Have You Heard?! (Big HP News)

Okay, so if you’re a Harry Potter fan, you probably already know this. But just in case you’ve been off the Internet all day, I’ve gotcha covered. ūüėČ

As you (must) know, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will premiere in London later this year. If I were swimming in funds, I would be flying to Europe this summer to see it live. Sadly, that is not an option. So I was thrilled to hear that print and digital editions of the script will be published on July 31 (Harry’s thirty-sixth birthday…it’s so weird to think of Harry Potter as older than me).

Since next year is the twentieth anniversary of Book One’s publication, there are also going to be special UK re-releases, one for each of the four Hogwarts houses. I’ve never ordered a foreign edition of a book, but I think I’m going to have to make an exception for this one. I mean, really: a Ravenclaw edition of Philosopher’s Stone? And I’m expected to pass that up?!

Of course, there’s also publication of the second illustrated volume in the series this fall. Basically, what I’m trying to tell you is that I know where all of my money is going for the foreseeable future. I’m so excited that I started singing over breakfast, accompanied by my three-year-old’s eye rolls: “Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now!”

If you want to read more about all this news, here’s a link to Pottermore’s announcement.

Do you think there will be midnight release parties for the script of a play? If so, would that be the first time in history people have lined up in the middle of the night for a script? This is momentous on so many levels!

Confessions of a Busy Mom…er, I Mean “Blogger”

This just in: parenting two kids is exhausting, physically but also mentally. Sorry for the massive amount of days between posts lately. I’m disappointed in myself, but at the end of the day I’m often so tired that putting my thoughts into words sounds like too much work.

I don’t make resolutions, so I’m not swearing a turnaround because it’s early January. In fact, I’m not swearing a turnaround at all. I’m just hoping¬†to find a middle ground between zero posts a month and two posts a week.¬†I hope that you’ll bear with me as I figure things out.

I’ve been reading like crazy, both alone and with my kids, so I’ve got a long list of titles to be reviewed. I probably won’t remember all the details at this point, but I’d like to talk about a few of them because they were really good. So that’s coming up, along with a few blog tours and traditional reviews. Maybe I’ll even get around to talking about my favorite (and least favorite) local bookshops.

Okay. Update complete. More to come!

BEA 2015 (and My Search for Similar Events on the East Coast!)

Warning: LONG post ahead.

For the last couple of years, I have been a big ball of envy during the last week in May, stalking other bloggers’ twitter feeds and wishing that I was at BEA. The idea of attending a trade show focused on books held immense appeal, as did (of course) the stacks and stacks of books that people were bringing home. I thought about attending last year but decided to start small and attend BookCon instead. Here’s a link to my take on last year’s BookCon. (Summary of this year’s event is coming soon.)

This year, BookCon became a two-day event, and¬†I planned to attend¬†the first day. I kept thinking of BEA as a possibility, though, and eventually decided to buy a one-day ticket. This would allow me to give the event a try without needing my husband to use all of his remaining personal time¬†to watch the kids (I’m a stay at home mom).

Here are some of the things I did to plan for BEA:

Make a schedule. Since I’m an over-the-top planner, I first made a list of which guests of interest were attending on each day of the conference. Thursday won because a) Wednesday was a half day on the show floor, b) I didn’t want to drive into New York back-to-back on Friday and Saturday, and c) Libba Bray would be there. I then made a multiple-column schedule of panels, autographing sessions, and galley drops I was interested in. Once I printed it, I color-coded the boxes based on priority. Having multiple interesting events at any given moment reminded me of what I was missing out on, sure, but it also allowed me to have fall-backs in case a line was too long or something. For instance, I was hoping to get tickets to Gregory Maguire’s signing but got stuck in over an hour and a half of traffic; tickets were gone by the time I arrived at the expo. That left my 11:30 time slot wide open, so I took in a little bit of Geraldine Brooks’s panel before meeting Sandra Boynton and telling her how much my family¬†adores her books. If I’d needed to plan this last-minute, I would have needed to find an area with cell reception and scroll through the numerous events occurring during that time slot to figure out what I wanted to do. Planning ahead saved me valuable time at BEA. Here’s what my schedule looked like, in case you’re curious:

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I hadn’t typed a spreadsheet in years; this was actually a lot of fun!

Map it out.¬†I printed a map of the show floor, labeled it in teeny-tiny print, and highlighted the booths of¬†my favorite publishers. I can’t begin to tell you how many exhibitors were there, and I didn’t want to drain my phone’s battery by pulling up the floor map every few minutes.

Bring a rolling suitcase. Bag check is a mere three dollars, and they let you stop in as many times as you like to drop things off. This means that I carried around a tote bag with my essentials in it, and when it got too full of books, I could stop by bag check to unload. I really don’t know how people function without doing this.

Pack snacks. Food at the Javits is expensive, of course, and lines are long. I saved lots of time by carrying snacks around with me (fruit, trail mix, Clif bars) and eating while waiting on line for a signing.

