Heaven on Earth: The 35th Manila International Book Fair

by Kachi Parado

For three years now, the Manila International Book Fair (MIBF) has had a place in my planner every September. It’s even become a tradition between me and my two friends! This year though, it was just me and Michael since Aya’s in Dubai.

The MIBF was held last September 17 to 21 at the SMX Convention Center. We usually go during weekdays but ended up going on the 20th this year, which was a Saturday.

Despite opening just two hours earlier, the place was already packed! It’s not like I don’t like people but too many people in a book haven that only appears once a year always make me feel like the books I want might no longer be available by the time I arrive. Being a self-confessed book hoarder, I just can’t let that happen. Okay, that’s just me being selfish. Sorry, not sorry? Haha.

Anyway, it was also refreshing and beyond nice to see so many others engaging in the event. It shows that even though we’re now in a digital age, where everything you will ever need is on your phone and most prefer to be “paperless,” it has become second nature for us to love books in all its simplicity. It’s genuinely good to know that I’m not alone in loving books and, yes, in being a book hoarder.

Upon entering the convention center, Michael and I were so excited we didn’t know where to start. Should we turn left or right? We spent a couple of minutes deciding how we were gonna walk through the event and ended up heading to the Summit Media booth first, since Michael needed a certain fitness magazine (see it’s not just books!).

While looking for his magazine, I saw Lourd de Veyra’s latest book, Little Book of Speeches. I admit I don’t get to read a lot of Filipino books; I’ve only read like three books of Bob Ong’s and one each by Jessica Zafra, Ramon Baustista and Lualhati Bautista. Lourd De Veyra is known for being witty so I grabbed a copy. At the Summit Media booth, you get a free magazine for every purchase and this year, they made us choose the magazine, which I found charming.

So many things happening at the same time makes the book fair quite chaotic, but that that’s the fun of MIBF. At the Stage area, the annual St. Paul Bible Quiz Bee was on.

We got to the Adarna House booth and I saw Weng Cahiles’ What Kids Should Know About Andres and the Katipunan. (Read our reviewhas a Read our review here.) I picked up a copy, hoping Weng and Isa Natividad, the illustrator, would also sign it for me (ahem!). I later reviewed the MIBF schedule and found I missed Weng by around an hour. (Oh well, there’s always a next time!) I got the book for P190 and I’m excited read it.

While roaming, we saw Miriam Quiambao had a signing event for her book, He Can Catch You When You Fall.


 

Fully Booked, if I’m not mistaken, had one of the largest booths and you’d immediately see three lines at the cashier. Michael and I sort of forgot that we were in this together and went on different paths as our love for books took control of our bodies. I bought two books: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera and The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer.

We had a short discussion while we were there. Aside from the “Which of these should I get?” scenario everyone’s familiar with, we talked about buying a hard copy of the book you read on an .epub format that ended up being one of your favorite books. It was a definite “what-the-heck-are-you-thinking YES” for me but Michael was quite hesitant. I won him over by saying that if you have a hard copy, you have that book for life. Having it in digital format is like having a back up if you don’t want a bulky bag whenever you feel like reading it again wherever you are.

I didn’t participate in any of the programs but I can say that the MIBF was successful yet again in bringing together book lovers and opening up new worlds for us. It’s an event to look forward to every year, so mark your calendars every September! ☁

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Bookbed goes to: Kumazawa Bookstore

by KB Meniado

I was in Tokyo last month and one of the places I loved visiting the most was this bookstore! I think you’ll know why.

The Rurouni Kenshin films were in cinemas back then so it was imperative these existed:

I am not the biggest Samurai X fan but I AM DEFINITELY A MOON CRYSTAL POWER MAKEUP GIRL.

Why are these not available worldwide again?

Speaking of global, I’m sure most of you can relate with the Naruto and Doraemon. The Detective Conan series was also on-hand.

Local books were not to be missed, either. All the covers are beautiful, it’s a shame I’m not fluent in Nihonggo.

They were all also oh-so-expensive. But with its offering of both Japanese and foreign books, Kumazawa is still worth a visit. Go if only for Sailor Moon, she awaits. ☁

***

Writing Romance with Mina V. Esguerra

by Hazel Ureta

I’ve always been more of a reader than a writer. However, last month, I was given the opportunity to learn more about writing—specifically, romance writing.

