Month: September 2014

Review: Here Among Us by Maggie Harryman

hereamongusI am always drawn to books centered on family drama (I think this stems from reading Flowers in the Attic in sixth grade… but that’s another story entirely). I think it’s fascinating to examine people who have grown up together as they carry their relationships into adulthood. Harryman does a beautiful job of weaving memories and flashbacks into the present narrative, giving us, the readers, glimpses into the past. This allows us to better understand why these family members behave and interact as they do.

At the center of this novel is the character of Patrick, “Paddy” O’Shea. The O’Shea children each remember their deceased father in different ways, but it is Flynn’s memory of Paddy, as a larger-than-life hero, that stands out as the strongest of the bunch. Flynn’s version of her father also seems to match up with the version of Paddy presented at O’Shea’s, the family restaurant and bar. It’s interesting and sad to read about a family who has built their livelihood on a ghost, banking on nostalgia.

As is the case with a story that follows multiple main characters, I was worried about getting bogged down with too many storylines or getting stuck reading about a few characters that I despised. However, I found each member of the O’Shea family to be unique and equally worth my attention. Most compelling, I believe, were the characters of Maeve, a sister who presents herself in one way but lives her life another way, and Oona, a matriarch struggling with old age and silent grief.

While Flynn seems to be the main character here, I enjoyed reading this more as an ensemble piece, with each O’Shea family member adding something intriguing to the story’s mosaic. Here we have a portrait of a family clinging to the past, but forced to face the changes of the future.

At 304 pages, I read Here Among Us fairly quickly. I imagine it would be a lovely book to read on a commute. I felt transported to Maeve’s kitchen table, where I could drink wine with Flynn. I could almost smell the beer and hearty food at O’Shea’s. I felt the cold winter air in the park, where the O’Shea children relive a painful memory. It’s a novel full of sensory details, and one that transports you to a certain time and place.

The one gripe I had with the story was a hastily thrown-in storyline dealing with a romance between old acquaintances. While some of the romantic relationships were very important to the story and added to it as a whole, I did not feel that this particular one felt realistic or necessary to the story. I was much more interested in the family relationships and reconciliation between family members.

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

Bookworm Fashion Inspiration

[Editor’s Note: I’m so excited that Sara is sharing a post on BiblioSmiles today! Be sure to check out her blog for more fashion, books, and great photography.]

When I say, “I love books,” that doesn’t nearly express how much I truly adore novels. I could go on and on about how I love the act of reading, of immersing myself in other worlds and other people’s stories. It’s the perfect escape for a homebody like me (as I’m sure it is for you guys as well).

But I don’t just love books, I love style and fashion as well. Us literary nerds wear more than just cute cardigans and thick glasses, even though it doesn’t seem like it on TV and in movies. Though to be honest, they are staples in my closet.

I have a mild obsession with taking fashion inspiration from books, whether it’s the characters, the content, or the cover (or all of the above), and creating outfits inspired by them. It’s a whole lot of fun and I know that us bibliophiles are just as fashionable as other people.




Who doesn’t want to dress like a bad ass babe? I have yet to read #GIRLBOSS, but I’m excited to. I took inspiration from the author Sophia Amoruso and the black and pink cover to create two tough but still feminine looks. Pink can definitely be a badass color.


Luna from Harry Potter


Luna Lovegood


Luna Lovegood from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series makes me happy. Can I call her my spirit animal? She’s delightfully quirky and a little strange, and expresses that through her fashion choices. She wears a lot of patterns and likes to mix colors together, like purple with yellow or burgundy with teal.


Cath from Fangirl


Fangirl -- Cath


Cath from Rainbow Rowell’s wonderful book, Fangirl, is obsessed with writing fan fiction. As someone who used to write Harry Potter fan fiction, I’m in love with this story. Cath has that quintessential writer-meets-college-girl style AKA lots of cardigans, t-shirts, jeans, glasses, and flat shoes. But there’s nothing wrong with that since she spends most of her time writing and needs to be comfortable.

Claire from Outlander


Outlander -- Claire


To be honest, I haven’t read the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, but the new TV series is a new favorite of mine. Claire Beauchamp Randall is the main character, a woman from London 1945 who gets transported to the Scottish Highlands of 1743. At first she wears lovely 1940s clothing, but then blends in by wearing the clothes of the 18th century: lots of plaid and dark colors.