Wear flats. A quick Google search yielded a site (I forget which one now…) that said attendance at BEA in the past was just under 30,000 people. Imagine how big a facility has to be to house that number, then imagine walking through it all day long. I wore a pair of dressy-ish canvas flats and didn’t get a single blister. I saw some girls who went so far as to wear a dress with neon-laced running shoes, but I thought that was a bit much. Maybe no one really cared, but it seemed a little unprofessional to me.

Order business cards. It’s much easier than writing a blog link over and over, I figured. Though, to be honest, I only handed out a couple of cards. I’m hoping to be more proactive about networking in the future; I was a little intimidated this time around.

Download the BEA app. I never figured out how to sync my online schedule with the one on the app, but I still made good use of the app while I was there, sometimes to check details of a signing advertised at a booth¬†and sometimes to check a booth’s location. It was a fun way to interact¬†with other attendees before the conference as well.

Now let’s talk about my experience(s) while actually at BEA.

Little fish in a huge sea! Let me start by saying that I was overwhelmed as hell. I constantly felt like I was missing out on something because I couldn’t be in six places at once, and everyone else seemed to know what they were doing, whereas I did not. (At least I was familiar with the facility from attending BookCon last year; that helped immensely.) I wasn’t sure if I should strike up a conversation with reps from my favorite publishers or if they’d see me as a waste of time because I’m not a bookseller that will be placing a large order from them and I’m not a blogger with significant “influence.” I¬†was polite but not terribly outgoing (which is my everyday personality, so I guess that makes sense, but in future I’d like to reach out of my comfort zone a bit more).

Voyeurism:¬†The larger publishers have space allocated for meetings; they actually have small tables around which two or three people could discuss…something, I don’t know what. I liked to imagine that filmmakers were getting their hands on ARCs to decide which rights to buy and that booksellers and librarians were asking about the Next Big Thing. It was exciting to get to see some of that behind-the-scenes stuff taking place.

Interesting panels:¬†I got to listen to Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks read from¬†her upcoming novel, The Secret Chord, and talk about her religious beliefs (or lack thereof, really). I was interested by her notion that the people of David’s time “worshipped a book” and the idea of how much power a text can have. I also got to listen to five independent publishers promote some literary fiction titles; I enjoyed hearing a sales pitch for something that I’d actually want. (I generally hate pushy salespeople, but book recommendations are a horse of a different color.)

Book people are wonderful. The other attendees were friendly and courteous; waiting in line wasn’t bad because no one was pushing ahead and most people wanted to chat a bit about the books they’d gotten or a book I was holding that they might have missed.

Authors are wonderful, too. Most autographing lines weren’t terribly long; in fact, I stumbled upon a few sessions that were just finishing up and didn’t even have to wait five minutes to meet the author. Whether the line was long or short, though, every author was pleasant. (Well, all except for one, whose autographing table was empty. His eyes lit up when I approached, then his face fell when he read my badge and realized that I was a blogger. It was the only time all day I felt inferior because I wasn’t a publishing bigwig.) I even got to meet a few favorites, most notably the illustrious Libba Bray.

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It’s Libba Bray!!!

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Sherri Duskey Rinker & Tom Lichtenheld, author and illustrator of Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site

Free books! I’d seen other people’s hauls from BEA and always figured there had to be something they weren’t telling me. I mean, there’s no way that all of those books could be free, right? Wrong. I only spent one day at BEA and came home with 40 books — and I turned down numerous books that were so far out of my preferred genres that I knew I wouldn’t read them. I didn’t pay for a single one, and I was able to get many of them autographed. Basically, people hand you books all day long. There are even piles of books, some fancied up for display and others sort of shoved to the side. It’s like the best scavenger hunt ever.

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Stacks like this are everywhere; you’re encouraged to browse and take the titles that interest you.

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Isn’t this beautiful? I almost felt bad taking copies from displays like this (but not bad enough to turn the books down!).

I don’t usually take samplers (I hate reading an excerpt without being able to finish the book immediately), but this one was worth it. The art is beautiful, and I’ll certainly be purchasing this one in October.

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Some other fun moments from the day:

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I have a truck-obsessed three-year-old. This book is a little too old for him, but a rep offered me a copy of the book when she saw me taking a picture for him. I couldn’t turn it down and can’t wait to assemble these with/for him!

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Superhero origami! This book, published by Capstone, comes with colored folding paper so that your symbols come out like these.

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In addition to gorgeous prints and shirts, Litographs makes literary tattoos. This was my line in the “human tattoo chain” for The Tell-Tale Heart. They printed the photos and hung them on the wall in sequential order to tell the story. (I was a little disappointed that I’d missed Prufrock on Wednesday.)

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Even the bathroom advertisements are clever!

Here’s my total for the day, minus tote bags, buttons, magnets, and samplers:

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My one-day haul. Titles in the left stack are signed.

