The Lost Girl of Astor Street Clue Hunt, Clue #: 2

I know what you’re here for: your next clue. Because you’re a detective, right? And detectives look for answers.

Well, I have some for you. But! Patience is a virtue. So read on.

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  • Author: Stephanie Morrill
  • Publisher: Blink YA Books
  • Year: 2017
  • Genre vibe: Jazz age society mystery!
  • At a glance: Piper’s best friend has gone missing. Mysteries just don’t get solved fast enough, so Piper takes matters into her own hands, looking for answers in a lot of the wrong places.

So the One Year Adventure Novel program is a thing that I did, and their Summer Workshops are a thing that I have attended. This is where I met Stephanie and heard her speak–and then I met Piper.

This is a book that just feels very nice to hold onto. You know the sort. Just the right heft and weight and amount of pages. And to top it all off: she matches my outfit.

lostgirlFast forward a few months of somehow managing to ignore the ARC I was so lucky to acquire, and here we are nearing the launch date, and I’m given the honor to join in and help send Piper out into the world. Enter Linnea, stage right, furiously reading. But this was by no means a difficult task.

This book is amazing. Jazz age YA fic is kind of my gig, and there’s not a lot of it out there, and even less of it that’s a mystery. So this book was like an answer to my little bookish prayer.

This will come as a surprise only to newcomers: It’s super hard for me to fall in love with Strong Willed Female Characters. This is generally perceived as a shortcoming of mine. And, true to form: Detective Cassano is my favorite thing about this book…HOWEVER.

Piper Sail is a glorious creature. Sometimes, characters with her type of situation and even her temperament make me want to pull some hair out along the way, but I can’t remember a moment I was annoyed with her. I enjoyed her position as a narrator, I believed her decisions and emotions, didn’t ever hate her for looking for answers, and I didn’t feel cheated out of a poignant story moment because she was being “~driven~”, and that ends up not being her only character trait, as well, which is a bonus.

That being said: Detective Cassano. If miss Piper is a standout lady detective, Cassano is her perfect match in a multidimensional, easily-fallen-for supporting role. The twisting roles he plays in getting Piper her answers thicken the plot quite nicely–and just make him all the more fantastic.

It’s difficult to review the plot of a mystery without screwing it up for everybody, so let’s just skip to the end, shall we? Stephanie was amazing and allowed me to have her fill in my wrap-up points for this post, so before you get your clues, have some authorly insight!

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Endless Stories

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The stage: Convention center building–it has the most interesting escalators you’ve ever seen. Not because they’re strangely shaped or oddly placed, but because you know what lies at the top of them.

The cast: You. You are a young blogger, aspiring author, and YA addict. This is your first convention, and your marrow practically vibrates in your bones. You have on your person one The Raven Boys t-shirt, one pair of teal skinny jeans, one cart full of books, and one insatiable smile. These are your only assets.

The goal: Imbibe as many stories as possible. You have eight hours. Go.

Welcome to North Texas Teen Book Festival. 75 Authors + 1 day + You = Endless Stories.

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You have embarked on the journey of a lifetime, and you won’t be able to breathe when it ends. That much is for certain. What is uncertain is whether you will be crushed by the weight of book purchases, or by overwhelming happiness.

Begin: You have a small band wrapped around your wrist. You’re being set up with a book that will hopefully be the love of your life. You can’t wait. But you must, because just ahead is the trading post–here you will acquire the new stories that you will get magic-ed (aka signed) over the next few hours. Choose wisely.

Success! You have acquired books. These will be your most valuable attribute. Among them lies THE WALLS AROUND US–rumor has it that only the people in this building have gotten their hands on it thus far. This place is magic indeed.

Friends appear. Into your hands comes another book–a matchmaker has paired you and you have yet to find out if you can be companions or not. This is fine: adventure is the point.

Quest: Knowledge. Should you choose to accept this quest, you will find yourself placed in a room amongst other travelers. You will all listen to Authors (aka magicians), and they will impart wisdom upon you. Complete this quest and earn status as a panel attendee Do you accept?

