Month: November 2014

The Hero Who Wouldn’t Quit: The Story Behind The Vagabond Vicar

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Ever since I penned my first multi-page story at the age of six, I knew I wanted to be an author. Always drawn to stories set in the past, I loved authors such as Louisa May Alcott and L.M. Montgomery as a girl, before I discovered Jane Austen as a teenager. I felt destined to pen similar stories of love and self-discovery, set in fascinating eras of history.

Despite writing throughout my younger years, I was in my twenties before I knuckled down to finish a book. After I completed my first full-length historical, I began to write a sequel. Featuring a jilted female minor character from the first book, I planned to have a vicar help her through her process of recovery, and have the two characters fall in love through her healing. The book never went anywhere – the heroine was weak and insipid and I soon lost steam. But the hero, the vicar, remained in the back of my mind.

The-Vagabond-Vicar-Cover-mediumThe next book I wrote was a contemporary, and even through that process the vicar would not leave me alone. His character developed almost against my will. He kept telling me tales of his mercy missions in the seedy parts of London. He told me about how he was given a living in a small village, but that he would much rather be sailing the seas to adventures in exotic lands. I was moved by his compassion, his earnestness, and his heart. I wrote the opening pages of what would become The Vagabond Vicar as a shiny new idea while I was supposed to be focusing on editing and finishing the contemporary. I knew I had to find him a heroine worthy of his affections; one he would not be able to keep away from despite his ambitions.

Cecilia came to me almost fully formed as well. I knew she had to be the bright, shining foil to William’s serious, intense existence. They both dwell in other realities – his focus is on helping the undercurrent of society, while she lives in an imagined world of colour and light. It seemed obvious she would be an artist. She is pulled back down to earth by the need to marry, and her mother’s determination to see her settled within a titled family.

The village of Amberley, where the story takes place, is an amalgamation of many historical settings I have read or seen on television. The village of Cranford is probably what was clearest in my mind as I wrote – the gossipy older ladies, the small tight-knit group of families and the mixing of classes which a small town necessitates. This is also a village hiding secrets and shames, and when a scandal comes to light it leads to a series of events which will change everything. The blossoming affection between our hero and heroine is torn apart and ghosts from the vicar’s past may cause his downfall. I hope you enjoy finding out what happens next.

THE VAGABOND VICAR is now available at your favourite online retailer.

Charlotte Brentwood writes unashamedly romantic books for fans of classic love stories. She enjoys exploring her beautiful surroundings in Auckland, New Zealand almost as much as snuggling her cat while devouring novels. Find out more at www.charlottebrentwood.com.

[Editor’s Note: Many thanks to Charlotte for writing here on BiblioSmiles. It should be mentioned that all contributors retain the rights to their posts; I’m just happy to have the chance to share your work here!]

Stuff Your Faces with These Thanksgiving Reads

Happy Thanksgiving, or as many of us consider it, the day where it’s acceptable to stuff our faces until we induce a food coma. Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie – yum. Calories should be negated on Thanksgiving, or simply ignored. Of course, there’s another great side to Thanksgiving, apart from football, the Macy’s parade, and you know, actually taking a moment to express some gratitude for your life. Since Thanksgiving’s a holiday, that means there’s time to read quite a bit while the turkey’s cooking!

To celebrate this day of endless eating, I took a look at some of the books that describe food and meals in the most drool-inducing, tummy-rumbling ways. See if you agree!

little houseLittle House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Laura Ingalls Wilder makes me want a time machine solely so I may journey back to the pioneer days for some hearty feasting. Bring me the fresh baked loaves of bread, cakes full of maple sugar, crispy crackling pork, and plump apple pies. Finish it off with cold water drawn straight from a well or milk from your cow in the barn. I love this article’s look at every meal Almanzo eats in Farmer Boy. I think I gain weight just by reading these books.