Last September, I got to join Ayala Museum’s “Romance Novel Writing Workshop for Adults!” Being it the first day, Mina V. Esguerra, who was the speaker a.k.a “romance writing master” (I made this up but it is a very apt title) started the workshop by showing us the ropes of romance writing. As expected, introductions led to the start of the workshop. (Read our feature on Mina V. Esguerra here!)

Mina greeted the small group of eager writers and talked about her own experiences (also credentials—the woman definitely has bragging rights to do so because she’s awesome! Would you believe the second book she wrote was published without revisions?) as a writer and how she’ll be able to guide the group on writing and finishing a romance novel.

She then asked the group to introduce themselves, share their favorite romance novels and their reasons for joining the workshop. This encouraged everyone to be vocal about the kinds of books they love (my favorite kind of discussion!) and also what they wanted to learn through the workshop. She then turned the discussion to how finishing a romance novel will be her main focus and said,

“You learn something just by the experience of finishing it (a book).”

She then proceeded to discuss how writing your own fantasy might be one way to finish and that you should write what you want to write regardless of what other people might like.

“Sayang if you let people hold you back.”

She elaborated on human differences and how we all have tropes that we personally like. Talks of love-hate, best-friend and forbidden romances ensued and I nodded my head along because everything Mina talked about was so accurate.

All throughout, Mina was a fun, engaging speaker. I couldn’t help but think how she was clearly an expert on all things romance—writing and books, a true reader and writer at heart.

As for the writers in the workshop, they were active and eager to learn more about romance writing. Since they had an awesome speaker, they were interacting and laughing and learning with and from each other.

Should the opportunity ever arise again, I’d love to join more of Ayala Museum’s workshops. Their romance writing class left a great impression and I believe they offer the most knowledgeable teachers/speakers and the best experience with their workshops. I highly encourage everyone who’s ever wanted to join a workshop or a writing class to check out the ones available at Ayala Museum!

Fun fact: One of the members of the group literally just got married on the day of the workshop. The workshop is that unmissable, if I must say. Really thankful to Ms. Marj and Mina for having me and Bookbed! ☁

Visit Mina V. Esguerra here.
Special thanks to Ms. Marj De Asis-Villaflores of the Ayala Foundation, Inc.

Generation W: An Interview with Wattpad Author Leng de Chavez

by Charlie Diaz

In the past, people would have to go to brick-and-mortar libraries or bookstores whenever they wanted to read a book. But in this age of Facebook and Twitter, the new breed of readers can, with just a few taps and swipes on their smartphones and tablets, immerse themselves in a new novel (or two) without even leaving the comfort of their seats.

Welcome to the Wattpad era.

Created by a Canada-based company, Wattpad is an online community that connects people around the world through the written word. Through the website, Wattpad users can create their own stories, get feedback and comments from their readers and directly interact with other authors and users.

And did we mention that stories from Wattpad are free and can be read whether you’re online or offline? Yep, you read that right!

Recently, Wattpad has taken our country by storm. It is now becoming a platform for aspiring authors, especially young writers, to showcase their stories. And if you’re lucky, you can even get your big break through Wattpad.

Some stories by Filipino Wattpad writers have been published by local publishing companies like Summit Media and PSICOM Publishing. And quite a few have also been adapted into movies and television shows. (Do Diary ng Panget and She’s Dating the Gangster ring any bells?)

Leng de Chavez is among the several who have published their work and gained a substantial following. And we are glad to have been given the chance to talk to her about her passion for writing and how joining Wattpad changed her life.

 

Leng de Chavez is a 21-year-old BS Human Ecology major at the University of the Philippines Los Baños. She says: “Hindi writing-related yung course ko, HAHAHAHA! Passion ko lang talaga ang pagsusulat. [My course isn’t writing-related. But writing is really my passion.]” Her published works include The Despicable Guy and If I Fall. Tweet her @lengsungit.

WORLD OF WATTPAD

Hi, Leng! When did you start posting your stories on Wattpad?

December 2010! Dapat kasi sa Creative Corner ng Teentalk ako magpo-post ng story (The Despicable Guy Book 1) kaso masyado akong nahirapan sa format doon. Mas nadalian ako sa Wattpad kasi mas simple ang features niya and mas accessible sa readers dahil sa Wattpad app.

(I planned on posting my stories on Teentalk’s Creative Corner but had difficulty with the format. Wattpad had easier and simpler features and was more accessible to readers with the Wattpad app.)