All in all: If BEA was going to be in New York again next year, I’d try to attend for all three days if possible. I’d love to attend the bloggers’ conference and still have time to wander the floor and take in panels. However, it’s in Chicago, which is not gonna happen. Please let me know if you know of any other blogger-friendly expos/conferences on the East Coast that are worth attending! ūüôā

Busy, Busy Bookworm: Poem In Your Pocket Day, Independent Bookstore Day, and Book Haul

It’s been a great couple of weeks for books and bookish things at our place. Let’s start with Poem In Your Pocket Day (April 30), which is such a wonderful way to close out National Poetry Month. It crossed my mind in mid-April, and I lazily considered which poem I’d carry. Then I promptly forgot all about it until the morning of the thirtieth. I did a quick Google search and came up with the following poem for my truck-obsessed toddler:

Construction Trucks

The backhoe digs a big, big hole.
The dump truck hauls the dirt.
The grader scrapes the ground so smooth.
While all the workers work.

(Taken from here.)

I carried the final stanzas from T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” which I love and which is always a great fallback when I’m looking for words to move me:

Shall I part my hair behind?   Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

I even tucked a little four-line parody of “I’m a Little Teapot,” titled “I’m a Little Baby,” into my five-month-old’s waistband for the day. ūüôā

My favorite part of Poem In Your Pocket Day actually came the following morning when I got my almost-three-year-old dressed for the day. He immediately dug his hands into his pockets and asked “Where’s my poem?” before requesting to carry it around for a second day. (I acquiesced, of course, and was a rather proud momma.)

Last Saturday was the first nationwide Independent Bookstore Day, a holiday that I was all too happy to get on board with. Since it was the weekend before Mother’s Day, I chose to celebrate early and we had an evening of family book shopping in Doylestown, PA.

The stack of books above is from Doylestown Bookshop, one of my favorite independent bookstores. I was first there five years ago to meet Rachel Cohn and David Levithan on their tour for Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares and finally made it back. They’ve got a great selection of books, a whole wall of staff picks, and some great bookish gift items. The children’s section has room for little ones to play and everyone I’ve encountered there has been pleasant. It’s over an hour away, so I hardly ever make it out, but it’s worth the drive every now and then. It was so difficult to narrow it down to these three books — I almost came home with Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant¬†instead of the Kelly Link– ¬†but I managed. I’ve read absolutely nothing by Kelly Link, but this collection keeps catching my eye, so I thought I’d give it a go. I love Libba Bray and haven’t read Going Bovine yet, so there’s that. (I actually wanted to buy a copy of Beauty Queens, but they didn’t have it.) And I got Ready Player One at a heavily-discounted price for my Kindle last year and loved it so much that I wanted to own a hard copy.

For Independent Bookstore Day, they were hosting an in-store scavenger hunt with ARCs as prizes (hence the Sarah J. Maas), which is such a great idea. The search had items like “Write the title of a book in our humor section that you think would make you laugh” and “Based on their recommendations, which staff members’ bookshelves would you like to raid?” Something like that would make a great class activity in a library (with a few modifications). I’ll have to remember that.

Is this the perfect bookmark for me, or what?

After shopping at Doylestown Books, we hopped across the street to Central Books, which is where the above pile hails from. Central sells used books, many¬†in excellent condition and most selling for $4.95 each. (The Aimee Bender is spotless and looks brand new, so it was a steal at that price!) The other three books in this pile were 95 cents each; it seems that when a book has been knocked about a bit, they sell it for under a dollar. And since my books tend to get their fair share of knocking about anyway (I carry them everywhere), it doesn’t really bother me if they come my way with a few scuffs as long as they’re not falling apart. There were even boxes of books on the front porch for under a dollar each, some as low as 35 cents. (I nabbed three Thomas and Friends titles for my son out there; he was thrilled.) The shop is small and a bit difficult to navigate if there are other shoppers, but I found some great things, so it was worth it. Staff wasn’t unfriendly, but after the love-fest across the street, I wasn’t terribly impressed with customer service.

The above stack of books — purchased the week before Independent Bookstore Day, but I still want to share them with you — is from my local Salvation Army, which sells books for 90% off the cover price. (Also, one day a week most merchandise is half priced, so some of these books were far less than a dollar!) I love giving secondhand books a new home. The top two are for my boys when they get a little older (though I’ll probably read them before then), the Geraldine Brooks is because I won’t say no to a Pulitzer Prize winner, Graham Greene and Vonnegut are because I want to read more classic writers this year, and Philip Roth is because my friend is a huge fan and I haven’t read much of his work. I haven’t read much Terry Pratchett, only Good Omens, largely because I don’t know where to start. But the book was so inexpensive that I figured it was worth a shot. (I take more chances on used books because there’s not much of a financial commitment.) I read Sarah Dessen ages ago and don’t remember much about her, so I thought this would be a nice way to re-visit her. And Gregory Maguire? I own a few of his books now and haven’t read a single one. Maybe one week I’ll just binge-read all his stuff.

Annnd that’s it for today. Phew! It’s simultaneously overwhelming and exciting to see these stacks of new books. I can’t wait to experience them all!

Closing with a shot of my younger son holding our new favorite cookbook: the Big Gay Ice Cream book, another new purchase!

Have you picked up anything exciting lately? Let me know in the comments!

