Month: February 2016

Same Story, But Different

So, here’s a not-so-secret secret. I have a Tumblr. But Tumblr is pretty amazing for book lovers. You can reblog quotes, ogle cover-art, and follow the blogs of authors. (Psst, John Green’s Tumblr is especially hilarious)

But one thing I absolutely love Tumblr for is their ability to imagine stories in totally new ways. We’ve talked about the We Need Diverse Books movement, and the problems of sexism in YA. Tumblr users are way ahead of us. To be honest, Tumblr can actually be a bit aggressive in their campaign for acceptance. But hey, better to have a platform for tolerance than one for hate-mongering.

I love seeing users on Tumblr take time to envision alternate versions of books with characters portrayed by actors of different races, or even having their genders flipped. For those of you who don’t speak, breathe, sleep INTERNET all the time, this is referred to as race-bending or gender-bending.

Some of these originate in GIF sets (several animated pictures paired together) or text posts about potential AUs (alternate-universes).

It’s important to show more diverse characters in literature and media, for reasons that have been covered. Tumblr again does a great job of explaining why. And just imagine the possibilities. One AU text post I read proposed that

It’s spilling over into the mainstream too, as we saw with last year’s remake of Annie, with Annie portrayed by Quvenzhané Wallis and Jamie Foxx taking on the Daddy Warbucks role.

These are really fun to explore. It teeters on the edge of fanfiction, but they’re more like ideas and concepts that let you imagine what could’ve been. There are so many more iterations on Tumblr too. Crossovers, alternate settings to stories, and more. It’s no wonder that I can lose hours of my life to scrolling through all of these ‘what-ifs’.

How about Hermione of the Harry Potter series played by Antonia Thomas? In the books, Hermione does have big hair, a trait associated often with women of color.

antonia thomas hermione

Or A Song of Ice and Fire with an Asian cast? The books do lend well to Feudal Japan. I could see the game of thrones being played out by Samurai. Also, Devon Aoki would be a pretty perfect Daenarys Targaryen.

And let’s not forget about the gender benders, recreating some of our favorite characters as the opposite gender. Cosplayers are great at this! Look at Legolas and Fili as fierce ladies. What would the Fellowship have been like, if the Hobbits were women?

Or gender-bent Percy Jackson heroes! The same artist also did a version of the Marauders from Harry Potter.

Artwork by Viria of deviantart and tumblr

Artwork by Viria of deviantart and tumblr

These things start with us, the fans. With Tumblr and book blogs, we have a bigger voice than ever before. Of course, it goes beyond Tumblr. DeviantArt, Fanfiction.net, and other forums provide outlets for these re-imaginings of our favorite 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.

There Is No Enjoyment Like Reading: A Pride & Prejudice Collection

I was never one of those teenagers who watched romance movies or swooned over the guys on the football team (those guys are overrated anyway) or talked about their crush endlessly (instead I liked to just watch from afar and fantasize about our perfect fake relationship). So you might find it surprising to know that I now collect copies of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, which is THE romance. It’s the romance that all romances aspire to be. It’s the romance that has women of all ages and backgrounds falling in love with Austen. And I’m sure you’ve seen the endless copycats and retellings and sequels of Pride and Prejudice.

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So how did I get swept in too, despite thinking I would never ever be a romantic? It was actually the 2005 movie that sucked me in. But I didn’t see it until two years later, right before I graduated high school. And that’s when I fell in love with everything about it: the romance, the characters (especially the witty Miss Elizabeth Bennett), the language, the social situations, the clothing, and of course Mr. Darcy!

Then I read the book and loved it even more.

My growing collection of Pride and Prejudice started on a whim two years ago. I was in the Strand bookstore in the fiction section when I saw a bright pink cover peeking out from all of the boring book spines. I had my brother reach up and grab it (at 4’10” not many shelves are in reach) and saw that it was a beautiful rubber-texture cover version with engraved words and phrases of the book. It was love at first sight.

As one of my favorite classic stories, I knew I had to have more copies. There are so many stunning versions out there. So then I got another and another and another. Now I have seven copies of Pride and Prejudice as well as three copies of Persuasion (my second favorite Austen book) and I’m always looking to acquire more.

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It seems I like collecting-all-the-things because I also collect mugs and anything with owls.

What do you collect?

sincerelysara

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. 

One True Loves: Cover Reveal and Excerpt

Hi, bookworms!

Some exciting news from Atria and Washington Square Press, just in time for Valentine’s Day: the cover has been revealed for the new book by Taylor Jenkins Reid: One True Loves! The novel is set to release on June 7th.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown in Massachusetts. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity for adventure.

On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever.

Emma quits her job and moves home in an effort to put her life back together. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma’s second chance at happiness.