Excellent. 11042987_565281863575229_3050325849334151450_n

The day proceeds. Your head spins with the amount of knowledge these magicians possess. You are the type of person that simply thrives off of the emotion and energy produced by crowds of people. You couldn’t be happier.

A lull happens. You catch your breath. The magicians will soon appear to their admirers. Here you have the opportunity to organize your spoils and make some new friends. There are a lot of your kind standing in long lines at this point, a lot of young hearts racing with the thrill of adventure and the promise of magic.

Enter: magicians. You’re busy waiting for one of your favorites (a witch by the name Leigh Bardugo who has captured your heart and promptly broken it a few times with her stories) when you hear a commotion across the room. Fans of a different story than yours have just seen the face of its next installment. You couldn’t be happier for them. 11018920_565282020241880_8009651293736111206_n

You meet magician after magician, adding signatures to your arsenal. This one is your hero and you’re not sure you can stand in her presence very long without exploding into a better version of yourself and possibly making a mess of starlight and book pages while you’re at it.

These are your people, your favorite people. It’s overwhelming, the scope of this place. You will never get it out of your system. You will have to keep coming back.


 

NTTBF 2015 was a major experience for me and hundreds of other people. With NTTBF 2016 right around the corner, I’m getting more and more excited each day.

This post not enough for you? You as hyped as I am? I’ve made a playlist for that. I make a playlist for everything. [click image to listen]

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King’s Folly

An extremely exciting thing happened yesterday. Jill Williamson’s KING’S FOLLY  was released into the wild.

I’ve had the extreme privilege and pleasure to be on the promotion team for this book, and now it’s here, ready for your hands.

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King’s Folly

  • Author: Jill Williamson
  • Publisher: Bethany House
  • Year: 2016
  • Genre vibe: High fantasy
  • At a glance: The Five Realms are in danger. Volcanoes, earthquakes, and other kinds of disasters plague them, and the king of Armania is certain the gods are angry with them. But that’s not quite the case–and the princes realize that.

King’s Folly is a story about many people doing many things–some of those things are good, and some of them are not so good. Many of these people don’t know that the things they’ve done are not so good. Basically everyone in this book is misled in some form or another, and that’s kind of the whole point. Grit and hope combine in what ends up being a wonderful concoction of problems and problem solving.

Sounds great, right?

Well, if you’re not convinced, here are five realms of reasons you should read King’s Folly:

i.The Characters

While King’s Folly may be an Adult Christian Fantasy™, it doesn’t beg to be described like that, mostly because of the people that inhabit its pages. Think of that genre and you probably don’t have a character that comes to mind, right?

King’s Folly is different. Even going beyond the simple fact that many of its cast are young people, King’s Folly is a book that doesn’t rely on atmosphere or ideals so much as it relies on the morals and questions of the people inside of it.

Prince Wilek is quite easily one of my new favorite characters, and he and his brother and the rest of the crew all carry this story on their shoulders. And it works.

ii.The Depth

King’s Folly is five layers deep in everything it does. (how many Five Realms jokes can I make in one post? (a lot)) Williamson is an incredible world builder, for starters–there aren’t any detectable holes in the way thing work, and if there are, you can probably explain them away if you think hard enough.

Beyond that, King’s Folly is one of those books where you get the sense that whoever wrote it really knew what they were doing. The plot is a progression, and one that makes sense to boot. From a writer’s standpoint–the sheer amount of planning that had to go into this is crazy.

Which brings me to:

iii.The Heft

My print version of King’s Folly is five hundred and forty-four pages long, and there’s two books left to come out. But don’t let that intimidate you! There are two reasons why.

One: This book is not just thrown at your face like a brick. It is released in bite-sized e-book formats.

S E E ?

Totally doable.

Two: Hefty books are good for you. I was an epic fantasy kid–I devoured books almost this size in days. And then I grew up and found my true genre and stopped reading so many of them because, well, they just weren’t my thing anymore, right? Which doesn’t mean anything besides the fact that, well, five hundred and forty-four pages seems like a lot when you’re used to two-fifty.