Dark Places


Dark Places


I took inspiration from the interesting cover of Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places cover; the colors are dark (like the murder mystery story inside), but still pretty. Teal and gray and distressed denim are perfect for fall right now.
BiblioSmiles readers, which of these books have you read? Which literary characters have you always wanted to dress like?


Sara Strauss is an aspiring novelist. By day, she is a social media guru and by night a blogger at Sincerely, Sara. She likes staying up late to read fantasy novels and eating too many Oreos. 

Bookworm Interview: Izzy Skovira

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


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

Everyone calls me Izzy, which is perfect for me because it’s a little spunky and so am I. The most important thing in my life is family; my parents are my biggest supporters and I don’t feel whole without my three siblings. I love reading but I sometimes wish I liked to read bigger, more distinguished works. I love to write bad poetry, watercolor, and write snail mail. I have a sweet tooth to be reckoned with and a tendency towards silliness. I try to be optimistic, but there’s two things I’m definitely hopeless about: nostalgia and romance.

littlemermaidQ: What books did you love as a child?

When I first began to read, I loved books that looked and sounded beautiful. I continually found myself turning the pages of The Little Mermaid—“Not Disney! The Hans Christian Andersen!” I loved and love this story because of its fantasy and its romance. I also loved the illustrations.
As I grew into a more mature reader, my tendency towards fantasy continued. I remember devouring Lemony Snickett’s Series of Unfortunate Events and Lynn Ewing’s Daughters of the Moon series. As a kid, I loved getting to stick with the same characters for a good amount of time and there was also a feeling of success when finishing one book and immediately knowing that there was another one waiting.
Through high school, I read fluff. I was busy chugging through Shakespeare and Shelley for English classes, so at home I books about boyfriends, proms, girl drama, and the like.

Q: What kinds of books do you love now?

A few of my childhood trends have followed me into my tentative adulthood as far as reading goes. I still love books that are beautifully crafted, whether that is in illustration, writing, or the physical object itself. I’m a sucker—yes, I totally judge books by their covers. I still love characters that feel like I can hold on to them. I haven’t read many series of late, but a lasting character still means a lot to me. Finally, I still like a novel to be a little bit fluffy. While I love something challenging every now and then, I definitely still gravitate towards easier, more leisurely reads. The last three books I’ve read are: Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt, A Short Guide to A Happy Life by Anna Quindlen, and This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz.

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

In an Adirondack chair, halfway down my driveway at home in Park Ridge, NJ. If you drive by, give me a wave!

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

I have an unwritten goal to constantly be reading something. This year, one of my resolutions was to read 100 books. Not sure how I’m doing on that…

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

I’ve hardly met any authors, let alone any of my favorite. To tell the plain truth, I have a tendency towards favorite books as opposed to favorite authors. I would, however, love to meet John Green. #fangirl

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

I never, ever, ever dog ear pages. I also do not use book marks; instead, I stick in a piece of mail, a fortune cookie paper, a receipt from CVS. Whatever I have on hand.

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

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Atonement by Ian McEwan
The Collective by Don Lee
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
Kafka on the Shore by Murakami
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame Smith

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?

Ernest Hemingway because he’d be the most fun. We’d go for steaks and then out to a bar. He’d probably drink whiskey.

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

Ten Reasons Why Bookworm Life is Tough” was fun to write. I love the Anatomy of a Bookshelf posts because I’m infinitely curious about the intimacies of other people’s lives.

Izzy Skovira loves writing, dogs, food, and photography. Read more about her at or connect @htothe_izzzo.

Two Kinds of Readers

The world can often be divided into two types of people. Men and Women. Doers and Thinkers. Wizards and Muggles. You know.

Among readers, the distinction can be made between those who repeatedly reread their favorite books, and those who plow through literature, always moving on to the next story.

My brother steadfastly reads the same series over and over. He’s probably able to quote exact pages of Harry Potter, or The Hunger Games, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, or Calvin and Hobbes. He knows what he likes, and he likes to keep these characters close to his life. Opening up the book, gives them life anew.

Me. I’m the opposite. I always want to reread books. But there’s never enough time. There’s always a new novel, or an old one that I’ve never gotten around to, tantalizing and teasing me. I reread books once in a blue moon, and they have to be fairly near and dear to my heart.