What was the first story that gained thousands of reads and responses? Did you ever worry that your next stories won’t be as successful?

The Despicable Guy Book 1 ‘yung unang pumatok sa Wattpad.

Actually, no. I’m not really after the success thing ‘pag nagsusulat ako. Gusto ko lang magsulat at magpasaya (at magpaiyak minsan) ng mga tao. Lahat ng stories ko may sari-sariling success ‘yan.

Of course, mahirap tibagin ang success ng TDG kasi doon ako nakilala. Hindi ko naman goal na magkaroon ng competition sa mga kwento ko. I’m beyond grateful na may mga nag-aabang at nagbabasa sa kanila.

(The first story that became popular on Wattpad was The Despicable Guy Book 1.

I’m not really after success when it comes to writing. All I want to do is write and make people happy [or sometimes sad]. All my stories are successful in their own right.

Of course it’s hard to surpass TDG’s success because that’’s what got my name out there. But it’s not my goal to have my stories compete with one another [when it comes to success]. I’m already beyond grateful that there is an audience anticipating and reading them.)

Right now, some Wattpad stories have been turned into movies. Has TDG been optioned for a movie? Are you open to it?

Sad to say, walang offer para gawing movie ang TDG.

As of now, hindi ko masasabing open ako for a movie. Maraming factors akong kino-consider pagdating sa ganyan.

(Sad to say, there haven’t been any offers. And as of now, I can’t really say I’m open to having TDG adapted into a movie. There are a bunch of factors I need to consider in terms of that.)

FROM ONLINE TO BOOK STANDS

Can you tell us the story of how TDG was published into a book?

Si Denny (HaveYouSeenThisGirl) ang nag-recommend ng TDG sa Summit last year. Ayaw kong maniwala nung naka-receive ako ng e-mail from them. That time kasi kakaunti pa lang ang napu-publish na stories so sobrang big deal pa ‘yon.

(Denny, author of HaveYouSeenThisGirl, recommended TDG to Summit Media last year. I couldn’t believe it when I got an email from them. At the time, only a few [Wattpad] stories had been published so it was a pretty big deal.)

When books are published, it’s inevitable that the stories will be edited, and sometimes authors are a bit protective with their original stories. Was there a moment when you had second thoughts?

Sa editing naman ng TDG Book 1, ako na mismo ang nag-overhaul ng kwento. Three years old na rin kasi yung story bago siya nakuha for publishing and marami talaga akong gustong baguhin. May times na nag-hesitate ako, pero may tiwala ako sa editor ko na mapapaganda niya ang kwento.

The book turned out better than I expected. Mas maganda pala siya ‘pag English!

(With TDG Book 1, I overhauled the entire story myself. It was already three years old before it got picked up for publishing and there were a lot of parts I wanted to change. There were times when I hesitated but I had faith in my editor’s ability to improve the story.

The book turned out better than I expected. It’s actually better in English!)

ON SELF-PUBLISHING

What made you decide to self-publish If I Fall?

Mas nauna kong gustong i-publish ang If I Fall kesa sa TDG. Late 2012 ko pa pinagpaplanuhan kung paano gagawin ‘yon. Compared to TDG, mas protective ako sa If I Fall kaya self-published siya. Gusto ko may pakialam ako sa covers and stuff. Tsaka nung una hindi ko nakikitang papatok ang If I Fall if ever man idaan siya sa traditional publishing like TDG.

(I wanted to publish If I Fall before TDG and had been planning on how I’d do that since late 2012. I’m more protective over If I Fall than TDG which is why I decided to self-publish. I wanted to have control over the book covers and stuff. And at first, I didn’t think If I Fall would gain readers if I published it traditionally like TDG.)

What’s the difference between publishing TDG and IIF? Pros? Cons?

Mas madali ang publishing TDG since hawak siya ng Summit Media. Sa IIF kasi, lahat ako ang naghandle. From editing to shipping the books.

Ang pros nung sa TDG, hindi ako nahirapan sa marketing, selling and branding. Mas madali siyang mahanap sa bookstores and stands. Ang cons naman nun, wala akong masyadong say sa process, especially sa book cover.

Sa IIF naman, ang pros nun ay mas personalized siya. Pinag-isipan naming mabuti yung cover and layout. Kaso mas nakakapagod at matrabaho yun kasi nga ako pa rin ang nagsi-ship ng libro sa buyers.