BookCon Highs and Lows

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WARNING: Long post ahead. Proceed at your own risk. ūüėČ

First things first: I really wanted to go to BEA this year. I followed/stalked last year’s attendees on Twitter and drooled over the stacks and stacks of books they were bringing home. I loved the idea of meeting up with other bloggers and readers and publishing people, and I was thrilled at the idea that — as a new blogger — I’d even be allowed into something as big of a deal as the Book Expo.

So why didn’t I go this year? I couldn’t justify the cost. BEA makes sense if you put a ton of time and energy into your blog, but I don’t see myself as being at that level yet, so it was tough to imagine spending that much money on something I still sort of view as a hobby. I¬†started blogging a little over a year ago, but I still struggle with calling myself a blogger because I don’t do much to “grow” my blog. I’m a very active reader, often reading more books than I have time to review, but I’m not so good at the whole promotion thing yet. I’m not terribly worried about it; most of the time¬†I’m just impressed that I get to maintain the blog at all after keeping up with my two-year-old all day. But I would eventually like to connect with more bloggers and readers and be part of a larger online community. When I’m at that point, I think BEA would make more sense for me. In the meantime, though, I decided that I would dip my toes into the water a bit by attending the first-ever BookCon.

Like BEA, BookCon was held at the Javits Center in New York, but in a separate space. BEA attendees could cross over into the BookCon area, but that permission wasn’t reciprocal. From what I could see, it seemed like publishers had set up larger tables on the trade show side and smaller displays on the fan side. I would have loved to sneak over and walk the BEA side for a few minutes to see if it was something I’d be interested in for the future, but they had security at every entrance checking badges.

Panels

I only attended one panel — well, actually, just a few minutes of a Macmillan panel on literary fiction (the Macmillan panels were in a section of the show floor, so they were easier to get to). All the other panels were downstairs in smaller rooms, and they didn’t clear the rooms between panels. Basically, what that means is that (I’m making up numbers here) if a room holds fifty people, and they all want to stay for three events in a row, they can. You can line up outside and try to get in, but if none of the fifty people inside¬†leaves, you’ll be turned away. So by getting in line for an event, you are putting all your eggs in one basket (of dubious reliability). Not only will you be too late to get into any other panels for that time slot, but you’ll miss whatever autographing sessions and giveaways are happening upstairs. I waited¬†in line for only one panel (Jason Segel) and found out five minutes before the event began — after waiting for half an hour — that I wouldn’t get in. (I only found out because the girl in front of me went to ask.) Here’s the problem with this system: the staff knows how many people each room holds. If there are more people in line than that, they don’t say anything. They just let you wait until you find someone to hold your spot and ask them. They will happily let you waste your time rather than capping the lines at the rooms’ capacity. This makes no sense and is inconsiderate to attendees, not to mention the fact that it’s overall poor planning. (Also, the fact that so many panels ended up full means that maybe they sold too many tickets or needed to allocate more space for panels.)

The other issue with the panels is that the BookCon rules explicitly stated that attendees couldn’t line up until one hour before the panel’s slated time. However, this rule was not enforced. People hovered around the entrances, forming “unofficial” lines far earlier and then moving to the actual waiting area an hour before. And security did nothing about this. The show floor was open until 3:00, and John Green wasn’t scheduled to appear until 3:30, so I thought that leaving the show floor at 2:45 to line up downstairs would give me ample time. Nope. His line was well over capacity. When I asked another attendee about it, she said she’d seen people lining up around one. That’s two and a half hours early. I planned my day carefully, but the show’s organizers didn’t follow their own rules, so I didn’t get to do some of the things I’d hoped for.

Macmillan was terrible about following their own rules as well. They gave out a limited number of tickets for each panel, but every time I asked I was told to come back half an hour before the panel to get a ticket. When I did as requested, the tickets were already gone. How did they give away all the tickets to the YA panel by 1:34 (the time I arrived) if they weren’t supposed to even begin handing them out until 1:30?! And there wasn’t a single guest¬†in sight at the reception desk, so I can only assume¬†they sent me away, changed their minds, and gave out the tickets when they felt like it. It sucked that I tried to follow the rules only to miss out for no reason other than poor planning and dishonesty.

Autographs

My autographing experiences were good overall. There was a line of designated autographing tables at one end of the hall, and some publishers arranged signings at their booths as well. I actually stumbled upon multiple signings just by being at the right booth at the right time, and the waits were usually only 20-30 minutes. The publishers arranged signings much better than the official “Autographing” area, in my opinion. They knew how many books they had, counted out people in line, and closed the lines when they were full. It was clear where to queue and what to expect, which I appreciated. The official autographing lines were iffy. I waited in line to see Corey Ann Haydu and the process was unbelievably smooth. Libba Bray, on the other hand? They closed the line ten minutes into her signing because they didn’t have enough books. (I guess I should have gotten in line an hour early for her!)

A.G. Howard, author of the Splintered series, and an unfortunately blinking me.

A.G. Howard, author of the Splintered series, and an unfortunately blinking me.

