Month: July 2014

Literary Crush: Sara Teasdale

sarateasdaleSometimes you read something so true to you that it seems like your own soul must have whispered it out loud. Every so often, I find a new author or poet that manages to capture my heart perfectly in words. Enter Sara Teasdale, my latest literary obsession.

Through my never-ending quote hunts on Tumblr, I discovered the lyrical, poignant poems of Sara Teasdale, who lived at the turn of the twentieth century. Born in St. Louis in 1884, Sara only attended school from the ages of 14 to 19. Cast against the Victorian 1910s, and then the raucous 1920s, Sara was a sickly flower clinging to life with only the most ephemeral of roots.

Many of her poems deal with death, loneliness, and longing. Despite being courted by several men, she seemed adrift as a boat without course or anchor. The poet Vachel Lindsay had wanted to marry her but didn’t think he could provide her with stability and money. Instead she married Ernst Filsinger, another admirer of her poetry.

“I shall gather myself into my self again,
I shall take my scattered selves and make them one.” – From “The Crystal Gazer”

Filsigner had many business trips, leaving Sara behind, lonely. She quietly applied for divorce in 1929 and lived the rest of her life as a semi-invalid. After her divorce, she and Lindsay became friends once more, though now he was married with children. She committed suicide on January 29, 1933 using an overdose of sleeping pills, two years after her early love Vachel Lindsay did the same.

Her fascination with death’s inescapability is beautifully captured in her singsong prose. I love these poems for their dreamy quality, and in equal measures, their love and detachment towards life. “I Have Loved Hours at Sea” and “Since There Is No Escape” are two of my favorites. She also touches on love – and the feeling of loneliness within love, which is not an uncommon sensation.

“I have loved hours at sea, gray cities,
The fragile secret of a flower,
Music, the making of a poem
That gave me heaven for an hour;

First stars above a snowy hill,
Voices of people kindly and wise,
And the great look of love, long hidden,
Found at last in meeting eyes.

I have loved much and been loved deeply —
Oh when my spirit’s fire burns low,
Leave me the darkness and the stillness,
I shall be tired and glad to go.”

– From “I Have Loved Hours at Sea”

Like Gatsby, Sara always seemed to be reaching for something just out of sight. Like Harry Potter and Luna Lovegood, she heard the whisperings beyond the veil in the Department of Mysteries and she yearned to know its secrets. All of her poems speak to a certain sort of unfulfilled yearning, despite how lightly and flowingly they are written.

“Since there is no escape, since at the end
     My body will be utterly destroyed,
This hand I love as I have loved a friend,
     This body I tended, wept with and enjoyed;
Since there is no escape even for me
     Who love life with a love too sharp to bear:
The scent of orchards in the rain, the sea
     And hours alone too still and sure for prayer—
Since darkness waits for me, then all the more
Let me go down as waves sweep to the shore
     In pride, and let me sing with my last breath;
In these few hours of light I lift my head;
Life is my lover—I shall leave the dead
     If there is any way to baffle death.”

– From “Since There is No Escape”

Others poems speak of her love of nature, awash with clear and beautiful imagery, like “Twilight” and “A Winter Night.” Though all of her poems are very melancholy, there’s something to be said for it. Sara’s poems are writing for a rainy day, poetry for when you are both overwhelmed by life’s beauty and painfully aware of its impermanence. If you’re in the mood for a little sadness, all of Sara Teasdale’s poems can be found here.

And please, share with us! Do you have a literary obsession right now?

(Image from poets.org)

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.

Last Night’s Reading: Meet the Artist

davidsedarisKate Gavino is the artist behind Last Night’s Reading, a Tumblr of original drawings from reading events around New York City. I remember seeing Kate’s amusing portraits on the Downtown Literary Festival website (she was the first official festival artist!), and eventually I discovered her on Tumblr and Instagram

Are you bummed that you missed a reading by an author you’d really like to see? Don’t be sad – Kate was probably in attendance, and she’ll be posting a portrait of the artist – and a quote from the reading – soon.

