Monday, August 31, 2009

Jessica Andersen's "Skykeepers," the TV series

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Skykeepers by Jessica Andersen.

The entry begins:
I’m often asked how I would cast the movie version of Skykeepers, which is the third book in a sexy series about a group of magic-wielding warriors, called Nightkeepers, who must fight the demon creatures of the underworld to prevent the annihilation of mankind on the December 21, 2012 doomsday hinted at by the ancient Mayan calendar.

First off, I’d far rather see it be a TV series than a movie. The interwoven storylines, intricate mythology and constantly developing arcs would be tough (imho) to pull off in a two-hour format, but would lend themselves to a (new) Battlestar Galactica-like gritty, character-driven TV series. With more sex. And, as was done in BSG with a few exceptions, I wouldn’t necessarily look to cast known faces in the roles.

Instead, I would look for non-headliner actors who evoke the various Nightkeepers, who are larger than life, sexy, charismatic and tough, with a warrior’s edge and an adrenaline junkie’s lust for adventure. But that isn’t to say that I don’t have a few faces in mind, or some pictures in my head when I write. For example, the Nightkeepers’ king, Strike, is...[read on]
Read an excerpt from Skykeepers.

For more information on the Keepers books, check out Jessica Andersen's website.

My Book, The Movie: Skykeepers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Books that made a difference to Jennifer Garner

Actor Jennifer Garner told O, The Oprah Magazine about five books that made a difference in her life.

One title on the list:
by A.S. Byatt

When I was starting out in my career, I lived in San Francisco. My friend and I were unemployed for chunks of time, and we'd tell each other: "Instead of panicking, go read. You won't have another chance in your whole life to dive into books." I got a lot of books read during those years, and Possession was one of them. I love the way the two main relationships—one in the present day and the other between two Victorian poets—are intertwined and counterpoints for each other. The sentences are all drippy with words that you have to look up in a dictionary, but they're so beautiful that it's worth taking the time. It almost doesn't matter what the story is about—it's one sentence at a time. Just stop and enjoy every single one.
Read about another book on Garner's list.

Possession also appears on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best locks of hair in fiction and ten of the best graveyard scenes in fiction, and Christina Koning's list of six top romances.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Jeff Parker reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Jeff Parker, author of the novel Ovenman and co-editor of the newly released Rasskazy: New Fiction from a New Russia.

His entry begins:
The last great book I read in English was Roberto Bolano's Savage Detectives. He is really, I think, the true heir to Borges and Marquez. I turned a friend on to him who preceded to read everything he has in translation. He kicked me the story collection Last Evenings on Earth, which I devoured in just a couple sittings. The thing is, formally speaking, they're not such great stories. And Bolano is not a stylist at all. In fact, if the translation is on, then his style is rather crude. But he has that kind of inexplicable magic that some writers have: he creates alternate realities that manage, despite their formal experimentation--and I know this sounds cheesy as hell--to transport you completely. I have 2666 sitting on my shelf but do not have the time quite yet to make the commitment, but I will. I will. I should say my typical habit, upon discovering a book I like a lot by a writer I've never read before, is to stop there. I am easily disappointed and a disappointment in subsequent work reflects back on the previous and so I like to...[read on]
Parker is the author of the novel Ovenman and, with artist William Powhida, the collection of stories and images The Back of the Line. His short fiction and nonfiction have been published in The Best American Nonrequired Reading, The Walrus, Ploughshares, Tin House, Spin, The Indiana Review, Columbia, Billiards Digest, and other magazines. He has co-edited two volumes of new Russian writing, Rasskazy: New Fiction from a New Russia and Amerika: Russian Writers View the United States. He is currently working on a new novel and nonfiction book about Russia to be published by Harper Collins in 2010.

He served as the program director of Summer Literary Seminars in St. Petersburg, Russia, and is currently the acting director of the Master’s Program in the Field of Creative Writing at the University of Toronto.

Writers Read: Jeff Parker.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: Nicholas Dodman & Rusty

Today's featured duo at Coffee with a Canine: Nicholas Dodman & Rusty.

