The Bookworms are Back

Bookworms Unite 2.0 02

And so, #BookwormsUnitePH was a success! Thank you thank you thank you!

If you can recall, a group of blogger friends and I had this flighty, spontaneous idea last year which gave birth to Bookworms Unite. It was absolutely fantastic and I had so much fun. So much so that I particularly remember wanting it to be an annual thing. In fact, people were actually satisfied; the feedback was a resounding let’s do this again! And yet, I didn’t think it was likely.

What an unfounded thought, I soon recognized. Because Bookworms Unite 2.0 happened last Saturday and I’m still in a happiness hangover!

Bookworms Unite 2.0 03Group shot! (c) Faye

Bookworms Unite 2.0 04Bookish people are the best people.

Bookworms Unite 2.0 05One of the masterminds, Inah, during introductions.

With the addition of JM, loud and eager JM, and I articulate this in the most endearing way possible, and Raffy, innocent Raffy, the usual suspects reunited (wink, wink) to bring another afternoon of bookish awesomeness to the Filipino reading/blogging community. There were familiar faces and the program was basically a replica of the previous one but we had a bigger crowd, a bunch of first-timers, and twice as many books (!!). And something else. President Snow would’ve been proud. Because it was apparent that the chance to win an ARC of Gemina (and other coveted titles) could possibly kickoff the 76th Hunger Games. I mean. I’m just saying.

Like last year, being one of the organizers ruled out the possibility of me snapping photos here and there. Unlike last year, I didn’t even get to HONY the attendees. But I’m not complaining. The amount of gratification stunts the cons and I’m a happier snowman for it. Plus, Miss Honey de Peralta of Penguin Random House and Filipino ReaderCon fame graced us with her presence (DID I MENTION SHE’S A HUGE HAMILTON FAN?) and I scored a copy of A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara and YEEESSSSSS! (JM might have an anecdote for this.)

Bookworms Unite 2.0 06Some of the titles that were up for grabs. (c) JM

Bookworms Unite 2.0 07Who is Cricket Bell?!!

Bookworms Unite 2.0 08The future organizers: Jem and Kim a.k.a. THE winner.

Just, I want to thank every single one of you who braved the weather and hung out with us, who joined us for the Twitter chat the night ere. I want to thank—and I did hug them—my lovely co-hosts—Hazel of Stay Bookish, Dianne of Oops! I Read A Book Again, Inah of The Bibliophile Confessions, JM of Book Freak Revelations, Raffy of Eccentric Everything, Faye of The Social Potato, and Jasmine of Jasmine Pearl Reads—for awaiting my return, working intently on orchestrating Bookworms Unite 2.0, and the endless and often hilarious Twitter group DMs. I want to thank our generous sponsors, for whom the celebration wouldn’t be half as exciting, Penguin Random House, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, and Fully Booked. And thank you Tweedle Book Café for housing us in; I adore your strawberry milk foam!

Will Bookworms Unite run for its third year? I believe I speak for the whole gang when I declare we’d love to. But it’s too soon to promise anything. However, the enthusiasm is overwhelming and doesn’t go unnoticed. So maybe

Bookworms Unite 2.0 09Here’s me being super stoked. Or depressed. I don’t know, you decide. (c) Jem

You can read on with these recaps:

Were you at the event? Link me up with your story! Or you can tell me about your weekend.

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

Of Bookworms and Books

Someone had an awesome Sunday. No wait, someones.

If you didn’t know, earlier this month I had this sudden desire to meet fellow Filipino bookworms. And so, I contacted several people via Twitter, asking them if they’d be on board the idea of a meet up. The gods must have thought I did something amazing because the response I got was something in the line, “yeah, let’s make it happen!” And yesterday, Bookworms Unite happened. It was tons of fun you guys!

I am neurotic, and as much as I was excited for the meet up, I was also anxious. Anxious whether people would really show up or not. Whether it’d be awesome or totally awkward. Boy, was the anxiety for naught. It was absolutely awesome! In fact, I feel like if you’re a stranger looking from the outside, you wouldn’t see people who have just met. You’d see camaraderie. You’d feel the shared enthusiasm for books. For being bookworms. For being there. Just, the vibe was wtf-is-awkward-I-love-reading-these-people-love-reading-these-are-my-people.

