Review + Playlist + Excerpt: Scandalized by Tara Frejas

Review + Playlist + Excerpt: Scandalized by Tara FrejasScandalized by Tara Frejas
Series: Roadie Romance #1
Published by indie author on May 5, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
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four-stars
Fi Legaspi is living the dream working in Seoul as a road manager for one of South Korea's hottest bands, East Genesis Project. Until she isn't.

When she finds herself in the middle of a scandal and a hostile fangirl witch hunt, Fi seeks the comfort of home, and to her surprise, not the person she had been pining for for years. All too suddenly it's no longer her career on the line, but also her heart. Will she walk away from everything that matters to her or fight to keep her dream alive?

#AprilFEELSDay may be over, but the feels keep rolling in anyway, given how many of the #RomanceClass authors have published books in the past few weeks—with more to come, I’m sure! Tara Frejas, author of The Forget You Brew and Settle the Score (check out this live performance of an excerpt from that story), is one of the authors who is launching a new read in the aftermath of Feels Day. Her new book? Scandalized, which is out today, May 5!

I’m totally excited about it because it’s got a K-pop component. My hubby is a huge fan of Korean pop music, and I could probably sing along to half a dozen songs myself, despite not understanding a word of Korean beyond annyeong-haseyo and various types of food (you know, bulgogi, kalbi jjim, etc.). But surprisingly, the author’s playlist for Scandalized includes English and Filipino songs as well as Korean ones! Keep reading to check it out, plus find out what I thought of the novel.

Mood Music: Scandalized
A playlist by author Tara Frejas

Let me start this post by declaring that Marianas Trench, FT Island, and Ebe Dancel were my best friends as I was writing Scandalized this time last year. Masterpiece Theatre was practically on loop most of the time, as well as Ever After. In my headcanon, it made sense because the South Korean pop-rock band I wrote about is loosely based on Marianas Trench’s profile. Of course, I took other attributes from K-Pop bands like TVXQ, FT Island, and Royal Pirates, but if you know a bit about the Canadian pop-punk band and you take a look at East Genesis Project’s website, you’ll see what I mean.

This playlist is rather biased—I couldn’t help it. I tried my best to balance it out by including songs I feel would set the mood of the story and match its themes.

scandalized-mood-music-playlist

 

1. “Perfect” – Marianas Trench

If the point’s to never disappoint you, somebody’s gotta tell me what to do.

“Perfect” is one of those songs that talk about how difficult it is for celebrities to keep their private lives private. In Scandalized, East Genesis Project’s band leader, Jo Yihwan, becomes the subject of public scrutiny because of his supposed relationship with a top actress. (For those not oriented with K-Pop, you should know that when it comes to K-Pop artists, most of them called idols, dating is a huge, hude deal for fans. If you’re an idol and you get caught dating, it’s quickly labeled a scandal, and you should brace yourself for the shitstorm.)

One particular line that’s pretty on point with what happens in the book is “Slow down now, the secret’s out. And I swear now, I’ll still make this perfect.” It’s pretty heartbreaking, but it’s true. Celebrities can get shit thrown at them for the wrong reasons, and yet they out their smiles on to keep up appearances. Picture perfect.

Marianas Trench’s “Celebrity Status” also made it to my personal book playlist because of its similar theme, so you may want to give that a listen too.

2. “Bad Woman” – FT Island

To say we should part now, if you say we should end things—what am I to do?

Oh, the angst.

This song is mostly for Yihwan’s backstory, but I felt like adding it into the mix because it provides a sneak peek into his heart somehow, and, being EG Project’s lyricist, it seems like a song he would actually write. It would stay unreleased, of course.

Another FT Island song with the same theme that’s worth a listen is “Severely”. Oh. Oh, the angst.

3. “Stutter” – Marianas Trench

For the life of me, I don’t know why it took me so long to see.

Somewhere along the way, Yihwan realizes he’s been the object of road manager Fi’s one-sided love for a long while, and he gets taken aback. I imagine this song would be the one causing a racket in his head while he figures things out.

4. “Haru” – Royal Pirates

An entire day would pass just by looking at you.

Meanwhile, in true K-drama tradition, Gabriel is looking at a lovelorn Fi with hearts in his eyes. They have struck a comfortable sort of friendship while working behind the scenes, and this is a song I would think of when they’d both spend downtime together, drinking vendo coffee and talking about random things. Like the utter usefulness of chopsticks.

5. “Burnout” – Sugarfree

O kaytagal rin kitang minahal / O kay tagal rin kitang mamahalin.