Dodman is one of the world's most noted and celebrated veterinary behaviorists. He grew-up in England and trained to be a vet in Scotland. He is a veterinary behaviorist at Tufts University near Boston, MA.

His books include The Dog Who Loved Too Much, Dogs Behaving Badly, If Only They Could Speak, and The Well-Adjusted Dog. If Only They Could Speak is on the Wall Street Journal's list of the five best books about dogs.

Rusty is a
9-month-old neutered male mixed-breed who was rescued from the Baypath Humane Society shelter in Hopkinton, MA.

Rusty's best quality, according to Dodman: "He's a really a gentle soul."

Learn more about Nicholas Dodman at The Pet Docs website and at his Tufts faculty webpage.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Nicholas Dodman & Rusty.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Pg. 69: P. D. Martin's "Fan Mail"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Fan Mail by P. D. Martin.

About the book, from the publisher:
Aussie FBI profiler Sophie Anderson is ready for a new life – a new home and a new job at the Bureau’s Los Angeles office. She hopes working in the field again will bring her closer to her cases…and her ability to see into the minds of killers and victims.

Within days of Sophie’s arrival in LA, her theory is put to the test when a best-selling crime novelist is murdered – strangled with a pair of stockings, just like the character in her last book. Before her death, the writer received letters from ‘A fan’ that had grown increasingly disturbing. When Sophie discovers a link to the murder of a second crime novelist, and another goes missing, she must get inside the mind of the crazed fan.
Read an excerpt from Fan Mail, and learn more about the book and author at P. D. Martin's website, blog, and Facebook page.

Among the Aussie praise for Fan Mail:
“gripping read…” Herald Sun

“best book in the series so far..." The Age

"...twisted, intriguing and brilliant plot." Sunday Territorian

"Martin ratchets up the fear and the tension expertly." Courier Mail
The Page 69 Test: The Murderers' Club.

The Page 69 Test: Fan Mail.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best devils in literature

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best devils in literature.

One devil on the list:
Milton's Satan

The Devil to inspire all others. Milton's moody, broody soliloquist has seduced many a would-be rebel who has been stirred by his eloquent twaddle about it being "better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven". His fans talk less about what appears of his character when he sees human love, a leering voyeur "turned aside for envy".
Satan from Paradise Lost is also among the 50 greatest villains in literature according to the (London) Telegraph.

Read about another devil to make Mullan's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: John Kenneth White's "Barack Obama's America"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Barack Obama's America: How New Conceptions of Race, Family, and Religion Ended the Reagan Era by John Kenneth White.

About the book, from the publisher:
The election of Barack Obama to the presidency marks a conclusive end to the Reagan era, writes John Kenneth White in Barack Obama's America. Reagan symbolized a 1950s and 1960s America, largely white and suburban, with married couples and kids at home, who attended church more often than not.

Obama's election marks a new era, the author writes. Whites will be a minority by 2042. Marriage is at an all-time low. Cohabitation has increased from a half-million couples in 1960 to more than 5 million in 2000 to even more this year. Gay marriages and civil unions are redefining what it means to be a family. And organized religions are suffering, even as Americans continue to think of themselves as a religious people. Obama's inauguration was a defining moment in the political destiny of this country, based largely on demographic shifts, as described in Barack Obama's America.
Learn more about Barack Obama's America at the publisher's website.

John Kenneth White is Professor of Politics at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

The Page 99 Test: Barack Obama's America.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 29, 2009

What is Jen Calonita reading?

This weekend's featured contributor at Writers Read: Jen Calonita, author of the teen series Secrets of My Hollywood Life and the new novel Sleepaway Girls.

