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: Serendipitous Readings

We’re excited to bring you our June Book Blogger Spotlight! This is where we chat with one of our bloggers, ask them to share some of their favorite 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 Marci, from Serendipitous Readings. You can find her on Twitter @SerendipReads.

What made you want to start a book blog?

I wanted to see if there were people out in the blogosphere that had the same taste of books I had, as well as opinions – and how they differed.  I have come to find that not only are people opinioned about books they are just as or more than I am!

What’s your favorite reading spot? 

Favorite reading spot in the summer has to be outside – in a chair, on the grass, on the beach, have book will travel!

Your favorite book in the last year? 

I just read one called The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye absolutely could not put it down for the 12 or so hours it was glued…wait I was glued to it!

Favorite book of all time? 

I would have to say The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

Favorite author? 

Just one ?!? I have so many!  Lawrence Hill, Philippa Gregory, Scott Westerfeld, Vincent Lam,  Andrew Pyper..the list could go on, and on and on!

Favorite movie adaptation of a book?

I would have to say The Soloist by Steve Lopez.  Some or most of the political issues weren’t included in the movie, but still a fabulous book!

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

I take our dog Remington out for walks, I talk about people about books, I am on twitter, facebook, and because I’m a single parent, doing all of the running around that needs to be done!

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

I do seek reader engagement.  I believe that everyone has a valuable opinion and it usually doesn’t affect the ideas – thoughts I have about books and authors.  When I’m reading a book for review, I try not to read other reviews until I am finished.  I don’t want their interpretations of the same book I’m reading to skew my opinion.  Even on social media websites there is the occasional scuffle which either includes a blogger, an author, both or something /someone else.  In the beginning, it was exciting to hear all of the drama (right?) Now I’m more of the thing about all of us getting along and supporting one another, trying to work things out.  Life is too short, wouldn’t you agree?   But, there have been times when an author has gone all up and down someone and I thought wow, how can I make this not happen to me or to someone else? Or what has made the author so angry to make them explode on a public forum like that, it must have been bad if they have gone and done that!

Do you read other blogs? Which ones?

Sure I do, mostly when there is a book I haven’t heard about or a geek blog such as Mashable, Good E-Reader.  Like I had said earlier, I don’t really read book blogs unless there is a book that I haven’t heard of, or it has had a fantastic review of one I have already read and adored.

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

I guess in the beginning it was all new and exciting, I created a blog on Blogger.  After about a year or so after that I moved to WordPress and just last year I created my own site now that I pay for out of my own pocket, which I hope that will stay as relevant as any other blog out there.  I try to look beyond what the person is trying to say in the comments or when they send me an email about an issue I have covered and try to help them as much as I can.  There are the usual ups and downs, but I try not to let that get to me.  Everyone has their own opinion and they are welcome to share it, even though I may or may not agree/disagree with it.

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.