Month: May 2015

First Time at BookCon? Here’s Some Advice

If you’ve been following BiblioSmiles since last year, you’ll probably remember the barrage of posts Gabriele, Alyson, Kim, and I wrote after attending the first ever BookCon at The Javits Center here in New York City.  We had a blast! (You can read my recap here.)

I’ll be heading back this year, and I’m even more excited.  Last year’s BookCon was tacked on to the final day of BEA (Book Expo America), a trade show for publishers, booksellers, librarians, and various industry members. This year? BookCon is an entirely separate event. I can’t wait to see how ReedPOP (the people who pull off the famous New York Comic Con each year) handles this awesome two-day event!

While I don’t have a down-to-the-minute schedule planned for myself (I’m a very laid-back convention attendee, I suppose), I’m sure most of you are packing your days with tons of panels and autographing lines! So as someone who got tired out way too easily last year, I wanted to impart some advice to first-time BookCon goers:

1. Caffeinate beforehand.

Last year in a rush to catch the subway and get to the Javits Center on time, Kim and I decided to forgo our much-needed coffee. “There’s bound to be a Starbucks there,” we said. And oh, there was.

But everyone else had the same idea.

We eventually decided to jump off the line for coffee and jump on the line for the show floor, where we were propelled forward by adrenaline and sheer nerdy delight. But if you’re a slave to your coffee, you’ll be grumpy when that adrenaline wears off. It’s usually when you’re standing in an autograph line full of really eager people.

Not caffeinated, but oh so happy!

Not caffeinated, but oh so happy!

2. Don’t be scared to split up. 

Did you come with a group of friends? Yay! The more the merrier. Plus, it’s always nice to have a buddy on hand so you can take a photo with that author you’ve been dreaming of meeting since elementary school. But the BookCon is a BIG event, and I’m sure at some point your friend will want to attend a different panel, or wait on a different line. And you should do it! Alyson wanted to wait on the massive line to see John Green at The Fault in Our Stars panel, and she got to write an incredible post on it. Gabriele attended a children’s author panel and had lots of great stories to tell. Kim and I wandered the show floor and picked up swag, because, face it: who doesn’t like swag? At the end of the day we all had factoids and hilarious anecdotes to share with each other. In that way, we covered a lot more ground than if we stuck together.

Kim and I happened to be in the area when Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York (HONY) spoke!

Kim and I happened to be in the area when Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York (HONY) spoke!

3.  Charge your phone.

Believe me, I know: BookCon is super exciting. As a blogger, and a book lover in general, I wanted to share my experiences on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter right from the start. But all that photo-taking and status-posting? It eats away at your battery life. And like the coffee line, the line to use the charging stations and wall plugs gets very long. You can read Kim’s hysterical (but painfully true) account of her phone battery’s life at BookCon here. So when you’re not using your phone, put it in airplane mode. If you can, bring one of those portable chargers as a backup. And try to experience at least some of the BookCon away from your lenses and screens!  There are real authors and publishers here for you to see, IN REAL LIFE. That’s a very cool thing.

4. Pack lightly, but bring a roomy bag.

Listen up. One of my favorite parts of BookCon? The swag! From bookmarks, to buttons, and even some free books (!!), your arms will fill up pretty quickly. Bring only the necessities with you, and let the rest of your bag fill up throughout the day.

(There will also be vendors there that will, aside from books, also probably be selling fancy tote bags.)

5. Meet other book lovers – and network if you can!

This is something I wish I did more of last year. Alyson had made up cute business cards for BiblioSmiles, and we passed out a few throughout the day.


This year I’ll have a whole stack of business cards to hand out. Just think: we’re all in a giant room with tons of people who like the same stuff (books!) as us. We may as well all get to know each other! So even though you’re SUPER FIXATED on meeting Rainbow Rowell, it can’t hurt to smile at the person in front of you in the signing line. Who knows? You might make a new book bestie! Or maybe you’ll find a guest contributor for your blog. The possibilities are endless.

Happy and tired at the end of the day!

