Sunday, June 23, 2024

Pg. 69: Katharine Schellman's "The Last Note of Warning"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Last Note of Warning: A Mystery (The Nightingale Mysteries, Volume 3) by Katharine Schellman.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Last Note of Warning is the third in the luscious, mysterious, and queer Nightingale mystery series by Katharine Schellman, set in 1920s New York.

Prohibition is a dangerous time to be a working-class woman in New York City, but Vivian Kelly has finally found some measure of stability and freedom. By day, she’s a respectable shop assistant, delivering luxurious dresses to the city’s wealthy and elite. At night, she joins the madcap revelry of New York’s underworld, serving illegal drinks and dancing into the morning at a secretive, back-alley speakeasy known as the Nightingale. She's found, if not love, then something like it with her bootlegger sweetheart, Leo, even if she can't quite forget the allure of the Nightingale's sultry owner, Honor Huxley.

Then the husband of a wealthy client is discovered dead in his study, and Vivian was the last known person to see him alive. With the police and the press both eager to name a culprit in the high-profile case, she finds herself the primary murder suspect.

She can’t flee town without endangering the people she loves, but Vivian isn’t the sort of girl to go down without a fight. She'll cash in every favor she has from the criminals she calls friends to prove she had no connection to the dead man. But she can't prove what isn't true.

The more Vivian digs into the man’s life, and as the police close in on her, the harder it is to avoid the truth: someone she knows wanted him dead. And the best way to get away with murder is to set up a girl like Vivian to take the fall.
Visit Katharine Schellman's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Last Note of Warning.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Sara E. Davies & Jacqui True's "Hidden Wars"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Hidden Wars: Gendered Political Violence in Asia's Civil Conflicts by Sara E. Davies and Jacqui True.

About the book, from the publisher:
Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) has always been a part of warfare. In Asia, testimonies of egregious rape and sexual violence extend back to the Rape of Nanjing, to the experience of the Korean comfort women in World War II, and to forced marriages and sexual slavery during the Cambodian genocide. The past two decades have yielded crucial new insights about SGBV, but scholars and researchers still struggle to explain why and when this violence occurs. A major problem is that incidences of SGBV are vastly underreported; reliable data is especially scarce in Asia, where demographic and health surveys are infrequent and national reporting systems are underdeveloped relative to other parts of the globe. Asia also has some of the most protracted conflicts in the world but the complexity of subnational conflicts in Asia often masks the gendered dimensions of violence.

In Hidden Wars, Sara E. Davies and Jacqui True examine the relationship between reports of SGBV and structural gender inequality in three conflict-affected societies in Asia--Burma, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. Based on extensive field research and an original dataset on conflict-related SGBV, Davies and True show how reporting is significantly constrained by a variety of factors, including normalized gendered violence as well as political dynamics affecting local civil society, humanitarian, and international organizations. They address the real-world limitations of data collection and argue that these constraints reinforce a culture of silence and impunity that perpetuates SGBV and permits governments to abrogate their responsibility for this violence. Hidden Wars breaks new methodological ground in showing that what we know about SGBV can be understood fully only if the politicized context of reporting SGBV and data collection is taken into consideration.
Learn more about Hidden Wars at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Hidden Wars.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight top hitman novels

At B&N Reads Isabelle McConville tagged eight hitman stories you don’t want to miss, including:
Assassins Anonymous by Rob Hart

Feared and revered, this hitman has legendary kills under his belt, but now he’s determined to call it quits. After joining a 12-step program designed for those in his particular profession, Mark is reformed — but just because you decide to leave the job doesn’t mean it lets you go easily…
Read about another book on the list.

Q&A with Rob Hart.

The Page 69 Test: Assassins Anonymous.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Q&A with Alyssa Palombo

From my Q&A with Alyssa Palombo, author of The Assassin of Venice:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The Assassin of Venice definitely lets readers know what to expect and what sort of story this is going to be. I think it communicates that the book is going to be a high-stakes thriller in a beautiful and interesting setting. Or that is certainly my hope!

What's in a name?

I don't always have a choice, as sometimes I write about real historical figures, and so in that case I already have their names. But when I do get to choose, my main characters' names have to...[read on]
Visit Alyssa Palombo's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Violinist of Venice.

The Page 69 Test: The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence.

My Book, The Movie: The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel.

My Book, The Movie: The Borgia Confessions.

Writers Read: Alyssa Palombo (February 2020).

