Blog Tour | Only a Kiss, Ines Bautista-Yao (Guest Post)

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Title: Only A Kiss
Author: Ines Bautista-Yao
Publisher: Chamber Shell Publishing
Date of Publication: November 29, 2014
Genre: contemporary romance
 
Blurb:
 
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.
 
 
Purchase linksAmazon | Buqo.ph (The book is on sale for ONLY $0.99 until February 14!)
 
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EXCERPT
 

Katie couldn’t get over what she had just witnessed. The kiss Kuya Ben gave her cousin wasn’t like the ones she’d seen in movies or on TV. It was quick and it was through a car window, but it was the most powerful one she had ever seen. It was as if he wanted to gift all the emotions coursing through him to his future bride, and the only way he knew how was through a kiss.

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BRIEF REVIEW
 

I found this book such a fun, breezy read! I love the chemistry between Katie and Chris, and I love the author’s easy, conversational writing style, which makes you feel like you’re actually friends with the characters rather than just reading about their story.

The idea of best friends turned lovers is very popular in fiction, so for this blog tour, I invited author Ines Bautista-Yao to tell us about her favourite best friend couples in fiction.

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My Top 5 Best Friends-Turned-Lovers
Ines Bautista-Yao

When I was a kid, a friend told me to watch Some Kind of Wonderful. She told me it was an awesome movie and that the guy falls in love with his best friend. Back then, this was something totally new to me. All I knew were fairytales, Disney cartoons, and maybe Archie’s love triangle with Betty and Veronica. But after I watched that movie, I had all sorts of feels. It was, I felt, one of the most romantic scenarios ever!

I never really wanted to write about best friends falling in love because I felt, after watching several other movies and TV shows following Some Kind of Wonderful, that it was a tired trope. But then again, the reason why anything becomes cliché is because people can’t get enough of it! And I, too, am one of those people. Even if I told myself I wouldn’t write a story about best friends falling in love, how couldn’t I when I too love the idea so much?

Here are my top five best friends-turned-lovers on the big and small screen. Naturally, Some Kind of Wonderful tops the list.

  1. Watts and Keith in Some Kind of Wonderful-She’s his tomboy best friend who is secretly in love with him. He’s an artist who is in love with the most popular girl in school. He asks for her help to win Ms. Popularity over, but in the end, realizes (with a little help from Ms. Popularity) that the perfect girl has been under his nose all this time.

That scene with such feels: When Watts tells Keith that they have to practice kissing because Ms. Popularity will expect him to know what to do.

  1. Harry and Sally in When Harry Met Sally– They encounter each other several times after college and each time, realize that they can’t stand each other. But when they’re both finally living in New York, they bump into each other at a bookstore and end up hanging out. Then they make a pact to be just friends. Harry says he’s never had a female friend before because he eventually falls for her. And of course, in the end, he falls for Sally and she falls right back.

That scene with such feels: After a huge fight while Sally rants and tells Harry he’s horrible, he looks at her, asks her if she’s done, gives her a big hug, and says, “I’m sorry.” And everything is okay again.

  1. Jenna and Matt in 13 Going on 30– He’s her best friend at 13 and when she wakes up one morning and is suddenly 30, she seeks him out only to find that they’d grown apart. But in her head, they’re still both 13 and he’s still her best friend. He helps her deal with the strangeness of her situation and in the end, when everything goes back to normal, they get married and live in a replica of the dollhouse he had given her on her 13thbirthday.

That scene with such feels: When they kiss on the swings.

  1. Rosalee and Pete in Win A Date with Tad Hamilton– It’s clear from the start that even if Rosalee only sees Pete as her friend, he is madly in love with her. But he makes it seem as if he’s just being overprotective. When she does win a date with celebrity Tad Hamilton and Tad seems to like her back, Pete decides it’s time to make sure things don’t get out of hand. Of course, in the end, Rosalee realizes that she too loves the boy who has loved her all along.

That scene with such feels: When Pete stops Tad in the bathroom and enumerates the different things he loves about Rosalee.

