I attended the ALA Annual Conference this June in Chicago with my friend Amanda, and thought I’d recap our trip for anyone potentially interested in attending in the future. Every year, ALA hosts two conferences – Midwinter in February, and Annual in June.
Since neither of us are members of the ALA, we chose to purchase “Exhibit Only” passes, which allowed us access only to the exhibit hall from Friday – Monday. This badge cost $75, and was also the cheapest badge option available (comparatively, our BEA badges last year cost $188 and were increased to $300 this year). We went into ALA prepared: a schedule, a list of top priority ARCs, and a spreadsheet of author signings. More importantly, we were determined to have a good time.
We arrived in Chicago on Thursday morning, and spent that day exploring the city and preparing for the exhibit hall. We also traveled down to McCormick Place to finish registration and get our badges, so there was one less thing to do on Friday. This was a great choice, because we got a peak at the hall and how the booths were set up – which was very different than BEA! That’s something I won’t keep repeating, but stays true: this was so completely different from BEA, but I think for the better.
Friday morning, bright and early, we got to McCormick Place and waited for the exhibit hall to open. When we entered at 9am, a quick walk around the booths had me doubting our decision to attend ALA. There were no daily ARC drop schedules. No stacks of books to be grabbed in a mad dash. I honestly thought I’d made a huge mistake, and that we were going to leave Chicago empty handed. But then I noticed a small crowd over at a booth, and the publisher rep was pulling books out of a closet and handing them out. That’s right, at ALA you simply ask for the books you want. My momentary panic was forgotten as I stood in front of the Harper Collins booth and received five ARCs from the wonderfully helpful rep. Once we understood how the exhibit hall worked, we got down to business.
Day One included some of my most anticipated ARCs: Meet Cute, Warcross (signed by Marie Lu!), Moxie, The Nowhere Girls (signed by Amy Reed!), and They Both Die at the End. My two highlights of the day were definitely being first in line for Maggie’s All the Crooked Saints signing, and meeting Megan Whalen Turner to get a signed copy of Thick as Thieves!
Day Two, Saturday, was one of the most anxiety-inducing mornings of my life. I am not a patient person. Waiting triggers my anxiety like nothing else. So when we arrived at McCormick Place at 7:30am to be the first people in the hall at 9am to pick up LITERALLY EVERYTHING WE WANTED, I was a mess. At 9am on Saturday, we had to make it to three different publisher booths for three extremely important drops. Penguin Random House was giving out Wonder Woman: Warbringer; Little, Brown was dropping Invictus and The Cruel Prince; and Macmillian was giving out The Language of Thorns samplers…and exclusive enamel pins to the first 25 people in line. No pressure. Amanda and I devised a strategy, and I was relieved when we actually pulled it off. First we gunned it to the Macmillan booth, where we got the enamel pins and sampler (!!!!), then next door to Little, Brown for Invictus and The Cruel Prince (there were only 5 left and I nearly had a heart attack diving for that pile), and then we arrived at Penguin, waited in line, and got the very last ARC of Wonder Woman: Warbringer. That’s right, WE got the last ONE. Amanda and I are sharing it – I’ll read and review it, then send it to her to keep. That way we both get to read it, and I had already preordered a copy anyway. Works for everyone!
Needless to say, it was a stressful 30 minutes first thing in the morning, and then we pretty much chilled until a couple events that afternoon. We got signed copies of Jane, Unlimited, and Kristin Cashore laughed when she saw my name badge – apparently I was her first Jane while promoting this book! Saturday afternoon, we basically lived at the Macmillan booth because there were two signings and an ARC drop we were very excited about. I have to say that the women at the Macmillan booth were amazing! I had a great chat with one of them and ended up with seven books by the end of it.
As the day came to a close, we left McCormick Place and returned to our hotel to begin the arduous task of packing all 55 (55!!!) books that we acquired at ALA. Amanda and I didn’t attend on Monday, even though our badges allowed it, because we had an early flight and honestly didn’t need any more books. But on Mondays, the publishers apparently give away all of the remaining copies they have – something to keep in mind for future reference!
