Five years of Blogging || My Blogiversary

Wordpress 5 year aniversery

Earlier this month, I got a notification from WordPress.com saying that it’s been five years since this blog was created. This seemed a little hard to believe. Five years is a long time. Yet, sure enough, my oldest public post was published on July 29, 2013, meaning the blog itself would have been created over a week before.
Thank you to everyone who has helped keep me motivated to blog for so long by following, commenting, or liking my posts!

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If you have a blog, when did you start it? How has it changed over time? If you don’t have a blog, what’s the longest you’ve maintained something you’re proud of (a journal, an organization, a business, etc.)? 

Please share your thoughts in the comments and follow me on social media!

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What to Read During a Hurricane

What to Read During a Hurricane

This list is brought to you thanks to hurricane Irma. As of this post, Irma is scheduled to pay me a visit this Sunday (September 10, 2017). If you’re missing out on Irma, this can be applied to future hurricanes, too.

Books are on my city’s lists of items to take with you to a hurricane shelter. This means selecting the right TBR is a critical part of hurricane preparation, and not procrastination from actual preparation.

That said, I’ve complied a list of books to enjoy while hunkered down during the storm and afterwords, during a power outage.

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Storm Themed books

These books are only for a certain kind of person to read during a storm. The storm can be great to set the mood for them, but they can also contribute to panicking if you’re stressed.

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Roar (Stormheart #1)

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The Gathering Storm (The Wheel of Time #12)

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The Way of Kings (Stormlight Archives #1)

 

Books to take your Mind off the Storm

These are more individual in nature, but include novels that are either humorous or a personal favorite. This last suggestion has the additional benefit of keeping your favorite novels out of harms way.

Since this is so individual, I’m going to list my choices and some books that have made me laugh.

My Choices

*I don’t plan to read all of these during the storm, of course. Most are for after the storm in case of a lengthy power outage with blocked roads.

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Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1)

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Sweet Legacy (Medusa Girls #3)

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Shadowshaper (Shadowshaper #1)

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The Towers of Midnight (Wheel of Time #13)

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A Memory of Light (Wheel of Time #14)

Humorous Reads

I’m not the best at selecting these, so I’m picking books that have made me laugh.

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1)

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What would you read during a hurricane? If you were going to a hurricane shelter and could only bring one book with you which would you choose? Any one else in Irma’s path? 

Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

While I am sarcastic in this post, I am taking this seriously. The forecast is bleak. However, that’s no reason I can’t have some fun. 🙂

I also encourage those who are able to donate to help people affected by Irma, especially in places like Barbuda which have been hit by the storm hardest.

Stay save, everyone in Irma’s path!

 

 

4TheWords Review

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4thewords is a site that aims to make writing into a video game. It accomplishes this through users battling monsters and completing quests by writing words.

The game provides a variety of monsters to be defeated by writing a certain number of words in a given time period. Both these and the quests can be ignored by clicking on the “write” menu tab instead of the “play” menu tab if a user chooses to focus on writing instead of the game.

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The site costs $4 per month but can be lowered through the use of core crystals. These can be earned in the game and used to extend your subscription.

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I decided to use 4thewords’s 30 day free trial this month while I completed my Camp NaNoWriMo project. The experience has been good overall. I think there are a lot of people who will find the site useful. However, I’m not sure whether or no not I will purchase a subscription in the future.

My favorite aspect of 4thewords is the way it makes writing feel as much like a video game as possible. The monster battles and rewards for writing are great motivation. For me personally, my hesitation about whether or not I will purchase a subscription comes down to the fact that I’m not sure these features are enough to make me willing to pay $4 a month for the site.

I have a good system in place already for writing first drafts. The monster battles are, in essence word sprints. There are other methods I can use for free to mimic the monster battles through word sprints without paying.

At this point first drafts come easily to me, the real challenge lies in finding a way to break down the editing process in a similar manor to how this site breaks down first draft writing. This site doesn’t help with editing.

This would be different for someone at an earlier stage in their writing journey. This site would have been invaluable when I was still at a point where I struggled to stay focused long enough to finish a first draft.

Where I would find 4thewords more helpful today is in writing something I don’t want to. The trouble with using it to write my novel is that fiction writing is something I really want to do. This site would be more useful motivation for writing things I don’t want to. For example, this website could make writing a thesis or lengthy essay a breeze.

