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C2E2 2012: BookNerd recap!

This past weekend, Chicago’s convention center – McCormick Place – was taken over by nerds for the third consecutive year.  C2E2 (Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo) came to town and brought together fans of all sorts of things for three colorful and lively days of conventioning.

My husband and I went.  We’ve gone every year so far.  Last year I was pregnant.  This year, we brought our son.

For me, C2E2 has always been about the books.  This is graphic novel heaven, y’all.  Granted, I’ve returned home with bigger hauls the past two years, but this year’s vendors were still stacked with books.  I got a lovely hardcover illustrated version of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” and a copy of Jim Henson’s “The Tale of Sand.”  (“..Sand” came from the Archaia Entertainment booth, where I’ve always found really well-done graphic novels.)

Free Sci-Fi Books!

One of my favorite things this year was The Science Fiction Outreach project booth, where people were simply allowed to take free sci-fi books as part of an effort to get this genre into the hands of more people.  The folks at the booth were ever so friendly and eager to chat, and I walked away with two books I’m excited to read — though I’m admittedly not really a sci-fi kinda reader girl.

Other book-ish things of interest:

A bust of Daenerys from "Game of Thones."

George R.R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire”/”Game of Thrones” was represented all over the place, with some cosplayers and a bunch of merchandise.

John Cusack showed up to sign autographs and to talk about his new role at Edgar Allen Poe in “The Raven.”

Charlaine Harris and Anne Rice were both in attendance.

C2E2 is a blast of an event, and I hope to attend next year as well.  Some words of advice… Bring snacks, unless you want to get some pricey food from booths or wait in the long Starbucks line.  Wear comfortable shoes – its a huge venue.  Many vendors take credit cards, but bring cash for those who don’t.  Most of all – have fun.  Enjoy all the nerdiness surrounding you.  It’s an experience. 🙂


BookNerd Adventure, now with more opera!: Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art & Starlounge Coffee

(Alternate post title: In which BookNerdMom gets to head off into the city on her own while baby goes on his own trip with Daddy.)


The Museum:

Chicago’s Ukranian Institute of Modern Art is one of those well-kept Windy City Secrets.  When I told the folks in my bookbinding class about the “Literature/ART” show I’d seen advertised, I was met with a bunch of “Where’s that?” questions.  The folks in my class know a thing or two about the local art scene,  so my interest was ignited.  What was this mystery place?  Expectations high, I bundled up against the cold and headed out into the unknown.

Located, duh, in the Ukranian Village neighborhood of Chicago, the UIMA is a small, well-kept, space that showcases art by (double duh) Ukranian artists.  At present, they’re showcasing a series of paintings by Ukranian schoolkids based off the literature and folklore of the country.


I’m no great artist, by any means, but many of these kids’ talent put my painting skills to shame.




Arriving home, I felt like I was missing something.  I don’t know jack about the folklore of this region.  So I did what any resourceful modern girl does, and googled “Ukrainian Folk Tales.”  I found a couple wonderful sites.

Most interestingly, as I’m all about adaptation, I discovered that one tale, “May Night,” was turned into an opera by Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.  Below, you can hear the most famous piece from the opera – “Levko’s song.”

A little opera on a Monday.   You’re welcome.

In addition to the special show, UIMA also has a more permanent collection.  The very friendly lady who was minding the gallery was even kind enough to turn the lights on for me, as I was the lone visitor when I went.


The UIMA folks are very excited about the upcoming exhibit – works by Mykola Zhuravel.  I know this because, separate from each other, both employees gave me postcards for it  .The “Literature/ART” show runs until February 12th, and UIMA is open Wednesday through Sunday from 12-4pm.  Also, it’s free.  So there.

The Coffee:

I believe that no two things in this world go together as well as books and coffee.  Not two blocks away from the UIMA is a Chicago coffee lounge that I’d heard about, but never visited before.  (Honestly, I’m rarely to never in the UKVillage ‘hood.)

Starlounge Coffee is great.  The end.


