Month: December 2015

2016 Reading Resolutions

It’s New Year’s Eve! Whether you’re getting ready to welcome 2016 in with a night out, or by hunkering down for a night in (wrapped up in blankets and clutching a mug of hot cocoa, preferably), you have to ask yourself one important question:

What’s my Reading Resolution for 2016?

Last year BiblioSmiles contributors shared their reading resolutions in this post here. I loved returning to the post throughout the year to remind myself of my resolution, which was to read the books I already have on my shelves – especially the biographies. While I didn’t touch a single biography this year (sigh), I did make a dent in the unread books on my shelves, so I’m very happy about that!

What’s my resolution for 2016?

This year, I want to branch out into other genres and forms. I’ve started reading some comic books (the Sex Criminals series by Mat Fraction and Chip Zdarsky is intriguing, funny, and weird), which is something I’d like to delve into more in 2016. I’d also like to check out some poetry collections.


I asked some other contributors for their 2016 reading resolutions. Let us know what your resolution is in the comments below!


The books I want to read next year are the same ones I wanted to read this year. As for next year, maybe I want to continue my exploration into the 33 1/3 series?



This year, I’d like to keep up my streak of reading 50 books a year in the Goodreads annual challenge. I want to branch out to reading more of other genres, like classics, nonfiction, and poetry. With so many great books coming out all the time, it’s impossible to keep up!


I bought From Hell by Alan Moore a few years ago, and it’s been staring at me from my bookshelf ever since. So this year I’m finally going to dig into it.



I definitely think in 2016 I want to read more fantasy that isn’t European in influence. I have a few titles already planned out like Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City, but I’m going to be on the lookout for anything else I can find that’s not just castles and kings. Also, since I’m finally coming home from Korea, I’m making it a resolution to invest an obscene amount of money in some of the gorgeous hardcovers that have come out since I’ve been gone!



My goal in 2015 was to read 45 and I ended up reading 80 books! I would love to read 80 books again (fingers crossed), but I’m making my 2016 reading goal 60 books, so I can feel good about myself when I go over. I would also really, really like to read all of my unread books on my shelf.

I hope you’ve enjoyed everything you read in 2015 – and I wish you many pleasant reads in the new year!

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


Why to Read Outside Your Genre

There are people who only read one genre. People who are steadfast horror fans or romance readers, or if the book doesn’t have vampires with smoldering gazes, then count them out.

I can’t imagine doing that. What if I miss something really brilliant?! It’s not like I have FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) for every single book out there, but if something looks interesting or is about something I want to know more about, I’m going to read it. Because of that, I’ve read some really strange books that surprised me.


There was Birth, a really interesting look into the historical, sociological, medical, and cultural aspects of being born. Another book was Plum Island by Nelson Demille, a gritty crime novel that focuses on the secret island off the shore of Long Island. And (cough) I even read a few romance novels, thanks to a friend’s obsession in high school.

I took to asking our lovely contributors for their own experiences! What were books that people would be surprised to hear they read and enjoyed?


Danielle: I’m generally not a big fantasy / adventure story reader, but I really enjoyed Renee Ahdieh’s debut, The Wrath and the Dawn! It was full of suspense and gorgeous prose, and I fell hard for the characters. I can’t wait for the next book!


Sara: I don’t read a lot of autobiography or self-help books, but I recently read Yes Please by Amy Poehler and The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna, and loved both of them!


Kim: I think I’m stuck on YA books because they take no brain power from me, and I am totally done after a 50-hour work week. But one of my favorite series of books in high school was about a span of four year’s worth of The Best American Essays. The topics were all over the place and the writing styles were crazy-different, and I just loved the format and how much I learned so quickly.


Andrew: I just read my first proper “romance,” or so John Updike calls it. Marry Me was dreamy and horrifying, and now I’m not sure if I ever want to get married. Overall a great intro to the genre!


Eden: I just read I Put a Spell on You – it’s an autobiography by Nina Simone and it was really great. I also read The Beat Hotel by Barry Miles, which describes the adventures of the beat poets in 1960s Paris. Both of these books were different kinds of reads for me but both very interesting and great!


AlysonBecause of my yoga teacher training I’ve had to read a lot of yoga books. But one of them, The Radiance Sutras translated by Lorin Roche, is written in poetry stanzas. It is a really beautiful take on life and love and spirituality. I’ve never read a poetry book before.

How about you, readers? Is there anything you’ve read that was out of your comfort zone? Did you like it, or totally hate it? Will you try to read outside of your genre in the new year?

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 her website.

Review: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

magnuschase Ever since I started reading, I’ve been a big fan of series. They’re the best. I get more time with my favorite characters than I would reading a stand-alone book, and I don’t have any issues finding my next story. You might think that’s why I started reading Rick Riordan’s novels, but you would be wrong.