ALA was such an amazing experience. We aren’t librarians and therefore didn’t attend any of the library-related events or booths, but my friend Andrew (an actual librarian who attended) really enjoyed those aspects. I think this is such a worthwhile event, especially if you’re a librarian. Every single person we spoke to over the course of ALA, whether a fellow attendee or publisher rep, was so nice and genuinely excited to talk about books. That was not my experience at BEA, to put it kindly.
Would I recommend attending an ALA convention? Absolutely. Will I ever attend BEA again? I honestly don’t know. Maybe if I got a media pass, but even then I think this trip has converted me to the ALA life. Especially as someone who has never been interested in BookCon, and refuses to pay $300+ to attend BookExpo, I see myself attending ALA moving forward. Next year’s Midwinter conference is in Denver, Colorado from February 9-13, 2018. ALA Annual 2018 is in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 21-26. I’ll definitely be at ALA Annual since it’s in New Orleans, but I’m interested in attending Midwinter as well! I’ve heard it’s even chiller than Annual, which could be really nice.
I have a vlog of our Chicago trip on my channel, which you can watch here:
I also have a haul video in which I show all of the books and exciting swag that I picked up at the conference:
Have you attended any book conferences before? If you have any questions about ALA or BEA, please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer!
Title: A Million Junes
Author: Emily Henry
Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin Random House)
Emily Henry’s sophomore novel is a magical twist on Romeo and Juliet, about the weight of family legacies. I enjoyed her writing style in her debut novel The Love That Split the World (even if I didn’t love the problematic portrayal of First Nations peoples and cultures), and that remained true in this novel. Emily Henry’s writing is incredibly readable, but is still lush with sparks of magic and clear characterization. Her characters, especially June (“Jack”) and Saul, felt so believable, and their interactions were a joy to read.
The romance almost bordered on insta-love, with the added urgency of the family feud keeping them apart. While I enjoyed the scenes in which Jack and Saul saw moments from their respective relatives’ pasts, I didn’t love the magic system at play. Personally, I found the magic in A Million Junes to be very reminiscent of the magic in The Love That Split the World. It’s not exactly the same, but a very similar concept: traveling in time with a love interest to uncover some hidden truth. I found the story compelling and enjoyed the reading experience, but the magic being similarly really stuck out to me.
All that being said, I think Henry did a phenomenal job of capturing the weight of family that we all carry. Jack is grieving for her father, and defined by a feud and curse that has haunted her family and Saul’s for generations. There were moments when I was in tears from how perfectly Henry described grief, and Jack’s struggle with mourning the father she knew while learning the truth about him and her family. I truly loved the family story at the heart of this novel, and this is one of very few magical realism novels have really worked for me. I would highly recommend A Million Junes if you’re into magical realism and family legacies, even if you didn’t love Henry’s debut novel.
Rating: 4 stars
*I received an eARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review.
Title: When Dimple Met Rishi
Author: Sandhya Menon
Publication Date: May 30, 2017
Publisher: Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster)
When Dimple Met Rishi was one of my most anticipated releases of the year, so I fully expected to fall in love with this story. While I definitely enjoyed it, somehow this didn’t quite live up to my expectations. This book is billed as an arranged marriage YA, and it’s simultaneously so much more yet exactly that. Dimple and Rishi meet at a summer coding camp, but only Rishi knows that their parents are trying to arrange a marriage for them.
I think this book took a lot of directions that I wasn’t expecting, from Dimple finding out about the potential arrangement very early, to their relationship dynamics over the course of the novel. Despite a very rocky start, Dimple and Rishi manage to end up in a rather intense (dare I say almost insta-love?) relationship over the six week long camp. The pacing coupled with Rishi being almost too perfect, actually had me questioning whether I even shipped them. I’m not sure that I did, which sucks, because I was fully expecting to.