Happy and tired at the end of the day!

And finally:

6. Have fun.

Creating a schedule of signings and panels gets stressful. Waiting on lines for those panels, or waiting on lines for the bathroom, or waiting on lines to get food can get boring. But The BookCon has so many amazing things to offer this year. Even if things don’t quite work out the way you intended – if you miss a signing or can’t get into a panel in the Special Events Hall – don’t let that ruin your day. I guarantee you’ll find something else to be happy about.

I mean, hello! It’s a convention for BOOKS. And if there’s anything that can make us BiblioSMILE, it’s a good book.

Will you be at BookCon this weekend? Let me know!  And if you see me there — come say hello!

Danielle Villano is the editor of BiblioSmiles, and you can visit her new writing website here.  Tweet @daniellevillano.

Cover Reveal: The Shadow by Sylvain Reynard

Here at BiblioSmiles, I’m happy to announce that we were one of the blogs asked to share the cover reveal for the highly-anticipated sequel to Sylvain Reynard’s The RavenThe Shadow!

I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m a huge fan of Sylvain Reynard’s work, so I’m happy to have the opportunity to reveal this new cover and share a synopsis of The Shadow, which releases on February 2, 2016.

The Shadow

New York Times bestselling author Sylvain Reynard presents the hotly

anticipated, intoxicating follow-up to The Raven

Raven Wood’s vampyre prince has returned, pledging his love and promising

justice for every wrong done to her. In the wake of their reunion, Raven is faced

with a terrible decision—allow the Prince to wreak vengeance against the

demons of her past, or persuade him to stay his hand. But there is far more at

stake than Raven’s heart…

A shadow has fallen over the city of Florence. Ispettor Batelli will not rest until he

uncovers Raven’s connection to the theft of the priceless art from the Uffizi

Gallery. And while the Prince hunts a traitor who sabotages him at every turn, he

finds himself the target of the vampyres’ mortal enemy.

As he wages a war on two fronts, he will need to keep his love for Raven secret,
or risk exposing his greatest weakness…

Add The Shadow on Goodreads.

Barnes and Noble, Amazon, IndieBound, Book Depository

Will you be reading The Shadow? It’s definitely going on my “To Read” list on Goodreads! The cover alone is enough to sell me (that jawline!), but with a plot like that? How could I resist?

Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

“I can’t do this, I can’t just be a wife. I don’t understand how anyone does it—there is literally nothing to do but wait. Wait for a man to come home and love you. Either that or look around for something to distract you.” 

Every day on the train, Rachel watches the happy, beautiful couple at the house on Blenheim Road where the train pauses. Her life may be in shambles—she’s divorced, her husband is happily remarried with a new kid, she lost her job, and she’s a uncontrollable alcoholic—but the couple at 15 Blenheim Road let her fantasize about the perfect life she could’ve, should’ve had.

Until the woman goes missing. And Rachel saw something on the train that she shouldn’t have. Unable to resist, she ends up going to the police with her information. And from there, she ends up affecting the lives of everyone involved… and she’s not sure whether it’s for better or worse.

The Girl on the Train has been proclaimed as this year’s Gone Girl. While I didn’t find it to be a replica of that novel, there are definitely similar tones of that book mixed with the high-stakes domestic drama of Liane Moriarty’s works. And the mystery will have you turning the pages and trying to piece together what happened to Megan Hipwell, the disappeared woman. The book is well-crafted, full of tension and cliffhangers that will have you promising yourself ‘only a few more pages!’. The chapters are alternatively narrated by Rachel, her ex’s new wife Anna, and the disappeared woman, Megan. To be fair, you can figure out the ending of The Girl on the Train on your own if you’re a genre-savvy reader, but it’s such a delicious twist, you’ll enjoy it nonetheless.

Rachel is incredibly flawed. She’s an alcoholic, pouting about her ex-husband and not really doing much to better her life. Her roommate’s on the edge of throwing her out, and Rachel doesn’t inspire a lot of sympathy. She’s unreliable due to her drinking; she blacks out consistently and wakes up in places she doesn’t remember. She is obsessed with her ex-husband to the point of terrifying his new wife. I had a hard time not rolling my eyes at her, at first.

