The Queen’s Game

Filipino royalty — check
Fake dating — check
Childhood friends to lovers — check
Filipino rep AND #ownvoices!? Yes, please!
The Queen’s Game by Carla de Guzman has it all in spades, so look no further and dive into the royal world of kingdoms and long-time friends in the Philippines.

The Queen’s Game by Carla de Guzman
Contemporary Romance, Filipino royalty, #ownvoices
August 1, 2017 from Midnight Books

There are only two reasons why Nina would come back home to Cincamarre–one, if Auntie Delia promises to stop butting into her business, two, if her father died and she was made to ascend the throne to be queen.

Unfortunately for her, it was the second thing that brought her home.

As a princess who’s sunk a yacht and been caught kissing popstars, it’s easy for her aunt, the regent, to think she’s ill prepared for the throne. But Nina doesn’t think that having to fake date Felipe, the handsome, squeaky clean Prince of Concordia was the best solution for that.

Nina’s ready to learn the ropes of her new role and make it hers, and reconnecting with Felipe only makes her want to be a better queen. But is the monarchy ready for Queen Nina?

Kingdom of Cincamarre

“From the clouds, the island nation of Cincamarre looked small, and it was. They prided themselves in their smallness, their fantastic rolling hills, and breathtaking views. There was a famous saying that any window that looked out of Cincamarre had the view of the sea with it.”

–Carla de Guzman, The Queen’s Game (Loc 137)

“The houses in Cincamarre were built with brick or stone, painted white when appropriate. As the islands were conquered by the Spanish in the 1500s, the palace had sprawling villa feel to it, with bright magenta bougainvillea cascading down from the second floor.”

–Carla de Guzman, The Queen’s Game (Loc 387)

It is said that Cincamarre is based on the very real and beautiful province of Batanes, Philippines! Telling from the description and pictures, it kind of does resemble Cincamarre.

(Batanes, Philippines | Image Source)

I haven’t been since I was a kid, but this book made me want to go back. My cousins there said that its changed a bit since then.

Kingdom of Concordia

“Concordia had flatter, heartier lands, better suited to fields of wheat and other crops. It made both islands prime targets for both the Portuguese and the Spaniards during the age of exploration. Both countries decide to compromise and split up the twin islands, while the Portuguese held on to Concordia until 1800s when they sold the island to the Macasaet family.”

–Carla de Guzman, The Queen’s Game (Loc 510)

(Lanzones | Image Source)

The Legend of Lanzones

Lansium Parasiticum, or Lanzones for short, are a beloved fruit in Philippines. It’s mostly grown in plantations in the province of Laguna, though the sweetest ones are often found in Camiguin Island. There’s even a huge Lanzones Festival every year in Camiguin.

Anyway, there’s a legend around the Lanzones and you can read a bit about it here.

“According to local legend, the lanzones fruits were poisonous until an angel descended from heaven and touched them. The black and brown spots on the yellow fruits were fingerprints, and was a sign of a ripe lanzones fruit. Some say it made the fruits even sweeter.”

–Carla de Guzman, The Queen’s Game (Loc 231)

Funeral traditions

It’s tradition that following a wake and funeral, families and friends of the deceased go to out to eat afterwards. It might have something to do with a superstition that is said a ghost will follow you home if you go straight to your house after, but mostly that’s not the case. It’s just a superstition that derives from folklore.

Some believe that it’s good luck to eat if the deceased was old. It may be neither of those reasons — we just like food. We will eat our feelings if we damn well please.

(Banana-cue | Image Source)

Saba banana / Bananaque

Bananaque, aka banana-q or banana-cue, is pretty much how it sounds: a BBQ…but with bananas. Deep fried bananas coated in brown sugar on a stick. Yum.

Saba bananas are a hybrid fruit originating in Philippines, that is a staple in many Philippine cuisines.

Novena prayer

Majority of Philippines’ religions are Catholic (some call it Christian) and Muslim. Novena prayer is a Catholic prayer where you recite a series of specific prayers with an intention in mind, and occurs over the course of nine days or hours. When you pray your novena, you pray with trust and faith in God that He will provide you with the right answers the right way, and in His time.

The word “novena” comes from the Latin word for “nine“, hence the nine prayers and days. There’s more to the prayer, but that’s the gist of it.

(Pan de sal | Image Source)

Pan de sal

A bread roll very common among Philippines or Filipino families, served before or with meals. If you ever come across a local Filipino bakery, find pan de sal and give it a try. Or you can make it yourself; there’s a bunch of recipes online that consists all the ingredients you will need.

