Month: April 2016

See You in June!

Wow – April absolutely flew by! In general, I think this year is flying by. So many books, so little time!

Which brings me to today’s post. I’ve decided to put BiblioSmiles on a hiatus for the next month so I can focus on working on the second draft of my YA novel. Between working a full-time job and maintaining a blog (while also still trying to have a social life), I’ve let the project that’s most important to me fall by the wayside.

I encourage you to stick with BiblioSmiles for more great content starting in June, and I urge you to consider submitting a piece of your own! Whether you want to share a book review, an Anatomy of a Bookshelf post, or a personal essay, I’d love to have you on the team! I will be checking email at bibliosmiles@gmail.com during the month, so feel free to drop me a line.

Thank you for reading along and understanding as I take this time to write. And hey – did you know that there have been about forty contributors on BiblioSmiles so far? That means there’s a heck of a lot of posts that you can go back and read! Visit the About page and click on a contributor to read their posts. Or why not try a category like Personal Essays, Interviews, or The Reading Life?

I will also still be sharing posts on the BiblioSmiles Instagram here.

Happy reading, everyone!  See you in June!

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

 

The Book is the Destination

I’ve discovered my newest favorite thing to do when I travel: Read a book that takes place in the destination. Forget travel guides totally and just bring a book (actually don’t forget the travel guides… this idea makes my Type A tendencies very, very nervous).

As literary lovers, we have the vivid imaginations that bring fictional worlds to live in our mind. I was lucky to travel for a week to Dublin where my company is headquartered. Dublin has a rich literary history, between James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, and W. B. Yeats, just to name a few. (In fact, we stayed right across from Oscar Wilde’s house and his rather flamboyant statue!)

oscar wilde statue

I decided to go another route, and be trendy and take my cue from this recent Academy Awards series. As a native New Yorker, I was fortunate to pick up Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín, which takes place in both Ireland and New York City.

I started reading it on the flight there, getting hyped about my visit. The historical aspect added another layer of interest. I could walk around the city and try to imagine what it was like in the Post-World War II era of Ireland.

Even coming back to New York, since the book also took place here, I tried to picture what it was like for Eilis Lacey, the young woman who braves the Atlantic by herself like so many immigrants did.

It was fascinating and made me notice things much more. I think this is a literary strategy I will keep in mind for whenever I travel!

How to find books about where you’re visiting?

Pretty simple—you can look up the famous authors who lived in your destination. For Japan, Haruki Murakami is often considered the Japanese contemporary author. Of course, you could go for a natively written form, like haiku of early Japanese poets like Matsuo Bashō.

trinity college library

Trinity College’s library! This would be a great place to find a book, if we were allowed to touch them…

You might have a hard time finding a book that takes place in a particular tiny village, but broadening the scope to gain knowledge about the general culture as I did with Brooklyn is equally valuable. Goodreads is another great source for this. Their lists can be as granular as they are numerous. Their whole cultural section can be found here.

And you don’t have to leave your genre either. If you’re really into thrilling action books with a mystery and visiting Italy, well, Dan Brown’s books are pretty perfect.

As for my city, well, there are countless books that take place in New York. It’d be harder to find a book that doesn’t take place here, I think! It’s worth taking the time and keeping your inner bookworm happy as you travel.

What do you think? Have you ever picked up a fiction book about the place you were traveling to?

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 Two Princesses of Bamarre

The Two Princesses of Bamarre Cover“I was no hero. The dearest wishes of my heart were for safety and tranquility. The world was a perilous place, wrong for the likes of me.”  

I’ve been downsizing and that means I’ve been going through my bookshelves. And it’s something that really makes me pause when I see how well-worn some of the books I have are. There are books I read over and over and over again, so entrenched I was in their stories. And they didn’t even have to be big names.

One of them was The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine. She’s best known for writing Ella Enchanted (which in no way is at all similar to the movie).

The Two Princesses of Bamarre is set in a classic fairy tale kingdom, focusing on two royal sisters. There’s twelve-year-old Addie, who looks up to her courageous sister Meryl. Meryl wants to follow in Drualt, their legendary hero’s footsteps and do the same as he did–go on adventures and rid the kingdom of the evil beasts that lurk in the wilderness.

Addie would be content with staying at home, and not doing any of those things. After all, they already lost their mother, why risk endangering themselves any further?

But Meryl falls victim to another one of the kingdom’s evils—the illness known as the Gray Death. Finding courage she didn’t know she had, Addie sets out into her kingdom to do the impossible and find a cure.

This story reminds me of The Princess Bride because it has everything: adventure, danger, twists and turns, wit, and romance that won’t make you gag. Spectres, ogres, griffins, and even dragons lie in her path, but she keeps going for her sister. She doesn’t have strength to rely on, just her own pluckiness and willpower. As a kid who was athletically-challenged and constantly with my nose stuck in books, this appealed to me. If I ran into danger, I just had to persevere and keep fighting in spite of fear.

Acting as a backdrop against Addie and Meryl’s story is the story of the legendary hero who disappeared mysteriously ages ago. It fleshes out the kingdom’s history, a bit of world building for future readers of A Song of Fire and Ice or Lord of the Rings. 

The novel has a complex ending, one that doesn’t tie things up as nicely as you might expect in a children’s book. Like life, there is both happiness and sadness in the ending. But the one constant through the story is the sisters’ unshakable love and devotion to one another.

This is not one of your “one day my prince will come” fairy tales. Gail Carson Levine has a penchant for taking the fairy tale world and empowering girl characters within her worlds to face their fears and overcome challenges.

Even as a middle grade novel, I am ready to read this book again! And… again. Addie’s quest speaks to the feelings within all of us. About finding our inner strength, and doing what we need to for the people we love.

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: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

everythinginevertoldyou A story that has been told a dozen times before:

A perfect daughter dies under tragic circumstances. Her family reels with shock, and then struggles to pick up the pieces.

The premise of Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng may seem simple – familiar, even – but this story is far from what you’d expect.

Set in a small town in Ohio in the 1970s, Everything I Never Told You follows the Chinese-American Lee family. James Lee is a Chinese man working as a college professor (of history, specifically westerns and cowboys); his wife, Marilyn, is a white woman whose dreams of becoming a doctor were swept under the rug with the birth of her first child.

The three Lee children are Lydia, an overachieving, straight-A, student with many friends; Nathan, an equally-intelligent loner overshadowed by his sister; and Hannah, a quiet younger child who craves attention from her family.

When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed. Old wounds are reopened. Crushed dreams are realized. Allegiances are questioned.

Word gets out that Lydia may not have been the popular girl her family thought her to be. While Nath and even Hannah begin to investigate the person that was their sister, Lydia’s parents refuse to listen and cope with their grief in vastly different ways.

“The things that go unsaid are often the things that eat at you–whether because you didn’t get to have your say, or because the other person never got to hear you and really wanted to.”

Everything I Never Told You is a haunting debut from an author who understands the nuances of relationships and renders them both painfully, and beautifully, on the page.

You may think you’ve read this story before, but this debut is all new.

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