Q&A with Alyssa Palombo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight adventure-filled books set on trains

Sarah Brooks is the author of The Cautious Traveller's Guide to the Wastelands. She won the Lucy Cavendish Prize in 2019 and a Northern Debut Award from New Writing North in 2021. She works in East Asian Studies at the University of Leeds, where she helps run the Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing. She is coeditor of Samovar, a bilingual online magazine for translated speculative fiction. She lives in Leeds, England.

At Electric Lit Brooks tagged eight books that have "a sense of adventure, and an exploration of the sometimes contradictory promises of escape and of connection that the railway offers." One title on the list:
Iron Council by China Miéville

Outlandish creatures and gigantic structures have always been a key element in Miéville’s novels, and Iron Council — ‘the perpetual train’ — is no exception. The story is set in the imagined world of Bas-lag, and moves back and forth through time, from the beginnings of train as it sets out to map the land and wipe out its inhabitants to make way for the rails, to the rebellion of the rail workers, and the attempts by a corrupt parliament and militia to destroy such a dangerous symbol of revolution. The ever moving, ever growing train provides great opportunities not only to explore the weird and wonderful landscapes of Bas-Lag, but also the febrile onboard world, with its renegades and ‘Remade’.
Read about another title on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Arang Keshavarzian's "Making Space for the Gulf"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Making Space for the Gulf: Histories of Regionalism and the Middle East by Arang Keshavarzian.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Persian Gulf has long been a contested space—an object of imperial ambitions, national antagonisms, and migratory dreams. The roots of these contestations lie in the different ways the Gulf has been defined as a region, both by those who live there and those beyond its shore. Making Space for the Gulf reveals how capitalism, empire-building, geopolitics, and urbanism have each shaped understandings of the region over the last two centuries. Here, the Gulf comes into view as a created space, encompassing dynamic social relations and competing interests. Arang Keshavarzian writes a new history of the region that places Iran, Iraq, and the Arabian Peninsula together within global processes. He connects moments more often treated as ruptures—the discovery of oil, the Iranian Revolution, the rise and decline of British empire, the emergence of American power—and crafts a narrative populated by a diverse range of people—migrants and ruling families, pearl-divers and star architects, striking taxi drivers and dethroned rulers, protectors of British India and stewards of globalized American universities. Tacking across geographic scales, Keshavarzian reveals how the Gulf has been globalized through transnational relations, regionalized as a geopolitical category, and cleaved along national divisions and social inequalities. When understood as a process, not an object, the Persian Gulf reveals much about how regions and the world have been made in modern times. Making Space for the Gulf offers a fresh understanding of this globally consequential place.
Learn more about Making Space for the Gulf at the Stanford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Making Space for the Gulf.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Yoon Ha Lee reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Yoon Ha Lee, author of Moonstorm.

The entry begins:
The last book I read was an ARC of James S. A. Corey’s The Mercy of Gods. I knew I was going to like this, as I enjoyed The Expanse, but I did not expect to be snarling carnivorously at everyone who came in between me and my reading experience! Besides, my catten is better at carnivorous snarling anyway. (Kidding. She is a giant round marshmallow.)

I’m betraying my age, but The Mercy of Gods is like the best parts of William Sleator’s supremely creepy psychology experiment children’s horror novel House of Stairs if you mashed it up with the far-flung alien empires in C. J. Cherryh books like Hunter of Worlds and The Faded Sun, and added heavy doses of microbiology, ineffable mystery, and body horror. We start with a planet settled by humans, but to which humans are not native; the humans themselves have no idea how they got there. On the eve of a triumph in microbiology research, that world becomes the latest conquest by aliens who rate other species as (a) useful (b) extinct.

This book absolutely grabbed me because the authors take the opening gambit of telling us, from the viewpoint of an alien, that the humans...[read on]
About Moonstorm, from the publisher:
In a society where conformity is valued above all else, a teen girl training to become an Imperial pilot is forced to return to her rebel roots to save her world in this adrenaline-fueled sci-fi adventure—perfect for fans of Iron Widow and Skyward!

Hwa Young was just ten years old when imperial forces destroyed her rebel moon home. Now, six years later, she is a citizen of the very empire that made her an orphan.

Desperate to shake her rebel past, Hwa Young dreams of one day becoming a lancer pilot, an elite group of warriors who fly into battle using the empire’s most advanced tech—giant martial robots. Lancers are powerful, and Hwa Young would do anything to be the strong one for once in her life.

When an attack on their boarding school leaves Hwa Young and her classmates stranded on an imperial space fleet, her dreams quickly become a reality. As it turns out, the fleet is in dire need of pilot candidates, and Hwa Young—along with her brainy best friend Geum, rival Bae, and class clown Seong Su—are quick to volunteer.

