I actually didn’t buy any books at the festival this year, so all of these are books I already had and brought with me!
- Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan
- Firelight by Sophie Jordan
- Hidden by Sophie Jordan
- Nyxia: Unleashed by Scott Reintgen
- Nyxia: Uprising by Scott Reintgen
- Isle of Blood & Stone by Makiia Lucier
- Song of the Abyss by Makiia Lucier
- Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao
- Shadow Frost by Coco Ma
- The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young
- City of Beasts by Corrie Wang
- City of Beasts by Corrie Wang (ARC)
- War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi (ARC)
- Saving Fable by Scott Reintgen (ARC)
- Permanent Record by Mary K. Choi (ARC)
- Slay by Brittney Morris (ARC)
Freebies from the festival
- Queen’s Assassin by Melissa de la Cruz
- Goddess in the Machine by Lora Beth Johnson (SIGNED)
- All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace
- Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu
- The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte
- The King’s Questioner by Nikki Katz
- Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon
- What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter
- Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett
- Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland
- Empire of Dreams by Rae Carson
- Thorn by Intisar Khanani
- Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko (SIGNED)
- No Shelf Control tote (EpicReads)
- Be True to Your Shelf tote & zipper pouch (I Read YA)
- Epic Reads pin banner
- Riveted Lit scrunchie
- House Calore bandana (Red Queen)
- Slay trading cards
- City of Beasts character cards
- Four Dead Queens character cards
- The Midnight Lie sampler
- Call Down the Hawk sampler
- Axaria crest sticker (Shadow Frost)
- Rebel/Traitor rubber bracelet
- The Girl the Sea Gave Back print
- Permanent Record pop socket
- Shhh I’m Reading pop socket (EpicReads, not pictured)
- Raybearer enamel pin
- Underlined portable power bank
- Various buttons & other swag
Also pictured: Updated signature tote bag!
Sadly Christy couldn’t come again this year like we had planned (Christy I missed you!!), but my boyfriend Adam came with me! We decided to get a hotel for Thursday night even though I didn’t plan to attend any Friday events. We wanted a bit of a vacation! We actually ended up leaving Wednesday night so we could split the trip into two parts – thank goodness we did, because traffic was TERRIBLE. It took almost two hours to get out of Ohio, which is usually an hour trip. We got stuck in two separate 30-45 min traffic jams. In the end, we drove for 5.5 hours Wednesday night and stayed in a Red Roof Inn in Oakridge, Tennessee. (It wasn’t very nice for a Red Roof, which I usually find pretty decent? Oh well…)
Thursday’s traffic was pretty bad, too. We got stuck in yet another traffic jam, this one on I-40 (the WORST stretch ever), lasting nearly an hour. I think we left around 10:30 and didn’t get into Charleston until 7 pm. Which means the trip took us 14 hours!! It’s supposed to be a 10 hour drive! We were both exhausted by the time we checked into the hotel.
We stayed at Extended Stay in North Charleston, and it wasn’t that great. I chose it because it had a full kitchen with stove and oven – we had planned to cook a couple dinners while down there (to avoid spending extra money and to stay somewhat healthy) – and it was fairly cheap. They didn’t provide us anything for the kitchen – which I guess is understandable, I’m sure people steal stuff all the time – but even when we asked for all the kitchen supplies, we only got about half of it. And it came with mouse poop! -insert eye roll here- They didn’t provide dish soap (what kind of hotel with a full kitchen and dishes doesn’t?!) and because of the mouse turds, we had to go buy dish soap and wash everything first. They also didn’t provide complimentary coffee packets for the coffee pot (even cheap ass hotels do that, thank you very much) so another thing we had to purchase. Thus, we were off to a bad start.
That bad start got even worse when I discovered they double charged my card for the full price of our stay, giving me a fabulous bank account balance of negative three hundred dollars. Fuck you, Extended Stay America. (The best thing is, the dude made me swipe my card twice and I EVEN ASKED if it would charge me twice and he was all “no, if you don’t sign it doesn’t charge.” Little shit.) I went to the counter about it, they told me they couldn’t do anything, and said charges wouldn’t reverse until I checked out. On SUNDAY. Leaving me with no money whatsoever for the rest of the trip. Needless to say, I was livid. (I tried calling my bank to get it fixed and they couldn’t do anything, either.) 10/10 would absolutely NEVER stay there again. I’ve been going to Hawthorne Suites the past couple of years, and they’re about $30-50 more per night, but next year I’ll shell out the extra money for the nice hotel. Oh, and ESA didn’t have a real breakfast, either. Hawthorne does!
