Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Pg. 99: Joseph E. Uscinski & Joseph M. Parent's "American Conspiracy Theories"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: American Conspiracy Theories by Joseph E. Uscinski and Joseph M. Parent.

About the book, from the publisher:
We are living in an age of conspiracy theories, whether it's enduring, widely held beliefs such as government involvement in the Kennedy assassination or alien activity at Roswell, fears of a powerful infiltrating group such as the Illuminati, Jews, Catholics, or communists, or modern fringe movements of varying popularity such as birtherism and trutherism. What is it in American culture that makes conspiracy theories proliferate? Who is targeted, and why? Are we in the heyday of the conspiracy theory, or is it in decline?

Though there is significant scholarly literature on the topic in psychology, sociology, philosophy, and more, American Conspiracy Theories is the first to use broad, long-term empirical data to analyze this popular American tendency. Joseph E. Uscinski and Joseph M. Parent draw on three sources of original data: 120,000 letters to the editor of the New York Times and Chicago Tribune from between 1890 and 2010; a two-wave survey from before and after the 2012 presidential election; and discussions of conspiracy theories culled from online news sources, blogs, and other Web sites, also from before and after the election. Through these sources, they are able to address crucial questions, such as similarities and differences in the nature of conspiracy theories over time, the role of the Internet and communications technologies in spreading modern conspiracy theories, and whether politics, economics, media, war, or other factors are most important in popularizing conspiratorial beliefs. Ultimately, they conclude that power asymmetries, both foreign and domestic, are the main drivers behind conspiracy theories, and that those at the bottom of power hierarchies have a strategic interest in blaming those at the top-in other words, "conspiracy theories are for losers." But these "losers" can end up having tremendous influence on the course of history, and American Conspiracy Theories is an unprecedented examination of one of the defining features of American political life.
Learn more about American Conspiracy Theories at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: American Conspiracy Theories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Celine Kiernan's "Into the Grey"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Into the Grey by Celine Kiernan.

About the book, from the publisher:
In a heart-pounding, atmospheric ghost story, a teenage boy must find the resources within himself to save his haunted twin brother.

After their nan accidentally burns their home down, twin brothers Pat and Dom must move with their parents and baby sister to the seaside cottage they’ve summered in, now made desolate by the winter wind. It’s there that the ghost appears — a strange boy who cries black tears and fears a bad man, a soldier, who is chasing him. Soon Dom has become not-Dom, and Pat can sense that his brother is going to die — while their overwhelmed parents can’t even see what’s happening. Isolated and terrified, Pat needs to keep his brother’s cover while figuring out how to save him, drawing clues from his own dreams and Nan’s long-ago memories, confronting a mystery that lies between this world and the next — within the Grey. With white-knuckle pacing and a deft portrayal of family relationships, Celine Kiernan offers a taut psychological thriller that is sure to haunt readers long after the last page is turned.
Visit Celine Kiernan's website.

The Page 69 Test: Into the Grey.

--Marshal Zeringue

David Barnett's "Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon by David Barnett.

The entry begins:
It feels a little too much like tempting fate to think too deeply about a movie adaptation of the Gideon Smith series of books, either the first one Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl or the current follow-up, Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon. But what a joy it would be to behold! Hopefully, if it ever happens, money will be no object and no expense will be spared in terms of the casting and the locations and effects. The Gideon Smith series is set in an alternate 1890s, where London is a huge city of towering spires and ziggurats (following a brief architectural flirtation with South American design), where airships ply the skies and the perpetual fogs are fed by the hunger for steam-driven technology.

I tend to picture, in my idle moments, a trailer rather than a whole movie. It would open with a panoramic shot of Gideon’s London, dirigibles nosing through the smog, our hero gazing in wonder at the marvels of the capital, on his first visit from the tiny fishing village in the far north where he has spent all his life. Who would play Gideon? A newcomer, hopefully, one with an athletic build and curly dark hair falling over his collars. A young Johnny...[read on]
Visit David Barnett's website.

The Page 69 Test: Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon.

Writers Read: David Barnett.

My Book, The Movie: Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Julia Keller reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Julia Keller, author of Summer of the Dead (Bell Elkins Series #3).

Her entry begins:
It’s a sickness. Really, it is. I can’t seem to read only one book at a time. I well know how philandering spouses feel: What’s right in front of me just can’t measure up to what’s across the room, batting its eyelashes and giving me a lascivious, come-hither glance. I’ve tried, but I simply can’t be a one-book woman.

Spying the motley stack of reading matter that follows me from room to room—almost of its own volition, I swear—friends often ask, “How do you decide which book to read at which time?” I have no rational answer. I am guided by some mysterious, ineffable force that wills the hand toward one book and not another, and later, toward yet another. My religious-minded friends often attest to hearing a “still, small voice within” that directs their moral choices; I hear it, too, only the voice says, “No, you chucklehead! Not the mystery right now—the Tennyson biography!”