  1. Mindy and Danny in The Mindy Project– Mindy and Danny are doctors together on this show and they’re always bickering. But they’re friends too. He takes care of her even if he’s always making fun of her and vice versa. Now this is insane because I’m not up to date on the show but I know they’re already together (I haven’t gotten to that part yet! Having a 15-month-old and dabbling at being an author who needs to promote her books takes up so much time!). So I don’t know how it happens, but I’ve been following the show and I love this pair because not only are they perfect for each other, they’re hilarious.

That scene with such feels: (I’m pretty sure there are better ones after this one, but this is how far I’ve gotten in the show, so bear with me) When Mindy pretends to be Danny’s girlfriend and he has to hug her in front of the girl who is stalking him. The way his face changes when he looks at her is priceless.

There are so many others: Emma and Knightly from Emma, Kim and Ron fromKim Possible, Gary and Miranda from Miranda (if you haven’t seen the BBC comedy Miranda, you are missing out on loads of laughs and feels!), Ross and Rachel from Friends… so many. What’s awesome is that though the overall situation is the same, each person, each character has their own story, and this is what makes watching them fall in love some kind of wonderful. 😉

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About Ines Bautista-Yao

Ines Bautista-YaoInes Bautista-Yao is the author of One Crazy SummerWhat’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:http://theeverydayprojectblog.com/inesbyao-author-project/

She posts on Instagram and tweets @inesbyao and her author page is facebook.com/inesbautistayao.

Blog – http://theeverydayprojectblog.com/inesbyao-author-project/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/inesbyao
Instagram – http://instagram.com/inesbyao
Facebook – http://facebook.com/inesbautistayao
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5359512.Ines_Bautista_Yao

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GIVEAWAY

Want to win your own copy of Only a Kiss? The author is giving away lots of goodies!

For Philippine residents:

One (1) winner will get a signed paperback of ONLY A KISS, a gift card from FILA, and a back issue of CAST comic book
Two (2) winners will each get a signed paperback of ONLY A KISS, light up laces, and back issue of CAST comic book

For US/Canada/international:

FIve (5) winners will each get an ebook of ONLY A KISS

Enter the contest on Rafflecopter here!

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Thanks to the author and blog tour host Oops I Read a Book Again for inviting me to participate in this tour! Other stops are in the tour post here.

Blog Tour | Review: Gottika, Helaine Becker

9781770863910Helaine Becker’s Gottika is a powerful retelling of an old Jewish legend about the golem, a magical humanoid being made from clay who is brought to life to protect Jewish towns from anti-semitic attacks. The world that Becker creates in Gottika bears many similarities to Panem and other contemporary YA dystopias, but the reference to Jewish legend turns the into an unsettling allegory for the horrors of the Holocaust.

Fifteen year old Dany is a Stoon, in Western Gottika where Stoons are treated as second class citizens and killed for no reason under the tyrannical rule of Count Pol. Unrest is brewing, and Dany’s father must decide if he must stop trying to keep a low profile and use the secret knowledge he possesses to bring clay to life and transform it into a weapon against Count Pol.

There’s a lot going on in Gottika, multiple plot threads that, though resolved, rarely ever take off. What’s the “staring sickness”, why do all the families in town only have one child each, why is Count Pol kidnapping teenage girls? The final question in particular does have a pretty big significance in the story, but the question feels so tangential, and buried beneath so many other plot points, throughout the story that the payoff feels disjointed.

More powerful are the encounters between Stoons and Count Pol’s soldiers. In one particularly memorable scene, Dany and his father are swimming when soldiers order them out of the water and castigate them for not wearing their hats. The casual injustice, coupled with Dany and his father’s powerlessness to resist, is difficult to read. In another scene, soldiers storm Dany’s house to confiscate his family’s books. The novel breaks from text narration then, switching over to graphics and demonstrating how some horrors are beyond just words.

While more of the main characters are male, I love that the female characters seem to have more complex motivations for their actions. While most teenage girls fear being kidnapped by Count Pol, Dany’s cousin Dalil welcomes it. She is attracted by Pol’s lifestyle, and manages to turn a blind eye to his faults. Later in the story, she is forced to face the truth of Pol’s tyranny, and becomes instrumental in the resistance against it. I love her character arc, how her desire for comfort initially outweighs her loyalty to her people, until she is forced to realize just how much she is condoning by her actions. Dany’s mother as well, quiet and unassuming at first, later reveals a dark secret she’s had to live with for many years. In contrast to Dany and his father’s more traditional heroic roles, I love the nuances and  questions raised by Dalil and Dany’s mother’s more problematic arcs.

