Book: He’s Dating the Ice Princess

"He's Dating the Ice Princess"

For the longest time, Charice Eliza Mendoza hasn’t let anyone get too close to her, not even her mother or her best friend, Bianca. It may seem like a lonely life, but that’s exactly how she prefers it: having very few attachments, no connections to her past, and no one knowing who she really is.

Then Daryl Seuk Kang walks into her life. The high school heartthrob and all-around golden boy has been eyeing Charice for a while, and now he’s determined to get to know her better.

Will Charice finally learn to warm up to someone? And what will she do once people discover her secret?

I thought I would give another Pop Fiction book a try after being less than impressed with She’s Dating a Gangster and The Bet. Recent discoveries had made me realize that I might have been harsher on the writers when I should be more critical of the editors. But after reading He’s Dating the Ice Princess, I think I should be critical of both.

The book suffers from a story that doesn’t know where it’s going until it’s nearly the end. You know the type? Where the writer just keeps on writing until they get bored with the story and ends it because the story wasn’t really even going anywhere.

At its heart, He’s Dating the Ice Princess is supposed to be a love story where your female protagonist is competing for her love interest’s heart–with herself. Or her alter-ego who her love interest is in love with before. Unfortunately, said alter-ego only gets mentioned twice. Once near the beginning, and then the second time near the end. And then she appears.

Initially, I thought the alter-ego was an avatar for an online role-playing game. Mostly because of the way it’s mentioned. Now, I think it’s mostly because I would rather the alter-ego be an avatar in an online role-playing game than what it turns out to be. Our female protagonist is a gangster. One who gets into fights and stuff. Not the fake one that She’s Dating the Gangster has. And we get no clue as to why the male love interest falls in love with that gangster persona.

Heck, we don’t even realize he had a thing for the gangster persona until they face each other in the last chapter of the book. The same chapter we find out that our female protagonist is a gangster. The same chapter where we find out that there was an ongoing love triangle to begin with!

We plow through absolute drivel that’s been rehashed in so many young adult romance books only to find out in the end that there could’ve been an interesting story if the editor had just done her work and edited the shit out of this ‘novel.’

Summit Books, I beg you: hire editors who know what they’re supposed to do. Editors who can work with start-up writers to improve their stories, not make them worse than they are.

If you’re going for the most popular stories on Wattpad, make them better. Don’t just ride on their train–fix the rails that they run on. Because once you ride these trains through, there won’t be any going back. The tracks are already ruined.

And I’m sorry for the train analogy, but that’s the best one I could come up with right now.

Basically, to the writer of He’s Dating the Ice Princess, if you see yourself going for a career in writing–read more books. And learn to properly plan a story.

To the editor of this book, and to Summit Books, I repeat the same request I keep asking: please pick better stories to publish. Or, at the very least, make better the stories you’re publishing.

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Press Release: First Pop Fiction Festival brings authors and fans together

"1st Pop Fiction Festival"

The following is a press release from Summit Books about their recent event: the first Pop Fiction Festival:

Summit Books, National Book Store, and Market! Market! held a grand gathering that was truly one for the books as the first-ever Pop Fiction Festival conquered the Market! Market Activity Center on February 8, 2014.

It was the first time that the authors of Pop Fiction, Summit Books’ fast-growing online chick lit imprint, gathered in full force to meet with their readers. Present at the Pop Fiction Festival were Bianca Bernardino (SGWannabe), Jade Margarette Pitogo (Girlinlove), Kimberly Joy Villanueva (Ilurvbooks), Leng de Chavez (Shirlengtearjerky), Ariesa Jane Domingo(Beeyotch), Jessamine Verzosa (Peachxvision), Louisse Carreon (Fallenbabybubu), and Jhing Bautista (Kwento Ni Jhingness), who all met with and signed copies of their books for fans.

Celebrity appearances hiked up the fun at the Pop Fiction Festival, with young stars Myrtle Sarrosa and Alexander Diaz doing hosting duties and teen heartthrobs Jerome Ponce and The Perkins Twins serenading the crowd.

The event also served as the book launch of Three Words Eight Letters: If I Say It, Will I Be Yours?, the sequel to Jade Margarette Pitogo’s Three Words, Eight Letters, Say It, and I’m Yours and Pop Fiction’s first sequel offering to date. The lucky festival attendees got their hands on the first copies of the new release, which were sold at the National Book Store booth.

