[Out and About] Veronica Rossi, Tahereh Mafi, and Veronica Rossi in the Philippines (Bloggers' Forum)

One thing is for sure - National Bookstore is spoiling all PH-based book lovers. It's only April, and yet there have already been four major bookish events (Gayle Forman's signing; Kate Evangelista's Til Death book launch; Becca Fitzpatrick's signing; and now, Tahereh Mafi, Ransom Riggs, and Veronica Rossi's signing)! How crazy is that!? Hey, I bet none of us are complaining, though! As a matter of fact, around 2000 people attended the signing in Manila, and around the same number attended the one in Cebu!

I had the chance to be part of a bloggers forum with the authors, and I am so incredibly grateful to National Bookstore for the opportunity. We were a bit pressed for time this time around, but everyone still had so much fun! Tahereh and Ransom, despite obviously still being very jetlagged, were very accommodating. If I didn't already love them from their first visit, I would have fallen head over heels in love with them last Saturday! (Also, oh gosh, can we please talk about Tahereh's outfit? A perfect 10, all throughout! Her make up too!) Moreover, Veronica is one of the most amazing, down-to-earth authors I have ever met, bar none. She is just so friendly!

And Ransereh. Ransereh. RANSEREH. They were all sorts of adorable. I think everyone died from all the cuteness!

We had a chance to hold a quick Q&A and ask the authors questions personally. Here are my favorite factoids (or at least the factoids I feel strongly about):
  • While writing Shatter Me, Tahereh already knew who Juliette was going to end up with. Guys, this broke my already fragile heart. I adore Adam from the bottom of my heart, and I consider him one of my favorite YA heroes. But you know what? I guess I kind of have more closure now after hearing Tahereh say this.
  • Veronica Rossi is co-authoring a New Adult book under the pseudonym "Noelle August".  I am so excited for this! I love New Adult, and I have always loved Veronica's writing - her words just flow, and she has a knack for excellent world-building. I can't wait to see Veronica explore the nitty-gritty world of New Adult!
  • If Ransom had to choose a picture to represent his books, he would choose a picture of the inside of his heart. Creepy, huh?
  • Tahereh intentionally portrayed a weak Juliette in Shatter Me. She wanted her readers to see how Juliette grew into a strong woman as the series progressed. This is such a tough concept to pull off, but Tahereh was able to do it with flying colors. Juliette from Shatter Me - weak and scared - is so different from the latter books' Juliette - strong, poised, and beyond all, confident. I say with no doubt whatsoever that readers truly were witnesses to Juliette finding herself. What a journey it was!
  • Veronica's message to her readers through her trilogy - you can find happiness, and that you should think about what home is to you. Such sound advice, and I suppose I'm not alone in saying that this couldn't have come at a more apt time. This truly made me ponder - what is home to me?
For other fun facts (and for the complete Q&A), please refer to my fellow bloggers' recap posts. They transcribed everything! The links are on the bottom of this post.

And now... the signing proper, plus tons of photos!
(Photos grabbed from Kate, Jesselle, Louisse, Nina, and Chyna.)

With Tahereh Mafi, Ransom Riggs, and Veronica Rossi!

Veronica: I like your name!
Me: I like you!

Tahereh: It's so good to see you again!
Me: *freaks out* *unable to speak* 
(after 10 seconds...)
Me: I like your make up!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what happens when you talk to people you admire when you've only had two hours of sleep. So much for being eloquent. But hey. At least I was able to make them laugh!

Selfie 3.0 with Kate of The Bookaholic Blurbs, Louisse of The Soul Sisters, and Jesselle of The Lifelong Bookworm. I think we're getting the hang of this!

Here's a gratuitous picture of me! I didn't have the chance to change into this beautiful shirt (designed by the talented Hazel of Stay Bookish) especially created for this signing, so I opted for this kind of picture instead!
Here's a group shot of all the bloggers with Ransom, Tahereh, and Veronica!
Here's a photo I snapped of the crowd at the book signing proper. Crazy, isn't it? Reminds me of crowds during sports functions!


All in all, I had an excellent time. As always, thank you so much to the entire National Bookstore team for bringing these three authors to the country, and for organizing both the Bloggers' Forum and the book signing proper. You guys are incredible! Also, getting to spend time with my fellow book bloggers is a great way to end the week - can you guys believe that we've all known each other for more than a year now? I love you all!

Always remember, everyone, per Veronica Rossi, go where you can shine.

Other Recaps:

Stacking the Shelves [14]

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. It's a great way to show other people the books that you've bought or received for the past week.

Excluding Faking Normal and Maybe One Day, Here are the books I received for review the past 3 months. (Yes, the last time I put up an StS post was January. So much for New Year's resolutions...) All of these are 2014 titles which have been released recently or will be out pretty soon, and the aim is to read and review all of these by the end of June! (Good luck to me!)

Thank you to Hachette UK, Tor Teen, Abrams and Chronicle UK, Jennifer Brown, Becca Fitzpatrick, Harper Collins International, and National Bookstore!

White Hot Kiss by Jennifer L. Armentrout

White Hot Kiss (The Dark Elements, #1)
Title: White Hot Kiss (The Dark Elements #1)
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Release Date: February 25, 2014
Published by: Harlequin Teen
One kiss could be the last.

