Book Blogger Spotlight: History and Women

We’re excited to bring you our July Book Blogger Spotlight! This is where we chat with some of our bloggers, ask them to share some of their favourite authors, the books they can’t live without, and find out how they came to book blogging.

This month, we bring you our chat with Mirella, who is extremely busy maintaining not one, but TWO blogs! History and Women and Historical Novel Review. You can find her on Twitter @historyandwomen or @historicalnovel.

What made you want to start a book blog?

I was the firstborn child of immigrant parents from Italy. In my pre-school years, my parents struggled to learn English. Most of the time, I was their interpreter, even though I was younger than 5 years old. So no one read me a story. In fact, I didn’t even know books existed. Then when I began first grade, my teacher opened a book and read the class a story. It was life changing. I was hooked at this whole new world that I never knew existed. By the time I was seven years old, I dragged my mom to the library and made her get me my own library card. From that day forward, I borrowed books every week. My passion for books remained with me all my life. I have a huge collection of books, so I decided to write reviews and spread the word about books I loved. I began http://historicalnovelreview.blogspot.com and the blog became so popular, I had to add several good friends to help me.

Popularity continued to grow so I expanded and created another blog, http://historyandwomen.com to not only feature biographies of notorious and famous women of history, but to include reviews of women’s or biographical historical fiction. This blog turned out to be even more popular than the first one.

Together, the two blogs are generating 75,000 hits per month / 3,000 per day. I’m so thrilled to be able to share my love of books with others and even happier that I have made so many cyber friends through my blogs.

What’s your favourite reading spot?

I read only in bed. At the end of the day, (usually shortly after supper) I put on my pj’s and cuddle up with a good book. I’ll read for one or two hours and then it’s lights out. Unfortunately, I’m not a good sleeper and usually awaken in the middle of the night. That’s when I pick up my book again until my eyes get heavy and I can fall back asleep.

Your favourite book in the last year?

I can’t say I have one clear favourite, but the book that really comes to mind is CROWN by Nancy Bilyeau.  Books set in medieval periods and about women are clear hits with me; especially biographical or those with Italian settings.

Favourite book of all time?

There are three books that are my all time favorites.

The first is Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I first read that book at the age of twelve and have read it several times since then.  Who doesn’t love Scarlet O’Hara and Rhett Butler? But more than the characters, it was the southern setting of Atlanta and its burning that caught my fascination.

The second book is John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. I love a great, evil, unredeemable villain and this book depicted the worst of the very worst! I think it is the shock of all the horrible things the villainess did that kept me reading and made me fall for the book.

And thirdly, I have to say Outlander by Diana Gabaldan. I love the hero and the heroine and have read this book several times because I could not get enough of it. Unfortunately, the latter books in the series didn’t capture me as much as the first book. 

Favourite author?

Along with Margaret Mitchell and John Steinbeck who I’ve already mentioned, I love F. Marion Crawford another classic author. His intricate plots and ability to paint a literary masterpiece with intensely descriptive words astounds me every time I pick up one of his books.  And because he is an American who moved his family to Italy, many of his tales have Italian settings.

Favourite movie adaptation of a book?

I love The Miracle , a novel written by a German author named Karl Vollmöller. It was made into a movie in 1959. It’s about a young postulant in Spain who falls in love with a handsome British soldier who asks her to leave the convent and marry him. The postulant prays for guidance from a statue of the Virgin Mary, but when she receives none, she leaves the convent and the statue descends from its pedestal and takes the postulant’s place. Meanwhile, the postulant encounters several adventures which ultimately lead her back to the convent. Of course, the plot is much more intricate than this, but I can’t simply give you all the terrific details. Suffice it to say that I loved the movie so much, I scoured the internet and bought a copy of this old book. I just had to add it to my shelf of favourites.

What do you do when you’re not working on your blog?

I’m an aspiring historical fiction author trying hard to break into the Canadian market. I’ve just completed a historical novel entitled Orphan of the Olive Tree. It is a family saga about lies, secrets, and betrayal between two unforgettable women, an oath sworn in blood, a curse uttered in envy, and the dark secret that destroys their lives. It’s set in 13th century Tuscany. I’m currently looking for an agent/publisher. Lots of twists and turns in this story.