(Summit Media took care of publishing TDG so it was easier for me. With IIF, I handled everything. From editing to shipping the books.

With TDG, the marketing, selling and branding was all easy peasy. It’s also easier to find in bookstores and stands. But on the flipside, I had very little say on the process, especially on the book cover.

As for IIF, it’s a lot more personalized. We mulled over the cover and layout for a long time. But it was tiring and required hard work because I was still the one who shipped books to buyers.)

EXTRA, EXTRA!

Who are your favorite authors?

Haruki Murakami, Rainbow Rowell, Stephen King and Ricky Lee

What are your current favorite books?

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and Para Kay B by Ricky Lee

Can you mention some of your favorite movies?

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Her, X-Men: Days of Future Past and Shawshank Redemption

How about your favorite TV shows?

Sherlock, BonesHouse MDTrue Detective and Breaking Bad

And the last book that made you cry?

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins.

Spreading Love One Book at A Time: An Interview with Mensis Liber

by KB Meniado

The idea behind Mensis Liber is simple: promote reading by giving away a free book every month. (In fact, I won one of the first giveaways—1Q84 by Haruki Murakami!) Since 2011, founder Kenna Marcelo has given away over 40 books to winners from all over the world. Enter the inside pages and discover how she got this idea and how it has changed her life so far!

 

Kenna Marcelo gives away free books. Visit her on Kenna Marcelo and Mensis Liber.

 

Hi, Kenna! This project was inspired by a book—Brian Krans’s A Constant Suicide, to be exact. How and when did the idea of Mensis Liber come to you? 

I spent most of my time on Tumblr back in 2007 to 2012. I follow a lot of blogs about books, reading and interesting stuff and keep in touch with their authors. Prosthetic Knowledge is a blog I love and follow until this day. Richard, the blog owner, and I both like Milan Kundera, too. In 2011, I stumbled upon a A Constant Suicide quote. I tried hard to find the book in bookstores and eventually got hold of it through the author’s online bookstore.

I was going through really tough times then and that book helped me get through it. I’ve always loved reading and it has always helped me get over anything—from heartaches to boredom to life-altering decisions. A Constant Suicide is the book I consider as the one that made the most impact in my life, to this day. I thought, if this book changed my life, it could change others’ lives, too.

At the same time, when I was young and didn’t have enough money, buying books was not easy. Our public libraries or school libraries weren’t that good either. So I thought I should give away a free book every month. I’ve asked people what to call it, and it was Richard who thought of Mensis Liber which means “book of the month.”

A free book every month in the hopes of changing other people’s lives… what a goal! But how do you pick out a book?

I normally give away a book I personally recommend or have read. If I can’t think of a book, I rely on Twitter and Goodreads for recommendations.

Can you share some of your favorite Mensis Liber moments?

I have met people all over the world who are passionate about reading and books, which is amazing. I’ve given away signed books of Brian Krans, the author of A Constant Suicide. All his books! Brian has always been helpful with Mensis Liber, too. Another favorite blog of mine, Decoding Static, made a handmade cover for his Living Room Stories print.

People from all over the world! How do you build connections?

I rely heavily on social media. I work alone on Mensis Liber and it can sometimes be difficult to track the entries and remember when to post given that I have a full-time job. I also keep a database of the people who enter the contest and e-mail them surveys on how to improve the website and what they want to have.

What are your plans for Mensis Liber?

Sometimes I give away more than one book a month, which is what I want to do on a regular basis. I want to give away at least one book a week. I also want to do a book club similar to 24 Hour Book Club but based here in Dubai.

You’re based in Dubai. Is the habit of reading any different there?

Reading is an escape. It’s also a way to travel without having to move. Books are my companion. I fell in love with reading at school. Unfortunately, while my parents encouraged reading, they would rather have me read technical books rather than fictional ones. Libraries back home were pretty useless, for lack of a better word. I don’t really know how to differentiate the readers’ landscape in Dubai and back home. Dubai has great public libraries and we get access to almost all books from different parts of the world. I did, however, meet more bibliophiles here than back home.

I did an interview with Readmill before, you can read it here.

Care to share your thoughts about people who read?

I’ve always thought readers are really awesome people. It doesn’t matter what they read. But, for me, people who read love life.

EXTRA, EXTRA!

