops sai ba’t ibang panig ng bansa. Kinontak si Janus ng nagpakilalang Joey, isa rin umano sa mga nakaligtas sa paglalaro ng TALA na gaya niya. Hindi inasahan ni Janus ang mga matutuklasan niya mula rito na mag-uugnay sa kanya sa misteryo ng kinahuhumalingan niyang RPG—at sa alamat ng Tiyanak mula sa Tábon!

Si Janus Silang at ang Tiyanak ng Tabon opens with death. Heavy stuff for YA. But it sets the stage for what will be a heart-pounding adventure that takes the young protagonist Janus Silang from his home in Balanga and straight into the world of legend. Janus is a talented gamer, and on the night of a qualifying tournament for TALA Online, he finds himself the only survivor of a mysterious incident that leaves other TALA gamers dead.

I'm certain that from the title alone, Janus Silang will invite comparisons to Harry Potter or Percy Jackson. True, there are plenty of similarities -- the Campbellian hero and his Departure (more later), the fast-paced action, the mix of fantasy and reality -- to make fans of the foreign series want to try it out. But it is much darker than the other two. The death of his friend as well as other gamers, makes Janus' Call to Adventure different from the others (yes, while Harry's is also arguably dark, I don't think his Call is as urgent or as dangerous as Janus').

Though it may not have been immediately evident because he's in much confusion at the start of the story, Janus is street-smart and mentally agile. He comes alive under Mr Samar's pen. His terror is real; his choices justified. His internal monologue crackles. Set against a small town in Laguna, Janus Silang uses the vivid rural backdrop to create the right mood. By the time the story hits its stride, the reader is already sucked into the myth it has created.

Mr Samar weaves a lot of elements together (the tiyanak, Taong Tabon, online gaming, to name a few) but the story he creates is a convincing, cohesive tale. It's even made me Google just to find if I remembered the old tales differently.

Janus Silang ticks all the right monomyth boxes. But it does not lag in action nor is it comfortable with predictability. While this first book adeptly voyages through The Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call, The Supernatural Aid, Crossing the First Threshold, and The Belly of the Whale, it still manages to surprise and shock the reader. Just when you think it's going by-the-numbers, it twists the tale just slightly, moving and shifting again and again. It can be familiar, it can be uncomfortable, but it is often on point.

I consider myself a casual gamer but a devoted RPG player. Devoted in the sense that I was so immersed in a role-playing game for a large chunk of the past three years that I lived and breathed it. I used to play a lot more tabletop games; Legend of the Five Rings is my default. In another life, I used to play the MMORPG Ragnarok Online. I had an acolyte/priest on Iris. I played my fair share of video games until work took me away.

Why this disclaimer? Even though I am not as hardcore as others out there, I know the strange kind of addiction that a game can bring into someone's life. It's an immersion unlike any other -- unlike reading, unlike film, and unlike any other hobby. It's the closest I can come to entering a different dimension: to become someone I'm not, to play by a different set of rules, to inhabit a world that is far from mine. That's why I find myself relating to Janus on some level. He gives voice to a lot of young gamers, whose struggle to balance real-life responsibilities and in-game quests often end in stereotypical judgment. Janus begs for a second look: a boy on the verge of growing up, a boy underplays his passion for his family, a boy who observes and understands and adapts to the world around him the best way he knows how.

The level of description of the gameplay and the characters makes the local gaming culture come alive. Mr Samar writes as if he knows what he is talking about. My pet peeve with an international YA book about an MMORPG is how dubious I felt its game's worldbuilding was. The novel revolved around a guy who was supposedly so good and spent all his time in-game yet could not get past the baseworld. I never understood how someone could spend so much time with a game he loved and not be able to advance further than the average player. But Janus Silang was so different. Using the TALA MMORPG was inspired exposition for Janus's character -- how he thought, what was important to him, what his skills were. In the end, I felt that the book respected not just teens, but gamers as well.

Some very minor things that I noted is that Alabang Town Center is on the left, not the right, of the SLEX northbound flyover. I also didn't quite understand why Janus recalled his father's story after hearing Renzo's. He kept saying how the stories felt similar but aside from the getting lost element, the connection felt very tenuous to me. I wonder if there was just a detail that I might have missed. (Please tell me I'm wrong!) But you can easily overlook these and still enjoy the story. Like me, you'll end up wishing the second book was already out. For its tone, intensity, and daring, I think Janus Silang is a truly worthy representative of Pinoy YA.

Side note: Thanks to an interesting coincidence, the blog tour for Si Janus Silang at ang Tiyanak ng Tabon ends on the weekend where US readers insist that #WeNeedMoreDiverseBooks. Over on a friend's FB page, a discussion cropped up on what it means for Filipino readers and authors to demand for diversity. I felt that Janus Silang is the best way to illustrate my point: as long as there aren't enough stories like this on our local shelves, stories that reshape how we look at things, stories that convincingly represent a reader's voice, stories that challenge the status quo, then yes, let us not stop demanding for diversity.

Tungkol sa Manunulat:
Si Edgar Calabia Samar ay ipinanganak sa Lungsod San Pablo at nakapagsulat na ng dalawang nobela, ang Walong Diwata ng Pagkahulog (2009) at Sa Kasunod ng 909 (2012). Itong Janus Sílang series ang una niyang kathang YA. Nagtuturo siya ngayon ng Panitikan at Malikhaing Pagsulat sa Ateneo de Manila University. Mahigit sampung taon na ang nakararaan nang una siyang makakilala ng isang Púsong.

About the Author:
Edgar Calabia Samar was born in San Pablo City and has already written two novels,Walong Diwata ng Pagkahulog (2009) and Sa Kasunod ng 909 (2012). The Janus Sílang series is his first venture into YA. He teaches Literature and Creative Writing at Ateneo de Manila University. It has been over ten years since he last met a Púsong.

Note: I received a copy of Si Janus Silang at ang Tiyanak ng Tabon for an honest review, but I'd like to think I would buy it and read it over and over.

a Rafflecopter giveaway