And speaking of Tennyson biographies, I’m reading a dandy: Tennyson (1993) by Peter Levi. It’s not new, but I so love the late Levi’s voice as he undertakes the daunting task of writing about an oft-written-about writer: “I think having written this book that I do now understand this great poet,” he says in the introduction. “The long series of problems solved has left him much clearer, and yet...[read on]
About Summer of the Dead, from the publisher:
High summer in Acker's Gap, West Virginia—but no one's enjoying the rugged natural landscape. Not while a killer stalks the small town and its hard-luck inhabitants. County prosecutor Bell Elkins and Sheriff Nick Fogelsong are stymied by a murderer who seems to come and go like smoke on the mountain. At the same time, Bell must deal with the return from prison of her sister, Shirley—who, like Bell, carries the indelible scars of a savage past.

In Summer of the Dead, the third Julia Keller mystery chronicling the journey of Bell Elkins and her return to her Appalachian hometown, we also meet Lindy Crabtree—a coal miner's daughter with dark secrets of her own, secrets that threaten to explode into even more violence.

Acker's Gap is a place of loveliness and brutality, of isolation and fierce attachments—a place where the dead rub shoulders with the living, and demand their due.
Learn more about the book and author at Julia Keller's website.

Writers Read: Julia Keller (September 2012).

Writers Read: Julia Keller (September 2013).

Writers Read: Julia Keller.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven of the best modern satires

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Joel Cunningham tagged seven of the sharpest modern satires, including:
Fobbit, by David Abrams

Every generation has its war, and every war inspires at least one novelist to again make the case for the irrationality of the whole affair, from Slaughterhouse-Five to Catch-22. The latest round in the chamber is this debut from Abrams, a veteran of the most recent conflict in Iraq. The book follows a group of soldiers stationed at Baghdad’s Forward Operating Base Triumph, their duties consisting mostly of paper-pushing desk jobs and trying not to lose their minds from boredom, while just a few miles away their comrades face ambush by suicide bombers. It’s funny, disturbing look at characters who have found themselves an unwitting part of the support structure for an era of endless conflict.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Fobbit.

Writers Read: David Abrams.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Pg. 99: Stefan K. Stantchev's "Spiritual Rationality"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Spiritual Rationality: Papal Embargo as Cultural Practice by Stefan K. Stantchev.

About the book, from the publisher:
Spiritual Rationality: Papal Embargo as Cultural Practice offers the first book-length study of embargo in a pre-modern period and provides a unique exploration into the domestic implications of this tool of foreign policy. Based on a large and varied body of archival and printed, papal and secular sources, this inquiry covers Europe and the broader Mediterranean from c. 1150 to c. 1550. During this time of an increasing papal role within Christian society, the church employed restrictions on trade with Muslims, pagans, 'heretics', 'schismatics', disobedient Catholic communities and individual Jews in order to facilitate papally-endorsed warfare against external enemies and to discipline internal foes. Various trade bans were originally promulgated as individual responses to specific circumstances. These restrictions, however, were shaped by the premise that sin and the defense of the decorum of the faith and Christendom condoned, or even required, papal intervention into the lives of the laity and by the text-based approach of popes and canonists.

Papal embargo, consequently, was not only the sum total of individual trade bans but also a legal and moral discourse that classified exchanges into legitimate and illegitimate ones, compelled merchants to distinguish clearly between themselves as (Roman) Christians and a multitude of others as non-Christians, and helped order symbolically both the relationships between the two groups and those between church and laity. Papal embargo's chief relevance thus lay within Christian society itself, where it functioned as an intangible pastoral staff. While sixteenth-century developments undermined it as a policy tool and a moral discourse alike, papal embargo inscribed the notion of the immorality of trade with the enemy into European thought.
Learn more about Spiritual Rationality at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Spiritual Rationality.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Audrey Magee's "The Undertaking"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Undertaking by Audrey Magee.

About the book, from the publisher:
In a desperate bid to escape the trenches of the Eastern front, Peter Faber, an ordinary German soldier, marries Katharina Spinell, a woman he has never met, in a marriage of convenience that promises “honeymoon” leave for him and a pension for her should he die in the war. With ten days’ leave secured, Peter visits his new wife in Berlin, and both are surprised by the passion that develops between them.

When Peter returns to the horror of the front, it is only the dream of Katharina that sustains him as he approaches Stalingrad. Back in Berlin, Katharina, goaded on by her desperate and delusional parents, ruthlessly works her way into Nazi high society, wedding herself, her young husband, and her unborn child to the regime. But when the tide of war turns and Berlin falls, Peter and Katharina find their simple dream of family cast in tragic light and increasingly hard to hold on to.