I won’t pretend that some of the folks around me were giving off pretentious hipster vibes.  (The flannel-clad dudes next to me were talking in hyper-metaphors and there was something about how the government is xeroxing our brains, which made me roll my eyes.  But only a little.)  However, I can forgive pretentious atmosphere if the coffee is good – and man, is it good.  And clever.

That gorgeous thing in the photo above is a Gingerbread Trainwreck – made of espresso, steamed milk, cinnamon, allspice, cayenne, and honey.  I expected some hyper-sweet concoction along the lines of what Starbucks might produce for the masses, bu the drink was surprising in it’s subtlety.  t There are also delicious-sounding drinks on the menu called “Unicorn Blood” and “Vanelly Furtado.”  Clearly, I will need to return to Starlounge quite soon with my husband, who likes his coffee drinks not too sweet.  I think he’d dig the drinks featured here – I mean, there’s one with espresso, steamed milk, and rosemary. Those clever, clever people.

Next time you find yourself near the Chicago/Western intersection, take a minute and visit these two fine places.  Art and Coffee.  Nothing wrong with that.

Curious about these stories? Buy “Russian Fairy Tales” from IndieBound.

A trip to Open Books



The whole darn family – myself, my husband, my baby, and my Mom – headed to Open Books this morning to donate some books (which earns you a coupon, by the by) as well as to do some shopping.  We found some great books in great condition at fantastic prices, proving once again why I think Open Books is the best used bookstore in Chicago.  If you haven’t made the trip yet, you’re missing out. Seriously.  

Booknerd Adventure: Chicago Cultural Center

(Please note: Obviously, this visit happened and these picture were taken while I was still pregnant.  Like, eight months pregnant.  Yeah, this post is seriously delayed.)

If we’re being honest, this adventure was completely unplanned.  In truth, I had family in town and we were planning on going to the top of the Sears Tower.  (No, I will not refer to it as the Willis Tower.) However, when we arrived there we found the wait was 3 hours, and as I was 8 months pregnant that was simply not about to happen.

So, being that we were in downtown Chicago, my husband suggested we go to the gorgeous Chicago Cultural Center.  The CCC was originally the Chicago Public Library, and it shows in the building’s book-centric focus.

There’s Chicago Publishers Gallery, which is a big room that showcases publishing companies from around Chicago!

Booklovers will marvel at the names of famous authors within the tile of the buildings ceiling and walls!

Yes, please.

Literary items are on sale in the gift shop!


I don’t have a photo of it, but the building also houses the world’s largest Tiffany dome.  Beat that, every other city that isn’t Chicago!

For sure, a booknerd could get lost in this place.  And the best thing about it is that you can wander around and take pictures of all this majesty for free.

A word to the pregnant.. this place has some STEPS.

Exciting Booknerd Adventure Ahead!

I’m pleased as punch to be planning a road trip that my husband, baby, and myself will embark on in April of 2012.  We’re leaving Chicago and making a loop through the following cities before heading home:

  • Springfield, Missouri
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Austin, Texas
  • Memphis, Tennessee

So, of course I’m now on the hunt for books related to these cities (or by authors from these cities) to read.  I’ve already scored James Michener’s “Texas” and Stephen King’s new “11/22/63” but I know there’s so many more out there.  Clearly I’ll have to read something about Elvis Presley (Hello, Memphis!) and there’s an O. Henry museum in Austin, so that’s also a lead I’ll likely follow.

Suggestions welcome!

BookNerd Adventure: Renegade Craft Fair

I like all things vaguely relating to etsy, and I also like street festivals.

Since it may be a while until I can attend another one, my husband and I headed over to Wicker Park for the recent 9th annual Renegade Craft Fair Chicago.  Despite the hot sun, we had a lovely time wandering among the supremely clever booths, and a few places caught our book nerd attention.

(Foolish me assumed that the map I shoved in my purse would be a good enough guide to help me remember which booth was which when I got home.  Didn’t happen.  So instead, have some pretty pics!)

