National Book Festival 2013: A Recap and Giveaway

National Book Festival 2013 Poster

Illustrated by Suzy Lee

Last month, I while attending a conference in Washington D.C. for work, I stumbled across the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival. I had had no idea it would be on while I was there, but I was happy to fit it into my schedule!

Not being a US Resident, I had no idea what National Book Festival was. In short: it is a massive, two day, open air event during which over 100 authors give talks to crowds about their books, the genre and – well – anything else they like!

The festival site was divided according to genre, with pavilions dedicated to: Children, Teens & Children, Fiction & Mystery, History & Biography, Contemporary Life, Poetry & Prose, Graphic Novels & Science Fiction and Special Programmes. There was also a huge signing area – which reminded me of BEA – and a tent hosted by Barnes & Noble where you could buy books by the authors attending.

Despite some torrential rain, there were hundreds upon hundreds of book fans in attendance. School groups, pension groups and single book lovers all merged together to form a really diverse audience. Most of the pavilions were overflowing!

What I loved about my experience at the festival was the diversity available. I decided not to focus too much on the YA scene, and took the opportunity to listen to authors I usually wouldn’t pick up. Namely, I heard a great talk by historian Henry Wiencek about Thomas Jefferson (I bought his book, Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves, despite not being a history buff); I listened to Thomas Kenealley (author of Schindler’s List) discuss writing about the Second World War from a Pacific perspective; and, I learned about how the Library of Congress is restoring archived audio footage.

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That said, I did attend one (very, very full) talk by YA author Veronica Roth. She was very personable and made some really interesting points about the portrayal of “strong girls” in YA novels. She discussed how the type of “strength” that we celebrate in YA heroines is a very masculine strength: being able to shoot arrows and beat people up. It made me consider my own biases. Am I too focused on this very male strength? What is feminine strength? And when can we see that type of strength in male characters? Very, very interesting.

On a superficial note: the festival poster is absolutely stunning. It is illustrated by Suzy Lee – whose wordless book, Wave, actually sold out during the Festival – and features creatures of all sizes reading books!

I picked up a few extra posters which I am happy to be giving away! Just fill in the form below and get yourself a gorgeous piece of wall art. Here’s what mine looks like on my wall:

My National Book Festival poster: you know you want one.

My National Book Festival poster looking shiny. You know you want one.

Giveaway details!

The Prize: One of THREE National Book Festival 2013 Posters illustrated by Suzy Lee

To enter (Terms and Conditions):

  • fill out the form below.
  • entrants must be 13 years of age or older.
  • contest open WORLDWIDE (i.e. Lunar residents will be excluded)
  • the winner will be notified by email and will have 48 hours to reply else a new winner will be chosen.
  • the winner will have to share their postal address – shocking, but a necessary evil when using antique forms of contact such as mail.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Read-a-thon Mini-Challenge: Show It Off 2.0!

Hey there, fellow read-a-thon-ers!

Thinking about sneaking a nap in? No way! Grab a cup of tea or coffee (or a Red Bull) because you’re in for the long-haul now. While you’re at it, get out your camera’s for the Hour 19 “Show It Off” Mini-challenge.

Here’s your challenge: I want you to show off a book (or books) from your library that you are extremely proud of. The unique, signed or simply dear-to-your-heart editions that you’d grab if there were a fire.

Need some examples? Well, how about that signed, personalised edition by your favourite author? Or how about that shelf of painstakingly-collected of every Jane Austen-related book in existence? Perhaps you’ve an extremely dog-eared copy of a book that’s been passed down through your family? Anything goes – just make it something special to you.

Last year, I chose to show off my near-and-dear to me copies of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. They are beautiful editions that have been in the family for decades. But this year – to give you something different – I thought I’d share one of my favourite signed copies ever: Bill Clinton’s Giving: How Each Of Us Can Change The World

I met President Clinton in London in 2007 and was absolutely over the moon. Technically – my mother reminds me – I met him when I was a little girl and he was campaigning. He was so ridiculously nice in person; he made it seem like he was talking only to you, even though he was meeting dozens of people. It was a great experience and I wouldn’t change this copy for a thing. (OK, that’s not true. If you had a book signed by John Adams, I’d trade you in a second. Adams is, and forever shall be, my favourite US President.)

Now, show off yours!

