We know what you’re thinking: Reading a book from cover to cover? In this economy? Who has the time?
Enter the book blogger. She (or he) of the painstakingly curated flatlay and the detailed reviews of the latest works of fiction (and more). One visit to their Instagram profiles will lead you to add a dangerous number of titles to your Goodreads “want to read” list — you know, aside from the other dozen or so books that you already have on there.
Think of them as influencers, but instead of posing with a department store value card in the snow, they’re dispensing content like literary works lain out on a quirky cafe table (complete with a caption containing their own bite-sized reviews). Now that’s more my cup of tea.
Not only have they kept up the habit of reading regularly despite all the distractions we face (the temptation to watch that is just too real), but they’ve also found the time to record their thoughts on them. Talk about being whipped for books.
Young STAR got in touch with five ~veteran~ book bloggers; all of whom have spent years shamelessly sharing their passion for the printed word. Hazel Ureta, Eunice Moral, Bethany Cunanan, Salve Villarosa, and JM Cabral tell us about the origins of their blogs, the family that is the book blogging community, and the perks of book blogging.
When nurse and freelance web designer Hazel Ureta was struggling with school, books were her escape. They were what “anchored [her] when [she] felt like [she] was drowning,” and her blog, Stay Bookish, is the platform that helped her keep up her love for reading. Now, it’d be an understatement to say that Hazel’s hobby has brought her places. She’s the editor-in-chief of Stay Bookish zine, a digital zine offshoot of her blog containing everything YA (including interviews with actual authors) that she runs along with other book lovers from around the world. And at 23, she’s even fulfilled every book lover’s dream — to not only attend, but to speak at the New York BookExpo.
On her love for reading
I’ve been a reader since I was a child and I remember distinctly the feeling of pride I felt when I was chosen to read a story out loud to my kindergarten class. But the turning point where I really knew I loved reading was when I was in Grade 3. The school I had just transferred to had D.E.A.R. time, Scholastic Book Fairs, and a fantastic library. Many of my classmates would groan at having to drop everything and read but for me it was the most exciting part of the day. Scholastic Book Fairs were my own personal Disneyland then — it was the happiest place on earth for a book lover like me.
On the perks of being a book blogger
Yes, we get to read books way before they’re even published. It’s definitely an advantage but in return we give many hours of free labor in the time we spend reading the book and creating a blog post or writing a review. Aside from that, we learn so much about books and the process of getting them on shelves at bookstores. Other bloggers have gone on to take positions at publishing companies as publicists, marketing staff, editors, etc. For me, the biggest perk is attending book events as press or media and meeting and connecting with all sorts of book/publishing people and even getting to interview authors who are my personal heroes.
On the book blogging community
Recently, I’ve learned how passionate the book community is about representation and diversity in books, with campaigns like We Need Diverse Books and #ownvoices. I’m so proud to be part of a community that isn’t afraid to call out problematic notions seen in our niche, and actually taking action and pushing back against them. We’re still far from the ideal, but at least more marginalized voices are now being heard and seen in the book community.
A lawyer by profession, Eunice Moral started Nerdy Talks Book Blog in 2014 as a way to destress while reviewing for the BAR exams. The name came from the quirky phrase “Talk Nerdy to Me” because she loves to talk all things nerdy. Her (always spoiler free!) book reviews come complete with all the basic details like author, publisher, genre, and number of pages, and end with her rating and a favorite quote. Peep her Instagram for crisp, clean book flatlays and the occasional Funko Pop appearance.
On the origins of her love for reading
My love for reading started during grade school days. My library card was filled up
with Sweet Valley High and Goosebumps titles. I remember having this mini competition
with my friend on who gets to fill up the library cards with the most borrowed books,
couldn’t remember If I won, but the sheer joy of finishing one book after another sure is
On writing reviews
I don’t really have a process in writing book reviews. Sometimes it takes months
after reading a book that I would be able to make a full review, sometimes I finish a book and immediately pour my heart into writing an in depth review. I don’t have a sure formula in writing reviews, I just write from the heart, drawing the emotions I felt whilst reading the book.
Words escape my head whenever I try to write a review for a book I really loved and enjoyed, but when it is a book I loathe, I suddenly have so many things to say, in detail — every part I hated and how it ruined the reading experience for me. Book bloggers can fully relate to this.
On the perfect book flatlay
Natural lighting. Doesn’t matter what’s the composition of the flatlay as long as it has good lighting it will be a hundred times better. When doing flatlays I always aim for the minimalist one, making my photos coherent, clean and crisp. I am not a big fan of too many props. A pair of eyeglasses, a cup of coffee, and a book would be enough for me, if I am being extra I will put some note cards and faux fur, and that’s it. Doesn’t have to have too much, enough balance and natural lighting can really go a long way.