Reminiscent of Bernard Schlink’s The Reader, this is an unforgettable novel of marriage, ambition, and the brutality of war, which heralds the arrival of a breathtaking new voice in international fiction.
Visit Audrey Magee's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Undertaking.

--Marshal Zeringue

Jennifer Brown's "Life on Mars," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Life on Mars by Jennifer Brown.

The entry begins:
My superstitious side rarely lets me indulge in if-my-book-was-made-into-a-movie fantasies, but I will admit that Life on Mars was such fun for me to write, and came to life so vividly for me, I might have occasionally thought about what it would look like on the big screen.

In my mind, Life on Mars, the movie, is something along the lines of The Goonies meets Holes meets Stand By Me, three of my favorite kid movies that all have a few things in common: an unlikely combination of comedy, gravity, quirk, and believability, with characters who are lovable and fun, and whose goals are adventurous and maybe even a bit fantastic, all woven together with an underlying thread of delicious storytelling.

Arty would need to be played by...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Jennifer Brown's website.

Read: Coffee with a Canine: Jennifer Brown & Ursula and Aragorn.

My Book, The Movie: Life on Mars.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten top books to read before you go to Paris

For Fodor's, Jessica Colley tagged ten books to read before you go to Paris, including:
Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik

Writer Adam Gopnik set out on two journeys simultaneously: moving to a new country and settling into parenthood. In 1995, Gopnik moved to Paris along with his wife and infant son. In addition to learning a language and fumbling through unfamiliar cultural traditions, Gopnik was also faced with the challenges of raising a child in a foreign city. The result is a humorous, touching book that discusses the everyday challenges of being a stranger in a strange land.
Read about another book on the list.

Also see: Lisa Appignanesi's top ten books about Paris.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is David Barnett reading?

Featured at Writers Read: David Barnett, author of Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon.

His entry begins:
Because I do some reviewing for newspapers in the UK, I’m lucky enough to get quite a few books sent to me, and while some of the writers I’m familiar with, others I haven’t come across before, or are making their debuts.

One of my favourite writers currently is Nick Harkaway, and his latest novel Tigerman is an absolute joy. It’s about a British soldier nearing the end of his working life who is given a retirement slot on a distant island. He strikes up a friendship with a young boy who is obsessed with popular culture, particularly...[read on]
About Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon, from the publisher:
Nineteenth century London is the center of a vast British Empire, a teeming metropolis where steam-power is king and airships ply the skies, and where Queen Victoria presides over three quarters of the known world—including the east coast of America, following the failed revolution of 1775.

Young Gideon Smith has seen things that no green lad of Her Majesty’s dominion should ever experience. Through a series of incredible events Gideon has become the newest Hero of the Empire. But Gideon is a man with a mission, for the dreaded Texas pirate Louis Cockayne has stolen the mechanical clockwork girl Maria, along with a most fantastical weapon—a great brass dragon that was unearthed beneath ancient Egyptian soil. Maria is the only one who can pilot the beast, so Cockayne has taken girl and dragon off to points east.

Gideon and his intrepid band take to the skies and travel to the American colonies hot on Cockayne’s trail. Not only does Gideon want the machine back, he has fallen in love with Maria. Their journey will take them to the wilds of the lawless lands south of the American colonies – to free Texas, where the mad King of Steamtown rules with an iron fist (literally), where life is cheap and honor even cheaper.

Does Gideon have what it takes to not only save the day but win the girl?

David Barnett's Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon is a fantastical steampunk fable set against an alternate historical backdrop: the ultimate Victoriana/steampunk mash-up!
Visit David Barnett's website.

The Page 69 Test: Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon.

Writers Read: David Barnett.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 15, 2014

Ten top literary canines

Mikita Brottman, PhD, is an Oxford-educated scholar, critic, and psychoanalyst. Her new book is The Great Grisby: Two Thousand Years of Literary, Royal, Philosophical, and Artistic Dog Lovers and Their Exceptional Animals.

One of her top ten literary canines, as shared at the Guardian:
Bull's Eye is the ill-used mutt, often assumed to be a bull terrier, belonging to Bill Sikes, the vicious thug in Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist. In the novel, no breed is mentioned; Bull's Eye is described as "a white shaggy dog, with his face scratched and torn in 20 places". Man and dog are bound together, both victims of a cruel upbringing, both unpredictably violent. The two brutes share more than similar- sounding names; ; … Bull's Eye has "faults of temper in common with his owner". Yet they are inseparable, and Bull's Eye, who sleeps at Sikes's feet or by his side, is always ready to obey his master.
Read about another dog on the list.

Oliver Twist is among Mal Peet's top ten list of books that his children liked to have read to them and that he liked reading, and John Mullan's ten best handkerchiefs in literature; it is one of John Inverdale's six best books.

