Event Recap: Ontario Teen Book Fest 2016!

Hello everyone! This past Saturday was the sixth annual Ontario Teen Book Fest and my fourth year in a row attending. I say every single year that it is my favorite event of the year to attend, patient and I completely mean that. When I first discovered this fest back in 2013, I was chasing down Jessica Brody, Stephen Chbosky and Marie Lu. I was a brand new blogger, still sort of getting my experience with it, and I bravely asked my dear friend Courtney, librarian extraordinaire and brain child of TBF, if I could come and interview the authors attending.

The rest is sort of history. That fest completely changed my life! I met authors like Andrew Smith and Leigh Bardugo and Gretchen McNeil and made connections, and sort of bonded myself to this event. I’d like to think I’m a part of the team, like the rest. Check out my recaps from 2013, 2014, and 2015.

But this year was something bigger, and different. Last year, Courtney asked me if I could come back and be a moderator for a couple panels, and I accepted immediately. At the time, I had no idea that I would be published by this point, that The Awakened would be a real and tangible thing! So not only did I attend this event as Sara, the official TBF blogger, but also as Sara, the moderator, and Sara Elizabeth Santana, the author of The Awakened.

Which made it an entirely new but amazing experience for me.

I showed up early for the event, as per usual, ready for a very busy day. I’ve been attending the author breakfast portion of the event every single year that I’ve attended, but this year definitely felt different. I wasn’t just the blogger anymore, I had made it, I was an author, and I definitely felt that. And let me tell you something, guys, it felt AMAZING. These authors have become friends to me over the years and it felt so good to have Andrew and Jessica and Brad and Michelle coming up to me, hugging me, saying hello, congratulating me on the release of The Awakened. And it felt good, as always, to make new friends, and be treated as a colleague with the authors I wasn’t as familiar with.

I even got my own special guide for the day, and she was SUCH a rock star.

I was able to talk SO much about The Awakened, and I loved every minute of it. The Awakened has been sort of the center of my life the past 2 1/2 years, so its sort of like my baby and I love bragging about her. I thought it was SO awesome that Courtney gave the moderators (myself, Robin Reul, and E. Katherine Kottaras) the opportunity to stand up in front of everyone, during the opening keynotes, and talk about our books.

I was SO incredibly nervous getting up in front of everyone to talk about my book, and I hadn’t really prepared anything because I figured I would just wing it, but it went really well! I felt so supported up stage, after Courtney introduced me, saying she was proud of me, and gave me a big hug. AND I got a fair amount of cheers, both from the audience and the authors in the front row. I made a few people laugh too, which always is a good thing, right?

So much sass in one picture. Thanks Kathy Kottaras for the picture haha.

After that were the keynote speakers: Jay Asher, Marissa Meyer and Andrew Smith, all who had SUCH great speeches, made us laugh and made us think. Seriously, jus tbeing in the same room as them, felt so so so cool.

After that, was my first panel. The first panel ever that I’d be moderating. OH, I was so nervous. I have never moderated a panel before and I am not the biggest fan of public speaking, but I was excited and hopeful that it would go super well. My first panel was all about sci-fi and fantasy books and the world building that went into it, and it included Andrew Smith, Stephanie Diaz, Nicole Maggi and Mary Weber.

And it went really well! I think. I hope. The authors were all super supportive and encouraging and had such great answers, and it was awesome discussing all of the fun of world building with them, and people in the audience were SO engaged and asked great questions and I felt SO much more confident after this panel.

After this, we had our lunch break, and you know, when authors get together and eat Panera, silly stuff tends to happen…

Love these guys haha.

After lunch was the Author Speed Dating. After Courtney introduced it a couple years ago, its become my favorite part of the fest. It gives everyone a chance to mingle with an author for five minutes…and you really get the chance to mingle with most of them! This year I was one of the table hopping authors and let me tell you: it is both incredibly fun and incredibly intense. I thought I would lose my voice by the end of it! But it was also so much to be able to talk to so many readers and answer their questions about The Awakened and about writing and all of that. I handed out about a million bookmarks and I think some of them really were excited about my book!

Then came my second panel. I honestly thought I was going to be more nervous for this one because Marissa Meyer was on the panel and she wrote the Lunar Chronicles, which I LOVE, but it was just so much fun. The panel was all about writing series, and myself, Jessica Brody, Marissa Meyer, Stephanie Diaz and Nicole Maggi, talked and laughed and our room was full to the max and it was SO great. I really enjoyed it and several people came up to me to tell me that it had went well and I did a good job!

