Thursday, May 26, 2016

Thursday Thinks: Why I Won't Be Going Back to NTTBF

 As you probably saw from my post on the 21st, I spent the weekend of the 23rd in the Lone Star State to attend NTTBF (AKA North Texas Teen Book Festival), and I have to say, I was extremely disappointed with the festival this year. In 2015, things were still a bit rough around the edges, but it was the festival's first year, so that was to be expected. This year, everything was run completely backwards, and I know it's not just myself that felt this way, because many of us (like, a huge group of us) discussed it and ended up drawing the same conclusion: We probably won't be coming back next year.

The reasons I have for not wishing to reattend have nothing to do with the authors whatsoever. The authors were all perfect and there were no problems with them at all. The panels were wonderful, author interactions were as delightful as always... each of the things that angered me about this year's festival had to do with the way it was run.

For starters, three of the authors became ticketed. This year we had three big-name authors: James Dashner, Marie Lu, and Gayle Forman. About a week before the festival, NTTBF announced that those three authors were going to be "ticketed". Tickets were free, but in order to get one you had to stand in line and pick up a ticket. One ticket per author per person. And there were rules along with these tickets. You could only get two books signed, no personalizations allowed, and no staged or posed pictures. For all other authors, you could get three books signed at a time before getting back in line and getting another three signed if you had more. That was not allowed with these three authors, which was an extreme disappointment, because these are authors that you don't get the chance to see all the time, and many of us brought more than two books per author. I know I brought four for Lu, three for Forman, and near 10 for Dashner. And these authors were a big part of the reason I came back this year. 

To get the tickets mentioned above, you had to skip a panel (or two or three, because the line was so dang long). So we had a plan ("we" being Matt and another internet friend I met there) we would go to half of one of the panels, and then skip out a half hour early to go stand in line for the tickets. If they were going to start handing them out at 11, then we should have had plenty of time to get a ticket and be back by 11:10, when we had an interview set up with an author. The plan changed, however, when my mom volunteered to go stand in the line for us so that we could finish out the panel and come down right after to grab our tickets. Obviously, this is not what happened. What happened is that my mom called me during the panel and told us not even to come down, because the line was so long at 10:45 that one of the NTTBF volunteers was coming down the line telling people that the odds of them getting tickets (they were limited to 160 per author) were very slim. She also said that volunteers were not allowing people to hold spots anymore, but that a lady in front of her just held a spot for ten or so girls, and no one said anything to her. So we finished the panel, did our interview, and went to meet up with my mom. When we got to her, she was still in line, and she had me go look at the table and gage how many tickets were left, and if we had a chance at getting a ticket. What I saw at the table made me over-the-top angry. There were STACKS of tickets left. My mom ended up getting a ticket for each author, and the three of us split them. Matt took Forman, I took Lu, and our other friend took Dashner. At this point, we were all pretty ticked off, because if they hadn't said we probably wouldn't get tickets, we would have come to get in line so that we could ALL meet the three authors. Instead, we shared our tickets. Matt took a book of his and one of mine to get signed, I took one of mine and one of his, and our friend took one of hers and one of mine. We all got the authors we needed, just not near as many of their books as we had brought. Later we met up with the other two guys who had come to the festival with us, and found out that they hadn't gotten any tickets at all and were unable to get their books signed because of the length of the line. The festival runners said that they ticketed these three authors to ensure that more people would get to meet them, but considering they were limiting the amount of tickets and forcing us to wait in line to acquire said tickets, all they did was ensure that FEWER people would get to meet them. 

I mentioned this above as well, but something else that bothered me about the festival this year is that Speed Dating rounds were held during panels. If you wanted to do the speed dating, you had to miss not only the panel that your round was taking the place of, but also a good portion of the panel before your round, so that you could stand in line. So many people missed really good panels because of this, it was disheartening.

And now let's get to the signing line. Which was an absolute freaking disaster. This year, the rule was that you can only get three books signed per author, unless you wanted to get back in line (Ticketed authors not included). No posed pictures allowed, even such a simple one as to get the author to smile at your camera from one side of the table while you smiled on the other. And the way the signing was approached this year was absolutely ridiculous. Let me explain.

This is the convention center

This is an aerial sketch of the center

And this is the layout of Level One

Now, THIS is the line for the signing....

Here, let me get you a better view..

You see that dot that says "End"? Yeah, well that's where we were. More than half of the line was outside, as you can see, where the weather was at 82 degrees and we had to stand and wait. We got in line about twenty minutes before the signing officially started, and stood there until about half an hour after the signing started. The only reason we got in after that (The line had moved about ten feet only in that amount of time) is because we had tickets for Lu and Forman, as mentioned above. Said tickets had times on them, and you had to be in line for your author at your specific time. So while we stood in line, I left to get water for us, because it was like we were on Mars in jeans and tshirts. It was only because I went back inside that I noticed a side door to the signing, where people were showing their white tickets to a lady, and she let them in to go to their ticketed signing.