Fans also got to complete their Pop Fiction collections at the event, take home freebies such as exclusive buttons and bookmarks, and have their picture taken with the authors and their life-sized avatar standees—rounding out an unforgettable experience for the readers and writers alike.

For more photos from the Pop Fiction Festival, click here. For updates on Summit Books and Pop Fiction, like on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/SummitBooks and http://www.facebook.com/PopFictionBooks, and follow us on Twitter via @SummitMedia_PH for more Summit Books updates.

I really must commend Summit Book’s passion in engaging a new generation of readers. Personally though, I would’ve loved for Summit Books to have also included their own roster of authors (the non-Pop Fiction ones) to introduce these (relatively) new readers to.

Maybe next year?

Book: The Bet

"The Bet"

Drake Swift has never lost a bet with his best friend–until now. His punishment? Make a girl in school fall for him and then break up with her just as she’s fallen for him. But who would be oblivious enough to fall for that? Her.

Enter Sophia Taylor–quiet, brainy, and unassuming–the perfect pawn for their game. And for Drake, that’s all it is–a game. But is it? Drake finds out that Sophia is quite more than he bargained for. Perhaps he has her figured out all wrong. The real question is, will Drake win the bet, or will Sophia win him over instead?

Google the movie She’s All That and you’ll pretty much know where The Bet is going. And although the author tries to twist the story towards a different direction pretty early on, it really doesn’t change the trajectory of her story. This is She’s All That, except without solid development for our main characters.

In the spirit of fairness, the book does feature two fully-formed characters: the two protagonists are actual people–except closer to perfection. But what else would you expect from fiction, right?

Wrong. Because fiction doesn’t mean the characters have to be boring. There is no thrill in The Bet because you don’t see the characters reaching a point in their relationship where their deception at the start of the story would actually cause irrepairable damage. You know the two are going to end up together, regardless of the obstacles that appear out of nowhere.

But the book didn’t have to be a chore to read. Author Villanueva has the potential, she just needs to be reigned in. Her storytelling is all over the place, and names and events are pulled out of thin air to push the plot forward, or to cause conflict. Unfortunately, her story didn’t seem to have gone through an editor.

And that’s essentially my problem with the physically published Wattpad stories I’ve read so far. In the publisher’s (and I’m guessing the author’s as well) desire to keep the story in its original version, to please the fans, they forget that they’re also trying to sell these books to non-fans, to more discerning readers.

They’re forgetting that they’re not helping the local publishing industry by producing less than quality novels. And please, don’t use Twilight as an example of a novel that became a hit regardless of its content and writing. Do we really want to market a book as “something better than Twilight?” That’s not much of a compliment.

At the same time, since the target market of these books are the ones who have read the stories online already, wouldn’t it be better to give them a familiar story made better by editing? After all, that’s what separates published authors from self-published authors: good editors.

So I plead to Summit Books, its off-shoot Pop Fiction Books, and even Psicom and whoever else wants to publish Wattpad stories and the likes. Edit the stories. Make them cohesive. Make them readable.

Make them marketable internationally.

I mean, look at Mina Esguerra’s books. I’m not always a fan, but you can tell that there is thought behind the placement of events, that plot developments happen naturally and are almost never deus-ex-machinas. Use that as a template.

Be better.

Book: Princess Lea, the life story of Lea Salonga

"Princess Lea"

This is the story of how a young girl from Manila dreamed big, worked hard, sang her heart out, and became an international superstar.

Lea Salonga is an actor and a singer who has performed on stages all over the world.

She has won many great awards!

She is most famous for her role of Kim in Miss Saigon. She is also the singing voice of two Disney heroines–Princess Jasmine and Mulan. She is every bit a princess because of how she has always followed her heart.

This is my first time to read a Dream Big Book, and I must say that I really like it. No, I’m not being paid by Summit Books to say that. Although, I have to thank them for the copy that I read. I didn’t buy it, they gave it to me.

That doesn’t mean I’m biased though. Princess Lea really is a good illustrated book. And I’m sure that kids will love it. That is, if they haven’t been claimed by the demigods of the iPad and the androids yet.

You see, Princess Lea talks about something that most kids nowadays no nothing about: working hard to reach their dreams. In a world where parents drown their children with praises and with false promises of being special and being a star, it helps to have a book that reminds us how we can realistically achieve our dreams.