Eek, they’re all looking at me!

Lastly, there was the signing for the day. I was so lucky to be able to attend the signing as an AUTHOR this year. I intended to have WAY more books available but due to shipping issues (isn’t that the way…), I only had SIX books available for sale and they went SO SO fast. According to all the awesome people at Once Upon A Time, people kept coming up and asking for The Awakened and I really have to credit being able to talk about it during the opening stuff, and during speed dating for that happening. I felt so so bad that I didn’t have any books for anyone but I ran out of bookmarks, signed books for some people, and talked to a TON of other people about my book and it was SO awesome. It felt surreal and bizarre and WONDERFUL.

Even better…I walked into the room, and was looking for my table. Each table had two authors, and when I spotted mine, I was so surprised and slightly intimidated by the fact that I was at the same table as my idol, Andrew Smith. We are good friends, so it was awesome, but I really felt like I made it, sandwiched in between Andrew and Jay Asher!

I seriously love everything about this picture. Not just that we all look like we’re having a great time, but also that I am a part of it.

Afterwards, I enjoyed dinner and drinks with some of the authors and volunteers and it was a perfect end to such a great day.

Me and my awesome friend Mina

With my awesome friend Krystal, who was also a beta for The Awakened!

With the awesome, Kathy Kottaras

The lovely Marissa Meyer

The super awesome Nicole Maggi, who I’m so stoked to have as a new friend!

Two of my favorite people in the entire world: Jessica Brody and Brad Gottfred. Two incredibly awesome people, and two big supporters of mine. LOVE them both so much.

At the end of the day, it was another amazing TBF. I loved being there, surrounded by people as passionate about reading and writing as I am. I loved being a moderator for the first time, and being able to do so with old friends and new friends. And I loved being able to talk to people about my book. I’m so proud of it, and it felt good to have people talk about it and wanting to buy it and asking me about it and telling me that it sounded so good. Things like that will literally keep me happy for days on end.

Thank you to everyone who makes this such a great event…all the authors and volunteers and Once Upon a Time and all the bloggers that helped on the tour…everyone for making this another great year. This still remains my favorite event of the year and I already can’t wait for next year!

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Announcement! Ontario Teen Book Fest Authors!

Yay! Its almost that time again! Time for my favorite event of the year, try the Ontario Teen Book Fest. The first time I attended it was nearly three years ago and each and every year, I’ve become more involved and more connected and attached to this event. Courtney, the youth services librarian, and the rest of her crew, always put on an amazing event. I’m incredibly excited about the lineup for this event, especially since I’m in it this year!

Where Teens and Books Meet!

When: March 12, 2016
9 am to 5 pm

Where: Colony High Branch Library
3850 East Riverside Drive
Ontario, CA

More information will be coming! Check out the official blog tour, starting February 22nd, kicking off on THIS blog, for more information, including giveaways. You can also visit the official TBF website here, to find out more about sponsors, how to purchase books, all about the panels and more!

For now, let’s meet this year’s line up! Click the authors’ names to check out their websites and learn more!

Authors: 

*****

Elana K Arnold

Jay Asher

Alexis Bass

Virginia Boecker

Jessica Brody

Stephanie Diaz

Brad Gottfred

Kristin Halbrook

Michelle Levy

Nicole Maggi

Mary McCoy

Marissa Meyer

Alexandra Monir

Andrew Smith

April Genevieve Tucholke

*****

Moderators

*****

E. Katherine Kottaras

Robin Reul 

Sara Elizabeth Santana

*****

Who are you most excited about? I hope to see you all there, and make sure to come back on February 22nd for the blog tour kick off!

Tuesday Top Ten – Favorite Books Read in 2015

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had an absolutely FABULOUSLY nerdy 2015, see full of books and all kinds of awesome. I know I did. 2015 was a GREAT year to be me and I’m stoked to see what 2016 brings me.

For now, information pills let’s count down the top ten (technically 12) books that I read this year. Keep in mind…I read 126 books this year so this was HARD

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Both of the Honorable Mention books are actually being published in 2016. I read both of them in 2015 as ARCs and absolutely loved them both, page so they make my list of best books I read this year :)

Click the book title for its GoodReads page, the author name for their website and the book cover for my review!