I didn’t go to the Friday events this year, because there were no authors I was interested in. Which left our Friday wide open to do whatever we wanted! We had plans to go to the beach for the day, then have dinner with Kate (who I met at a Karen Marie Moning signing years ago and see every year at YALLfest) and her hubby Russ. I screwed around in the morning/early afternoon fixing my schedule for Saturday and comparing with Kate, so we got off to a way late start. Then, halfway to the beach I realized we were going in the same direction as where we were having dinner, so we turned around to go back to the hotel so I could put on some makeup and bring a change of clothes for dinner. It was also in the middle of my “Severely Overdrafted Thanks to Hotel Assholes” fiasco, so I was already pretty stressed out and not having a good time. We ended up stopping for ice cream at a little sweet shop near our hotel (I can’t remember the name of it, but it’s on the corner of Ashley Phosphate and Northwoods, highly recommend!) and it brightened my spirits quite a bit. By the time we made it to the beach, it was pretty late. It ended up not mattering anyway, because it was freaking cold and windy and kinda miserable. It was great to see the ocean (for the first time with Adam!) but we didn’t stay long because I was freezing.
We arrived in the area for dinner a bit too early, so we decided to check out this little local cat cafe (CAT. CAFE!!!! I freaked when I saw it lol), but as it turns out they charge just to walk in the door, and neither of us fancied paying fifteen dollars a person to kill 20 minutes. Color me disappointed.
Dinner was at Jestine’s Kitchen, which came highly recommended by Kate. It was a cute little place, and we had a great time with Kate and Russ at dinner! We talked books and caught up a bit. We had pimento cheese and house-made crackers for an appetizer, and for dinner I got a shrimp po boy. I wasn’t that impressed with the sandwich (the bread was super dry and chewy, but the shrimp was great), but the pimento was delicious! However, it made us sick later >.< I’m not sure if I’d go back to Jestine’s (sorry Kate!!), but I’m so glad I got to spend a little extra time with them this year! Usually we only see each other in passing at the festival and don’t really get quality time together. I certainly hope we can do dinner again next year!
I got up at 6 am again this year to give myself enough time to shower and put on some makeup. I knew we needed to get there pretty early, since the Fierce Reads ticket drop for the ARCs all day was at 9. We made great time and got to the festival around 7:30 (last year it was TOO early, this year it was pretty perfect!). There was already a longish line for the ticket drop, so we went ahead and jumped in. It was freaking COLD!!! It was 43 degrees and we were both freezing. It’s never been that cold at the festival before! Kate and Russ met us in line about 30 minutes later.
The line finally started moving, and it took us a good 15 minutes to get through. By the time were close, the pep rally wristband line had emptied (I didn’t think I’d be able to get one because the line was fairly long and I didn’t want to leave the Fierce Reads ticket line) so I was able to run over and snag wristbands for us. Woo! When we finally got up there, most of the ARC tickets were gone. I was going to have Adam get Midnight Lie, whomp whomp. I was super lucky enough to get the VERY LAST fantasy recs ticket (which I wanted), and the only other thing left was Swoon Reads recs tix so I grabbed one of those.
We went straight from the ticket line over to the Epic Reads fantasy ARC drop line, which had already gotten rather long.
It ended up not mattering, because we were still both able to get a card for one book each, and the line moved super fast! (Epic Reads always has their shit together.) He got Thorn and I got Empire of Dreams!
After we left the Epic Reads line, we were too late for the 10:30 Raybearer line, so we hoofed it down the block to the courtyard to see Scott Reintgen. He was super friendly as always, and knew who I was when I told him I’d met him last year (and that I was Katie’s friend!). We were able to grab a donut at the I Read YA Tent after we left his line, but the totes were gone. I checked on Renee Ahdieh’s line, but it was still long and I didn’t care enough about getting my one book I had for her – The Beautiful (which I couldn’t get into anyway) – signed, so I just skipped it.
We got back to the Penguin booth fairly early only to find that they were breaking up anything resembling a line until 5 minutes before the ARC drop. (Because that’s a good idea?!??) So we hung around near the booth, making sure to NOT look like we were lining up lol. Their plan was to choose a random spot and say “okay form a line!” – totally safe, doesn’t inspire a mob at all -rolls eyes- I was lucky enough to be standing right in front of where she told us to form a line, so I was close to the front with Adam. I was actually surprised by how polite people were – definitely not like BookCon at all. No shoving or mobbing, maybe a little bit of a stampede and some overcrowding, but nothing serious. It gave us a better chance to get it!