But I feel like those characters are okay. I’ve seen them through to their endings and know that they’re safely off, living their happily-ever-afters (usually speaking).

Although I often intend to reread a book, something new and shiny will pop up and screech at me, “BEHOLD I HAVE SECRET WORLDS YOU HAVE NOT SEEN YET,” and who am I to resist that siren song?

I imagine myself to be quite like the owly man from that post-apocalyptic episode of The Twilight Zone, where he finds out he’s the only person left on the planet, and now he has the rest of his lifespan to read. Even then, that wouldn’t be enough time.

This is also becomes a problem with a reading series. If it’s incomplete, I’m going to have to reread it all when the next books come out. Especially with tomes like The Kingkiller Chronicles and A Song of Ice and Fire. So I’m hesitant to pick up an unfinished series these days. (The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken and The Hybrid Chronicles by Kat Zhang are my current exceptions… basically because I read them before realizing they were a series. Oops, you tricky books got me)

Maybe which you are has to do with how quickly you can read? I am a tremendously fast reader. But my friend who is a super slow reader, doesn’t reread books. She just chooses not to read at all. Soooo.

I gave in and asked my brother why he rereads constantly. “Because I know the book is good, and it’s still going to be good when I read it again.”

Which is so less poetic than my explanation for it, earlier on. Still. Wouldn’t you want to keep filling your brain with more stories? Most people I know are also like me, always cracking open a new book.

But I know you rereading bunch are out there. So please – solve the mystery for me, why do you reread? Or if you’re like me, why do you tend not to reread? Or are you in the middle?

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.

How Reading Helped Me Discover a Society of Screenwriters

Storytelling is everything to me. It is what has so naturally brought together my love of books with my love of movies. Throughout the years I’ve developed immense respect for writers from both mediums, but in assessing my favorites notices a distinct trend. I could refer to my beloved female authors by name. I could not, however, name more than two female screenwriters of any note. This seemed strange to me. Though I’d always known men to get more credit in the movie industry, surely there had to be something I was missing. And there was. Through my search I discovered a collection of diverse and fascinating screenwriters. Here are just some of those incredible ladies.

“I spent my whole life searching for a man to look up to without lying down.” -Frances Marion

Frances Marion
Born: November 18, 1888 (United States)
Died: May 12, 1973

The first woman to win at the Academy Awards for screenwriting and the first person, male or female, to do so twice, Frances Marion’s work includes The Flapper (1920), The Wind (1928), The Big House (1930), Secrets (1932), The Champ (1932), Dinner for Eight (1933). She wrote nearly two hundred films and was known during her time as the highest paid screenwriter in the business.

Sarah Y. Mason
Born: March 31, 1896 (United States)
Died: November 28, 1980

Sarah Y. Mason is a classic screenwriter from early cinema, having worked on many adaptations of literary works. Prominent in the 1930s, she wrote the screenplays for Stella Dallas (1937) and Golden Boy (1939), among others.

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
Born: May 7, 1927 (Germany)
Died: April 3, 2013

An acclaimed novelist and winner of the Booker Prize, Jhabvala began her career as a screenwriter in the 1960s. Over the course of her life she lived in Germany, England, and New Dehli. She won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1986 for A Room With a View and in 1992 for Howards End. Many of her screenplays were adapted from classic literature, including the works of Henry James and E.M. Forrester. These works look in particular at class and social structure.

Laura Lau
Born: March 31, 1963 (United States)

While it is perhaps more common to see women that act and write screenplays or direct and write screenplays, Laura Lau began her career as a screenwriter, producer, and cinematographer. She worked not as a writer, but as a cinematographer on her second film Open Water (2003), and she served as director and screenwriter for her third feature, Silent House (2011). Lau’s work consistently sets the stage for small casts in increasingly dire situations, such as the couple stranded in the ocean in Open Water, or the real-time account of a girl terrorized in a seemingly empty house in Silent House, which is an adaptation of the Uruguayan film.

Adrienne Shelly
Born: June 24, 1966 (United States)
Died: November 1, 2006

Shelly’s career was rooted in independent filmmaking. As a screenwriter, director, and actress, her works include Sudden Manhattan (1996) and Waitress (2007). Her works often focused on the gritty, occasionally humorous struggles of couples and women. Sadly her career was cut short when she was murdered in 2006 before the release of her last two films.