  • Take a picture of a book/books from your library you really want to show off: signed editions, rare editions, obsessively-organized Sherlock Holmes collections – just whatever is special to you!
  • Post your photo on your blog, twitter, facebook, flickr, etc. then add your link below.
  • One winner will be chosen to receive  $15/£10 gift certificate to Amazon/Book Depository
  • This challenge will close in three hours (just before hour 22)


Thank you everyone! I loved looking at everyone’s entries – you guys have great collections!

And the winner is…

Congrats Tanja @ Time for Reading! I will be in touch soon 🙂

Dewey’s 24-hour Readathon 2013: TBR pile, Updates, Mini-Challenges, oh my!

Dewey's ReadathonTis the season for a Readathon! I am very excited about this year’s readathon: it is exactly what I need to get back into the swing of reading after my summer illness.

Once again, I am going to be hosting the Show It Off! challenge at Hour 19 – stay tuned for that, it will be great fun (again)! I actually haven’t picked what I am going to show off yet, so it will be a challenge for me too!

So, what’s on my TBR pile?

Diversity is key for readathons – you always need that back-up novel for when things start to turn south. This year, I’ve got a few sequels-I’ve-been-dying-to-read, a few for-review books that look great, and a couple of light hearted novels/graphic novels that should be perfect around midnight!!

Readathon 2013 books

  • Fathomless by Jackson Pearce
  • Forever by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs
  • Just Your Average Princess by Kristin Springer
  • Angelfall by Susan Ee
  • The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks

Readathon Must-Haves

With every readathon, I learn something new about myself that helps me prepare for the next readathon. Here are my must-haves for any readathon!

  • Healthy snacks: Chocolate is tempting, but it won’t be after Hour 23. Stick to what makes your tummy happy!
  • TEA. At the moment, I am rocking some Organic Lavender Grey by Tea Palace. Yum.
  • Slippers! Warm feet are happy feet. These are my vampire bunny slippers signed by Rachel Caine.


1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

I am currently in… France! Tis rather cold at the moment, to be honest.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

1000% Patricia Briggs. I love that woman.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

The Taralli Casereco Pugliesi – google them and then buy some. They are Italy’s greatest creation.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I am a EU/UK blogger who reads YA/Urban Fantasy/Sci-Fi. I lurve meeting fellow booklovers, so don’t be shy!

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

I last participated in the 2012 October readathon… this year, I’m much more prepared in terms of snacks and distractions. The computers are facing AWAY from the reading area!


Hour 1: After 40+ min of general excitement, I am finally reading Angelfall!

Hour 2-3: I’ve been picking up/putting down Angelfall every two minutes. The book is just SO TENSE. I mean, it’s amazing, but Gah! I’m getting nervous!

Hour 4: Angelfall is still being frustratingly awesome.

Hour 5-6: OK, problem. This book is ending soon and it is way too good!! When is the sequel coming out? Tomorrow??


This is too much

Hour 8: Can’t completely decide between Hunting Ground and Forever, so I am taking a break and having some food! (May also watch some Project Runway, but let’s not talk about that.)

Hour 11: So, I’m fed, rested and caught up on twitter. I guess that means it’s time to go back to reading, huh? Hunting Ground it is!

Hour 12: So I lied: I am going to sleep!! Just for a few hours…. You’ll barely even notice I’m gone…

Hour 17: I’m up! I might not be able to accomplish any coherent reading though.

Hour 18: Yup, no coherent reading done. That said, I’ve sorted out some mini-challenges, so I am calling it a win. 🙂

Hour 20: I spent WAY too long on mini challenges (I animated a gif!!) and no time reading! Going to start Adventures of Superhero Girl in order to feel productive.

Hour 21: The Adventures of Superhero Girl was A-MA-ZING. Seriously loved every second.

Hour 22-23: I’ve made some solid progress into Hunting Ground, thought it is 1000% NOT going to be finished today!


Hour 2 – Book Tunes

Choose a song that best suits the book you’re reading so far and explain why.

I’m reading Angelfall by Susan Ee and the PERFECT song for it is Fallen Empires by Snow Patrol. Take a listen!

Hour 4 – Spine Poetry!

I looooove the Spin Poetry challenge. This year, I came up with:

The Candidates, Eve and Adam, crossed the floating islands.

Spine Poetry

Hour 5 – Blackout Poetry!

I have ALWAYS wanted to try my hand at some blackout poetry. Turns out, it is pretty difficult… Here’s my best attempt!

