Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Event Review - Wales Comic Con 2015


April 2015 hosted my fourth Wales Comic Con event – my sixth convention total – and it was the first time I held a more expensive ticket. I knew we were in for a good day, but it wasn’t quite what I expected.

Upon arrival we were shown straight into the venue, an amenity guaranteed by the VIP ticket. Signing in took minutes and before I knew it we were walking across the campus to the vendors hall and signing area, determined to get a few autographs before everywhere – and everyone – got too busy.

As always however the vendor’s hall was over crowded, and between the amount of people in there even at just gone 9am and the amount of tables filled with collectibles, it was hard to see exactly where each signing queue started. I was prepared for this though and simply asked the end of each line who they were queuing for. When it comes to conventions, communication is key. What surprised me however was to then be asked by a WCC staff member who I was wanting to get in line for. Replying that I was there for Supernatural’s Mark Sheppard, he ushered me forward into a smaller queue that I had not seen.  It seemed WCC had learnt from previous years and had staff on hand to ensure queuing went smoothly despite the space.

Photo-op with Mark Sheppard

The day seemed to get better from there. WCC always make a fantastic use of the space they have, and this year was no exception. Transformer cars in the parking lot, with a roving Dalek. The Iron Throne ready for pictures in a side hallway, opposite the machines from Robot Wars. Everywhere you looked there was something else to see or do. Fantastic guests headlined the event, and I was lucky enough to walk away with photo-ops of me with four of my favourite actors. The stalls were filled with everything you could possibly want to buy, and the selection of Q+A’s on offer, spread over two rooms, were not to be grumbled about. In a way, there was very little that WCC could have done to make the event better.

The VIP ticket itself was an experience, having a separate line for Q+A’s and photo-ops, usually only a few people long, ensuring that we got in first and – for photo-ops – got out quick. It was a brilliant system and allowed us to get around a lot more than we would have done had we bought only a general ticket.

But nothing is perfect, and there will always be room for improvement. While the ticket was handy, WCC always suffers from organisational and communication issues. It’s a known fact at conventions that anything scheduled from around 12pm onwards is prone to ending up late. But when that happens, so effective communication also needs to happen. Pass-holders have paid to come to the event, to experience all that is on offer, and so – seeing as the event is only on for around 8 hours – they don’t want to spend a chunk of that time waiting. It’s fair enough if you’re in a slow moving queue, but having to wait for something to simply start, and not being given an estimate of when that may be, is not really acceptable.

My homemade cosplay costume

My example is this.

As said above, waiting around without being given any estimate of when a panel may start isn’t really acceptable. People could easily waste half an hour waiting and then realise they don’t even have time for the panel, as we did. When you’ve paid £99 for a ticket, the amenities of which are about not having to wait around, it’s even worse. As it was when we finally did get into the Primeval panel, we realised that we would have to leave early to make our next photo-op. Being me, that meant I spent half of the time we were there checking my watch. That’s not really value for money. Furthermore, part of what you pay for in the VIP ticket is being able to have a seat in the front three rows of any talk. This however is not good value if there are no staff members around to ensure that those with general tickets are not sitting there, as also happened here.

From there we had to go straight to a photo-op, held 25 minutes before our fourth and final one. Upon leaving the photo studio though, we decided to get some food, having planned to have some after the talk, before the photo-op we had just attended. Unfortunately at such a large event it’s easy for things to take longer than you think, or to get side tracked, and we ended up 5-10 minutes late for our photo-op. Usually this wouldn’t be an issue; there would be so many people with tickets that the shoots usually take at least half an hour. Apparently though, there hadn’t been that many people and they had wrapped up within five minutes and sent the actor back to the signing hall.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s the complete opposite to what happened at the panel, and that’s great, but at the same time you’d think that if they knew certain panels/events were running late that they would give pass-holders a little extra time to get to their shoot. Apparently not, and the excuse we were given was flimsy and without apology. Basically, we should have been there on time, and had we not been waiting for half an hour when they were running late, I might have agreed. But you can’t in all seriousness expect paying pass-holders to wait around for however long is necessary when an event/panel is running late, but expect them to be at pre-paid photo-ops on the dot, and not give them any leeway. The relationship between a proprietor and a customer is a two way street, and sometimes at WCC I feel that the street is full of potholes along one side. Luckily for us, the actor was happy to have a photograph with us at the signing table.

Star Trek's own Garrett Wang (Harry Kim)

In short, Wales Comic Con lacks communication between staff, guests and pass-holders. It’s happened in other years where we have left a talk early to attend a photo-op, only to be told it’s running late and then not given a time for which to come back. ‘About half an hour to an hour’ is always the usual response. That doesn’t help when you have other panels, etc, that you don’t want to miss.