Show Floor

In my opinion, the show floor was the place to be. I did at least six laps through the booths (which is no easy feat; the space was HUGE), and I stumbled on some awesome giveaways and signings by being willing to keep moving. However, the floor was also mobbed. Too many people, not enough space. There were a few times where it was as bad as Rockefeller Center at Christmastime; herds of people moving at a zombielike pace (and with zombielike¬†expressions on their faces). It was easier for me to navigate because I went alone and didn’t have to keep checking behind me to make sure I didn’t lose my friends. But there were still a few times where we were all packed in shoulder-to-shoulder with no easy way out or through.

General tips and tricks that worked for me

  • Bring a rolling suitcase and leave¬†it at coat check. It was $3 an item, and they let me in and out twice before I finally retrieved my suitcase. I thought I might have to re-check my bag — and re-pay — each time, but that’s not how it worked. I paid the fee once and was allowed in and out as much as I needed. During those two visits, I unloaded the contents of my tote bag into the suitcase and grabbed one of the snacks I’d stashed there. There is absolutely NO WAY I would have been able to bring home all the books I got without doing this. Not counting excerpts/previews, I came home with twenty books…and not only would I have had no way of getting these back to my car, but I would have been miserable carrying them around for six hours.
  • Bring your own food and drink if you’d like to save a little bit of money. It’s a convention center and the food is priced accordingly. I spent about thirteen bucks on a juice, a water, and an order of fries; I can’t imagine how much I would’ve spent if I hadn’t packed tons of snacks to get me through the day. (I don’t eat a ton, but I eat ALL DAY.) Note: They allowed us to eat and drink on the show floor, which was great for saving time.
  • If there’s an author whose signature you really want in a particular book (or in a book, period), you may want to bring it. (But don’t do this for everyone. You may not be in time for every session, and you really don’t want to be toting around five or six books from home in addition to the freebies.) Most of the authors were signing free books (some ARCs, some finished copies), but in other cases, you had to buy the book in order to have it signed. Abrams did this with A.G. Howard (whom I looove). I actually ended up having to buy a second copy of Splintered because I¬†hadn’t brought¬†mine in with me. (She would have signed a poster, which was free, but I love her series and really wanted a signed book.) This was only disappointing because I’d checked the website that morning and it said that the autographing session was free. I guess technically that’s true, but because every other author I met was giving away their books I was a little surprised. Also, I would’ve brought my own copy and saved myself from buying another one. I felt misled. Not by the author, but by whoever organized the signing.

Now I’m going to show you what I came home with. My haul, as they say. Here’s an overall shot of almost everything:

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And here are the details.

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Signed copies. I did a blog tour for the first Desmond Pucket book, so it was great to meet the author and tell him how great I think his stuff is. He signed the book to my son; he’s two, but I’ve been stocking up on future books for him.

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About half¬†of these came from Macmillan; they gave books away at the end of every one of their panels, and even though I couldn’t get tickets to most of them, I got on the standby line in case they had leftover books. (They usually did.) I’m most excited about Landline and The Darkest Part of the Forest because I’ve read those authors before, but most of the others look interesting as well.

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Tote bags! L to R: Chronicle Books, Wonder (the back says “Choose Kind,” which I love), and tor.com. By the way, if you haven’t read Wonder yet, what are you waiting for?!

 

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More tote bags. Dora came¬†from the Nickelodeon area, which was toddler-centric and looked like tons of fun. The Little Elliot bag¬†is the nicest one I got, partially because it’s enormous and partially because it’s the only tote that was store quality.

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Poll time: Do you call these pins or buttons? Either way, I find the Neil Gaiman ones rather clever.

 

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Samplers of various books. Looking forward to flipping through these, I guess, but I don’t usually like the excerpt giveaways. They tease me too much. Of course, that didn’t stop me from taking them…

 

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Some free audiobook downloads and a handful of out-of-the-ordinary swag. The Little Book of Big Ideas is blank, which I found clever. Also Beerology coasters, Sophie Davis lip balm, and Paddington luggage tags.

 

IMG_7578Stickers, magnets, and temporary tattoos. My son’s already wearing one of the Might Robot tattoos; the pack came with about twenty, so he’ll probably be wearing one for most of the summer.

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Bookmarks. Practically every table had bookmarks and fliers, but I tried to be selective. This may be the only area in which I exercised restraint. Well, that and not buying a tote from Melville House since I’d already received five free.

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Random stuff I grabbed for my little guy.

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Review publications. I’m hoping to find time to flip through these.

 

 

 

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Ensnared poster. The cover reveal just went live last week, and I think it’s just right. It fits perfectly with the other two covers, and now I’m even more excited to read this book in January.

 

 

 

Overall, do I think BookCon was worth my time and money? Yes, with some reservations. I got tons of stuff for the relatively small admission fee. (I only paid for the paperback copy of Splintered; everything else was a giveaway.) I also met some nice people; it was a pleasure to be surrounded by fellow readers, and it was absolutely wonderful¬†to see parents there with their elementary- and middle-school-aged kids. After all the press I’ve been seeing lately about books and bookstores being a dying breed, it was refreshing to see how many people were interested in a convention for readers. It could have been — and should have been — better organized and less crowded. Here’s the thing: if you’re hoping for 10,000 people, you need to have space for 10,000 people. If you provide rules ahead of time, you need to enforce those rules. Otherwise it becomes a free-for-all mob situation, and that’s not fun for anyone, staff or guests. I guess if there’s just one person you’re dying to see, you can wait in line all day for them, but then you miss the entire convention aspect and may as well just go to a bookstore reading or signing for that individual author. They’re far more intimate and don’t typically¬†cost more than the $30 BookCon entrance fee. I will probably attend BookCon again next year, but with adjusted expectations, and I’ll probably spend most of my time on the floor again. It yielded the best results for me.