Also see Cliff McNish's top ten dogs in children's books; Becky Ferreira's 11 best books about dogs; and Ben Frederick's eleven essential books for dog lovers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Jennifer Longo's "Six Feet Over It"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Six Feet Over It by Jennifer Longo.

About the book, from the publisher:
Darkly humorous and heart-wrenchingly beautiful, Jennifer Longo’s YA debut about a girl stuck living in a cemetery will change the way you look at life, death, and love.

Leigh sells graves for her family-owned cemetery because her father is too lazy to look farther than the dinner table when searching for employees. Working the literal graveyard shift, she meets two kinds of customers:

Pre-Need: They know what’s up. They bought their graves a long time ago, before they needed them.

At Need: They are in shock, mourning a loved one’s unexpected death. Leigh avoids sponging their agony by focusing on things like guessing the headstone choice (mostly granite).

Sarcastic and smart, Leigh should be able to stand up to her family and quit. But her world’s been turned upside down by the sudden loss of her best friend and the appearance of Dario, the slightly-too-old-for-her grave digger. Surrounded by death, can Leigh move on, if moving on means it’s time to get a life?
Learn more about the book and author at Jennifer Longo's website.

The Page 69 Test: Six Feet Over It.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jack Kelly's "Band of Giants"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Band of Giants: The Amateur Soldiers Who Won America's Independence by Jack Kelly.

About the book, from the publisher:
Band of Giants brings to life the founders who fought for our independence in the Revolutionary War. Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin are known to all; men like Morgan, Greene, and Wayne are less familiar. Yet the dreams of the politicians and theorists only became real because fighting men were willing to take on the grim, risky, brutal work of war. We know Fort Knox, but what about Henry Knox, the burly Boston bookseller who took over the American artillery at the age of 25? Eighteen counties in the United States commemorate Richard Montgomery, but do we know that this revered martyr launched a full-scale invasion of Canada? The soldiers of the American Revolution were a diverse lot: merchants and mechanics, farmers and fishermen, paragons and drunkards. Most were ardent amateurs. Even George Washington, assigned to take over the army around Boston in 1775, consulted books on military tactics. Here, Jack Kelly vividly captures the fraught condition of the war—the bitterly divided populace, the lack of supplies, the repeated setbacks on the battlefield, and the appalling physical hardships. That these inexperienced warriors could take on and defeat the superpower of the day was one of the remarkable feats in world history.

Band of Giants brings to life the founders who fought for our independence in the Revolutionary War. Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin are known to all; men like Morgan, Greene, and Wayne are less familiar. Yet the dreams of the politicians and theorists only became real because fighting men were willing to take on the grim, risky, brutal work of war. We know Fort Knox, but what about Henry Knox, the burly Boston bookseller who took over the American artillery at the age of 25? Eighteen counties in the United States commemorate Richard Montgomery, but do we know that this revered martyr launched a full-scale invasion of Canada? The soldiers of the American Revolution were a diverse lot: merchants and mechanics, farmers and fishermen, paragons and drunkards. Most were ardent amateurs. Even George Washington, assigned to take over the army around Boston in 1775, consulted books on military tactics. Here, Jack Kelly vividly captures the fraught condition of the war—the bitterly divided populace, the lack of supplies, the repeated setbacks on the battlefield, and the appalling physical hardships. That these inexperienced warriors could take on and defeat the superpower of the day was one of the remarkable feats in world history.
Learn more about the book and author at Jack Kelly's website.

The Page 99 Test: Band of Giants.

--Marshal Zeringue

Kathryn Erskine's "The Badger Knight," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Badger Knight by Kathryn Erskine.

The entry begins:
Here's the cast of (main) characters -- this is always such fun to do!

Adrian (the Badger): Dusty Burwell
Adrian is young (just turning 13). He's very small for his age and has albinism so the actor, if one with albinism couldn't be found, would need to be pale and quite young like Dusty. Part of why I made him have albinism is that so often in literature and film the character with albinism is the bad guy or the weird guy. In this story, Adrian is...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Kathryn Erskine's website.

Check out Erskine's top 10 first person narratives.

Coffee with a Canine: Kathryn Erskine & Fletcher.

The Page 69 Test: The Badger Knight.

Writers Read: Kathryn Erskine.

My Book, The Movie: The Badger Knight.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ten top books set in Amsterdam

Malcolm Burgess is the publisher of Oxygen Books' City-Lit series, featuring writing on cities including Berlin, Paris, London, Venice and Dublin.

For the Guardian, in 2011 he named ten of the best books set in Amsterdam, including:
Rupert Thomson, The Book of Revelation, 1999

Rupert Thomson's strange and haunting novel is full of perceptive descriptions of daily life in Amsterdam.

