Month: December 2014

BiblioSmiles: Looking Back at 2014

Wow, what a great year 2014 has been! Back in February, I had no idea my little pet project would turn into a blog with a total of 23 contributors, a Facebook page, a Twitter page, and an Instagram account. And exciting things are happening every day!

Here are some highlights from 2014:

One of the first blessed bouts of publicity: I visited From L&P to English Tea to blog about BiblioSmiles, during Anjali’s “A Month of Books” series. Anjali is an incredibly sweet blogger, and her posts are fun and enjoyable!

We delved into “The Anatomy of a Bookshelf” to discover how people display their books, and what they choose to display. I hope this series gets a bit more love in 2015! (Share your beautiful messes, people!)

tammystrobel2I had the opportunity to interview some really interesting subjects. Tammy Strobel discussed her new book, My Morning View: An iPhone Photography Project About Gratitude, Grief, & Good Coffee.

Gabriele talked to Lauren, who runs the very popular Quoted-Books Tumblr account. Lauren has become somewhat of an online authority for book recommendations!

davidsedaris

 

I had a quick chat with Kate Gavino, who runs the blog Last Night’s Reading. Kate is known for attending readings throughout New York City and sketching the authors. Her portraits even snagged her the title of “Official Festival Artist” at the Downtown Literary Festival!

Nail art is such a big trend right now – and Taylor of Novels and Nail Polish combines her love for nail art with her love for books! Her beautifully-photographed designs and well-written blog entries make Novels and Nail Polish a must-visit in the blogosphere.

To go along with the fashion and books trend: one of my favorite bloggers (and a fellow SUNY Purchase creative writing grad!), Sara Strauss, visited BiblioSmiles and shared some Bookworm Fashion Inspiration. Sara has a real knack for putting together outfits inspired by new novels, old classics, and favorite characters. Be sure to give her blog, Sincerely, Sara, a visit!

For those of you aspiring authors out there, it’s become a fact of life that authors must learn to self-promote. Shauna Aura Knight blogged about public speaking and building a platform as a writer. A very helpful piece!

I attended the first ever BookCon in New York City this past May with Gabriele, Alyson, and Kim. We had a blast wandering around the Javits Center, meeting authors, scoring swag, and attending panels. You can read all of our BookCon-related posts here! (And hey – will you be in attendance at BookCon in 2015? I ordered my tickets and I’m so excited!)

bookcon6

For those of you who enjoy graphic novels, Sean Fallon stopped by to review two interesting titles. I’d love to see more graphic novel reviews in the new year!

newhavenreads2While I may not have seen Samantha in a while (she lives and teaches in Korea right now!), I’m still glad she’s made appearances here on BiblioSmiles! One of my favorite posts to date is her “A Concession” – an essay on e-readers.

Izzy’s posts have transported us to magical locations: like this cool bookstore in Breckenridge, Colorado. There’s also this book oasis in New Haven, Connecticut.

Andrew’s essays are always poetic and beautifully-written. Click here and swoon with me; this guy knows how to write about a typewriter!

Kim always has great ideas and likes to look at things in new and interesting ways. Her post called “History On Our Shelves” asks contributors to share some of the old books in their possession. It’s a mini history lesson and a treasure trove all in one!

Emily is both a book junkie and a cinema junkie. I love her post on discovering female screenwriters.

Alyson’s practical advice on “Reading for Teachers” is great for anyone who wants to incorporate more books and reading into their day.

youngauthorsIf you’ve been reading the site, I’m sure you’ve gotten quite used to seeing Gabriele’s name here! Gabriele is constantly coming up with cool ideas and she’s excited to share each and every one with you readers. While you can read all of her posts here, I wanted to highlight two series of posts she’s been working on: her Literary Crush series profiles authors and their work.  Her Critters in Literature posts are dedicated to literature’s most famous creatures. I’m sure there will be some more animals popping up on the blog in the new year!