But training is nothing like what they expected, and secrets—like the fate of the fleet’s previous lancer squad and hidden truths about the rebellion itself—are stacking up. And when Hwa Young uncovers a conspiracy that puts their entire world at risk, she’s forced to make a choice between her rebel past and an empire she’s no longer sure she can trust.
Visit Yoon Ha Lee's website.

The Page 69 Test: Revenant Gun.

Writers Read: Yoon Ha Lee (June 2018).

My Book, The Movie: Ninefox Gambit.

Q&A with Yoon Ha Lee.

The Page 69 Test: Fox Snare.

Writers Read: Yoon Ha Lee (October 2023).

My Book, The Movie: Moonstorm.

The Page 69 Test: Moonstorm.

Writers Read: Yoon Ha Lee.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 21, 2024

Five top jailhouse confessional novels

Carol LaHines’s debut novel, Someday Everything Will All Make Sense, was a finalist for the Nilsen Prize for a First Novel and an American Fiction Award. Her fiction has appeared in literary journals including Fence, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Denver Quarterly, Cimarron Review, The Literary Review, The Laurel Review, North Dakota Quarterly, South Dakota Review, The South Carolina Review, The Chattahoochee Review, Sycamore Review, Permafrost, redivider, Literary Orphans, and Literal Latte.

LaHines’s new novel is The Vixen Amber Halloway.

At CrimeReads the author tagged five jailhouse confessional novels, including:
Cracks, by Sheila Kohler

Cracks, by Sheila Kohler, is a marvelous example of an apologia for crimes earlier committed. The novel opens as former students of a girls’ boarding school in South Africa are returning for a reunion. We learn that there is a classmate who is no longer there; that there is a teacher who left under hazy circumstances. We realize that something is amiss, that something occurred that the women are trying to cover up. The effect is magnified in Cracks because there are multiple voices—the chorus of schoolgirls, each with her own perspective on the ancient crime. Like Nabokov, her protagonists lure us in; we want to believe them, to absolve them. The two-storyline setup allows Kohler to prolong the suspense, to reach a feverish crescendo, before we learn the truth—if there is such a thing—of what actually transpired.
Read about another title on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Matthew D. Morrison's "Blacksound"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Blacksound: Making Race and Popular Music in the United States by Matthew D. Morrison.

About the book, from the publisher:
A new concept for understanding the history of the American popular music industry.

Blacksound explores the sonic history of blackface minstrelsy and the racial foundations of American musical culture from the early 1800s through the turn of the twentieth century. With this namesake book, Matthew D. Morrison develops the concept of "Blacksound" to uncover how the popular music industry and popular entertainment in general in the United States arose out of slavery and blackface.

Blacksound as an idea is not the music or sounds produced by Black Americans but instead the material and fleeting remnants of their sounds and performances that have been co-opted and amalgamated into popular music. Morrison unpacks the relationship between performance, racial identity, and intellectual property to reveal how blackface minstrelsy scripts became absorbed into commercial entertainment through an unequal system of intellectual property and copyright laws. By introducing this foundational new concept in musicology, Blacksound highlights what is politically at stake—for creators and audiences alike—in revisiting the long history of American popular music.
Learn more about Blacksound at the University of California Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Blacksound.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Rob Hart's "Assassins Anonymous"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Assassins Anonymous by Rob Hart.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this clever, surprising, page-turner, the world’s most lethal assassin gives up the violent life only to find himself under siege by mysterious assailants. It’s a kill-or-be-killed situation, but the first option is off the table. What’s a reformed hit man to do?

Mark was the most dangerous killer-for-hire in the world. But after learning the hard way that his life’s work made him more monster than man, he left all of that behind, and joined a twelve-step group for reformed killers.

When Mark is viciously attacked by an unknown assailant, he is forced on the run. From New York to Singapore to London, he chases after clues while dodging attacks and trying to solve the puzzle of who’s after him. All without killing anyone. Or getting killed himself. For an assassin, Mark learns, nonviolence is a real hassle.
Visit Rob Hart's website.

My Book, The Movie: Potter's Field.

The Page 69 Test: Potter's Field.

The Page 69 Test: The Warehouse.

Writers Read: Rob Hart (January 2021).

The Page 69 Test: The Paradox Hotel.

Q&A with Rob Hart.

The Page 69 Test: Assassins Anonymous.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Kathleen Bryant's "Over the Edge," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Over the Edge: A Novel by Kathleen Bryant.