"I had always liked the red light district during the day, especially when the sun was shining – some bleary, slept-in quality the streets had, the neon diluted, pale, and, every now and then, a girl on her way to work in full make-up and impossible high heels."
• Red light district, De Wallen
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Elisabeth Wolf reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Elisabeth Wolf, author of Lulu in Honolulu.

Her entry begins:
My current reading is inspired by islands. Writing my middle reader fiction book, Lulu in Honolulu, I became fascinated by what it really means to live surrounded by water. For months, I have been reading Hawaii by James Michener. Having about one hundred pages left, however, has made me slow down and savor each paragraph of this massive book. Michener writes like my friend, Seana, needlepoints. He colors and weaves a complex picture but never drops a stitch. I wanted to write a story about a girl spending summer in Honolulu and, at the same time, I wanted the richness and depth of Hawaii and Hawaiian culture to seep into the book. I didn’t want the book to feel like a two-dimensional travel poster. Michener’s Hawaii sets the standard for blending detail (everything from food to history) into stories in which my heart throbs and sinks for the characters. Reading Hawaii, I have...[read on]
About Lulu in Honolulu, from the publisher:
Lights! Camera! ACTION!

Lulu in Honolulu
A Screenplay by Lulu Harrison

SCENE 1: ZOOM IN on Hollywood mega stars LINC and FIONA HARRISON lounging on the beach with their daughters LULU and ALEXIS—

CUT!

If only real life were like the movies. Instead, the Harrison family's fabulous Hawaiian vacation has fallen apart, thanks to Lulu's parents' massive blockbuster film shoot. Their tightly-scheduled family time has been taken over by extra time on the set—and they're totally missing out on the real Hawaii. Lulu decides to teach her family the meaning of ohana, but her genius plans are seriously backfiring. (She didn't mean to unleash a rampaging pug onto her parents' movie set. Oops!) Can Lulu get her family back together, or will her exploits push them further apart?
Visit Elisabeth Wolf's website.

Writers Read: Elisabeth Wolf.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five notably beguiling if unlikely travel books

Sean Wilsey is the author of a memoir, Oh the Glory of It All, and the co-editor with Matt Weiland of two collections of original writing: State By State: A Panoramic Portrait of America, and The Thinking Fan’s Guide to the World Cup. His essay collection, More Curious, is published by McSweeney’s.

One of five beguiling if unlikely travel books Wilsey tagged for The Daily Beast:
Travels With Charley, by John Steinbeck. Two hundred years later an aging author and his poodle, Charley, light out on the back roads of America, in the fall of 1960, in a new GM pickup, stocked with “bourbon, scotch, gin, vermouth, vodka, a medium good brandy, aged applejack, and a case of beer.” The putative goal: to “rediscover this monster land.” In fact, unlike Casanova’s, this is a book to skim, full of dull passages, but occasionally enlivened by moments of vivid perception. Here is Steinbeck’s description of the fledgling interstate system: a “wide gash” where the minimum speed “was greater than any I had previously driven … You are bound to the wheel and your eyes to the car ahead and to the rear-view mirror for the car behind and the side mirror for the car or truck about to pass… When we get these thruways across the whole country… it will be possible to drive from New York to California without seeing a single thing.”
Read about another book on the list.

Travels With Charley is one of Philip Caputo's six favorite travel books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: David Barnett's "Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon by David Barnett.

About the book, from the publisher:
Nineteenth century London is the center of a vast British Empire, a teeming metropolis where steam-power is king and airships ply the skies, and where Queen Victoria presides over three quarters of the known world—including the east coast of America, following the failed revolution of 1775.

Young Gideon Smith has seen things that no green lad of Her Majesty’s dominion should ever experience. Through a series of incredible events Gideon has become the newest Hero of the Empire. But Gideon is a man with a mission, for the dreaded Texas pirate Louis Cockayne has stolen the mechanical clockwork girl Maria, along with a most fantastical weapon—a great brass dragon that was unearthed beneath ancient Egyptian soil. Maria is the only one who can pilot the beast, so Cockayne has taken girl and dragon off to points east.

Gideon and his intrepid band take to the skies and travel to the American colonies hot on Cockayne’s trail. Not only does Gideon want the machine back, he has fallen in love with Maria. Their journey will take them to the wilds of the lawless lands south of the American colonies – to free Texas, where the mad King of Steamtown rules with an iron fist (literally), where life is cheap and honor even cheaper.

Does Gideon have what it takes to not only save the day but win the girl?

David Barnett's Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon is a fantastical steampunk fable set against an alternate historical backdrop: the ultimate Victoriana/steampunk mash-up!
Visit David Barnett's website.

The Page 69 Test: Gideon Smith and the Brass Dragon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Stephen L. Carter's six favorite books about the Cold War

Stephen L. Carter is a novelist and Yale law professor. His latest thriller is Back Channel.