Since starting this project was something I wanted to do more than almost anything else in the world, I found the extra features distracting.

Everything was easy to figure out, but even with this simple adjustment period I at first found these extra features annoying because I had to figure out how I could work past them to do what I wanted: start writing.

I came to love the monster battles for their word sprint like nature but at first found the monster battles annoying because I would become so absorbed in my project that I would forget that I’d started the battle.

4thewords battle screenshot

Again, I think this would not be a problem for someone less motivated than I was to work on their project. It’s obvious to anyone not 100 percent absorbed in their project to tell when a monster battle is taking place.

As I continued to work on my project, my motivation dropped and I gained more appreciation for some of the sites features. I adore the way that the site uses a streak to encourage writing every day. The streak led to me writing on days when I would have otherwise told myself I didn’t have time because I didn’t want my streak to go away.

On the other hand, the most annoying feature of the site is the way it saves projects. Each scene has its own file. This isn’t the problem. In fact, this makes it easier to work with long projects. The problem was that there seems to be a limit on how many chapters a project can have, which my work in progress greatly exceeded. The site also doesn’t automatically add new scenes to the end of the document. Instead, I had to drag the new files I created into place.

The site is also slow to update the number of words written and keep track of it’s countdown clock. When I’m battling  monsters, the section labeled “time left” almost always reads “00 h 00 m” no matter how much time remains. Luckily, the end time shown underneath of this battle remains accurate.

I’m used to using writing programs that update in real time. The 4thewords site has a three second delay. This leaves me confused as to why my word count doesn’t go up as soon as I type a new word.

The best aspect of the site’s word count feature is that it keeps track of the total number of words users write even if they delete them while also keeping track of the number of words that are actually in the document. I’ve never used another writing program that does this. It gives me a clearer idea of what I’ve accomplished each day.

This isn’t the site’s only means to keep track of how much a user writes each day, the progress calendar allows users to click to see how many minutes and words were written on a given day.

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I find this inspiring. It leaves me in awe to know for certain that I’ve already spent over 24 hours working on my current novel length work. I’ve never had the amount of time I’ve spent on my projects laid out so clearly before.

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I’ve never applied my rating scale to anything other than books before, but have chosen to give 4thewords a 3.5/5. If it were cheaper and the glitches went away I could see myself giving the website a higher rating.

I think the website is the motivation many writers need. However, I already have a system in place that works, so it’s not worth the cost for me personally.

I’d also like to point out that this site is currently in early access mode. This means there could be many improvements still to come. Keep that in mind if you’re reading this review long after it was published.

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What writing sites and programs do you use? Do you use or plan to use 4thewords? Should I review more writing software? 

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

 

Most anticipated Book Releases of 2017

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This is a list of the books I’m most looking forward to releasing this year. There are definitely more coming out I want to read, but these are the books that I think about often and want my hands on ASAP.

*Note: Synopsises from Goodreads.*

Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive #3)

Release Date: November 14, 2017

Synopsis: 

Return to a planet swept by apocalyptic storms, a world tipping into war as aristocratic families move to control the shard blades and shard plates, ancient artifacts from a past civilisation that can win wars.

As the world tips into a war for control of the mythical artifacts of power made from Shard, characters are swept up into new dangers which will threaten their integrity and their lives.

Huge, ideas-filled, world-spanning fantasy from a master of the genre.

Thoughts: The second book in this series, Words of Radiance, is one of my favorite books of all time. I can’t wait for this book’s release.

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The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth #3)

Release Date: August 15, 2017

Synopsis: *Warning: Contains Spoilers*

THIS IS THE WAY THE WORLD ENDS… FOR THE LAST TIME.

The Moon will soon return. Whether this heralds the destruction of humankind or something worse will depend on two women.

Essun has inherited the power of Alabaster Tenring. With it, she hopes to find her daughter Nassun and forge a world in which every orogene child can grow up safe.

For Nassun, her mother’s mastery of the Obelisk Gate comes too late. She has seen the evil of the world, and accepted what her mother will not admit: that sometimes what is corrupt cannot be cleansed, only destroyed.

The remarkable conclusion to the post-apocalyptic and highly acclaimed trilogy that began with the multi-award-nominated The Fifth Season.

