Sunday, March 20, 2016

StrangeLit#3: DARKEST DREAMS [Book Tour Stop] {Review}

TITLE: Darkest Dreams (StrangeLit Bundle#3)
AUTHOR/s: Jay E. Tria, Madelyn Tuviera, Myra Mortega, C.J. Edmunds, D.A.,

Motzie Dapul, Therese Barleta, Yeyet Soriano, Chen Cabaluna, Mikael Javellana
GENRE: Paranormal, Fantasy

I've reviewed the first bundle months ago and I'm glad to be given another chance to review this one too! Thanks to the Bookish Diaries Book Tours! Feel free to be part of their team by signing up below (click the logo below!)

#StrangeLit was a writing class held in 2015. For five weeks, participating authors wrote paranormal/fantasy stories, and this ebook bundle is a collection of work produced during the class. Read more #StrangeLit stories in the anthologies FATEFUL TURNS, INCREDIBLE TRUTHS, and KILLER SEASONS.

(via Goodreads)
This is what happens you allow yourself to unlock your dreams: You may just find the darkness that lurks there. Explore the tragic, the romantic, and the comedic side of our darkness in these stories.

My first pick from the anthology was Chen Cabaluna's I Melt. I usually pick the shortest ones to read first when reading anthologies. Some sort of a warm-up and at the same time, a head's up to what I'll be diving into haha :)

I would say that I love the premise of I Melt. The title itself got me curious and I had fun reading. It was (as mentioned) short but nonetheless, enjoyable. The plot was...interesting. It takes "melting for someone you love" to a whole new -literal- level. In fact, it reminds me of the quote by Olaf in Disney's Frozen: "Some people are worth melting for." Although the voice in the story could use some little bits of polishing since I feel like it would be better if it's smoother in text and there were parts that had my eyebrows rising in question, it was still a story that you'd wish to read more of. It was fast-paced and felt like it could be the start of a full-length novel :) 3.5 stars!

Next is one of the regular-length stories that I greatly enjoyed in the bundle: Jay E. Tria's Majesty. Some backgrounder, I've been hearing about the author lately around the Filpubbed books sphere because of her latest series, I believe. Although I haven't got the chance to see them for myself, I'm glad that I already have an idea on how beautiful she writes through the story of Majesty, Andrea, and Gale.

Plotwise, I've read so much about it. Ghosts, dying of *spoiler* cancer *end of spoiler* best friends, and most of the elements present. What I liked the most out of it? Its characters. Jay e. Tria wrote her characters in a way that you know you'll want to read more about them - their actions, their feelings, their history - even though you 'think' that you've already seen everything from before. They were just too relatable that you couldn't help but root for them. The story was also rooted on heavy emotions that most (if not all) readers have experience which makes it easy to let them settle in between the text as themselves.

In fact, I saw bits and pieces of myself from Majesty and Andrea's characters. They were both two fiery characters in their own terms. Meanwhile, even though he isn't exactly my type when it comes to book boyfriends, I have to give it to Gale for being a strong character and at times - swoony. 

In terms of the relationships in the story, they were more complex than I initially thought. At first, I wasn't sure whether the narrator was male or female. And then, few pages into the story (and even up to the end,) I felt like these three characters were somewhat connected (even at a romantic level.) I might be reading into it too much but there are genderfluidity feels in there somehow (which isn't a bad thing!) Majesty and Andrea's friendship reminded me of a piece that we studied in literature - Michel de Montaigne's "On Friendship"  (go google it up!) The romance part it, as I've said, was complex but the 'established' m/f relationship was actually sweet. Family relationships were also touched and was executed in a manner that will tug at your heartstrings.

Jay E. Tria's Majesty is a beautiful read that will make you look at death, loss, coping, and moving on at a different perspective. 4 stars!