(Pan de leche | Image Source)

Or if you have a sweet tooth, there’s another similar but sweet bread roll called Pan de leche. Either way, both are delicious.

Tito = uncle
Ate = sister
Palasyo = palace
Manong = older male relative
Tita = auntie
Ukay-ukay = thrift store
Beso = cheek-to-cheek kiss
Korona = crown

“My worth is not determined by reputation,” Nina finally said.

–Carla de Guzman, The Queen’s Game (Loc 471)

“This [sunflower] field is my heart out on display for everyone, which isn’t at all manly, but I find that I don’t really care. So…don’t laugh.”

–Carla de Guzman, The Queen’s Game (Loc 1044)

“Nina wanted to hold all of the flowers in her hands. They were so bright that she wondered if she could use them to fill the black hole in her heart.”

–Carla de Guzman, The Queen’s Game (Loc 1052)

“There’s only one thing I’ve done recently that makes me as happy as this does.”

“What?” She asked him, tilting her head.

“Spending time with you,” he said.

–Carla de Guzman, The Queen’s Game (Loc 1066)

“Casual sex was still very much a taboo topic in their very religious nations. . . .Sex could be fun and hot. It didn’t have to be shameful and ugly, and if you kept your wits about you, it didn’t need to be too complicated.”

–Carla de Guzman, The Queen’s Game (Loc 1112-1114)

“There’s a fire in you, Nina. It lights up everything you touch.”

“Including you, I suppose?”

“Especially me.”

–Carla de Guzman, The Queen’s Game (Loc 1144)

If you ask Carla what she does for a living, she will tell you that she’s not quite sure.

By day, she works a regular day job and writes for a lifestyle website. By night, she’s an author and an artist, spending her midnights at her desk and making these silly love stories. She loves to travel, coming home to her dog Kimchi and spending her weekends having dinner with her crazy family.

She’s currently on a quest to see as many Impressionist paintings as she can, and is always in search of the perfect pain au chocolat.

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Ever the Hunted

What would you do if you were ever the hunted? Find out how Britta and Cohen fare with a bounty on their heads in Erin Summerill’s debut Ever the Hunted! I hope you are ready to be ever the hunted.

ever-the-huntedEver the Hunted by Erin Summerill
Young Adult Fantasy
December 27, 2016 from HMH Books for Young Readers

Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.


“The awareness you possess is a talent only the best hunters develop.”
–Erin Summerill, Ever the Hunted (ARC pg. 5)

“Malam juts up in jagged, monstrous peaks that stay white-capped all year despite the baking summer. The mountain ridge spans into Kolontia, the northern country where snow and ice rule. . . . Running from the north, the Malam Mountains curve in a southwest sickle to border the Southlands.”

–Erin Summerill, Ever the Hunted (ARC pg. 39)

“Shaerdan is a lush country of suffocating emerald growth. It’s rumored that in Shaerdan the rain magically falls without a cloud in the sky.”

–Erin Summerill, Ever the Hunted (ARC pg. 39)

“Motivation is a dangerous tool.”
–Erin Summerill, Ever the Hunted

(Image Source)

“Oh, Britt, if I were ever the hunted, you’d find me.”
–Erin Summerill, Ever the Hunted

“A man should always escort the lady back to her seat,” he says.
A giggle nearly escapes my lips, which is so unlike me. “I didn’t realize you were such a gentleman.”
He grins wolfishly. “I don’t have to be, if that’s what you want.”
–Erin Summerill, Ever the Hunted

“Sometimes it’s hard to look past a grudge to see the truth.”
–Erin Summerill, Ever the Hunted

**Quotes are from an uncorrected advanced review copy and is subject to change in final copy**


“Focus is a weapon as much as your bow.”
–Erin Summerill, Ever the Hunted (ARC pg. 4)

erinErin Summerill was born in England. After spending years bouncing between Air Force bases in Hawaii, England, and California, her family settled in Utah, where Erin graduated with a B.A. in English from Brigham Young University. She had aspirations to write the next great American novel, but writing proved tougher than she first thought. So she grabbed a Nikon and became a professional photographer while crafting manuscript after manuscript. The scenic detour of shooting weddings across the United States, as well as internationally, provided world-building inspiration. It gave her the vision to draft her debut YA fantasy, EVER THE HUNTED. Now when she isn’t writing, or shooting a wedding, she’s chasing her four kids, two dogs, one cat, and five chickens. This could be why she downs massive amounts of Coke Zero and Hot tamales.