A better communication system would have helped by far. Rogue Events use a computer system to alert pass-holders who are in the guest talks that their photo ops/ autographs are being held. This allows them to make full use of the day, rather than hanging around at a pre-printed time, regardless of whether the schedule is running late, in order to ensure they don’t miss what they’ve paid for. Also simply allowing a little more flexibility with regards to the guest talks would work wonders. Again, Rogue Events keep the doors open at all times and simply have a staff member on each door to ensure only pass-holders enter. If that isn’t possible though, my suggestion would be to hold the event over two days. A little more expensive, but much better value, whatever ticket you chose.


I would definitely recommend Wales Comic Con to anyone. It’s always a great day out and never fails to provide some unique, fun memories. With actors like Stargate: Atlantis’ Paul McGillon already announced for later this year, I am definitely considering going again. I would however say to be aware of the limitations of each ticket, no matter how good they may seem, and think before booking too many other pre-paid amenities.

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Have you ever been to a convention? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter.

Holly @ TheArtsShelf

Twitter: @The_Arts_Shelf

Cover Spotlight - Remix by Non Pratt


Cover Spotlight is a new weekly feature here on The Arts Shelf that highlights some of literature’s best covers.


I’m so close to finishing Remix and it’s just one of those books that you know is going to stay with you. Non Pratt has such a way with words that you don’t simply get a generic contemporary novel about a girl – in this case two – who falls for someone they shouldn’t, or has a bad break-up. Instead we’re given a rich ensemble cast that populates a story about how the relationships of these two girls affects their friendship; and that’s something I struggle to see, even in YA. Don’t get me wrong, I love soppy romance stories, but it’s refreshing to read something new, told in a constantly switching POV between Kaz and Ruby.

What drew me to buy the book however was not what I’d heard about the story or what I knew about the author. They were of course factors, but in a store filled with hundreds of different books, there’s a lot of competition when it comes to standing out and being bought. What actually drew me to the book was the cover.

 



















For one, yellow is not a typical book cover colour, and the sheer luminosity of the front cover – yellow, orange and fluorescent pink – is enough to capture anyone’s eye. The design lends itself as being a book about a music festival, complete with the raised hands of festival goers in a contrasting blue tone.

The font and layout of the front cover imitates a music poster, while the back is artistically designed to look like a festival leaflet complete with lists of ‘who’s on what stage?’. The whole jacket is far from plain, utilising multiple fonts and highlighting certain words with the use of different colours and images. At brief glance it looks like a festival advertisement rather than a book, and that’s its Unique Selling Point (USP); the reason why people will look. The cover isn’t simply beautiful or artistic, it’s a very clever marketing scheme.

But the element I love the most, having read 248 out of 300 pages, is the way main characters Kaz and Ruby are displayed on the front. Very simply, the image of the two girls lets anyone know with just a quick glance who the main characters are, but more deeply it emphasises their state of mind at the festival.  On page 181, Ruby says ‘… all the colour’s drained out of my mood – and as I turn greyer, Kaz grows brighter’. So the cover isn’t simply emphasising the location, the background, of the book. It isn’t simply attracting us to buy it. The cover is highlighting – forshadowing – the story; telling us that, in essence, the story is about Ruby losing herself, while Kaz finds herself. It emphasises a suffering friendship, and that this is the dramatic point for which everything else revolves around. This isn’t a story about a boy and a girl.

It’s about two girls, a friendship, and how everything can so easily fall apart in such a short time.

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Do you have a cover you want to spotlight? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter.

Holly @ TheArtsShelf

Twitter: @The_Arts_Shelf

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Waiting on Wednesday - Ice Like Fire

A weekly feature created at Breaking the Spine, Waiting on Wednesday features upcoming releases that bloggers are excited about.  You can find out more here.

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My pick for this week is Sara Raasch's Ice Like Fire.



Image and description from Amazon.co.uk:


It's been three months since the Winterians were freed and Spring's king, Angra, disappeared—thanks largely to the help of Cordell.
Meira just wants her people to be safe. When Cordellan debt forces the Winterians to dig their mines for payment, they unearth something powerful and possibly dangerous: Primoria's lost chasm of magic. Theron sees this find as an opportunity—with this much magic, the world can finally stand against threats like Angra. But Meira fears the danger the chasm poses—the last time the world had access to so much magic, it spawned the Decay. So when the king of Cordell orders the two on a mission across the kingdoms of Primoria to discover the chasm's secrets, Meira plans on using the trip to garner support to keep the chasm shut and Winter safe—even if it means clashing with Theron. But can she do so without endangering the people she loves?
Mather just wants to be free. The horrors inflicted on the Winterians hang fresh and raw in Jannuari—leaving Winter vulnerable to Cordell's growing oppression. When Meira leaves to search for allies, he decides to take Winter's security into his own hands. Can he rebuild his broken Kingdom and protect them from new threats?
As the web of power and deception is woven tighter, Theron fights for magic, Mather fights for freedom—and Meira starts to wonder if she should be fighting not just for Winter but for the world.