"Don’t put too much stock on things I say. Being dead doesn’t make me always right.- Majesty (Majesty)

"You see things other people don’t. But you love sparingly." - Gale (Majesty)

"Just like a first love, my first loss would be just as consuming" -Andy (Majesty)

"I guess I was trying to change the story, give it a happy ending" - Majesty (Majesty)

"I’ve come to accept that some things would be left unanswered no matter how hard you try to search for the answersYou have to accept that taking risks or going through the unknown is part of life. And that’s what makes us human (...) We have to make mistakes—to grow and to learn." - Rick (I Melt)

Here are the blurbs of the stories included here in the bundle.  I hope that these "teasers" would get you hyped up to check out Darkest Dreams!

Majesty by Jay E. Tria

What would you do if the ghost of someone you love appeared in front of you? 
Majesty is a beautiful ghost, with her hair of fire and eyes gray like smoke. That is Andy Fey’s first thought when the ghost of her best friend Majesty Hall appeared in her bedroom, only two months since her death. Majesty doesn’t know why she’s there, why only Andy can see her. 
Andy isn’t sure if she should tell Gale, that boy who claims that he and Majesty were in love. Funny, sarcastic, and a self-proclaimed serial heartbreaker, Gale is proving to be a good friend in grief, though his trail of broken hearts could soon include hers. 
As Andy and Gale wade through their sorrow, Andy wonders if Majesty is here to help ease her into this new, complicated friendship, or if she has a mission all her own.

Dare To Dream by Madelyn Tuviera
Step one: devise.
Step two: develop.
Step three: dream. 
Weaving dreams is one part creativity and two parts quick thinking, Ellen believes – you receive an assignment as soon as open your eyes and are expected to absorb every single detail within the next minute so that you can craft an exciting dream for your subject. 
You have to monitor your Dreamer the whole time he’s snoring his heart out on his bed and going through the story you’ve made just for him. When your Dreamer rouses for a quick second then falls right back into a sweet slumber, you have to weave another dream for him that you’re certain will keep him asleep as long as he has to be. Rinse and repeat until the alarm sounds off – both for the Dreamer and the Weaver – then you move to your next assignment. That's the routine. Easy as pie. 
That is, until Ellen finds a couple of things in the dream she’d woven that she’s pretty sure isn’t part of the plan: two chairs, a flying platypus, stardust in the air. A voice she can’t recognize even if she’s supposed to know this world inside and out. And a man who isn’t her Dreamer changing the world she’s made and rewriting her Dreamer’s world altogether.

Lagablab (or How L Came to Be a Warrior-Magician) by Myra Mortega

If there's anything that L takes great pride in, it's the fact that she knows herself fully well. For example, she knows that she enrolled in law school because she just can't take injustice. She also knows that she can see beings--various shapes and forms and figures nobody else can see. She has also been dreaming of the same dream for 24 years, and it has been driving her mad.

But one night, a shadow appears over her bed and tells her things that make her question her idea of who she is.
Intrigued, she goes into a wild goose chase to find answers and meets a bevy of beings--the White Lady, a wakwak, a kapre, among other things--that give her bits and pieces of her past and give her a glimpse of a future that's far beyond her imagination.
  Sojourn by C.J. Edmunds
Sometimes being a fish out of water can be a good thing. Only two things can happen. Either one adapts to the environment or simply peters out from intractability. Enter David Lansing, a half-Filipino call center trainer whose normal life took an unexpected turn when he suddenly woke up and is presented with visions and a spirit guide to boot! Why was he seeing these things? Who is the Guide and what did he want from him? 
Peppered with appearances like the Tikbalang, Aswang and even the White Lady of Balete Drive, all part of Philippine folklore and urban legend, the story traces David's existential journey of becoming; from his naive acceptance of the world to his burgeoning skepticism, and his acceptance of what his life is and how it could be. And while he’s at it, another Guide presents himself to him, one with a more pragmatic approach and outlook to the world of the supernatural; the same world that David is finally learning to accept and participate in. 
But who is the better Guide or is he better off trusting his own instincts as he embarks on his journey to find that supernatural promised land; a place where people like him are common and living the most normal of lives; a place that is known only to a few; the magical community of the Dark District.
Trade by D.A.
Sacrifices have long reaching consequences for both the living and the dead as Carter discovers when Michael (yes, that Archangel) gives him a chance to be with his soul mate Alexa. He is tasked with being her personal guardian angel until the day she dies. But, when the end comes, Carter learns the hard way that life goes on no matter what.
Bayani by Motzie Dapul