Dimple was probably my favorite aspect of this novel. She’s this fierce girl who wants a STEM career, and to be the best at what she does. Dimple is focused on her own future and her passion for coding, and resents that her parents expect her to fall in line and find an ideal Indian husband. Dimple and Rishi have very different perspectives on their families and culture, and I loved seeing that play out. I adored Dimple’s family, especially her relationship with her mother. This own voices book really explores the idea of being true to yourself in the face of others’ expectations, and it was ultimately a contemporary with a lot of heart.
Rating: 4 stars
* I received an eARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review.
As a reader, there is something so incredibly special about meeting one of your favorite authors. This person created a book or world or character that you loved, and you finally get the chance to see them and…well, honestly most of the time you freeze up and say something like “omghiyourbookisamazingthanks” and then stare awkwardly while they finish signing your book.
Totally not speaking from experience or anything.
I’ve been fortunate enough to meet several of my all-time favorite authors. There are rarely bookish events near where I live, so meeting an author usually involves hours of travel. One of my best friends is from Houston, so I’ve managed to coincide visits with author tours. I also attended BEA 2016, and was able to attend signings for a few others. I thought I’d share five authors I’ve met, and also include five that I’m dying to meet one day.
Authors I’ve met:
Maggie Stiefvater. I met Maggie during her book tour for The Raven King in Houston, and this will go down as one of the best bookish moments of my life. She gave an amazing speech for the event, and we got to talk about our love for Ronan. We also laughed about how she’s made my name popular again. Basically, the entire experience was incredible and I felt overwhelmingly happy.
Leigh Bardugo. Meeting Leigh was honestly the highlight of my BEA 2016 experience. I couldn’t get an actual ticket to her signing, but the staff let me sneak in at the very end of the line. And you guys, she is amazing. We chatted about my French last name and her publicist’s French last name, and how she should write a detective novel about us. Do you ever build someone up in your head as being almost unbearably cool, and then you meet them and they’re somehow even cooler? Yeah, that was me meeting Leigh Bardugo.
Adam Silvera. Another highlight of BEA 2016 was meeting Adam Silvera. His signing line took nearly an hour, but that’s because Adam took the time to have an actual conversation and write a long note in everyone’s ARC. He was so genuine and funny in person, and I left the signing line feeling as if I just had a nice chat with a friend.
Stephanie Perkins. My love for Anna and the French Kiss is eternal, and I was able to meet Stephanie during her book tour for Isla and the Happily Ever After. Even though I managed to spoil the book for everyone (it was my first bookish event and I didn’t realize that everyone else hadn’t read the book yet I’M STILL EMBARASSED), she was SO NICE. She even complemented my fresh Taylor Swift haircut, and we bonded over which of her male characters would actually make the best boyfriend.
Tahereh Mafi. BEA 2016 strikes again! I met Tahereh during her signing for Futhermore ARCs, and I still can’t get over how sweet she was. She took the time to have a chat with everyone, and made you feel as though she was just as excited to meet you. Also, Tahereh Mafi is quite possibly the most stylish person I’ve ever met. Just putting that out there.
Authors I’d Love to Meet:
Laini Taylor. I absolutely loved the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, and Strange the Dreamer, so it’s no surprise that Laini Taylor is on this list. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch her on tour for her next book…whenever that will be!
Sarah Dessen. Sarah Dessen is one of very few authors whose books helped to shape me as a person. I’ve read all of her novels, and they remain my go-to comfort reads. I’ve got my fingers crossed that her book tour for Once and For All will come close enough for me to attend. If so, I have my very old and much loved copy of This Lullaby I’d love for her to sign.
Emery Lord. Y’all, this one is actually happening and I’m so excited! Emery is going on tour for The Names They Gave Us this summer, and one of the events is at my local independent bookstore. I really appreciate and value Emery’s voice, both in her books and on social media (seriously, you need to follow her), so I’m very much looking forward to meeting her in June.