There were introductions, games, raffle prizes, Book Blind Date and interestingand often funnyconversations. But being one of the hosts, I hadn’t had much time to snap photos of the actual event. So I took a cue from the wonderful Brandon Stanton (of Humans of New York fame) and opted to spotlight some of the attendees instead. Here, and I hope you meet, if virtually so, your next reading buddy:

Faye 01

“I blog in order to share my love of reading with the rest of the world.” – Faye Matug, The Social Potato.
Dianne 01

“I read to escape. I get to live a thousand lives through reading and being holed up in the lab, I really need that.” – Dianne Acoba, Oops! I Read A Book Again.

Hazel 01

“I’ve always been a lover of contemporary romance and I think that’s mostly because I like the world of realistic fiction and I’ve always craved reading about that kind of love.” – Hazel Ureta, Stay Bookish.

Shannelle 01

“Um, hi! I’m Shannelle of The Art Of Escapism, and I hope you all read The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler.” – Shannelle, The Art Of Escapism.

Jayvee 01

“I feel human when I read, like, somehow, their happiness is mine and their sadness is too.” – Jayvee De Castro, Writer For Misfits.

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“…but most of the time, you know when to sit back, relax and give us time to up ourselves.” – Godwin Cantre, Machinations Of My Muddled Mind.

Justine 01

“I have Stand Off.” – Justine Dy, Bookwormaniac.

Salve 01

“My favorite book for 2015 is The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan.” – Salve Villarosa, Cuckoo For Books.

Inah 01

“I read for passion.” – Inah Peralta, The Bibliophile Confessions.

JM 01

“…another favorite book of mine is Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. [I find Maas] very nice; she’s a gorgeous author. And she’s the kind of author that I would want to be friends with.” – JM Cabral, Book Freak Revelations.

Eriele 01

“I cosplay because I feel happy being this different person or character but at the same time being myself. I’ve always wanted to cosplay anime characters, but I find that with anime characters, your costume has to be exact and precise. And being someone who has to be thrifty, I settled for cosplaying book characters instead because there’s not much book cosplayers out there (and I’m glad there are lots of [us] now) and because I can add my own style in my DIY costumes.” – Eriele Japsay, This Is Not Your Book Blog.

Paula 01

“I started reading because I love writing poems. And then [I started writing stories.] Until now. [And books] are my companions because I live alone.” – Paula Ramona, Perks Be With You.

And of course, I’d be remiss not to extend my deepest gratitude to National Book Store, Simon and SchusterHarperCollins and Book and Borders Café, all of whom made Bookworms Unite extra special. Also? Faye uploaded an album over at The Social Potato Reviews Facebook Page; you can check that out.

PS. I love that everyone was stressed by my Word Soup. *Winks.*

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How was your weekend? I’m still in a happiness hangover but let’s talk! And oh. For those who came, tweet us your recaps using #bookwormsunite.

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

EVENT: Leigh Bardugo’s Book Signing in Manila

Imagine if you and I went to an author signing and I tell you it’s my first time (because I had to say the most virginy thing). You wouldn’t believe me for sure. Of course I had to be kidding. Except of course it is my first time.

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The Author
That was exactly the case during Leigh Bardugo’s visit in Manila last Sunday, June 21st. It is the first book signing I went to and, you guys, it was so much fun! Leigh is wacky and hilarious and enthusiastic and just, it was obvious how very invested she is in her fandom. And I’ve always wondered if the author’s voice in a book somehow translates to how the said author speaks in real life or if he or she talks the way he or she tweets—because I seriously admire how writers phrase their sentences—well that can be said of Leigh. In fact, I wish you were all there, too, and were witnesses to her wisdom and energy. But for today I have a recap and, hopefully, it’ll give you an approximation of what went down. Here are some did-you-know’s:

