Reading Life

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.

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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.

Reads on the Subway: Winter 2016 Edition

Last summer, I totally creeped on people on the subway to see what they were reading. Like I said in August, I love people watching and seeing what my fellow bookworms are enjoying is one of my favorite things.

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The subway is a perfect spot for reading. You’re removed from most of the distractions from the world, can tune out everyone and everything (well, except the crazy guy talking to himself, or the ‘musicians’ who say “GOOD EVENING LADIES AND GENTLEMAN” and start to sing/hassle you for money).

Seriously, aside from all that, it’s one of my favorite places to read! And people watch. Let’s check out what New York’s been reading underground this past winter.

1.Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
On the 4/5/6 line, a woman with dark and short twisted hair and a nose stud was reading this. Her hands had a bow tattoo on one of her fingers as she turned the pages of this thriller. Following in the wake of Gone Girl and Girl on the Train, Jessica Knoll’s novel follows a successful woman who left a secret buried in her past that could destroy everything she holds dear.

2. The Charge by Brendon Burchard
It’s not all fiction. The Charge is a self-help book about learning to activate the ten motivators that make us most human. A young man with black slick hair, scruffy face, black jacket, jeans was reading this. He had a chevron print reusable coffee mug and had headphones in.

3. Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Gutsiest Troublemakers by Nick Offerman
This book met its perfect match in a ginger man in his 30s, wearing a Columbia ski jacket and black beanie, with a gruff air of “manliness.” This book, was written by the Parks and Recreation actor who portrays Ron Swanson, the epitome of Murica, mustaches, and everything manly.

4. En Nødvendig Død by Jan Mehlum
An elegant woman with silver hair in a ponytail and pearl earrings was reading this novel. Quite a novelty in itself for my people-watching, the book is part of a Norwegian mystery-thriller series about a lawyer who has to solve grim cases.

5. Room by Emma Donoghue
This book’s movie adaptation scored an Oscar nomination this year. A curvy young woman with long strawberry blonde hair, wearing a magenta puffer jacket and tweed skirt was reading this. Room is about a boy who’s entire world is his Ma and the Room they’ve always been in. And what happens when they get out.

6. The Patriot Threat by Steve Berry
An older man with grey hair, a trim beard, and thick rimmed black glasses was reading this provocative political thriller. With shades of the Da Vinci Code, this book is about Cotton Malone, a retired member of an elite intelligence division, who is tasked with tracking down a rogue North Korean who stole top secret files of the National Treasury.

7. Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee
One of the most anticipated books of last year, Harper Lee’s novel about Scout of To Kill a Mockingbird as an adult, was being read by a young woman in a green camouflage jacket and fuzzy blue scarf with curly blonde hair and beaded bracelets.

8. Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham
Another legal thriller for our list! What is it about winter and suspenseful, grisly novels? This book, about a lawyer who takes the cases others won’t go near, was being read by a woman in burgundy corduroy pants, wearing a silver ring with a red gem, a snakeskin black bag, and long gray hair.

9. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
A young businessman in black slacks and a black coat was reading one of my absolute favorite novels! This darkly witty novel is about an angel and a demon who’ve gotten pretty comfortable on earth, and decide maybe it’s a good idea to prevent the prophesied apocalypse.

I love seeing if books match their owners. They say that pets often resemble their owners, or maybe it’s the other way around, and it’s interesting to see which books are clearly being read by their demographic. Of course, my favorite is when people defy the genres predicted for them!

Til next time, I’ll keep my eyes open on the subways for more real life sightings of bookworms.

(photo courtesy of Matteo Merzi)

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.

Bookworm Interview: Jonathan Robertson

Want to get to know the BiblioSmiles contributors? Read below to find out more about Jonathan!

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Q: Tell us about yourself in 100 words or less:

I’m a filmmaker in New York. I like The Rockford Files and I listen to a lot of Elvis Costello and Warren Zevon.

Q: What books did you love as a child?:

I learned to read from comic books. My grandfather owned a comic shop in New Jersey in the 80s, and when he closed it in the early 90s, he kept all of his leftover stock, which was about 5,000 books. He wanted to sell them off, but never got around to it, so throughout my childhood, there was always a basement full of comics to read, which he arranged into a mini-comic shop, just for me.

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Q: What kinds of books do you love now?

I started reading Raymond Chandler when I was in high school, and that got me going on a crime fiction kick that’s never really slowed down. From Chandler, I went for Dashiell Hammett, which led to George V. Higgins and Elmore Leonard, plus Erle Stanley Gardner, Jim Thompson, Lawrence Block… Great googly moogly, the list goes on and on.

Extra special shout out to Darwyn Cooke’s adaptation of Richard Stark’s Parker books. Those are some beautiful graphic novels!

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Q: Where’s your favorite place to sit down and read?

Sitting across the couch, probably with my feet up.

Q: Do you set any goals for yourself as a reader?

I try to not read the same authors over and over again. I love finding new ones and old ones that I’ve never encountered before. Just listening to recommendations and wandering through book stores has led me to find things like The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard and A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin.

Q: Have you ever met any of your favorite authors? What was that like?

I met Werner Herzog when he was signing Conquest of the Useless. He makes these awe-inspiring, bleak, and often brutal films, but he was so humble and sincere. It was a fantastic experience.