I’d like to thank the other contributors who’ve taken the time to share their work on BiblioSmiles: Charlotte BrentwoodEd Collins, Alex Dane, Kayla DeanJennifer HIrene HelenowskiStephanie LeeRacquel NassorRose PacultKelly PhanEmma S., and Spencer Schilsky. I hope you all know you’re welcome back whenever you have the urge to write!

And, of course, I can’t do a recap without a little bit of self-promotion: I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my BiblioSmiles posts. From book reviews, to essays, to event recaps – it’s been a busy year. I can’t wait to share even more with you in 2015!

Please let me know in the comments below: what did you like to read on BiblioSmiles this year? What would you like to see in the new year?

Holiday Card

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

 

Top Five Teen Superheroes

Previously, I blogged about my Top Five Kick-Butt YA Assassins.

Today I’m blogging about my Top Five Teen Superheroes, who save their respective fantasy worlds. Have you read any of these?

shatterme1.Shatter Me: Tahereh Mafi

Saving the world is almost like taking it over right? Well, this super-powered teen goes from being afraid of herself to being feared. In a dystopian world where people have been stripped of their basic rights and luxuries, this unlikely hero is out to save herself and everyone around her.

steelheart2.Steelheart: Brandon Sanderson

The truest superhero book in every sense of the conventional definition. The main character knows everything about every super-villain alive, and in a place were only super-villains exist, that means he knows about everyone. He kicks super butt to save what’s left of his home.

darkestminds3.The Darkest Minds: Alexandra Bracken

A sixteen-year-old girl escapes her work camp and uses her powers to help her friends. In a place were American children are either dead or in work camps because of there newfound mental abilities, there are a lot of people that need saving. Through the series the protagonist has to confront her inner monsters to help everyone around her. [Note: Gabriele wrote about The Darkest Minds on BiblioSmiles here.]

lightningstrikes4.When Lightning Strikes: Meg Cabot

She was struck by lightning and now she can locate missing people. Okay, so maybe she isn’t a superhero saving the world, but she is trying to save her corner of it by finding children on milk cartons.

maxride5.Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment: James Patterson

A group of bridkids (hybrid kids) run away from the lab that made them, trying to save themselves and the world while they are at it. I ambivalently added this to the list (because of my mixed feelings about James Patterson), but it had to be done. This cast saves the world many times, and in the first four books, Max’s snarky narration make the series lovable.

Which superhero books make your list?

[This list was originally featured on Racquel’s blog, Better Books and Things. It is being posted here with permission, and the author retains rights to the post. Thanks for sharing, Racquel!]

Racquel Nassor enjoys reading YA, drinking tea, and magically stumbling through student life. You can read her book reviews at http://betterbooksandthings.tumblr.com/

Book Blog Life: Kayla Dean

[Editor’s Note: I’m so happy to welcome Kayla, the newest BiblioSmiles contributor, to the site! I hope you enjoy learning about her and her book blog. I look forward to seeing what Kayla shares with us next!]

Here’s what you should know about me: I’m Kayla, a college student who loves the written word. My favorite things to do are read and write, although I also love music and sightseeing.

Here’s what you should know about my blog: My Corner of the Library is a place for book lovers, writers, and bloggers to share their love of books and the written word.

Review of Atlantia by Ally CondieI’d say my reading taste is geared towards: YA novels and the classics. I especially like anything fantasy or paranormal, but also love a good contemporary novel. I love reading Cassandra Clare, Richelle Mead, and Ally Condie, but I love reading from a variety of authors and voices.

The first book I really, really loved is: I loved Thumbelina when I was younger, but I can’t remember exactly which book sparked my love of reading. Reading itself inspired me to love words.

A book that I’m not a fan of is: I don’t want to say! I am not a fan of books that don’t transport me. It frustrates me when books don’t pull me into the world, or they feature clichés, unrealistic plotlines, or bad boyfriends.

Familiar Things by Lia HabelMy favorite thing about book blogging is: Sharing my love of books with other people who have the same interests, blogging about my writing process, and showing the things that I think make writing awesome.