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It may sound cliche, but it's probably not possible for me to describe how excited I am for this book in simple words. Squeeling, dancing and bounding around the room would probably be more accurate, but I'm going to try.

Snow Like Ashes, for me, was one of the greatest books of 2014. The perfect mix of fantasy and drama, Raasch told a story that hooked me from the beginning and would not let go until I was finished. Meira is a brilliant MC, bringing an intriguing mix of vulnerability - a need to belong - and raw fortitude that personally made me desperate to see her succeed.

Mather too was compelling. You can feel his love for Meira and yet his need to do right by his people, even if it forsakes his heart, and his genuine despair when he realises his life is a lie; he is no longer the royalty he'd been raised to believe, the title instead belonging to Meira. It's quite possible to think that Mather had always wished his life to be a lie, so he could be free to love the girl he could only call 'friend', but when it happens not only is he shocked to the very core by the lie itself, he is shocked by the truth too. She still can never be his.

But I do believe my heart lay with Theron. So unlike his father he seems to be able to break some of the shell surrounding Meira, and in turn she realises he is not the spoilt royal his exterior may show. Their moments, though not many, were so touching and sweet that I really cannot wait for ILF simply so I can get more Meiron goodness.

Snow Like Ashes was simply perfect, and just looking at the cover for Ice Like Fire makes me want to hold it in my hands; now.

Sadly, unless someone magically brings me an ARC which I know is unlikely, I will have to wait until November 19th 2015 to find out what happens next.

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What are some upcoming releases that you're excited for? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter.

Holly @ TheArtsShelf

Twitter: @The_Arts_Shelf

Thursday, 4 June 2015

May Wrap Up and June TBR

So I didn't do too well in sticking to my May TBR, or in reading very much. Sadly life got a bit hectic and the two books that I did read put me in major book hangovers. As much as I loved Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge and The Novice by Taran Matharu, I wish that I'd read more.

Therefore I'm being very optimistic with my May TBR, with a total of 10 books to read!

For paperbacks I've chosen;


Night Owls - Jenn Bennett: I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of this from the lovely Liz at Simon and Schuster and I'm loving it so far. Having been described as Rainbow Rowell meets John Green, I'm super excited for this book. I'm hoping to have it finished soon and a review up by the end of next week!

A Court of Thorns and Roses - SJ Maas: Having really enjoyed Cruel Beauty last month, I'm super excited for this; a brand new retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

Frozen - Melissa De La Cruz and Michael Johnston: I've had this book and been meaning to read it for a while now and it's taken a friend to get me to put it in this month's TBR. I've heard great things though and am a big fan of dragons, so I'm sure it'll be love at first chapter.

The Sin Eater's Daughter - Melinda Salisbury: My main issue when reading is starting a book but then wanting to read a different book, usually a new release. I was part way through this and loving it (Hence my Twitter pic) when I received Cruel Beauty and The Novice. I'm therefore determined to finish it over the next few days, especially in preparation for meeting Melinda at YALC next month.

The Invisible Library - Genevieve Cogman: I'd heard nothing about this book until the author attended a signing at my local Waterstones. I was unable to attend but did look up the premise, and what I read hooked me instantly. I picked it up just over a week ago and am very excited to get reading.

For hardbacks I've chosen;


Throne of Glass - SJ Maas: I've had the trilogy (Not including The Assassin's Blade) since Christmas and have been itching to read them, and so with the release of ACOTAR I've decided to have a bit of an SJ Maas marathon. With everything I've heard, I know I won't regret it!

Rogue - Julie Kagawa: As I said in my first post (Celebrating Rogue's release) I am so excited for this book. I need to know what happens. I may not have managed to read it last month, but this month I'm determined.

The Orphan Queen - Jodie Meadows: After The Queen of the Tearling I've been looking for more 'royal court intrigue' so to speak, and so this book is on my 'Must read soon' list. This month will hopefully be the one!

The Storyspinner - Becky Wallace: I received this book last week after winning a giveaway on Becky's twitter. I am super excited to start this one, fantasy being my favourite genre in YA, and even more so being that it's an annotated copy! Thanks again, Becky!

Geek Girl: All That Glitters - Holly Smale: Last but not least is the final (so far!) book in one of my all time favourite series'. Geek Girl is the perfect mix of drama and humour, making the books a light but always brilliant read. I really want to know what's happening next, and with the hope of meeting Holly at next month's YALC, it's a definite June read.


Do you have any opinions on my TBR, or have one to share yourself? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter!

Holly @ TheArtsShelf

Twitter: @The_Arts_Shelf