The entry begins:
As I wrote Over the Edge, a mystery-thriller set in Sedona’s red rock canyons, I definitely pictured the book as a movie. Not because I dared hope my story would end up on screen (though wouldn’t that be cool?) but because Sedona is already a cinematic icon. Dozens of movies were filmed here, most of them during the heyday of Hollywood Westerns.

Besides, imagining a book on film is a useful tool for writers. Visualizing scenes with the eye of a location scout or cinematographer helps add local color and authenticity. The right setting can create mood—the unsettling isolation of a narrow canyon, the menace of an approaching storm. Setting can even become character—the Navajoland of Tony Hillerman’s books, for example. Most important, movies (like book editors!) are all about showing versus telling.

Here's a surprising fact: Though many Westerns were filmed in Sedona, the town was usually a stand-in for somewhere else. In my dream movie, Sedona gets the star treatment. I’d choose Robert Redford as executive producer with Graham Roland heading up the production. I’m a huge fan of their work on Dark Winds, the electrifying television series based on Hillerman’s Leaphorn/Chee mysteries. The show weaves setting, character, and story into a tapestry as bold and beautiful as a Two Grey Hills rug.

The events in Over the Edge unfold through the eyes of Del Cooper, a Jeep guide struggling with PTSD. During a tour, she discovers a body in a remote canyon. Suspecting the murder has something to do with a proposed forest service land trade, she starts digging for the truth. When her witnesses disappear, she realizes the killer is watching her every move.

Thinking about casting, Glen Powell (Hit Man, 2024) has the edgy charm of forest service cop Ryan Driscoll. For Jeep guide Del Cooper—broken but driven to find the truth—I’d choose Rebecca...[read on]
Visit Kathleen Bryant's website.

My Book, The Movie: Over the Edge.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Stephen Schryer's "National Review's Literary Network"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: National Review's Literary Network: Conservative Circuits by Stephen Schryer.

About the book, from the publisher:
National Review's Literary Network traces the careers of novelists, journalists, and literary critics who wrote for William F. Buckley, Jr.'s National Review. In the 1950s, the magazine sought to establish itself as a conservative alternative to liberal journals like Partisan Review. To do so, it needed a robust book review section, featuring nationally recognized writers. Between the 1950s and the 1980s, Whittaker Chambers, John Dos Passos, Hugh Kenner, Guy Davenport, Joan Didion, Garry Wills, and D. Keith Mano wrote for the magazine. The magazine boosted their careers and they, in turn, helped make Buckley's version of conservatism respectable. In the pages of National Review and elsewhere, these writers fashioned a body of literary work that takes up and refracts right-wing concerns about tradition, religion, and personal liberty.

Uncovering a neglected part of post-World War II American literary history, Stephen Schryer highlights these writers' enduring impact on movement conservatism. Believing in the power of intellectuals, Buckley and his fellow editors argued that the academy, the media, and other institutions had been taken over by a liberal establishment that sought to impose its ideas on the nation. They wanted to establish a network of institutional counter-circuits staffed by conservatives. The magazine's literary intellectuals contributed to this effort, helping conservatives present themselves as a counter-elite sheltering traditional, humanities-based knowledge within a technocratic welfare state. In so doing, they facilitated the magazine's assault on the very possibility of expertise, ushering in the fragmented epistemological landscape that has characterized the United States since the late 1960s.
Learn more about National Review's Literary Network at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: National Review's Literary Network.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five of the best fashion memoirs

Chloe Mac Donnell is the Guardian's deputy fashion and lifestyle editor.

She tagged five of the most memorable memoirs from the world of fashion, including:
The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983-1992 by Tina Brown

Fashion loves to gossip and Tina Brown’s memoir of her dazzling career is packed full of sizzling muckraking, spanning everyone from Clint Eastwood (“hard work: long, taciturn silences”) to Boris Johnson (“an epic shit”). Based on the diaries she kept as the editor of Vanity Fair, the book covers an era of excess, and Brown, fresh to New York City from the UK, takes it all in with a sharp eye for detail. Stories of power plays at black-tie dinners are interspersed with office politics as Brown turns around the flagging magazine with her “high-low journalism” approach. She convinced Ronald and Nancy Reagan to kiss for one cover, and a naked seven months pregnant Demi Moore for another – leading to the publication being banned by Walmart in the US.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Third reading: D.W. Buffa on Hermann Hesse's "Demian"

D.W. Buffa's newest novel to be released (July 2024) is Evangeline, a courtroom drama about the murder trial of captain who is one of the few to survive the sinking of his ship.