One of Carter's six favorite books about the Cold War, as shared with The Week magazine:
Harlot's Ghost by Norman Mailer

This was the controversial first volume of a longer saga that Mailer did not live long enough to finish. It's told principally through the eyes of a disillusioned Central Intelligence Agency officer who's pondering the lifetime he spent battling Communism.
Read about another entry on the list.

Also see--Five top books on The Cold War, Five best forgotten Cold War thrillers, Five best windows on the Cold War, Five best books about Cold War culture, and Five best Cold War classics.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Susan Starr Sered and Maureen Norton-Hawk's "Can’t Catch a Break"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Can't Catch a Break: Gender, Jail, Drugs, and the Limits of Personal Responsibility by Susan Starr Sered and Maureen Norton-Hawk.

About the book, from the publisher:
Based on five years of fieldwork in Boston, Can’t Catch a Break documents the day-to-day lives of forty women as they struggle to survive sexual abuse, violent communities, ineffective social and therapeutic programs, discriminatory local and federal policies, criminalization, incarceration, and a broad cultural consensus that views suffering as a consequence of personal flaws and bad choices. Combining hard-hitting policy analysis with an intimate account of how marginalized women navigate an unforgiving world, Susan Sered and Maureen Norton-Hawk shine new light on the deep and complex connections between suffering and social inequality.
Learn more about Can't Catch a Break at the University of California Press website, and read more about the women in Can't Catch a Break and Susan Sered's research on her blog.

Susan Starr Sered is Professor of Sociology and Senior Researcher at the Center for Women's Health and Human Rights at Suffolk University in Boston. She is the author of Uninsured in America: Life and Death in the Land of Opportunity.

Maureen Norton-Hawk is Professor of Sociology and Codirector of the Center for Crime and Justice Policy Research at Suffolk University in Boston. She has published widely in the field of women and prostitution.

The Page 99 Test: Can't Catch a Break.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top kids’ and YA books for readers of any age

Jeff Somers is the author of Lifers, the Avery Cates series from Orbit Books, Chum from Tyrus Books, and We Are Not Good People from Pocket/Gallery. He has published over thirty short stories as well.

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog he tagged five must-reads aimed at kids that people of all ages will enjoy, including:
Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

This tale of still more dangerously unsupervised children (I’m detecting a theme here) running amok all over Manhattan on what is either the worst or best date ever is filled with great little details and a vibrant love of that peculiar freedom found only when you’re in high school and able to stay out all night.

Why Adults Will Enjoy It: Anyone who has ever experienced that peculiarly terrifying effervescent feeling of an infinite evening that never seems to end will identify with this story of two smart, snarky teens falling in love while having a totally believable adventure in the Big City. The book deals with universal issues of love, doubt, and how music creates such a powerful connection in our lives, and the alternating points of view (male and female) give each gender confirmation of their own experience and glimpses into the other point of view.
Read about another book on the list.

My Book, The Movie: Chum.

The Page 69 Test: Chum.

Writers Read: Jeff Somers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Natalie Haynes's "The Furies," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Furies by Natalie Haynes.

The entry begins:
The lead character in The Furies is Alex: a woman in her mid-twenties, who has suffered a terrible loss, and is about to embark on a course of action that will indirectly cause another. She’s from London, England, and is working in Edinburgh, in Scotland. I have always thought she should be played by Anna Maxwell Martin, who you probably last saw as Philomena’s daughter (who pesters Steve Coogan into investigating her mother’s case, in Philomena). I think she is slightly older than Alex, but it couldn’t matter less, because she is a) a brilliant actor, and b) has the saddest face I’ve ever seen on the big or small screen. There is something compelling about her eyes: they seem to be on the verge of tears at all times. I can’t think of anyone who could better capture Alex’s grief and anger.

I don’t think I was thinking about her when I started writing Furies, but whenever anyone asks who would play Alex in a movie, I always say it would be her: she looks like Alex (or maybe it’s the other way round). And it is a pretty tough role. At the beginning of the book, Alex is...[read on]
Visit Natalie Haynes's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Furies.

My Book, The Movie: The Furies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ten top circus books

Emma Carroll is the author of Frost Hollow Hall and The Girl Who Walked on Air.

One title on her Guardian list of ten great books where writers use the circus for their own story needs:
Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier

Set in 1792, Chevalier's story follows Dorset carpenter Thomas Kellaway and his family to London, where he's employed to build props for Astley's Circus. The nightly shows in Astley's giant red "ampitheatre" are spellbinding. Yet behind the scenes we see a very different world that echoes the unrest in society at large.
Read about another title on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Mark Powell's "The Sheltering"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Sheltering: A Novel by Mark Powell.