I reached out to Kate Gavino because I knew all you bookworms would appreciate her work!  She was nice enough to answer some questions and share some of her drawings with us. Be sure to stop by Tumblr, Instagram, or Etsy to say hello!

Photo courtesy of Kelly Lin

Photo courtesy of Kelly Lin

Q: Introduce yourself! Have you always been a bookworm? Have you always been an artist?

My name is Kate Gavino, and I’m an artist and writer living in Brooklyn by way of Texas. I’ve been a bibliophile ever since I cracked the spine of my first Baby-Sitter’s Club book when I was very, very young. I’ve been drawing since then, too, but Last Night’s Reading is the first time I’ve ever posted my drawings to an audience. I went to art school, but I studied writing. I still don’t know how to draw hands.

 

annerice
Q: Tell us about your blog, Last Night’s Reading. How did you come up with the idea?

 

I’ve always gone to readings, and I’ve always doodled at them in my notebook. There have always been one or two quotes at each event that have stuck with me, and I wanted to immortalize them in a way that wasn’t just a tweet of some sort. So I started drawing them next to a quick portrait of the authors and posted them to Tumblr. People seemed to like it, so I kept at it. Plus I get to flex my drawing muscles which are seriously underdeveloped.

 

Q: Have you ever shared any of your illustrations with authors?

 

Yes. I have ended up giving many of the portraits to to them and have done a couple of personal commissions as well. I love hearing what the author thinks of their portraits, even though I am secretly terrified that they will be angry by the way I drew their nose.

 

johngreenQ: How do you find out about readings around the city? Do you know of any good resources you can share with us?

 

As of now, there isn’t one website that posts every reading in the city, so I check individual bookstore websites regularly. I also subscribe to a bunch of newsletters for monthly reading series, publishers, and various literary organizations and festivals. Facebook and Twitter give me constant ideas as well.

 

Q: Are there any readings that stick in your mind as particularly memorable? Why?

 

Some of my favorites include Chuck Palahniuk (at the New York Public Library; the entire room was filled with glowing beach balls and [fake] severed limbs). Philippe Petite (in the catacombs of Green-wood Cemetery), Zadie Smith & Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (at the Schomburg Center; the feminist feels were through the roof), and any Junot Diaz reading.

 

Q: Where’s the best place to buy books in New York City?

 

Any independent bookstore, really. My favorites are WORD, Community Bookstore, Housing Works, and Greenlight. I also love used bookstores such as Book Thug Nation, Westsider Books, Unnameable Books, and Argosy.

 

zadiesmithQ: Where’s the best place to read?

 

For me, the subway. Preferably on the G train, the MTA’s redheaded stepchild.

 

Q: If you could suggest three books to us as “must reads,” what would they be?

 

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (there are actually lots of hilarious parts!), Native Speaker by Chang-rae Lee, and Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat.

 

Thanks for sharing, Kate! Which of the illustrations from Last Night’s Reading is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

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

Meet the Author: An Interview with Shauna Aura Knight

Last week Shauna shared her post titled, “Getting Published: Public Speaking and Building a Platform.” Did you get to read it? It’s an informative and inspiring piece!

Today Shauna’s taking the time to answer some questions and introduce herself to us all, so we can get to know her better. If you have any questions for Shauna, leave them in a comment or get in touch with her on social media.

Bio2Q: Writing-related stuff aside, introduce yourself to us in 100 words or less.

I’m a geek, a fantasy artist, graphic designer, and event planner. I’ve built reproduction Star Wars scenery (life-size Jabba the Hutt) and worked at the Renaissance Faire. I’ve toured internationally teaching Pagan and metaphysical workshops and leading rituals for hundreds of people. I’ve taught leadership and facilitation and been a corporate design consultant. I’ve lived in a cabin without running water and I’m an environmental and social justice activist. I’m almost always working on something creative. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the writing and artwork projects I have in mind.

Q: Introduce us to your writing. What kind of genres do you gravitate towards? Certain types of characters? Settings?