Do you seek reader engagement on your blog? If so, how does this affect your ideas about books and authors?

I have met so many fascinating people through my blogs because of comments left and conversations started. It’s led me to meet many authors and bloggers and get to know them well. We regularly visit each other’s blogs to see who is reading or writing what and to get the inside track on new book releases. We share knowledge, our frustrations, and support each other in our blogs.   

Do you read other blogs? Which ones?

You can find a complete list of all the blogs I follow at:  http://historyandwomen.com. There are way too many that I adore. But some of my very favourites are:

Unabridged Chick               

The Brooklyn Scribbler

Colin Falconer 

Lindy Lou Mac Book Reviews

Murder by Gaslight

Royal Women           

How has your blog developed or changed since you first started?

History and Women, now a book review blog, began humbly, as a place to write biographies about famous women in history. I thought it would be nice for me to learn about some of history’s bad girls or saints or scholars and share it with my readers. The blog grew in popularity and now receives 50,000+ hits per month. I expanded the blog to include women’s historical fiction and a little bit about myself and my works in progress. I am so humbled at its popularity and thrilled that I have so many visitors and readers leaving such informative comments. Many even make suggestions about a woman in history they want me to research or a book to read and review. It’s been great fun and a wonderful escape.    

Make sure to take a moment and check out both of Mirella’s blogs below. 

Book Blogger Spotlight: The House of Crime and Mystery

We’re excited to bring you our May Book Blogger Spotlight! This is where we chat with some of our bloggers, ask them to share some of their favourite authors, the books they can’t live without, and find out how they came to book blogging.

This month, we bring you our chat with Jacques, from The House of Crime and Mystery. You can find him on Twitter @housecrimystery .

What made you want to start a book blog?

To change the world? Actually, it was to share my passion for books with others –hoping they would care—and to post interviews I was doing with crime fiction writers. I thought it’d be interesting to become a member of the blogging community, meeting new people and interacting about literature. The thing I never thought would happen, nor even dreamed about, was that my blog would receive so much visits, attention and flattering comments. I am flabbergasted (I always liked that word).

What’s your favourite reading spot?

Between the covers. Literally. And pretty much everywhere else. The couch is comfortable; the expression ‘couch potato’ applies to me but in connection to books, not to television. In the summer, I like the patio. I bought a hammock but I haven’t installed it yet, and I’m sure it’ll become my favourite spot this summer.

 Your favourite book in the last year?

Boy oh boy. Tough question.  Since the start of 2012, I’d have to go with Tom Rob Smith’s Agent 6, a great thriller that travels from Russia to NYC, to Afghanistan and back to Russia, from the 1950s to the 1980s. Close behind I’d have to mention Brad Smith’s Red Means Run, the start of a promising series, and Montreal writer Robert Pobi with his first novel Bloodman. Almost as scary as Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon and as creepy as The Silence of the Lambs. I’ll soon post on my blog an interview I did with Robert recently in Montreal. Not creepy at all, very nice man, très sympathique, and interesting.
Favourite book of all time?

Wow, tougher question.

OK, can’t pick only one so I’ll go with the ones I keep re-reading (yes, I do that; when a book is really good, it deserves to be re-read). John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things, Stephen King’s Different Seasons and his Dark Tower series (although I have read that only once so far); Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon, Peter Straub’s Ghost Story, Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island. And many more that I forget. Impossible to have only one.

Favourite author?

OK, it’s a little easier. The ones mentioned in the previous question are all favourites, along with George Pelecanos, Michael Connelly, Megan Abbott, Bryan Gruley, Laura Lippman, Mark Billingham and a few others. But the number one has got to be Stephen King. The man has been entertaining me for over 30 years and he’s the main reason I’m in this business. He influenced so much of my readings. His 1980 book Danse Macabre was like a bible to me from my teenage years to my early 30s. I’ve read pretty much everything he recommended in that book. We have a special bond moi et oncle Steve; when he talks to his “Constant Reader”? Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but that’s actually me he’s talking to. Ayuh.