But it’s good to read long books. It’s good to be engaged for that long. Your brain can handle it, I promise. And with King’s Folly, it doesn’t even seem that hard.

iv. The Colors

I mean…have you seen the cover? Red and gold never looked so good. (except for maybe in Gryffindor.)

The colors don’t stop there, though. The inside of King’s Folly is just as nice as the outside. Varied and rich, from characters, to beliefs, to places and beyond, King’s Folly is painted in shades of bronze and red, gold and blue. It has a strange sort of indeterminate aesthetic that it almost seems to not realize it possesses.

Lots of high fantasy has a not-aesthetic like this, but a lot of high fantasy takes the “not” to a deeper level than the rest of it. But King’s Folly kind of just…rolls with it.

v. This awesome playlist I made

Because what kind of book promoter would I be if I didn’t give you music to accompany your reading experience?

So what’re you waiting for? Here are picture links to help you begin your journey. (click to visit)

This is music:

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This is the free e-book of part one:

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And overall:

  • Rating: 5/5 stars for impressing the unimpressed
  • Recommended to: Anybody that was a high fantasy kid, and anybody that’s got a Christian Speculative prejudice (like me).
  • Lasting Impression: Prince Wilek’s bowed head; the foggy red lake. The way your heart feels when you know something they don’t.

 

 

Behold The Bones

Some books you’re just so excited for, you can’t even say why.  You just need them right now and you don’t know why you’re excited for anything else at that point.

Natalie C. Parker’s BEHOLD THE BONES was that book for me.

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Behold the Bones

  • Author: Natalie C. Parker
  • Publisher: Harper Teen
  • Genre Vibe: Southern Gothic + an Old Ghosts vibe
  • At a Glance: There’s a lot of things that Candace Pickens can’t do. But there’s a hell of a lot more that she can. (also: ghosts and swamp weirdness and crazy rich kids invading Sticks)

I received this book in an ARC prize pack that I got through a twitter giveaway Natalie ran for the release. It’s the first ARC I’ve ever gotten myself, and I pretty much just screamed for a minute and stared at it when it got here.

(thanks again to Natalie, because. it’s my favorite thing.)

I sat it on my desk and made it wait until I re-read BEWARE THE WILD in preparation. I had already started, and I am not a quitter. A day or two later, I snatched it up and began, using it as my first book for the #5books7days challenge that I may or may not be a book behind on by now.

It was a wild ride. That’s for sure.

I loved the setting and poetry of BEWARE when I first read it, and BEHOLD is no different. Parker is a goddess when it comes to lyrical wording and that indistinguishable “this-is-not-technically-a-scary-book-but-oh-my-god” feeling that creeps up your spine.

The sheer depth of her swamp is incredible to me; you’re never, ever wanting for something to make sense when it comes to this. There are no loose ends you have to imagine for yourself or anything of that sort. Natalie knows what she’s doing. She’ll take care of you. Promise. She just may also spring swamp ghosts on you.

Which is another thing I absolutely loved about this book. Ghost stories rank among my favorite story types ever, and that’s not at all what I was expecting when I went into BEHOLD. But it is–in part–what I got. The swamp ghosts were important and present, and while their scares weren’t the point, they were potent.

That’s a good word for this book. This book has a lot of ‘P’s. Poetry, potency. Pints. There’s a lot of alcohol in this book. That was good too.

Natalie is a goddess amongst character handlers; her skill with a side character will be legendary. I found myself a little in love with everybody, I think. And the way they fell in love, too.

All in all, BEHOLD THE BONES is too good to pass up. I’ll definitely be revisiting it once or twice more in the future.

  • Rating: 5/5 stars
  • Recommended to: Southern gothic fans, EVERYONE who read Beware the Wild, and if you haven’t, then people fed up with ~Strong Female Leads who want a real one
  • Lasting Impression: Cherry blossoms and bones bones bones and the quiet; the missing places in  your memory.

 

 

Be excited with me, readers

Alright. So this year I read Laini Taylor’s incredible Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, and got the chance of a lifetime to meet the author right as I was finishing up the last book.

But they made such an impression on me, and I read them all so close together that I couldn’t figure out how to review them properly enough to truly do them justice.