The book(s) that I’m looking forward to reading next: The Ruby Circle by Richelle Mead. She is amazing, and her books are always good.

If I could have dinner with any book character, I would choose: That is a tough one. I like so many books, I don’t know if I have a favorite. If I had to choose, it would be one of Shakespeare’s characters – maybe Hamlet- because I like his beautiful soliloquies.

The best thing about reading is: Escaping to another world, but also learning lessons that teach us how to live better lives and better help other people. The stories that endure the most are the ones that impact us into the future.

Kayla Dean is a writer with a passion for words, books, and storytelling. She loves YA and the classics, and blogs encouragement for writers at her site kayladean.com.

Review: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Darkest Part of the ForestWhat if the days of people living alongside fairies still existed? In the town of Fairold, the fae live in the deepest parts of the forest, and the townspeople know never to trifle with them. They leave milk outside their doors as tribute for the Alderking and shake their heads when the odd tourist ends up missing or dead.

After all, fairytales weren’t originally meant as sweet little things to lull children to sleep. They were meant as cautionary tales. Immortal beings follow a very different set of rules than humans do. But when fairy politics start spilling over into the town, the unsteady peace between the two worlds comes crashing to an end.

This is the first Holly Black book I’ve read, and it’s a stand-alone novel. I was lucky enough to get my hands on an ARC of the book, which releases in January. The writing started off a little simple, and I was tentative from that. But as the story continued, it began to unfold like a beautiful piece of origami, each page leading to another surprise.

Holly Black is also great with diversity. She includes characters of color and characters of LGBT identity. Of course, then there’s the diversity added with all the variety of fairies she includes: tiny fluttering Tinkerbells, treelike sprites, redcaps, demons, and animal-like ones that seem fit for a Ghibli movie.

The characters are lovely. Hazel wanted to be a knight when she was little to protect Fairold and the tourists from the bad things the fairies did. Her older brother Ben was both blessed and cursed by the fairies as a baby with a supernatural talent. Their best friend Jack is a changeling. And at the heart of the town, in the forest, there’s a horned fairy prince slumbering in a glass coffin. Tourists come from all over to see the boy, Fairold’s version of World’s Giant Ball of Yarn.

When the boy goes missing from the coffin like an AWOL Sleeping Beauty, things start going bad for the town. Even the residents are winding up hurt – the truce between them and the fairies suddenly broken. Hazel’s finding strange messages written in walnut shells. And Jack, her best friend and childhood crush, seems scarily more fairy than he used to, speaking in a strange lilting voice as he gives her warnings not to pursue the missing boy.

Hazel annoyed me at first – she portrayed herself a girl who liked to just not think, and instead party and kiss random boys to distract herself, but that perhaps was Holly Black’s intent. Hazel wears not one mask, but many layers of masks. She carries many secrets beneath her guise of simple, teenage girl. She and her brother Ben are best friends but there is an ocean of lies between them as they think what they do is protecting the other. Their home life is surprisingly realistic. Their parents are distracted, art types – and Hazel and Ben had to learn to survive their accidental neglect just as much as the more deviant pranks of the fair folk.

Each page was delightful. I loved watching the characters struggle and learn from their actions, loved seeing them discover just what they were capable of all along. The fairy realm that Holly Black depicts is both beautiful and terrifying – just as supernatural beings really ought to be. It was an enchanting look into what life might be like if fairytales were real, if superstitions were more than just stories.

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.

Give Back With Books This Holiday Season

Presents are great, right? Here at BiblioSmiles, you can ask any of my contributors – there’s sure to be at least one book on all of our holiday wishlists.

(My Amazon wishlist is over 400 books long, although I’m sure it will only keep growing. I’m set for every Christmas for the rest of my life, and then some.)