That is, until Jesse is found. He’s alive, and he’s been trying all these years to come home to her. With a husband and a fiancé, Emma has to now figure out who she is and what she wants, while trying to protect the ones she loves.

Who is her one true love? What does it mean to love truly?

Emma knows she has to listen to her heart. She’s just not sure what it’s saying.

Today on the blog you’ll find an intriguing excerpt from One True Loves! But first, let’s take a look at that gorgeous cover. I love the soft colors at play, similar to Reid’s Maybe in Another Life, which I reviewed for BiblioSmiles here. What do you think of it?

one-true-loves-9781476776910_hr

I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of One True Loves. Now on to that excerpt!

ONE TRUE LOVES

I am finishing up dinner with my family and my fiancé when my husband calls.

It is my father’s sixty-fourth birthday. He is wearing his favorite sweater, a hunter green cashmere one that my older sister, Marie, and I picked out for him two years ago. I think that’s why he loves it so much. Well, also, because it’s cashmere. I’m not kidding myself here.

My mother is sitting next to him in a gauzy white blouse and khakis, trying to hold in a smile. She knows that a tiny cake with a candle and a song are coming any minute. She has always been childlike in her zeal for surprises.

My parents have been married for thirty-five years. They have raised two children and run a successful bookstore together. They have two adorable grandchildren. One of their daughters is taking over the family business. They have a lot to be proud of. This is a happy birthday for my father.

Marie is sitting on the other side of my mother and it is times like these, when the two of them are right next to each other, facing the same direction, that I realize just how much they look alike. Chocolate brown hair, green eyes, petite frames.

I’m the one that got stuck with the big butt.

Luckily, I’ve  come  to appreciate  it. There  are, of  course, many songs dedicated to the glory of a backside and if my thirties have taught me anything so far, it’s that I’m ready to try to be myself with no apologies.

My name is Emma Blair and I’ve got a booty.

I am thirty-one, five foot six, with a blond, grown-out pixie cut. My hazel eyes are upstaged by a constellation of freckles on the top of my right cheekbone. My father often jokes he can make out the Little Dipper.

Last week, my fiancé, Sam, gave me the ring he has spent over two months shopping for. It’s a diamond solitaire on a rose gold band. While it is not my first engagement ring, it is the first time I’ve ever worn a diamond. When I look at myself, it’s all I can see.

“Oh no,” Dad says, spotting a trio of servers headed our way with a lit slice of cake. “You guys didn’t . . .”

This is not false modesty. My father blushes when people sing to him.

My mother  looks behind her to  see what he sees. “Oh, Colin,” she says. “Lighten up. It’s your birthday . . .”

The servers make an abrupt left and head to another table. Apparently, my father is not the only person born today. My mother sees what has happened and tries to recover.

“. . . Which is why I did not tell them to bring you a cake,” she says.

“Give it up,” my dad says. “You’ve blown your cover.”

The servers finish at that table and a manager comes out with another slice of cake. Now, they are all headed right for us. “If you want to hide under the table,” Sam says, “I’ll tell them you’re not here.”

Sam is handsome in a friendly way—which I think might just be the best way to be handsome—with warm brown eyes that seem to look at everything with tenderness. And he’s funny. Truly funny. After Sam and I started dating, I noticed my laugh lines were getting deeper. This is most likely because I am growing older, but I can’t shake the feeling that it’s because I am laughing more than I ever have. What else could you want in a person other than kindness and humor? I’m not sure anything else really matters to me.

The cake arrives, we all sing loudly, and my father turns beet red. Then the servers turn away and we are left with an oversized piece of chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream.

The waitstaff left five spoons but my father immediately grabs them all. “Not sure why they left so many spoons. I only need one,” he says.

My mother goes to grab one from him.

“Not so fast, Ashley,” he says. “I endured the humiliation. I should get to eat this cake alone.”

“If that’s how we are playing it . . .” Marie says. “For my birthday next month, please put me through this same rigmarole. Well worth it.”

Marie drinks a sip of her Diet Coke and then checks her phone for the time. Her husband, Mike, is at home with my nieces, Sophie and Ava. Marie rarely leaves them for very long.

“I should get going,” Marie says. “Sorry to leave but . . .”

She doesn’t have to explain. My mom and dad both stand up to give her a hug goodbye.

Once she’s gone and my father has finally agreed to let us all eat the cake, my mom says, “It sounds silly but I miss that. I miss leaving some place early because I was just so excited to get back to my little girls.”

I know what’s coming next.

I’m thirty-one and about to be married. I know exactly what is coming next.

“Have you guys given any thought to when you might start a family?”

I have to stop myself from rolling my eyes. “Mom—”

Sam is already laughing. He has that luxury. She’s only his mother in an honorary capacity.