Flamecaster by Cinda Williams Chima 

I was so excited when I got this ARC both digitally and in the mail. I absolutely adore Cinda Chima and I honestly think she’s one of the best fantasy authors I’ve ever read. She’s just so damn good. She’s going to be visiting in April, about two hours away, but I’m going. Hands down. This is the first in a new series, a spin off of my favorite series by her, the Seven Realms. It was great to be back in that realm, though I miss Raisa and Han, and it was just…ugh, so damn good. I can’t wait to read more!

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

Confession Time: I’ve never read an Alex Bracken book before. I’ve heard The Darkest Minds series is good but I just haven’t had a chance to read it yet. I got this book in the mail as an ARC and I loved the cover and concept and immediately dove in. I can’t even begin to explain how much I ADORE this book. I’m a huge fan of Alex’s now and I can’t wait to make The Darkest Minds a priority in 2016.

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 4.13.21 PM

Unchanged by Jessica Brody

Its hard to believe that I read this book nearly a year ago! How insane is that! So weird. But god, what an amazing end to the trilogy. I had all these theories and expectations and this literally blew my mind. It is just…its not at all what I expected at all. She surprised me and shocked me and its really hard to genuinely surprise me and I was like like OMG. Jessica Brody got progressively better and better with this series and I just absolutely loved this series ender.

The Shameless Hour by Sarina Bowen

In all truthfulness, I read the entirety of this series this year, and I loved every single minute of it. I was hooked from book one and devoured the entire series and anxiously awaited the new releases. But by far, easily, my favorite is The Shameless Hour. I love both of the main characters and I love the story. I love Bella so much, I love that she’s not your typical virgin, which we see most of the time in NA series. I love that she owns who she is until things happen and she questions herself, but still ultimately comes out as confident in the person she is. I don’t know if that sentence made sense AT all but that’s how I felt. SUCH a good book.

All Played Out by Cora Carmack

Even though Carson is my favorite and will always have the special spot in my heart, I just loved loved loved All Played Out. Like I said about with Jessica, Cora just got better and better with these books as the series continued and I devoured APO in a matter of hours. Just blew me away. I adore Nell, her personality, her directness, everything and Torres is just…the kind of guy that would drive me absolutely insane in real life but causes me to swoon when I read. I am INSANELY excited about the release of the fourth book :)

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

I had been hearing about this book for ages and I had actually bought it when I met Victoria at YALLWest back in April. Everyone said it was SO good, but I just wasn’t feeling it for awhile. But when I finally sat down to read it…it just blew my mind. The world building is incredible, absolutely incredible…it flows so well and is so believable. And the twists and turns in this book…I was incredibly shocked at the ending of this book, jaw dropping, for sure. That cliffhanger…is it time for book two yet?!

Stand Off by Andrew Smith

I love Winger. Its one of my favorite books of all time and when I heard there was going to be a sequel, I nearly peed my pants with excitement. Because I was going to get my Ryan Dean back and the antics that follow him, always. And yes, that is what happened in Stand Off. I laughed so hard, because Ryan Dean is hilarious and Andrew is hilarious and the brand new character of Sam Abernathy is so freakin’ hilarious. But the book surprised me and became so much more, just like Winger. It had a lot to say about post traumatic stress disorder, and panic attacks and was written so beautifully. Always a win with an Andrew Smith book.

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

I had high anticipation for this book because I absolutely adore Aaron Hartzler. He’s a great writer and just an all around great person and I was so excited when I was able to get an ARC of this book. And my expectations were blown away. I loved his first book. I absolutely am obsessed with this one. Aaron Hartzler writes a compelling and incredibly emotional read and its beautiful and poignant and relevant and permanent. I read this months ago, and the story still is stuck with me, still sends chills through me. Its a must read for sure.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

The first book I ever read by Rainbow Rowell was her novel, Fangirl, which I’ve now read several times. One of my favorite books that I’ve ever read and one of the few characters that I’ve been able to identify with as much as I have with Cath…Cath is me. So when I heard Rainbow was putting out Carry On, a story of the fictional characters created in Fangirl…I had to. And its amazing how invested in these doubly fictional characters I was! I loved the story from beginning to end and I laughed so hard, so many times, and I will ship Simon and Baz until the end of time. One of the best Harry Potter fan fictions I’ve ever read in my life, and I’m so glad this became a real book.