In the year 2050, Patrick "Paquino" Aquino: president of the Philippines, former superhero, and murderer--not necessarily in that order--deals with the consequences of his actions following four years of martial law and the raid that ended a bloody political dynasty in the far north.  
With a death sentence looming over his head and a revolution rising against him, he begins to wonder if his bid to save the country, made back when he was the impetuous young bayani Lastikid, is worth dying for. 

When It Rains In Mystic River by Therese Barleta

Whenever sirens sound off, Naomi is always worried that Seth is somewhere being chased by the police, if not already gunned down by rival gangs that pollute the south side of Boston. “Please help me just this one last time,” Seth would always tell her, but Naomi just wants to live a normal life as a pretend human being, not Seth’s Encantada girlfriend who always bails him out of his shady dealings. As soon as Seth finds an out from this life he’s known forever, he takes the opportunity before Naomi can even say no. How could she when this is the exit they’ve both been waiting for? Or is it a shortcut to their doom?

In My Dreams by Yeyet Soriano
Welcome to Barrio Malaya! 
Everyone in Manila will visit Barrio Malaya at least once in their lifetimes. It is a rustic yet picturesque town, with the sea in the north, thick woods in the east and west, and a train station in the south. It is one of the stops of a high-speed train system, which the dying board to go to their next destination.  
Sixteen-year-old Olivia Roxas has a lifetime pass and has almost permanent resident status in Barrio Malaya. She first visited the place when she and her father met an accident when she was seven. They explored the town and rode the train together. But at some point, they got separated—she had to get off the train and her father continued his journey. She woke up to a reality without her father, and with an emotionally distant mother. From then on, Olivia was homeschooled and prevented from having any access to the outside world by an alcoholic mother who seemed to both hate her and love her too much to risk losing her.  
In her dreams, Olivia has unlimited access to Barrio Malaya, and it is where she learned about everything, from how to make friends, to how to live, to how to fall in love. She also continued to board the trains, in the hope of finding her father.  
Nineteen-year-old Gabriel Sahagun first came to Barrio Malaya when he was twelve years old. Victims of a freak accident, he and his parents already had their tickets to ride the train, but at the last minute, someone pulled him back. He never saw the man’s face. He woke up in the real world discovering that his parents were dead, but he had developed the talent to transfer Death—he can take whatever is killing one person, take it upon himself, and then transfer it to another person.  
Liv and Gab meet in Barrio Malaya. Gab visits Barrio Malaya whenever he is in mid-transfer, meaning, he is the one dying. They fall in love but have never met in real life. But that is about to change, because Gab has taken a terminal condition and has lost all strength to transfer it to someone else. As he lies dying in the real world, it is up to Liv to find him, find a person to transfer the condition to, and get that person to Gab before Gab dies.  
Did we mention that Liv has never set out from her house alone in all her life?

I Melt by Chen Cabaluna
Rick is predictable, organized & doesn't like to take risks because of his condition. His clothes are color coordinated. His books are arranged by height. He only eats & drinks cold stuff. He's very cautious to avoid human touch because he might melt. But then he met Alice, his new too perky lab assistant who helped him to overcome many inhibition and open up more to the world. There's only one problem--he thinks Alice will melt him.
Gamechanger by Mikael Javellana

Mxyzalne - or Mix - has found her new Other: a boy named Jacob Dela Rosa. As a Herald, she knows she must take the boy under her wing and train him - in spite of how glaringly average he seems to her - if the world is to be saved. 
When a powerful Decayed One makes an attempt on Jacob’s life, Mix calls his True Name out and sets a chain of events that will either save the world, or destroy it completely.

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