“I’m just bringing it up because they are doing more and more studies about the dangers of waiting too long to have a child,” my mom adds.

There are always studies to prove I should hurry and studies to prove that I shouldn’t and I’ve decided that I will have a baby when I’m goddamn good and ready no matter what my mother reads on the Huffington Post.

Luckily, the look on my face has caused her to rescind. “Never mind, never mind,” she says, waving her hand in the air. “I sound like my own mother. Forget it. I’ll stop doing that.” My dad laughs and puts his arm around her. “All right,” he says. “I’m in a sugar coma and I’m sure Emma and Sam have better things to do than stay out with us. Let’s get the bill.”

Fifteen minutes later, the four of us are standing outside the restaurant, headed to our cars.

I’m wearing a navy blue sweater dress with long sleeves and thick tights. It is just enough to insulate me from the cool evening air. This is one of the last nights that I’ll go anywhere without a wool coat.

It’s the very end of October. Autumn has already settled in and overtaken New England. The leaves are yellow and red, on their way to brown and crunchy. Sam has been over to my parents’ house once already to rake the yard clean. Come December, when the temperature free falls, he and Mike will shovel their snow.

But for now the air still has a bit of warmth to it, so I savor it as best I can. When I lived in Los Angeles, I never savored warm nights. You don’t savor things that last forever. It is one of the reasons I moved back to Massachusetts.

As I step toward the car, I hear the faint sound of a ringing cell phone. I trace it back to my purse just as I hear my father rope Sam into giving him a few guitar lessons. My father has an annoying habit of wanting to learn every instrument that Sam plays, mistaking the fact that Sam is a music teacher as Sam being his music teacher.

I dig through my purse looking for my phone, grabbing the only thing lit up and flashing in my purse. I don’t recognize the number. The area code 808 doesn’t ring a bell but it does pique my interest.

Lately, no one outside of 978, 857, 508, or 617—the various area codes of Boston and its suburbs—has reason to call me.

And it is 978 specifically that has always signified home no matter what area code I was currently inhabiting. I may have spent a year in Sydney (612) and months backpacking from Lisbon (351) to Naples (39 081). I may have honeymooned in Mumbai (91 12) and lived, blissfully, for years, in Santa Monica, California (310). But when I needed to come “home,” “home” meant 978. And it is here I have stayed ever since.

The answer pops into my head. 808 is Hawaii.

“Hello?” I say as I answer the phone.

Sam has turned to look at me, and soon, my parents do, too. “Emma?”

The voice I hear through the phone is one that I would recognize anywhere, anytime—a voice that spoke to me day in and day out for years and years. One I thought I’d never hear again, one I’m not ready to even believe I’m hearing now.

The man I loved since I was seventeen years old. The man that left me a widow when his helicopter had gone down somewhere over the Pacific and he was gone without a trace.

Jesse.

“Emma,” Jesse says. “It’s me. I’m alive. I’m coming home.”

***

I think that perhaps everyone has a moment that splits their life in two. When you look back on your own timeline, there’s a sharp spike somewhere along the way, some event that changed you, changed your life, more than the others.

A moment that creates a “before” and an “after.”

Maybe it’s when you meet your love or you figure out your life’s passion or you have your first child. Maybe it’s something wonderful. Maybe it’s something tragic.

But when it happens, it tints your memories, shifts your perspective on your own life, and it suddenly seems as if everything you’ve been through falls under the label of “pre” or “post.”

I used to think that my moment was when Jesse died. Everything about our love story seemed to have been leading up to that. And everything since has been in response.

But now I know that Jesse never died. And I’m certain that this is my moment.

Everything that happened before today feels different now, and I have no idea what happens after this.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Taylor Jenkins Reid is an essayist and novelist living in Los Angeles and the acclaimed author of Maybe in Another Life, After I Do, and Forever, Interrupted. Before becoming a writer, she worked in entertainment and education.

FIND TAYLOR ONLINE:
http://www.taylorjenkinsreid.com/
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Happy 2 Years!

A lot can happen in two years.

I moved to New York City. I made new friends and kept in touch with old ones. I started working at a job that I love, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I finished a draft of my novel.

And this whole time, BiblioSmiles has been growing with me.

Two years ago when I shared my first post here, I wouldn’t have imagined that this blog would take off to where it is right now, featuring work from about 40 contributors, all with their own unique stories to share.

My “must read” list has grown exponentially since people started sharing their book reviews and essays. I’m always so happy to hear about what people are reading and loving.

Today I just wanted to take the time to say thank you to everyone who has written a post, read a post, commented, or shared a link on social media. And since it’s so close to Valentine’s Day, I’ll say this, too: I love you, bookworms.