Sarah Treem
Born: 1980 (United States)

Though known primarily for her work as a playwright, Sarah Treem is indeed a dialogical force when it comes to emotional depth and character development. She wrote fifteen episodes of In Treatment in 2008 that dealt with a young woman struggling with cancer and unresolved family issues. In 2013 she wrote two episodes of the acclaimed series House of Cards. She is also set to adapt the screenplay for the upcoming film Until I Say Goodbye.

Since the 1930s these women and others like them have been making lasting impressions in cinema, changing the landscape of film and telling stories as unique as some of the world’s most compelling literature. So next time you watch a movie – go ahead, see who wrote it. You might be surprised.

Emily Ruth Verona received her Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and Cinema Studies from The State University of New York at Purchase. She is the recipient of the 2014 Pinch Literary Award in Fiction and a 2014 Jane Austen Short Story Award Finalist. Previous publication credits include work featured in Read. Learn. Write., Fifty Word Stories, The Toast, Popmatters, Bibliosmiles, and Enstars. She lives in New Jersey with a rather small dog. For more, go to:

First Time Authors for Teens Panel

youngauthorsIf seeing Nev Schulman wasn’t enough, the literary ladies of BiblioSmiles took to the bookshops of Manhattan this past weekend to fangirl over some new YA authors. As avid lovers of YA, we couldn’t miss the First Time Authors for Teens panel at Books of Wonder.

The authors speaking at the panel were:

Adi Alsaid: Let’s Get Lost – a coming-of-age story starring Leila, a sweet teenager on a roadtrip to Alaska, as told through the eyes of teenagers she befriends along the way.

Isabel Gillies: Starry Night – a teen love story set in motion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Katherine Howe: Conversion – A modern-day girls’ private school undergoes its own version of Salem witch hysteria.

Amanda Maciel: Tease – A teenage girl faces charges for bullying when a fellow student commits suicide.

Amy Zhang: Falling Into Place – Told by an “unexpected and surprising narrator,” readers will try to piece together why Liz Emerson decided to kill herself.

The authors had a laid-back rapport with each other and with the audience. There was talk of boxed brownie mix, the miseries of high school and the existence of mean girls, and crushes on Isaac Newton. Danielle and I were pretty ecstatic by how delightfully nerdy the authors were. As Danielle said, of both the authors and the audience, “These are our people.”

And what were the influences on these writers during their childhood and teenage years?


Adi Alsaid said he read a lot of Stephen King starting in middle school, and later turned to Kurt Vonnegut. He still cites Calvin and Hobbes as an influence. Timbuktu by Paul Auster is another book he holds close to his heart.

“I didn’t just look for books for teens [when I was a teenager],” Alsaid said. “And pretty much everything on the curriculum I’d avoid.”


Isabel Gillies was dyslexic, so she didn’t become a big reader until her 20s. She loved reading the Little House on the Prairie series to her kids, and she said she loved watching the television show when she was little. Her interest later expanded to Jane Austen and Nora Ephron, or what she called “love stuff.”

Katherine Howe named the quirky, darkly humorous Bloom County comics as a big influence, calling it, “how I experienced the 80s.” Howe noted that when she was younger, young adult fiction was “very realistic and issue driven.” She references Brock Cole’s Celine as an important book. She also went through a Sartre phrase, reads lots of existentialism, and for a time she loved The Beat Generation.


Amanda Maciel said she is very jealous of how big the YA section is now. As a Scholastic editor, she has been exposed to a lot of YA, and she has vivid memories of the time when Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries debuted.

“As a teen I was very fancy and needed to read important books all the time,” Maciel said. She called Billy Budd the most boring book ever. She managed to not read To Kill a Mockingbird until she was 24, and she’s glad that she read it for the first time at that age, rather than in high school.


Amy Zhang loved Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. She reminisced about going outside to a favorite tree and asking it for apples, a request which woefully went unanswered. The most important book of her teen years so far (yes, she is still a teenager!) has been The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, a book that the other authors on the panel agreed is very important.

Other influences of hers include both A Little Princess and Anne of Green Gables, which Zhang said was very relatable. While Sara of A Little Princess is always sweet, even to the women who abuse her, “Anne put vinegar in a cake,” Amy said, and gleefully added, “I would so do that!”