Basically everything written by Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl could have been a food critic in another life – his stories are bursting at the seams with culinary delights. In Danny, Champion of the World, a roasted pheasant sounds like a meal fit for the gods (even if we hardly know what pheasants are nowadays – you can’t very well pick one out at your local supermarket). And who can forget the chocolate cake the poor boy in Matilda is forced to eat by Ms. Trumbull? But what takes the cake (haha, bad pun) is the entire factory of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Wonka bars, a chocolate river… Where’s my golden ticket?

secretlifeThe Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Books that take place in the South always have the most mouthwatering foods, and this one is no exception. When 14-year-old Lily Owens ends up running away to a honey farm in South Carolina, her entire diet gains a new food group brought to you by the letter Bee: honey. There are honey cakes and biscuits with honey. They bathe with honey and use it on their scrapes and bruises. And don’t forget the classic Southern treat of peanuts dropped in the bottom of glass bottles of cola!

Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
Did someone say honey? This little bear is already stuffed with fluff, but he always has room in his tummy for some honey. Despite causing trouble for the other denizens of the Hundred Acre Wood, one must admire his stubborn determination to satiate his sweet tooth.

gameofthronesA Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin
These books are as full of bountiful banquets and food scenes as they are of both battles and sex. If it wasn’t for the terrible luck the people of Westeros have at weddings, I’d want to attend for the food. And Lady Sansa’s longing love for lemon cakes almost makes me want one. There’s even a Game of Thrones cookbook, inspired by all the gluttony.  

Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
Thank goodness for merchandising, though it’s sad none of us will ever get to enjoy a truly authentic Hogwarts feast. Who can forget that first meal at Hogwarts, when food magically appeared in dishes, liquids splashing in goblets. Or the trolley cart on the Hogwarts Express, filled to the brim with more candy than you’ll see in any school vending machine today. At least we can go to Universal’s Harry Potter World and buy Bertie Bott’s Every Flavored Beans, Chocolate Frogs, and Butterbeer there. And cry as we clutch our fake wands, wishing it was all real – or is that just me? 

waterchocLike Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
At the heart of revolutionary Mexico, a family of women struggles to find happiness amid cultural expectations. Tita, as the youngest daughter, is forbidden to marry and must tend to her family instead. Her beloved, Pedro, marries her older sister instead to stay close to her. The book explores the sacrifices, love, and strength these women explore through their role with food. The sumptuous dishes in the story are infused with a touch of magical realism, and topped off with tremendous emotion that these characters fight to contain. 

What are some of your favorite foodie scenes? I know I left off too many! We can’t forget Charles Dickens, or Louisa May Alcott, or even Dr Seuss’s contribution to the culinary world: green eggs and ham.

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.

Review: Down Solo

downsoloWhen Earl Javorsky contacted me and asked me to consider reviewing his novel, Down Solo, I knew right away that I had to accept. A quick look at the synopsis had me saying “This is so not what I usually read,” but I figured that would be a good thing. It’s nice to change things up – and that’s just what this book does.

Down Solo is told from the perspective of the wisecracking private investigator, Charlie Miner – who wakes up in the morgue with a bullet hole in his head. Thanks to his line of work and his own personal demons (drug addiction), it’s quite a mystery as to who pulled the trigger. With some clients unhappy over some missing paperwork, the should-be-dead Charlie needs to learn how to maneuver his body and piece together the puzzle of this case and his own murder. When his daughter, Mindy, is thrown into the mix, things take on an even more frightening turn.

Charlie is a great narrator. He is funny and intuitive, and we as readers are also privy to some startling moments of beauty in his narration. Charlie, whose memory is just as “shot” as he is, figures things out with the reader as the story progresses, and that makes for an exciting read.

My one complaint with this book was its use, in a scene, of a joke with a punchline that includes a parrot. Maybe it wouldn’t phase another reader, but it’s one of my favorite jokes and I noticed it right from the first mention of a (not crucial to the story) punk’s Mohawk. I found its inclusion to be pointless, aside from the fact that it was funny joke. It did nothing to drive the plot, and so much of the original material was funny already. No need to work old jokes in there, too.