I wish I remembered which booth this was from – because I’d totally like to order a few buttons now. C’est la vie.

Clocks! (And lamps!) Made of Books!

*I can say for certainty that this pic was taken at the Conduit Press booth.  I know this because I grabbed their business card, because I might just want a lamp made of books. No joke.*

Lots and lots of people had this “Poetry” bag.  I’m not sue where it came from, but its cute!

*Photo taken from the etsy store*

My favorite booth of the day wasn’t book-related at all, actually.  At the Jersey Maids booth, I drooled over the above “Clocket.”  (Get it? A clock locket?) My husband up and bought it for me right then and there.  It’s really gorgeous, and truly tells time, and I love it to pieces.  Visit their etsy store – there are some gorgeous items on display.

All in all, it was a great day to be outside and wandering among pretty booths of lovely merchandise.  There was food, gelato, and libations available all over the place – including Goose Island Beer, one of the event sponsors.  There were also a great number of Greyhound dogs roaming around, part of the “Greyhounds Only” rescue tent.

I’ll totally be returning next year.  Support indie artists!

Booknerd Adventure: The Book Cellar (Chicago, IL)

When speaking of Chicago’s vibrant indie bookstore scene, certain stores will almost come up.  Unabridged, located in the Lakeview neighborhood, is a common mention and for completely justifiable reasons.  Powell’s, Myopic, Selected Works, and some other stores specializing in new and used books will also hear their names mentioned.

BUT – Perhaps the most likely name you’ll hear is The Book Cellar.

Nuzzled into Lincoln Square – perhaps Chicago’s most charming neighborhood – The Book Cellar is doing everything right at  a time when bookstores (whether corporate monsters or independent storefronts) are falling by the wayside.  The store isn’t huge, and doesn’t have everything, but the works it carries are almost all high-quality and the kind of books you eagerly recommend to friends.  In addition, they’re incredibly active in readings/signings (with a packed calendar of events), embracing the movement toward e-books, they have a full beer and wine bar in their cafe, and they were the official book vendor for the author signings at the recent Printer’s Row Lit Fest.  What’s not to love?

On a recent stop by the store, I left with three books and a warm, fuzzy feeling in my heart.

From the “Staff Picks” rack that I absolutely believe IS populated by books the employees actually feel passionate about, to the little girl sitting with her mom in the cafe reading books side by side, The Book Cellar is the kind of place where literature still reigns supreme.

BookNerd Adventure: Open Books (Chicago, IL) Sidewalk Sale

I am a sucker for a good sidewalk sale.  Especially when the proceeds go to something as great as literacy programs.

So, of course, my husband and I made the trip down to Chicago & Franklin for the Open Books Sidewalk Sale on Saturday.

We were not disappointed.

In fact, after the experience, I have to say that from this day forth I shall refer to Open Books as my favorite used bookstore in Chicago.

I’d been a tad worried that the previous nights thunderstorms would stop the sale, but by morning the storm had given way to a warm and dry day.  We arrived just as the sale was beginning, and volunteers were still loading boxes of books onto tables set up outside the store.  From the very start, we started finding books we wanted, and began our pile. There were childrens books by the score, as well as a huge amount of classic and contemporary fiction – all at great prices. ($1 for childrens, $2 for paperback, and $3 for hardcover.)

Having exhausted the sidewalk sale (and being just a tad over a couple super-pushy shoppers, one of whom actually forced her way between Eric and I to get to a box of books under a table we were looking at.  Like, we were shoulder to shoulder and this girl shoved her way in there and then stayed) we ventured into the store and were simply delighted.

After all, how many bookstores have a fireplace lounge?

Of course I took a break.  I’m pregnant.  Duh.

In addition to the store’s massive selection of used books in good to great condition, things are arranged in a variety of genres – From fiction to mystery, there’s a section for everyone.   The “Chick Lit” section made me laugh, and I agreed with all the books grouped under that title.  (FYI – In case you care – like any used bookstore, you’ll find plenty of copies of “Twilight,” “Eat, Pray, Love,” “The Kite Runner,” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” and “Memoirs of a Geisha.”  We just stopped counting.)