So this post serves as two things: and extremely underrated review of the series, and a post of sheer excitement over the announcement of Laini’s new book yesterday.

Laini’s stories are truly something. As someone with a niche love for a very particular kind of urban fantasy, it’s like finding a unicorn when you find a book–much less a whole series/trilogy–that satisfies your never ending thirst for The Perfect Thing. The excitement is unbearable.

The Daughter of Smoke and Bone books are rich and lengthy and full to bursting with weirdness and wonderment in equal measures, and enough heartbreak to satisfy even me. (seriously, if you don’t want two particular people to be together in these books as badly as you want to keep breathing, I’m not sure we can be friends)

Urban fantasy is a tricky genre to pin down. And Laini does it beautifully, capping off her fantastic ideas with beautiful prose and stellar characters. You don’t ever forget your favorite Laini Taylor character.

Which is why I’m so excited for this:

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Strange the Dreamer promises to be something even more new and exciting for me to read next year (and next year has a lot of promising new releases.) I mean, just look at that list of components at the bottom of NOVL’s post. I couldn’t be happier. And a title like that deserves to be bronzed and stuck outside every library ever.

I can’t wait. Laini Taylor is a gift to the YA world in the form of an urban fantasy goddess, and I just can’t wait to see this book. I can’t wait.

(seriously I can’t. Is it September yet?)

 

-l.

 

No Mourners, No Funerals.

11802053_633573026746112_1974274384_nSo, it’s been awhile since Six of Crows came out. And it’s been a little less than that since I finished it. And in that amount of time this blog post hasn’t gotten a single bit easier to write. This book really was something special, and my reading experience with it was as well.

For one thing: This book is not at all what it seems at first glance. I didn’t tap into excerpts, didn’t pay much attention or do much research on it before it came out. I’ve been a Bardugo fan for a while, and so when she said “Ocean’s Eleven meets Game of Thrones”, I couldn’t care less what came after that.

For another thing: I got to go to the launch party the day before release. It was a milestone, a miracle, and one of the single best nights of my entire life.

Book events in and of themselves are special things. Unmatched is the energy of a room full of people excited to be at an instant gratification event for something that will take them hours to fully enjoy. Costumes and things everywhere, stacks of books for purchase on tables. At this particular event, the walls were lined with buildings (which you can sort of see in some of the pictures) and the only lights were those strung overhead.

When you stepped into that room in the Irving Library, you stepped onto the streets of Ketterdam.

The wrapping for 6oC inspired ice cream sandwiches. It's edible. So I'm told.

The wrapping for 6oC inspired ice cream sandwiches. It’s edible. So I’m told.

When I specifically stepped into that room, I let out an inhuman wail and proceeded to fall into one of my friends, overcome as I was by the magnitude of the event. This place, this moment in time, simply sang of something special.

And if any of you have been following this blog for any length of time, you know that’s what we’re all about, here.

So, mingling happened. Bracelets were created with stamps from all the characters on them. Anticipation grew, and grew, and grew, and grew–

And Leigh came out on stage.

Something special always happens when authors appear. It never fails. The crowd can tell that the object of their undying affections has appeared and will now proceed to impart bookish wisdom and laughter upon them.

Leigh spoke of magical things, like eleven-year-old her’s dramatic poetry (quite possibly the best poem I’ve ever heard in my life, miss Bardugo) and the things that influenced Six of Crows. She answered questions and delighted us with her tales, as always she will. 12166543_633573053412776_310059588_nShe made us laugh and cry and then laugh some more, because Leigh Bardugo is queen and by god does she know how to run a party.

Leigh is, most probably, my favorite author that I’ve interacted with thus far. Everyone I’ve met has been incredible, but Leigh has a very genuine sort of way with her fans that I admire like hell. She puts everyone at ease and she smiles right back at you, and that’s something that I love very, very much about her and a quality that comes through in her writing as well.

Which brings me to the actual book. Put simply, this is how I feel about it:

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Okay, a little more seriously though. This book is very hard to review and very, very hard to recommend. I’ve decided to call it a niche book, despite its wide publicity and major appeal.

Why?