The horrors of the Holocaust are difficult to discuss, particularly in fiction for children. Gottika isn’t exactly a simple allegory for that, but it does speak to the oppression experienced by certain groups of people. The story is futuristic, but the tone is that of a classic fairy tale. There’s a timelessness to Dany’s story, and despite the supernatural elements, the sense that there have been, and continue to be, far too many Count Pols throughout history.

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Thank you to Dancing Cat Books for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, and for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.

Blog Tour | Review and Giveaway: Empress of the Night, Eva Stachniak

Empress_BlogTour

I love historical fiction, particularly stories about the Tudors, and I was eager to read up on another powerful monarch, Russia’s Catherine the Great, in Eva Stachniak’s new novel Empress of the Night. Unlike Stachniak’s earlier novel The Winter Palace, which tells Catherine’s story from the perspective of a trusted servant, Empress of the Night is narrated by Catherine herself. Suffering from an illness and close to death, Catherine reflects on her life, from her marriage to Peter and ascent to power to the various challenges she faced as a woman running an empire and defending her country against its enemies. In one particularly striking scene, she complains that her male advisers seem to think all one has to do is raise their voice and Russia’s problems will be solved; they don’t understand the delicacy required in leadership. Catherine the Great was a powerful woman, and a heroine to cheer for.

There are many things I like about Empress of the Night. I like that Stachniak chose to focus on a powerful female monarch who hasn’t been given much attention in popular media. (Much as I love the Tudors, even I got tired of the endless stream of novels written about them.) I like that Stachniak’s descriptions put us right in Catherine’s head — at one point, Stachniak describes the sweat trickling down Catherine’s back during a significant occasion. Such details heighten the realism of the scene, and humanize Catherine. There are also a lot of interesting bits, particularly about the challenges of being a strong-willed woman with the power over an empire. Along with the scene I cited earlier, there are moments where Catherine is criticized for her intelligence and candour, and other times where she fights back, and cuts down another character with a sharp look and single witticism. I love these instances of Catherine taking a stand and revealing the strength that made her such an influential leader.

Despite some interesting moments, I found the book to be a very slow read. The narrative framing device detracted from the flow and the time shifts were confusing. Stachniak’s love for detail and description made Catherine’s world feel real at times, yet the writing overall felt uneven and the language at times ponderous. The story felt disjointed — the promise in the flashbacks is bogged down by the present day, and the flashback vignettes didn’t quite tie together as well as they could have.

Being completely unfamiliar with Russian history, I was eager to learn about Catherine’s reign, and about the powerful woman who’d made such an impact at a time when it was mostly men who held the power. This story however focused more on Catherine’s personal life and while that’s certainly a valid authorial choice, I wish I’d seen more of Catherine as a monarch. Even the depiction of Catherine’s personal life could have been explored better — we hear about some of her love affairs yet feel little of the passion behind them. For example, when one of her lovers reveals his true colours and breaks her heart, it hardens her resolve to be more of a leader, a woman dependent on no man. This was a pivotal moment and exciting in terms of the character development, yet we barely get a sense of the passion that drove the affair in the first place. So when the big reveal came, we knew it was significant because of Catherine’s response, but it was difficult to understand why.

That being said, Empress of the Night is a welcome glimpse into a fascinating historical figure. It has piqued my interest in the period and in Catherine herself. A bit of knowledge about the history may help when reading this book, though it isn’t strictly necessary. Catherine the Great is such a significant figure in Russian history, and Stachniak’s novel reveals the human being behind the legend.

GIVEAWAY

Want to win a copy of this book and check it out for yourself? Thanks to Random House Canada, I have a copy to give away.

Click here for your chance to win!

BLOG TOUR

Curious what other bloggers thought of this book? Check out the other participants in the blog tour for their views!

March 24: Downshifting PRO

March 25: Retreat by Random House

March 27: Literary Hoarders

March 28: Lost in a Great Book

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Thank you to Random House Canada for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, and the invitation to be a part of this blog tour!