If you attended BookCon, what did you think? If you didn’t attend, what would you hope for from a pop culture event geared toward readers?

 

 

Literary Holidays: Happy Towel Day!

original image from freedigitalphotos.net

original image from freedigitalphotos.net

Greetings, and a happy Towel Day to you! What is Towel Day, you ask? It’s one of my favorite sorts of holidays — the book nerd sort! May 25 is the birthday of the late Douglas Adams, author of the cult sci-fi classic Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. In these books, the utility of a towel for intergalactic travelers is stressed, so in honor of Adams, fans carry a towel around with them for the day. Constant vigilance and all that. (Yes, I know that’s Mad-Eye Moody and not an Adams character — or it is Barty Crouch, Junior? It’s been bugging me for over a year that I can’t recall whether or not that catchphrase was Moody’s first. I use it all the time and want to know if it comes from an Auror or a Death Eater. Guess it’s time for a re-read.)

Anyway. I always seem to have no plans on Towel Day, meaning that I’m home with no reason to carry around a towel and no one but my son and husband to see it if I did. Hopefully we’ll be out and about for at least a little while today so that I’ll have a chance to “celebrate.”

In case you’re interested, here’s a handy infographic from lemon.ly with a bit more information about Towel Day.

from lemon.ly

from lemon.ly

What about you? Will you be celebrating Towel Day today? Do you have another literary holiday to share? Let me know!

My Much-Delayed World Book Night Post!

WBNLogo

I know, I know: World Book Night was two weeks ago. But we just got back from Disney World, so my blogging was on hold for a bit. (In case you were wondering: Disney World is awesome¬†when you’re a kid, but seeing things through your child’s eyes takes it to a whole new level. It was a truly magical experience.)

Basically, World Book Night is an effort to spread a passion for reading to people who are not already avid readers. A committee selects 30-35 books from a variety of genres that are released in a special (read: slightly flimsy and cheaper to produce, but still readable) edition. The authors waive their rights to the books, publishers cover the cost of the printing, and volunteers across the country distribute 20 copies each to light or non-readers. (This is a summary from the WBN site, which you can visit here.)

I was thrilled to be selected as a giver this year. I’d been interested since the get-go, but I was eight months pregnant during the launch year and¬†my son was too young to tag along last year, so this was the first time¬†I could make it work. I got my first-choice book, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and was eager to share such a great story with some strangers.

Our first stop was a post office near where I used to live. (We checked with employees ahead of time.)¬†This particular town (very rural) relies heavily on P.O. boxes, so there were lots of people to greet. Of course, many of them eyed me suspiciously. (“A free book? What’s the catch?”) But many were receptive to the idea once I’d explained it. Most of the people to whom we offered a book said something along the lines of, “Yeah, I really should read more often. I keep saying I’ll get around to it, but I never do.” I’m hoping that a free book will get them started.

IMG_0921

My little helper. Some people came over just to say hello to him and ended up taking a book as well!

Unfortunately — and I really should have planned for this — distributing books on the sidewalk on a cold, blustery day was not the best idea. April weather is fickle, and I should have aimed for something indoors. But since I hadn’t contacted any other businesses for permission, and I had about a dozen books left, I decided to distribute some copies while running my errands for the day.

I had some returns to make at Target, so I left a book with the customer service rep. She said, “Ooh, is this like the movie? I loved the movie!” I told her that, yes, it was, and I even recommended that she pick up the similar-and-also-very-good Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaria. (She jotted the title down on a scrap of receipt paper and slipped it into the pages of her free book.)

I picked up a memory card at Best Buy in preparation for our upcoming vacation and gave a copy to each of the cashiers. (When I offered a copy to the girl who rang me up, I could see another girl leaning over out of curiosity.) As I walked away, I could see them reading the back covers. I was glad to see that they were interested and not just stuffing the books under the counter.

My parents took me to lunch for my birthday, and I left a copy for our server along with a note explaining why she was getting a free book. (Note: This was not in place of a tip.)

At the end of the night, I gave a copy to my cashier at the gas station and one to the man behind me in line. It really felt great to be able to exercise a gesture of goodwill with literally no strings attached. It made me want to perform random acts of kindness on a more regular basis.

Since I still had a few copies left, I stopped at a couple of Little Free Libraries over the next weekend and dropped two books in each one.

At the end of the day, I found myself thinking about all of the books I’d unleashed into the world. Would they be read? Would they collect dust on a shelf or coffee table? Or would they be tossed into the recycling bin? I’m hoping that people will actually read them, but it’s hard to know for sure. Most of the people we approached accepted the free book with a smile and a thank you, but they weren’t all that willing to stick around and chat about their reading preferences or habits. (I can understand this, because I don’t like being approached by strangers with offers of a “free” anything, but I was hoping to interact with them a bit more than we did.)