Buffa is also the author of ten legal thrillers involving the defense attorney Joseph Antonelli. He has also published a series that attempts to trace the movement of western thought from ancient Athens, in Helen; the end of the Roman Empire, in Julian's Laughter; the Renaissance, in The Autobiography of Niccolo Machiavelli; and America in the twentieth century, in Neumann's Last Concert.

Buffa's latest take in his "Third Reading" series is on Hermann Hesse's Demian. It begins:
Thomas Mann and Hermann Hesse both won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Both were born in Germany, and both became citizens of other countries. There was something else these two remarkable writers had in common: their greatest works would not have been possible had Friedrich Nietzsche never lived.

In the introduction to Hesse’s novel, Demian, Thomas Mann wrote:

The electrifying influence exercised on a whole generation just after the First World War by Demian…is unforgettable.” Unforgettable because, “With uncanny accuracy this poetic work struck the nerve of the times and called forth a grateful rapture from a whole youthful generation who believed that an interpretation of their innermost life had risen from their own midst - whereas it was a man already forty-two years old who gave them what they sought.”

Hesse had written Demian over a few months in l917, the third year of the war. It was published just after the war, in l919, the same year he wrote an essay entitled “Zarathustra’s Return” in which he acknowledged “his enormous debt to and reverence for” Nietzsche. The debt could not have been greater. In Steppenwolf, Hesse’s most famous novel, Harry Haller turns his back on what the l9th Century has produced - the bourgeois, Nietzsche’s “last man,” - with as much disgust as Flaubert expressed in Madame Bovary. Through the French Revolution and the forces of industrialization, the world had been turned upside down. Money, comfort, work - everything looked down upon by the aristocracy - was now looked up to as man’s greatest achievements. The noble sense of a scale of rank and values had been replaced by the demand for equality and the right of everyone to their own, uninstructed, opinion. The sense of reverence for the customary, the established way - the morning prayer, as Nietzsche had put it - had been replaced by the morning paper - the daily report of whatever was new. Everyone had become an actor, showing others what they thought others wanted to see, and then, believing what others thought about them, thought that was who they were.

The bourgeois, according to Steppenwolf, which is the name Harry Haller has given himself, is incapable of giving himself entirely either to God or to the flesh. The “absolute is his abhorrence.” He will never follow one path or the other; he always seeks....[read on]
Visit D.W. Buffa's website.

Third reading: The Great Gatsby

Third reading: Brave New World.

Third reading: Lord Jim.

Third reading: Death in the Afternoon.

Third Reading: Parade's End.

Third Reading: The Idiot.

Third Reading: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Third Reading: The Scarlet Letter.

Third Reading: Justine.

Third Reading: Patriotic Gore.

Third reading: Anna Karenina.

Third reading: The Charterhouse of Parma.

Third Reading: Emile.

Third Reading: War and Peace.

Third Reading: The Sorrows of Young Werther.

Third Reading: Bread and Wine.

Third Reading: “The Crisis of the Mind” and A Man Without Qualities.

Third reading: Eugene Onegin.

Third Reading: The Collected Works of Thomas Babington Macaulay.

Third Reading: The Europeans.

Third Reading: The House of Mirth and The Writing of Fiction.

Third Reading: Doctor Faustus.

Third Reading: the reading list of John F. Kennedy.

Third Reading: Jorge Luis Borges.

Third Reading: History of the Peloponnesian War.

Third Reading: Mansfield Park.

Third Reading: To Each His Own.

Third Reading: A Passage To India.

Third Reading: Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Third Reading: The Letters of T.E. Lawrence.

Third Reading: All The King’s Men.

Third Reading: The Roman History of Ammianus Marcellinus.

Third Reading: Naguib Mahfouz’s novels of ancient Egypt.

Third Reading: Main Street.

Third Reading: Theodore H. White's The Making of the President series, part I.

Third Reading: Theodore H. White's The Making of the President series, part II.

Third Reading: Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

Third Reading: Fiction's Failure.

Third Reading: Hermann Hesse's Demian.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books that explore female friendship & adolescence

Maggie Nye is the author of The Curators. She is a writer and teacher whose work has been supported by MacDowell, Tin House, and the St. Albans Writer in Residence program.

The short story from which The Curators grew was published in Pleiades.

At Lit Hub Nye tagged five books
that center on women, too, on bodies that share the intimacy of aging, of heat and change, of infirmity. What is common to all of them is a propulsive and generous knowing and loving so strong and terrible that it transcends the individual and absorbs the girls and women in its orbit into shared rapture.
One title on the list:
Megan Abbott, Dare Me

In this mystery novel, a team of aimless cheerleaders in small-town America finds focus and drive under the leadership of young new coach, Colette French. Her arrival, however, disrupts the existing power structures within the team, which are as elaborate and precarious as the human pyramids the squad drills at practice.

