Start Here: The Blog Tour – A Review

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Order Start Here in paperback (PH only): PH Print Preorder Form

Published: 13 February 2018

Category: Romance/Contemporary/LGBTQ+

Book Cover Design: Dani Hernandez

Additional Photography: Alexandra Urrea & Chachic Fernandez

Edited by Ronald S. Lim and Brigitte Bautista. Featuring short stories by Agay Llanera, H. Bentham, Ella Banta, Danice Sison, Yeyet Soriano, Barbie Barbieto, Katt Briones, Bobbi Moran, Motzie Dapul, and Brigitte Bautista. This anthology contains M/M, F/F, F/NB romance stories with happy endings. Some stories have a high heat level.

There’s a first time for everything. Gatecrashing a KPop concert with an oppa in a business suit. Taking shelter from the storm with the girl you’ve been meaning to shake off. That kiss that blurs the line between friendship and something more. A one-night stand (or, is it?) with your best friend from across the hallway.
Dive into these 10 stories of first encounters – unapologetically queer, happy endings required, with a smattering of that signature #romanceclass kilig. Whether you’re recalling your own firsts or out there looking for one, there’s a story in here for you.
So, go on.
Turn the page.
Start here.

Collection Rating:

In the Moonlight by Agay Llanera

Seventeen-year-old Caleb has been burned by a previous relationship. While on vacation, he meets Ezra of the sculpted calves and disarming smile, who surprises him with a moonlight kiss. Caleb retreats–and regrets his decision. Thanks to the internet, he knows where to find his summer crush, but the more pressing question is, will Caleb have the courage to bare his heart again?

Rating: 5 Stars

Caleb and Ezra are two of the most adorable boys I’ve read about in recent memory. Their story has everything: vacation romance, nerves, and what might be true love winning in the end. Caleb had to contend with coming to terms with feelings for someone he wasn’t sure he ever see again. Ezra, though we don’t hear things from his side, seemed to have to deal with potential feelings for an ex. Would he hold onto the past or would he look to the future with Caleb?

The writing was excellent and though it ends, it ends on a sweet note and smiles all around.

moonlight

Come Full Circle by Bobbi Moran

You know you’re in love when you put somebody else’s happiness before yours. But waiting for fifteen years for someone to realize you are THE ONE may be taking this to the extreme.

Rating: 3 Stars

The story of unrequited love has potential for sadness and hurt. There was some of that in this tale, but there was also a nice enough ending wherein things blossomed over the years for Alana and Marion.

The reason this isn’t rated higher is for a couple of reasons. Primarily, I felt the writing style was stilted and told in a manner that suggested Alana was relating this tale back to Marion when she no longer remembered it herself or had passed on. There was no such conclusion, though, so it turned out to just be an awkward storytelling style.

The second reason is that I didn’t realize that Alana, unnamed up to a certain point, was female. Her character is introduced as playing Captain Von Trapp to Marion’s Maria and without any other identifiers, I thought she was male. We only find out that their school was an all-girls academy at the end of the story, so I couldn’t have used that to deduce Alana’s gender.

The friendship was certainly enduring and the locales were nicely described. I wish some events had had more attention paid them, but overall it was an alright story.

comefullcircle

Gorgeous by Motzie Dapul:

New love in New York with a twist!
Two home-grown Filipinos fall in love after a chance meeting on a train to Little Manila in Queens, NY. They learn, over time spent enjoying the colorful culture of New York City’s streets, that they are, by all accounts, perfect for each other—before some unexpected baggage and a surprising history threatens to tear them apart.
Some things just don’t heal with time alone, but sometimes it’s only when it hurts that you know it’s worth trying for.

Rating: 2-3 Stars

I can’t decide if I liked this story very much or if it falls on the lower end of the scale for me. The writing was alright, perfectly adequate, but I didn’t get a spark of interest while I was reading it.

The character whose point of view is our window into the story, I wasn’t sure of her name even at the end of everything. There was one person, CJ, that called her mars, but that seemed more like a nickname or a pet name than her name with a capital N. Mars was an interestingly described character. She was plus size, sex positive, and her aesthetic was attractive (pink hair, unique hairstyle, piercings, etc.).

Jays, Mars’s love interest, was the most complex character, I think. Apparently an old classmate of Mars, Jays had a certain manner in high school that was adverse to Mars and now, in their mid-20’s, not realizing who she is, has fallen in love. Coming to terms with their feelings tugged a bit on my heartstrings and I wish we could have heard more from their point of view.

As much as I liked these two, I couldn’t really get into Gorgeous. I didn’t feel the soul of the story and while it might technically written well, it fell flat for me.

gorgeous

Shipping Included by Danice Sison

Two cute guys sneak into a K-pop concert. Neither one could be called a fan of the music, but by the end of the night, they might just find themselves with a new favorite song and a few romantic possibilities.