But as the story goes on, we unravel more and more about the characters around Rachel’s life, from the couple at 15 Bleinham Road, to the woman’s therapist, to Rachel’s ex-husband and his wife. We learn things are never as they seem. And Rachel might be worth more of our sympathy than we did.

I definitely enjoyed the book. It was a fascinating look into the dark secrets people keep, what we keep buried, and what happens when everything bubbles to the surface. And remember as you’re reading, these three words: Trust no one.

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: The Circle by Dave Eggers

thecircle Released in 2013, The Circle by Dave Eggers made quite a splash for its fictional portrayal of a big tech company with a monopoly on the industry and designs to – well – complete “The Circle” and take over the world. Some reviewers questioned if The Circle was modeled after Google or Apple, but Eggers said he refused to do research on any real companies. So, The Circle of Eggers’s novel is entirely dreamed up.

If you refuse to believe that: maybe it’s time to come to terms with the monopoly technology has on our own lives, which is something the characters of The Circle each struggle with or accept in their own ways. Exciting and frightening, The Circle presents readers with a world that seems not too-far-off from the present. Companies are making strides with technology every day. What’s keeping us from wearing cameras on ourselves at all times in an act of total transparency?

Mae Holland is a young woman who has just been saved from a mediocre job in public utilities by her dear friend, Annie. Annie works at The Circle, a tech company on a sprawling campus in California, and gives Mae a job with lots of promise for growth and development. The Circle, founded by the “Three Wise Men,” links users’ personal accounts (which must be registered under real names!) with bank accounts, email accounts, social media profiles, and purchasing history. Remember Facebook and Twitter? The Circle gobbled those up. Now users can send “Zings” and share all kinds of things with people all over the world. Companies can track purchasing histories. Users’ interests can be searched and cataloged. And with the lack of anonymity on forums and in comment threads? The internet has become a much more civil place. Trolls, begone!

As Mae moves up the ranks at The Circle, new developments are made in technology. Some help save lives: when children are embedded with microchips, child abduction becomes nonexistent. Some help people understand the world around them: small cameras placed around the world allow people to tune into live feeds of places they may never visit in real life. Politicians become more accessible to the people when they consent to wearing cameras around their necks at all times.

While the majority of the characters in The Circle eagerly welcome these advances in technology, there are some glimpses into the thoughts of those who are opposed to so much change. Mae’s parents get caught in the crossfire when The Circle offers to pay for Mae’s father’s medical treatments. Mae’s ex-boyfriend, Mercer, would prefer to live “off the grid,” a concept that stuns the social media-obsessed public.

I hungrily read this 508-page book, envying the beautiful campus life at The Circle, and all of the cool inventions that The Circle made possible. The nagging fear that this future was closer than I thought? That followed me throughout the book. And while I’d generally gripe about a book that had characters that were not-so-accessible, or hard to envision, I think that sort of style worked for The Circle. In a world where all users are united under The Circle, we may be totally transparent – but we lose our individuality. You’ll question your own social media presence by the end of this book; I guarantee it.

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

Read These: Heroines in Disguise

There’s something so intriguing about the idea of hiding ones’ identity. It’s endlessly popular in fiction—think of all the masquerades, superhero dual identities, and royalty pretending to be paupers. One of my favorite tropes is when a girl goes undercover as a boy to go on an adventure and prove her worth.

Usually these books take place either in historical settings or fantasy settings with strict gender rules. The girl, frustrated by misogyny and the lack of opportunities in her life, takes matters into her own hands.

The reveal is always astounding to those around the girl. They can’t possibly believe that she duped them all along! One of my favorite examples, where the audience itself was tricked, is in the 1986 video game Metroid. During the game, your protagonist is a hulking red-armored soldier wielding a ray-gun. It’s not until the end that the armor is removed, revealing the blonde woman Samus.