Q: How do you mark your place in a book?

Dog eared pages or the flap of a dust jacket.

Q: What books are you on your “must read” list?

52 Pickup by Elmore Leonard, A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler, Of Walking in Ice by Werner Herzog, Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro, All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy, Dracula by Bram Stoker, Rebel Without a Crew by Robert Rodriguez, Fatale by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

Q: Here’s a famous question: if you could have dinner with any author, living or dead, who would you choose and why? Where would you go, and what would they order for dinner?

Tough one… Part of me says “Hemingway,” but I feel like we’d spend the whole meal drinking grappa and talking about him (and he didn’t exactly have a sense of humor, particularly about himself…).

So I think I’d have to go with Elmore Leonard. He always spoke so frankly about writing and the writing process – I’ve always admired his honesty. It’s reflected in his writing as well – there’s nothing extemporaneous in his prose.
We’d hang out, probably in Detroit, at a Tigers game, which means beer and hot dogs all around. I don’t even know if we’d talk about books, but I’m sure it’d be a nice time.

Q: What’s your favorite post you’ve written for BiblioSmiles? What’s your favorite post that someone else has written?

I wrote a piece about books not matching their cinematic counterparts, and how that should be expected and even celebrated – you can read it here.

And I’m a sucker for the Anatomy of a Bookshelf series. I love getting a glimpse into someone’s personality via their bookshelf.

Jonathan Robertson is a New York based filmmaker who will never be as cool as Steve McQueen. And that crushes him. But he still tries. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @itsjonrobertson for musings on film, literature, and occasionally Mexican food.

Critters in Literature: Cats

One of my latest obsessions has been the viral app, Neko Atsume, where you leave out trinkets in a virtual yard in the hopes that little cartoon cats will come and visit you. Like the rest of the world, I too am captivated by the cuteness of cats.

Not a cat person? That’s okay (Just kidding, it’s kinda not). Check out our posts on literary fishbears, turtles, rabbits, and elephants.

I’m pretty sure future historians will look back on our current society and think we’re like the ancient Egyptians, obsessed with cats. Well, if so, maybe our famous felines of literature will show them just how cats are meant to be worshipped.

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Cheshire Cat from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The Cheshire Cat is a morally ambiguous character, like most cats tend to be. He seems more interested in watching Alice bumble around Wonderland than actually helping her. He’s known for his distinctive leering grin that is the last thing to fade away when he vanishes. 

“We’re all mad here.” – Cheshire Cat

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
Another mischievous cat, the Cat in the Hat comes to call when two children are left at home on a dreary, boring day. Seeking to make their day fun, the Cat’s antics instead unleash chaos and destruction. …Also sounds like cats.

breakfast at tiffany's cat

Cat from Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
Though not a substantial figure in the book, the nameless cat of Breakfast at Tiffany’s represents Holly Golightly’s transient nature and aversion to anything permanent, even a name.

“She was still hugging the cat. “Poor slob,” she said, tickling his head, “poor slob without a name. It’s a little inconvenient, his not having a name. But I haven’t any right to give him one: he’ll have to wait until he belongs to somebody.”

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Crookshanks from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Crookshanks is an enormous, lion-like cat. He’s ginger-colored with yellow eyes, and his face looks like he’s “run headlong into a brick wall.”. Very intelligent, Crookshanks helped Sirius Black sneak into Hogwarts, and he figured out Peter Pettigrew’s disguise before any of the Golden Trio did.

Ron Weasley: “What was that?”
Harry Potter: “It was either a very big cat or quite a small tiger.” 

Pluto from The Black Cat by Edgar Allen Poe
This cat drives the narrator to madness. After the cat is a beloved pet for years, the narrator gouges out the cat’s eye in a drunken rage. He eventually hangs the cat with a noose, angry that the cat was frightened of him. From here on, the cat haunts the narrator, leading to terrible tragedies in his life.

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Puss in Boots by Giovanni Francesco Straparola
Originally Il Gatto Con Gli Stivali, Puss in Boots is a fairytale about a cat who is clever, and use tricks to gain riches and even the hand of a princess in marriage. Puss in Boots has been adapted to other works, like Shrek and even an appearance in Pokemon, portrayed by a Meowth.

Bast from The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan
Not quite a cat… but a cat goddess. Bast is the Egyptian goddess of felines  and in Rick Riordan’s series about modern Egyptian demigods, she protects the Kane duo, Carter and Sadie. Even if she does it while wearing questionable fashion and hissing at others. She’s a tremendous help to them, and her powers demonstrate why the Egyptians held cats in such high regard.

“My dear, I’m a cat. Everything I see is mine.” – Bast

Did I miss one of your favorites? With how beloved cats are, I’m sure I did! A special honorary mention to Garfield, of course, Bill the Cat, and Grumpy Cat, no less iconic or worthy than our other literary felines. One of my personal favorites is Angus from the Georgia Nicholson series, probably a close cousin to Crookshanks.

I’m fairly certain cats will become our supreme overlords one day, so we should be churning out praise to them in all forms. Til next time, in critters of literature! For now I’m off to read up on more cats.

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.

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.

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

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