Rating: 5 Stars

Kiko was the best brother. He might be the type to tease Kyra, his sister, for her love of K-Pop, but he was supportive. He watches K-dramas with her, he gets into liking some of the songs and bands even! When Kyra wants to go to a mega K-pop concert, he protests at the price, but is impressed when Kyra is determined to get there by saving her allowance, even going so far as to take whatever side jobs he can so he can help her with the balance. Such a supportive sibling relationship was refreshing.

What I loved, besides the passion for K-pop that was evident, was that this was the story that brought in both points of view from the intended couple. It was easy to get into both Kiko and David’s heads, see what they were thinking or feeling, whether it was working extra hard to give their sister a gift (Kiko) or embracing their kind-of-secret interests and sharing them with their niece (David).

There was so much energy in the writing, in creating KPOPOCALYPSE as the main setting, that I was brought back to the anime conventions that I attended until a couple years ago. It brought a smile to my face, feeling like I was immersing myself in that world once again.

shippingincluded

Delubyo by Barbie Barbieto

Pebbles has a strict four-month rule when it comes to relationships. But she’s about to find out what happens when you meet a woman who defies all your ideas of how long the space between endings and beginnings should be.

Rating: 2.5 Stars

To start, I can tell this writing was not for me. The style is objectively good, but to my mind it didn’t fully embrace the story it was trying to tell.

The author tells us that Pebbles has a policy regarding relationships, but it didn’t feel like we saw that. It was more “tell tell tell”. Whatever relationship Pebbles was intended to have with Gab in the end, it didn’t feel fully formed. Her about face in terms of relationship length and intimacy was sudden and I didn’t get the sense that it was authentic.

delubyo

The Other Story by H. Bentham

A bored twenty-something goes to a sex club he frequently visits to while away the night and find that love sometimes comes at unexpected places.

Rating: 3 Stars

Marcus and Pablo’s story was more than a little bit steamy. After meeting at a sex club, and hitting it off rather well, they find they have things in common and begin a long and seemingly lovely relationship.

It’s clear that they’re together for a long time and I think they were really nice. I think this story could have benefited from some more detail because the scope of their relationship was painted with broad strokes. It was the one story that I think I could have seen as being a full length novel and would have been pleased to see it.

I’ll admit the sex scene made me a bit uncomfortable, but that has to do with my personal identity & preferences. It seemed well written and could be enjoyed by people who like their stories hot and steamy.

theotherstory

Blooms and Hues by Ella Banta

Experience love in color and flowers.

Rating: 4 Stars

I loved the visuals in Blooms and Hues. From the paper Pat used in his sketches to the endless kinds of flowers in Haya’s shop and garden, the scenes unrolled before my eyes and enveloped me. Flowers, their scents and colors, are a powerful too in storytelling.

Things moved rather quickly and while that would usually be off putting, Pat and Haya didn’t become the end all be all couple. The beginning is there and you could see how things might develop, but for now, a sweet beginning was all that was needed.

bloomsandhues

Another First by Yeyet Soriano:

Jess finally gets to have a long-delayed romantic get-away to Bohol with her hot but busy boyfriend Matteo. Beautiful resort, check! Romantic ambiance, check!
But wait . . . Lily Rose, the resort’s resident singer and self-proclaimed mermaid, is distracting the hell out of everyone.

Rating: 2.5 Stars

Once again, I found the visuals in this story amazing. Jesslyn and Lily Rose going on different adventures, making memories, and having experiences from zip lining to visiting animal sanctuaries.

The people, though, less than impressed me. I thought that they were rather one dimensional and I didn’t much care about their endings, except to say that they were easy. There wasn’t tension on the page, not really. It was mostly stuff that existed before the story started and the reader was told.

anotherfirst

Luck From the Skies by Katt Briones

Asher Lee knew from the beginning that he was going to win the teen model search, but didn’t expect to share the title with his biggest competitor, Chan Valiente. Previously threatened by his former adversary’s talent and looks, Asher kept his walls up, only to find them crumbling down with Chan’s charms.
Would Asher be brave enough to take the leap and actually find his chance at love? Or will he and Chan remain to be a fan-made bromance?

Rating:

luckfromtheskies

Lemon Drop Friday by Brigitte Bautista

Tala has been secretly in love with her best friend Liv for years. Living right across the hallway, she has seen through Liv’s revolving door of Friday one-night stands. The rule: they always say goodbye in the morning. But, what happens when a rainy Friday night leads Tala to Liv’s apartment in what looks like another one-night stand?

Rating:

lemondrop

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.
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