Thursday, June 30, 2016

What is Jessica Anya Blau reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Jessica Anya Blau, author of The Trouble with Lexie.

Her entry begins:
Currently I’m on page 151 of Dodgers by Bill Beverly. This is a road-story that travels from Compton to Wisconsin, but it’s not a caper and it’s not picaresque. The protagonist, 15-year-old East, has been sent out of his neighborhood for the first time on a mission to kill a man. Yes, East is in a gang and intimately knows the life of guns, drugs, murder and mayhem. But he’s got a tender soul; he’s watchful and sensitive. He worries about his mother. He wonders about his younger brother, who’s also on this mission and who knows more about how to use a gun than East wants to realize. By the time...[read on]
About The Trouble with Lexie, from the publisher:
From the beloved author of The Summer of Naked Swim Parties and The Wonder Bread Summer comes the jaw-dropping story of Lexie James, a counselor at an exclusive New England prep school, whose search for happiness lands her in unexpectedly wild trouble.

Lexie James escaped: after being abandoned by her alcoholic father, and kicked out of the apartment to make room for her mother’s boyfriend, Lexie made it on her own. She earned a Masters degree, conquered terrifying panic attacks, got engaged to the nicest guy she’d ever met, and landed a counseling job at the prestigious Ruxton Academy, a prep school for the moneyed children of the elite.

But as her wedding date nears, Lexie has doubts. Yes, she’s created the stable life she craved as a child, but is stability really what she wants? In her moment of indecision, Lexie strikes up a friendship with a Ruxton alumnus, the father of her favorite student. It’s a relationship that blows open Lexie’s carefully constructed life, and then dunks her into shocking situations with headline-worthy trouble.

The perfect cocktail of naughtiness, heart, adventure and humor, The Trouble with Lexie is a wild and poignant story of the choices we make to outrun our childhoods—and the choices we have to make to outrun our entangled adult lives.
Learn more about the book and author at Jessica Anya Blau's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Jessica Anya Blau and Pippa.

The Page 69 Test: The Wonder Bread Summer.

My Book, The Movie: The Wonder Bread Summer.

The Page 69 Test: The Trouble with Lexie.

My Book, The Movie: The Trouble with Lexie.

Writers Read: Jessica Anya Blau.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Guobin Yang's "The Red Guard Generation"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Red Guard Generation and Political Activism in China by Guobin Yang.

About the book, from the publisher:
Raised to be "flowers of the nation," the first generation born after the founding of the People's Republic of China was united in its political outlook and at first embraced the Cultural Revolution of 1966, but then split into warring factions. Investigating the causes of this fracture, Guobin Yang argues that Chinese youth engaged in an imaginary revolution from 1966 to 1968, enacting a political mythology that encouraged violence as a way to prove one's revolutionary credentials. This same competitive dynamic would later turn the Red Guard against the communist government.

Throughout the 1970s, the majority of Red Guard youth were sent to work in rural villages, where they developed an appreciation for the values of ordinary life. From this experience, an underground cultural movement was born. Rejecting idolatry, these relocated revolutionaries developed a new form of resistance that signaled a new era of enlightenment, culminating in the Democracy Wall movement of the late 1970s and the Tiananmen protest of 1989. Yang's final chapter on the politics of history and memory argues that contemporary memories of the Cultural Revolution are factionalized along these lines of political division, formed fifty years before.
Learn more about The Red Guard Generation and Political Activism in China at the Columbia University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Red Guard Generation and Political Activism in China.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Sarvenaz Tash's "The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash.

About the book, from the publisher:
John Hughes meets Comic Con in this hilarious, unabashedly romantic, coming-of-age novel about a teenager who is trying to get his best friend to fall in love with him from the author of Three Day Summer.

Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy...
Archie and Veronica...
Althena and Noth...
...Graham and Roxy?

Graham met his best friend, Roxana, when he moved into her neighborhood eight years ago, and she asked him which Hogwarts house he’d be sorted into. Graham has been in love with her ever since.

But now they’re sixteen, still neighbors, still best friends. And Graham and Roxy share more than ever—moving on from their Harry Potter obsession to a serious love of comic books.

When Graham learns that the creator of their favorite comic, The Chronicles of Althena, is making a rare appearance at this year’s New York Comic Con, he knows he must score tickets. And the event inspires Graham to come up with the perfect plan to tell Roxy how he really feels about her. He’s got three days to woo his best friend at the coolest, kookiest con full of superheroes and supervillains. But no one at a comic book convention is who they appear to be...even Roxy. And Graham is starting to realize fictional love stories are way less complicated than real-life ones.
Visit Sarvenaz Tash's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten New York novels

Among Francis Spufford's ten top New York novels, as shared at the Guardian:
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (2013)

There’s a large constituency that swears by Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale as the defining NY novel of the fantastic, but I’d nominate this as better Manhattan magic, with its lovely turn-of-the-20th-century immigrant encounter between a woman of clay and a man of fire. Two mythologies meet on the Lower East Side, and catch the Fifth Avenue El together
Read about another entry on the list.