For genres, I love writing paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and epic fantasy. I also have a few sci-fi romances on the back burner, and a few dystopian future stories as well. If there aren’t sword fights, spaceships, or magical duels, I’m generally not interested in watching the movie or reading the book, and it’s the same with my own writing. I don’t know what it is, but big epic battles, people with magic powers, chthonic creatures, vampires, werewolves, spaceships…all that stuff has always inspired me.

For themes, I tend to write about the dark nights of the soul, the hard choices, the characters who have made mistakes in the past but who are still trying to do the right thing. Particularly in my longer epic and urban fantasy, I often deal with heroes who have to go do a thing—even though they know they probably won’t survive it. That it’s not how we act when things are going well, but rather, the choices we make and the actions we take when things are at their worst that define us. My newest book, The White Dress, the Autumn Leaves, has a definite mix of sexy and romantic as well as grief and loss.

Q: Can you remember your first publication? What was it? How did it feel to have your work published?

I’ve had a few firsts. I remember the first time I had an article published in a magazine—it was an article on dreams, and those articles became the basis for my book Dreamwork. I remember the first time a bigger magazine published one of my articles. And it was just a year ago that my first book was published. For some firsts, I felt a rush of excitement. For the books, I felt a little numb…or maybe shock would be a better way to put it. After all the work it took to get to that point, it was hard to wrap my brain around the fact that it was finally happening. By the time my first nonfiction book Spiritual Scents was coming out, the same publisher had accepted a fiction novella from me, Werewolves in the Kitchen. I remember feeling almost a relief…after decades of writing fiction, I finally had something published. It felt really good!

Q: What are you working on currently?

I have a paranormal romance about a vampire coming out soon called A Fading Amaranth. Nathaniel’s been a vampire long enough that he’s just going through the motions of life; he’s starting to wonder if he can keep going. Then he meets Alexandra and rediscovers some of his passion, his muse. Alexandra hasn’t been able to be with anyone for years because of her psychic abilities, but she can’t hear Nathaniel’s thoughts. They fall for each other, but, there are complications…aren’t there always? There’s a Faerie monster in the city, and one of the city’s magical guardians is hunting Nathaniel down since she mistakenly assumes he’s one of the monsters, like most vampires. Nathaniel and Alexandra have to decide what they’re willing to give up, and what they are willing to risk, to be with one another.

CoverWerewolvesIntheKitchenI’m also finishing a couple of books that take place at the same retreat center as Werewolves in the Kitchen. In A Golden Heart of Glass, Angel and Ben meet at the SpiralStone retreat center. They find themselves called to the ancient gods Aphrodite and Hephaestus, but shadow creatures begin to come after them. In A Lick Along Her Skin, Sonya meets Kade, a sexy wereleopard. Then Sonya’s life gets weirder; she discovers that her prophetic gift is actually an ancient oracular truth-speaking magic, and she’s also under a Faerie curse. So there are lots of vampires, were-creatures, Faeries, and monsters on the way.

 Q: Where do you draw inspiration from?

Most of my best story ideas come from my dreams. I have been writing down my dreams since I was a kid. I’ve always had really intense dreams, including nightmares. The White Dress, the Autumn Leaves, is an urban fantasy that begins with Meredith having a prophetic dream of her own death. It’s actually a dream I had when I was 19, and it haunted me until I wrote it down as a story.

I’ve done  so much work with my dreams that I published a nonfiction book, Dreamwork for the Initiate’s Path, as an introduction to exploring your dreams.

For me, dreams are a direct link to the mythic language of our subconscious. I won’t go into a deep dive on Joseph Campbell and the hero’s journey and the importance of myth. But any modern stories—the stories that really engage us—are working with those themes we find in myths the world over. And those are the same images and patterns and archetypes that come up in our dreams. Nothing inspires me to write a story like one of my intense dreams.

 Q: Have you faced any struggles as a writer?

Where to start on that one? Definitely I’ve faced struggles in a lot of areas. There’s the whole finding time to write thing. There’s figuring out the publishing industry and actually getting your work read and published. There’s dealing with rejection letters. And then there’s getting edits back and realizing I’ve been incorrectly punctuating my dialogue for years. There’s promoting the work once it’s out. And there’s the cold reality that the royalty checks aren’t enough to pay the bills. At least, not yet.