Winter by Marissa Meyer

I honestly felt like this book was NEVER going to be released. It had been nearly TWO years since Cress and I was DYING to find out what happened next. I’ve been in a perpetual slump with reading the past few months but I knew I had to sit down and read this one and I’m so glad I made myself do it because I blew through it. Marissa Meyer has an EPIC end to the series, with so many throwbacks to the original fairytales but also keeping me hooked to the action and the surprise and the romance and all of it. I LOVED this book and this series, and I can’t get it out of my head.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

I don’t think I’ve ever met an author as talented at writing this beautifully and creating these kind of worlds so intricately than Leigh Bardugo. Seriously. The kind of fantasy she creates, the characters, the worlds, the way they all weave together to create the story…it just completely hooks me. Its emotional and real and its gripping because you can feel everything in the story as if you stepped through the pages. Leigh takes the world she created in the Grisha trilogy and opens it up wider, further, and pulls us into a new story, and its not hard to fall into it. I loved each and every character, I loved the story and I feel like I’m never going to fail to be impressed by this lady.

Scorched by Jennifer L Armentrout

I didn’t expect for this book to be on this list. I didn’t expect to love this book as much as I did. I love Jennifer Armentrout and I’ve learned this year to love love love her new adult books. I loved Frigid but I took it as what it was and was excited for Scorched. I was so unprepared for what that book would do to me. Scorched’s main character, Andrea, suffers through mental illness, mental illness that is very very similar to my own and it felt…so real, so raw, so emotional to read the point of view of someone who felt so much like I do. I cried a lot because I felt like JLA had given me a voice, when it felt too hard to describe how I felt…especially when she described a panic attack. I kept thinking, YES, that’s how it feels. So yes, I loved the story and the romance and all of that but I also loved Andrea, and her struggle and JLA’s ability to put my feelings into words.

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What were some of YOUR favorite reads of 2015? Don’t forget to sound off in the comments!

November Book Wrap Up!

Books Pledged to Read in 2015:

150

Am I On Track: 

16 books behind

Books Read So Far: 

121

Total Books For November:

6

Leveled 

Winter

How I Found You

Body Check

Pride and Prejudice (Re-Read)

Pure (Re-Read)

Elixir (Re-Read)

Deity (Re-Read)

Magnus Chase: The Sword of Summer 

Apollyon (Re-Read)

A Great and Terrible Beauty (Re-Read)

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Top Anticipated November Releases!

Dear November…Thank you for having not so many releases. My wallet really really really thanks you ;) 

Hotel Ruby by Suzanne Young

When Audrey Casella arrives for an unplanned stay at the grand Hotel Ruby, health she’s grateful for the detour. Just months after their mother’s death, medicine Audrey and her brother, information pills Daniel, are on their way to live with their grandmother, dumped on the doorstep of a DNA-matched stranger because their father is drowning in his grief.

Audrey and her family only plan to stay the night, but life in the Ruby can be intoxicating, extending their stay as it provides endless distractions—including handsome guest Elias Lange, who sends Audrey’s pulse racing. However, the hotel proves to be as strange as it is beautiful. Nightly fancy affairs in the ballroom are invitation only, and Audrey seems to be the one guest who doesn’t have an invite. Instead, she joins the hotel staff on the rooftop, catching whispers about the hotel’s dark past.

The more Audrey learns about the new people she’s met, the more her curiosity grows. She’s torn in different directions—the pull of her past with its overwhelming loss, the promise of a future that holds little joy, and an in-between life in a place that is so much more than it seems…

Welcome to the Ruby

Release Date: November 3rd 2015

My Thoughts: I think Suzanne Young is just an absolutely fabulous writer and this book sounds AMAZING. It sounds dark and romantic and just absolutely fabulous. Suzanne has been talking about this book for months and I’ve been keeping my eye out for it. There’s something about a hotel with secrets and mysteries that just screams READ ME. I must get my hands on this.

Winter by Marissa Meyer

The Lunar Chronicles #4

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend–the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?

Release Date: November 10, 2015

My Thoughts: If I don’t get my hands on this book right now, I just might die. Do you know how long its been since I read Cress? I read Cress the day it came out and I’m dying to read Winter, especially since we get more of her story in Fairest (which was such a creeptastic book) and I just need my hands on this so badly. Marissa Meyer has written just an incredible series and I need my hands on Winter. Now. We’re almost there.

Soundless by Richelle Mead

For as long as Fei can remember, there has been no sound in her village, where rocky terrain and frequent avalanches prevent residents from self-sustaining. Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom.

When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink and many go hungry. Fei’s home, the people she loves, and her entire existence is plunged into crisis, under threat of darkness and starvation.