Luckily for us readers, there are plenty of books like Metroid where we can satiate our own need for adventure and a little disguise (and rebelling against the patriarchy!).

songofthelioness Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce
Alanna of Trebond is about to be shipped off to a convent to learn the ways of noble ladies. That doesn’t fly with the ten-year-old, who dreams of adventuring and gallant deeds. She convinces her twin brother to trade places with her, so that they can both do what they want–him, study sorcery, and her, train as a knight and one day, become a warrior maiden. Alanna is spunky, brave, and headstrong. She is a far cry from the girls swanning over boys. 

Hana Kimi by Hisaya Nakajo
This manga series is about a high-school high-jumper who disguises herself as a boy so that she can go to the same all-boys school as her idol. Hijinks ensue when she ends up as his roommate. Now Mizuki must find a way to keep her secret around Izumi not just in the classroom, but their dorm room too.  

levithan Leviathan series by Scott Westerfield
This series follows a steampunk, fantastical pre-World War I setting, where the hated heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne crosses paths with the brilliant British airman, Deryn Sharp. Although Deryn’s commoner status is enough to raise eyebrows for Prince Aleksander’s association, there’s a bigger secret Deryn has. She’s a girl. 

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
Shipwrecked and mourning her brother, Viola assumes his identity. She ends up in the service of the duke Orsino, and a messy predicament as she finds herself with feelings for him. To complicate matters, Orsino is besotted with Olivia. But Olivia falls for the disguised-Viola. Of course, it gets even more twisted when Viola’s actual brother still shows up, alive and well, and with no idea of Viola’s deception! (As I mentioned in my adaptation post, She’s the Man is a great modern remake of this play!) 

Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett
A Discworld novel, Terry Pratchett again decides to make fun of common tropes, by making fun of this one. Polly Perks joins the army disguised as a boy so that she can search for her brother. She soon discovers that she’s not the only one pretending to be the opposite sex… far from it! 

eondragon Eon: DragonEye Reborn by Alison Goodman
Eon has been training for years to be chosen as a Dragoneye, an apprentice to one of the 12 energy dragons of good fortune. But Dragon Magic is forbidden to females, and there lies Eon’s secret. Eon is actually Eona, a 16-year-old girl. If her secret is discovered, then her life is forfeit. If she’s found out, she’s going to use everything she’s learned about magic and swordplay to protect herself and still go after her dreams. 

There are plenty of other character examples in fiction that I’ve left out, because they are not the subject of the book. Arya Stark, in A Song of Ice and Fire, disguises herself as a boy to escape enemies looking for her. Eowyn, in Lord of the Rings, wears armor and pretends to be a man so that she may ride into battle and escape the trappings of becoming a domesticated noble lady. And can any of us raised on Disney forget Mulan?

Have you ever come across this trope in a story? What do 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.

Review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

wrathandthedawn Earlier this week, The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh was published by Putnam Juvenile. I finished reading my copy a few weeks ago (thanks, NetGalley!), and I’ve been practically giddy from the anticipation of sharing my review with you all.

Eighteen-year-old Khalid, the caliph (king) of Khorasan is one to be feared: he takes a new bride each night, and executes them at dawn. Families throughout his kingdom fear for their daughters’ lives. At the start of the novel, the beautiful, fearless Shahrzad has volunteered to be Khalid’s next bride. She plans to use all of her wits to stay alive to see the dawn – and to kill the man who murdered countless young women, including her best friend.

Well, Shazi does live to see the next day, and the day after that. You see, the murderous king of Khorsan has become intrigued by our heroine. And our heroine? Her heart is starting to betray her brain.

Add a headstrong handmaiden, a loyal captain of the guard, an uncle with an agenda, and a handsome rival to the mix, and you have a cast of characters to be reckoned with. A story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, there’s the promise of romance, adventure, and intrigue – and The Wrath and the Dawn delivers.

“My soul sees its equal in you.”

