Month: May 2014

We’re Going to BookCon!

bibliosmilesshirt

Tomorrow’s the day: we’re going to the first annual BookCon in New York City!

(Unfortunately, Abby the puggle will not be in attendance. She just needed to get in on my picture-taking spree.)

I’ll be spending the day wandering around in a book-crazy daze with some fellow BiblioSmiles contributors: Gabriele, Kim, Alyson, and Spencer! We are so excited.

Be sure to follow BiblioSmiles on Instagram for photo updates! What panels will we get to attend? What authors will we get to meet?

Check back here on the blog next week for some BookCon posts and goodies. I look forward to recapping for all of you who couldn’t make it!

And if you are in attendance, and you see a flock of people wearing these super sweet BiblioSmiles shirts, feel free to come say hi. The best part of a book-centric convention? Getting to bask in the presence of people who understand just how important and special books are!

Danielle Villano is the editor of BiblioSmiles, and she is really glad you’re here. Learn more on the About page.  Tweet @daniellevillano.

Review: The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

hereandnow“Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.”

Prenna, the seventeen-year-old protagonist of The Here and Now, lives in the present, but she immigrates here, to New York, from the future. Prenna comes from a time where the population is suffering from a deadly plague, that is transferred to humans from mosquitoes. As the death toll rises, Prenna and approximately one thousand other people travel back in time to 2014, before the world turned dangerous.

Now Prenna and her people live by a rigid twelve rules, which forbid them from drawing attention to themselves, from showing up in photographs, or from doing anything that may put their time-traveling secret in jeopardy. The twelfth and final rule is as follows:

12. WE MUST NEVER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, DEVELOP A PHYSICALLY OR EMOTIONALLY INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP WITH ANY PERSON OUTSIDE THE COMMUNITY.

This proves incredibly problematic for Prenna, who has an inexplicable connection with the sweet and good-looking Ethan Jarves.

The Here and Now, published this past April, is the newest novel from the author who brought us The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.  While The Here and Now still has similar YA themes, this book certainly has more of a sci-fi spin to it.

When a mysterious old man leaves Prenna and Ethan with a huge responsibility – to prevent a death that alters the course of the future – they must embark on a journey that leaves Prenna with a lot of questions. Prenna must come to terms with the truth of her future, while simultaneously battling her feelings for Ethan. How can she give up on all of the lessons that have been drilled into her for years?

I really wanted to like Prenna as a main character, but I had trouble understanding exactly who she was. Around Ethan and her classmates she is shy and nervous, but in the face of authority she frequently talks back and challenges. Surely someone who feels so wounded and frightened would not challenge her superiors? These secondary characters, it should be mentioned, all felt like caricatures – the busy, no-nonsense mother, the boring counselor, the mean old lady who chastises Prenna for misbehaving, and the crazy, homeless man who may not be so crazy after all.

The romantic aspects of the plot seemed to overtake the more-important (in my opinion) personal journey Prenna takes. So while I would consider this a sci-fi-centric romance, I really wished for it to be more of a coming-of-age tale. Prenna could have been a strong character, but this is overshadowed with her struggle with the swoon-worthy, always-around-at-the-perfect-time Ethan.

But I’d like to know what you thought.  Have you had a chance to read The Here and Now yet? What did you think about the central focus of the novel?

Danielle Villano is the editor of BiblioSmiles, and she is really glad you’re here. Learn more on the About page.  Tweet @daniellevillano.

Cover Reveal Blitz: The Raven by Sylvain Reynard

[Editor’s Note: I’m incredibly excited to be sharing the cover for the new book by Sylvain Reynard, the author of Gabriel’s Inferno. I have the entirety of the Gabriel series on display on my bookshelf, and I can’t wait to read The Raven! So without further ado…]

The Raven 
by Sylvain Reynard
 
Blurb: 

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Gabriel Series comes a dark, sensual tale of romance in a city shrouded in mystery…

Raven Wood spends her days at Florence’s Uffizi Gallery restoring fine works of Renaissance art. But an innocent walk home after an evening with friends changes her life forever. When she intervenes in the senseless beating of a homeless man, his attackers turn on her, dragging her into an alley. Raven is only semi-conscious when their assault is interrupted by a cacophony of growls followed by her attacker’s screams. Mercifully, she blacks out, but not before catching a glimpse of a shadowy figure who whispers to her…

Cassita vulneratus.