Blackout Poetry

Hour 8 – Books on Books

For this challenge, we had to pull some books from the shelves that have books on the cover. Here’s what I found:

Books on Books

Hour 17 – Armchair Travel

Over at Reader’s Respite, we were asked to share a novel that had taken us on a great voyage. For me, the answer was easy: Moloka’i by Alan Brennert. This book took me on a glorious voyage all the way to the Hawaiian island of Moloka’i. It was set at the turn of the last century, when the island was a leper colony. My mother visited the island before I was born and was able to give me some wonderful descriptions to add to the reading experience. It’s a beautiful location and a beautiful book.

Hour 17 – MEME

As you can see, I had WAY too much fun with this challenge. I mean, I animated it for goodness sakes!

Hour 18 – BOOK JENGA!

This was actually easier than it looked. I was tempted to add a third level!

Book Jenga

Hour 22 – Turn the Page!

I used Patricia Briggs’ Hunting Ground, page 32, to make this sentence:

“I would rather read than screw up in public any day!”

Hour 23 – Reading Soundtrack

Since I am now on a different book, I can now choose a different soundtrack! I’d say “The Wolf” by Fever Ray is a great, atmospheric match for Hunting Ground:


Goodbyes! – Final Hour Questions

1) Which hour was most daunting for you?

The post-Angelfall hours were the toughest. I couldn’t bring myself to read anything else after such a great book. Took a nap to compensate and woke to tackle two more books!

2) Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

I did a whole post on this: My #Readathon Recs 🙂

3) Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

Nope! I love how it was organised this year (and last, really) – wouldn’t change a thing!

4) What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

I absolutely loved how active the hashtag was – I know it has trended during previous editions, but it felt unusually active. There was a great sense of community.

5) How many books did you read?

I finished 2 books, and am currently reading #3.

6) What were the names of the books you read?

I finished Angelfall by Susan Ee and The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks. I am currently reading Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs.

7) Which book did you enjoy most?

Hard to choose! I loved them both and they are so radically different.

8) Which did you enjoy least?

Can’t say – again, I loved them both. 😉

9) How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

I will take part in as many readathons as I can (schedule permitting!) I absolutely loved hosting a challenge again, and will certainly do so next time.

Until next year kids!


My #Readathon Recs!

Tomorrow is Dewey’s Readathon – whoot! I absolutely adore the 24 hour readathon. It is The Best Way to Get Out of a Reading Funk TM. If you haven’t signed up… why not?!

But choosing the books to tackle during your readathon? That’s kinda tough. As a general rule, I look for YA novels (as they are shorter), Graphic Novels and books from authors I know I love. But, to be honest, you won’t know what you should be reading until you pick up the book you shouldn’t.

That said, here are a couple of books I think are perfect for a readathon. They are addictive, mind-blowingly good and should certainly keep you up all night. Usually, that latter point is one you might want to avoid… but not during a 24 hour readathon!

Dare You To (Pushing the Limits #2) by Katie McGarry

Dare You To by Katie McGarry (Goodreads)

I just finished this book a couple of weeks ago and was completely in love. I read this sucker in a single sitting; I was 1000% addicted. It takes a few chapters to get into it, but it is completely worth it.

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong (Goodreads)

This one won’t be a surprise to my long-time readers! I ADORE this series. It was what got me into the YA genre and resulted my first read-it-in-one-sitting reading experience since Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It was that good. And since this book came out quite a few years ago, it might be new to some of you…?

Temeraire by Naomi Novik

Temeraire by Naomi Novik (Goodreads)

This is my rare adult novel choice: despite being rather wordy – you might not finish it during the readathon – it is fantastically addictive. While reading it, I wanted (and still do) to move immediately to the universe Naomi created.

So, I hope this gave you a few ideas! Comment or tweet me if you have any suggestions for books I should pick up tomorrow!

BEA 2013 Recap (Part II): a tale told (mostly) in instagrams

Book Expo America a.k.a. When 90% humidity, sleep deprivation and hours in line can’t stop you from having the time of your life.

So, remember how I said I knew what to expect from BEA going in? Well, when the time came to actually go in, all of that disappeared from my brain. I wandered in 1000% lost and thank god I just stumbled into the right signing line, otherwise I might still be roaming Javits. But it only took me an hour or so to get accustomed to the layout and pretty soon I was darting all over the place.

This, I would soon discover, would become my life for the next 3 days. I was on my feet 9-5 thanking God that there was a Starbucks on the convention floor. I was powered by adrenaline and caffeine – and the kilos of books on my shoulders meant nothing. It was friggin’ Disneyland.