The story behind Bethany Cunanan’s Bookstagram username is fitting. “Endpages are the pages that you see on the front and back of the hardcover books attached to the cover. These pages are the ones that usually have designs on them and for me personally, it symbolises the beginning and ending of a story,” she says. What started as a personal account for the sales associate turned into a platform where she could share her current reads.
On her love for reading
I’ve been a reader since I was a kid, always having a book in my hands. I’d always find comfort in books when I was younger, always rereading stories. My dad loves to read and I think I got it from him.
On her favorite book genres
When I was in my teens I gravitated towards Young Adult contemporary fiction. Now that I’m older and also with the help of Bookstagram, I’ve learned to expand my reading tastes and I pick up literary fiction novels, memoirs and essays but I always have a place in my heart for YA or adult high fantasy series.
On what the book blogging community has taught her
I’ve learned that books really do teach you how to be empathetic. A lot of bookstagrammers internationally and locally can attest to how kind, generous and approachable these readers are. I’ve also learned that I’m not alone and I’ll always have a community where I’m accepted and can be who I am as a person, an introvert, and a bibliophile.
It took Salve Villarosa a few tries — including a short stint as a style blogger — before formally getting on the book blogging train. After graduating from a performing arts program for college , the “uncertain life of a freelancer” led her to look for an outlet to channel her creative energy. And channel it she did. Salve opened a BookTube channel called Cuckoo for Books, where she regularly uploads her own filmed reviews.
On her channel name
I chose Cuckoo for Books as a tongue-in-cheek reference for myself. You know the saying, “she’s cuckoo for cocoa puffs?” I’ve struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder my whole life. For me, being able to joke about it helps a lot with the destigmatization of mental illness, so that’s why I put that little inside joke into my channel’s title.
On her craziest experience
I’d definitely say March 2016 — it was the Sarah J. Maas book signing event here in Manila, and I’d just finished meeting her (which was a crazy amazing experience in itself!) and having my books signed, so I was on a fangirl high. As I was packing up my vlogging equipment, two girls approached me and asked if I was Cuckoo for Books and asked if they could take a picture with me! That was way back when I’d been vlogging for just over a year, I was DEFINITELY under 1,000 subscribers, and I’d just come from fangirling over an author myself, so that just blew my mind. I remember meeting my family after, and my mom saying I had the hugest grin throughout lunch.
On the opportunities she’s gotten from book blogging
I’ve gotten to talk on panels & meet (and sometimes interview!) authors. One of my favorite opportunities, though, has got to be performing for #romanceclass. They’re a group of local authors & readers, and back in 2016, they started inviting me to their events to perform live readings from their novels. It’s the perfect mix of my two passions — books & theatre — and it’s definitely one of the best things book blogging has opened me up to.
HR Specialist JM Cabral has been blogging for more than five years now. His blog, Book Freak Revelations, boasts carefully curated flatlays with related thingamabobs and stacks of books, accompanied by bite-sized reviews of the books. He’s best described by his blog bio, which says that “he enjoys reading contemporary and fantasy novels as much as he enjoys playing video games and baking pastries.”
On the origins of his blog
I came up with the blog name Book Freak Revelations as a nod to a bookish Facebook group I joined a few years back. I stumbled upon “Pinoy Book Freaks United” in 2014 and that’s where I met several of my bookish friends. As a so-called book freak who is as opinionated as he is well-read, I felt like I have so much stuff to reveal to the world about the books I read and so I felt the need to sign up for a proper website and name it Book Freak Revelations. (It’s so baduy, I know, but I’m very proud of it.)
On his favorite genres
My go-to genres are Contemporary and Sci-Fi/Fantasy (SFF). I love the feeling of seeing the world from different points of view and so I very much enjoy and appreciate being able to read realistic stories, whether they be about happy stuff (like love, family, friendship) or the opposite (like loss, grief, etc.). Reading contemporary stories, at least for me, gives my life color, perspective, and variety. On the other hand, I also adore the feeling of imagining a better, more vibrant world — though less realistic — whenever I get the chance to read SFF books. It gives me a sense of escape whenever I feel like I’m all fed up to live in this one and in this time.
On his craziest experience
Oh, man, my whole book blogging journey has been quite a ride, I have to say. But probably the craziest thing that I’ve ever experienced is getting exclusive invites from different brands. There was this one time that National Bookstore reached out to me asking if I was available to interview New York Times Bestselling Authors Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera, and I just about lost it! I was at work when I got the invite and I couldn’t help myself. I cried! (Just to add context to this story, they were some of my absolute favorite authors, so…)