The Golem and the Jinni is among seven recommended books for Game of Thrones fans and Chris Bohjalian's twenty notable books about troubled romances.

The Page 69 Test: The Golem and the Jinni.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

What is Joy Callaway reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Joy Callaway, author of The Fifth Avenue Artists Society.

Her entry begins:
I’m actually reading a lot right now. I’m reading one of my critique partner’s contemporary YA manuscripts—it’s amazing—two historical novels, and just finished a women’s fiction.

On the historical front, I’m reading Hazel Gaynor’s latest, The Girl from the Savoy. I’m only about twenty pages in and already obsessed with Dolly and her adventures working at the famous Savoy. I’m also reading Jennifer Chiaverini’s Fates and Traitors coming in September. It’s an absolutely riveting work about the notorious John Wilkes Booth and the women in...[read on]
About The Fifth Avenue Artists Society, from the publisher:
The Bronx, 1891. Virginia Loftin, the boldest of four artistic sisters in a family living in genteel poverty, knows what she wants most: to become a celebrated novelist despite her gender, and to marry Charlie, the boy next door and her first love.

When Charlie proposes instead to a woman from a wealthy family, Ginny is devastated; shutting out her family, she holes up and turns their story into fiction, obsessively rewriting a better ending. Though she works with newfound intensity, literary success eludes her—until she attends a salon hosted in her brother’s writer friend John Hopper’s Fifth Avenue mansion. Among painters, musicians, actors, and writers, Ginny returns to herself, even blooming under the handsome, enigmatic John’s increasingly romantic attentions.

Just as she and her siblings have become swept up in the society, though, Charlie throws himself back into her path, and Ginny learns that the salon’s bright lights may be obscuring some dark shadows. Torn between two worlds that aren’t quite as she’d imagined them, Ginny will realize how high the stakes are for her family, her writing, and her chance at love.
Visit Joy Callaway's website.

My Book, the Movie: The Fifth Avenue Artists Society.

The Page 69 Test: The Fifth Avenue Artists Society.

Writers Read: Joy Callaway.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Elizabeth J. Duncan's "Murder on the Hour"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Murder on the Hour: A Penny Brannigan Mystery by Elizabeth J. Duncan.

About the book, from the publisher:
The residents of Llanelen are brimming with excitement. Antiques Cymru, a regional take on the popular national TV show, is coming to the Welsh town and people are flocking from miles around, hoping their attic treasures turn out to be worth a fortune. On the day of filming, quiet local sheep farmer Haydn Williams brings a generations-old long-case clock for evaluation, while the woman he's always admired from afar, Catrin Bellis, turns up with a cherished handmade quilt. Will either hear surprising good news about the value of their family heirlooms? By the end of the day, Catrin turns up dead, her quilt missing.

Who could have wanted this shy, quiet woman - who had been overshadowed by her parents for her whole life - dead? Delving into Catrin's past, spa owner and amateur sleuth Penny Brannigan is surprised to discover that Catrin had at least one enemy. And as Penny's romantic life heats up with a new love interest, she realizes that a mysterious document hidden in Haydn's clock could hold the key to a long-forgotten secret and a present-day murder.

Murder on the Hour is a light-hearted traditional mystery featuring a charming heroine set in an enchanting Welsh town.
Visit Elizabeth J. Duncan's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Elizabeth J. Duncan and Dolly.

The Page 69 Test: The Cold Light of Mourning.

The Page 69 Test: A Brush with Death.

The Page 69 Test: Never Laugh As a Hearse Goes By.

The Page 69 Test: Slated for Death.

Writers Read: Elizabeth J. Duncan.

The Page 69 Test: Murder on the Hour.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Walter Shapiro's "Hustling Hitler"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Hustling Hitler: The Jewish Vaudevillian Who Fooled the Führer by Walter Shapiro.

About Hustling Hitler, from the publisher:
From acclaimed journalist Walter Shapiro, the true life story of how his great-uncle—a Jewish vaudeville impresario and exuberant con man—managed to cheat Hitler’s agents in the run-up to WWII.

All his life, journalist Walter Shapiro assumed that the outlandish stories about his great-uncle Freeman were exaggerated family lore; some cockamamie Jewish revenge fantasies dreamt up to entertain the kids and venerate their larger-than-life relative. Only when he started researching Freeman Bernstein’s life did he realize that his family was actually holding back—the man had enough stories, vocations, and IOUs to fill a dozen lifetimes. Freeman was many people: a vaudeville manager, boxing promoter, stock swindler, card shark and self-proclaimed “Jade King of China.” But his greatest title, perhaps the only man who can claim such infamy, was as The Man Who Hustled Hitler.

A cross between The Night They Raided Minsky’s and Guys and Dolls, Freeman Bernstein’s life was itself an old New York sideshow extravaganza, one that Shapiro expertly stages in Hustling Hitler. From a ragtag childhood in Troy, New York, Shapiro follows his great-uncle’s ever-crooked trajectory through show business, from his early schemes on the burlesque circuit to marrying his star performer, May Ward, and producing silent films—released only in Philadelphia. Of course, all of Freeman’s cons and schemes were simply a prelude to February 18, 1937, the day he was arrested by the LAPD outside of Mae West’s apartment in Hollywood.