Best,

Danielle

thanks2yearsframe

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

Turn to Books

[Editor’s note: I’m so pleased to welcome a fellow SUNY Purchase alum, Zach, to BiblioSmiles!  Let him know your thoughts -and share your own stories- in the comments below.]

More than the books themselves, I always remember the time I spent with them. This is not an insult to the stories the authors have drafted, edited, edited again and then published for me to enjoy. I see it as a compliment, maybe even the highest praise I could give to a story.

danglingman

I remember the first and only time I read Dangling Man by Saul Bellow was in the midst of a howling New York hurricane. Mom told us to keep stapling garbage bags to the walls to prevent our possessions from getting damaged by the oncoming rain. I was supposed to go back to college to start my senior year but due to weather and the threat of death by commute, I was being held hostage in my childhood home, constantly checking my cell phone to see if my sort-of girlfriend was enjoying her first day back at college in North Carolina. She’s not my girlfriend in the way that we broke up because we both agreed that long distance relationships never work, but she’s sort of my girlfriend in the way that we keep calling and saying that we love each other.

So it’s just like every college relationship out there.

I sent her several texts, sounding more and more desperate for human contact.

12:05 AM text to Kelsi
“Hurricane’s in full swing here but don’t worry! We’re all safe! Miss you!”

12:10 AM text to Kelsi
“I’ve been reading Dangling Man so I might be up later if you wanna call!”

12:20 AM text to Kelsi
“Not that you have to call. Just if you wanted to. Hope you’re enjoying being back at school!”

The wonderful thing about books is that they will always talk back to you.

At the beginning of the night, I had no intention of reading. But my parents put me in charge of checking the walls every 45 minutes for rain damage, and if Kelsi was at a party, then she was never going to call and the world was asleep or far away from where I was and I all I wanted was someone to relate to. Enter Saul Bellow and his madcap narration of Joseph, who is left stranded in Chicago without a purpose or a person he can relate to.

In short, I fell in love. I had found someone who understood what it felt like to feel trapped in your life at the exact moment the walls started to cave inside myself. I clung to the pages for dear life.

I remember how when I started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I was walking through the hallways of my elementary school, looking at all the muggles who had no idea what I was about to become. The hallway was empty save for myself who was running late to class, because when your eyes have transported you to Hogwarts, it’s hard to get your body to return to PS 29.

One day in fifth grade, I had a fever of 101 and stayed home. Missing the schedule of my school day, I decided to sit in a corner of my room and read the entirety of The Zack Files series by Dan Greenburg. I made it through book #16, Evil Queen Tut and the Great Ant Pyramids, before falling asleep.

Sixth grade was the year my friend Amr and I began competitively sneak-reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy throughout all our classes. We designed book covers that looked like our textbooks in order to give ourselves just a few more extra minutes in Middle Earth.

aheartbreakingworkofstaggeringgenius

My first time sitting through Grand Jury Duty for a week was made less mind-numbing thanks to Dave Eggers and his magnum opus to quarter-life strife, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. The tedious proceedings of justice rendered less monotonous with Dave Eggers in my lap.

My mother lent me Paul Auster’s The Red Notebook one day at home in Brooklyn and now I make sure it’s with me wherever I go.

There was one copy of E.L. Doctorow’s classic Ragtime at Midwood High School’s library, and I spent periods one through five devouring it. Looking up from the tattered pages and out at the bookshelves and pimpled high schoolers, I began to understand that there were life experiences I had yet to participate in.

wolfinwhitevan

While working on a documentary in Florida, I escaped the stench of the state with Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle. When I met him two months later, I thanked him for helping me escape Florida. He told me it was his pleasure.

I read a collection of short stories from Raymond Carver on the night my friends abandoned me for a dorm party and the next morning I was the only one to wake up without regrets.

The day I finished The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, I stared out my first floor bedroom window at Purchase College and admired life as a whole. I saw the sun shining bright, painting the day in orange hues. I saw a guy and a girl walking to lunch and I wondered if they were in love or if they were friends or if they would enjoy reading a book today.

When my life gets strange or weird or seemingly out of control, I look for a book to sink into. I’m never sure if I would remember those moments were it not for the books I read then and I’m not even sure if my life would have ended up the way it is were it not for books. One of my favorite moments that happens every single time I read a book is that moment when you finish a sentence and turn your eyes upwards and outwards to the surrounding world ahead of you. Books are the floating piece of wood for when your plane has crashed into the ocean and you need something to help get you back to the shores of life.

When you have the time, spend it with books. They’ll always reward you for the effort spent.

Zach Lennon-Simon is a writer, filmmaker, and YouTuber originally from Brooklyn, NY. He enjoys books, sci-fi shows, beer, pizza, and the attempts of the New York Mets to achieve greatness. Check out his YouTube channel, Zach Vlogs.