Shahrzad is a compelling main character; though if you’re looking for a character with faults, she doesn’t have many. She’s beautiful and wears her queenly garb quite well (the outfit descriptions are lovely!). She’s sharp and quick-witted, and always knows how to respond to a jab. She’s skilled with a bow and arrow and rises to challenges when they present themselves. She does, however, tend to let her emotions get the best of her. Her judgment clouds when she thinks of her family or her late best friend, and just the sight of her husband sends her heart into a tumble. In this high-stress situation, Shazi isn’t quite sure how to feel, and she’s at a constant war with herself to sort that out.

Khalid is a beautiful, complex puzzle of a man. We’re pitted against him from the start, as he has killed so many innocent people without apparent reason. He is short with his household staff, and appears aloof and angry. But beyond his cold exterior, we begin to see some sparks of life: his interest in Shazi’s storytelling, his skillful use of weaponry, his desire to find the perfect rose…

Ahdieh’s prose is meticulous in its crafting, and quite beautiful to read. I could picture the grounds of the caliph’s castle vividly, and each gemstone that woven into Shazi’s hair winked at me off the page. One thing that did pull me out of the story: the corners of everyone’s mouths were always turning up. Sometimes, it’s just better to say: “he smiled.”

This story is a romance at its core, but there’s plenty of action, too – and promise for much more in the sequel! Yes, readers, the first book just came out and I’m already impatient for the sequel. The Wrath and the Dawn really started to pick up the pace in the final third of the book, I think, and I devoured it. I’m hoping the next book tackles a bit more of the magical aspect that’s hinted at. Especially because a wise old man doesn’t give our heroine a threadbare, old carpet for no reason. If that doesn’t scream “magic carpet ride,” I don’t know what does.

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

Falling for Paris Through Books

Ever since I read Die For Me by Amy Plum, I feel like I’ve been searching everywhere for books like hers. I haven’t quite been able to find another urban fantasy set in Paris. I fell in love with Plum’s vision of France, and Kate’s adventures in the City of Lights. And what’s not to love about Vincent, Kate’s gorgeous love interest?

I’m not sure if it’s the cafe culture, the romance, or the lights, but even the image of the Eiffel Tower makes me want to see Paris in the spring. I’ve never been to France, but even if I can’t be there for the summer, books about teens in Paris suddenly seem very interesting to me.

Check out some of these novels set in France if you’re still left crushing on the City of Lights.

anna Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

This one may seem obvious for some of you who have already read it! I’ve heard great things about this book. And if you’re wishing you could be sent off to boarding school in Paris, this might just be the perfect book for you. Will Etienne and Anna French kiss? Read it to find out! While you’re at it, check out her other book Isla and the Happily Ever After.

romancingthedark Romancing the Dark in the City of Light by Ann Jacobus

This pick, which comes out later this year, is about a girl torn between two boys, one who wants her to embrace life, the other who wants her to embrace her flaws. Summer just moved to Paris, but there’s a catch: she’s been kicked out of four boarding schools. If she doesn’t get it together soon, she’ll lose her inheritance. But how will Summer find a way out of trouble and choose the right guy? This thriller just might be perfect for your Paris craving.

oneevening One Evening in Paris by Nicholas Barreau

Originally translated from German, this novel is slightly more adult than the previous two choices. One Evening in Paris is about an art cinema owner who crushes on an intriguing woman in a red coat who turns up every Wednesday in row 17. Soon, a director wants to film a movie at the cinema. But Alain’s mysterious lady has gone missing. Will they fall in love?

ingredientsoflove The Ingredients of Love by Nicholas Barreau

Aurelie, a restaurant owner, finds just the book she needs to get her out of her breakup-induced depression. After reading the book in one night, she believes that it saved her life. Aurelie wants to contact the English author, but his publishing company only tries to block her attempts to speak to him. But one day, the author responds to her letter, and the chance to meet him might just change Aurelie’s life.

Do you know of any books, young adult or otherwise, set in Paris that are contemporary or urban fantasy? Let me know so I can add them to my list!

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