02 February 2013

Saturday Spotlight: Once Upon a Bookcase

What is Saturday Spotlight? It's where I drag bloggers onto my blog for an interview. It's not part of a hop or any organized event. It's merely a way to feature bloggers and get inside their heads a bit. Like a psych session, but fun.

Jo @ Once Upon a Bookcase


ABOUT THE BLOG

When did your blog come into existence?
Once Upon a Bookcase was created n June 2009, but not in its current form. Originally, I had a different blog, Ink and Paper, which I started in March 2009. It was a fantasy book blog, as that’s what I was into. I read a few YA urban fantasy novels and started a discussion about sex in YA, talking about the books I had read. Through the comments, a lot of other books were discussed and recommended to me, and I was really intrigued. The “issues” surrounding underage/teenage sex (I live in the UK, the legal age is 16) and the consequences has always been something I have felt quite strongly about, and I was interested in seeing how YA authors dealt with the subject in their books. However, contemporary YA wouldn’t fit Ink and Paper, so I created a new blog to hold Sex in Teen Lit Month, and called it Ink and Paper Specials. However, after holding Sex in Teen Lit Month, I realised how much I loved YA, and decided to keep the second blog going to review YA novels, and Once Upon a Bookcase, as a proper review blog, was born. Almost a year ago, I decided that running two blogs was becoming annoying and a little too much, especially as some of my readers read both blogs, so I decided to combine them. I now review YA and fantasy solely on Once Upon a Bookcase.
Your blog in three words:
Hmm. I would say lilac, passionate, and honest. I had difficulty coming up with words at first, and the lovely Andy of The Pewter Wolf said, “Booky with awesome”. So sweet! :D
What makes your blog yours, meaning unique?
I love how brilliant YA is, and how authors can take serious issues that can affect teens and write about them so sensitively. There’s something about reading about certain issues through the eyes of a teenager that open my eyes more than adult novels, and teenagers are going through so much as it is, with working out who they are, the self-consciousness that comes with puberty, and exams and thoughts of their future. Because of this, I love holding blog events on different issues that teens do/can experience. As well as Sex in Teen Lit Month, I’ve also held Body Image and Self-Perception Month and Death and Bereavement Week, and this coming July I will be holding LGBTQ YA Month.

I also hold irregular feature A Novel Cover Up, where book cover illustrators/designers or those in the design team at publishers discuss how book covers were designed by either guest post or interview, sharing early drafts and preliminary ideas of covers. I really love it, it’s great hearing about the process that goes into each cover.

Review wise, I’m sure it doesn’t make my blog all that unique, but I’m very enthusiastic when it comes to writing my reviews, and that tends to translate into quite long reviews with a fair amount of detail on what I loved – or didn’t – about each book. I find it really difficult to write short reviews, but love giving a meaty review to explain exactly what I think about a book. I know reading long reviews isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s how I do things – my reviews are very much me.
How did you come up with your blog name?
When I first gave the book the name Once Upon a Bookcase, I wanted a title that would say books but books that weren’t adult books. I know “Once Upon a...” says children’s/fairy tales more than YA, but it has the whimsical feel that I love. I did originally go for “Once Upon a Bookshelf” but I was then told that someone else used that as their blog title, so I changed it slightly.