I’d say my biggest struggle is in the writing itself. I have started writing dozens of stories, but sometimes finishing them is the really rough part. I often am so clear about what happens in the middle of the book. I have written this scene at the end of the book in clear detail…but maybe I don’t know how the story starts or ends. In the past, I’ve waited for the bolt of lightning to hit me on the head and “tell” me what happens, but what I’ve realized is that sometimes I just have to sit there and work on the story and write until I figure it out.

That can be really hard to do, particularly when I’m fighting off depression symptoms. I admit it. I’m a moody artist/writer. When I’m in one of my moods, it’s pretty darn difficult to get anything useful done. On the other hand, that moment when the story becomes clear, when I figure out what’s going on…when the scene comes to me…that’s pretty satisfying.

Q: On to the reading-related questions: What books have made an impact on you as a reader and a writer?

Certainly Anne McCaffrey is one of my favorite authors. I’ve been reading her work since I was about eleven. McCaffrey blazed a trail for women writing in the fantasy and science fiction genre. Her Pern series is definitely one of my biggest inspirations as an author, and the story Moreta still makes me cry.

I’ve always loved The Mirror of Her Dreams and A Man Rides Through by Stephen R. Donaldson, as well as books by Mercedes Lackey, Katherine Kurtz, and Janny Wurts. Janny’s Wars of Light and Shadow series is just epic, dark and deep. I admit it; I’m a fan of the epic, and the angsty. My favorite books are the ones that make me cry.

For romance authors, I’m inspired by Sherrilyn Kenyon and Karen Marie Moning as well as by Emma Holly. I love Emma’s work and how hot it is. I know that if I pick up an Emma Holly book it’s going to be toe-curlingly spicy. I’d love to know how she gets that perfect edge of spice; she manages to use the word “spurt” without it sounding tacky, gross, or silly.

Q: What are you reading currently, or what do you plan to read soon?

Right now I’m reading some nonfiction by Taylor Ellwood. I have a pretty huge TBR pile because I signed up for Bookbub [Note: check out Gabriele’s post on Bookbub here!] and I’ve been downloading a lot of free paranormal romances, but I have to delete a bunch of them because I couldn’t even get through the first few pages. That’s sort of disheartening. However, when I have a little free time I will probably dive into an Emma Holly romance, or catch up with some of Karen Marie Moning’s work. I’ve also been enjoying Jory Strong’s writing.

Q: Where’s your favorite place in the world to read?

Definitely in bed. When I’ve been traveling and teaching and I’m totally wiped out after an event (I’m actually an introvert so social time takes a toll on me), I love to hide out in bed and burn through a couple of books. Plus I get to cuddle with my cats. When I’ve had too much social interaction, I turn into a total cave-dweller for a while. Also, I tend to haunt thrift stores and I have scored some pretty awesome sheets and comforters over the past years.

WinterKnightsVigilCoverQ: What’s one piece of advice you can give to an aspiring writer?

Keep writing. And then, actually finish your book. And then…actually send it out to publishers. I’ve been writing for decades, and what will never get you published is half-finished manuscripts. If you keep writing, your writing will get better. Do yourself a favor and start to learn about the publishing industry; attend workshops and talks or join webinars when you can, or at least read articles online.

Also, despite the temptation, don’t self publish your first book. Or your second book. Or your third. Learn the industry first, and take advantage of the edits you get from your publisher. I learned so much from the editing process! I wish more indie-published authors spent more money on editors.

As I said—sometimes you need to write the story that needs to be written and not worry about what genre it is or who will publish it. At the same time…it’s worth making sure your story is good. Editors add a level of quality control that will improve your work.

Q: How can we follow you online? Website? Social media profiles?

Web Site: http://www.shaunaauraknight.com

Fiction Blog: https://shaunaknightauthorartist.wordpress.com

-I post excerpts here so you can keep up with new work coming out.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ShaunaKnightAuthorArtist

-This is my fan page, however, Facebook doesn’t really show these posts to most folks, so following my main profile, Shauna Aura Knight, is also a way to keep up with me. You can message me through Facebook even if we aren’t friends, I love to hear from people!