The charge? Grand larceny—for cheating Adolf Hitler and the Nazi government. In the capstone of his slippery career, Freeman had promised to ship thirty-five tons of embargoed Canadian nickel to the Führer; when the cargo arrived, the Germans found only huge, useless quantities of scrap metal and tin. It was a blow to their economy and war preparations—and Hitler did not take the bait-and-switch lightly.

Told with cinematic verve and hilarious perspective, Hustling Hitler is Shapiro’s incredible investigation into the man behind the myth. By reconstructing his great-uncle’s remarkable career, Shapiro has transformed Freeman Bernstein from a barely there footnote in history to the larger-than-life, eternal hustler who forever changed it.
Visit the Hustling Hitler website.

My Book, The Movie: Hustling Hitler.

Writers Read: Walter Shapiro.

The Page 99 Test: Hustling Hitler.

--Marshal Zeringue

Robert H. Patton's "Cajun Waltz," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Cajun Waltz: A Novel by Robert H. Patton.

The entry begins:
It goes without saying that on aesthetic principle I’m indifferent and indeed hostile to the notion that my book might get snatched up by Hollywood.

Like hell.

So yeah, is there an actor out there I’ve imagined playing a character in Cajun Waltz? Only one—and though she’s not an easy get these days, I’m sure if my people call her people and arrange a lunch date, she and I will totally hit if off and work out a deal in no time. The part would be Angela “Angel” Bainard, and the actor would be Beyoncé.

Born in Hancock Bayou, Louisiana, in 1915, Angel Bainard is mixed-race Creole and African-American. We first meet her at age thirteen, but the heart of her role occurs in her early thirties. Smart but intemperate, Angel is described in the book this way: “She was selfish and blithe but people adored her, a mystery that made sense once you took her looks into account. Beauty didn’t capture it. Knockout was more the effect.” Of Angel’s part in the tale...[read on]
Visit Robert H. Patton's website.

My Book, The Movie: Cajun Waltz.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best grandmothers in fiction

At the Guardian, Jenny Downham tagged her ten top grandmothers in fiction, including:
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Lennie lives with her Gram and her Uncle Big and all three are grieving the sudden death of Lennie’s fiery older sister. Catapulted into an uncomfortable centre stage, Lennie allows two boys to simultaneously vie for her affection whilst abandoning her best friend and behaving badly towards her family. This is a dream-like sensual book, full of poetry and vivid description. The relationship between grandmother and granddaughter is central. Gram is a gardener (she grows flowers for their aphrodisiac qualities), a painter, a keeper of secrets, a wise and intelligent woman who loves deeply and well. It is because of her that Lennie survives tragedy with her integrity and heart intact.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

What is Eleanor Kuhns reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Eleanor Kuhns, author of The Devil's Cold Dish: A Will Rees Mystery.

Her entry begins:
As usual I am reading two books at the same time. My fiction reading right now is Arena by Holly Jennings. Although I read a lot of mysteries (no surprise ), I also enjoy science fiction and fantasy. Besides that, guilty secret here, I am a passionate gamer. Arena takes gaming away from the console into a totally immersive virtual reality world. For a gamer, this would be like heaven. But Arena explores the impact of money, power and celebrity on gaming, because of course it becomes big business. Loving it so...[read on]
About The Devil's Cold Dish, from the publisher:
Will Rees is back home on his farm in 1796 Maine with his teenage son, his pregnant wife, their five adopted children, and endless farm work under the blistering summer sun. But for all that, Rees is happy to have returned to Dugard, Maine, the town where he was born and raised, and where he's always felt at home. Until now. When a man is found dead - murdered - after getting into a public dispute with Rees, Rees starts to realize someone is intentionally trying to pin the murder on him. Then, his farm is attacked, his wife is accused of witchcraft, and a second body is found that points to the Rees family. Rees can feel the town of Dugard turning against him, and he knows that he and his family won't be safe there unless he can find the murderer and reveal the truth...before the murderer gets to him first.
Learn more about the book and author at Eleanor Kuhns's blog and Facebook page.

Coffee with a Canine: Eleanor Kuhns & Shelby.

My Book, The Movie: Death of a Dyer.

The Page 69 Test: Death of a Dyer.

The Page 69 Test: Death in Salem.

The Page 69 Test: The Devil's Cold Dish.

Writers Read: Eleanor Kuhns.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Jessica Anya Blau's "The Trouble with Lexie"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Trouble with Lexie: A Novel by Jessica Anya Blau.

About the book, from the publisher:
From the beloved author of The Summer of Naked Swim Parties and The Wonder Bread Summer comes the jaw-dropping story of Lexie James, a counselor at an exclusive New England prep school, whose search for happiness lands her in unexpectedly wild trouble.

Lexie James escaped: after being abandoned by her alcoholic father, and kicked out of the apartment to make room for her mother’s boyfriend, Lexie made it on her own. She earned a Masters degree, conquered terrifying panic attacks, got engaged to the nicest guy she’d ever met, and landed a counseling job at the prestigious Ruxton Academy, a prep school for the moneyed children of the elite.