One book from her entry:
The Glamorous (Double) Life of Isabel Bookbinder: A Novel by Holly McQueen -- I tend to go for chicklit novels that will make me laugh out loud. I can't help it -- if it's light, funny and sweet, it's my type of book and this one by first-time author McQueen doesn't disappoint. It's about quirky girl named Isabel who dreams of being a successful author. Only problem? She hasn't written a single word yet. First she wants to perfect her author "look." Hilarious![read on]
Among the early reviews for Sleepaway Girls:
"After her best friend attaches herself to Samantha's first boyfriend, Sam is determined to spend her summer elsewhere. She ends up as a counselor-in-training at Whispering Pines, where she gets to participate in all camp activities while assisting the counselors with the younger campers. By the end of the summer, Sam acquires an arch-enemy, as well as three best buds (the Sleepaway Girls) and a gorgeous boyfriend. Calonita offers a quintessential feel-good read, from Sam's earliest crush on the camp's gorgeous bad boy to her gradual realization that good men are the best boyfriends; from her initial jealous encounter with the camp director's daughter to their forced, uneasy truce; and from her early video postcards back home to her ultimate Sleepaway Girls testament to the camp season. The picture-perfect setting, the sweet little kids, the seductive freedom from parents, and the lure of adult-like responsibility make this the perfect read-alike to suggest to fans of Ann Brashares' Traveling Pants series."
--Frances Bradburn for Booklist
Learn more about the novel and the author's work at Jen Calonita's website.

Writers Read: Jen Calonita.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five best novels on political conspiracy

Joseph Finder is a member of the ­Association of Former Intelligence Officers. His ­novels include Paranoia, High Crimes, and the recently released suspense thriller Vanished.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of books on political conspiracy. One title on the list:
The Ministry of Fear
by Graham Greene
Viking, 1943

Set in London during the Blitz, "The Ministry of Fear"—the only novel Graham Greene wrote during the war years—opens with a ­now-familiar Hitchcockian gambit: An innocent man stumbles upon a secret and is marked for death. Arthur Rowe, a loner who has just been released from an insane asylum, wins a cake at a carnival by guessing its precise weight. Concealed in the cake is a spool of film intended for a Nazi spy. Rowe becomes the target of a ­shadowy international espionage ring bent on stealing vital British war plans. On this slim armature Greene constructs a richly atmospheric thriller, one of the classics of the genre. His prose is spare and elegant, his pacing masterly. The protagonist, haunted by a terrible crime in his past, loses his memory and comes to feel "directed, controlled, molded, by some agency with a surrealist imagination," pursued through a city where entire buildings can disappear overnight in a bombing raid.
Read about another novel on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Freda Warrington's "Elfland"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Freda Warrington's Elfland.

About the book, from the publisher:
Elfland is an intimate, sensual novel of people—both human and Aetherial—caught between duty and desire. It’s a story of families, and of Rose Fox, a woman born to magic but tormented by her place in her adopted world.

Led by Auberon Fox, a group of Aetherials—call them the Fair Folk, if you will—live among us, indistinguishable from humans. Every seven years, on the Night of the Summer Stars, Lawrence Wilder, the Gatekeeper, throws open all gates to the Other World. But this time, something has gone wrong. Wilder has sealed the gates, warning of a great danger lurking in the realm beyond them. The Aetherial community is outraged. What will become of them, deprived of the home realm from which their essential life force flows?

Rose Fox and Sam Wilder are drawn to the lands beyond the gates, even as their families feud over Lawrence’s refusal to do his duty. Struggling with their own too-human urges, they discover hidden truths that draw them together in a forbidden alliance. Only by breaching the dreaded gates and daring the danger beyond can they confront that which they fear most— their otherness—and claim their birthright.
Learn more about the author and her work at Freda Warrington's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Elfland.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 28, 2009

Pg. 99: John Buntin's "L.A. Noir"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America's Most Seductive City by John Buntin.

About the book, from the publisher:
Other cities have histories. Los Angeles has legends.

Midcentury Los Angeles. A city sold to the world as "the white spot of America," a land of sunshine and orange groves, wholesome Midwestern values and Hollywood stars, protected by the world’s most famous police force, the Dragnet-era LAPD. Behind this public image lies a hidden world of "pleasure girls" and crooked cops, ruthless newspaper tycoons, corrupt politicians, and East Coast gangsters on the make. Into this underworld came two men–one L.A.’s most notorious gangster, the other its most famous police chief–each prepared to battle the other for the soul of the city.