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/Shauna_A_Knight
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/shaunaaura/
Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/shaunaaknight
Goodreads Page: http://www.goodreads.com/ShaunaAuraKnight

Shauna Aura Knight is an artist, author, and presenter. She writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy including Werewolves in the Kitchen, A Winter Knight’s Vigil, and The White Dress, the Autumn Leaves. Her mythic artwork and designs are used for magazine covers, book covers, and illustrations. She travels nationally offering intensive education in the transformative arts of community leadership, public speaking, facilitation, and personal transformation, and is the author of numerous articles and books on those subjects including The Leader Within and Dreamwork for the Initiate’s Path.  Visit her at http://www.shaunaauraknight.com, or her Leadership Blog or Fiction Blog.

Books for Your Sign

Astrology

What’s your sign? Okay, I know taking astrology seriously is worthy of an eye-roll. But it’s harmless and fun to check out your horoscope. Unless you’re defining your life by your sign’s supposed compatibility with someone else or not leaving your house when Mercury is in retrograde.

But as a reader, I love identifying archetypes and each sign has its own defined nuances and preferences. It’s fun to imagine what sort of reading each sign would love. Read on to see what sort of book my inner amateur astrologer predicts for you.

Aries
Aries tend to be energetic people who love to take on challenges, sometimes a little too brashly. Passionate and enthusiastic, Aries will face their problems head on like the willful ram that is the sign’s symbol. A stereotypical Aries would be captivated by fast-paced books of wild and daring adventures, or tales with high stakes and grand meanings.

Recommendations
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

Taurus
Those born under the sign of the bull are known for being down-to-earth and loyal individuals. They can be stubborn, sensitive, and self-indulgent, but their affection and patience is unmatched. Usually, Taureans are associated with the finer things in life – good food and beautiful surroundings. They would be drawn to stories with breathtaking details and familial undertones.

Recommendations
Julie and Julia by Julie Powell
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Gemini
Gemini, the twins, are friendly folk with clever wits. They can be restless and devious, prone to mood swings, but their insatiable curiosity always has them exploring new ideas and adventures. A Gemini would like a book with a bit of mystery or one that makes them think.

Recommendations
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Cancer
Caring Cancer tend to be the most nurturing sign of the zodiac. They are sentimental and protective. But like the crab that signifies their sign, they have claws! They can be moody and melodramatic. Cancer like to be surrounded by family and friends, and loathe insincerity and dishonesty. The home-loving Cancer might enjoy books about families and memoirs.

Recommendations
The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wells
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Leo
The mighty lion of the zodiac! Leos embody the king of the jungle – they’re confident, gregarious, and glow with a warmth only equal to that of their ruling planet, the sun. But they can also be vain, stubborn, and dramatic, enjoying luxury a little too much. The proud and passionate Leo would enjoy books of grand dramas, books make them laugh, and biographies of people as equally awesome and ambitious as them.

Recommendations
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

Virgo
Virgos, born in the busy harvest season, are known for being efficient and focused. Compassionate and intelligent, they nonetheless run into the issue of their work-ethic making them fussy and inflexible at times. Virgos are known for being able to tackle any challenge – so it’s no wonder they’d be well-suited for taking on the classics of literature or books with challenges.

Recommendations
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Libra
Libra is represented by the scales of justice, and so those born under this sign are diplomatic and idealistic people. They are one of the most charming signs of the zodiac, but like the scales, they are constantly weighing their choices, making them indecisive and unreliable. Open-minded Libra might like books that explore different ways of thinking, philosophy, and history.

Recommendations
The Stranger by Albert Camus
A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Scorpio
Intense Scorpio are passionate and complex. Born under Pluto, the planet associated with the Roman God of the Dead, Scorpio are suspicious and intrigued by uncovering inexplicable mysteries. They are considered the most sensual sign of the zodiac, but this is countered by their obsessive and jealous nature.  Scorpio would enjoy books that explore ghost stories, murder mysteries, or dark romances.