Of course, I went up to find out what was going on. Instead of getting to talk to the woman, I was intercepted by a rather rude security guard who kept telling me to go get back in line and that he didn't have answers to any of my questions, but I needed to get back in line. Thankfully, the woman caught my eye and waved me over. She said that if we had tickets, we needed to show them to her and we could go get those books signed. I ran back to grab Matt, who was highly uncertain about leaving our place in line, because surely we'd have to get back in this freaking line to get to the other authors. But we showed her our tickets and she told us to find someone in a pink lanyard and they would show us where to go.

I swear, the lanyard-clad lady that helped us had to have been an angel.

We explained to her our situation and asked if we were supposed to go get back in line (I was ready to say screw it and leave) and this wonderful beautiful lady told us that if we went back out and got our books, we could just go get in whatever lines we needed, because the line was ridiculous and she didn't want us to have to go back and stand at the very end.




So anyway, we got our stuff signed. Or, most of it. A lot of authors stopped signing before we could get to them, and NTTBF decided to start limiting bigger authors like Holly Black to two books (I brought about six, left with zero signed). This year, we went about the signing area a bit differently. Instead of going in our own lines and doing our own thing, we went to see each of the authors together, starting with the ones we both had books for, and it ended up being a fantastic idea. We had such a good time talking with the authors together and being able to take pictures of each other, and it was definitely the better idea.


What is with this rule that you have to buy one book at the festival for every three you bring from home? I had to buy seven books, and the ones that I bought, plus a bunch of the ones I brought, ended up not even getting signed. So what is the point of buying books (Some that I already have, because I own books that I like and had brought the only ones I wanted signed) if I can't even get them signed? NTTBF is a free festival, and I get that they have to make money on it somehow, but I would honestly rather pay to attend the festival then have to buy books for no reason and stand in lines for hours of the day when I could be attending panels.

All in all, NTTBF was a bust this year. The only good things about the festival were that I got to spend the entire day with Matt and co. and that we got to take part in some splendid interviews!

I'll keep tabs on next year's festival, and if it looks like they're running it the same way, I'm out. I will not be participating in a festival that's set up like this, especially when I've driven all the way from Missouri, only to stand in line all day and come home with half of my books not signed. It's not worth it at all.

So that's my take on #NTTBF16. I know, drastically different from last year. 

It upsets me as much as it does you.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tuesday Reviews: Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake

Title: Suffer Love
Author: Ashley Herring Blake
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Format Read: ARC
Rating: 3.5 stars

Description from Goodreads: Hadley St. Clair's life changed the day she came home to a front door covered in slips of paper, each of them revealing an ugly truth about her father. Now as her family falls apart in the wake of his year-long affair, Hadley wants everyone-- her dad most of all-- to leave her alone.

Then she meets Sam Bennett, a cute new boy who inexplicably "feels like home" to Hadley. Hadley and Sam's connection is undeniable, but Sa, has a secret about his family that could ruin everything.

Funny and passionate, SUFFER LOVE is a story about first love, family dysfunction, and the fickle hand of fate.

When I received an ARC of SUFFER LOVE, I was ecstatic. I'd been wanting to read it for quite some time, so I started in on it immediately, but I've been away from my laptop for so long that I didn't get to post my review on release date. Anyway, it didn't turn out to be quite as good as I had hoped. It wasn't a bad book, but it wasn't a great one, either.

Hadley, first of all, is going through some mega tough crap. Her dad had an affair, and it left her family completely broken, and it seems like her dad is the only one who wants to try to pick up the pieces. I liked Hadley's character, though I found it difficult for me to relate to her for more reasons than the fact that I couldn't empathize with her parental situation. For me, she just felt a little detached.

But Sam. Sam I loved. His mom cheated on his dad, and instead of anyone trying to fix things, his dad moved away and left them. Sam is forced to take care of his younger sister, because their mom isn't around much and she can't be bothered to be a mother. Him I could relate to, because it seemed to me like he wore his heart on his sleeve more than Hadley. Where Hadley was just angry and resentful, Sam had had to move on with his life so that he could step in as a parental role for his sister. He still had the anger, but he didn't let it consume him.


I want to warn you guys.

I'm about to do a spoilery thing. If you do not like spoilers, please skip the next paragraph.