What is your favorite book and why?

The Little Prince is my favorite book. I read it when I was 10, I think, and I re-read it from time to time and I always learn something new from it. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is another favorite. These two books, I need to have wherever I go.

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

I try to live my life by that.

Who is your favorite author and why?

Another hard one. I can’t pick only one. My favorite authors are Milan Kundera, Brian Krans and John Green and recently, Rainbow Rowell (read Kenna’s review of Landline here).

Milan Kundera is an immortal. I read his books and find myself wishing it was me who wrote them instead. He taught me a lot and made me care less about superficial things. The Unbearable Lightness of Being is another one of my favorites. It was written years before I was born but it made perfect sense to me. It helped me know more about myself. It helped me find me.

Brian Krans is an amazing writer as well. I love his writing style. To me, he writes like Chuck Palahniuk, Hunter S. Thompson, Charles Bukowski and John Green, all in one (just my opinion). If he writes about roller-blading, I will read it even if I’m not into roller-blading.

John Green and Rainbow Rowell are good at making you feel emotions you’re not familiar with. They write about things in an easy-to-read manner but can still make you think deep. Or at least, that’s what they do to me.

Your favorite reading/writing-related quote?

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”—Haruki Murakami

Bookbed recommends: ‘A Lover’s Discourse’ by Roland Barthes

by Cake Evangelista

­

“I knew no end to desiring you.”

That is the one quote in Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse that has been imprinted in my mind ever since I came across this brilliant and thought-provoking—yet admittedly difficult to read—masterpiece of a book.

The thing is, I first read that line not in Barthes’ book, but—and this I admit without any ounce of shame—in this 150-peso chick lit, Mr. Write by M.D. Balangue, published by Cosmo Philippines. That quote intrigued me and I promised myself I would find its source and read it.

I often tell people that reading A Lover’s Discourse is hard work. I remember abandoning it for months on end after I read the foreword and its first pages because it was such a trial to read. When I finally finished the damn thing, I realized the payoff is just worth ALL the effort and brainpower.

You see, A Lover’s Discourse reads like an academic text. Barthes is a French philosopher and literary theorist known for his work in the fields of semiotics and structuralism, among others. This unique perspective was not all detrimental to his writing. In fact, it actually made the book even more compelling. (Or maybe Barthes is just one of those gifted writers who create literary gold every single time?)

And before I bore you with all this background information you can easily Google, let me tell you this: A Lover’s Discourse is arguably the best love-story-without-a-story ever told.

Interspersed with excerpts from other literature and some of Barthes’ own personal musings, A Lover’s Discourse explores love by defining and pinpointing all of its nuances, complexities, types, stages, and permutations.

Using the tools of structuralism, Barthes studied love (and desire) as seen in the eyes of the lover: that first time you see your loved one, all sorts of feelings you associate with him (jealousy, sadness, longing, joy, desire), the realization that your love is unrequited, that bittersweet feeling after a love has ended, etc.

This tender and intimate exploration is actually familiar and relatable. This “overthinking” that Barthes does in examining this love phenomenon is actually something we’ve all done when in the throes of love and/or passion:

“What does it mean when he does this? Or says this? Or acts this way? Does he love me? Is my love obvious? Am I worthy of his love? Why doesn’t he love me? Why does he love her?”

Oftentimes, Barthes’ writing is painful to read—heart wrenching in its honesty and refusal to mince words. “Tagos sa puso” in Filipino. But that is just the way love is: messy, complex, and the source of both the ultimate happiness and the worst pain imaginable.

A couple of thought-provoking excerpts from the book:

“The fulfilled lover has no need to write, to transmit to reproduce…”

“I-love-you has no usages. Like a child’s word, it enters into no social constraint, it can be a sublime, solemn, trivial word, it can be an erotic, pornographic word. It is a socially irresponsible word.”

“To know that one does not write for the other, to know that these things I am going to write will never cause me to be loved by the one I love (the other), to know that writing compensates for nothing, sublimates nothing, that it is precisely there where you are not – this is the beginning of writing.”

Meet the Goddess of Love Stories: An Interview with Romance Author Mina V. Esguerra

by Allana Luta and Cake Evangelista; art by Hazel Ureta

Here at Bookbed, almost everyone is gaga over young adult and romance novels. (If it weren’t obvious yet.) So when we were talking about who we could feature as our first Filipino author, Mina V. Esguerra, one of today’s most popular Filipino authors of romance lit, definitely came on top of the list!