Favourite movie adaptation of a book?

Stand by Me (from the story The Body, in King’s Different Seasons), Shawshank Redemption (from the same book), Mystic River, The World According to Garp, L.A. Confidential, I could name so many. I’m almost as passionate about movies than I am about books.

What do you do when you’re not working on your blog?

I work full-time as a sales rep for independent publishers (The Literary Press Group of Canada). I raise two kids (my wife helps a lot). Last year, I co-founded the QuebeCrime Writers Festival with my friend Guy Dubois, owner of La Maison Anglaise Bookstore, in Quebec city. We’re working on the second edition that will be held from October 25 to 27. I’m also the Canadian contributor for a great website called Crime Fiction Lover, based in the UK. I’m also an amateur photographer.

I still play ice hockey twice a week from September to March, and I bike the rest of the year. My soft spot is for stray cats; I feed and nurse them back to health when they need it. There are between 5 and 10 of them depending of the season. Some come and go, others have been coming here for a few years. And that’s not counting the two that have been living in the house for the past 15 years. I’d love to have a dog too. A big one.

Do you seek reader engagement on your blog? If so, how does this affect your ideas about books and authors?

Surprisingly, with the constant traffic I get on the blog, I don’t receive a lot of feedback on the actual blog. I receive a bit more by email. I’d love to receive more feedback –good or bad, as long as it’s honest criticism. I’m very open to suggestions about the blog in general and about books and writers in particular. I’m working on an interactive post that could be recurrent if response is good and people enjoy it. Reader reviews are welcome as guest posts. I try leaving comments on other blogs because I know it can be hard not getting any feedback. You start wondering if your post is boring, if you wrote something stupid, etc. Fortunately, the constant rise in traffic is encouraging.

Do you read other blogs? Which ones?

The Rap Sheet for the wealth of info. I admire J. Kingston Pierce and what he’s doing. It’s the best blog in the genre, bar none. That’s why I don’t do a regular crime fiction news on my blog; I’d never be able to keep up with The Rap Sheet and what would be the point. It’s the CNN of crime blogs, we don’t need another one like it. Pearce is a living encyclopedia and I seriously hope someone at some point will give him a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to crime fiction. I also admire what Janet Rudolph is doing; if Wonder Woman exists, it’s Janet. She runs two different blogs (that I know of): Mystery Fanfare and Dying for Chocolate, and also a fabulous website/paper, Mystery Readers Journal for Mystery Readers International. She writes and produces Murder on the Menu, etc.

I also enjoying reading other blogs like Jen’s Book Thoughts, and a few more that focus almost exclusively on book reviews and some interviews or guest posts. I read the ones where I know I’ll discover writers and works, like Eva Dolan’s loiteringwithintent, Andrew Nette’s Pulp Curry, Luca Veste’s  Guilty Conscience and a few others. The best interviewer out there, alongside J. Kingston Pierce, is probably Len Wanner. His website is The Crime of It All. Brilliant stuff.

How has your blog developed or changed since you first started?

I hope it has improved. I like to think it has. Looking at the blog stats I know which posts are popular and from the constant rise in traffic I also know that I must be doing something right. The giveaways are more popular when readers need only to send their name and address, as opposed to contests where they need to participate a bit more, like giving an answer or two. So unless an author or publicist wants to do a contest, I’ll just keep doing giveaways. Before starting my blog, I looked at what was being done out there and I decided to try to be different as much as possible. I have a French page “Ze Room Noire” that is very popular and I have to thank my main collaborator Grenouille Noire for this. After a while, I thought of putting that page as a separate blog, but I finally decided against it because Ze Room Noire is too much a part of The House of Crime & Mystery. I also deleted some pages that I never really updated; I did some trial and error during the first year and I’ll keep making changes whenever it’ll help the blog be more interesting.

Book Blogger Spotlight: Darlene’s Book Nook

It’s the March feature of Book Blogger Spotlight, where we chat with some of our bloggers, ask them to share some of their favourite authors, the books they can’t live without, and find out how they came to book blogging.