There’s also a pretty swoon-worthy rare/collectors rack, which included some Roald Dahl first editions as well as Dante’s “Inferno” among other rarities and pretties.

I spent a great deal of time in the childrens area, which looks like a kindergarten classroom.  The sheer amount of books for kids is amazing and something I’ve discovered as of late.  Our child is going to have an awesome library before they’re even born.

Yes, that's a kids edition of "Moby Dick" I'm reading.

Our grand total = 14 books (and a cute Open Books tote bag) for $46.00.

  • What to Expect the First Year, 2nd edition
  • Johnathan Strange
  • Dune
  • The Lovely Bones
  • Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister
  • The Book of Lost Things
  • The Beauty School of Kabul
  • The Book Club Cookbook
  • Kids Books: An Illustrated “Around the World in 80 Days,” a Sesame Street book called “When’s my Birthday?,” “The Velveteen Rabbit,” “Hop on Pop,” “Frog and Toad Together” and “Little Boy.”

Can I also point out that the bathroom walls are all done in that chalkboard paint and covered in writings in chalk?  It’s charming and adorable.  Really, that’s all I’ll say about the bathroom.

After the sale, we continued on our merry way to Michigan Avenue to meet up with friends to see “Captain America”  (which, by the way, was really good) and wound up being at the same showing as George Lucas.

Yep, that George Lucas.

So, you know, that happened.

Obviously, a good day all around.

That's my husband's beer, by the by.

Open Books is the bomb.  You should go there.  What are you waiting for?

BookNerd Adventure: Mackinac Island, MI

A look at the island from the Shepler's Ferry.

It was not my intention to have a Booknerd Adventure while visiting Mackinac Island.

Rather, my Husband, Dad, and I took a day trip up to the island to see the sights and to get the world-famous Mackinac Island fudge to bring home to friends and co-workers in Chicago. (It’s a thing you do while visiting Michigan – you go to the island, wander around, and come home with fudge.  Done and Done.)  Being a Michigander by birth, I’ve been up to the island approximately 10 times in my life for various reasons with various friends and family members, and it’s always a pleasant way to kill a morning/afternoon.

The island, which became a tourist attraction in the 19th century, still prides itself on it’s old-world feel – no motor vehicles other than emergency and utility vehicles are allowed, and horses pulling buggies is a totally normal sight.

It's not unusual.

We took the fifteen minute Shepler’s Ferry ride across the lake to the island, and set out in search of the massive and uber-h0ity-toity Grand Hotel.  The movie “Somewhere in Time” was filmed on and around Mackinac, and prominently features this hotel, and it’s my mother-in-law’s favorite movie, so we were determined to get a great picture to send her.

So, we’re walking, and it’s a nice day, and we round a corner, and boom –

The Mackinac Island Public Library.

I had no idea this building even existed.  It shouldn’t surprise me, as there are actually a few people who live on the island year-round, but I was stunned and delighted.  The library, painted sea blue, is located feet away from the lake and it’s simply lovely.  (Per their sign, there’s a “Book Sale Every Day,” too!)

This opened my eyes, and as we wandered around the 3.8 mile island (or, to be honest, as much of it as a pregnant lady can take in the summer heat) I also noticed a genuine independent bookstore – The Island Bookstore.  Located inside the Lilac Tree hotel just off Main street, this small store stocks a huge amount of Michigan-related literature, along with a solid collection of popular literature. (I noticed “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and some James Patterson books.)

If you’re in the Mackinac City area, but not journeying to the island, you can still take advantage of The Island Bookstore, as they have a branch there as well (on Central Ave.)

The Island Bookstore.

I’m always delighted to encounter books in places I don’t expect — and Mackinac Island, always a joy, delivered.