One of the best things about BEA: the bloggers. I met the lovely Mara (Girls in Capes) that first day, who introduced me to both Susan (Read This, Eat That) and Feliza. It was a lot easier to approach publishers in pairs, so some of the best publisher experiences I had were with them and Tania (Literary Cravings). (Excluding one awesome argument about Sansa Stark over at Source Books – nothing gets the blood boiling better than the Game of Thrones!)

So, yes, you do have to stand in line a lot at BEA – but that is one of the best parts. It gives you an opportunity to talk to fellow book lovers, learn the gossip, find out about books that you might not have otherwise heard of, exchange ARCs and, well, have someone watch your bag while you pop over to grab a coffee and/or publisher. Seriously, people, even if you aren’t British, you’ll quickly love the BEA queuing.

I followed the advice online and checked a bag the first afternoon. On days 2 and 3 I made sure to bring along a wheelie bag as I had to walk a lot after the convention to get back to my hotel and on to the theatre. NYC may be walkable, but it was rather like walking in an oven while carrying your own coffin. 

… I don’t do well in the heat.

Anyhow, I met so many authors while I was there they’ve actually rather blurred in my mind. Though I know the US often sends dozens of authors out on tour together, we have nothing like that in the UK. To see 2 or 3 at once is highly unusual – but at BEA? Well, Harlequin had Elizabeth Scott, Julie Kagawa, Amanda Sun, Katie McGarry and Dawn Metcalf together not once, but twice. That’s kinda amazing

So, for the record, I met: Victoria Schwab (super lovely), Amanda Sun (super, super lovely), Richelle Mead (!!), Ally Carter, Brandon Sanderson, Maria V. Snyder, Jonathan Maberry, Eve Silver, Teri Brown, Holly Black, Anna Jarzab, Leila Sales, Jennifer Castle, Sarah Dessen (!!), Marie Lu, Susan Kim & Laurence Klavan, Elizabeth Scott (sweetest person ever), Amy Tintera, Ellen Datlow, Alice Hoffman, Kendare Blake, Cat Patrick & Suzanne Young, Romily Bernard, Lauren Myracle, Dan Krokos, Elizabeth Norris, Katie McGarry, Dawn Metcalf, Dot Hutchison, Ted Dekker, Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner, Julie Kagawa, Sean Williams, Deborah Noyes, Michael Pocalyko, Amy Herrick, Faith Erin Hicks, Sarah Jio, and Tyler Whitesides.

*wipes brow*

In case you hadn’t noticed: I had an amazing time. I met so many amazing people and would highly recommend that you all give it a go sometime – whether as a blogger or as a power reader. However, I’m also glad I took the evening off from author events: it gave me much-needed time away from the chaos and the opportunity to bleed money on Broadway (Matthew Broderrik! David Hyde Pearce! I couldn’t possibly keep away.)

BEA 2013 Recap (Part I): the infamous Book Blogger Conference

The infamous Strand Bookstore, NYC

The infamous Strand Bookstore, NYC

The Intro

So, this year I attended Book Expo America for what will likely be my first and only time. Living across an ocean is a bit of a barrier – to put it mildly. This trip was also a big holiday for me and my mother (who found a conference of her own while I was at BEA), so it also featured plenty of Broadway, museums, trips to The Strand (which was a-ma-zing) and cocktails!

I went into the Expo expecting a lot of different things: I knew it would be overwhelming, I knew I’d meet a lot of bloggers and I knew people got a little crazy. All of that was true – and all of it was amazing. I met so many amazing bloggers, publishers and authors – (almost) all of them generous with their time and knowledge. Even the few not-quite-perfect experiences I had were quite mild. In short: my experience at BEA was wonderful and I was this close to setting up camp on the expo floor.

Now, on to the recap!

Day 1: Book Blogger Conference

Despite the criticisms I’d read about the last Book Blogger Conference, I decided to give the convention a go. I figured the organisers would have learned from the extensive feedback they’d received and – after checking to see that a bunch of bloggers would be on the panels – I knew the conference could be quite entertaining.

I was kinda nervous turning up the first day as I didn’t know anyone else in attendance. But I quickly found that a lot of people were in a similar situation. It didn’t feel clique-y at all, and I managed to chat with a lot of different bloggers – some of whom I’d heard of, some of whom I hadn’t. It was a great intro to the convention, I thought.