Sure, Lea’s journey is idyllic. I mean, not every talented singer gets to sing in front of six Philippine presidents, and three American ones. But she worked hard for it. And that’s a lesson that the next generation would do well to learn.

So Moms, Dads, godparents, and older siblings? Do your wards a favor. Check out the Dream Big Books from Summit Media. Help them understand that to go far in life, you have to put in the time and effort.

And I really recommend the Princess Lea book. So if you’re looking for a great gift for kids this Christmas? Check this book out!

Event: Princess Lea Book Launch

"Princess Lea Book Launch"

“It feels really good.” That’s how Lea Salonga describes how it feels having a Dream Big Book about her published; especially since her daughter Nicole is a fan of the series of books.

Dream Big Books are a series of biographies written and illustrated for kids. It’s an imprint of Summit Books, and it sets out to inspire the next generation with stories of how older generations became well-known.

At the launch of her own Dream Big Book, Lea says she herself is a fan of the series too, adding that at today’s “age of instant gratification,” it’s a great idea to inform kids that to make it big, and to stay big, one has to do the work, to prepare, and to put in the time.

But how does one condense thirty five years of life into a short illustrated children’s book? You don’t.

Writer Yvette Fernandez admitted that she just wanted to put in the happily ever after. The rest of the book are things that people already know about Lea, collected in a very pleasing package.

As for what happens after happily-ever-after, Lea says she doesn’t see a sequel to the book coming out ever. “‘Wag na!” She laughs, saying that if people wanted to find out what happened (and continues to happen) to her after getting married and having a kid, “it’s easy enough to find out with all the search engines.”

Lea continues that the team just wanted the book to be cute–“for kids to relate to.”

Is that why the book is called Princess Lea?

Actually, no.

“I’m a princess only in the make-believe world,” Lea says. The title, she and writer Yvette Fernandez explains, is a nod to their generation–and one of the movies they really enjoy. Lea adds, “I think the nerds of the world will appreciate the title.”

The book launch for Princess Lea was hosted by Issa Litton, with opening remarks from Lisa Gokongwei-Chen, and a reading by Lea’s daughter, Nicole Chen.

Summit Books also provided us with the following press release;

Long before she was Kim in Miss Saigon, the singing voice of Disney’s Princesses Jasmine and Mulan, and a well-loved judge on The Voice of the Philippines, Maria Lea Carmen Salonga was just a little girl from Manila who dared to dream big.

Dream Big Books proudly launched Princess Lea last November 17, 2013 at the National Book Store Glorietta 1. Princess Lea is a children’s book which shared how Lea Salonga followed her heart to become the greatly admired and highly respected singer and actress she is today.

Written by Yvette Fernandez and illustrated by Nicole Lim, Princess Lea narrates how Lea went from a six-year-old who landed a part in a local production of The King and I to an internationally renowned performer who has starred as Kim in Miss Saigon, Eponine and Fantine in Les Miserables, and Mei-Lin in Flower Drum Song; won honors from the US’ Tony Awards and the UK’s Laurence Oliver Awards; and sung for six Philippine presidents, three American presidents, and the Queen of England.

To encourage aspiring young entertainers to reach for their dreams, Princess Lea also lets readers in on common terms in the performing industry and imparts the lessons Lea has learned throughout her journey to becoming a singing superstar.

Dream Big Books is an imprint of Summit Books that inspires children to make a positive change in the world by sharing the life stories of Filipino role models. Among the books in Dream Big Books’ roster are Big John, the riches-to-rags-to-riches tale of John Gokongwei, Jr.; Nanay Coring, the success story of National Book Store owner Socorro Ramos; Ninoy, Cory, and Noynoy, which tells of the deep love for nation of the Aquino family; and Simply Jesse, which recounts the life of former DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo.

Princess Lea is available in bookstores nationwide for only P125. For more on Dream Big Books, visit Summit Books online at http://www.summitmedia.com.ph/books and like on Facebook via http://www.facebook.com/summitbooks

Lea Salonga is marking her 35th year in show business via Playlist, her much awaited comeback to the Philippine concert scene, which will be held on December 6 (Friday) and December 7 (Saturday), 8 in the evening, at the PICC Plenary Hall.

For photos from the book launch, check out the newly made Facebook fan page for Taking a Break!

Filipino Friday: Something That I Want

"Filipino Friday"

I’ve been doing this book blog thing for three years now, and regular readers know that I read more international book titles than I do local ones. Mostly because there are more international titles than local ones.