But as her wedding date nears, Lexie has doubts. Yes, she’s created the stable life she craved as a child, but is stability really what she wants? In her moment of indecision, Lexie strikes up a friendship with a Ruxton alumnus, the father of her favorite student. It’s a relationship that blows open Lexie’s carefully constructed life, and then dunks her into shocking situations with headline-worthy trouble.

The perfect cocktail of naughtiness, heart, adventure and humor, The Trouble with Lexie is a wild and poignant story of the choices we make to outrun our childhoods—and the choices we have to make to outrun our entangled adult lives.
Learn more about the book and author at Jessica Anya Blau's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Jessica Anya Blau and Pippa.

The Page 69 Test: The Wonder Bread Summer.

My Book, The Movie: The Wonder Bread Summer.

The Page 69 Test: The Trouble with Lexie.

My Book, The Movie: The Trouble with Lexie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Erica Westly's "Fastpitch"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Fastpitch: The Untold History of Softball and the Women Who Made the Game by Erica Westly.

About the book, from the publisher:
If you think softball is just a “women’s version” of the great American pastime of baseball—well, think again.

Fastpitch softball is one of the most widely played sports in the world, with tens of millions of active participants in various age groups. But the origins of this beloved sport and the charismatic athletes who helped it achieve prominence in the mid-twentieth century have been largely forgotten, until now.

Fastpitch brings to life the eclectic mix of characters that make up softball’s vibrant 129-year history. From its humble beginnings in 1887, when it was invented in a Chicago boat club and played with a broomstick, to the rise in the 1940s and 1950s of professional-caliber company-sponsored teams that toured the country in style, softball’s history is as diverse as it is fascinating. Though it’s thought of today as a woman’s sport, fastpitch softball’s early years featured several male stars, such as the vaudeville-esque Eddie Feigner, whose signature move was striking out batters while blindfolded.

But because softball was one of the only team sports that women were allowed to play competitively, it took on added importance for female athletes. Top fastpitch teams of the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s, such as the New Orleans Jax Maids and Connecticut’s Raybestos Brakettes, gave women access to employment and travel opportunities that would have been unavailable to them otherwise. At a time when female athletes had almost no prospects, softball offered them a chance to flourish. Women put off marriage and moved across the country just for a shot at joining a strong team.

Told from the perspective of such influential players as Bertha Ragan Tickey, who set strikeout records and taught Lana Turner to pitch, and Joan Joyce, who struck out baseball legend Ted Williams and helped found a professional softball league with Billie Jean King, Fastpitch chronicles softball’s rich history and its uncertain future (as evidenced by its controversial elimination from the 2012 Olympics and the mounting efforts to have it reinstated). A celebration of this unique American sport and the role it plays in our culture today, Fastpitch is as entertaining as it is inspiring.
Visit Erica Westly's website.

Writers Read: Erica Westly.

The Page 99 Test: Fastpitch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books about actual badass women who ruled kingdoms

At the B&N Reads blog Nicole Hill tagged five top books about actual badass women who ruled kingdoms, including:
The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World, by Adrienne Mayor

It can be hard to separate fact from fiction, particularly when history was written largely by men concentrated in a small pocket of the ancient world. Mayor attempts to sort through the myth to uncover the truth about the legendary Amazons, the warrior women who so vexed the rulers of ancient Greece, Rome, and Persia. Were they real? Mayor presents a compelling case that at the root of the mythology, there very much were women dotting the landscape of the ancient world who delighted in their own autonomy and ferocity. In more than one sense, the Amazons were real, and their route to becoming mythic figures has much to teach us.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 99 Test: The Amazons.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 27, 2016

What is Midge Raymond reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Midge Raymond, author of My Last Continent: A Novel.

Her entry begins:
I’m reading three books at the moment, and, probably not coincidentally, they are about the oceans.

The Whale: A Love Story by Mark Beauregard offers a fictional glimpse into the worlds of Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne from the summer of 1850 to the autumn of 1851, as Melville was struggling to finish Moby-Dick and as Hawthorne was in the midst of a productive period of his writing career. This lovely novel tells the fraught, passionate story behind Melville’s dedication of Moby-Dick to Hawthorne, and it’s a fascinating look at the men behind the books, their families, and...[read on]
About the book, from the publisher:
An unforgettable debut with an irresistible love story, My Last Continent is a big-hearted, propulsive novel set against the dramatic Antarctic landscape—“original and entirely authentic love story” (Graeme Simsion, author of The Rosie Project).

It is only at the end of the world—among the glacial mountains, cleaving icebergs, and frigid waters of Antarctica—where Deb Gardner and Keller Sullivan feel at home. For the few blissful weeks they spend each year studying the habits of emperor and Adélie penguins, Deb and Keller can escape the frustrations and sorrows of their separate lives and find solace in their work and in each other. But Antarctica, like their fleeting romance, is tenuous, imperiled by the world to the north.