This month we’re hearing from Darlene of Darlene’s Book Nook.

Continue reading

Book Blogger Spotlight: Books and Brands

It’s the December feature of Book Blogger Spotlight, where we chat with some of our bloggers, ask them to share some of their favourite authors, the books they can’t live without, and find out how they came to book blogging.

If you follow us on Twitter or Facebook you’ve probably become acquainted with this month’s feature blogger, Mara Shapiro of Books and Brands. Her thoughtful reviews will make you think and will most definitely make you laugh. Read on to find out more about Mara.

 What made you want to start a book blog?

There were a few reasons I wanted to start a book blog.  First, I’ve always loved books and reading, and what’s better than sharing what you love with others?  Second, since I read so much, my friends and family have always asked me for book recommendations and so a book blog was a great place to do that.  As well, I wanted to provide reviews that were unbiased and fairly short.  I found that many review bloggers were writing critical essays, when all I wanted was ‘should I read it or not’.  This was a place where I could provide readers with a quick yay or nay like I was looking for.  Lastly, I wanted to build a place to share things I love: stores, products, customer experiences, and books.  And so, Books and Brands was born.  I have to say that the best part of the book blog is that when a publisher sends me a book I might never had picked up, and then I fall in love with it!

What’s your favourite reading spot?

I love to read anywhere and everywhere.  I’ll lay in my bed, or cuddle on the sofa on a winter’s day when the kids are watching TV.  Unlike other people, I also like to read my e-reader in the car. So, long car trips are mega reading events for me.

Your favourite book in the last year?

That is really hard to say.  I’ve read so many incredible books this year.  I loved the Steve Jobs biography.  I have a quirky and extremely bright child, and hope that he achieves greatness with his creativity like Jobs did.  I loved The Dovekeepers, especially because we will be having my son’s Bar-Mitzvah on top of Masada next year.  Some other favorites were the Water Man’s Daughter by Emma Ruby-Sachs, and a couple of Canadian titles:  The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan and The Woefield Poultry Collective by Susan Juby.  I also have a secret love of British Chick Lit (shhh, don’t tell anyone), as well as historical fiction. 

Favourite book of all time?

Oh Gosh, these are hard questions. Probably, I’d have to say Jane Eyre or Little Women. These are novels that truly got me hooked on the written word forever. 

Favourite author?

I don’t have a favorite author, actually.  There are so many that I like and follow, and my taste runs from intellectual to quirky to light and fluffy.  I do really like Ken Follett, Philippa Gregory, obviously the Austens. I adore Emma Donohue. 

Favourite movie adaptation of a book?

Usually, I am disappointed in movie adaptations.  But, I’ve liked a few:  Bridget Jones Diary (especially because of Colin Firth), The Devil Wears Prada, and obviously Gone With the Wind.  The adaptations of the Austen books are quite amazing. Movie makers are also doing a really good job of adapting the children’s and teen books, and I’m looking forward to The Hunger Games.

What do you do when you’re not working on your blog?

Obviously, I read.  A lot.  I love to cook and I started practicing Moksha Yoga a year ago.  I love to socialize with friends, whether on Twitter or in real life over a giant glass of red wine. I dream of writing my own book one day, and just finished NaNoWriMo for National Writing Month.

Do you seek reader engagement on your blog? If so, how does this affect your ideas about books and authors?

I love it when people comment on my blog.  I think taste in books is very personal, so I don’t have a problem if someone were to disagree on my review or my opinion.  I personally have very eclectic taste, and so I’m always interested in hearing what others have to say, and will always take them up on a recommendation for a book or author to look at.

Do you read other blogs? Which ones?

I read a whole bunch of blogs. Some are written by friends of mine, and some are because they are funny.  I really like to laugh.  I have to admit, I don’t read other book blogs.  I’m not sure why…maybe because they give too much away, which I try not to do in mine.  My favorite blogs are: The Bloggess, Peace, Love, and Muesli, Being Marci, AllFookedUp, and The Literal Mom.

How has your blog developed or changed since you first started?