Seventeen-year-old Layla just wants to be normal. But with a kiss that kills anything with a soul, she's anything but normal. Half demon, half gargoyle, Layla has abilities no one else possesses.

Raised among the Wardens—a race of gargoyles tasked with hunting demons and keeping humanity safe—Layla tries to fit in, but that means hiding her own dark side from those she loves the most. Especially Zayne, the swoon-worthy, incredibly gorgeous and completely off-limits Warden she's crushed on since forever.

Then she meets Roth—a tattooed, sinfully hot demon who claims to know all her secrets. Layla knows she should stay away, but she's not sure she wants to—especially when that whole no-kissing thing isn't an issue, considering Roth has no soul.

But when Layla discovers she's the reason for the violent demon uprising, trusting Roth could not only ruin her chances with Zayne…it could brand her a traitor to her family. Worse yet, it could become a one-way ticket to the end of the world.

I've read my fair share of Jennifer L. Armentrout books (and we all know she has a ton - I'm starting to think that she writes even while she's sleeping or something), but I wouldn't exactly call them favorites. They're entertaining enough, sure, but I've always thought that they lacked a little something that would put them well above the pack. Despite all this, however, I was really excited to read White Hot Kiss. A fair share of bloggers whom I follow have all professed their undying love for it and proclaimed it as the best book JLA has written so far, and as a result, I had to see whether that was true. Also, the premise is nothing short of enticing - demons? gargoyles? wardens? Yup, I was pretty much sold.

And... I think this is one of the few times wherein I book I read has lived up to all the hype surrounding it. Also, yes, I do think that White Hot Kiss is indeed JLA's best book to date!

JLA did such an amazing job in portraying her female MC, Layla. She's likeable, a character you want to know more about, and a character you just can't help but root for. Layla is half Warden and half-demon, but because she was raised amongst Wardens, (and demons are the Wardens' sworn enemies), Layla was taught to hate half of who she is. Can you imagine that - being raised to hate half of who you are? She was taught to embrace only her Warden half and does everything that she can to stamp out the demon blood running through her veins. Also, despite living with the Wardens all her life, she is, and will always be, considered an outsider. She is ostracized, ignored, and openly considered to be dangerous by the very people she has known all her life. Not only is Layla going through the normal identity crisis that all teens experience, she is also struggling to find out which side of herself she should embrace. Should she continue living as a Warden, or should she give her demon half a chance?

The plot mostly centered around Layla and her search for acceptance, as well as her desire to belong somewhere. All her life, she considered herself a Warden. She has helped kill demons for years now, and her closest ally, Zayne, is a Warden too. While Layla's home life isn't exactly full of sunshine and roses, she's always had Zayne by her side so when Zayne starts to seemingly have no time for her anymore, Layla feels more alone than ever. Not only that, Layla also realizes that there are now demons who seem to know who she is and who want to kill her. All in all, Layla is confused, lost, and alone... and suddenly, here comes a demon named Roth who not only saves her, but also introduces her to everything she was forced to hate in the past.

Roth is everything that Layla was taught to be afraid of, and at the same time, he was what the Wardens were trained to kill. At the same time, however, Roth is also the only guy Layla currently knows that she won't accidentally kill should she kiss him. Ho-hum! The way the romance between Roth and Layla played out is classic Armentrout - the chemistry is definitely there (and believe me, the chemistry is all sorts of intense), and Roth's sharp retorts and witty one-liners sure do keep things interesting. What I liked most about White Hot Kiss' romance angle was how Roth continuously teaches Layla that things aren't quite black and white, and that nothing is as simple as it ever seems. He encourages her to embrace absolutely everything about herself, and to ultimately embrace her strength and her special abilities.

And because I feel like this review won't be complete if I don't say it... Roth is hott. (Yes, with an extra T. Borrowing this bit from Wendy Higgins' Sweet Evil!)

The story was well-paced. It was action-packed, yes, but that didn't distract from Layla's search for acceptance and belongingness, which I consider the biggest plot point of the book. As I have previously mentioned, I also love the romance and how it complements Layla's journey. The world building was spot on. I didn't have the chance to read the prequel, Bitter Sweet Love, before I started White Hot Kiss but Armentrout's world was easy to soak in and get lost into. I can't wait for JLA to explore this world more in the succeeding books of this series!

Perhaps the one thing that I'm a bit iffy about is how JLA is setting up a love triangle between Layla, Roth, and Zayne. Don't get me wrong - I love Layla's relationship with Zayne. I love the easy camaraderie they share, and I just adore how comfortable they are with each other. Heck, I even love how JLA portrayed Layla's love for Zayne. It was genuine, and in those scenes, you really feel for Layla. Anyway, as I was saying, throughout the book, Layla struggles through her feelings for Zayne, which she assumes to be romantic love, but I believe otherwise. I really wish that JLA can just focus on the friendship developed for a good number of years between the two, instead of making everyone go "Team Roth!" or "Team Zayne!"

All in all, White Hot Kiss surprised me... in a good way. This is one JLA book that definitely deserves that 'favorite' label!

Rating: 4 Stars