Well, because it is. I’ve heard Leigh pitch it as “Ocean’s Eleven meets Game of Thrones”, which is pretty accurate. But what Six of Crows is, pure and simply, is a con story. And it’s a con story with a very particular mastermind.

There are very few con stories in teen lit, period, and even fewer that drive forward on the axle that this Kaz Brekker. Characters like Kaz are dynamic and rely mostly on the way their inner struggle influences their outward path of living. They’re charismatic, often unkind, and always intimidating. Characters like this draw audiences with their gusto, but they’re a special kind of character that only keeps its influence over those that understood something about them.

Kaz is the very definition of this character type, making Six of Crows a high-impact book…to a select group of people. He is unfathomably real, and I think that’s why Six of Crows may have an underlying hum rather than buzz. This book will make its way into the hands and heads of a lot of people, but I believe it’s a book that’s really truly meant straight up to find its way into the heart of others, and those are the ones that will…well, remember it.

Because I can praise the con day in and day out. I can praise Leigh’s writing and her misdirection and how her story world still has me living in it three weeks later. I can tell you exactly how well each of the characters worked together and how natural they all seemed and how sad I am for each of them, but I don’t think it would make an impact, because I’m not sure this is a book I can recommend. I think if you want it badly enough you can find it for yourself.

Because I think Six of Crows is the book some people have been looking for for a while. And I think those are books that are meant to be found.

Slasher Girls and Monster Boys: the Book Your Nightmares Have Only Dreamed of

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Anyone who’s so much as glanced at this blog’s twitter lately has probably seen mention of this book. What is it, this thing that’s been consuming my life since its announcement earlier this year?

Well, it’s an anthology. An anthology of YA horror stories. And it’s the best thing you’ll read all summer.

(I know summer’s almost over. Humor me.)

Curated by the queen of atmosphere and devil boys, April Genevieve Tucholke, Slasher Girls and Monster Boys brings together writers like Nova Ren Suma (The Walls Around Us), Carrie Ryan (Forest of Hands and Teeth, Daughter of Deep Silence) Leigh Bardugo (The Grisha Trilogy and upcoming Six of Crows), Kendare Blake (Anna Dressed In Blood and Girl of Nightmares–my absolute favorite YA horror stories ever) and so many others. The inspirations for all of the stories vary, and are kept a mystery until you’ve finished shaking from the scares, but they all have one thing in common: a slash-y girl and a monster-y boy.

I’ve been waiting for this book all year, and now I’m left wondering how to review it. As a person who’s passion in life is YA horror, a field sorely lacking most of the time, I’m still busy being glad for how scary this book is. Carrie Ryan’s In the Forest Dark and Deep has stuck with me the most. Her mention of it at NTTBF inspired my entries for the #slashergirlsarc contest earlier this season, and finally reading it in full gave me chills.

Leigh Bardugo’s story Verse Chorus Verse was…well, stunning, to say the least. The kind where you read the last line, blink a few times, and just set the book down to stare at it pensively and wonder what you just went through. (kind of how all of her books go, really.)

And though April Tucholke’s The Flicker, The Fingers, The Beat, The Sigh is my favorite, I have a hard time saying it.

The suspense in Hide-and-Seek made my heart thrum. Stitches wins the award for best concept I’ve read in a long while. Emmeline was beauty in it’s best (read: scariest) form. The Birds of Azalea Street made me forget I was real for a time.

There’s not a thing this book is missing. Except your heart in its hands and your life on the line. Willingly give it your soul and it will scare the hell out of you.

Promise.

Published Authors are Not Scary

I went to Lindsay Cummings’ launch party for The Death Code last night along with my friend (who’s blog is amazing, by the way) and we discovered two very important things:

One, if you ask, authors will answer.

Two, if someone ever asks you for a pen, you give it to them. There is a possibility that you’re in the middle of an Author Sighting and they need that pen to sign their book.

It was a great night just in general. Lindsay gave a lot of cool commentary during her Q&A before the signing, including but not limited to:

“Read and write as much as you possibly can. It’s like working out. You don’t walk in and pick up the giant thing that’s gonna break your back. You start with the little two pound weights.”

and

“I think stories make boring life a lot more fun.”