Recommendations
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

Sagittarius
Sagittarians are the truth-seekers of the zodiac. Adventurous and optimistic, they’re the ones dreaming of trotting the globe and seeing new shores. The archer can be tactless and blunt, though they tend to love people and life itself. They would enjoy stories of adventure or mysteries to puzzle through.

Recommendations
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline D’Engle
The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Capricorn
Steady Capricorn is hardworking like the other earth signs, Virgo and Taurus. However, Capricorn is far more ambitious. They are loyal, honest, and strive for stability. This can make them demanding and like their name, capricious at times. Their boundless determination would make them enjoy books of success stories and triumphing from nothing.

Recommendations
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Charlotte’s Web by EB White
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Aquarius
The water bearer is constantly carrying around unconventional new ideas and perspectives. Friendly as they are inventive and creative, the unpredictable Aquarian enjoys freedom and new situations. They can be dogmatic and unreliable. Aquarians would like books that let them explore different ideas, like philosophical or dystopian fiction or science fiction.

Recommendations
1984 by George Orwell
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Pisces
Dreamy Pisces is always swimming off on their own planet. Whimsical and imaginative, Pisces can be as slippery as the fish they are, and far too distracted and unrealistic for their own good. Their sensitivity and  idealism leaves them overemotional and indecisive. Pisceans would enjoy books of fantasy with vast, invented worlds they can disappear into.

Recommendations
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

So what’s your sign? Does my guess sound like something you’d like to read or am I completely bonkers?

(Photo Credit: janwillemsen via photopin cc)

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.

Dear Readers: We Want You!

BiblioSmiles Header

Whether you’re a new reader or you’ve been here since the beginning, I hope that you love the content you’ve seen on BiblioSmiles so far. Back in February I dreamed of creating a place where bookworms can get excited and share their thoughts on their favorite books, authors, and reading-centric memories. I’ve been blessed with some great friends from high school and college who have written some thoughtful, inspiring pieces, and I hope they continue to contribute! But I want BiblioSmiles to expand and envelope bookworms everywhere in a cozy group-hug. So this is a call for submissions, and I hope you’ll consider taking up your pen (or word processor) and joining the party.

For all you new readers, you can learn more about BiblioSmiles and all of us involved here. Click around. See the sort of stuff we like to write.

Do you want to submit something? Check out the Submit page. These are the kinds of posts I’m looking for, but I’m always open to suggestions and ideas:

– “The Anatomy of A Bookshelf.” Give readers a tour of your shelf/shelves, like our other posts here.

– Book reviews of all genres (I’d love to expand to include graphic novels!)

[Did you see our new Book Review Reference List? You can see which books have already been reviewed.]

– Movie reviews with attention paid to the book the movie was based on

– Personal essays about favorite books or authors, memorable reading experiences, reflections, or opinion pieces

– Have you attended any book signings or events recently?  Are you planning on attending one soon? 

– We love interviews with bookworms and authors. Check out some of our interviews here.

– Spotlight on your favorite place to shop for books, or your favorite place to read.  Celebrate the reading life!

Now don’t get scared off if you’re not “a writer.” BiblioSmiles contributors are all kinds of people: students, teachers, office workers…

We have one thing in common: We. Love. Books.

If you’re interested in submitting or you have a question or comment, send an email to bibliosmiles@gmail.com or fill out the contact form on the Submit page.

Thanks for taking the time to read. I hope you’ll consider adding your own story to our collection!

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

Bookworm Interview: Danielle Villano

Want to get to know the BiblioSmiles contributors? Read below to find out more about Danielle!

danivillano

Q: Tell us about yourself in 100 words or less:

I was born three months early, and now I try to arrive on time for everything. I was raised in northern New Jersey and I have a lot of pride for my state, but I recently made the move to NYC. I love it so far! I just took an editor position at a publishing company, and I feel very blessed for the opportunity. I get absurdly excited about macarons, bread, baby elephants, movies featuring Adam Scott, Dancing With the Stars, and a good gin cocktail. Oh – I’m the editor of BiblioSmiles, and I couldn’t be happier about that!