If you’re thinking to yourself cheerleaders? I’m simply too spooky for cheerleaders, then reader, I once thought as you do now, but trust me, you’re dead wrong. Abbott writes a world where twinning synchronicity, body purging, blood-pacting teenhood is not so much a spectacle but an underpinning of life.

Like [Mónica Ojeda's] Jawbone, this is a novel obsessed with the changing bodies of its central characters, and the limits of those bodies. The book probes the uncomfortably porous boundaries of desire between childhood and adulthood; plus, there’s a juicy murder!
Read about another book on the list.

Dare Me is among Amelia Kahaney's six books featuring characters growing up against the wall, Frederick Weisel's six crime novels set in public school classrooms, Rachel Kapelke-Dale's eleven unexpected thrillers about female rage, Debbie Babitt's eight top coming-of-age thrillers, Avery Bishop's top five novels that explore "mean girl" culture, Kelly Simmons's six books to buddy-read with your teen or twentyish daughter, Katie Lowe's top eight crime novels for angry women in an angry world, Kate Hamer's top ten teenage friendships in fiction, S.R. Masters's seven thrillers that capture some of the darker aspects of tight-knit friendship groups, Jessica Knoll's top ten thrillers, Brian Boone's fifty most essential high school stories, Julie Buntin's twelve books that totally get female friendship, L.S. Hilton's top ten female-fronted thrillers, Megan Reynolds's top ten books you must read if you loved Gone Girl, Anna Fitzpatrick's four top horror stories set in the real universe of girlhood and Adam Sternbergh's six notable crime novels that double as great literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Matthew Kadane's "The Enlightenment and Original Sin"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Enlightenment and Original Sin by Matthew Kadane.

About the book, from the publisher:
An eloquent microhistory that argues for the centrality of the doctrine of original sin to the Enlightenment.

What was the Enlightenment? This question has been endlessly debated. In The Enlightenment and Original Sin, historian Matthew Kadane advances the bold claim that the Enlightenment is best defined through what it set out to accomplish, which was nothing short of rethinking the meaning of human nature.

Kadane argues that this project centered around the doctrine of original sin and, ultimately, its rejection, signaling the radical notion that an inherently flawed nature can be overcome by human means. Kadane explores this and other wide-ranging themes through the story of a previously unknown figure, Pentecost Barker, an eighteenth-century purser and wine merchant. By examining Barker’s personal diary and extensive correspondence with a Unitarian minister, Kadane tracks the transformation of Barker’s consciousness from a Puritan to an Enlightenment outlook, revealing through one man’s journey the large-scale shifts in self-understanding whose philosophical reverberations have shaped debates on human nature for centuries.
Learn more about The Enlightenment and Original Sin at the University of Chicago Press website.

My Book, The Movie: The Watchful Clothier.

The Page 99 Test: The Enlightenment and Original Sin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Yoon Ha Lee's "Moonstorm"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Moonstorm by Yoon Ha Lee.

About the book, from the publisher:
In a society where conformity is valued above all else, a teen girl training to become an Imperial pilot is forced to return to her rebel roots to save her world in this adrenaline-fueled sci-fi adventure—perfect for fans of Iron Widow and Skyward!

Hwa Young was just ten years old when imperial forces destroyed her rebel moon home. Now, six years later, she is a citizen of the very empire that made her an orphan.

Desperate to shake her rebel past, Hwa Young dreams of one day becoming a lancer pilot, an elite group of warriors who fly into battle using the empire’s most advanced tech—giant martial robots. Lancers are powerful, and Hwa Young would do anything to be the strong one for once in her life.

When an attack on their boarding school leaves Hwa Young and her classmates stranded on an imperial space fleet, her dreams quickly become a reality. As it turns out, the fleet is in dire need of pilot candidates, and Hwa Young—along with her brainy best friend Geum, rival Bae, and class clown Seong Su—are quick to volunteer.

But training is nothing like what they expected, and secrets—like the fate of the fleet’s previous lancer squad and hidden truths about the rebellion itself—are stacking up. And when Hwa Young uncovers a conspiracy that puts their entire world at risk, she’s forced to make a choice between her rebel past and an empire she’s no longer sure she can trust.
Visit Yoon Ha Lee's website.

The Page 69 Test: Revenant Gun.

Writers Read: Yoon Ha Lee (June 2018).

My Book, The Movie: Ninefox Gambit.

Q&A with Yoon Ha Lee.

The Page 69 Test: Fox Snare.

Writers Read: Yoon Ha Lee (October 2023).

