Nothing makes me squeal at a volume only audible to dogs quite like being surrounded by books. So when I say that I spent my Saturday in the exhibit hall of the American Library Association conference in Orlando, know that it was a distinct pleasure of the highest caliber. By turns exhilarating, overwhelming and tiring once the number of books in my bags passed 10 (which was about 2 seconds into the day), ALA was easily the highlight of my week, which is saying a lot considering the earlier portion was spent at Disney World.

My family would say that I picked up a lot of finished books and Advance Reading Copies (ARCs) in the 6ish hours I was in the exhibit hall, especially since they all had to fit in our airline luggage the next day. A lot = approximately 65, give or take a few comics and sneak peek booklets. But really, 65 doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface for some attendees, so you could say I was being frugal. And while I’m planning to post about the exhibit hall experience itself (which was AWESOME and magically magical), this is going to be Oscars of my ALA, in which I arbitrarily assign awards to the best and brightest, or something like that.

If Nothing Else, I Wanted This: A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

I won’t bother denying that my pulse quickened palpably when I saw there was a scheduled giveaway for Torch. An Ember in the Ashes was one of my top reads last year, and if nothing else went right on Saturday, I wanted an ARC of its sequel with an unquenchable thirst. Luckily it didn’t come to that, as the entire day went extraordinarily well AND I got Torch!

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Coolest Layout: Replica by Lauren Oliver

Lauren was unable to attend last-minute, but they still distributed Replica, which is actually two books in one – this is the same physical book flipped over. I hear you can read either story first, or alternate chapters, and all sorts of cool things that promise to make reading Replica a unique experience.

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Best Title: Hannah Smart In Over Her Head by Melody Fitzpatrick

Because we Hannahs have to stick together! Bonus points for spelling it like a palindrome, which is the “correct” way as far as I’m concerned.

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Unexpected but Highly Anticipated Finds: The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, and Heartless by Marissa Meyer

I didn’t know these were going to be available until I saw pictures on Twitter and books in people’s hands, but these two are ones I’ve been actively looking forward to! Nicola Yoon’s Everything Everything was the start of a contemporary fiction kick for me a while back, and both the Husband Unit and I enjoyed Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles.

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Most Unexpected Theme: North Korea

I wasn’t seeking out books on this topic, but was intrigued enough to pick these up from separate publishers. 80% sure there was a third that I didn’t get, too.

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Wish I Had Designed That: Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate

This actually came out in March 2016, but they had leftover ARCS at ALA so I snatched it up. We all drool over elaborate book covers, but as a graphic designer it’s ones like this that inspire me on a level I could feasibly replicate with my skill set.

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Best Books for Friends: Hotel Valhalla by Rick Riordan, and Red Vengeance by Margaret Stohl

One for my younger Brother Unit and his wife, who both devour everything Riordan writes, and one for my movie buff sister-in-law, who actually blogs about Marvel, DC, Star Wars and other epic franchises over on Box Office Buzz!

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Try Not to Drool on the Glamorous Covers: Caraval by Stephanie Garber, Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill, Rebel Genius by Michael Dante DiMartino, The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid, and The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron

To be honest, lots of books could go in this category, and these books could all claim various other awards for awesomeness, but I wanted to avoid replicating titles. Unsurprisingly, all of these fit squarely into my YA wheelhouse, and I’m just as excited for the stories as I am to gaze upon the glory of their covers.

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Intriguing Unknown Quantity: The Graces by Laure Eve

Many of the books I picked up I’d at least read the Goodreads summary of beforehand, but this one was completely unknown to me before it passed the “Does it go into the bag?” test. Mysterious family, possibly magic, outsider looking in…good enough for me to make room for one more!

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Biggest “What Have I Done???” Moment: NASA History Books

I looooove space (4 summers of space camp, 1 History Day video on Apollo 13, 1 dinner to meet the Apollo 13 crew, etc.). But these books are HUGE and DENSE, easily twice the weight of a YA book of comparable size (like Lady Midnight or Harry Potter 7). Challenge to Apollo clocks in at just over 1000 pages, Rockets and People is in the 600 range, and they weigh a combined 7 pounds. It was like carrying around dictionaries on my back, in addition to everything else.

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Most “What the Heck?!” Find: Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley

I still have no idea what this is about, but the title was too strangely fascinating to pass up.

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Tantalizing Tote Bag: The Story Book Knight from Sourcebooks

There were a lot of cute tote bags being given out on the floor, but I didn’t pick up too many of them. However, this one is still adorable, as is the titular picture book enclosed within it.

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Sparkliest Signing: Unicorn vs. Goblins by Dana Simpson

I ended up in this signing line because the Mo Willems line I had considered getting in stretched all the way to Canada. Despite knowing nothing about it, this comic book looks super cute and fun, and it gave me an excuse to pin an “I believe in unicorns” button on the Husband Unit’s lanyard.

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Best Swag: Water Bottle from Ripley’s Believe It or Not

The Husband Unit actually won this on their spinning wheel; all I got was a handful of mints. We’re probably going to have to instate a “water only” rule for it, though, because just thinking about trying to wash this fills me with dread.

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Best Husband Unit: Mine!

To my Husband Unit, for coming at all when he knew his role was “book pack mule.” A disproportionately large number of the 65 books were toted on his neck and shoulders, and I got surprisingly few looks from him that said “Woman, you are insane.”

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Hope you enjoyed this quick look at my ALA haul! If the descriptions on the books seem vague it’s because I still have very little idea of what many of them are about. I’ll be back later with a play-by-play of the best moments of the day, but for now, I’m going to retreat into my newly constructed fortress. Send pizza rolls.

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