We were lucky enough to chat with each of the authors after the panel and get some books signed. They were as nice and down-to-earth to their fans as they had been on the panel.

The Books of Wonder venue is incredibly inviting, with bright displays, cardboard cutouts of favorite children’s book characters, and even some fluffy hanging clouds.


We both agreed: we’d like to find ourselves on a panel like this in a few years! And a final sight that pleased us quite a bit? At the end of the day, the bookshelf containing the authors’ books was completely empty. We think the authors probably liked this, too.


Have you read any of the authors’ books mentioned above? These recent releases are already garnering quite a bit of attention. We’d love to know what you think!

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.

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

IRL: Nev Schulman in NYC

[Note: In light of recent news surfacing concerning Nev Schulman’s 2006 expulsion from Sarah Lawrence after punching a woman, I’d like to note that neither myself nor any of the authors of BiblioSmiles condone violence against women – or anyone – in any way. This post is about the event I attended, the content of Schulman’s reading, and why I think Schulman and his television show have offered today’s digital-obsessed youth a good perspective on what’s real and important. I welcome any dialogue the recent issue may have brought up, and of course I always welcome your thoughts.]

I’ve been a big fan of Nev Schulman’s since I watched the 2010 documentary, Catfish, which centered around Schulman’s quest to find out the identity of his online love. The spin-off show on MTV by the same name has provided me with countless hours of entertainment, and whenever I’m looking to watch a show with my boyfriend or my sister, we often end up watching whichever Catfish episodes are on-demand.

When I heard about Schulman’s new book, In Real Life, I knew I had to read it. When I found out he’d be visiting the Barnes & Noble in Union Square to kick off his book tour on September 4th, I knew I had to be there. I’d be picking up a copy of the book AND seeing Nev Schulman “in real life.”  Obviously if I moved to New York City for anything, it was for this particular moment.

Thankfully I have the best roommate in the world, and she showed up to Barnes & Noble early and secured us some great seats. Thanks, Caitlin!

Schulman’s introduction was met with much clapping and hollering, and there may have been a few crying girls in the audience (I swear I wasn’t one of them….). The guy is certainly as handsome and as charming as he is on the television screen! But that’s not what this post is about, so I’ll leave it at that.

(But seriously… that smile.)

Schulman was incredibly humbled by the enthusiasm of the audience, and he went on to talk about how surreal it was that he was here to start off his book tour. Before the reading could begin, he asked everyone in the audience to hold their books up to their faces so he could take a mega selfie. I grabbed the resulting photo from the Nev Schulman Facebook page, and circled myself because I mean, who could resist? Hello!


After the excitement died down, Schulman, who has been called “the leading authority on online romance,” read a short excerpt from his book. The excerpt dealt with hurting those around you, and the power of sincerity. I think this was a wonderful segment to choose, as the majority of Schulman’s book deals with “catfishing,” or lying about your identity online or through social media.

After reading, the floor was opened to questions. Schulman really knew how to speak to a young audience, and he offered personal anecdotes and advice gently. There was a bit of a commotion when two “famous” Vine users showed up in the audience (I didn’t know there was such a thing, so I guess I’m now an old person). While they claimed they were there to support their friend, it really seemed like a tactless publicity stunt; afterwards, they stood around and took selfies with eager teenage fans. The security at Barnes & Noble didn’t seem too thrilled about it, either.

Schulman took the time to meet with each fan, sign their book, and pose for a photo. As I surveyed the line that extended around the store, I realized how influential Nev Schulman has become. Yes, he’s charming and funny, but I think his popularity is so widespread because he’s also relatable. Nowadays, we’re so glued to our phones and computers that it’s easy to fall into la-la land. In some cases, that means falling for a catfish. In other cases, we can find ourselves bullied, or have our words misconstrued, or see our insecurities preyed upon. It’s easy to feel powerful behind a keyboard. It’s also easy to feel powerless.

In a time when the majority of our social contact is digital, it’s nice to see a friendly, real-life person tell us that listening, telling the truth, and being sincere can go a long way.

Are you a fan of Catfish? Have you seen the documentary or watched the television show? I recommend putting down your cellphone and picking up a copy of In Real Life. Who knows? You might learn something.

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