When Raven awakes, she is inexplicably changed. She returns to the Uffizi, but no one recognizes her and more disturbingly, she discovers that she’s been absent an entire week. With no recollection of the events leading up to her disappearance, Raven also learns that her absence coincides with one of the largest robberies in Uffizi history – the theft of a set of priceless Botticelli illustrations. When the baffled police force identifies her as its prime suspect, Raven is desperate to clear her name. She seeks out one of Florence’s wealthiest and elusive men in an attempt to uncover the truth about her disappearance. Their encounter leads Raven to a dark underworld whose inhabitants kill to keep their secrets…

Release Date:

Early 2015

About the Author

I’m interested in the way literature can help us explore aspects of the human condition – particularly suffering, sex, love, faith, and redemption. My favourite stories are those in which a character takes a journey, either a physical journey to a new and exciting place, or a personal journey in which he or she learns something about himself/herself.

I’m also interested in how aesthetic elements such as art, architecture, and music can be used to tell a story or to illuminate the traits of a particular character. In my writing, I combine all of these elements with the themes of redemption, forgiveness, and the transformative power of goodness.

I try to use my platform as an author to raise awareness about the following charities: Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Foundation, WorldVision, Alex’s Lemonade Stand, and Covenant House. For more information, see my Twitter account.

You can find Sylvain at:

         

 

Review: Every Day by David Levithan

everydayWhat if you woke up everyday in the body of a different person, a different life? You’re still you, but you control someone else for the day, with their own parents, home, friends, and school drama. When you go to sleep, you wake again as someone else. This is A’s life. A knows better than to try to hold on to anything in this odd existence. “Don’t interfere” is A’s main rule, and it serves A well. Until A falls in love with a girl, and then A will do anything to get back to her.

It’s impossible to imagine – having your entire person being nothing more than a ghost, a parasite that invades someone’s else’s body for a day. No family, no history, not even a gender. Never the same body twice. How do you live? What does happen if you dare to fall in love?

Every Day by David Levithan, author of The Lover’s Dictionary, was fascinating. A wakes up in the body of a different 16 year old each day and has to quickly learn how to not completely ruin their life. A has a routine down, but despite it all – A makes mistakes. Little actions sometimes have a tremendous impact on each’s person’s life. And when A falls in love, caution flies out the window. Despite all this, A is a likable protagonist in the midst of a chaotic existence. A’s life creates the question of what comprises personhood. Stripped of our bodies, our relationships, our accomplishments – stripped down to our actions day to day, who really are we?

I really enjoy these sort of books that pose philosophical questions that challenge what the human experience is. Stories like this can show the resilience of the human spirit – the way a person reacts to crazy situations. They can either break, completely shattered. Or they can turn out to be diamonds, made from the crushing pressure and heat of their circumstances.

The book also challenged sexuality. A fell in love with a straight girl but A’s sex can change day to day. If A wants to pursue the girl, A must wonder if there’s any chance the girl will be able to accept not only a different body, but a different gender and sex as well. All of the characters in the book are flawed in very human ways, and Levithan shows how they navigate the cards that are dealt to them.

Levithan is a talented writer, with fresh and engaging writing and good pacing. I wasn’t able to put this book down. I felt scared for A at times, and terribly sorry at others. My only criticism is that A’s love interest could be very oblique at times, in my opinion, but on the other hand, this only made her reactions much more real. At the heart of it, both A and the girl are just 16 year olds. I especially loved this quote:

“I want love to conquer all. But love can’t conquer anything. It can’t do anything on it’s own. It relies on us to do the conquering on its behalf.” – A

I certainly advise people to try out this unique read. Similar series I can think of are: The Hybrid Chronicles by Kat Zhang, and His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman. Though apparently Octavia Butler of the Xenogenesis Series wrote a story like this one called Wild Seed, which is also about a character that flits from body to body. I know what I will have to read next!

Gabriele Boland is an aspiring grown-up. She enjoys pretending she’s in a Disney movie, letting her dork flag fly, and writing stories that will never see the light of day. The other ramblings of her mind can be found at Brilliant Buckets.

Some Poor Book Swap / Speed Date Choices

At the first-ever BookCon on May 31st, participants ages 21 and over are welcomed to sign up for any single literature-lover’s dream: a book swap / speed dating event. The website describes the event as follows:

This event is the only place for book lovers to mix and mingle in the traditional speed dating style and bond over a mutual love of books! The twist is you must bring a book that represents YOU and at the end of the event you will give your book to the person that you want a second date with. Don’t forget to put your name and telephone number in the book so you and your match can keep in touch!

While I won’t be attending the speed dating event, I absolutely love the idea! Lots of books? Cool people? A cash bar? It’s kind of perfect. Us BiblioSmiles folks have been mulling over the perfect books that represent us. It’s a hard task. You want to pick something that’s really interesting and telling of who you are as a person. You want to get to that second date.

