Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Guest Blogger of the Month - Jo from Jaffareadstoo

Today I would to welcome Jo from jaffareadstoo to my blog.

Jo, I am honoured to have you over here today.  Jo's blog can be found here.  I urge you to check it out and follow.

What fuelled your love of reading and reviewing books?

My mother encouraged me to read; she always made sure there were books in the house, and also encouraged me to go to my local library.  I was brought up on reading books by Enid Blyton, C.S. Lewis and Arthur Ransome.  I was quite shy as a child, and found that I could happily immerse myself in an imaginary world, where I could be anything I wanted to be and could go to different places in my imagination.  "Inside every book, an adventure is waiting to happen." 
I am constantly on the lookout for books to read, and enjoy reading book reviews, so when the opportunity presented itself to do a few reviews of my own, I found it was something I enjoyed, and could develop into a fascinating hobby.

Are there any favourite books or authors which captured your interest?

I really enjoy reading books by debut authors, the challenge of writing a book is enormous, and I am completely in awe of anyone who is disciplined enough to write.  That's why I am happy to champion and encourage new authors.  I have a great passion for history and enjoy well written historical fiction; it all comes back to being transported to another time and place.  My favourite historical fiction authors are Diana Gabaldon, Philippa Gregory, Elizabeth Chadwick, Barbara Erskine, Karen Maitland and Alison Weir.
In 1991 I picked up a book by American author Diana Gabaldon, it was a time travel novel called Cross Stitch, about a twentieth century nurse who crosses through time to 18th century Scotland.  Twenty one years later, this saga continues, and I eagerly await the publication of book 8 in the series.

You write book reviews for many publications including: Newsbook magazine, Bloomsbury, Transworld and others.  How did you become a reviewer for these companies? 

Mostly, I answered requests to join a group of established reviewers.  I have been a subscriber of Newsbook magazine for the last 5 years, and one of the first sections I go to in the magazine is the reader review section.  I thought it would be interesting to add my own comments on books I had read.  My contact with other publishers has developed over the last few years; it all starts with receiving one book to review, which then leads to more.  I am also contacted directly by publishers and authors who have read my reviews on jaffareadstoo.  I'm always happy to review books!

You co-ordinate 'Book of the Month' for an on-line book group.  Do you belong to any local book groups?

I have great interest in book groups and think that the internet and social media has opened up a whole new world for book lovers.  My local library has a flourishing book group which meets every month.  I co-ordinate a monthly group read for the on-line website The Outlander Book Club; it generates a lot of interest and lively online discussion.  In March I organised an interview with Laura Harrington, the author of Alice Bliss.

You are an active member of the book swapping website ReadItSwapIt.  You took a turn at being a moderator on the forums.  You must have seen many changes on there and made many friends?

I have been an active member of ReadItSwapIt since 2006, and moderated the forum for two years.  I'm thrilled to be part of ReadItSwapIt; the site has gone from strength to strength and provides a rich and varied way of obtaining books.  There are currently over 365,000 books available for swapping, which is amazing. I love the idea of being able to swap books with like minded book lovers.
The ReadItSwapIt forum is a friendly and supportive place, I have made so many wonderful friends, they are my on-line family and I love them.
I also help to moderate an on-line book site which is dedicated to the books of Diana Gabaldon.  The The Outlander Book Club is filled with warm and wonderful people who are a joy to be around, they are my second on-line family.

I read that you are retired.  Were you involved in the editing/publishing industry or anything to do with books in your working life?

I retired early from work in 2007 due to some serious health issues.  I had nothing to do with books or the publishing industry, although I always told my work colleagues that my ambition was to work in a book store!  I qualified as a Registered Nurse in 1980, and spent my nursing career working in different specialties, I was really sorry to give it all up.  In the early days of my retirement, my books really came to the rescue and provided necessary distraction.

I love the name Jaffa, your beautiful ginger cat.  He obviously likes 'reading and reviewing' too.  He has been with you for 5 years.  Have you always had cats or pets?

Thank you - Jaffa is my beautiful baby, and is the real star of the show.  He is the inspiration for jaffareadstoo - he's a real character and enjoys reading, but mostly, he sleeps curled up by my side.  I've always loved cats, and have shared my home with some wonderful feline characters over the years.  Cats are very intuitive creatures, and know instinctively when they are onto a good thing, and it's completely true that you don't own a cat, a cat owns you!

You mention that 'Darjeeling' tea is a favourite.  I'm an 'Earl Grey' person but having said that, I love tea and could drink it by the bucket load.  Could you recommend a particular 'Darjeeling'?

I love tea - and am a real believer that tea tastes better as loose leaf, brewed in a teapot, and drunk out of a china cup with saucer.  I buy Twining's Darjeeling for everyday use but pick up Darjeeling whenever I see something interesting.  I go to a local supplier Roberts & Co for their 2nd Flush Risheehat Darjeeling, which is a lovely bright, light drink;  best enjoyed piping hot with just a dash of milk and no sugar.

Besides reading, reviewing and looking after Jaffa.  Do you have any other hobbies or activities that you enjoy?

I'm a knitter of all things quirky - book bags and blankies being a speciality but I can turn my hand to most things and have done occasional commissions.  I also make cards and bookmarks.
I enjoy walking, and as my husband is a keen photographer, we combine the two hobbies with walks in the countryside.

Lastly, for fun - music!  Who or what type of music do you listen to?

I have a real eclectic taste in music, literally from Bach to the Beatles.  My iPod is a real mixture of all genres.  But when I'm quietly reading, I enjoy listening to classical music, something that can form a soundtrack to the story.  I also love listening to Einaudi, Karl Jenkins, Enya, Hayley Westenra and Michael Buble.  But...I'm also a child of the 70's, and brought up on Northern Soul, so am equally comfortable with  Dean Parrish, Tobi Legend and Jimmy Radcliffe.

Thank you so much for sparing your time and being my guest on the blog for this month.

Jane, thank you so much for inviting me onto your blog.  Jaffa and I have enjoyed answering your questions.

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