ABOUT THE BLOGGER

How did the blog-bug bite (why did you start blogging)?
I used to read quite a lot of high fantasy, most of which belonged to my Dad, so I always had him to discuss books with. But then I started taking a look at the books recommended to me by Amazon, and a lot of those were urban fantasy. I fell in love with the genre, but as that’s not what my Dad reads, I no longer had anyone to discuss books with, but had so much I wanted to say. I decided to start blogging and opened an account on LiveJournal simply to discuss the books I read. I didn’t know about the book blogging community when I started, but once I started, and started reading the advice on other bloggers offered to blogging newbies, I switched to Blogger and created Ink and Paper, and slowly but surely discovered my reviewing voice. I still have my very early reviews on my blog. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is the first book I reviewed I believe, and the review is laughable in my opinion, but it’s where I started, and I like seeing how I’ve evolved as a reviewer.
Do you have a review that you’re particularly proud of?
I have two, is that ok? The first is my review of Easy by Tammara Webber. This is a review that was both very easy to write, yet difficult. Easy is such an amazing book, both generally as a story and as a book that deals with the topic of rape. It’s a book that I feel everyone should read for how brilliantly and sensitively it deals with such a terrible topic. It was so easy to rave about Easy. Yet my review was difficult to review because of trying to review with a certain level of objectivity when it came to my reactions to the book because of experiences of my own. I’m reviewing a book, I’m not there to talk about my own life within a review, so I had a hard time trying to get across just how brilliantly it deals with the topic without making references to personal experiences. But I managed it; I think it’s pretty clear how awesome I think the book is, yet if someone read the review, they wouldn’t have any clue to anything I may have been through.

My second is my review of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. It’s such a beautiful, beautiful book! The descriptions and the imagery, oh my god! Just amazing! Yet I pulled off a coherent review that I believe gets across just how beautiful it is!
Is there a blog that inspired you/still inspires you?
There are three! Brodie’s Eleusinian Mysteries, Sarah’s Saz101, and Lisa’s Read Me Bookmark Me Love Me, three Aussie blogs that have perfected brilliantly detailed, long reviews with huge amounts of enthusiasm and gushing while still being amazing pieces of writing! Oh, how they can construct some beautiful sentences! If I can write half as good as them when I grow up, I’ll be a happy bunny.
What excites you most about being a book review blogger?
The fantastic books that are put on my radar by publishers and other bloggers that I wouldn’t be aware of otherwise. I have read so many great books that I would never have picked up if it wasn’t for these awesome people bringing them to my attention.
Five books everyone should read:
  1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  2. Don’t Let Me Go by J.H. Trumble, my review of which will be posted in July as part of LGBTQ YA Month, but which you can read a my recommendation of here
  3. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  4. Easy by Tammara Webber
  5. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
If a new blogger came up to you for advice, what would you tell them?
I actually have an email that I have saved to send to any newbie bloggers that ask me for advice. In the email I point newsbies in the direction of Presenting Lenore, who has a brilliant New Book Blogger FAQ. I also discuss reviews, generating traffic, monitoring traffic, memes, taking advantage of social networking sites, review policies, ARCs/review copies and blogger ethics, among other things. If any new bloggers would like to be sent the email, just drop me an email – hit the Contact tab on my blog.

ABOUT THE GAL

What got you into reading?
My Dad, really. My parents bought my brother and I the first three Harry Potter books when I was about 12. I didn’t really read at the time, so I was a little disappointed. After a while, I started reading them because I felt guilty, and, unsurprisingly, quickly fell in love with them. However, I wasn’t really interested in reading anything else, though. My Dad kept going on and on about the high fantasy novels he has, and that if I liked Harry Potter, I would love his books. I eventually gave in and decided to read one of his books simply to stop him going on. I picked up Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings, and fell completely head over heels in love with the wonder of readings itself. I’ve not looked back since.
What is your ideal reading spot?
Sitting on the sofa! That’s pretty much it. I don’t need much else!
Do your friends and family know about your blog?
Yes, they do! A few of them visit my blog every now and again, and some of them keep and eye on things via my Facebook page. My Dad mentions my blogging at every opportunity when talking about me to new friends. He loves the fact that some of my reviews are quoted on the praise pages.
What are three things people may not know about you?
  1. I spent a year studying Cosmetic Make-Up and Beauty Consultancy until I discovered that it bored me.
  2. I collect stamps and keyrings.
  3. Drama was my favourite subject when I was at school.
If you had a superpower, what would it be and what would you do with it?
The ability to heal, emotionally as well as physically, so I can make sure those I care about are happy and healthy.