The keynote talk – delivered by Will Schwalbe – started off really well. As a former head of some of the Big Six publishers, I was rather touched when he credited bloggers for saving the book industry. It was an exaggeration, sure, but a nice one. But then the room got rather tense when he criticized negative reviews (which, as Thea from The Book Smugglers put it later that day, should really be called “critical reviews”). I wasn’t too pleased, but as it was such a small part of his overall talk, it didn’t affect my overall positive opinion of the keynote.

Next up: decision time. The convention separated into Adult and YA and, as someone who reads and reviews both, I was super conflicted. In the end, I decided to head to the Adult Editors Insight panel and then go over to the YA Blogger panel. But once in settled into the first room I discovered – via twitter – that they were giving out a tonne of YA galleys in the other room. In the Adult room? One galley – which I really wanted, but those copies went fast! Luckily I picked up some of the YA titles when I went to the next session but most were already gone. I was later told that quite a few people at the YA panel had grabbed 2/3 copies of the same book while other people were still waiting in line, so I wasn’t the only one who missed out.

Anyhow, I enjoyed the Adult Editors panel – but, in retrospect, I realise that the panel should have been called a “buzz panel”. The editors offered no “insight” about how they work with bloggers, or how they view bloggers within their professional arena, but they did give me a bunch of titles to add to my goodreads wishlist.

The YA Blogger panel, on the other hand, was exactly what I was hoping for. The bloggers on the panel – Cindy from Nerdy Book Club, Thea from The Book Smugglers, and Danielle from There’s A Book –  gave examples of the types of posts they do; talked how much work they put into their blogs; discussed critical reviews, the pressures of blogging, ARCs and other topics that were actually relevant to bloggers. Thea made some of the best points, I thought – probably because she said out loud everything I agree with: you are under no obligation to review a book, blog because you enjoy reading, and if you hate a book write a critical review – somebody has to.

After lunch, however, things went downhill.

The afternoon started with an ethics panel, chaired by Jane (from Dear Author). I expected great things from this, as I have always found Jane’s posts about the various legal issues surrounding blogging and publishing to be extremely informative. And while Jane was very well spoken and made many good points, I was very disappointed with the panel. For starters, the speakers didn’t seem to understand book blogging at all. They didn’t understand what an ARC was and, as such, gave what I believe to be incorrect information about the legal guidelines surrounding their receipt. (The Book Smugglers cover this in their BEA recap here.)

There was some interesting discussion about copyright of book covers – at least, interesting to this LLM student – but it wasn’t even remotely useful. Telling bloggers that they could be sued when we all know they never will be sued is completely useless. Also, considering the title of the panel included the word “Ethics”, I was hoping for more discussing about the grey moral areas of book blogging. Instead, it was all about FTC disclaimers.

The panels in the afternoon were even worse. I attended “Taking Your Online Presence Offline” which – as you’ll see from my tweets – was beyond bizarre. It was basically a promo panel for independent booksellers. All well and good, but not appropriate for the convention. I left early and didn’t bother attending the “Blogging Platforms” session – mostly because Aja’s tweets about it made me think I’d explode from a mad rage if I went in.

Bryant Park on one of the many horrifically hot days BEA fell on.

Bryant Park on one of the many horrifically hot days BEA fell on.

Then came “Extending the Reach of Your Blog Online”, which would have been so much better if it hadn’t mainly featured app developers and publishers trying to push their content. I thought that Mandy from The Well-Read Wife made some interesting suggestions about which social media platforms to explore. Many of these were new to me – like Vine, for example, which lets you make/edit/publish 6 second videos and tag them like tweets. The fact that, once again, no one talked about tumblr was both bizarre and disappointing.

To wrap it all up: the infamous speech by Randi Zuckerberg. It was a train wreck – or so I’m told. As she didn’t bring along a laptop (one had to be lifted from the crowd) she started a whole 30 minutes late. I stayed for the first few minutes then slipped out because a) nothing she said was at all relevant to me, and b) I had NYC to take advantage of! The one and only good thing about her talk? Chatting with the lovely Tania from Literary Cravings while we waited. So… thanks, Randi?

Bottom line: the conference was a great chance to meet other bloggers and to hear BNF bloggers discuss how they work and what they recommend. There was, unfortunately, a lot of industry-focused talk that felt like advertising and a disturbing amount of criticism of critical reviews. I really hope newer bloggers in attendance didn’t take that to heart!

Tune in tomorrow for the rest!

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