“Burnout” has this easy feel to it in spite of its message being rather sad. It’s a song I would love to listen to while taking a walk, and I have this in my head during a scene where Gabriel and Fi take a walking tour around Intramuros. Theme-wise, it’s also perfect, with both of them going through different stages of “burnout” from loving people who don’t love them in return.

6. “Beside You” – Marianas Trench

If your heart wears thin, I will hold you up, and I will hide you when it gets too much.

Basically a Gabriel Park anthem. I can’t say anything more without giving away too much. It also reeks of pa-crush feels, haha. #TeamGabriel

7. “Road” – g.o.d. (Groove Overdose)

I want to say with confidence that this is my road, believe in my faith, and never turn back, never regret my choices.

This is Fi’s favorite song by her favorite first-generation K-Pop boyband, g.o.d, and also pretty much works as her personal theme song in Scandalized. It also kind of plays a role somewhere in the story, but you’re going to have to read it if you’re curious.

8. “Sinta” – Sugarfree

Nung parang ayoko na, buti na lang nandiyan ka, sinta. Paano na lang ako kung wala ka, sinta?

Gabriel deserves his own “backstory song,” methinks, and this is his.

9. “Betting Everything” – Royal Pirates

And I keep thinking about her, I never knew I could feel this empty. Oh, the price, I pay it every day.

As the Filipino saying goes, “Nasa huli ang pagsisisi.” This would be Yihwan’s “regret song,” but I like it in that it doesn’t sound as desperate as, say, FT Island’s “Severely.” I like it because it’s hopeful, and maybe—just maybe—there’s hope! #TeamYihwan

10. “Comet” – Younha

When I think of you, my heart aches. I want to see you now, but I can’t fly.

As the story comes to a close, our dear MC makes a choice. But not before the LI makes his. Younha’s Comet pretty much captures both their feelings for each other at the end of the book.

11. “Masterpiece Theatre III” – Marianas Trench

If I had a choice, I’d put “Masterpiece Theatre I,” “II,” and “III” in this playlist but that would be too much now, would it? They all made my personal list, though. I am closing this one with “Masterpiece Theatre III” because the song is pretty much a mashup of a lot of Marianas Trench’s songs which relate to Scandalized. Of course, one could argue that the meaning of the entire song is different, but to me, it sounds like a fitting ending song that weaves together all the important scenes of the story. I can do a line by line thing, but that would take up so much time and spoil the story, so I guess you just have to take my word for it.

Just think of it as a song that plays in the end credits—it’s fabulous, I promise.

 

And that’s it! I hope I was able to introduce you to new songs/artists through this playlist, as well as set the mood for your Scandalized reading time. Do know that I’m very open to new music too, so if you ever get to read the book—to be released on May 5th!—and think of some song you think would be perfect for it, tweet me @tarafrejas! I’d be delighted to add them to my personal list too. 감사합니다!

 

My Review

Disclaimer: I did some light proofreading of this novel. However, I had no input on the story and this did not affect my opinion of the book; neither did the fact that I received an advance reader copy for this review.

When I learned that this book was inspired by Korean pop (KPop) music, I jumped at the chance to feature and review it. I’ll admit that at first, the present-tense, third-person point of view style the author used was a little disorienting for me, but eventually I got into it and was free to swoon and sigh over all the feels in this book! If you’re a fan of K-dramas or K-novellas, you’ll be sure to enjoy Scandalized.

At the center of the story is Filipina “Fi” Legaspi, who acts as road manager and mother hen to up-and-coming Korean pop-rock band East Genesis Project. You see immediately she’s got just the right amount of warmth and discipline to keep them cared for yet on their toes. We also meet dreamy Jo Yihwan, the band leader and guitarist, who has been Fi’s crush for ages, as well as the other members of the band and a few more support staff from their record company, Amethyst Entertainment—including yummy US transplant and PR specialist Gabriel Park.

Fi and all the other supporting characters find themselves tested and then some when scandal explodes courtesy of a night involving too much booze, misread situations, ill-timed photos and a rabid fan base that turns vicious very quickly. The author takes us from Korea to Manila and back again, all the while weaving a tale of nameless bullies, love triangle tensions, and a woman’s struggle to rise a stronger person when it seems most of the world is trying to beat her down.

All of this is told in very typical K-novella style. The author immerses you in the world of KPop fandoms, and while you get to see the fun aspects and understand why fans are so devoted to their idols, you also see the very vicious and mercurial side of it. Perhaps because the author is a KPop fangirl herself, you’ll find yourself invested in the characters and the scenarios that play out, but her skill and insight shine through in the way the characters deal with the nastiness that’s thrown their way and still manage to take the moral high ground without sounding too preachy.

