2011-07-29 13.06.34A long while ago now, I had the crazy idea that I was going to ban myself from buying any new books. Instead, I planned to read the many books on my shelves I haven’t yet experienced. Writing a blog seemed like a good way to track my progress. At the same time, I was working somewhere unrelated to books and my life was feeling irrelevant. The blog idea was also to reinject bookishness into my days.

Steph’s Bookshelves didn’t sound right, so I used my middle name, Isabelle, or Bella, instead. I think the ban lasted all of one week, and soon after that HarperCollins found me and offered me books for review. That started a chain of emails from various publicists and authors, several of whom have since become friends. And now, as well as book reviews, I post about book news and issues and also literary tidbits I find interesting (the LitBits people seem to enjoy!).

I’m passionate about many things, like animals, tea, peace, good food, great writing, nature, classical, choral, and jazz music, but most significantly books. I’m a freelance copyeditor, proofreader, and writer (for over ten years now; clients include Thomas Allen, Ltd, House of Anansi Press, ECW Press, UBC Press, and UOP), and a book blogger, of course. And I’m a stalwart promoter of authors, publishers, indie bookshops, and Canadian literature in particular—I’m very proud to say I review for the Quill & Quire, a magazine I’ve loved for years. I grew up with a librarian mom, got in trouble by schoolteachers for reading too much, and studied English lit in university where I was actually encouraged to read more than I could handle. I continue to attend author readings and events, and have carried jobs in a publishing house, libraries, bookstores, and as a freelancer.

Although I’ve read thousands of books, I’ll probably never consider myself very well-read. There are countless stories I haven’t yet enjoyed, and to that end I want to commit more time to reading. Writing about what I read allows me to digest the content before moving on.

To my fellow bookworms and bibliophiles: I lift my cup of tea to you. May you be always inspired to read more, hone your reading skills, and build up your collections.


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  1. JK

    I’m how blown away by how close our reading tastes are! And I too don’t get through a day without a cup of tea. I’ll definitely be back to your lovely site, and hopefully one day your bookstore!

    PS- You should start the Keepin It Real Book Club: Belville chapter!

  2. JK: I know! I’ve been thinking about it…I love the idea. The trick will be figuring out how to do that when I have two jobs. But I can think of a few people already!

    I’d love to welcome you to Biblio when it’s built. :) Wouldn’t it be cool if the Belleville and Kingston, say, chapters (is there still a Kingston one, since you’re in TO?) met at the shop for a collective book club session some evening? Of course, tea and goodies would be served, on the house!

  3. It’s the same book, but as is common, the title was changed for North America. The way Joanne Harris’s The Lollipop Shoes was (unfortunately) changed to the Girl with No Shadow here. They did it with Harry Potter too (the Sorcerer’s Stone instead of the Philosopher’s Stone).

    1. Hi Raymond,

      I read that this The Trials is your 20th book, and that you have five books in Atlantic Canada’s 100 Greatest Books—WOW!
      Congratulations on your award in 2009, and in general on your great success, and thank you for bringing our attention to your work!

  4. Kate Cottrell

    Hi Steph,
    I love your new site. The photo makes me want to curl up in one of your blue chairs in that bookshop.
    Just want to suggest a great book of short stories by a Canadian writer named Sarah Selecky. I took her writing workshop at the Picton Author’s festival, and plan to sign up for the on-line course in the fall. She is an inspiring and supportive facilitator. Her website is her name, if anyone wants to find out more.
    I am reading her book of short stories, “This Cake is for the Party”, and am really enjoying it. Did you know that selling 5000 copies makes a book a best seller in Canada? Sarah is going for it with “This Cake…” !
    Happy reading!

  5. Hi Kate,

    Thank you for the suggestion! I’ll check her out; I noticed you sent me an email on it, too.

    I’ve just had a meeting with Greenley’s and plan to start working there in July; maybe we can get Sarah there for a reading or workshop!

    PS. Those blue chairs in the picture above are my own. That’s my living room!

  6. First of, can I just say I LOVE the pic of all your bookshelves? My books are spread throughout the house and I’m hoping one day to build a library in our loft.

    And personally, there is nothing better in the world than a great book and a hot cup of tea. :)

    1. See? I told you we sound like the same person! :) I even used that very same theme you’re using before switching to my own domain.

      I know just how you feel about wanting your books all in one place. It bothers me to have them spread out! Now that my wall space is full, I’m struggling with where to put new books. I need a library room, because the living room just isn’t conducive to growth…

  7. Ahh, my husband and I dream of opening a book/coffee/tea shop. Gourmet coffee is all the rage these days, and I have a caffeine addiction. I also adore tea, it is my first love. Therefore, we have quite a lot in common! Wishing you well in your plans :)

    1. Thank you, Janice, and welcome! I noticed on your blog you’ve got quite a few books. It’s rare, for me, to find someone both interested in science and the arts! I have a coworker like that. She loves maths and science and is thinking of being an engineer, yet she works very happily in a bookstore and is an avid fiction reader. I envy people like that. I’m totally about the arts. My brain freezes up the second numbers are involved.

    1. Steph Author

      I hope you do get to do that one day! I don’t know what it is, but I HAVE to have all my books in one room or I feel discombobulated! And right now, I’ve run out of space, so I do have some in my office as well. Still, a library is the way to go for a book lover, right?

  8. Emily Gillespie

    Hi Bella,
    I’m still new to this site and I wasn’t sure if there was a way to private message! I’m enjoying your blog and twitter.
    My name is Emily Gillespie, and my New Adult novel Dancing with Ghosts, is coming out later this month. Set in Toronto, it critiques rape culture, and the fragmented mental health system.
    You can learn more at: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33948943-dancing-with-ghosts
    Please let me know if you’d like a reviewing copy. I’m available at gillespie.emily.m@gmail.com
    All the best,
    Emily Gillespie


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