So, I’ve compiled a list of three books that you should totally NOT bring. You’re welcome in advance, single cuties of BookCon.

americanpsychoAmerican Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

What you think it says about you: I like challenges, controversy, and expensive clothes. I totally understand that this is a critique of capitalism, and I enjoyed this book because of it. Also, isn’t this a funny choice for a speed-dating book? Let’s laugh about that together.

[Note: When I asked my boyfriend what book he’d bring to a speed dating event, he answered “American Psycho,” without a minute’s hesitation. Should I be concerned?]  

What it may actually say about you: “I’m into, oh murders and executions mostly.” At some point in our relationship I will probably disguise a minty-fresh urinal cake under a covering of chocolate and watch you eat it because it’s funny.

Our second date: Reservations at Dorsia, then back to my place for prescription drug cocktails set to a soundtrack exclusively of Genesis songs. “I’ve been a big Genesis fan ever since the release of their 1980 album, Duke…”

silenceofthelambsThe Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

What you think it says about you: I’m always up for a thrill, and books that make you think. The workings of the human mind are fascinating to me. I’d like to really get to know you.

What it may actually say about you: I really liked the movie version of The Silence of the Lambs. I kind of idolize Hannibal Lecter. I’m going to pretend that’s not creepy.

Our second date: I’ll take you out for tapas and a nice Chianti. Wanna get out of here? Let’s go back to your place and I’ll tell you just how soft your skin is, baby. Wow, what kind of lotion do you use?

[Note: Did you know in the book version, Lecter eats one of his victim’s liver with some fava beans and “a big Amarone?” It’s a very dry red wine.]

oedipusOedipus by Sophocles

What you think it says about you: I appreciate the classics. I am a humble guy, and I am not a victim of hubris, like Oedipus. Hubris means excessive pride.  Didn’t you learn anything in high school?

What it may actually say about you: According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “Oedipus complex, in psychoanalytic theory, a desire for sexual involvement with the parent of the opposite sex and a concomitant sense of rivalry with the parent of the same sex…”

Our second date: A night of classical theater, or maybe a trivia night (Oedipus answered the riddle of the Sphinx). Can I take you home to meet my mom?

What book would you bring to a book swap / speed dating event? Are any of you planning on attending the one at BookCon?  What books would you completely avoid?

Danielle Villano is the editor of BiblioSmiles, and she is really glad you’re here. Learn more on the About page.  Tweet @daniellevillano.

Geeking Out In Your Favorite Literary Universe

How many of us have ever daydreamed of being transported to our favorite book, movie, or video game? Show of hands?

Of course, there’s only so much we can really do about this. Having grown up in the nineties and early aughts, I’m sure most of us were privy to reading a lot of really bad self-insert fanfiction. And we probably wrote some too. No shame. We’ve all done terrible things in our youth.

Anyway. This desire to slip into a favorite fabricated world is far from being a new concept. Countless movies and books have been published that do the very thing those fanfiction stories attempt. And I enjoy reading and seeing stories of well-written fangirls or boys being plunked into their dorkiest dreams. Here are some examples and some Youtube videos to match, should you wish to live vicariously through these fellow geeks.

Lost in Austen
This four-part series (fully available on Youtube, may I add) features, Amanda, who is a bit of an escapist and disdains the savagery of modern civilization. She longs for the elegant days of Jane Austen’s heroines. Well, lucky for her, there is a magical portal in her bathroom that forces her to trade places with one very real Elizabeth Bennet. Amanda reacts as any of us would. Checking her cellphone, trying to fit in (just wait til you see how she has to brush her teeth), and of course, swooning over Mr Darcy. Except… without Elizabeth, how can the events of Pride and Prejudice happen? How can Amanda’s favorite book of all time, her favorite romance, unfold as it should? Amanda becomes desperate to keep the novel on its track while she searches for a way back to her own time, and to bring Elizabeth back to hers.

 

Doctor Who
In this quirky series spanning over fifty years, the Doctor and his companions travel through space and time, often running into very familiar figures. While they end up meeting real people (like Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, and Vincent Van Gogh), they often find themselves in situations that mirror the authors’ own works. Just take the episode, “The Unicorn and the Wasp,” for example. The Doctor and his companion Donna run into Agatha Christie, only to be pulled into a murder mystery that takes a turn for the paranormal. The Doctor and his friends gleefully geek out over meeting the authors as much as they pay any attention to the emergency at hand.