And yes, we went home loaded with fudge.  (From Joann’s Fudge.  Though FYI Chicago, there’s a Ryba’s Mackinac Island Fudge Shoppe located on Navy Pier.)

With el Husband on the Island.

BookNerd Adventure: Stalking Hemingway (Petoskey & Walloon Lake, MI)

While I’m not Ernest Hemingway’s biggest fan, I give the man props for being a fascinating figure as well as for his notable contributions to the world of literature.  “The Nick Adams Stories,” which are pulled from his younger years in the Northern Michigan area, are my favorites. So when it was decided that my husband and I would head up to Northern Michigan for a week for our summer vacation (since I grew up there, and my family still lives in the area) I knew I’d be taking the opportunity to do a little Hemingway stalking.  With a little help from Google, Tripadvisor, and the Michigan Hemingway Society, I tracked down a day trip’s worth of haunts to journey to.  Assisted by my wonderful husband, we took off in our rental car across the state.

(To those who think this sounds really boring, please note: We’re history-people, and love museums.  One of my favorite parts of our Honeymoon in Hawaii last year was the tour of I’olani Palace, seriously.)

Stop #1 – The Little Traverse Historical Museum (Petoskey, MI)

This adorable little museum sits right on the gorgeous Grand Traverse Bay, and admission is only $2.  Once inside, you see a collection of area-related relics – but the Hemingway items jump out as the most prominent.  Much of Hemingway’s ties to the area are from his younger years, so the collection on hand is largely child-and-young-adulthood centric, but it gives a great deal of insight into the nature-dude part of the persona Mr. Hemingway would cultivate.

Most of the museum is Hemingway-centered.

It takes a real bad-a$$ to get a postage stamp.

Hemingway's actual baby chairs.

An invitation to Hemingway's wedding.

So many relics.

The very happiest of BookNerds.

Stop #2: Jesperson’s Restaurant & Pie Shoppe (Petoskey, MI)

Now, I think I read something wrong in my research — I thought that Jesperson’s was a place Hemingway used to go and get plastered.  (The man drank, it’s a fact.)  Well, seeing as how the menu at Jesperson’s in downtown Petoskey doesn’t seem to feature any alcohol at all, I’m guessing some facts got jumbled.  That said, the restaurant has been in operation (and family-owned) for 108 years, and it’s said to Mr. Hemingway’s favorite restaurant, so I consider it a win.

Enjoying Jesperson's Chicken Noodle Soup.

That, and the pie was awesome.

Cherry Berry.

Stop #3: Mclean & Eakin Bookstore (Petoskey, MI)

I’m always a fan of a good independent bookstore – and Petoskey has an absolute gem in Mclean & Eakin.  This two-story shop is packed with good reads, and a staff of friendly folks who are obviously readers.  On the day we arrived, they had an author signing books in the kids section and a full summer schedule of author signings and events lined up.

Two stories FULL.

The prominent Hemingway section.

BookNerd Approved.

Stop #4: Melrose Township Park (Walloon Lake, MI)

Historical Marker, Walloon Lake

Not everybody gets a postage stamp AND a historical marker.  Then again, not everyone was Ernest Hemingway.  In Melrose Township Park in the small town of Walloon Lake, Michigan, there stands a historical marker dedicated to the writer’s time in this lovely area.  The summer home of the Hemingway family – Windermere – sits on the shore of the lake, and Nick Adams rows his new bride across the lake after they’re married.

Walloon Lake is very pretty, and located only about fifteen minutes from Petoskey, so it’s an easy jaunt.

From there, we headed back to our cabin and continued our vacation in more traditional ways – BBQ, boating, sleeping late, you know…. But I’ll never forget the day my husband and I spent tracking down a legend.

Along my adventure, I picked up a copy of “The Torrents of Spring,” which is a Petoskey-centric novella that Mr. Hemingway wrote.  I’m looking forward to reading it and seeing some more of how he was able to capture the essence of the area in his trademark “simple” and direct style.

Happy BookNerding, everyone!