She told us how she rewrote Death Code five times, and ended up finding an old version of a book that had a hundred and twenty rejections and turned into Death Code. And in answer to my standard “what atmosphere is your favorite to write in” question informed us that winter writing is the best.

Also, all her cousins showed up, ninja-like.

She was also the sweetest person ever and signed my friends’ bookmarks since they didn’t have her books.

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All in all — coolest ever. Going to author events are some of the neatest things on the planet, and you get a chance to really interact with them on an even different way than social media allows.

And then: a Victoria Scott sighting. Yes, she signed her books with my pen. And we talked about books. And then capped off the night by meeting LizzieLovesBooks which was just as incredible even though I’m super bad at booktube.

I’m ridiculously excited to read Death Code and do a double-feature review for it and Murder Complex. And keep your eyes peeled for some other neat review things coming…*hint hint*

And GO TO AUTHOR EVENTS. Okay? Okay.

North Texas Teen Book Festival 2015

The NTTBF. One day, fifty plus authors, and you. I added to that a few of my favorite people–such as one of my best writer friends over at Snifferblog and some from my writing club–and the fact that out of those fifty plus authors, one of them was Tessa Gratton and, well, that day ended up being one of the best I’ve ever had.

This was the first year for NTTBF to be held, and I think I said enough over the course of the day that it had better keep on going. It was hundreds of readers and thousands of books all gathered together in the same place to attend panels full of authors, signings by those authors, and a couple of different events such as Book Speed Dating. Publishing houses such as Penguin Teen had tables set up, as well as a promoter for the Insurgent movie that comes out in a couple weeks. Authors brought bookmarks and pins and things for their books, and in one special case their latest book, which isn’t released in stores until the 24th.

I got there pretty early, which was one of the best things I did. Nothing started officially happening until nine, and so being there by about eight fifteen made sure that I was able to spend a lot of time in the book sales room, and ensured that I actually got all of the books I wanted, as a lot of them were sold out by the end of the day.

Book Speed Dating was one of the three ticketed events and the only one that I attended (both others were panels that didn’t really interest me). You got taken to a table, read a synopsis, and told to pick a book. It was super quick, super fun, and really unbiased. There were a variety of things to peak a variety of interests at the table, and so you were forced to go only by what grabbed your attention the most. (I have My Soul To Take by Rachel Vincent and can’t wait to start it.)

The sessions were, of course, a big part of the day. There were up to six or seven sessions running at all times from ten AM to three PM, so you got to attend five sessions total. I stuck pretty close to my favorite authors for most of the day, and went to sessions on secondary characters, romance in unlikely places, captivating fantasy worlds, thriller novels, and horror. Two of the absolute coolest people to hear from were Leigh Bardugo and Nova Ren Suma, who happen to be two of my favorites. Leigh is a joy to watch and listen to because she’s so full of energy that you can’t help listen to what she’s saying, and it’s good stuff too. Nova is a little quieter, but absolutely full of amazing ideas and insights, and a super easy person to pay attention to.

Another thing that was cool about the panels was that as I listened to the authors speak, I got convinced to read their works. Julie Kagawa and Sherry Thomas were both ridiculously cool people, and through hearing them speak and answer questions, I got interested in their books. (Granted, my reading list is already a mile long, but y’know…) It was a really cool kind of setting to be in on, watching authors interact with each other and with the crowd and the panel mods and learning about how they work and what they like.

It was also a little like being in the same room as a rock star. On the way to my first session I walked right by Tessa Gratton and just about had a heart attack. She’s amazing, by the way.

One of the best parts of the day for me was staying right up until the end, when there wasn’t really anybody left. I got to talk with Natalie C. Parker and April Tucholke for a bit as everything was emptying out, which was the neatest experience. Natalie is amazing and I got to hear an Author Story first hand, and while April is kind of intimidating she is seriously incredible as well.

All in all, one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’m super excited for the future of NTTBF and am already planning on next year. I was surprised with how smoothly everything went, even given the amount of people there and the traffic jams that occurred. Rock on, NTTBF. Rock on.