Javorksy’s writing reminded me of the Carl Hiaasen novels I’d read sprawled out on the deck on one sunny Florida vacation. Perfect entertainment, with the right amount of action to keep me alert (and to keep me from snoozing myself into a sunburned state). But there’s also a deeper layer in Down Solo, which left me thinking past the final page.

Down Solo is set to release this December 3rd, and I highly recommend picking up a copy for yourself or a friend.

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

Litographs & The World’s Longest Tattoo Chain

Here on BiblioSmiles, it’s no secret we love literary tattoos. In fact, one of our most popular posts is Gabriele’s post on literary tattoos! We love dedicated bookworms.

For those of you who want to show your love of literature without dealing with ink and needles, there’s a pretty cool solution for you.

Litographs, a company that became popular thanks to its incredibly-designed tshirts, posters, and totes (utilizing the text of the book to make an awesome image), has now expanded its inventory to include temporary tattoos.

IMG_6754I was excited to contribute to their Kickstarter, and received a tattoo from one of my favorite books: James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Can Litographs get any cooler? Yes. As part of their Kickstarter campaign, they aimed to create the world’s longest tattoo chain by offering 2,500 people the chance to tell the story of Alice in Wonderland… on their bodies. Here’s what the Kickstarter page had to say:

To follow us down the rabbit hole and be a part of the World’s Longest Tattoo Chain, pledge at least $1 to this project. The first 2,500 backers will each be sent one unique, randomly-selected Alice tattoo phrase.

You can be sure I snapped up this deal right away. It was later announced that any backers numbered 2,501 to 5,258 would receive a tattoo of a line of text from the sequel, Through the Looking Glass. I’m happy to say I got in the first 2,500 – at spot #1,626, to be exact. And while that line may not be the most riveting, I’m still incredibly excited to be included.

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If you visit The World’s Longest Tattoo Chain page on the website, you’ll have the chance to click through a slideshow of all of the lines from the story. As you can see, many photos of tattoos have already been uploaded! Won’t it be incredible to see the entirety of this famous story on people?

As a bookworm and lover of words, I’ve been a huge fan of Litographs from the beginning. I can’t wait to see what they do next.

And you can feel good about your purchase on Litographs. They’ve partnered up with the International Book Bank; for every tshirt, poster, or tote, and for every five temporary tattoos sold, a book is donated to a community in need. All the more reason to fuel your literary addiction!

Which temporary tattoo would you order? Which titles would you like to see on their list?

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 Truest of Words (+ A Giveaway!)

WOW_Book3_bestI’m happy to be reviewing the third book in the Words series by Georgina Guthrie, The Truest of Words, which was released, yesterday, on November 18th. The conclusion of the series is a satisfying read for any fan, although it’s easy enough to pick up on the storyline and fall in love with the characters without having read the first two books (but I highly recommend you do!). I’m also excited to announce one lucky winner will receive all three ebooks in the Words series! Check out the giveaway after my review.

The Truest of Words

Summary: With the end of term finally behind them, Aubrey and Daniel look forward to building a life together. A painful realization that they can’t truly embrace the future until they’ve come to terms with the past leads them to discover the healing potential of forgiveness and the power of unconditional love.

Like the first two books in the series, The Truest of Words is a romantic tale that blends witty banter with passion and drama.

The chapters of The Truest of Words switch in perspective from Aubrey to Daniel, with the majority of the book being in Aubrey’s point of view. I grew to love her sassy, easy narration, full of funny asides and telling character touches. I think her narration was really well done. It was fun to read from Daniel’s point of view as well, but sometimes his voice felt forced. This may just be because  I really got used to Aubrey’s perspective in the beginning of the book, so I felt pulled out of the story when Daniel took the reigns.

But he’s charming and funny, which totally makes up for any reservations I may have.

Aubrey, a student at the University of Toronto, can’t wait for her graduation day (just mere weeks away!). While she may be nervous about the next step in her life, she can’t wait to make her relationship with Daniel, a TA in one of her classes (and her ex-boss’s son) public.