And more importantly, there are more international book titles I’m interested in than local ones.

I don’t know if it’s because of my background, but I’ve been more exposed to local non-fiction books. To poetry collections too, but those are mostly published by university presses. It wasn’t until I started this blog that I even came across local fiction. Thanks in part to my fellow Filipino Book Bloggers who have introduced me to Trese, among many others. And, of course, to Summit Books.

But it seems I might have run out of books to read. I mean, technically, there are still a lot of books I’ve yet to read. But books that I’m interested in?

That brings me to the final Filipino Friday discussion for 2013: What do we, as readers, want to see in Philippine Literature?

Personally, I want to see more diversity. I have my preferred genre, but I won’t be selfish and say I want the local publishing industry to publish more dystopian fiction, or young adult books. Although, that would be nice. I just want more local books readers can pick through.

Right now, we have a lot of humor-based non-fiction that aren’t always funny; books published for the fans of local DJs and other celebrities; compilations of obviously fake true-life ghost stories; religious books, educational books, and books on how to succeed in life; the books for kids from Adarna; there’s the Precious Hearts romances, and their main competition whose brand I can’t remember; and then the very limited number of books that you cannot categorize from Visprint and Summit Books.

Suffice to say, I’ve read a lot of Visprint and Summit Books titles the past few years. Thing is, and I think a lot of Filipino readers would agree with me here, I want more.

For three years now, I’ve been going back to the argument that there are no Filipino readers. I hope that this is no longer a thought that local publishers subscribe to. Trese, although a comics series, has proven this not to be true for sure. Unfortunately, I cannot cite books to strengthen this argument. But that’s mostly because we don’t have a lot of local books to actually cite.

And most the books that are out there, are either something you wouldn’t want to brag about–or don’t get enough exposure.

Tomorrow’s the third Filipino ReaderCon. Where we talk books. And while I’m very proud of its existence, I must say that I’m also disappointed at the book discussion line-up: Seasons of Mist by Neil Gaiman? Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen? Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card? Only one group will be discussing a Filipino book: Walong Diwata ng Pagkahulog by Edgar Calabria Samar.

But can we really blame the book groups with their choices?

Again, it comes down to lack of options.

There will be no Filipino readers if there aren’t more Filipino books.

I do understand that that’s a double-edged sword as well. If more books are published, and yet readership still doesn’t pick up, are we effectively killing the local publishing industry? Maybe. Unless the books that do get published are actually good. And then readers will come.

Maybe work with the bookstores too. Have Young Adult shelves be stocked with local Young Adult books as well. But don’t just put the books there. Make it belong there. Make it look enticing to readers.

One of the things I’ve noticed when browsing through bookstores is that our local books look cheap. Put side by side with international titles, no one is going to notice the little books that look like they didn’t have enough to pay the graphic artist.

I know that I’m asking a lot off the publishers. But really, all that I’ve said can be summarized in one simple business term: Invest.

Invest in your books, and we will come.

Book: I Saw Da Sign

"I Saw Da Sign"

I SAW DA SIGN is a compilation of numerous Pinoy signs that are downright hilarious and ridiculous. From ‘pasok-sa-banga’ business names to savvy slogans, parodies with distinctive Pinoy twists to brow-raising ‘ano raw?!’ advertisements, random handwritten notes you see hanging on the public bathroom door to manong jeepney driver’s signboards, it showcases anything and everything spot-on Pinoy that’ll make you grin and turn red from laughing.

What has been circulating around the Internet for years has been given a new look and a new book!

I Saw Da Sign is Summit Book’s most recent coffee table book release, filled with a collection of funny signage found in and around the Metro. What sets it apart from the circulating e-mail that has pretty much the same thing? Well the photos in this one are taken from Instagram, so it has that extra hipster feel.

Read on alone and on its own, the book is pointless. But that’s why it’s a coffee table book. You leave it for house visitors to find and peruse, and who knows, conversation might start with a trigger from one of the photos in the collection.

That said, I was hoping for signs that were, well, funnier and more clever. And while the ones included in I Saw Da Sign will get a chuckle out of you, none were really laugh-out-loud funny.

I guess that’s the problem when you’re crowd-sourcing a book. Maybe next time Summit Books makes an attempt to publish a similar book, they could get an in-house photographer to make the collection tighter by providing original content for it–and actually adhering to the themes they editing team gave the book.

I Saw Da Sign sells for PhP150 in bookstores nationwide.