  • Leigh is pronounced as “Lee” and, excuse me, because I thought it was like the word “lay.”
  • Alina Starkov started off positively different. She was a goody-good girl and Leigh was irked by that.
  • On the flip side, Sturmhond (one of the central characters in Siege and Storm) came to her fully realized. He entered the room and was all, “hey, I’ve got stories to tell!”
  • Like most writers, pieces of herself are scattered through her characters. However, she has this to say about her MC: “I think Alina and I share sort of the similar sense of humor, we’re both pretty pragmatic about life and I think I—when I was growing up I really felt like an outsider. I definitely spent many years of junior high in school feeling like I did not belong where I was. I hadn’t found my tribe. And I think, like, if you’ve read Ruin and Rising you know that she sort of begins to build her own family. She finds the friends and the people, and some of them are people you never expected her to be friends with in the end [but] that learn to fight side by side together and that really resonated with me.”
  • Unlike a certain writer we know, she initially meant to kill off [spoiler] but grew rather fond of him (THANK THE SAINTS!).* She joked it was the reverse of Game of Thrones and, I mean, that was so on point.
  • For Leigh, black-and-white characters are less hard work but also boring. “I don’t like villains who are easy to dismiss, you know, you get these villains and you’re like, why is anybody listening to this dupe he’s clearly bad news. So I wanted to create antagonists who, you know, you can see yourself rooting for—I mean, some of you do. And I wanted to create heroes who got things wrong and didn’t always do the noble and right thing, ’cause I think that’s more real, you know. I want magic to feel real. I want Ravka to feel real. I want Kerch to feel real.” (To give context, Kerch is a country mentioned in Siege and Storm and where Six of Crows takes place in.)
  • Six of Crow is her latest novel. It’s Ocean’s Eleven meets Game of Thrones and is set in the same world of the Grisha trilogy. The concept came to her when she was driving and saw a promotion for The Monuments Men and was then overwhelmed by the inclination to rewatch Ocean’s Eleven. She gave in and after that, she’s dead set in writing a heist book but with more power play.
  • Where Shadow and Bone is a “Chosen One” story, Six of Crows explores the opposite route: what’s it like to be not the “Chosen One,” to just want to survive.
  • When faced with a writer’s block, she talks to herself. She puts on the “bluetooth thing” so people wouldn’t think she’s completely crazy.
  • She’d always known she wanted to be an author. Actually, she has a drawing gifted by a friend from when she turned fourteen. It shows her in a book signing. (Dreams do come true!)
  • Leigh doesn’t read much contemporaries but she loves I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park and Julie Murphy’s upcoming Dumplin’.
  • She is a fan of Laini Taylor, Tamora Pierce, Marie Rutkoski and Kristin Cashore.
  • When asked how she juggles writing and social media, she said she doesn’t do balancing. When she’s turning ideas into actual books, she locks herself in the house for two to three months straight. Like, her car doesn’t get drove and she orders high amount of take-outs.
  • Also, she and her writer friends would go to coffee shops or retreats while drafting and they’d police each other by collecting phones and preventing one another from acquiring the wifi password.
  • Also also, she doesn’t show her works to anyone during the early stages because she feels like, by doing so, she loses the magic.
  • She recently finished Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s Illuminae and her reaction was: “this is the first book I’ve read in a long time where, like, there was a twist and it felt like I’ve been punched in the gut. And then for like two chapters afterwards I was like, no, no, it can’t be real, no.” She called it “incredibly good.”
  • She’s taking a break from the Grisha universe after the sequel of Six of Crows (it’s a planned duology). HOWEVER, she intends to write a Sturmhond book and, ladies and gentlemen, I died. RIP, ME. A STURM-FREAKING-HOND BOOK. LET THAT SINK IN.

She had quite a few advice for aspiring writers in the crowd as well:

  • Look for a good agent. Or someone who can read your work and not put his ego into it. Those are “people who have understanding of [a story].”
  • Writing is a lengthy process. It took her a long while to find the right story and, before, she thought she could write a perfect first draft. So she encourages everyone to “just [write] and [write] and [write] until it’s good.”
  • She thinks taking creative writing courses or MFA isn’t a requirement to becoming an author. And while she went to Yale, she pointed out “going to Yale is not what made [her] a writer; reading and writing and loving books is what made [her] a writer.”
  • She recommends Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder and Jessica Brody’s Save the Cat! for Novels workshops if you’re having troubles with plotting and structure.
  • And she has a clear-cut message for owning your taste: “read everything, you know. Never let anybody make you feel ashamed for loving young adult or loving whatever you love, whether it’s fantasy or contemporary or whatever it is.”