Both Aubrey and Daniel have a lot of demons to face; Aubrey has trouble trusting and opening up to others, while Daniel struggles with anxiety after an almost career-ruining incident a few years prior. As they embark on their new relationship, they learn to rely on and trust each other. There are setbacks, and at times it seems like the universe is conspiring against them, but they’re meant to be together – right?

Though Daniel and Aubrey are the real stars of the show, I commend Guthrie on creating a likable cast of supporting characters, who all stood out as lifelike to me. I genuinely came to care for Daniel’s extravagant, but incredibly kind, family, as well as Aubrey’s school friends.

I think that, for a book in the new adult romance genre, The Truest of Words hit just the right balance of romance, heat, and heart. There are also quite a few laughs, which are always a plus in my book. I look forward to whatever Ms. Guthrie chooses to write next.

Giveaway Time!

firsttwoWOW_Book3_best

Want to win the entirety of the Words series: The Weight of WordsBetter Deeds Than Words, and The Truest of Words? One lucky winner will receive ebook copies of each of these books!

How Do You Enter?

Simple! In a comment below, let me know the answer to this question:

Who is your favorite fictional couple and why?

For an extra entry, share this post on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram and leave the link in another comment!

The giveaway will run until next Wednesday, November 26th. Please make sure you leave an email address I can contact you by if you’re the winner.

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

Mini Update: Day After Dark 2014

dayafterdarkLast night I had the opportunity to attend Day After Dark, an event to celebrate the launch of the fourth book in Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series, Captivated by You!

The Eventbrite page description was incredibly alluring, and I messaged my friend, Caitlin, about attending as soon as I read it:

Spend a captivating evening with Sylvia Day at the luxurious GoldBar to celebrate the release of the long-awaited, much-anticipated Captivated by You! Enjoy award-winning artisinal cocktails, scrumptious dessert, and delicious passed hors d’oeuvres beneath 12′ vaulted ceilings adorned with gold leaf and crystal chandeliers.

IMG_6787The venue, GoldBar, is a place I’ve wanted to visit since I moved to New York City this summer, and it was just as cool (and gold!) as I hoped it would be. The ambiance was dark, sexy, and mysterious: perfect for a party celebrating the dark, sexy, and mysterious Crossfire series!

It was rainy and gray last night, and Caitlin and I squelched over to Goldbar in our cocktail dresses and rain boots (thank goodness for coat checks!). Upon entering Goldbar, we grabbed our drink tickets and swag bags, rounded up some gin and tonics, and settled onto the velvet couches that lined the wall of the room. Almost immediately, Sylvia Day came over and sat down next to us, and we spent a few minutes chatting about the gorgeous venue, the great drinks, and the amazing grilled cheese. Camera bulbs flashed as we talked and laughed with the author. I like to think those photographs came out beautifully, but Caitlin and I were feeling pretty starstruck (while also holding onto our mini pizzas). Either way, I can’t wait for the event photos to resurface so I can relive those exciting moments.

Day After Dark promised to be a two-hour event of intimate mingling with Sylvia Day and other Crossfire fans.

I intimately mingled with the grilled cheese appetizers. I mean – they were seriously good. Kudos to whatever chef decided to fancify toasted bread and cheese. I’ve been daydreaming about those little rounds all day.

IMG_6795As I surveyed the room and took in all of the fans, dressed in their cocktail finery, I was struck by the fact that this series has a community. While those of us in attendance were all very lucky to be there, I know we are not the only ones to feel touched by this romantic series. Heading over to Twitter and typing in hashtags like #CaptivatedByYou or #GideonEffect will show you just how many people are excited for the newest installment in Gideon and Eva’s love story.