At BiblioSmiles, we also believe in spreading the joy of reading. Is there a better time to do this than Christmas, when the spirit of giving is in the air? Here are some ways you can spread the bookish love this holiday – and put a bibliosmile on a reader’s face.

#GiveaBook

Penguin Random House introduced a social media campaign called #GiveaBook a few weeks ago. The campaign “promotes books and reading culture” by asking you to share what books mean to you, and to highlight the importance of reading. This is something I fully support!

The cool part of the #GiveaBook campaign? Until December 25th, Penguin Random House has pledged to donate a book to Save the Children for the first 25,000 uses of the hashtag #GiveaBook. The coolest part of the #GiveaBook campaign? They already met their goal! This past Friday, December 19th, it was announced that the hashtag had been used 25,000 times and therefor 25,000 books would be donated. But they’re not stopping there – they have now set a stretch goal for an additional 10,000 books between now and December 25th. So hashtag away! You can join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter, and know that this tweet means a little bit more than what you ate for lunch today or that cat video you just shared. You can read more about #GiveaBook here on the Random House blog.


Donate to a Library or Organization

If you plan on getting books for Christmas yourself, don’t you think you should clean out to make room on your bookshelf? Some of you may bristle at the thought of parting with your books, but just think: remember how happy you were when a book came into your possession? You can help make someone else feel that way!

Most libraries accept donations of books either for their own collections or for library book sales. Personally, I’m an advocate for (and an avid attendee of) library book sales. The library in my northern New Jersey hometown gives you the option of filling a paper bag with books for a dollar or two, and many libraries price books at a quarter a piece. The money raised helps the community – and in a time when some libraries are struggling to stay open, every little bit counts.

The American Library Association has a wonderful, informative list (here) of organizations and programs that accept book donations of all kinds. They have contact information and lots of instructions, too. Your well-loved books, your never-read-and-never-will-read books… they can all get a new life on a new shelf! Isn’t that a beautiful thing?

And if you want to buy a little something for yourself…

In the same way that TOMS shoes donates a pair of shoes for each pair of shoes purchased, there are sites for book lovers that are following suit. Two very popular sites, Out of Print and Litographs, have partnered up to send books to organizations in need for each purchase. Out of Print, known for its comfy, stylish book cover shirts, has partnered with Books for Africa. For each product sold, a book is sent to a community in need. For every product sold through Litographs (think art made from the words of books! And literary tattoos!), one book is sent through International Book Bank. Whether you’re buying a t-shirt for yourself or a loved one, you can know that your purchase will help someone less fortunate.

However you plan to celebrate, I hope you can find the time to give back a bit, too. Whether you hashtag, donate, or even support an independent bookseller – make this holiday one for the books!

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

Literary Crush: Liane Moriarty

lianemoriartyLiane Moriarty’s books are like dessert. They are the sort of the reads that will have you say, ‘Oh, just one more chapter’ and then suddenly discover it’s four in the morning. Although we’re headed into the throes of winter, Moriarty’s writing makes for perfect beach reads – ones that won’t leave you eye-rolling at saccharine endings or infinite amounts of fluff (though, okay, there is some fluff). There are mysteries and secrets and unspoken words that cause trouble to no end. And when all of these things start to untangle, it’s like a virus, infecting and permanently impacting lives.

Moriarty is Australian, so it makes sense all of her books are set with the suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne as their backdrop. I love looking into what suburban Australia is like. It’s such a delightful culture – bits of American bluntness and attitude right there with British etiquette and reservedness.

She writes real women – women who aren’t just characters, but living, breathing people, with flaws and fears and little nagging thoughts. With mundane routines that bore them? What would they do anything to protect, even at the cost of themselves? She writes about the consequences of secrets kept too long. How they affect people, how choices bring upon unforeseeable ends.