A new travel and research season has just begun, and Deb and Keller are ready to play tour guide to the passengers on the small expedition ship that ferries them to their research destination. But this year, Keller fails to appear on board. Then, shortly into the journey, Deb’s ship receives an emergency signal from the Australis, a cruise liner that has hit desperate trouble in the ice-choked waters of the Southern Ocean. Soon Deb’s role will change from researcher to rescuer; among the crew of that sinking ship, Deb learns, is Keller.

As Deb and Keller’s troubled histories collide with this catastrophic present, Midge Raymond’s phenomenal novel takes us on a voyage deep into the wonders of the Antarctic and the mysteries of the human heart. My Last Continent is packed with emotional intelligence and high stakes—a harrowing, searching novel of love and loss in one of the most remote places on earth, a land of harsh beauty where even the smallest missteps have tragic consequences—“Half adventure, half elegy, and wholly recommended” (Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves).
Learn more about the author and her work at Midge Raymond's website.

The Page 69 Test: My Last Continent.

Writers Read: Midge Raymond.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Joy Callaway's "The Fifth Avenue Artists Society"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Fifth Avenue Artists Society: A Novel by Joy Callaway.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Bronx, 1891. Virginia Loftin, the boldest of four artistic sisters in a family living in genteel poverty, knows what she wants most: to become a celebrated novelist despite her gender, and to marry Charlie, the boy next door and her first love.

When Charlie proposes instead to a woman from a wealthy family, Ginny is devastated; shutting out her family, she holes up and turns their story into fiction, obsessively rewriting a better ending. Though she works with newfound intensity, literary success eludes her—until she attends a salon hosted in her brother’s writer friend John Hopper’s Fifth Avenue mansion. Among painters, musicians, actors, and writers, Ginny returns to herself, even blooming under the handsome, enigmatic John’s increasingly romantic attentions.

Just as she and her siblings have become swept up in the society, though, Charlie throws himself back into her path, and Ginny learns that the salon’s bright lights may be obscuring some dark shadows. Torn between two worlds that aren’t quite as she’d imagined them, Ginny will realize how high the stakes are for her family, her writing, and her chance at love.
Visit Joy Callaway's website.

My Book, the Movie: The Fifth Avenue Artists Society.

The Page 69 Test: The Fifth Avenue Artists Society.

--Marshal Zeringue

Jessica Anya Blau's "The Trouble with Lexie," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Trouble with Lexie by Jessica Anya Blau.

The entry begins:
I’m a big daydreamer. Maybe most writers are. Often when I’m in the car, I’ll turn off the radio and just tune in to a daydream. In this way, hours can pass unnoticed. My daydreams run like movies in my head. It’s not surprising since the simplest way to describe my writing process would be to say that I watch a movie I’m creating in my head and then write it down as I see it.

When I was writing The Trouble with Lexie, I was also binge-watching Friday Night Lights. So, of course, I was thinking of Kyle Chandler for Daniel. Daniel doesn’t have Coach Taylor’s wholesome goodness. But he has his looks, his charisma, his confidence.

Lexie is a version of me—younger, prettier, taller, blonder, a much smaller nose! But she’s neurotic and a worrier like me. She’s 33, and I have no idea how old any Hollywood star is but I like...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Jessica Anya Blau's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Jessica Anya Blau and Pippa.

The Page 69 Test: The Wonder Bread Summer.

My Book, The Movie: The Wonder Bread Summer.

My Book, The Movie: The Trouble with Lexie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top YA historical novels about real-life disasters

Sarah Skilton is the author of Bruised, a martial arts drama for young adults; and High and Dry, a hardboiled teen mystery. At the BN Teen blog she tagged five notable YA historical novels about real-life disasters, including:
Japanese Tsunami
Up From the Sea, by Leza Lowitz

A moving, free verse novel set in Japan, Up From the Sea depicts the harrowing survival story of teenaged Kai, a half-American, half-Japanese coastal villager who loves soccer. At school, he suffers from bullying because of his mixed race. His life is forever changed by the tsunami and nuclear disaster of 2011, but during a trip to New York to meet and connect with kids orphaned by 9/11, he takes the opportunity to seek out his American father. Their relationship may be complicated, but it’s also more vital than ever in the wake of Kai’s losses.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Up From the Sea.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Pg. 99: Campbell F. Scribner's "The Fight for Local Control"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Fight for Local Control: Schools, Suburbs, and American Democracy by Campbell F. Scribner.

About the book, from the publisher:
Throughout the twentieth century, local control of school districts was one of the most contentious issues in American politics. As state and federal regulation attempted to standardize public schools, conservatives defended local prerogative as a bulwark of democratic values. Yet their commitment to those values was shifting and selective. In The Fight for Local Control, Campbell F. Scribner demonstrates how, in the decades after World War II, suburban communities appropriated legacies of rural education to assert their political autonomy and in the process radically changed educational law.

Scribner's account unfolds on the metropolitan fringe, where rapid suburbanization overlapped with the consolidation of thousands of small rural schools. Rural residents initially clashed with their new neighbors, but by the 1960s the groups had rallied to resist government oversight. What began as residual opposition to school consolidation would transform into campaigns against race-based busing, unionized teachers, tax equalization, and secular curriculum. In case after case, suburban conservatives carved out new rights for local autonomy, stifling equal educational opportunity.