Actually, I started Riordan’s books because my cousin refused to read the Harry Potter series.

I know. That doesn’t make sense. How does one person’s refusal to read a series impact another person’s next book? Well, when my cousin refused to read Harry Potter, I decided to go to some drastic measures to correct her error. Since my cousin loved the Percy Jackson series, I struck up a deal. I started reading Percy Jackson, and she took on Harry Potter. I expected my cousin’s eyes to be opened wide to the joys of the wonderful world of Harry Potter, but honestly, I wasn’t expecting much on my end. I was wrong. Our little deal left us both loving our experiences more than we thought we would. And so, my journey into the mythological mind of Rick Riordan began.

As I’m sure many of you already know, Riordan has moved far beyond Percy Jackson and his Greek mythology. You may have even read Riordan’s take on Roman myths in the Heroes of Olympus or checked out his Egyptian endeavors with The Kane Chronicles (Editor’s Note: Gabriele reviewed the series here). If you haven’t read them, give them a shot. They’re great.

Now, Riordan has embarked on a new journey: one filled with Viking war ships and the nine worlds of Norse mythology. He’s done a fantastic job.
When I first began The Sword of Summer, the first book in the new Magnus Chase series, I thought it would be a little weird. I was expecting a lot of POV shifts like the Heroes of Olympus and some pacing issues. But The Sword of Summer is different. Riordan goes back to what he does best and gives us the entire story from Magnus’s sarcastic, wonderful point of view, and his pacing is pretty good (if you ignore the first couple of chapters). Like all of Riordan’s characters, Magnus has an incredibly strong voice. He’s funny and, as an added bonus, he’s really up-to-date on his pop culture references. I mean, who doesn’t love getting a little T.A.R.D.I.S. or Britney Spears on the side of their Norse mythology? Plus, Riordan’s inclusion of pop culture references, especially those surrounding the Thor movie franchise, helps the reader understand the history and myths included in the story. And seeing as Norse mythology is already slightly less popular and more unknown than something like Greek or Roman mythology, it’s important to have a place to start from.

Riordan also gives the readers something to connect his previous stories and new stories together. Having read his other books, I really love that. His connections do get a little over the top at times, like when he titled a chapter using a reference to Jason Grace, who our main character, Magnus, has never met or heard of. But, I still enjoyed those little pats on the back for being one of Riordan’s followers.

Rick Riordan excels at including people of different backgrounds in his novels, as well. That doesn’t necessarily mean he gives a completely accurate representation of the diverse characters in his books, but seeing as, yes, #WeNeedDiverseBooks, and Riordan is a white male trying to include diverse characters, I appreciate his efforts.

The Magnus Chase series includes one of my favorite characters in all of Riordan’s books, a Muslim girl named Samirah al-Abbas. She’s strong and smart, and she’s not afraid to do what’s right, making her a really kick-ass character to root for. Also in the story is another one of my favorite characters, a deaf character named Hearthstone. I haven’t read many books that include people who are deaf, so this was a nice surprise. I’ve also always wanted to learn sign language, so it was fun having a character use ASL in the story. I wanted a little more time with him, but since this is just the first book in the series I’ll let it slide for now.

The book is a tad predictable and formulaic, but not in a way that makes me want to put it down. I’m not sure if I could handle another five-book series where I know exactly what’s going to happen and how, but for a trilogy I’m definitely not upset that I can guess the endings. It makes it kind of fun, and when I’m wrong I’m all the more excited to learn how.

The Sword of Summer had some ups and downs, but overall, I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in mythology or comedic adventure stories. If you’re already a fan of Rick Riordan, you won’t be disappointed. If you aren’t a fan yet, you will be after reading this book. The only thing you’ll be upset about is the wait you have until you can read book two.

Hannah Levine is a senior at The University of Michigan majoring in Creative Writing and Literature and minoring in Digital Studies. She grew up in Oakland County, Michigan and loved every second of it, although she would never pass up a trip to travel and see the world. Hannah is most proud of the moment she met J.K. Rowling and didn’t break into tears until after getting Rowling’s autograph. She is least proud of the time she walked past Mitch Albom at Campus Martius and was too nervous to say hi. You can check out more of Hannah’s random thoughts on Twitter at @hannah_levine or on her blog, Just Hannah dot Rose.

Wrap These Reads: Gifts for Bookworms

Another holiday season is fast-approaching, so it’s time to round-up some reads the bookworms in your life are sure to appreciate! There’s a book out there for every reader, but these are the ones that have caught my eye this year.

(I won’t tell if you decide to keep them for yourself!)