Thoughts: I loved the first too books in this series, and can’t wait to learn what happens next.

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Strange the Dreamer

Release Date: March 28, 2017

Synopsis: 
The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around— and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance to lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? and if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

In this sweeping and breathtaking new novel by National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor, author of the New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, the shadow of the past is as real as the ghosts who haunt the citadel of murdered gods. Fall into a mythical world of dread and wonder, moths and nightmares, love and carnage.

Thoughts: I got an exert of this one from BEA, and really enjoyed the sample chapters I read. I can’t wait for the rest.

*Note: I received sample chapters of Strange the Dreamer from it’s publisher. Opinions are my own, and I was not otherwise compensated.

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Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity #2)

Release Date: June 13, 2017

Synopsis: 

*Warning: Contains Spoilers*

Kate Harker is a girl who isn’t afraid of the dark. She’s a girl who hunts monsters. And she’s good at it. August Flynn is a monster who can never be human, no matter how much he once yearned for it. He’s a monster with a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

Nearly six months after Kate and August were first thrown together, the war between the monsters and the humans is terrifying reality. In Verity, August has become the leader he never wished to be, and in Prosperity, Kate has become the ruthless hunter she knew she could be. When a new monster emerges from the shadows—one who feeds on chaos and brings out its victim’s inner demons—it lures Kate home, where she finds more than she bargained for. She’ll face a monster she thought she killed, a boy she thought she knew, and a demon all her own.

Thoughts: I loved the last book, reread it once. August is awesome, and Victoria/V.E. Schwab’s writing is so addictive.

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A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3)

Release Date: February 21, 2017

Synopsis: The battle between four magical Londons comes to a head in this stunning finale to the New York Times bestselling Shades of Magic trilogy by rising star V. E. Schwab.

London’s fall and kingdoms rise while darkness sweeps the Maresh Empire—and the fraught balance of magic blossoms into dangerous territory while heroes and foes struggle alike. The direct sequel to A Gathering of Shadows, and the final book in the Shades of Magic epic fantasy series, A Conjuring of Light sees Schwab reach a thrilling culmination concerning the fate of beloved protagonists—and old enemies.

Thoughts: The other two books in this series kept me up late into the night. I wouldn’t be surprised if this one does the same.

2016 Reading Statistics

I loved making this post last year and seeing everything I read that year in visual form, so I decided to do the same for 2016. This will exclude most of the statistics already listed in Goodreads’ beautiful “My 2016 in Books” feature.

Age Groups

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In both 2016 and 2015 I read more young adult books than any other age groups, but the amount of books I’ve read in other age groups has grown a lot relative to last year.

Genres

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Like last year, the overwhelming majority of books I read were fantasy. I’m somewhat embarrassed that not one of the books I read in 2016 fit into the contemporary category (though one got very close).

Contemporary is far from my favorite genre, but I like to try to read at least a few books from it. Guess this means one of my reading goals for 2017 is to read at least one contemporary novel.

Where Books Take Place

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Like last year, I read more books taking place off of Earth than any one place on it. This year the portion of books seems to have grown enough that a little more than half of the books I read take place on Earth, unlike last year where I read more books taking place in fictional locations/in space than on Earth.

The portion of books I read in places outside of the US has also grown a little, though not by much. Like last year, most of the books taking place in a European setting took place in the UK. So many, I considered making it its own category both times, but ultimately decided against it.

Note that this chart doesn’t comment on the accuracy of how these places were portrayed, only that the book in question had at least one significant scene set in this location. This also means, therefore, that some books fall in multiple categories.

The book with no location is nonfiction.

Conclusions

I didn’t read as much in 2016 as I did the two years before. (I read 63 books in 2016, 73 books in 2015, and 77 books in 2014.) However, I’m okay with that.

I was much busier in 2016 than I was in 2015 and 2014. I wanted to still read a significant amount of books in 2016, but focus on reading what I wanted to read. I knew that otherwise I would never find the motivation to read. I feel I have succeeded in these goals.

Note: Charts made with onlinecharttool.com.

BEA 2016 Experiences Part 2: Books and more Books

This is part two of posts on my experience at Bookexpo America. To see part one click here.

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Picture of the inside of McCormick Place during BEA.