Yet Scribner also provides insight into why many conservatives have since abandoned localism for policies that stress school choice and federal accountability. In the 1970s, as new battles arose over unions, textbooks, and taxes, districts on the rural-suburban fringe became the first to assert individual choice in the form of school vouchers, religious exemptions, and a marketplace model of education. At the same time, they began to embrace tax limitation and standardized testing, policies that checked educational bureaucracy but bypassed local school boards. The effect, Scribner concludes, has been to reinforce inequalities between districts while weakening participatory government within them, keeping the worst aspects of local control in place while forfeiting its virtues.
Visit Campbell F. Scribner's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Fight for Local Control.

--Marshal Zeringue

Cathleen Schine's 6 favorite inspiring books on independence

Cathleen Schine is the author of the internationally best-selling novels The Love Letter, which was made into a movie starring Kate Capshaw, and Rameau’s Niece, which was also made into a movie (The Misadventures of Margaret), starring Parker Posey. Schine’s other novels are Alice in Bed, To the Bird House, The Evolution of Jane, She is Me, The New Yorkers, The Three Weissmanns of Westport, and Fin & Lady.

Her new novel is They May Not Mean To, But They Do.

One of Schine's six favorite inspiring books on independence, as shared at The Week magazine:
O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

In this novel, written in 1913, Cather illuminates the dangers of independence, the way it leads to isolation and thus loneliness. I was lucky enough to read Cather for the first time as an adult, and it was thrilling. It was like someone opening a door and letting pale plains sunlight stream in.
Read about another entry on the list.

O Pioneers! is among Belinda McKeon's top ten farming novels.

Visit Cathleen Schine's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Cathleen Schine & Hector.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Walter Shapiro reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Walter Shapiro, author of Hustling Hitler: The Jewish Vaudevillian Who Fooled the Führer.

His entry begins:
I can't decide whether to claim that I am midway through my annual re-reading of Proust or that I have just completed translating Finnegan's Wake into Icelandic.

Seriously, I'm reading several books simultaneously, alternating between fiction and non-fiction depending on my mood. I had started Don DeLillo's Zero K only to discover that his meditations of death and immortality may not be the best thing for me to read late at night. So weak soul that I am, I put DeLillo aside when Alan Furst's new novel, A Hero of France, came out. I love Furst's reconstructions of Europe under the shadow of the Nazis...[read on]
About Hustling Hitler, from the publisher:
From acclaimed journalist Walter Shapiro, the true life story of how his great-uncle—a Jewish vaudeville impresario and exuberant con man—managed to cheat Hitler’s agents in the run-up to WWII.

All his life, journalist Walter Shapiro assumed that the outlandish stories about his great-uncle Freeman were exaggerated family lore; some cockamamie Jewish revenge fantasies dreamt up to entertain the kids and venerate their larger-than-life relative. Only when he started researching Freeman Bernstein’s life did he realize that his family was actually holding back—the man had enough stories, vocations, and IOUs to fill a dozen lifetimes. Freeman was many people: a vaudeville manager, boxing promoter, stock swindler, card shark and self-proclaimed “Jade King of China.” But his greatest title, perhaps the only man who can claim such infamy, was as The Man Who Hustled Hitler.

A cross between The Night They Raided Minsky’s and Guys and Dolls, Freeman Bernstein’s life was itself an old New York sideshow extravaganza, one that Shapiro expertly stages in Hustling Hitler. From a ragtag childhood in Troy, New York, Shapiro follows his great-uncle’s ever-crooked trajectory through show business, from his early schemes on the burlesque circuit to marrying his star performer, May Ward, and producing silent films—released only in Philadelphia. Of course, all of Freeman’s cons and schemes were simply a prelude to February 18, 1937, the day he was arrested by the LAPD outside of Mae West’s apartment in Hollywood.

The charge? Grand larceny—for cheating Adolf Hitler and the Nazi government. In the capstone of his slippery career, Freeman had promised to ship thirty-five tons of embargoed Canadian nickel to the Führer; when the cargo arrived, the Germans found only huge, useless quantities of scrap metal and tin. It was a blow to their economy and war preparations—and Hitler did not take the bait-and-switch lightly.

Told with cinematic verve and hilarious perspective, Hustling Hitler is Shapiro’s incredible investigation into the man behind the myth. By reconstructing his great-uncle’s remarkable career, Shapiro has transformed Freeman Bernstein from a barely there footnote in history to the larger-than-life, eternal hustler who forever changed it.
Visit the Hustling Hitler website.

My Book, The Movie: Hustling Hitler.

Writers Read: Walter Shapiro.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Larry Watson's "As Good as Gone"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: As Good as Gone: A Novel by Larry Watson.

About the book, from the publisher:
Calvin Sidey is always ready to run, and it doesn’t take much to set him in motion. As a young man, he ran from this block, from Gladstone, from Montana, from this country. From his family and the family business. He ran from sadness, and he ran from responsibility. If the gossip was true, he ran from the law.