 

Once Upon A Time
This show, written by the creators of Lost, has a twist on our theme. Instead of a hero being dropped into another world, another world is dropped into ours. Thanks to a powerful curse, all of our beloved fairytale characters have been transported to the town of Storybrook, Maine, and all their memories of their true lives erased. Their happy endings have vanished. Emma, our reluctant heroine, is brought to the town by the son she gave up for adoption years ago. She is unwilling to believe the people in this town have anything odd about them. But not believing is a luxury she can’t afford for long, because the Evil Queen is the only one self-aware in Storybrook, and she is not going to tolerate Emma’s presence for very long.

 

thursdaynextThursday Next

In the alternate-universe of Thursday Next, a series by Jasper Fforde, literature plays a much more prominent role in society. People need to be regulated from all changing their names to those of famous authors, and Shakespearean quotations are the entertainment of the day. In this universe, the line between literature and reality blurs. The beloved literary characters from and the people in Thursday Next become able to jump in and out of novels, and change characters, events, and even endings. The series starts with The Eyre Affair, where our protagonist, Thursday Next, is a renowned Special Operative in literary detection. She’s forced to act when someone begins kidnapping characters from novels, including the very important Jane Eyre.

Wishbone

If you really want to go old-school, who can forget the series Wishbone? Talk about a self-insert, Wishbone is a bookish Jack Russell terrier who daydreams about being the hero of famous novels. This series was invented to entertain and educate children, but there’s something endearing about seeing a dog act out the stories of Robin Hood, Tom Sawyer, or Sherlock Holmes. He’ll forever be “the little dog with a big imagination” and I fondly remember watching him as a kid as he lived out all the classic stories.

 

So, if you could be in any book, which one would it be? Which literary world would you love to live in?

Gabriele Boland is an aspiring grown-up. She enjoys pretending she’s in a Disney movie, letting her dork flag fly, and writing stories that will never see the light of day. The other ramblings of her mind can be found at Brilliant Buckets.

Finding Books Through My Books

I’ll admit it.  I’ve never read so many books in my life as when I began writing, and that includes all the prerequisites I was assigned in high school and college.

Okay, so I exaggerated a bit there – but not by much. I am glad that I have discovered the books I’ve found while trying to promote my own work, as they opened doors for me and led me to explore genres that I may not have otherwise been interested in.

foreveryoungTake Gerald Simpkin’s Forever Young, for example.  I’ve never been too keen on vampire stories, but the way the author delves into the main character’s transformation into a supernatural being has piqued my interest and made me want to learn more about his stories, which is why I am now reading his young adult book (and sort of a continuation), Forever Irina.

bellaI’ve also discovered Die in Paris by Marilyn Tomlins, a historical and dramatic account of France’s most notorious serial killer during World War II, and Bella…A French Life, about a physician caught in a triangle between two unattainable loves.  These are two very different books by the same author, and they were both able to bring humanity to light in these two different characters.

I have also found the Angst trilogy by David J. Pederson, a set of books setting the plight of an average forty-something family man in a medieval fantasy, introducing both comedy and adventure into the mix.

Sophie Bowns is another author to look out for.  A young writer from Great Britain, she already has quite a following on WordPress with works entitled Theodore, Azure, and Planchette.  You can check them out, with posts divided into chapters, at http://sophiebowns.wordpress.com/.

imagoLastly, there’s my inspiration, Lorna Suzuki, whose Imago series has already brought about a movie deal.  She is an indie author herself and she writes about Nayla, a strong and independent warrior princess who is sure to give heroines of other popular works a run for their money. Suzuki has proven that you don’t need a big publishing company behind you to become the next JK Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, Suzanne Collins, or Veronica Roth.  I am very fortunate to have discovered these and other gems by Kassie Leigh Perkins, Riott Night, and Cass Web in my own book-promoting journey and would hope that others might give them a chance as well.  If there is anything I learned from this experience is that you never know who or what will be the next big thing – which is all the more reason to keep your eyes wide open.

bk1frontIf you want to know more about my own work, Order of the Dimensions, you can visit the Facebook page here, or follow on Twitter. Here is a short synopsis:

When Jane Kremowski first began her graduate studies in physics at Madison State University in Wisconsin, little did she know where her work would take her. Now, she is embroiled in a multitude of dimensions all leading to different outcomes. She and her colleagues therefore must act wisely in order to take and keep away the Order of Dimension from falling into the wrong hands for the sake of her loved ones.

 

Irene Helenowski, the author of Order of the Dimensions, is a biostatistician at an academic medical center in Chicago and recently received her doctorate in biostatistics. She also enjoys going to movies and concerts in her spare time. Visit her website here.