Do you have a guilty pleasure book?
I’m a librarian, so the idea of a book being a guilty pleasure is anathema to me. There should be zero guilt in reading something that makes you happy and makes you want to read more.
What is your favorite genre? Which do you avoid?
My favorite genre is fantasy – specifically young adult fantasy. I love the worldbuilding and action involved in fantasy books, and my short attention span and lack of free time for reading makes YA materials a great option for me to read awesome stories in a shorter timeframe. The Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan is a family favorite that we've listened to on road trips. I've also enjoyed the Court of Fives series by Kate Elliott, An Ember in the Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir, and the Cursebreakers series by Brigid Kemmerer. It helps that I have two young adults at home (ages 19 and 17) and they have the same love for YA fantasy, so we get to share quite a few books between us. I also loved the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne. That series is DEFINITELY not YA, but it's so awesome. If you're a fan of audiobooks, this is definitely one to listen to because the narrator is amazing.
What is a book that you’re afraid to read?
Any horror books. I read Pet Sematary by Stephen King when I was a teen and had nightmares for days. I can’t even watch previews of scary movies. If it’s scary, it’s not for me.
What book is currently sitting on your nightstand?
I rarely have a book sitting on my nightstand – they’re usually scattered all over my house and often are on my phone as eBooks and eAudio. I just finished listening to Where I Belong by Marcia Argueta Mickelson, a Texas author of YA books, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Many YA stories featuring current issues (this one is about immigration in Texas) feel forced - as if the writer is trying too hard to write about the issue and loses grasp of the story. In this case, Mickelson manages to write a compelling story that just happens to feature an immigrant family. I’m currently reading The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd Jones in print and then I have Echoes of Grace by Guadalupe Garcia McCall in my Kindle app.
What’s the last great book you read? The last book you recommended to everyone you know?
I loved Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan. As an avid fan of audiobooks, I enjoyed the inside look at the audiobook recording industry along with the not-quite together main character and messy romance. I recently read The Liar’s Crown by Abigail Owen and can’t wait for the next book in her series. If you’re a fan of Sarah J. Maas, you’ll enjoy this one.
Describe your ideal reading experience (when, what, where, how).
My ideal reading experience would be out on my patio on a rainy day (which we haven’t had many of this year). Alternatively, I like to read cozied up on the couch with a blanket and a dog (or two or three!) snuggled up next to me.
Do you have a favorite book no one else has heard of?
I’m sure people have heard of this one, but I don’t think it gets the love that it should: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. The whole Simon Snow series is amazing. If you’re an adult fan of Harry Potter, but have come to realize there a quite a few issues with that series (really Dumbledore – do you think you could have helped Harry out a bit more? Given him some more detailed directions on defeating old Voldy? Maybe even helped a bit?), you’ll find Rowell’s world of Simon Snow to your liking. Her wit and storytelling are on point. Just read it – the whole series.
Which writers – novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets – working today do you admire most?
Kiersten White. That woman is a book-writing machine. I’ve heard her speak at various conferences and at one she mentioned that she had finished one of her books in just a few days. DAYS. And she’s not just churning out the same old drivel; she’s writing paranormal, alternative history, fantasy, and horror – for children, teens, AND adults. I just can’t imagine having that many stories in my head just waiting to be told.
What’s the last book you read that made you laugh?
The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza by Mac Barnett. It’s awesome. Just go read it now.
What’s the most interesting thing that you learned from a book recently?
I recently read The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett for the Library’s Books Without Borders book club and learned so much about the rare book trade. I’ve had a love for old books since my days volunteering in the rare book conservation department at UT Austin’s Harry Ransom Center. While I have no desire to spend thousands of dollars to buy a first edition Edgar Allan Poe, I can certainly appreciate the value and beauty of older editions versus the paperbacks that fill my shelves.
What book might people be surprised to find on your bookshelf?
Three Centuries of American Poetry and Prose, edited by Newcomer, Andrews, and Hall (1917). After my grandmother married, she decided she wanted to be a teacher and this was one of the textbooks she used while she was in college. I love looking at the underlined passages and the notes in her handwriting in the book. When I received it, it was so well worn that the spine was held together by masking tape. One of these days, I’ll make an attempt at rebinding it.
I also have a copy of Red Heels by Lexie Dean Robertson (1939), signed by the author with a note to my great-grandmother. Robertson was the first native Texan to hold the title of Poet Laureate of Texas and was from the small town of Rising Star, Texas – not far from where my great-grandparents lived in Rule, Texas. I love having this little bit of history on my bookshelf.
What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you the most?
I was an avid reader and would read just about any chance I had. I remember getting a brand-new paperback copy of 101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith at the bookstore once and I reread it so many times that the cover was lovingly worn and tattered by the time I moved on to other book interests. I read a lot of Nancy Drew in elementary school and moved on to Sweet Valley High books in middle school. I was so bookish that in high school I had my book taken away from me during health class. We were supposed to be reading the textbook chapter in class and I’d already read it, so I pulled out whatever bestseller I was reading at the time. I’m still irritated about that incident.
Have your reading tastes changed over time?
I would definitely say that my reading tastes have changed. In college, many of the literature courses I took reflected my interest in 18th century literature, and my shelves were filled with Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Thomas Hardy, and others. I went through a Tom Clancy phase until he got so wordy that I was too bored to keep reading. There was a brief literary fiction phase, where I read books like The Poisonwood Bible and The Help. After being introduced to Twilight by some fellow librarians, I went into a paranormal book phase and read everything with vampires, werewolves, faeries, and witches. One of my favorites from that phase is The Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. It has witches, vampires, libraries, time travel, and history (written by a history professor!) – what else can you possibly want?. Now I’m just all over the place. I’ll pick up anything that is interesting, but enjoy YA fantasy the most.
What do you plan to read next?
I have a ton of books on my TBR list, but I think the next one I want to read/listen to is Gilded by Marissa Meyer. It’s the first book in a duology and the second book is coming out soon, so I won’t have to wait forever for the next installment. She is the queen of fairytale retellings and I have heard great things about this one based on Rumpelstiltskin.
What book would you most like to see turned into a movie or TV series that hasn’t already been adapted?
Hotel Magnifique by Emily Taylor. It is the story of sisters who try to get jobs at a magical hotel that appears in a new location every day. The interior of the hotel itself is enchanted and most of the staff have magical talents. I would love to see the imagery from the book brought to life. Another I’d like to see turned into a series is the Stalking Jack the Ripper series by Kerri Maniscalco. The plucky Victorian heroine of this series finds herself at just the right place to solve various murder mysteries – including the Jack the Ripper murders. I think the various settings in the books would make a fun short streaming series.
Where do you find your books? Where do you look when you’re searching for your next great read?
I’m on a ton of publisher email lists, so I receive announcements from them when new books are coming out. I also get digital advance reader copies (ARCs) from Edelweiss, NetGalley, and Libro.fm. One of the perks to being a librarian is that publishers want you to read their books and tell people about them, so they are happy to give us early access to new books. My bookish friends also tell me about what they’ve read and loved and that leads me to my next great book.