It’s 1963, and Calvin Sidey, one of the last of the old cowboys, has long ago left his family to live a life of self-reliance out on the prairie. He’s been a mostly absentee father and grandfather until his estranged son asks him to stay with his grandchildren, Ann and Will, for a week while he and his wife are away. So Calvin agrees to return to the small town where he once was a mythic figure, to the very home he once abandoned.

But trouble soon comes to the door when a boy’s attentions to seventeen-year-old Ann become increasingly aggressive and a group of reckless kids portend danger for eleven-year-old Will. Calvin knows only one way to solve problems: the Old West way, in which scores are settled and ultimatums are issued and your gun is always loaded. And though he has a powerful effect on those around him--from the widowed neighbor who has fallen under his spell to Ann and Will, who see him as the man who brings a sudden and violent order to their lives--in the changing culture of the 1960s, Calvin isn’t just a relic; he’s a wild card, a danger to himself and those who love him.

In As Good as Gone, Larry Watson captures our longing for the Old West and its heroes, and he challenges our understanding of loyalty and justice. Both tough and tender, it is a stunning achievement.
Visit Larry Watson's website.

The Page 69 Test: As Good as Gone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Six top read-aloud books for grown-ups

Christian McKay Heidicker's new book is Cure for the Common Universe.

For Tor.com he tagged six of the best read-aloud books for grown-ups, including:
Best Read-Aloud Series: The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Why: This series was pitched to me as “Harry Potter goes to college, with sex and drugs and all that that implies.” I think that analysis does a disservice to the work. Unlike Hogwarts, the magic here feels … more realistic, if that makes any sense. It’s dangerous and difficult and worms into dimensions most of its users don’t understand. And when they do understand it, they wish they hadn’t. Grossman’s trilogy about kids in a magical school tackles more adult themes. What do you do when you reach your goals and feel dissatisfied? How do you come to terms with growing up and leaving Hogwarts behind? The Magicians contains pockets of magic so deep that I felt lost when I went out into the world, knowing the only way to find my way back again would be to keep reading.

Who Will Curl Up In Front of You: Those who feel disenfranchised from Harry Potter and the real world. Also, goths.

Tips: Make big, gopping predictions about where the story’s headed (and prepare to be delightfully wrong). The first volume’s climax is slightly anti-climactic. Don’t stop.

Runner-ups: Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin, Discworld by Terry Pratchett, A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
Read about another entry on the list. 

The Magicians is among Diana Biller's five creepiest rabbits in fiction, Jenny Kawecki's seven fictional schools that couldn't pass a safety inspection, Entertainment Weekly's top ten wickedly great books about witches, Jason Diamond's top fifty books that define the past five years in literature, and Joel Cunningham's eight great books for fans of Donna Tartt's The Secret History.

The Page 69 Test: The Magicians.

Cure for the Common Universe is among Shaun Byron Fitzpatrick's top seven geeky love stories that prove nerd love is the best love.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Katrina Jagodinsky's "Legal Codes and Talking Trees"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Legal Codes and Talking Trees: Indigenous Women's Sovereignty in the Sonoran and Puget Sound Borderlands, 1854-1946 by Katrina Jagodinsky.

About the book, from the publisher:
Katrina Jagodinsky’s enlightening history is the first to focus on indigenous women of the Southwest and Pacific Northwest and the ways they dealt with the challenges posed by the existing legal regimes of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In most western states, it was difficult if not impossible for Native women to inherit property, raise mixed-race children, or take legal action in the event of rape or abuse. Through the experiences of six indigenous women who fought for personal autonomy and the rights of their tribes, Jagodinsky explores a long yet generally unacknowledged tradition of active critique of the U.S. legal system by female Native Americans.
Learn more about Legal Codes and Talking Trees at the Yale University Press website.

Katrina Jagodinsky is assistant professor of history at the University of Nebraska and a former fellow of the Clements Center for Southwest Studies at SMU.

The Page 99 Test: Legal Codes and Talking Trees.

--Marshal Zeringue

Joy Callaway's "The Fifth Avenue Artists Society," the movie

Featured at My Book, the Movie: The Fifth Avenue Artists Society: A Novel by Joy Callaway.

The entry begins:
I don’t often think of actors when I’m writing, but there are many times when I’ll see someone in a particular role and think, wow, if there’s ever a movie, I’ll need them in mine. So, here we go!

For the role of Ginny, I’d cast Michelle Dockery. She plays a strong, driven female lead so well and I think she would be just perfect.

I’d choose Rachel McAdams as Ginny’s older sister, Bess. She’s a milliner with a prickly personality, and McAdams is so versatile and compelling.

You can’t have a proper period drama without including...[read on]
Visit Joy Callaway's website.

My Book, the Movie: The Fifth Avenue Artists Society.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 24, 2016

Ten top books about The Beatles

Philip Norman is the author of Paul McCartney: The Life.