We are huge fans of Mina’s work so it was exciting to get to know more about her. Plus, it’s International Literacy Day today so talking about one of our favorite writers talking about her favorite books is hitting two birds in a stone. Plus, plus! She’s teaching YA and adult romance writing this month at the Ayala Museum, we just knew this is one interview and workshop we couldn’t miss!

Besides her kilig-inducing work, another thing we love about Mina is how cool and friendly she is—always willing to engage her readers. We also learn what her current Top 5 romantic books are, what type of female characters she likes and her favorite quote from Neil Gaiman. Also, she seems to be as in love with Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl as we are! *Kanye West dance party ensues*

Mina V. Esguerra writes books with kissing. Her published works include Fairy Tale Fail, My Imaginary Ex, Love Your Frenemies, No Strings Attached and Interim Goddess of Love. Visit her on minavesguerra.com or tweet her @minavesguerra.

LET’S TALK ABOUT BOOKS

You’ve said in interviews that the Sweet Valley got you into reading (and, eventually, writing). What was it about those books that captured your attention?

At the time, I was really into television, and those books felt to me like TV but… in book form. The Sweet Valley Twins series released a new book a month at the time. And by the time I had discovered it, I had over 30 books to read to catch up. It was really fun.

And then when I got all caught up there, I moved on to Sweet Valley High, and then Sweet Dreams. The episodic nature of the books and the simple take on romance and friendships got me hooked.

What are your Top 5 favorite romance novels? How about YA?

I can give you a Top 5 right now (because my Top 5 keeps changing). Here are my current favorite romance titles:

  1. Asking for Trouble by Tessa Bailey
  2. Big Boy by Ruthie Knox
  3. The Chocolate Temptation by Laura Florand
  4. The Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers
  5. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

And Top 5 YA (right now):

  1. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  2. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
  3. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  4. Divergent by Veronica Roth
  5. The Mediator series by Meg Cabot (this is years old but I only read it now)

You, as well as other authors, have advised budding writers to read books outside the genre they work on as a way to improve their writing. What are your favorite reads outside the romance genre and how have they helped you?

Right now, I’m learning about museums and art, so I’m reading nonfiction (The Rescue Artist by Edward Dolnick). Fiction is informative, too. Something like The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach was interesting to me because of how it portrayed interconnected people and relationships.

Something like The Collector by John Fowles or Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn when you’re writing people who aren’t “likeable” and you want to see where the line is and how horrible you want your characters to be. And then I also read books that are famous for being “bad,” just because it’s fun.

THE HEART OF WRITING

How does being active and engaging with fans online affect your writing process in any way?

Maybe I write faster, because I know they’re there and willing to read what’s next.

Is there any romance novel you wish ended differently? How would you rewrite the ending?

Do I wish to rewrite an ending for one of mine? No. Come to think of it, I always come up with the ending first, so every ending is something I wanted since the story’s concept phase.

Now that you have a child, do you plan on writing children’s books? Or is that completely out of the picture?

I don’t think I will. At least, there are no plans right now. I’ve been asked about including more parenting issues in my books, so maybe it will go that way. I’ve actually made a decision recently to go more mature with my books, and not younger.

GRRRRRRL POWER!

What are your thoughts about feminism in love stories?

As a reader and writer, I prefer stories where women get things done, know who they are (or get there eventually), and know what they’re good at. I don’t particularly like it when women are treated like crap in romance fiction.

What do you think about romance/love story tropes and clichés? How do you work around them?

I think tropes stick around for a reason and a good writer will take a familiar one and make it seem new. I know that romance readers have tropes they prefer, and as a romance writer, you kind of have to use this to your advantage rather than avoid it.

What’s your opinion on “women’s fiction” and how it is viewed negatively in the literary world?

If anyone is avoiding “women’s fiction” because of the label, they’re missing out on a lot. If they happen to like reading something just because it’s been labeled “literary,” then I’m not particularly concerned about their opinions.

Romantic stories, in all its different forms and types, are very popular. What do you think is it about love that has fascinated people since the beginning of time?

To me it’s about the fantasy, and because it seems like there’s a greater chance of it happening in real life – to us. Depending on who we are, that makes us either delusional or hopeful!

EXTRA, EXTRA!

What is your favorite book and why?