Holly Black. I love Holly Black’s books. I probably don’t talk about them enough on my blog and BookTube channel, but The Curse Workers trilogy and The Darkest Part of the Forest are books that I adore and reread often. Her sequel to The Darkest Part of the Forest, called The Cruel Prince, comes out in January 2018 – so here’s hoping for that book tour!
J.K. Rowling. I mean, duh.
Which authors are on your bookish bucket list to meet?
Well hello there, long time no see. I admittedly fell off the blogging bandwagon late last year, due to all kinds of personal stuff. Also…I just needed a break. Blogging doesn’t come as naturally as YouTube does, so I’m always concerned that I’m not being creative enough, not diversifying my content, simply shouting into the void. So I took some time off.
I also decided to switch from Blogger to WordPress, and can already tell it was a change for the better. I’m still getting used to WordPress, so things like my blog design and layout will improve over time. For now, I want to focus on creating content that makes me happy. Most of said content will remain bookish, as this was originally created as a book blog in conjunction with my YouTube channel, but I’ll also incorporate more aspects of my life and interests. Fandom Friday shall return, but I also want to include some of my personal experiences. Where I’m going, what I’m watching, things I love and hate, but most of all, the books I read.
Be on the look out for new posts each week on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday! Videos are uploaded onto my YouTube channel every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, and I’ll cross post those videos here.
Alright, that’s it for the announcements…see you Thursday!
Today kicks off a new series – Fandom Friday! Every Friday, I’ll discuss some aspect of fandom, be it my own personal experiences or fandom in general. I’m planning to alternate weekly posts between this blog and my YouTube channel, because certain topics are better suited to written or video formats. So ever Friday, either here or on my channel, I’ll be chatting all things fandom!
I’m excited to begin this series! Fandom has always been a big part of my life, ever since I was 13 and discovered the Harry Potter online community. This was back in the heyday of Live Journal, and I was quickly introduced to fan fiction, online RPG, and the amazing sense of community. Granted this all began back when I was in junior high, and the slightest hint that you were involved in anything fandom related was enough to warrant merciless teasing and being called a nerd, the most horrifying thing a teen could ever be accused of . Needless to say, I kept my fandom involvement to myself, and for years never spoke of my online interests to anyone in my everyday life.
Fast forward a decade or so, and things have definitely changed. Fandom has become a normal part of popular culture, and there are more platforms to espouse the wonders of fandom than ever. Tumblr, podcasts, Archive of Our Own – these are a few of the major players and probably the best sources for those just getting started in any particular fandom. The advent of major comic conventions that have become star-studded affairs has helped to make fandom culture more normalized, and these days TV shows/movies/books are able to achieve massive levels of success by understanding the value of fandom. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child sold over 4 million print copies in its first week. Marvel movies regularly dominate the box office. Popular YA series skyrocket onto the NYT Bestsellers List before being adapted into successful (well, sometimes) TV shows or movies. Fandom plays a huge role in this.
As I said, I got into the fandom game relatively young, via Harry Potter online RPGs (seriously. It’s still not something I’m overly proud of) and fan fiction. There’s been endless debate over fan fiction and whether it’s plagiarism, and you’ll find plenty of Creative Writing professors more than willing to dismiss it as a joke. But you’ll find none of that here! I still remember the early days of fanfiction.net, and the epic HP fic repository that was Fiction Alley. Fan fic and the fandom community soothed the agony of waiting years between Harry Potter books, a much-needed alternative to obsessively checking MuggleNet every day for news.
While I started in the Harry Potter fandom and still consider myself very much a part of it, I’ve been in plenty of fandoms over the years. Usually my stay in any one particular fandom is brief, because I don’t have the attention span or desire to be active in more than one or two fandoms at a time (look, fandom can be draining, ok? I’m talking time, resources, and emotions). Some of my biggest fandoms have been Teen Wolf, The 100, The Hunger Games, The Raven Cycle, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and of course Harry Potter.