Alright so pretty early on, like in the first five or so chapters, you realize (And you kind of get it from the premise) that Hadley's dad cheated on her mom with Sam's mom. That's how the two are interwoven, and that's how things are made difficult. I LOVED this idea-- the suspicion that this was the case is what made me want to read the book-- however, I feel like it was used as a cliche plot device here, in terms of how it was executed. Throughout the whole story, Sam knows. He knows that Hadley's dad is the one his mom cheated with. And (Here's where the cliche part comes in) he completely keeps it from Hadley until the very end of the book. Of course, that causes a huge fight that ends with them breaking up for a bit before coming back together in the end.  Now, with the premise giving the hint that their families were intwined the way they were, I thought this was going to be a super fresh, super new story. And it was-- in the sense that Sam and Hadley fell in love even though their parents had had affairs with each other-- but it wasn't new in the sense of using that information as the thing that causes the major conflict within the story. I was hoping for a bit more on that end of things. 


Okay, no more spoilers!

Overall, I enjoyed SUFFER LOVE. I loved the title and liked the story, but that one major cliche really took it down a few notches for me. On a five star rating scale, I give this one three point five stars. I'm glad I read it, but it's not something I'd go crazy over. Though in terms of fresh and new contemporary, I would say this is (for the most part) that. The side characters were great, and there were a few twists that I didn't see coming, but this one just didn't leap out high on my radar. 


Thursday, May 19, 2016

BLOG TOUR: Traitor by Nicole Conway

Hello, and welcome to today's stop on the blog tour for TRAITOR, book number three in the Dragonrider Chronicles! If you've been following the blog long, then you know I'm a big fan of this series-- I've participated in blog tours for all three of the books, as well as a couple blitzes and promos to help attract some attention to it-- so when the opportunity came around to participate in the TRAITOR tour, I jumped on it. 

So now, without further ado, I give you my review of Nicole Conway's third Dragonrider installment. Don't forget to stay tuned until the end... there's a giveaway!


Title: Traitor (Dragonrider Chronicles #3)
Author: Nicole Conway
Publisher: Month9Books
Release Date: May 10, 2016
Format Read: E-book
Rating: Four Stars

Description from Goodreads: Can anyone survive being lost in Luntharda?

No amount of training has prepared Jaevid Broadfeather for the frontlines of battle. Now facing the true horrors of war, with Luntharda looming on the horizon, Jaevid has begun to question everything he thought about his heritage. The only thing keeping him going is his oath to protect his dragonrider brothers. But in an instant, even that slips through Jaevid's fingers as he steps from the safety of his dragon's saddle into the depths of his mother's wild homeland-- the kingdom of the gray elves.

Stranded in Luntharda with his partner, Lieutenant Jace Rordin, Jaevid must finally confront the demons of his own past as he uncovers the truth about a war that began before he was ever born. Armed with a new appreciation for destiny, and flanked by his trusted friends, Jaevid moves to make the final strike against an enemy that has hidden in plain sight for far too long.

One kingdom's traitor will become the world's last hope.

Having read both of the books that came before TRAITOR in the Dragonrider Chronicles, I was super stoked to get to read the third installment. I adore this series, and going through Blybrig Academy with Jae has been an experience I will never forget, so to watch him leave the nest and move on to the battlefront was something that I really enjoyed. Not that I doubted that I'd love TRAITOR, because I knew I'd enjoy it just as much as the first two books (which I did), but stepping away from the Academy scenario was equally interesting, refreshing, and well-done. 

From pretty early on, you know that Jaevid is going to have to go into the dark depths of Luntharda, and the whole time I was sitting here like HOW? HOW IS HE GOING TO DO THIS? JUST CASUALLY STROLL INTO THE FOREST? PEOPLE WILL NOTICE? HELLO?? But everything about the execution of this book was flawless. Things that I've been suspecting since book one have finally been brought to light and explained at a more in-depth level, and things that I thought were true ended up being very... NOT true, which is always nice, because reading a book and being able to predict everything is never as fun as the ones that surprise you.

The new characters added into the mix for this book were so great, as well as the ones brought back from past books (FELIX! YAS! <3). And while I'm still very upset over one of the deaths from book two, the addition of these new characters (Araxie, Jace, Prax, etc.) have made the pain a bit easier to bear. I still miss *insert spoilery character name here*, but I'm learning to cope. 

As for the plot, once again I thought it was spectacular. Conway creates this fantasy world where humans and elves co-exist (though they may hate each other) and turns it into such a beautiful place with her descriptions of the animals and the scenery and the plant-life that appear throughout the story. There were no cliche turnabouts in book three (Or any of the books, for that matter) and all of the plot points lined up and connected perfectly. 

Overall, TRAITOR was a fantastic third installment to the series, and I am stuck waiting for book four. I would give this one a four star rating, and urge you to check it out if you like dragons and elves and underdog characters in your fantasy series. 

P.S. I just want to say that I really dislike reading e-books, and here's why: I'm reading along, checking my page count like, "Oh, I still have thirty or so pages left" when suddenly I turn the page and BAM. Acknowledgements. And it left me on a cliffhanger, too, which was geniusly gorgeous.