And that’s my World Book Night experience. Over the course of the day, I had company:¬†my mother and stepfather, my son, and my husband were all able to be a part of the “festivities.” It was great fun, and I was happy to be a volunteer giver. Next year, though? I might want to do something indoors so we don’t have to thaw at the end of our giving experience!

(Im)partial Reviews: First Installment

Technically, I read multiple books at once; I have bookmarks in at least a dozen books on any given day. However, I’ve noticed a significant trend in my reading habits:¬†when a book really grabs my interest, all other books get pushed aside until I finish it. Then I either finish another book or start a new one. Thus, I have a constantly-changing roster of books on my “currently reading” shelf.

There comes a time, however, when I have to face the facts: there are some books that I am technically “reading” but that I keep getting distracted from. No matter how many times I dip into them, I’m not terribly interested. I used to force myself to finish them for closure’s sake, but I’m trying to be more considerate of wasting my own time. Therefore, I’m starting a new type of entry on here: (im)partial reviews. I’m going to review books that I’ve only partially finished, trying to be honest and impartial about the reasons I didn’t see fit to push through to the end. Basically, they’re books that I’ve decided are not worth my time at this particular stage of my life (i.e., being a full time mom whose free time is fleeting).

Here’s the first roundup:

Broken Angels by Harambee K. Grey-Sun. HyperVerse Books. 312 pp.

Broken Angels by Harambee K. Grey-Sun. HyperVerse Books. 312 pp.

When I started reading Broken Angels, I had a difficult time telling the characters apart. I figured this would get better over time, but after reading the first few chapters, I didn’t have much interest in reading more about these characters and their world. It just wasn’t my cup of tea. There’s a big action scene in the beginning that’s pretty good, if memory serves me correctly, and maybe the book gets better later on, but it didn’t grab me enough to convince me to give it more of my time.

Freaking Out: Real-Life Stories About Anxiety, edited by Polly Wells. Annick Press. 130 pp.

Freaking Out: Real-Life Stories About Anxiety, edited by Polly Wells. Annick Press. 130 pp.

I was really looking forward to Freaking Out. However, it was written far too simply for me to get into it. It reminded me of those high-interest-low-level novels: the subject matter is on a high school level, but the reading level is on an early-elementary level. Sometimes a book written for kids is so good you don’t notice that it’s written for kids; other times, the writing is overly simplistic and childish, and it’s not enjoyable. That’s how I felt about this one. Also, some of the chapters didn’t really seem like they were about anxiety; the topics were sort of all over the place.

100 Poems: Old and New by Rudyard Kipling, edited by Thomas Pinney. Cambridge University Press. 197 pp.

100 Poems: Old and New by Rudyard Kipling, edited by Thomas Pinney. Cambridge University Press. 197 pp.

I’ve read a Kipling poem here and there, but I’m not an expert in either his writing or his time period. While Kipling’s poems are diverse in style and subject, and his ear for dialect is quite good, this collection didn’t do much for me. I’m all about reading works from other times and places, but there needs to be an underlying current of humanity. I need to be able to somehow relate to what I’m reading. And, although a couple of these poems were interesting, after struggling my way through more than half of them I decided not to force something that wasn’t working for me.

Surviving the Holidays (and Book Haul)

Whew…I made it!

Christmas was a multi-day ordeal/extravaganza for us this year: early Christmas with my family on Saturday, Christmas Eve on Long Island with my grandparents, and Christmas Day in Connecticut with my husband’s family. That’s about 550 miles of driving in a car laden with armloads of gifts and baked goods.¬†And we closed on our house the Friday before Christmas. I have no idea what I was thinking. But we made it through, and now we’re just painting the house. (I say “just,” but have you ever removed wallpaper glue for hours on end or painted an entire house before? It takes forever.)¬†I’m hoping to find some time to read, though, because I got some pretty great books as gifts.

My husband gave me cash, which sounds impersonal, except he earmarked it for a very Kelly-friendly purpose:

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He also did some research and printed a list of all the bookstores and music shops in our new neighborhood, which he enclosed in this envelope: 

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This is the perfect gift for someone like me who is often reluctant to shop for herself. (I also like the idea of supporting local businesses and maybe even featuring some of them on the blog.) I’m not sure yet which books I’ll buy; I think I’ll just browse the shelves and wait until I find something I just have to have. That’s my favorite way to shop at a used bookstore. Last time I did that, I left with George Saunders’s¬†Pastoralia,¬†one of my best impulse buys of all time.¬†(I’m also thrilled that he didn’t get me a gift certificate to just one store…there’s much more freedom to explore this way.)¬†

 

Also, my friend sent me a ton of ebooks via Amazon: 

BillyLynn'sLongHalftimeWalk

The note attached to this one said something like, “Hope you haven’t read this yet.” I hadn’t even heard of it before, so that wasn’t an issue.¬†