So far I’ve devoured three of Liane Moriarty’s books and they have all been splendidly irresistible. All three of the books I read are comprised of intricate stories of multiple lives that all affect one another in the end. I completely recommend them. They’re perfect for anyone who wants an easy read, but with a deep story.

biglittleliesBig Little Lies
Big Little Lies follows the stories of three women, who all have children at the same preschool. There’s Celeste, with her perfect set of twins and married to a successful businessman. There’s Madeline, the supermom on her second marriage who can do-it-all, and in heels. Then there’s Jane, the new mother, younger than the others, and who’s a little, well, off. But wait, let’s start the story with the drama. Before anything else, we find out there’s been a murder at the preschool during the parent gala. During the “Greek chorus” of parents and teachers during the chapter intermissions, we get bits and pieces of what happened. But while that thread runs throughout the story, we’re pulled into the stories of these three complex women, and the lies people tell to each other and to themselves.

(Fun fact: Apparently Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman will be in the movie adaptation!)

whataliceforgotWhat Alice Forgot
Alice Love is a 29-year-old newlywed who is head-over-heels for her husband and about to have her first baby. At least, that’s what she thinks when she wakes up on the floor of her gym. At the hospital, she discovers the truth: she’s 39, has three kids, and is getting a divorce. With no memories of the past decade, Alice has to piece together how her perfect future shattered. Why does her sister barely speak to her? How has she become one of those supermoms who wears fancy clothes and hosts neighborhood events? And why, why, why is she divorcing her soulmate? Alice has to uncover whether it’s possible to fit the pieces of her broken life back together, or whether to walk away.

husbandsecretThe Husband’s Secret
It all comes down to the letter that was never meant to be open. Cecilia stumbles upon a letter written by her husband in the case of his death. A letter that contains a secret that will destroy their lives and the lives of people around them. Their picturesque suburban life can vanish in an instant if she opens the letter. Tess…? Meanwhile, Rachel is still reeling from the murder of her daughter years ago while her son plans to take her only comfort, her grandson, across the world to a new job and new life in America. All three women barely know each other, but everything changes the moment Cecilia finds the letter.

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: Little Known Facts

littleknownfacts“It is hard to dispute the evidence that we are a race defined to a significant degree by our pettiness, by how vicious our desire is to keep track, to compare, to win.”
― Christine Sneed, Little Known Facts

I was intrigued by the premise of Christine Sneed’s Little Known Facts, a book narrated by the various people in a movie star’s life. My attention was snagged as soon as I read the book jacket:

The people who orbit around Renn Ivins, an actor of Harrison Ford-like stature–his girlfriends, his children, his ex-wives, those on the periphery–long to experience the glow of his flame. Anna and Will are Renn’s grown children, struggling to be authentic versions of themselves in a world where they are seen as less important extensions of their father. They are both drawn to and repelled by the man who overshadows every part of them.

As someone who gravitates towards glossy tabloids and Turner Classic Movies, I imagined a tell-all with tons of juicy gossip, impossible wealth, and picture-perfect scenarios. There is some of that here, sure; however, there is also a lot of good old-fashioned family drama. “Normal people problems,” if you will. Because, at the end of the day, a movie star like Renn Ivins is still just a man dealing with his children and ex-wives, and a new (much younger) girlfriend.

This family drama is nice, and somewhat unexpected. Little Known Facts is not the flashy read I expected it to be from the blurb. It is a read that is sad, funny, and worth thinking about. How do individuals deal with fame? How does it feel to live on the fringes of that fame, or to be in the same orbit as a celebrity? Everyone seems to handle it differently.

My main issue with Little Known Facts was that it was difficult for me to really connect to any one character. Jumping around in perspectives from chapter to chapter did not give me the time to settle into any one character’s mindset. The various perspectives were all done well, though; I’d like to read Sneed’s short story collection, Portraits of of a Few of the People I’ve Made Cry, as I imagine she does quite well in the short story format.

I also found it difficult to pin down Renn Ivins, and to really know anything about him other than the fact that he is a famous man. Maybe that’s the point: Renn is nothing special, aside from his fame. I’m not sure. Do you think celebrities should be as “larger-than-life” as their onscreen personalities?