Q: What books did you love as a child?

My favorite book to take out of the elementary school library was A Very Young Dancer by Jill Krementz. The book was full of beautiful photos and it followed the progress of a young ballerina in a dance company. Dancing was a big part of my life when I was younger. The checkout card in the back of the book was just my name, over and over.

As I got older, I fell in love with fantasy and magic. Some books that still stick out in my mind are The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine (I wrote an incredibly-detailed book report on it in the sixth grade), The Claidi Journals series by Tanith Lee, Tithe by Holly Black, and the Sweep series by Cate Tiernan. I would check two or three of those out at a time; I really loved that series.

Right before seventh grade began, I started reading V.C. Andrews (Flowers in the Attic was first). This opened up a whole new door for me, and I sort of became obsessed with romance novels after that.

Q: What kinds of books do you love now?

I still read romance novels quite often. I used to be ashamed to say that. I think it’s because I went to school for writing and a lot of classmates looked down on the genre. I’m over that now; I like to read what makes me happy, and there’s really a lot of great romance writing out there. I love the Fifty Shades phenomenon; I think it did some interesting things for romance, and brought it out of the shadows. No need to hide under the covers with a romance novel anymore – you can even read it on public transportation… everyone else is doing it!

My favorite books now are coming-of-age stories. I will always feel drawn to that kind of storyline, and it’s what I like to write myself. When I was younger I really connected with a lot of coming-of-age stories, and that’s stuck. Some of my favorites now are The Adults by Alison Espach, The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker, and The Pink Hotel by Anna Stothard.

I’m also partial to short stories and memoirs, after taking a fabulous memoir class with Melissa Febos, the author of Whip Smart. 

Q: Where’s your favorite place to sit down and read?

I like to read sprawled out on my bed or curled up on the couch. Having a Kindle has made it easier to read on-the-go, and so I like to get a few pages in on my subway commute, or if I’m taking a train back to New Jersey.

Q: Do you set any goals for yourself as a reader?

When I was reviewing books regularly, I tried to read a book each week. That’s kind of fun and exhilarating, but at the same time I didn’t feel like I was able to enjoy the book with the goal in mind. So for now, my goal is to read the stuff I want to read, blog about it when it strikes my fancy, and continue to work towards my Goodreads challenge goal of 50 books for 2014. (I’m pretty sure I’ll surpass it.)

As I said in my recent post about Goodreads, I like to keep a running list of the books I read. I also keep the same list in a Word document. So, my long-standing goal is to always be able to update that list. I don’t want it to stand still for too long.

Q: Have you ever met any of your favorite authors? What was that like?

Back in 2010 when Imperial Bedrooms, the sequel to Less Than Zero, was published, I had the chance to attend a reading by Bret Easton Ellis. He is my absolute favorite author (something that a lot of people who know me find very funny), and so I was a giddy, jittery mess the entire time. Aside from remembering that I finished reading Imperial Bedrooms in the time I was waiting for the reading to start (I got there super early so I could get a good seat!), a lot of the reading and discussion was a blur. I hung onto Ellis’s every word, though. When I approached him to have my book signed, I rambled on about how inspiring he was, but he was obviously distracted or just totally not listening. It’s okay, though. He shook my hand, and that was kind of the coolest thing ever.

I also met Sylvia Day, the author of the Crossfire series, at BookCon this year. She was very sweet, and took the time to talk to every person in line. It was worth waiting on a line of grumpy romance-novel-reading ladies just to meet her.

Q: How do you mark your place in a book?

I have this cheap cloth bookmark that’s woven with red, blue, and silver threads. It actually says “Book Mark” on it. I bought it for a quarter at a thrift store quite a few years ago. I’ve managed to hold onto it all this time, and I use it quite often. When it’s not handy, a receipt or ticket stub will do the trick!

Q: What books are you on your “must read” list?