This drop was the rec-a-read station, so they had 3 choices. One was Kingdom of Back, which I wanted, but when I got up there she asked what I like and I told her fantasy – and this is the WORST EVER but when she asked what kind of books specifically I could only lamely offer “like Jay Kristoff and Julie Kagawa” and nothing else but an awkward blank stare, like why couldn’t I think of all the other books I love?! Like Red Rising and Laini Taylor and Raven Boys?! Ugh, fail Jessi, fail. She ended up giving me The Vanishing Deep, which is fine because Adam asked for Kingdom of Back and they gave it to him. Yay!
After the drop we had plenty of time to stop by the Mary K. Choi signing (she was really nice!) and head over to the Music Hall for Tochi Onyebuchi. He wasn’t there, but one of the YALLfest volunteers took my book to the back for him to sign!
This was a case where the whole “don’t form a line until 5 minutes ahead of time” Penguin strategy worked out really well for me, because it was pretty close to noon before we made it back for the Goddess in the Machine ARC drop. There were already a ton of people forming around the booth, so I stood on one side and had Adam stand on the other. I am SUPER lucky he was there, because they had the line form on the complete opposite side I was on, and by the time I got over there, the line was already insanely long, and I definitely would have missed out if I’d been on my own. But Adam was in a decent spot, so I was able to take his place in line in 33rd place. My hero!!! AND the author, Lora Beth Johnson, was even there to sign it! I was so jazzed I got a copy! I even met a new friend in line to fangirl about Red Rising with (I don’t think I got her name, I suck)!
We swung by the Riveted pep rally after the ARC drop and got a free donut, scrunchie/wristband, and tote with ARC in it. We both got the same book, but on our way out we ran into the awesome Brittany from FaeCrate and chatted with her for a few minutes. She got Curses & Kisses in her bag, but didn’t want it, so we traded one of ours for it. Thank you Brittany!!!
After we left the pep rally we still had plenty of time to go see Makiia Lucier way over at the Blue Bicycle courtyard. Even after seeing her we still had tons of down time, so we ran to the car to drop some books off.
After swinging by the car, we went over to the HMH booth to try and get in line for the fantasy ARC drop, but it was already capped. They only had 25 copies! There was a giant line at Penguin Teen for the “unlock the Queen’s Assassin” giveaway, so we jumped into that line. It was taking forever – you had to try to choose the right key and fit it into a chest to unlock to get the book – so Adam stayed in line while I headed over to the big tent to see Adrienne Young.
After Adrienne, I headed back over to the Penguin booth. Adam was still in line for Queen’s Assassin and I wanted to get fairly close to the booth because they were supposed to be dropping an ARC of Notorious Virtues at 2, and I wanted that one. They ended up just giving the remaining ARCs of QA to the rest of the line because they had to get through it before Notorious Virtues, so Adam got me one!
Sadly, there was no ARC of Notorious Virtues anyway, just a sampler and some sparkling juice. So we waited around for nothing *sighs* We left the line because I wasn’t interested.
We headed back over to the Blue Bicycle area for my 2:00 authors, and on the way caught the I Read YA line for the tote and pouch. I left the line to run my copy of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns down to Kate for her to get signed for me and came back. After that I was able to get to Corrie Wang and Brittney Morris, and Kate caught me to give Forest back. Great timing! It helped me out a lot because we were able to get back to the publisher area, where they were already lining up for the second Raybearer drop. I was determined not to miss it again! Adam stood in line for me while I ran to the bathroom, and it’s a good thing I did, because on my way out I noticed that they were already lining up for the 3:00 Swoon Reads drop that I had a ticket for. I went ahead and got into line for that, and by a sheer stroke of luck, Kate’s friend I had met, Nikki, saw me and offered to take my ticket and get a book for me so I could stand in line for the 3:30 fantasy drop, which was also lining up already. (THANK YOU NIKKI!!!!)
I stood in line for the Fierce fantasy drop, which was fairly frustrating because people kept jumping line and I knew the good books would go fast. There were 4 choices – Trish Levenseller’s new book, All the Stars and Teeth (which I desperately wanted), and two others I hadn’t even heard of and frankly wasn’t remotely interested in. I was starting to get pretty worried about missing out on AtSaT.
The line moved fairly quickly once it started, and I was lucky enough to get the second to last copy of AtSaT! YAY! I was super relieved and happy I got it. (Again, thank you Nikki!!! If I hadn’t stepped into line when I did, I’d definitely have missed it.) And thank you to Adam for snagging Raybearer for me all by himself – and he was even able to get it signed because the author was there!