The Marvels by Brian Selznick

One of my favorite reads of 2015, The Marvels is the newest work by the author whose The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Thunderstruck have captured the hearts of children and adults alike. I had the good fortune to hear Selznick speak about The Marvels, a project that is very close to his heart. A fictional tale steeped in history, The Marvels pairs beautiful illustrations and easy, enchanting prose for a story that’s already become a classic in my eyes. The book is beautiful, too, with gold-edged pages that look beautiful on display.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling (illustrated)

The perfect gift for any wannabe-Hogwarts student, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone has been re-released with dozens of gorgeous illustrations by Jim Kay. Whether you’re re-living the magic of Rowling’s series, or sharing it with a young reader for the first time, this heavy volume is the perfect thing to wrap up and top with a bow this season.


Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

Dear Sugar, once an anonymous columnist on The Rumpus, was revealed to be Cheryl Strayed  (the author of the best-selling memoir, Wild). Strayed’s advice is candid, thoughtful, and incredibly well-put. You’ll want to highlight every gem you come across. Her “Write Like a Motherfucker” column was life-changing for me, and I think this book will be a welcome addition to many bookworms’ bookshelves.


Pop Sonnets by Erik Didriksen

Got a Shakespeare buff in your life? I bet they never thought The Bard could rock so hard! Erik Didriksen’s popular Tumblr, Pop Sonnets, is now immortalized in book form thanks to Quirk Books and HarperCollins UK. Filled with re-imaginings of 100 classic pop songs as Shakespearen sonnets, this book is sure to make a perfect gift for music and literature fans alike.


The Nerdy Nummies Cookbook: Sweet Treats for the Geek in All of Us by Rosanna Pansino

YouTube sensation Rosanna Pansino, the creator of Nerdy Nummies, has released her first cookbook through Atria Books. Chock-full of recipes from the popular YouTube channel as well as recipes original to this book, The Nerdy Nummies Cookbook is a cute, unique read full of easy recipes and beautiful photographs. Craving some Apple Pi Pie? How about the Periodic Table of Cupcakes? Sign me up!

What books will you be wrapping up for the holidays this year? Let me know what’s going on your 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: Welcome to Night Vale

nightvale Welcome to Night Vale is a wonderful debut novel set in a world with a far greater reach. Spawned from a fictional podcast that now boasts a huge voice cast and live performances in countries all over the world, it was only a matter of time before co-creators Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor crafted this book. Set entirely between the seventy-fifth and seventy-sixth episodes of the beloved podcast, the novel asks what day-to-day life is like for Night Vale residents other than community radio host Cecil Palmer.

Jackie Fiero and Diane Crayton are two seemingly unrelated characters, living separate existences in the same town. Fiero is the owner of the local pawn shop who’s been nineteen years old for centuries and hasn’t quite figured out how to turn twenty and move on with her life. Crayton is the head of the Night Vale Parent-Teachers Association and a single parent raising a shape-shifting fifteen-year-old, Josh.  Their lives are about as normal as life can be in Night Vale, before the elusive and forgetful Man in a Tan Jacket With a Deerskin Suitcase sets them both on the frustrating task of finding King City, California.

Chapters alternate between the perspectives of the two women, with brief interludes of Cecil’s regular radio show. The text is often as rambling and bizarre as the podcast in its strongest installments, but also manages to weave in truly poignant monologues on the perplexity of time and the complication of motherhood throughout. I honestly found myself surprised at how emotionally attached I had become to these brand new characters, whereas in the podcast the citizens of Night Vale are vitally important, but often little more then the butt of some cosmically unfair joke.

That being said, I’m not quite sure if this novel works better as an introduction to the weird world of Night Vale, or as a companion piece for devotees that are already caught up. It does a wonderful job of establishing the world, and giving you enough of an understanding that you can consume one without the other, but I have a feeling it’s best listened to before read.

Fink and Cranor always give a quick summary of the recurring characters and places our protagonists come into contact with, but often in such a way that spoils events that felt like pretty momentous twists when consumed chronologically. Then again, this is coming from someone who’s current with the podcast, so I’d be interested to hear from readers that came into the novel with no previous knowledge of Night Vale.

Regardless of the order in which you decide to explore this world, I’d still highly recommend it–especially if you’re into The Twilight Zone, The X-Files, and very dry comedy. These authors have an extreme talent for worldbuilding, and deserve all the time and attention you’re willing to give up for them. I promise, you won’t regret it, and even if you did, a vague yet menacing government agency is surely near to help you with your reprogramming.

Bob Raymonda graduated with his undergrad in Creative Writing from SUNY Purchase. He’s spent his years since graduating working primarily within the online marketing industry, though he did have a stint interning for the magazine Poets & Writers. More recently, he is the founder and principal contributor of Breadcrumbs Mag, an online literary and arts blog that fosters creativity through shared inspiration across many mediums. You can find his work, and the work of others’, there