But soon Fei is awoken in the night by a searing noise, and sound becomes her weapon.

Richelle Mead takes readers on a triumphant journey from the peak of Fei’s jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiugo, where a startling truth and an unlikely romance will change her life forever…

Release Date: November 10, 2015

My Thoughts: One, I love that this is a sort of different mythology and heritage that we are approaching in YA. We don’t enough Chinese or Japanese or any Asian stuff as much as we could so I’m excited to dive into that because those mythologies and cultures are just so deep and rich and compelling. Two, this is Richelle Mead, who is one of my absolute favorites and I love her style of writing and I love her storytelling. I have such high hopes for this book :)

Leveled by Jay Crownover 

Saints of Denver 0.5

Orlando Frederick knows what it is to be leveled by pain. Instead of focusing on his own, he’s made it his mission to help others: sports stars, wounded war vets, survivors of all kinds. But when Dom, a rugged, damaged, sinfully attractive cop, makes his way into Lando’s physical therapy practice, he might be the biggest challenge yet. Lando loved one stubborn man before and barely survived the fallout. He’s not sure he can do it again.

Dominic Voss is a protector. The police badge he wears is not only his job, it’s his identity, so when he’s sidelined because of an injury, the only thing he cares about is getting back on the force. He expects Lando to mend his body, he just doesn’t realize the trainer will also have him working toward a hell of a lot more. As attraction simmers and flares, Dom sees that Lando needs repair of his own…if only the man will let him close enough to mend what’s broken.

Release Date: November 2nd, 2015

My Thoughts: I am so excited for the Saints of Denver series so when Jay announced that the first one would be this novella about Orlando and Dominic, I died. I love both of those characters SO damn much AND I love me a really good M/M story. I have a feeling that Jay’s M/M is just going to absolutely BLOW my mind and I can’t wait to get my hands on this…in hopefully a few hours when it downloads onto my Kindle app!

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What are your most anticipated releases for November? 

Book Review: Fairest by Marissa Meyer

22489107Genre: 

Young Adult, recipe  Science Fiction

Pages: 

222

Part of a Series?:

Companion Novel in the Lunar Chronicles

Release Date: 

January 27th, buy 2015

You Can Find the Book At:

GoodReads

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Book Depository

Author’s Website

GoodReads Summary: 

In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.

Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.

Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

My Review:

While there will be no spoilers for Fairest in this review, there will be spoilers for Cinder, Scarlet and Cress. Please be aware of that when continuing. 

I LOVE Marissa Meyer and the Lunar Chronicles, so when I discovered I would have to wait nearly two years for the conclusion after reading the beautiful book that is Cress, I was heartbroken. However, we had this book in between and I’m so glad it exists.

The thing about Levana is that she is the bad guy. She is the villain. She’s the one we’re spending all these books fighting. Its hard to ever think that we could get behind her point of view. But that’s kind of what this book is for. Not necessarily to get you on Levana’s side, but to give you the background on how she began the queen that she is.

When the book first starts, I actually felt really bad for her. Her sister, the way she’s treated by others, the accident that left her…well, desperate to use a disguise all the time…you actually feel sorry for her. For a moment, I felt confused that I wouldn’t know how to feel about her, especially with Winter releasing this fall.

But it didn’t take long for the things to go opposite of how Levana plans them and the character that we’ve grown to know in the books surfaces. But so much worse than we could have imagined. She is sick in the head, the ideas that she has and the measures she takes in order to fulfill her own desires and to quench her own insecurities….its insane! This book is short, chronicling Levana’s life until what we know now and it just blows my mind. You wonder how this little girl that you felt so sorry for just became so misguided and cruel. Her cruelty comes mostly from her insecurities and its sickening. Marissa has created an incredible villain in that even when you’re reading her side of the story, you’re still blown away at what she is capable of.

I think it was a great story, and it really added to what we already know in the series. I think seeing Winter and Selene (aka Cinder) was incredible as well, because we see them under Levana, and what she really truly thinks of them, and its just…ugh. Its gross. Its hard to imagine someone so insecure, so unsure, that they go to the lengths that Levana does.

But it also made me even more excited for Winter. Seeing Winter as a child, seeing what she and her father went through, and her poor mother…its just heartbreaking and I can’t wait to see how this series ends. Marissa Meyer creates the most compelling characters and this is only further proved in Levana’s story.

Rating: 

5 out of 5 Stars