Over the last couple of years I've been plodding my way through being a book blogger. We're a dime a dozen at this point so I haven't been as into it as I would like to be. It's a little discouraging when every time you turn around there's another person blogging about books. That being said, the one thing I've been following online for a while and never had the chance to attend, is BookCon. It's held almost every year in New York City and as a Floridian that just wasn't in the cards for me. If a Con isn't within driving distance, I'm not going.
This year since I'm living up north and am a three hour train ride from NYC I decided to go for the first time ever. I've been to plenty of pop culture and comic cons before. DragonCon and MegaCon are my two most attended and favorites. Last year it was Gilmore Girls Fan Fest which was its own unique experience. BookCon, too, was definitely a unique experience.
Since the con was in NYC I decided to make an entire birthday weekend out of it. I started researching some fun things to do in the city and eventually just settled on seeing some Broadway shows.
Friday night I hopped on the train and into the city I went. The train ride is around three and half hours from where I am so it seemed like Friday after work was a safe bet. I arrived before nine and took a cab to my hotel.
Quick note here…despite the idea that Lyft and Uber have taken over the city and are putting cab drivers out of work I had terrible luck with Lyft. Of the five rides I took while in the city, only one was a Lyft and he barely found me. The last attempted Lyft, I flat out walked instead. Hot tip: taxis now take credit cards (woot!). If you're not stoked by the idea of swiping your card on a card reader in a cab, I totally understand. I recommend the Curb app. Curb has a function by which you can "pair" you phone with the cab that you're in. There's a code on the TV screen and you just plug in the number and the payment on file in the app gets charged the amount.
I positioned my hotel to be moderately centralized to the location of the con and the shows I had chosen to see. I picked the Pod Hotel for its location (basically W 42nd & 9th) and its cost. It was cheaper than pretty much any other hotel. For three nights including fees and taxes and everything else, it was around $640. Yeah, that's a lot. Considering everything else I found was going to run me $800-$100, I took the $640. Now, that $640 has a couple of caveats. I was travelling alone so I was able to book the cheapest room with the smallest amount of space. The room itself was 115 square feet. That's not a typo. It had twin bunk beds, a desk with a safe, and a decent sized shower/bathroom area considering how small the room was overall. The other caveat here is that this hotel was not exactly user friendly. From the non-descript lobby in all black, the blaring hip-hop music, and the un-labeled and overly complicated elevators…it wasn't exactly warm and inviting. It served it's purpose though. The rooms were very clean, the windows were huge, and even though the beds were as hard as rocks I slept like a baby.
ON TO THE CON!
I wanted to make sure I did some stuff in NYC while I was there that I hadn't done before. I chose the NBC Studio Tour. I chose the first one of the day. This was incredibly confusing because there are ZERO signs to tell you where to go. I ended up asking four different people and then just guessing based on the information they gave me. The tour begins in the gift shop (surprise, surprise). You check in at the counter and then a couple of pages take you on your way.
There are no photos allowed so I wasn't able to snap any pictures. That was a little disappointing but I guess it makes sense security-wise. We got to stand on the stage where the Nightly News occurs and they told us all about the different screens and various capabilities of the cameras (robotic btw).
From there we went to see the Jimmy Fallon set which has one of the coolest random bits of TV history with the Muppet pipes. A left over of the Jim Henson years, these pipes were decorated as characters. When Fallon was renovating the studio, he left them uncovered and they have their own special section in the studio. The studio also has a state of the art sound system that cuts off sound to where there is no echo. The seats are covered in the leather used in Ferraris.
Next up…the Saturday Night Live studio. I love SNL. I love comedy in general. So many of my favorite comedians either graced that stage or got their start in that studio. They take you down the hall that you see on TV with all the black and white stills of funny sketches. They have a few costumes under glass including the Target Lady. We got to sit in the audience chairs and look down at the stage as they talked about how the show is produced and where the sets are made. I might have teared up a bit.
Lastly for all you extroverts out there, the tour takes you to a little studio room where you can film your own talk show. People can volunteer to be the host, the guest, the band, the camera operators, etc. They give you a script on the teleprompter and then film it for you. I chose not to participate but getting random people to be in something like that together was definitely interesting. And no, I'm not going to post the video.
Now it's on to the Con!