My Book, The Movie: Moonstorm.

The Page 69 Test: Moonstorm.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Ten top feminist crime novels subverting the Dead Girl trope

Kat Davis has an MFA in fiction from Washington University in Saint Louis and currently resides in the Boston area. Her fiction has been published in Wigleaf, Juked, Cosmonauts Avenue, New Orleans Review, and Monkeybicycle. Her work has also appeared on the longlist for Wigleaf’s Top 50, and her essays and literary criticism have been featured in the Chicago Review of Books and on the Ploughshares blog. Davis’s most recent piece of flash fiction, “The Babysitter,” was selected as a finalist for the Mythic Picnic Prize for Fiction and appears in The Best Small Fictions 2022.

In A Dark Mirror is her debut novel.

At Electric Lit Davis tagged ten feminist crime novels subverting the Dead Girl trope, including:
I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai

Technically, Makkai’s latest is pure fiction, but I Have Some Questions for You clearly owes a debt to the true crime industry and is as pleasantly addictive and full of ‘90s nostalgia as the first season of the Serial podcast. The narrator Bodie Kane is herself a true-crime podcaster who returns to teach a short course at the boarding school she once attended. When one of Bodie’s students decides to investigate the murder of Bodie’s former roommate and Queen Bee Thalia Keith, whose dead body was discovered over two decades before in the swimming pool, both the case and Bodie’s memories crack wide open. Makkai’s novel is a pleasurable whodunnit, as well as an intelligent #MeToo novel that raises serious questions about our societal obsession with dead (white) girls.
Read about another entry on the list.

I Have Some Questions For You is among Elise Juska’s eight best campus novels ever written, Nicole Hackett's six top mysteries about motherhood and crime, Brittany Bunzey's ten books that take you inside their characters’ heads, Anne Burt's four top recent titles with social justice themes, and Heather Darwent's nine best campus thrillers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: "Assembling Tomorrow" by Scott Doorley, Carissa Carter, et al

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Assembling Tomorrow: A Guide to Designing a Thriving Future from the Stanford d.school by Scott Doorley, Carissa Carter, and Stanford d.school, illustrated by Armando Veve.

About the book, from the publisher:
A powerful guide to why even the most well-intentioned innovations go haywire, and the surprising ways we can change course to create a more positive future, by two celebrated experts working at the intersection of design, technology, and learning at Stanford University’s acclaimed d.school.

In Assembling Tomorrow, authors Scott Doorley and Carissa Carter explore the intangible forces that prevent us from anticipating just how fantastically technology can get out of control, and what might be in store for us if we don’t start using new tools and tactics. Despite our best intentions, our most transformative innovations tend to have consequences we can’t always predict. From the effects of social media to the uncertainty of AI and the consequences of climate change, the outcomes of our creations ripple across our lives. Time and again, our seemingly ceaseless capacity to create rubs up against our limited capacity to understand our impact.

Assembling Tomorrow explores how to use readily accessible tools to both mend the mistakes of our past and shape our future for the better. We live in an era of “runaway design,” where innovations tangle with our lives in unpredictable ways. This book explores the off-kilter feelings of today and follows up with actionables to alter your perspective and help you find opportunities in these turbulent times.

Mixed throughout are histories of the future, short pieces of speculative fiction that imagine the future as if it has already happened and consider the past with a critical yet hopeful eye so that all of us—as designers of our own futures—can create a better world for generations to come.
Visit the Stanford d.school website.

The Page 99 Test: Assembling Tomorrow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Catherine Bybee

From my Q&A with Catherine Bybee, author of All Our Tomorrows:
What’s in a name?

After forty plus novels sometimes the names I pick depend on what I haven’t used in the past. But most of the time I choose names that represent both the age and the nationality or background of my characters. When I start a new cast of characters, I ask myself who their parents were. Would the hero have his father’s name? If his parents were hippies from the 60’s, is the name on his birth certificate Moon Child? These two characters would likely have completely different childhoods and different challenges they would need to overcome in the story that I’m telling. If my characters are in law enforcement or the military, I have many people in the story call them by their last names.

In the case of All Our Tomorrows, my hero’s name suits both his age and his background. Male, one syllable names are often viewed as strong and capable. That is certainly the truth about Chase Stone. His deceased father was entirely too narcissistic in life to believe anyone could live up to his name, and certainly wouldn’t have given his first name to his son. At the same time, he would have wanted his son to have a strong name. A name like Bartholomew wouldn’t work. While Bartholomew is a nice name, it doesn't scream confidence and powerful.

