Reader Spotlight

Blog name: Reading Reality
Blog URL:
Your name: Marlene Harris

Let’s start with your origin story - how long have you been blogging about Fiction, and why did you start?

Reading Reality’s sixth anniversary is coming up on April 4. I actually celebrate a Blogo-Birthday on April 4-5, as my own birthday is April 5. I’m a bit older than 6, though.

I began Reading Reality when we moved from Gainesville FL to Atlanta. We came for my husband’s job, but 2011 was still during the Great Recession. I wanted something to do that would still connect with books, and would keep me busy and intellectually stimulated. One of the things I enjoy about working in libraries is being able to help readers find books they will love, and Reading Reality is an extension of that.

The blog was originally called “Escape Reality, Read Fiction”. I got that from a t-shirt. But when I started doing library consulting, “Reading Reality” sounded a bit more like the name of a company, so that’s what stuck. Occasionally people still ask me about real estate in Pennsylvania.

Are there particular subgenres that you prefer or find more interesting at the moment? Are there any trends that you are excited to see come or go?

My go-to genres are science fiction and fantasy, but I also read a lot of romance and a fair amount of mystery. I’m pretty eclectic. I particularly like the places where genres mingle, so things like science fiction romance and historical mystery always get me reading. When I’m in a reading slump, I turn to urban fantasy and that brings me right back to the joy of reading.

As far as trends go, I’m kind of sorry to see steampunk fading a bit. I loved that blend of historical, SF, fantasy and often romance. The best of the breed were generally terrific and terrifically inventive.

Do you find your background as a librarian influences which books you choose and how you review them? And, are you still involved in the library community?

I am still very involved in the library community. I am currently the librarian at TAPPI, the Technical Association for the Pulp and Paper Industry. They have a small but significant collection of materials in the industry, and I answer research requests and provide document delivery.

I’m also a member of the American Library Association Notable Books Council, a committee that has picked the best literary fiction, nonfiction and poetry every year since 1944. And I review for Library Journal.

Some of the books I choose to review are for my library interests, but most I pick just because they look either intriguing, fun, or both. Being a librarian, having done readers’ advisory work, does influence the way I review. If there are “read-alikes” for the book I’m reviewing, I make sure to give them a mention, no matter when they were published. And if I’m reviewing a book in a series, I always tell readers whether or not they really need to have read the rest of that series, of if they can just jump in anywhere. Discovering that you are reading book 5 of a series and are completely lost is a VERY disappointing experience.

Aside from your reviews, you have a variety of different features on your blog – which is your current favorite?

I like different features for very different reasons. Blog Hops are terrific for getting traffic. I do Stacking the Shelves and the Sunday Post because they help me stay organized. I hope people enjoy those features, but they do serve a function for me as the blogger.

My favorite features have been Amy Daltry’s semi-regular guest reviews. She picks interesting books, including a lot of genre classics, and she writes a terrific review, whether the book is terrific or not. She’s clear and honest about what she likes and doesn’t like in a book, and it is great to have the opportunity to feature a reviewer whose perspectives are different from my own.

The most fun feature I have is one that I wish I was able to do more often, and that’s joint reviews with either Cass or Amy. It is particularly fun and frequently hilarious when we are able to write together in real time.

Which upcoming book(s) on NetGalley are you the most excited about reading and recommending to your followers? And are there any covers on NetGalley that you’re loving?

Cass and I have a joint review for Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop coming in March that made both of us ROFL. It’s not that the book is funny, it isn’t and it’s not intended to be. But we love to out-snark each other.

I’m very excited to read In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen. I’ve heard such marvelous things about her work, but this is my chance to get in at the beginning of one of her series.

My favorite upcoming cover is Twelve Angry Librarians by Miranda James. The joke going around Facebook among librarians is, “What, only 12?”









Lightning Round!

Your blog in two sentences:

Evidence of a life either misspent or well spent with books, by someone who can’t resist sharing.

Your favorite character in a book or series:

Sherlock Holmes. I have an absolute weakness for Holmes pastiches, and I love Laurie R. King’s Sherlock Holmes/Mary Russell series.

Your favorite 2 authors for Fiction titles:

Only 2? Inconceivable!

Science fiction: John Scalzi
Fantasy: L.E. Modesitt Jr.
Mystery: Louise Penny
Historical Mystery: Charles Todd
Science Fiction Romance: Anna Hackett
Fantasy Romance: Jeffe Kennedy
Romance: Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick/Jayne Castle

And to finish off our interview, if you could go on a road trip with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and where would you go?

John Scalzi, hands down. And conveniently, he is still alive. I would love to go on a book tour, or even part of one, with him. I’ve heard him perform at several, and he’s always both thoughtful and funny, as he is on his blog at Whatever, although the ratio of thoughtful to funny there is slightly different. And I’d get to quiz him about his upcoming books. And possibly meet his current cats, the Scamperbeasts.


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