The second day of BEA there were two books I wanted more than any others provided for the day. They were Heartless by Marissa Meyer and Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi. Unfortunately, I didn’t get either.

I got to the line for Furthermore with only three people away from where they ran out of tickets. On my way away from the line I was able to see Mafi signing the books. It was hard to be standing so close to where she was with a huge stack of books and know I wouldn’t get one. I’ll just need to wait for the release date like the rest of you.

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The “PBS presents: Young Adult Reads” panel with speakers Chelsea Sedoti, Jennifer Niven, David Levithan, and David Arnold.

The panel I went to on the second day of BEA focused primarily on young adult contemporary, which is not something I read much of. I went to the panel hoping there would be more discussion of sci-fi and fantasy young adult, but the panel was interesting none the less.

I learned a lot about what is currently popular in young adult contemporary, and it was interesting to hear from people who were both experienced in and somewhat new to writing in the genre.

(Most of) the books I acquired on the second day of BEA.

After not getting Heartless on the second day of BEA I arrived at the expo hall to wait in the lines for the ticketed signings at 6:30 a.m. There were already a lot of people there. The first in line had gotten there at around 5 a.m. I sincerely hope they were from a time zone where that is not early, but judging by how tired they were I don’t think so.

There were only two tickets left for the Heartless signing that morning, and they went to the people who had been waiting since 5 a.m. I can’t find myself to be too jealous because they deserved it for waking up that early.

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The “What’s new in Young Adult??” panel moderated by Veronica Roth with speakers Lauren Oliver, Alyson Noël, Kendare Blake, and Melissa de la Cruz.

The “What’s new in Young Adult??” panel was almost surreal for me because it featured so many author’s I’ve been reading books, blog posts, and watching YouTube videos from for years now. It was a nice change to hear them speak in person as opposed to on a screen.

The line for A Touch Against the Night when I joined it about an hour before the signing started.

I spent a significant amount of day three waiting in long lines for books I really wanted.

The longest line was either for A Touch Against the Night or Gemina. They were both so long it was hard to tell which had more people.

At least I got to wait next to some awesome people!

Picture of the booktubers playing a game while they sat in front of me in line.

I feel somewhat creepy for having taken this picture, but I got board waiting in line and started taking pictures of everything, not just them.

Picture of Sabaa Tahir signing my copy of A Torch Against the Night.

She was so concerned when she misprinted my name it was so sweet. Personally, I blame the fact that I took this picture while she was signing. I know I’d be misprinting names almost constantly if I had to sign as many books as she did.

Picture of the line for Gemina featuring Jay Kristoff. 

The only authors I heard cheered on throughout the entire event were Jay Kristoff and  Amie Kaufman. I’m not quite sure why. Perhaps because it was only an ARC drop as opposed to a signing so no one there was expecting to see the authors. Whereas, people waiting in line had time to prepare themselves to meet the others.

(Most of) my acquisitions on the final day of the event. 

The books I got on the third day are definitely the ones I’m most excited for when taken as a whole. The Sudden Appearance of Hope, which I have already read and reviewed, was also a nice surprise since I did not realize it was there until I saw a stack of the ARCs being handed out.

All the books boxed up. 

After the event was finished my traveling companion and I had to hurry to a post office before they all closed for the day. Only one of these boxes is mine. The rest are all my traveling companion’s. She got a lot of books, and we had more in our suitcases. Our suitcases were so heavy we had to reorganize some of what we had in them so they wouldn’t go over the weight limit.

The view of my home city’s coastline from the air. 

My plane left early the next morning, and by the time I was back in my own city I was prepared to hug a palm tree. Okay, not really, but I was very happy to see them again.

BEA 2016 Experiences Part 1: I fail at traveling

This post will be detailing my experiences at Bookexpo America 2016 held at McCormick Place in Chicago from May 11 to May 13th. This post will cover the day I was in Chicago before the event, and the first day of BEA.

The decision for me to go to BEA was a last minute one, or as last minute as a decision can be when someone decides to go on a trip to a place no where near where they live. I am a university student, and my exams started not long after I decided to go on this trip and did not end until just before I was about to leave. This left me with little time to plan.

I figured this would be okay because my traveling companion was someone who had grown up in Chicago and had attended BEA in a previous year. This was a mistake.

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The view of Chicago from above at night.