P.P.S. AND THEN. I keep turning, because thirty or so pages seems like an awful lot of space left in the book for author info and all, and what do I find? A NOVELLA. AW YEAH. So now, I'm going to go read that because I NEED IT.

If this book sounds like something you'd be interested in, I have a few buy links for you:

About the Author

Nicole is the author of the children’s fantasy series, THE DRAGONRIDER CHRONICLES, about a young boy’s journey into manhood as he trains to become a dragonrider. She has completed the first two books in the series, and is now working on the third and final book.
Originally from a small town in North Alabama, Nicole moves frequently due to her husband’s career as a pilot for the United States Air Force. She received a B.A. in English with a concentration in Classics from Auburn University, and will soon attend graduate school.
 She has previously worked as a freelance and graphic artist for promotional companies, but has now embraced writing as a full-time occupation.
Nicole enjoys hiking, camping, shopping, cooking, and spending time with her family and friends. She also loves watching children’s movies and collecting books. She lives at home with her husband, two cats, and dog.


Five (5) winners will receive a digital copy of TRAITOR by Nicole Conway (INT)

If you'd like to check out some of the other stops for this tour, click HERE

I hope you've enjoyed today's stop on the blog tour for TRAITOR (Dragonrider Chronicles #3) by Nicole Conway. Don't forget to enter the giveaway, and please check out the first book in the series, FLEDGLING!


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Thursday Thinks: A Star Wars Graduation

Hello, friends! I just wanted to take a few moments to acknowledge the fact that....


I know, I can't believe it either. But yes, it really is happening. 

On National Star Wars Day. 

I honestly don't think there could have been a better way to graduate. Ending your high school career with lightsabers and Sith Lords? Doesn't get much better than that.


Because of this beautifully Star Wars-ian graduation, I want to share the joy with one of you. If you're a big Star Wars person, you're going to want to get in on this.

Up for grabs is a Star Wars Prize pack, including a SiGnEd copy of BLOODLINE: NEW REPUBLIC by Claudia Gray, which released only yesterday. This story is set in the years just before The Force Awakens, and is told from Princess General Leia Organa's point of view. This is one of the books that will give us so much of the information that we had to piece together during the movie, as well as answer some of our burning questions (i.e. How exactly did the resistance start? Who started it?)

As well as the brand-new book, you'll find yourself in possession of some fantastic reading accessories that will keep your BLOODLINE experience feeling out of this world (You see what I did there? Hehehe.). 

Anyways, I'm going to run. This COLLEGE girl has a graduation ceremony to prepare for. Must see the friends walk!

Thanks for celebrating with me, and May the Fourth Be With You.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Tuesday Reviews: The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

Title: The Sleeper and the Spindle
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Format Read: Hardback
Rating: One star

Description from Goodreads: It was the closest kingdom to the queen's, as the crow flies, but not even the crows flew it.

You may think you know this story. There's a young queen, about to be married. There are some good, brave, hardy dwarfs; a castle, shrouded in thorns; and  princess, cursed by a witch, so rumor has it, to sleep forever.

But no one is waiting for a noble prince to appear on his trusty steed here. This fairy tale is spun with a thread of dark magic, which twists and turns and glints and shines. A queen might just prove herself a hero, if a princess needs rescuing...

I didn't know much about THE SLEEPER AND THE SPINDLE going into it. I knew it was a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, and that it was a Neil Gaiman book, and that was pretty much it. Never having read anything from this widely-acclaimed author, I thought I'd start with this one, since the cover was gorgeous and the illustrations inside made it feel like an old storybook.

I must say, though... I wasn't too impressed by said gorgeous book.

Not having names in the story, while interesting, proved to be confusing. There were so many "he"s and "she"s that it became hard to tell which character was speaking, and when. As well as this, the story being only 66 pages felt like a bit of a rush. There were things that could have used more than a sentence or two explanation, and elements that were added to the Sleeping Beauty story (the queen) that didn't make much sense. 

When it comes to the plot, it just didn't wow me. There were new characters and aspects brought to the story, but nothing that made me fall in love with the book. As for the darkness of the story... there wasn't much. Other than the single plot twist at the end of the book that still leaves me with questions about how, exactly, it worked, there wasn't any darkness to the book.

In fact, if it weren't for the art on the pages and ESPECIALLY the cover, I wouldn't be keeping it. 

I give THE SLEEPER AND THE SPINDLE a single star. It wasn't something I see myself reading again, and I honestly just didn't enjoy it. This short story definitely doesn't take a place amongst my favorite retellings. 

My question is, how does Gaiman's other works compare to this one? He's won a lot of awards, but if his other novels are anything like SLEEPER... are they worth reading?


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