Flippers meet F. Sionil Jose

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We finally concluded our Rosales Saga read-along last Saturday over at Solidaridad Book Shop, with no less than the author, National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose.

Armed with a bunch of snacks and stacks of books, we found ourselves holed up in FSJ’s private quarters above the bookshop and spent over three hours talking about his life as a writer and reader, the Rosales books, the bookshop and so much more!

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James Frey in Manila

B8vjQxHCQAAGfHm(photo via https://twitter.com/nbsalert/)

On Sunday, I got to chat with New York Times bestselling author James Frey and was quite surprised to find that he was a jeans-and-shirt kind of guy, joking around with his fans (some of whom he was already on a first-name basis with!) and gamely signing books for the waitress that served our coffee.

While his reputation precedes him, I admittedly I have never read any of James Frey’s books (“A Million Little Pieces,” “My Friend Leonard,” and “Bright Shiny Morning,” nor any of the Pittacus Lore books). I read the first of his new YA trilogy “Endgame: The Calling” (which he co-wrote with  Nils Johnson-Shelton) and found it quite enjoyable.

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Stephanie Perkins in Manila (+ giveaway!)

Last Sunday, in true “Anna and the French Kiss” style, I had lunch at a French boulangerie with none other than New York Times Bestselling YA author Stephanie Perkins!

Stephanie Perkins’ popular debut novel “Anna and the French Kiss” (hailed as NPR’s Best Teen Reads 2010 and CYBILS Finalist for YA Fiction in 2011) features Anna Oliphant, who is shipped off by her parents to a boarding school in Paris. Struggling to adapt to her new environment, Anna reluctantly makes new friends, including Etienne St. Clair. Anna and Etienne grow closer together, but Anna is afraid to confront her true feelings for Etienne because he is already in a relationship.

Meanwhile, “Lola and the Boy Next Door” (included in the YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults 2012 and the ALA Book List 2013) is set in San Francisco, where budding designer Lola Nolan is confronted by her past with the return of her next door neighbor (and first heartbreak), Cricket Bell. Lola is beset by a turbulent storm of emotions as she tries to deal with Cricket’s renewed presence in her life, her relationship with her unconventional family, and her own identity.

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Il Sung Na and the Power of Picture

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It’s always fascinating to learn about the creative process of a children’s book creator, so I was drawn to Il Sung Na’s session on “Korean Picture Books: The Power of Picture” at the AFCC Writers and Illustrators conference last month.

Il Sung Na is the writer and illustrator of several acclaimed picture books, including “Zzzzz: A Book of Sleep,” “The Thingamabob,”” “Brrrr: A Book of Winter,” “Hide & Seek,” and “Shhhh: A Book of Babies.” Born in Seoul, he studied illustration in London and is now based in Baltimore, USA. His illustration work is mixed media and digital.
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Jenny Han in Manila

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I got to interview New York Times bestselling YA author Jenny Han during her Philippine book signing tour this weekend, something I had been looking forward to after finishing her latest novel, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.”

“To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” is about Lara Jean Song, who writes secret letters to each boy she has ever loved as a way of moving on and purging them out of her system. To Lara Jean’s mortification, her letters somehow disappear and get sent out, making their way to five boys, including her next door neighbor Josh, who happens to be her sister’s boyfriend.

I’m not sure if it’s some unspoken rite of passage among teenage girls, but I wrote these kinds of letters at that age, too (some I actually sent, some I still keep, but they will never see the light of day! :D), and I’m sure countless of other readers have done it as well. Lara Jean is perhaps on the young side of 16 compared to heroines of the same age in other YA novels, but I found all her little quirks charming, and I think ultimately more relatable, at least for the young Filipino reader. I enjoyed the candidness of the writing, the heartfelt emotion behind the words, and how the novel successfully captures high school awkwardness, boy crushes, friendship, cultural identity, and family.

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