About the book, from the publisher:
A literary thriller of intertwined fates seeking redemption from the Middle East to the storied South and American West

"'You set yourself up as judge, jury, and executioner,' Pamela had said, but that was wrong: you set yourself up as angel, and await the word of God." Luther Redding lost his job and almost lost his wife, Pamela, and teenaged daughters Katie and Lucy, when the real estate bubble burst in Florida. Now he pilots a Reaper drone over the mountains of Afghanistan from a command center in the bowels of Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base, studying a target's pattern of life and awaiting the command to end that life. Meanwhile Bobby Rosen has returned home from his tours in Iraq to a broken marriage and an estranged son, his promising military career cut short in a moment of terrible violence in a Sadr City marketplace. As the tales of Luther and Bobby unfold, Mark Powell masterfully engages with the vexing, bifurcated lives of combatants in the global war on terror, those who are simultaneously here and there and thus never fully freed from the life-and-death chaos of the battlefield.

As Bobby sets off on a drug-fueled road trip with his brother Donny, newly released from prison and consumed by his own inescapable impulses, a sudden death in the Redding household sends Luther's daughter Katie spiraling into grief and self-destruction. Soon the lives of the Reddings and the Rosens intersect as the collateral damage from the war on terror sends these families into a rapid descent of violence and moral ambiguity that seems hauntingly familiar to Bobby while placing Katie in a position much like her father's—more removed witness than active participant in the bloody war unfolding in front of her. Overarching questions of faith and redemption clash with the rough-hewn realities of terror and loss, all to explosive ends in Powell's dark vision of modern Americana.

Novelist Ron Rash has deemed Powell "the best Appalachian novelist of his generation." In this, his fourth novel, Powell broadens the Southern backdrop of his earlier work into a sprawling thriller taking readers from the Middle East to Charleston, southern Georgia, Tampa, Miami, New Orleans, and into the storied American West. In its themes, perspectives, and pacing, The Sheltering recalls the work of Robert Stone, Jim Harrison, and Ben Fountain while further establishing Powell as a unique voice capable of interrogating unfathomable truths with a beauty and cohesion of language that challenges our assumptions of the human spirit.
Learn more about The Sheltering at the University of South Carolina Press website.

The Page 69 Test: The Sheltering.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten top books about mothers

Dea Brøvig’s debut novel is The Last Boat Home. One of her top ten books about mothers, as shared at the Daily Express:
REVOLUTIONARY ROAD by Richard Yates

Another story of unwanted pregnancy, although one whose ending is rather less cheerful, Revolutionary Road takes an uncomfortable look at how restrictive motherhood can be.

April and Frank Wheeler are making plans. They’re turning their backs on the “hopeless emptiness” of American suburbia in favour of Paris, where April will support their family while Frank figures out what he wants from life. But then April falls pregnant, and her hopes for a new start are crushed.

I read this book with a sense of having been delivered right into the minds of Yates’ characters. Most of the story is told from Frank’s perspective, but it is April whose frustration crackles on the page.
Read about another book on the list.

Revolutionary Road also appears on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books on the Mad Men milieu, Hanna McGrath's list of five fictional characters who tell it like it is, John Mullan's list of ten of the best Aprils in literature, Selma Dabbagh's top ten list of stories of reluctant revolutionaries, Jenny Eclair's six best books list, Laura Dave's list of books that improve on re-reading, Tad Friend's seven best fiction books about WASPs, and James P. Othmer's list of six great novels on work.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Laird Hunt reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Laird Hunt, author of Neverhome.

His entry begins:
On a family trip with my sister to the Baltimore area my sister and I slipped off to the marvelous indie store Atomic Books where I bought an album of Hot Stuff comics for my daughter and a copy of In the Woods by Tana French for me. French’s name has come up a number of times in recent months and I can see why. The novel is wise, gripping, dark, full of good (rather than drearily expedient) sentences and is just generally very difficult to put down. Exactly the right book for...[read on]
About Neverhome, from the publisher:
She calls herself Ash, but that's not her real name. She is a farmer's faithful wife, but she has left her husband to don the uniform of a Union soldier in the Civil War. NEVERHOME tells the harrowing story of Ash Thompson during the battle for the South. Through bloodshed and hysteria and heartbreak, she becomes a hero, a folk legend, a madwoman and a traitor to the American cause.

Laird Hunt's dazzling new novel throws a light on the adventurous women who chose to fight instead of stay behind. It is also a mystery story: why did Ash leave and her husband stay? Why can she not return? What will she have to go through to make it back home?

In gorgeous prose, Hunt's rebellious young heroine fights her way through history, and back home to her husband, and finally into our hearts.
Visit Laird Hunt's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Neverhome.

My Book, The Movie: Neverhome.

Writers Read: Laird Hunt.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Elizabeth Little's "Dear Daughter," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little.