What’s very distinctive about the story is that it feels entirely plausible, and the emotional investment in characters who seemed pretty typical or tropish initially but turned out to have multiple facets and unplumbed depths is what kept me turning pages.

If you ask me if this is a great novel for KPop fans, especially Filipino ones, to read, I’ll say yes, but that’s not all. If you ask me if it’s perfect for anyone who’s ever crushed on a pop or rock star, I’ll say yes, but that’s not all either. If anyone’s ever been bullied or been a bully, this is a story for you too. It’s just a great novel all around, and while a familiarity with Korean culture and entertainment will certainly go a long way toward your enjoyment of the book, at its heart this is a story about a person overcoming the pain the world throws at her with a little help from her friends. And that’s a win in my book.

 

Ratings:

4 stars

swoon-factor3

rage-factor2

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Excerpt from Scandalized by Tara Frejas

Fi is sitting alone in a meeting room, ear phones plugged into her ears, reading through EG Project’s schedules for the week and making notes in her planner. The opening riff of a song makes her pause.

So it’s like this, let me tell you how it is
I would hold you in my arms
say ‘I love you’ with a kiss, kiss, kiss

Our every single day would be
the very best, no less—but I guess
nothing is ever as it seems
every single thing is the stuff of daydreams

None of all the other EG Project songs have resonated so strongly with Fi like “Stuff of Daydreams” had. In fact, she had found herself wondering many times if Jo Yihwan had taken a peek inside her heart somehow and decided to write about the secrets it held.

That isn’t possible, of course.

How could he, when he has been so busy looking at someone else all this time?

Noona….” Minchan disturbs her contemplation with a gentle hand on her shoulder. Fi is mildly surprised when she looks up at him; she didn’t even realize he’d entered the room. “Noona, look at this,” he says, sliding a tablet into her hands.

“Oh no.”

Her eyes are fixed on a picture of Yihwan and top actress Han Haera posted side by side on an article. Above them are the words: Are EG Project’s Jo Yihwan and National Goddess Han Haera Dating?

“No. No, no…” Fi looks up at the bearer of this news, brusquely pulling her earphones off. “Where’s Yihwan?”

“I saw him with Minja noona a couple of hours ago. They were discussing the upcoming tour, I think?”

Fi stands up, spaces out, and sits back down again. How could this happen? Yihwan dating Haera had been a closely guarded secret, something only a handful of people know. And while they have broken up a long time ago, news like this will definitely not die unless one or the other releases a statement. She gets up again.

“Where are you going, noona?”

“To find Yihwan. Or Gabriel. Whoever enters my line of vision first.”

* * *

News got to Yihwan before Fi could. She finds him alone in one of the rehearsal studios and confirms his distress in the way his eyes look unfocused, how he unnecessarily shifts his weight in front of the piano.

They don’t breathe a word to each other for a long while.

The silence is broken when the door opens behind her, Steven and Minchan quietly sliding in. Yihwan finally lifts his head. Fi could swear she saw the two boys flinch from the corner of her eye.

“Come on, you guys,” Yihwan says, attempting a tone of nonchalance. “It’s fine. It’ll be gone after a while.”

“Are you all right, hyung?” Minchan asks. He is a step behind Steven, and though he stands taller than both of his hyung-deul, to Fi he appeares to be a child cowering behind his older brother.

“Sure.” Yihwan’s fingers hit the keys. It’s a new melody, one Fi hasn’t heard before but could recognize potential from. He must have been trying to write a song before she found him. “Have you ever seen any news about Steven dating anyone last over a week?”

That’s a point right there. And it’s a hilarious one if not for the fact that Fi, Steven, and Minchan have all been sitting in the front row during the spectacle that was Han Haera breaking Yihwan’s heart. And although it has been almost two years ago, they know Yihwan has never really moved on. Haera became akin to an invisible imprint on all of his songs—a phrase here, a refrain there—and now that netizens have somehow brought this skeleton back to the surface, Fi wonders how Yihwan would deal.

And how she would.

 

About Tara Frejas

Tara Frejas is a cloud-walker who needs caffeine to fuel her travels. When she's not on work mode, she keeps herself busy by weaving her daydreams into stories.
Aside from her obvious love affair with words and persistent muses, Tara is very passionate about being caffeinated, musical theatre, certain genres of music, dancing, dogs, good food, and romancing Norae, her ukelele. She owns a male bunny named Max who sometimes tries to nibble on her writing notes. Scandalized is her second novel after Paper Planes Back Home.
Fun fact: She's a Piscean. Go figure.

East Genesis Project’s website: bit.ly/EGProject
Twitter: @eastgenproject