Conversely, Piper, my heroine, has a name that feels soft. Yet she is anything but. Much like the name of her dog… (I’ll let you read the book and discover that gem).

Names are super important to my writing process. I like nicknames that my characters create for each other. As with Piper and Chase. Piper...[read on]
Visit Catherine Bybee's website.

Q&A with Catherine Bybee.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 17, 2024

Six great expat thrillers

Kimberly Belle's new novel, The Paris Widow, “continues the author’s winning streak” according to Publishers Weekly. Her previous novels include The Marriage Lie, a Goodreads Choice Awards semifinalist for Best Mystery & Thriller, and the co-authored #1 Audible Original, Young Rich Widows. Belle’s novels have been optioned for film and television and selected by LibraryReads and Amazon & Apple Books Editors as Best Books of the Month, and the International Thriller Writers as nominee for best book of the year. She divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.

[The Page 69 Test: Dear Wife; Q&A with Kimberly Belle; The Page 69 Test: My Darling Husband; The Page 69 Test: The Paris Widow]

At CrimeReads Belle shared a list of six favorite expat thrillers, including:
The Expats by Chris Pavone

A married American couple moves abroad for a job that’s not entirely legit, but they’re not alone. Danger is tracking them through the cobblestoned streets of Luxembourg and Paris in a story that’s one part spy fiction, another part travelogue. Chris peppers the pages with the most gorgeous descriptions and spot-on accounts of expat life, the glamour but also the struggles of building a new life in a strange and foreign place. According to his author’s note, Chris wrote the book while living in Luxembourg as a…wait for it…expat.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Two Nights in Lisbon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: John Strausbaugh's "The Wrong Stuff"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Wrong Stuff: How the Soviet Space Program Crashed and Burned by John Strausbaugh.

About the book, from the publisher:
A witty, deeply researched history of the surprisingly ramshackle Soviet space program, and how its success was more spin than science.

In the wake of World War II, with America ascendant and the Soviet Union devastated by the conflict, the Space Race should have been over before it started. But the underdog Soviets scored a series of victories--starting with the 1957 launch of Sputnik and continuing in the years following--that seemed to achieve the impossible. It was proof, it seemed, that the USSR had manpower and collective will that went beyond America's material advantages. They had asserted themselves as a world power.

But in The Wrong Stuff, John Strausbaugh tells a different story. These achievements were amazing, yes, but they were also PR victories as much as scientific ones. The world saw a Potemkin spaceport; the internal facts were much sloppier, less impressive, more dysfunctional. The Soviet supply chain was a disaster, and many of its machines barely worked. The cosmonauts aboard its iconic launch of the Vostok 1 rocket had to go on a special diet, and take off their space suits, just to fit inside without causing a failure. Soviet scientists, under intense government pressure, had essentially made their rocket out of spit and band aids, and hurried to hide their work as soon as their worldwide demonstration was complete.

With a witty eye for detail and a gift for storytelling, John Strausbaugh takes us behind the Iron Curtain, and shows just how little there was to find there.
The Page 99 Test: Victory City.

The Page 99 Test: The Wrong Stuff.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Rachel Dodes & Lauren Mechling's "The Memo"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Memo: A Novel by Rachel Dodes and Lauren Mechling.

About the book, from the publisher:
If you could rewrite your life story, would you dare? That’s the question at the heart of this charming and propulsive debut novel about love, life, and a woman finding herself and what it means to be happy and successful.

Do you ever feel like your life doesn’t measure up to everyone else’s—and wonder if you just didn’t get the memo helping you make the right choices?

Jenny Green dreads her upcoming college reunion. Once top of her class, the thirty-five-year-old finds herself stuck in a life that isn’t the one she expected. Her promising career has flamed out (literally) and her deadbeat boyfriend is cheating on her (again). All her friends seem to have it all figured it out, enjoying glittering lives and careers that she can only envy from the sidelines. Did she just not get the memo they all did?

As it turns out, she didn’t!

When she arrives at her alma mater for the festivities, she receives a text from an unlisted number.

“Jenny Green: please collect your memo.”

Somewhere on campus, a discreet female-led organization provides comprehensive memos to select students, a set of instructions that are a blueprint for success.

The first time around, Jenny didn’t receive hers. Now, she’s being given the second chance she wants—an opportunity to relive her life and make all the right decisions this time around. But at what price?

Smart, addictive, bittersweet, and ultimately triumphant, The Memo will enchant readers of In Five Years and Cassandra in Reverse as well as fans of Emma Straub and Maria Semple.
Visit Lauren Mechling's website and Rachel Dodes's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Memo.

--Marshal Zeringue