I arrived in Chicago by plane late at night. The first thing that struck me was that it was not nearly as cold as I’d expected. I had visited Chicago before in the winter, but not in spring.

I packed just about all the cold weather clothes I own which, while admittedly is not very many, made my suitcase significantly more full than I would have liked. It also resulted in me removing an umbrella to fit in more winter clothes. Should have kept the umbrella, left the clothes.

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Picture of McCormick Place the day I arrived in Chicago.

My traveling companion and I awoke the next morning convinced we were late. We found our way to the convention center only to discover there was hardly anyone there. We knew we were in the right place because of all the book related signs and people setting up, but couldn’t figure out why so few people would be there until we realized the event didn’t start until tomorrow.

We’d arrived in Chicago a day early.

Admittedly, this was as much my fault as it was her fault. I never should have left all the planning to her even if I was busy with exams. Besides, the extra day gave us time to explore Chicago.

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Picture taken outside the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.

The two of us opted to spend the day at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. It’s so big we didn’t have the chance to see much of the museum though it was still fairly early when we got there and we stayed until closing.

It was here that I came to the realization that the vague memories I have of running through and gaping at what I thought to be a giant toy submarine as a small child, was not a toy at all.

What I was actually remembering was the museum’s authentic WWII submarine.

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Leaving the museum.

After leaving the museum my companion wanted to take me to one of her favorite restaurants in Chicago. As we were on our way there, our driver informed us that the restaurant had closed down a few months before. We ate at a pizza chain we’d heard good things about, but that they don’t have in our city instead.

This left us in the middle of downtown Chicago. By the time we finished eating the rain had finally let up, so we walked around the city and took some pictures.

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Site seeing in downtown Chicago.

The next morning we woke up and were on time for the BEA blogger conference we’d signed up for. I only stayed for two panels because I was too excited for the event itself, which overlapped with the conference, but the two I did go to were interesting.

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The “Making the Right Connections: Publishers and Bloggers” Panel. Moderated by Stephanie Brown of nobsbookreviews.com with panelists Molly Brouillette, the Associate Director of Publicity for Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, Stephanie Sinclair of cuddlebuggery.com, Lizzy Mason, the Director of Publicity for Bloomsbury Children’s Books, and Kristin Hackett of superspacechick.com.

The fist panel I went to talked about the logistics of requesting advanced copies from publishers. I learned a lot about when it’s okay to not review a book a blogger has accepted an ARC of, and how to turn people down easily when a blogger is not interested.

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The “Creative Content: From Ideas to Tools” panel. Moderated by Meg Morley of Cuddlebuggery.com with panelists Gillian Berry of The Art of Young Adult, and Writer of Wrongs, Ashley Evans of www.nosegraze.com, Samantha from Thoughts on Tomes, and Amanda of The Bookcraft.

The second panel I attended discussed how different platforms allow for bloggers to be creative in different ways, and how bloggers should chose the platforms that best allow them to express their creativity and brand. It was interesting to hear from individuals who use such different platforms (from Instagram, to YouTube, to WordPress) to discuss the same topic: books.

For the rest of the day I was too excited to take many pictures to document what I was doing, but suffice to say I was waiting in a lot of lines and talked to the people in those lines who (not so coincidentally) often happened to be a fan of whatever book we were waiting in line for.

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Me flipping through Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin. The background is the outside of McCormick Place. Note: Book provided by the publisher. 

The book I wanted most being given out on day one was Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin. It was being given out in the form of a dice game where people role a dice to win an ARC. The person in front of me in line saw that I wanted it so badly she agreed to give me her copy if she won it. It worked out rather nicely because she won the book I wanted and I won the book she wanted.

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Picture I took of my new acquisitions at the end of day one. Note: Books provided by their publishers. 

One thing I learned about myself from this event is that I am supper picky when it comes to books. Many of the people there probably ended up with around three times the amount of books as I did, but I was trying to be honest with myself and knew that if I randomly grabbing copies of everything I saw I wouldn’t read most of what I got. Also, I didn’t want to have to pay to ship a bunch of books home I would never read.

Even still, several of the books I acquired were ones that I took because they were presented to me in such a way that to turn them down would have been extremely rude. People who are more enthusiastic about ARCs would get more out of this event than I did, but in spite of this and the mistakes I made, I still had a lot of fun.

To be continued . . .