As unique as BookCon is, it's pretty much a standard con set up. There are areas for autographs, panels, merchandise, food, etc. I feel like I had a very different con experience than most. There are tons of tips that people give about ticket drops for ARCs (advanced reader copies), or following publishers on Twitter to figure out the secret stash stuff. I'm not that person. My con was very laid back. There were some things that I wanted to do and people I wanted to see, but I didn't chain myself to too much of a schedule. I got to the con around 10 and they had already let everyone in. Fine by me, I'm not a fan of the con entry line. Everyone's antsy and crabby because they've been awake too long. Now…if you like waking up at 5 am to go stand in line to get some unreleased item, by all means. Simply not for me.
The first thing I noticed was the Fierce Reads booth. Right out in front they were having a buy one, get a free arc sale. I ended up with the Chosen and an arc of the Merciful Crow. I found out later that there was some mass panic over the Merciful Crow arc drop at another booth. I more or less just walked up and got one without issue.
From there I just went wandering around the show floor. There was definitely a little something for everyone there. Some places had free totes or books. Some only had stuff for sale. Journals, stickers, bookmarks, enamel pins…there's definitely something for every book lover at this con. There was even a vendor selling some ridiculously good chocolate. Shot out to Chocolate Moonshine Company for giving us all life…and sugar!
I got to meet and do a photo op with John Cena. He was incredibly nice, but I was moderately disappointed by the conveyor belt feel to the whole set up. They walked you in, you had enough time to say hello and snap a quick photo, then they shuffled you off.
From there I wandered a little more. I ended up needing a bit of a break so I walked over to a random panel. Turned out to be a panel by Max Brooks and others about their book Winning Westeros: How Game of Thrones Explains Military Conflict. They talked for a while about trying to take something like Game of Thrones and attempting to tie it into current military functions so that the layperson can better understand exactly what our military does. It was an interesting panel and even though I have never seen GoT (I know I know), it sounded like an interesting book.
Next on my to-do list was the Neil Patrick Harris signing. I was incredibly lucky to snag a ticket for his signing. He couldn't have been nicer and I'm so glad I got the opportunity to meet him and have him sign his books for me. I immediately went from his line into Leigh Bardugo's line. I'm a relatively new fan of the Grishaverse but it's become my favorite world to dive into. She was also incredibly nice even with my inherent awkwardness and she signed a book for me as well.
After that, I'd had as much as I could handle for the day. I grabbed my stuff out of the baggage check and grabbed a cab back to the hotel. I was way to mentally energized to actually nap, but I at least took a couple of hours to rest and decompress. After a rest and dinner at Subway (right near the hotel), I went to see Aladdin on Broadway. I ended up a little turned around but made it to the show on time. The show was spectacular and totally worth the trip. You can read my review here.
After the show it was back to bed I went.
Sunday morning I was supposed to go to a writing workshop at the con. I decided to stay in bed instead. My next show wasn't until 2 so I needed to find something else to do other than lay around the hotel all day. I settled on going to the AMC that's right on 42nd street to see Rocketman. You can read my review here, but as a preview, I freaking loved it. So so good.
I booked it over to the Lyric theater after that. It was time for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It's a two part show with intermissions and about a 2.5 hour break in between performances. You can read my review here, it was an unbelievable show. One-hundred percent worth the cost. In between shows I had a reservation at a restaurant that I ended up not being able to find, so instead I walked over to Brooklyn Diner. It's a great little American Cuisine restaurant that has excellent chocolate cake. There was practically no one in there when I arrived so I sat and read my book Magic for Liars while I ate. It was the first of two books I would finish over the weekend.
The cool thing about doing the Harry Potter show in the same day is a) you don't have to wait to see the finale, and b) you end up sitting next to the same people you sat next to for the first show. Of course if you are stuck with a dud, this is problematic. Luckily I had some good people around me and the experience was enjoyable.
It was pouring when we left the theater and I had forgotten my umbrella back at the room. I ended up soaked after walking the two blocks back.
Monday morning I woke up tired. All the walking around and being bombarded by the energy of the city wore me out. I had original considered hitting up the Wax Museum or Midtown Comics. Honestly? This was going to be the last time for a few months that I was going to be 100% alone. No other people or animals to worry about/care for. So I laid in bed and read Magic for Liars and when I finished that I moved on to The Merciful Crow.
Made my way to the train station later in the day and ended up eating at the TGI Friday's in Penn Station before getting on the train to head home.
Overall I had an excellent trip to the city. I'd definitely do it again next year.