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Leigh Bardugo in Manila 03Grisha for Life!

The Fan
So, okay. I didn’t just gawk like the awkward person that I am. I actually talked to Leigh! Some of the conversation is as follows (paraphrasing here):

Shelumiel: What I really love about your books, aside from the magnificent world building—
Leigh: Aww, thank you!
S: —is that I root for almost everyone.
L: Aah, that is so nice to know.
S: I’m like, omg don’t make me choose!
L: *Laughs loudly.*
S: And I can’t fully hate anyone—
L: The King though—
S: —well, except Vasily—
L: Right. And the King.
S: Yeah, Vasily and the King! That’s why when [Sturmhond] was like, “and I can’t decide if you’re an idiot or an idiot,” I was like, YES! NAILED IT.
L: *Laughs louder.* *Joanna (Leigh’s agent) joins in.*

She was also curios about my name:

Leigh: Oh unique name! Does it actually mean something?
Me: It’s prince of peace.
Leigh: OH.
Me: *With swagger.* Yeah I’m actually a prince.
Leigh: Well, it’ll be really nice—

I believe she wanted to say it’ll be really nice if I was a real prince and could’ve brought peace to Ravka but she was interrupted. Then again, I might be fabrikating too much. No, that is not a typographical error.

Leigh Bardugo in Manila 04From left to right: Dean (materialnik), Tiffany (corporalnik) and Elva (etherealnik).

The Grishas
Meanwhile, there were cosplayers in rad costumes! Alina, Mal, Genya and Zoya were all present, together with three anonymous Grishas (representing each order). I didn’t get a chance to talk to the people dressed up as the leads but I caught up with the other three and they were so nice! Turns out, the keftas were created by Master Fabrikator Dean—that’s his official title from Leigh!—as in from inception to execution. He and his friends Tiffany and Elva are all med students (I know, I know). And there were four extra Six of Crows ARCs that were raffled to the seven cosplayers AND these three each got one. Crazy, yeah?

Leigh Bardugo in Manila 05This is Leigh upon seeing Genya directly in front of her. You can glimpse Alina (post-Ruin and Rising) on the right.

The Baby Volcra
Leigh talked a little about her stay in the country, to boot. She sang praises for adobo, a personal comfort food of mine and—if we’re being honest—most Filipinos. She tried Cebu’s famous pork lechon and a shake made from this sour fruit called kamias, which she mentioned she hadn’t known existed until she had one. And when questioned whether or not she tried balut, her response was somewhere in the line: “actually someone recommended that to me and I searched it and NO I AM NOT EATING THAT,” with all the hand gestures and facial expression. It was perfect. Another thing, if you’re not from here and are not familiar with what balut is or looks like, I suggest you Google it because the moderator commented on how the chick in it looks like a baby volcra (Leigh was all YOU DON’T SAY) and OMG I am not looking at it the same way again. Ever. Of course I eat everything in a balut EXCEPT the chick to begin with, but that’s beside the point.

So if you haven’t picked up the Grisha trilogy, I highly recommend you do now! I haven’t read Ruin and Rising myself—because I’m waiting for the paperback with bonus material (a Darkling prequel!!!) and, you know, so my copies would line up beautifully, all in the same keftas—but here’s my pitch: effortlessly intriguing, fiercely moving and with stunning world-building and a seriously well-written cast of grey characters, you’ll find yourself rooting for almost everyone, lead or otherwise, in Leigh Bardugo’s tsarpunk world. Her new novel,Six of Crows, is set for a September 29th release.

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My friend Hazel of Stay Bookish went to the pre-signing bloggers’s forum and you might want to read her recap (there’s a local GIVEAWAY involved).

Massive thank you to Leigh Bardugo for being so warm to us, your Filipino fans, and National Book Store for scratching the improbability of this!

Leigh Bardugo in Manila 07I finally met Dianne of Oops! I Read A Book Again. Sadly, she wasn’t able to stay for the signing (she was cool enough to be invited at the forum).

Leigh Bardugo in Manila 08Joanna Volpe in her chic glasses.

Have you met Leigh Bardugo in person? Who was the author for whom you attended your first book signing event? Let’s talk in the comments below!

*The fact that I chose to bring this up, even if it has the promise of a spoiler, is enough a hint already.

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

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