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Girls In the Moon

girls in the moonGirls In the Moon by Janet McNally
Young Adult Contemporary
November 29, 2016 from Harper Teen

An exquisitely told, authentic YA debut about family secrets, the shadow of fame, and finding your own way.

Everyone in Phoebe Ferris’s life tells a different version of the truth. Her mother, Meg, ex–rock star and professional question evader, shares only the end of the story—the post-fame calm that Phoebe’s always known. Her sister, Luna, indie-rock darling of Brooklyn, preaches a stormy truth of her own making, selectively ignoring the facts she doesn’t like. And her father, Kieran, the cofounder of Meg’s beloved band, hasn’t said anything at all since he stopped calling three years ago.

But Phoebe, a budding poet in search of an identity to call her own, is tired of half-truths and vague explanations. When she visits Luna in New York, she’s determined to find out how she fits in to this family of storytellers, and to maybe even continue her own tale—the one with the musician boy she’s been secretly writing for months. Told in alternating chapters, Phoebe’s first adventure flows as the story of Meg and Kieran’s romance ebbs, leaving behind only a time-worn, precious pearl of truth about her family’s past—and leaving Phoebe to take a leap into her own unknown future.


“So what’s up there?” Luna would ask, looking at the moon as intently as I was.
“Girls,” my mother said. “Girls just like you two.”
–Janet McNally, Girls In the Moon (ARC pg. 221)

Brooklyn, New York

“Summer in this city is like being in a terrarium built for creatures who don’t need to sleep.”
–Janet McNally, Girls In the Moon (ARC pg. 87)

  • Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn, NY
  • BookCourt, Brooklyn, NY
  • Borough Hall, Brooklyn, NY
  • Sara D. Roosevelt Park, Brooklyn, NY
(photos by me — click image to enlarge)

Girls In the Moon is musically-involved (having musicians for parents and big sister and all), and with that comes some music references and rocking out to, of course.

  • Cruel Summer // Bananarama
  • Heartbeat // Buddy Holly
  • Beast of Burden // The Rolling Stones
  • Strangers // The Kinks
  • Here Comes My Baby // Cat Stevens
  • Left and Leaving // The Weakerthans

“You can treat [secrets] carefully, like an eggshell or a tiny cocoon. But secrets aren’t hollow. They have heft and weight. They orbit around us like little moons, held close by our gravity, all the while pulling us with their own.” –Janet McNally, Girls In the Moon (ARC pg. 14)

“We try to figure out each other and make the pieces fit. But sometimes happy is an accident, and we forget not to give up on it.”
–Janet McNally, Girls In the Moon (ARC pg. 71)

He’s talking fast, and sounds nervous. “I’m sure your dad made actual cassette-tape mixes for your mom. I sort of wish I could do that. But I figured something out.” He hands me a white iPod shuffle. I take it and it feels so small, so light, that if my mom and dad time-traveled here from 1994, I’m sure they wouldn’t believe there are songs in there.
“Okay,” I say. He hands me a piece of paper then, lined and torn from a notebook. In blue ink and perfect, tiny printing, he’s written out all the songs and artists.
“I had to write everything down because it’s a shuffle, and um, things are going to come up in random order, so it’s not perfect.” He takes a breath. “It’s no cassette tape, that’s for sure. Sometimes I think we’re missing out on a lot.”
–Janet McNally, Girls In the Moon (ARC pg. 336-337)

**Quotes were taken from an uncorrected review copy and are subject to change in the final copy**

“Just when you’ve lost yourself, wherever you’ve been,
You’ll reach the end and find yourself ready to begin again.”
–Janet McNally, Girls In the Moon (ARC pg. 339)

A little bit about me: I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was tiny, and I’ve always read everything in sight. I earned an MFA in fiction from the University of Notre Dame, where I never attended a football game (sorry) but had fantastic professors and classmates. I’ve twice been a fellow in fiction with the New York Foundation for the Arts (in 2008 and currently, in 2015), and my stories and poems have appeared in publications including Gettysburg Review, Boulevard, Mid-American Review, Ecotone, Crazyhorse and Best New Poets 2012 .

In 2014 my book of poems Some Girls was chosen by Ellen Bass as winner of the White Pine Press Poetry Prize, and the book was published in August 2015. My young adult novel Girls in the Moon is forthcoming from HarperTeen (HarperCollins) in the fall of 2016. (Yes, I seem to have a thing for using the word “girl” in titles. What can I say? Girls are great). Girls in the Moon will also be translated into German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish.

I live in Buffalo, New York, with my husband and three little girls, and I teach creative writing at Canisius College.

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