Genesis

Unlike many of my other reader-friends, this particular friend is fairly anti-YA. (He’s afraid to read YA in public because of cover shame, which I think is silly because some adult books have embarrassing or ugly covers, too…and also because, since he owns a Kindle, this is no longer a valid excuse.) He says he read this one without even knowing he was reading a young adult novel. (Maybe that’s because of the cover?)¬†

Quiet

I’ve been wanting to read this one for a while, so I’m glad to have it. Sometimes I’m such an introvert that I feel like a cliche. (Granted, if I’ve known you for years, you probably won’t be able to shut me up. What is that about?)¬†

ThinkingFastAndSlow

I was given this one because I “read too much YA” and need to pick up some nonfiction.¬†

I also got a copy of What the Dog Saw, which I own in hard copy, so I exchanged it for credit and bought this, 

Altered

adding unnecessary weight to that too-much-YA argument. 

Now, if I could only find the time to read all of these books…¬†

Why Do Readers Love Doctor Who?

DoctorWhoGif

When it comes to Doctor Who, I am so late to the game that it’s a little ridiculous. Especially since I already assumed it would be my sort of thing. I mean, everyone I like seems to like it, from more notorious fans like Neil Gaiman and Craig Ferguson to just about every blogger I’ve started following in the past year.¬†(I’m just starting Series Three, so this post will be based on my observations to that point.)

So here’s what I’ve been thinking about lately. Doctor Who seems like a reader’s show. Not directly, because it’s not based upon a work of literature, nor does it reference them. None of the characters is a novelist, or a publisher, or a poet, or even a librarian or bookseller. But most of the people I know that enjoy Doctor Who also seem to rather enjoy a good book. So what is it about this show that appeals to readers?

1. Time Travel

TimeTravel
I don’t mean the ability to literally travel through time (although I’m sure some of us would jump at the chance!). However, watching The Doctor and his companion (Can I just say “Rose”? I’ll probably always picture her when I think of a companion.) travel to different time periods is similar to the feeling a reader gets when opening a new book. There’s something about being a stranger in a strange land, that thrill that you get when dipping into someone else’s life, that mirrors The Doctor’s travels to new places and eras.

2. An Overarching Storyline

OverarchingStoryline
If there’s one thing I love, it’s a sense of history in a series. Some shows, like Modern Family, can be watched from the middle of the series without it affecting your understanding of who the characters are or where they’ve been. Each episode stands alone. As much as I enjoy Modern Family for what it is, though, my favorite shows are the ones in which you get to really know the characters, where they’ve come from and where they’re going, and Doctor Who is an excellent example of this.¬†My favorite book series are the same way: sure, you could read a single volume alone or out of order, but you’ll get so much more out of the story if you start at the beginning and work your way through to the end. There’s something so rewarding about sticking with a story — whether it be on the page or the screen — and seeing how it all ties together.

3. A Catchphrase

Fantastic
Or two. Or three. If I didn’t have to be a responsible parent, I’d love to play the “Fantastic!” drinking game during a marathon of Series One. (I haven’t watched enough of Ten’s scenes yet to determine whether or not “Allons-y!” will be as prevalent. Will it?) How is this literary, you ask? It is, in a fun sort of way, at least for me. I love characters with catchphrases, from Mad-Eye Moody’s “Constant vigilance!” to Sara D’Abruzzi’s “Omigod!” in the Jessica Darling books to “Fat bitch” in The Basic Eight. Whenever I use these phrases (okay, I’ll be honest: I don’t think I’ve ever called someone a fat bitch), I can’t help but smile. It’s a sort of inside joke with myself and any fans that happen to be nearby (usually, none). By the way: If you got all three of those references, we probably need to be friends.

4. Brains Over Brawn

SonicScrewdriver
I’m not saying that there’s no action in this show, because of course there is, but violence isn’t The Doctor’s weapon of choice. (If it was, would his sonic instrument really be a¬†screwdriver?!) The idea that knowledge and resourcefulness can be useful in a life-or-death situation is appealing to someone like me who spends lots of recreational time inside my own head. (Maybe all this reading could be useful!)

5. Slow, Kinda-Sorta Romance

DoctorAndRose
That will-they-or-won’t-they can keep me reading sometimes, even when the rest of the story is pretty rough. And I really enjoy the idea of The Doctor having a companion. I hate thinking of him as lonely.

6. Daleks

Dalek2
Okay, this one has nothing to do with being a reader. It has everything to do with their voices — which, since most readers are auditory people, could be considered super-loosely-book-related. Or not. All I know is that every time a Dalek comes on the screen, I delight in shouting, “Exterminate!” even though I can’t do the voice in the least bit. That’s how I know I’ve got an awesome husband: he tolerates my Dalek impersonations.

Note: I may be incorrect in my assumption that¬†Doctor Who¬†appeals particularly to readers. Perhaps it appeals to¬†everyone¬†and I’ve just been hearing from the reading end of the spectrum. If you disagree, let me know why in the comments. Or, you know, you could let me know if you agree, too. I do enjoy hearing it when someone thinks I’m right. ūüôā