Right now, it’s Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, and my treasured special edition hardcover edition. Fangirl just works for me on so many levels. Because I write, and I was deep into a fandom, and the book recreates how that feels so well.

Who is your favorite author and why?

Rainbow Rowell, right now. (See above.)

Your favorite reading/writing-related quote?

“Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do. Make good art.”—Neil Gaiman

Mina is teaching romance writing this September at the Ayala Museum! To attend, call Ms. Marj at 759-8288 local 25 or email her at villaflores.md@ayalafoundation.org.

Bookbed recommends: ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’ by Richard Bach

by Allana Luta

Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a story about following your dreams, told through the eyes of an extraordinary seagull.

Jonathan wants nothing more than to perfect the art of flying, something that goes against the norm of his flock, which is simply to eat. Jonathan’s stubbornness results in his expulsion from his community. This does not faze him; instead it propels him to further his quest in soaring as high as his feathered body will allow. It is then that Jonathan meets others seagulls like him who will guide him toward what it means to be truly free.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull came into my life the summer after I graduated from college. The thing about having just graduated is you are a mass of idealistic notions, wanting nothing more than to create and spread goodness in your society. But in the real world, you realize you have to decide pragmatically and some of these decisions will drive you in the opposite direction of your goals.

This was something I had not anticipated. Maybe I was too sheltered or too ignorant. The point is I was lost.

This book reminded me, however, that it is important to always keep your ideals in sight. The strength of your belief in your ideals will push you to chase your dreams and see them to fruition, no matter how long it takes.

Some of the seagulls Jonathan met lived through several lifetimes before transcending to a higher state. I would like to think that though I may not have my life completely figured out yet, I would get there someday. And hopefully, by remaining true to myself, like Jonathan, I will eventually reach the heights I seek. ☁

Bookbed reviews: ‘The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian’ by Sherman Alexie

by L Meniado

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie contains pages that will give you metaphorical boners and emotional erections. As Gordy, one of the characters in the book, funnily explained:

“Well, I don’t mean boner in a sexual sense. When I say boner, I really mean joy. Boner is funnier. And more joyful.”

Gordy was right—the book is worthy of all the comparative forms of (positive) adjectives, if not superlative.

THE STORY

Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

With a forward by Markus Zusak, interviews with Sherman Alexie and Ellen Forney, and four-color interior art throughout, this edition is perfect for fans and collectors alike. / Read reviews: Goodreads

WHAT I LIKED

The wit and humor of Junior, coupled with his drawings, accurately defines the word awesome. If asked why I love this book, I may end up quoting everything to make sure I capture every bit of awesomeness of the story.

In fact, I made notes:

Aside from reading, the book teaches you how to fight. See, this book can turn you into a bookworm and a fighter at the same time. Pretty awesome!

tl;dr

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie is a great book. You have to personally go through it to get what I mean. Spare me the burden of having to explain why I love it because if this is love, then it is beyond rational reasons. All I know is that it gave me a metaphorical boner. ☁

Bookbed recommends: ‘On the Jellicoe Road’ by Melina Marchetta

by Elaine Zapanta

I see poorly written smut on display and I get a tiny bit sad on the inside and think that maybe I’ve outgrown YA. That I should be moving on to thicker books filled with characters with more difficult, real-life problems.

And then I’ll come across books like Melina Marchetta’s On the Jellicoe Road and everything is right in the world again.

So whenever people ask me what I like best about my favorite book, I tell them this: It’s the kind of book that should be experienced firsthand.

The first few chapters of On the Jellicoe Road could be a tad confusing because your first impressions are shaped by the limited knowledge that Taylor, the main character, has available to her. I was slightly put off by how the story seems to be populated by hypersensitive and edgy teenagers, but I believe in the power of the Printz Award, so I plowed through and let’s just say that the juice is worth the squeeze.

Though this is a story told in two parts, it is just one: a story about the self and how you define and are defined by others. How to love despite the hurt and imperfections. And how the people you love never truly leave you to deal with life alone.

Marchetta wove together this journey in a way that you won’t realize how much it has owned you until after you have read the last sentence.

It made me feel things and made me cry even though I could not, and still can’t, point exactly what it was that hit me so deep.

To summarize exactly how I feel about On the Jellicoe Road, here is one of my favorite quotes from the book.

“It stirs a nostalgia in me that I have no reason to own, but it makes me ache all the same.”