Gideon calls me his angel, but he’s the miracle in my life. My gorgeous, wounded warrior, so determined to slay my demons while refusing to face his own. The vows we’d exchanged should have bound us tighter than blood and flesh. Instead they opened old wounds, exposed pain and insecurities, and lured bitter enemies out of the shadows. I felt him slipping from my grasp, my greatest fears becoming my reality, my love tested in ways I wasn’t sure I was strong enough to bear. At the brightest time in our lives, the darkness of his past encroached and threatened everything we’d worked so hard for. We faced a terrible choice: the familiar safety of the lives we’d had before each other or the fight for a future that suddenly seemed an impossible and hopeless dream…

Read more at: http://www.sylviaday.com/books/captivated-by-you/
Copyright © Sylvia Day 2014

I’m so happy I had the opportunity to attend Day After Dark! It was a wonderful event, and Ms. Day is an incredibly warm, welcoming person. Will you be reading Captivated by You?

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

Critters in Literature: Elephants

It’s time for another journey to celebrate our spirit animals! Last time, I wrote about turtles in fiction. Today, I’m taking us round the world, to the Serengeti, the Savannah, and to the subtropics of India. And perhaps, a circus or two. Get your peanuts ready because we’re getting our books on with elephants.

Elephants are the coolest. I’d want to be reincarnated into an elephant, seriously. They use their trunks as snorkels when they swim. When an elderly elephant doesn’t have teeth anymore, the others in the herd will pre-chew its food so it doesn’t starve. They also hug each other with their trunks, have incredible memories, and grieve for their dead. And have you ever seen an elephant paint? Man, we actually need more books about elephants. Writers out there, take note. Maybe one day your elephant will be recognized along with these greats!

babarThe Story of Babar by Jean de Brunhoff
My hazy memories of Babar somehow left out his tragic beginnings. After his mother is shot by a hunter, Babar flees the jungle and finds himself in a city, where he becomes properly civilized. He wears clothes and learns from a tutor. He later becomes the King of the Elephants and marries another elephant, and from there the books regale their adventures.

waterforWater for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Have you ever wanted to run away with the circus? Orphaned and penniless, Jacob jumps a rickety train that is the home of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Amidst the grit reality of a circus trying to weather the Depression, Jacob struggles to find his place there and finds an unlikely friend in Rosie, the untrainable elephant. 

hortonHorton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss
Horton the Elephant is just going about his business when his large ears pick up on a sound coming from a mite of dust. The speck of dust is actually home to a city of people called the Whos. Horton wants to protect the Whos, but the other jungle animals are starting to think he’s mad and hearing voices, so the Whos must find a way to make their tiny voices heard. 

elephantvanishesThe Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami
In this collection of short stories, Haruki Murakami once again seeks to drop the bizarre into our world. As is to be expected, one of the stories has a man who sees his favorite elephant vanish into thin air. The stories all challenge the reader to face the absurdities that pop up in reality, the tales and anecdotes that can’t be sensibly explained away. A good read to puzzle over and laugh, and be haunted by, all at the same time. And really, where did the elephant go? 

elechildThe Elephant’s Child: And Other Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
Rudyard Kipling is best known for The Jungle Book, but he wrote plenty of other tales and poems for both adults and children. His early childhood was spent in British Bombay and it had a profound effect on his writing. This collection of short stories all try to explain the beginnings of things. “The Elephant’s Child” is a fable of how the Elephant got its long trunk. 

dumbo“Dumbo the Flying Elephant” by Helen Aberson Mayer
More commonly known from its Disney adaptation, Dumbo is the tale of a baby elephant who is teased for the size of his enormous ears. But he becomes the star of the circus when it’s realized that his big ears let him fly. When you think about it, it’s kind of like Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. Maybe the two of them should partner up.

Of course, there are some nonfiction books out there too, written by courageous do-gooders who worked with elephants. The Elephant’s Secret Sense by Caitlin O’Connell and Love, Life, and Elephants by Dame Daphne Sheldrick are both fascinating accounts of people who had the opportunity to live up close and personal with elephants.

So are you inspired now to steal a pet elephant from the zoo? Or maybe just settle for reading about them for now. Zoo heists are tricky. But tell us! Are there any elephant books we’ve missed?

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.