I don’t post as much as I would like. I tend to read more in the summertime than the rest of the year.  As well,  I started another blog to reflect more of myself, and the crazy life I lead, and actually I’d love to integrate the two together.  The blog hasn’t grown as much as it deserves to. However, I’m very proud that I have stuck to my original intention of providing short and unbiased reviews without spoilers or quotes out of the book.

Make sure to check out Books and Brands or her other blog Be nice or Leave and follow Mara on Twitter!

Book Blogger Spotlight: Bookshipper

Welcome back to Book Blogger Spotlight, where we chat with some of our bloggers, ask them to share some of their favourite authors, the books they can’t live without, and find out how they came to book blogging.

This month we were lucky to chat with one our first ever book blogger contacts, Tina Avon of Bookshipper!

What made you want to start a book blog?

I have been reading since I was a little girl and have always loved to discuss the books I read, as well as get other people’s impressions.  Thanks to the Internet, I was given the opportunity of doing this with other readers, all over the world, by creating a book blog.  So, for me, it was a very easy decision to make.

What’s your favourite reading spot?

Unlike many of my friends, I can’t read in bed.  However, since I have to travel by public transportation (bus and subway) I have found that these are my absolute favorite places to read.  I also love reading on a train – it makes the trip go by so quickly.  I sit down and open my book and close it when I get to my destination.  I also secretly love reading in the tub, although this can be costly when I drop my book in the water (yes, this has actually happened).

Your favourite book in the last year?

I would have to say Want to go Private by Sarah Littman.  Although this book is a novel, it was incredibly scary and completely engrossing.

Favourite book of all time?

I actually have two.  I love, love Bridget Jones Diary – this book made me realize how much I adore (and still do) chick lit.  The second book is a book called Locked up for Eating too Much by Debbie Danowski.  This book saved my life while Bridget Jones Diary reminds me to laugh at  myself every day.

Favourite author?

I have many favorites, but if I had to name just one it would have to be William Tapply.  Unfortunately, he passed away last year, but he created one of my favorite “book characters” in Brady Coyne and I have read each book in this series at least 3 times.

Favourite movie adaptation of a book?

Here again, I would have to go with Bridget Jones Diary.  Now, when I reread the book, I always picture Colin Firth and Renee Zellweger.

What do you do when you’re not working on your blog?

Reading 🙂 and scouring used bookstores and libraries.  I am completely addicted to books and I spend enormous amounts of time surrounded by them.  I also like to practice yoga and Pilates and going for coffee with friends.

Do you seek reader engagement on your blog? If so, how does this affect your ideas about books and authors?

One of the reasons I started my blog was to get into contact with other book lovers and I have been fortunate enough to do this.  Through my blog, I have met other Montreal bloggers and some of us have been getting together, on a regular basis, for the last few years.  I have also been lucky enough to meet some wonderful publicists AND authors and have worked closely with them since the beginning of my blog.  I have learned a lot about the business side of the book industry.

Do you read other blogs? Which ones?

I have approximately 25 other blogs on my “blog roll”.  Of course, the Montreal Book Lovers page on Facebook is one site I spend a lot of time on.  I also enjoy reading some author blogs, as well as anything posted by my fellow Montreal Book Bloggers.  I have found that I am particularly attracted to smaller blogs, those that are more intimate.  I try to stay away from the blogs that seem to have developed into “cult followings” as I find that very few actually carry book reviews.   When I follow a blog I like to read about their views on the books they have read or find out about their lives.  I love blogs with personal pictures. I don’t really follow blogs that are focused more on getting followers through “gimmicks”.

How has your blog developed or changed since you first started?

My blog has always been about my love of books.  I have changed the “look” a little bit, but I have basically kept it the way it was when I started.  Since I don’t like blogs that are too “busy” I have strived to keep mine easy to read.  I have also made a point of updating my blog on a regular basis and to, of course, post as many honest reviews as I can.  Oh, I guess the biggest difference is that I am proud to say that I now have over 900 + reviews since I started and I am still loving each and every minute of it.

Make sure to check out Bookshipper and the Montreal Book Lovers Facebook page.