Too many to count! There are so many books I need to get around to reading: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe, Wasted by Marya Hornbacher, This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper, Zeroville by Steve Erickson, Drinking with Men by Rosie Schaap, The Richard Burton Diaries… heck, I even want to read The Hunger Games trilogy and the Divergent series. My Amazon wishlist has 355 books on it. I think you understand.

As far as books everyone must read? Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You by Amy Bloom, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Q: Here’s a famous question: if you could have dinner with any author, living or dead, who would you choose and why? Where would you go, and what would they order for dinner?

I’d have to choose the aforementioned Bret Easton Ellis. The thing is, we’d have to travel in time back to the late 80s or early 90s so I could understand his whole “scene” as a young writer. We’d eat lunch outside of some popular spot like Spago or The Polo Lounge in Beverly Hills, and the sun would be so bright that we’d still be squinting behind our sunglasses. We’d talk about sparse prose and name brands and he’d promise to make me a really cool mixtape. He would order something weird and flashy like roast duck pizza, but then pick disinterestedly at it and down a prescription cocktail.

Q: What’s your favorite post you’ve written for BiblioSmiles? What’s your favorite post that someone else has written?

My personal essay on my reading list will always have a special place in my heart. Since my stomach just growled, I should also mention how much I enjoyed writing about food in books. As the editor, I’ve loved every single post that’s gone up on the site. So I’ll just mention these two: Alyson’s post about reading while teaching is so great because she’s passing on the tips that have helped her balance her reading life with her professional life. I’m also quite partial to Gabriele’s post, “What’s Don Draper Reading?” I’m a huge Mad Men fan. Bring on the drinks!

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 Annihilation of Foreverland

foreverlandSometimes, you need something to prick up the hair on the back of your neck. To thoroughly and full creep you out. Tony Bertauski’s Foreverland series is a quick read that will do that.

In The Annihilation of Foreverland, boys wake up on an island with their memories scattered. They’re told by their elderly caretakers that they’re on this island so that they can heal, but to do so, they must go into the alternate reality of Foreverland. The bandaids on their forehead reveal a hole to let a cold, steel needle pierce their brains and whisk them away.

The boys – there’s Danny Boy, who is quickly champion at the video games, earning respect from the other boys. There’s easygoing Zin, who meets up with a girl in Foreverland. And then there’s Reed. Reed is a problem. He resists Foreverland, because his dreams are full of a girl whose name he can’t remember, telling him not to go.

The book is a mix of Lord of the Flies and The Twilight Zone. Foreverland is a nod to Neverland, where the boys gain magic abilities and anything is possible. Living on the island itself is a dream come true – they can run in the sun, play violent video games, and hang out to their heart’s content.  Under the watchful eyes of the elderly “Investors”, geriatric babysitters who give off almost an ancient-Greece man-boy relationship vibe, the boys are governed and kept in line.

The Annihilation of Foreverland plays out like a roller coaster of a thrilling sci-fi movie. Your stomach plummets at all the right moments, the twists and turns keep you flipping the pages. The descriptions are well-written, creating this picturesque little island.

And yet, beneath it all, there is the feeling of dread, of creepiness, interwoven into every page. Something is not right. A good science fiction thriller is one that makes your skin crawl, and The Annihilation of Foreverland achieves that.

The companion novel, Foreverland is Dead, covers the girls’ side of things. Girls are absent from the book, except for flashbacks, the dream girls in Foreverland, and of course, Reed’s mystery girl.

Both novels are self-published on Amazon, which is all the more refreshing because the books are so well-done, and investing time reading a self-published book can be a gamble. Bertauski flits from one POV to another, giving the reader interesting insights into both protagonists and antagonists. The boys’ internal struggles are relatable as they each search for some version of truth to hang on to.

I don’t know if there was anything I didn’t like. It certainly wasn’t a usual read for me, since it was more serious than my normal picks, and there weren’t many female characters. But it was immensely entertaining and enjoyable. I read this book over the course of two days.

This is a great beach read for the science-fiction or thriller lover who needs something snappy, suspenseful, and skillful to read this summer. Or anytime! It’s always invigorating to be absorbed by a book that has you turning pages as fast as your eyeballs can race from beginning to end.

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.