The entry begins:
Dear Daughter is the story of Jane Jenkins, an ex-Hollywood It Girl who was convicted of killing her mother. Ten years later, released on a technicality, she adopts a new identity, gives the media the slip, and heads to a tiny town in South Dakota to try to uncover the truth about what really happened the night of her mother’s murder.

In many ways, Dear Daughter is a riff on a classic noir setup—that of The Wrong Man—so instead of casting the roles with modern actors I thought I’d look instead to the greatest actors of the golden age of Hollywood noir.

Keeping in mind that I made my choices based on spirit and not physicality, here is my All-Star Dear Daughter Noircast:

Rue, a sharp-eyed and sharp-tongued seventeen-year-old, is beautiful and devious ... but maybe not quite as good at planning as she thinks she is: Lana Turner

Renee, the local shop owner who seems to know everything about everyone—not that she’s telling—is brassy, brainy, boozy, and...[read on]
Visit Elizabeth Little's website.

My Book, The Movie: Dear Daughter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Michelle Gagnon's "Don't Let Go"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Don't Let Go (Don't Turn Around Series #3) by Michelle Gagnon.

About the book, from the publisher:
After a devastating loss, Noa Torson is out of options. On the run with a few other survivors, Noa is up against immeasurable obstacles. Not only is her failing health becoming more of a problem, but the corporation's insidious plans are quickly coming to fruition. And no matter where Peter and Noa try to hide, they are inevitably found.

The group is outnumbered, outsmarted, and outrun.

But they are not giving up.

As they make their way across the country, desperately trying to crack Project Persephone's code, Noa and Peter realize they can't run anymore. They must return to where it all began and face the man who started it all. But the question is, can they win?

This riveting final installment of the trilogy, which started with Don't Turn Around and continued with Don't Look Now, ratchets up the action as Noa and Peter confront an evil that won't let them go.
Learn more about the book and author at Michelle Gagnon's website.

The Page 69 Test: Don't Turn Around.

My Book, The Movie: Don't Turn Around.

The Page 69 Test: Don't Let Go.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten top books about Nigeria

Barnaby Phillips is a senior correspondent for Al Jazeera English, which he joined at the time of its launch in 2006. His documentary Burma Boy won the prestigious CINE Golden Eagle Award. His new book is Another Man's War: The Story of a Burma Boy in Britain's Forgotten Army.

One of the author's top ten books about Nigeria, as shared at the Guardian:
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

You've read the history of the civil war [in the late 1960s], now read Adichie's novel. It's a story of ordinary people swept up in extraordinary times; a privileged young woman, an ambitious university lecturer, an illiterate houseboy and a British writer, all of whom struggle to stay faithful to their ideals, loyalties and loves as their world falls apart around them. Add colonialism, tribalism, class, race and sexual desire, and you have an epic.
Read about another book on the list.

Half of a Yellow Sun is among Pushpinder Khaneka's three best books on Nigeria and Lorraine Adams's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Philip Freeman's "The World of Saint Patrick"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The World of Saint Patrick by Philip Freeman.

About the book, from the publisher:
The legend of Saint Patrick is irresistibly captivating-he drove the snakes out of Ireland, battled the druids, and used the three-leaf Shamrock to convert the pagan Irish to belief in the Christian Trinity. Yet, as so often happens, these stories are mere myths that fold under closer scrutiny. Snakes never plagued the Irish countryside, and the Emerald Isle's most beloved saint wasn't even Irish but a Briton of the Roman nobility. Fortunately, the truth is even more fascinating.

In The World of Saint Patrick, classical scholar Philip Freeman offers the definitive account of Saint Patrick's life through new and vibrant translations of the greatest works of early Christian Ireland. This story of great violence, brutality, and even greater faith begins with two letters Patrick wrote describing his kidnapping by pirates at age sixteen and subsequent slavery. Although his grandfather was a priest and his father a deacon, at the time of his kidnapping Patrick had rejected his childhood faith in favor of atheism. Yet in this deeply moving narrative, Patrick recounts how he regained his faith during his captivity, and how the voice of God guided him both in his escape from bondage and in his eventual return to Ireland as a missionary to the very people who had enslaved him.

The World of Saint Patrick delves into colorful tales of Patrick's struggles with pagan kings, soaring hymns of praise, and a prayer of protection against forces of evil such as "the magic of women, blacksmiths, and druids." Freeman also examines the life of Saint Brigid, Ireland's first female saint, and the legendary voyage of Saint Brendan and his monks across the western ocean.

Both general readers with an interest in Ireland's saints and scholars studying religion or medieval history will be unable to put down this captivating tale of Ireland's greatest saint and the remarkable times in which he lived.
Learn more about the book and author at Philip Freeman's website.

The Page 99 Test: Alexander the Great.

The Page 99 Test: The World of Saint Patrick.

--Marshal Zeringue