I checked on the Angie Thomas line, but it was already capped. I only had On the Come Up, which I haven’t even read, so I wasn’t too disappointed about it.
Adam stood in line for Coco Ma for me while I went to check the Sophie Jordan line. It was short, so I came back. The Coco line was taking forever, so we left (giving Kate my book) and went to Sophie’s. I had wanted to get back to the museum courtyard for the 4:30 Fierce Reads raffle, but Sophie’s line took FOREVER and I didn’t want to miss her if I went to the raffle and came back, so we just skipped the raffle. After Sophie I went back to Coco’s line and got my book from Kate (who still hadn’t reached her). I knew the line was going to be slow, because Coco is a talker, but I really wanted to see her again after the delight of meeting her at BookCon. It took a while to get there, but it was so worth it! Coco remembered me, gave me a big hug, and we chatted animatedly for a bit about random things. She is seriously the cutest and sweetest person EVER! I love her so much! She signed my tote on my Novel Heartbeat logo “Jessi is the BEST!” (see photo!) Dawww, naw Coco, YOU are the best :-* I told her I was ashamed I hadn’t finished Shadow Frost yet, but the first chapter HOOKED me and I’m so excited to read more! Coco is delightful you guys, if you ever get the chance to meet her, DO.
Also, while waiting in line for Coco, we got lucky enough to snag some free tickets for the YA Smackdown! They had extra and were just giving them away. I’ve been wanting to go for a few years now, but unwilling to pay for it. This is actually the second year I snagged free tix, but the first time I was with my shithead ex who was all *insert whiny man voice* “Well I don’t wanna go” so I skipped it out of respect for him. But, Adam is awesome (seriously I owe him SO MUCH), and was all for it!
With a little downtime before the smackdown, we went to the Unlikely Allies panel with Makiia Lucier, Ally Condie, Rosiee Thor, and Jordan Ifueko. It was pretty fun! They talked a little about how strict (or not lol) their parents were, movies/books that made them cry, a few other random things, and then spoke about what made their characters unlikely allies. After hearing Jordan talk, I’m even more excited to read Raybearer!!
I am so excited that I FINALLY got to see a Smackdown! It was pretty fun – Angie Thomas and Nic Stone kicked things off by singing/rapping Old Town Road, which was quite entertaining. Then they brought a few authors out to read things they wrote when they were young. There were 3 I didn’t know, and to be frank I wasn’t impressed with their readings, sorry *shrugs* But the two of note were 1) Scott Reintgen, who shared a little something he wrote about his wife, which was THE. CUTEST. THING. EVER. Like I got a little misty, it was so freaking beautiful! and 2) Coco Ma (I told you, she’s fucking fabulous you guys) who read a kid’s book she wrote about eating vegetables. The story itself wasn’t necessarily spectacular, but the way she told it was HILARIOUS! She is so charismatic and charming, and her story was my favorite thing of the whole show. I did record a little bit of it, but I’m not sure if I’ll bother posting it or not. Kudos, Coco! You rock!
They also did a round of YALLfeud, Family Feud with two author teams: reality writers vs. fantasy writers. The first round was “name a Gryffindor not in the golden trio”, and the reality writer group got every single one. The second round was “name a YA adaptation with a female identifying main character” and the fantasy team got all but one, which turned over to the reality team and they ended up winning.
The other game they played was “Masked Author” which was like Masked Singer, but with a masked author reading poetry. It was hilarious!
What a great year! I think this has been my easiest year yet. I didn’t do much running around like I usually do. I also had a super light author load this year – I only brought 18 books, which is the lowest it’s EVER been. I’ve always had 35-40 books! I also only had two big hitters on my list – Angie Thomas and Renee Ahdieh – and I honestly didn’t care if I missed either of them. So I had quick and easy lines for all my authors, freeing up tons more time to go for ARC drops. Adam also doubled my output by standing in lines for me! I wouldn’t have been able to get half of what I did without him. He really is my hero! I got a whopping 13 ARCs this year, and 16/18 of my books signed!
Authors I got to see:
- Scott Reintgen
- Mary K. Choi
- Lora Beth Johnson
- Makiia Lucier
- Adrienne Young
- Corrie Wang
- Brittney Morris
- Sophie Jordan
- Coco Ma
And I also got books signed by Tochi Onyebuchi, Julie C. Dao, and Jordan Ifueko even though I didn’t see them myself.