Category Archives: Books

Festival of Books and Blues

I’ve always wanted to go to Printers Row Lit Fest and the Chicago Blues Fest since migrating here 11 years ago. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to attend to any of them. It’s either that I needed to study for a test, or I’m working on that weekend. But not this year, however. Because I requested a couple of days off for these events, months in advance.

It’s also fortuitous that both events were held on the same weekend. So, I was able to kill two birds with one stone. I also took my camera out with me, and did some photography. I’ve been slaving away at work these past few weeks that I didn’t have time to take pictures, killing my project 366. So, it feels great to be a shutterbug once more.

Printers Row Lit Fest

The Book Fair on Dearborn St.

I never really stayed long at the Lit Fest. I only stayed there for an hour. Mainly because I wanted to go to the Blues Fest. But I did have fun browsing for books, looking for bargains, and listening to writers giving advice and talking about literature. I wasn’t able to do what I set out to do, however. Which is getting my copy of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks signed by Rebecca Skloot.

First edition copies of The Lord of the Rings and The Once and Future King.

I saw a lot of cool books though. By cool, I meant their bindings. There was a huge bible with a nice red leather binding and a gold cross on the cover. It costs $400 though. I also found a the first edition copies of The Lord of the Rings and The Once and Future King, two of my most favorite fantasy books. The copies were mint too. So, I didn’t ask for their prices. Because I know I won’t be able to afford them.

The only book I can afford from the Lit Fest.

I wasn’t able to stock up on books as I’ve planned either. But I really didn’t know what I was looking for. Plus, I only have a $10 budget. The only book that I got was The Daily Book of Photography. It’s a good book for newbie photographers like me. Because you can read it one page a day and learn a new skill or some factoid about photography.

Chicago Blues Festival

The Mississippi Juke Joint stage.

Blues fest was a blast! It was hot as hell, however, and I got sun burnt. So, I left the grounds earlier than I expected. But I still saw a couple of bands, great bands, that I really enjoyed.

Homemade Jamz. These kids know how to play.

His muffler guitar is smoking –literally and figuratively speaking.

The first performer I heard was the sibling band, Homemade Jamz. I was walking into the festival ground and their sweet music, like the pied piper, guided me in. They’re good. They’re pretty young too. The vocalist/guitarist is 20, the bassist just turned 18 the day before, and the girl drummer is only 13.

“The Devil Ain’t Got No Music” –Lurrie Bell

I also saw Lurrie Bell. In all of the fest performers, he’s the only one I’m familiar with. He mostly sings sanctified songs. But I really like them. Plus, he’s a good picker.

Charlie Wilson’s awesome string men.

This old dude is the boss!

Charles Wilson’s band probably had the best sound at yesterday’s fest. He sings good, and his guitarists were really great too. They also had the best rendition of B.B. King’s “The Thrill is Gone”.

I had an awesome day in the city yesterday. But that was only the primer. I still have Pitchfork Festival and Lollapalooza coming in the next few months.

Parting Shot: Photography in a photograph.

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My Summer Reading List

With 90 degree temperatures baking Chicago, and the Memorial Day behind us, Summer has already started unofficially. That means I only got one more season left for fooling around before I go back to school. So, I’m going to make the most of this Summer. I’ll squeeze every fun I could get out of it.

Like last year, with school expenses and all, I’ll be too poor to travel. So, I’ll just stay local, go see concerts and hang out with friends. I’ll also bury myself in books, before I bury myself in textbooks when the semester starts this Fall. I know I gave up books to minimize my hobbies. But, during Summer, my room gets too hot from around 2 PM until the sun sets. So, I can’t play video games in there. With nothing else left do, I’d rather read.

I’m not going to challenge myself this time, however, like I did last summer. I’m just going to read as much as I can.

I’d start re-reading some of those old favorites that I haven’t read in a while:

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
1984 by George Orwell
Animal Farm by George Orwell
The Once and the Future King by T.H. White
A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

Then, I’d read my backlogs:

Feast For Crows by George R.R. Martin
A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Everything Matters by Ron Currie Jr.
Great House: A Novel by Nicole Krauss

And, if time and money allows, I’d finish the Summer by reading some new books:

Behind The Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
The End of Money by David Wolman
The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura
Quiet by Susan Cain
Trapeze by Simon Mawer

So, these are the list of books for my summer reading. I probably won’t read them all. But I hope that I, at least, knock the first 10 books.

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[Book Review] Half-Blood Blues

Unlike my father, I’m not a huge listener of jazz music. So, I only know a few artists from that genre, and mainly just guitarists. Weirdly enough, I’m much more interested in jazz’s history than the music itself. Jazz had a dark past, one that was tied to racism, and that has always fascinated me. So, when I learned about Half-Blood Blues, a novel about Nazis and Jazz, I just have to read it.

Half-Blood Blues tells that story of three black musicians. Two of the men, the bassist and the drummer, are African-Americans who fled the US to try and make it in Berlin. Together with “Hiero”, a half German, half Senegalese, who is a virtuoso trumpet player, they try to record a song, a jazz parody of a popular Nazi anthem, while eluding capture in Nazi-occupied Berlin and, later, Paris.

One of the things I love about this book is that music flows from it. The characters’ speakeasy slang gave this book life and color that I’ve not seen in other books. The way they talk, you could almost hear jazz music on the background as well. Its setting, which I was really after, also didn’t disappoint. It really showed the hardships of being an outcast playing “degenerate” music under a totalitarian rule.

I really enjoyed reading Half-Blood Blues. I’ve never read a novel such as this before, which is about history, music, race, love, betrayal and brotherhood. It’s a great, great book. One that I’d recommend to all, especially to lovers of music.

Score: A-

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