One of his top ten books about The Beatles, as shared at the Guardian:
Magical Mystery Tours: My Life With the Beatles by Tony Bramwell

Bramwell was one of the many babies delivered by Paul’s midwife mother, Mary; his house was on George’s round as a butcher’s delivery boy. As the Beatles grew more famous on Merseyside, long before they had roadies, he’d carry their guitars into gigs, becoming so ubiquitous that John nicknamed him “Measles”. His rollicking autobiography describes how he worked for Brian Epstein’s NEMS company, became an indispensable aide to Paul in particular – witness to the very moment that he fell in love with Linda – and later successively head of Apple Films and Apple Records.
Read about another book on the list.

Also see: Five top books on The Beatles.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Claire Humphrey reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Claire Humphrey, author of Spells of Blood and Kin.

Her entry begins:
I have three primary types of reading. The first is, of course, for my own enjoyment. The second is for research to support my writing. And finally, I work as a buyer for a book retailer, so I often read advance copies of books we’re considering, books we’ve commissioned or books publishers are promoting.

In reverse order: the most recent book I read for my job was Primates of Park Avenue by Wednesday Martin. Martin presents herself as a sociologist, living among the people of the Upper East Side for the purpose of studying their customs and culture; it’s a funny conceit at times, but a false one, as Martin is actually quite invested in “going native”, as she calls it, and becoming a fully-fledged member of this privileged society. Part gossipy pleasure, part cultural document, part personal memoir...[read on]
About Spells of Blood and Kin, from the publisher:
Where we love, we ruin…

Some families hand down wealth through generations; some hand down wisdom. Some families, whether they want to or not, hand down the secret burdens they carry and the dangerous debts they owe.

Lissa Nevsky's grandmother leaves her a big, empty house, and a legacy of magic: folk magic, old magic, brought with Baba when she fled the Gulag. In the wake of her passing, the Russian community of Toronto will depend on Lissa now, to give them their remedies and be their koldun'ia. But Lissa hasn't had time to learn everything Baba wanted to teach her—let alone the things Baba kept hidden.

Maksim Volkov's birth family is long dead, anything they bestowed on him long turned to dust. What Maksim carries now is a legacy of violence, and he does not have to die to pass it on. When Maksim feels his protective spell fail, he returns to the witch he rescued from the Gulag, only to find his spell has died along with the one who cast it. Without the spell, it is only a matter of time before Maksim's violent nature slips its leash and he infects someone else—if he hasn't done so already.

Nick Kaisaris is just a normal dude who likes to party. He doesn't worry about family drama. He doesn't have any secrets. All he wants is for things to stay like they are right now, tonight: Nick and his best buddy Jonathan, out on the town. Only Nick is on a collision course with Maksim Volkov, and what he takes away from this night is going to crack open Nick's nature until all of his worst self comes to light.

Lissa's legacy of magic might hold the key to Maksim's salvation, if she can unravel it in time. But it's a legacy that comes at a price. And Maksim might not want to be saved…
Visit Claire Humphrey's website.

The Page 69 Test: Spells of Blood and Kin.

Writers Read: Claire Humphrey.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten books written in prison

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. One of his top ten books that were at least partially composed while their authors were serving time, as shared at the B&N Reads blog:
Conversations with Myself, by Nelson Mandela

There are few prisoners as famous as Mandela, a man who served 27 years in captivity due to his righteous political beliefs, only to go on to serve as president of a much-changed South Africa after his release. This remarkable book is a compilation of writings Mandela composed over the years, many of which were written while he served his legendary sentence. The book serves as an inspiration for anyone seeking to overcome injustice or doubtful of their ability to remain committed to their ideals, and a stark reminder that no matter what your circumstances are, you could be writing a book right now.
Read about another entry on the list.

Conversations with Myself made Casey Lee's list of the five best books by Nelson Mandela, Alexandra Fuller's top ten list of African memoirs and Martin E. Marty's five best list of books on the theme of prison writing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Juliette Fay's "The Tumbling Turner Sisters"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Tumbling Turner Sisters: A Novel by Juliette Fay.

About the book, from the publisher:
For fans of Orphan Train and Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, a compelling historical novel from “one of the best authors of women’s fiction” (Library Journal). Set against the turbulent backdrop of American Vaudeville, four sisters embark on an unexpected adventure—and a last-ditch effort to save their family.

In 1919, the Turner sisters and their parents are barely scraping by. Their father is a low-paid boot-stitcher in Johnson City, New York, and the family is always one paycheck away from eviction. When their father’s hand is crushed and he can no longer work, their irrepressible mother decides that the vaudeville stage is their best—and only—chance for survival.

Traveling by train from town to town, teenagers Gert, Winnie, and Kit, and recent widow Nell soon find a new kind of freedom in the company of performers who are as diverse as their acts. There is a seamier side to the business, however, and the young women face dangers and turns of fate they never could have anticipated. Heartwarming and surprising, The Tumbling Turner Sisters is ultimately a story of awakening—to unexpected possibilities, to love and heartbreak, and to the dawn of a new American era.
Learn more about the book and author at Juliette Fay's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Deep Down True.

The Page 69 Test: The Shortest Way Home.

The Page 69 Test: The Tumbling Turner Sisters.

--Marshal Zeringue