Fandom Friday will cover a wide range of topics, and I’m hoping this will be a great way to get a bit more personal on this blog and my channel. If you have any recommendations of things you’d like to see me discuss, let me know in the comments!
Title: Our Chemical Hearts Author: Krystal Sutherland Publication Date: August 30, 2016 Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers (Penguin) Source: ARC* Goodreads | Book Depository
“Henry Page has never been in love. He fancies himself a hopeless romantic, but the slo-mo, heart palpitating, can’t-eat-can’t-sleep kind of love that he’s been hoping for just hasn’t been in the cards for him—at least not yet. Instead, he’s been happy to focus on his grades, on getting into a semi-decent college and finally becoming editor of his school newspaper. Then Grace Town walks into his first period class on the third Tuesday of senior year and he knows everything’s about to change.
Grace isn’t who Henry pictured as his dream girl—she walks with a cane, wears oversized boys’ clothes, and rarely seems to shower. But when Grace and Henry are both chosen to edit the school paper, he quickly finds himself falling for her. It’s obvious there’s something broken about Grace, but it seems to make her even more beautiful to Henry, and he wants nothing more than to help her put the pieces back together again. And yet, this isn’t your average story of boy meets girl. Krystal Sutherland’s brilliant debut is equal parts wit and heartbreak, a potent reminder of the bittersweet bliss that is first love.”
This book is billed as “John Green meets Rainbow Rowell” and honestly, that should have been enough to trigger alarm bells in my head. It’s not a secret that I’m no fan of John Green’s books, and the comparison that is all-too frequently applied to YA contemporaries these days usually signals that I’m about to be underwhelmed.
Enter Henry, our basic white boy protagonist, unexceptional save for his interest in the school newspaper and his quirky band of family and friends. His posse includes an Australian best friend (because, sure), a feminist lesbian other best friend (#diversity), and a brilliant older sister who’s always around to conveniently dole out advice on life and love (probably a former MPDG herself).
Yes, you can already tell that I’m salty about this book and I’ll be honest, it’s not gonna let up.
Enter Grace, who wears boys’ clothes and uses a cane, but still manages to capture Henry’s affections. Lucky Grace. But don’t worry, Grace isn’t some Manic Pixie Dream Girl! She’s more of a Manic Pixie Depressed Girl, because she’s like super broken and Henry can totally fix her with his love. Henry then proceeds to fall in love with, and become obsessed to the point of STALKING, Grace even though she is clearly going through Stuff and is not in a good place. Henry even acknowledges at one point that Grace probably needs some help, and then does NOTHING but keep pursuing her. I just…sigh.
The way that Grace’s situation was dealt with, or rather not dealt with, was so disappointing. I can’t site the specific example I want to because it’s major spoilers, but there’s no reason why the adults in her life wouldn’t have stepped in at some point. Several moments in this book made me deeply uncomfortable, and I will admit that things ended up being much more serious (and honestly, messed up) than I had ever expected. The ending, or at least what Sutherland tried to say, was probably the strongest part of this story. Unfortunately it was pretty much lost in the 300-something pages of this underwhelming contemporary that tried way too hard.
This is my biggest gripe with Our Chemical Hearts – it tries too hard. Nothing about this book felt natural, from the characters to premise or even the reading experience itself. Our Chemical Hearts read like a desperate, overzealous attempt at writing a book worthy of a John Green comparison. It may have been too successful, because this felt like yet another reiteration of the same basic, tired John Green storyline. White boy becomes obsessed with a MPDG and drags his crew of quirky friends along for the ride while learning some valuable life lessons. This is a story I’m no longer interested in reading.
There’s so much potential in Our Chemical Hearts. I wonder if switching to Grace’s perspective would have made it more successful, or just not worked at all. Ultimately this was unimpressive and unenjoyable, and I wouldn’t recommend this unless you’re a major fan of this type of story.
Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️
*I received this ARC from the publisher in exchange for a free & honest review.