Former street thug turned featherweight boxer Mickey Cohen left the ring for the rackets, first as mobster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel’s enforcer, then as his protégé. A fastidious dresser and unrepentant killer, the diminutive Cohen was Hollywood’s favorite gangster–and L.A.’s preeminent underworld boss. Frank Sinatra, Robert Mitchum, and Sammy Davis Jr. palled around with him; TV journalist Mike Wallace wanted his stories; evangelist Billy Graham sought his soul.

William H. Parker was the proud son of a pioneering law-enforcement family from the fabled frontier town of Deadwood. As a rookie patrolman in the Roaring Twenties, he discovered that L.A. was ruled by a shadowy "Combination"–a triumvirate of tycoons, politicians, and underworld figures where alliances were shifting, loyalties uncertain, and politics were practiced with shotguns and dynamite. Parker’s life mission became to topple it–and to create a police force that would never answer to elected officials again.

These two men, one morally unflinching, the other unflinchingly immoral, would soon come head-to-head in a struggle to control the city–a struggle that echoes unforgettably through the fiction of Raymond Chandler and movies such as The Big Sleep, Chinatown, and L.A. Confidential.

For more than three decades, from Prohibition through the Watts Riots, the battle between the underworld and the police played out amid the nightclubs of the Sunset Strip and the mansions of Beverly Hills, from the gritty streets of Boyle Heights to the manicured lawns of Brentwood, intersecting in the process with the agendas and ambitions of J. Edgar Hoover, Robert F. Kennedy, and Malcolm X. The outcome of this decades-long entanglement shaped modern American policing–for better and for worse–and helped create the Los Angeles we know today.

A fascinating examination of Los Angeles’s underbelly, the Mob, and America’s most admired–and reviled–police department, L.A. Noir is an enlightening, entertaining, and richly detailed narrative about the city originally known as El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles, "The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels."
Read more about L.A. Noir at John Buntin's website.

The Page 99 Test: L.A. Noir.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top 10 books about the Berlin Wall

At the Guardian's books blog, Suzanne Munshower named a top ten list of books which "can provide a better understanding of the geography of, the history behind and the collateral damage caused by this monument to humankind's perversity."

One book on the list:
The starting point for me is Frederick Taylor's The Berlin Wall because of its masterful detailing of events leading to the Wall's construction and demolition. This lively and thought-provoking book is a must for experiencing divided Berlin not just with politicos such as Willy Brandt, John F Kennedy and Lyndon B Johnson, but with the multitudes who woke one morning to find friends, neighbours and even family suddenly a world away.
Read about a novel on Munshower's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Amber Kizer's "Meridian"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: Meridian by Amber Kizer.

About the book, from the publisher:
Half-human, half-angel, Meridian Sozu has a dark responsibility.

Sixteen-year-old Meridian has been surrounded by death ever since she can remember. As a child, insects, mice, and salamanders would burrow into her bedclothes and die. At her elementary school, she was blamed for a classmate’s tragic accident. And on her sixteenth birthday, a car crashes in front of her family home—and Meridian’s body explodes in pain.

Before she can fully recover, Meridian is told that she’s a danger to her family and hustled off to her great-aunt’s house in Revelation, Colorado. It’s there that she learns that she is a Fenestra—the half-angel, half-human link between the living and the dead. But Meridian and her sworn protector and love, Tens, face great danger from the Aternocti, a band of dark forces who capture vulnerable souls on the brink of death and cause chaos.
Read excerpts from Meridian, and learn more about the book and author at the Meridian website and Amber Kizer's website.

The Page 69 Test: Meridian.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: Eileen McVety & Shamrock

The current featured duo at Coffee with a Canine: Eileen McVety & Shamrock.

Eileen McVety's first book, Welcome to the Company (or what it's really like working here) was published by Inkwater Press in March 2009. A professional writer with more than 20 years of communications writing experience, McVety is the founder of Spot-on Writing, inc. She has developed award-winning branding campaigns and communications materials for clients in both the pharmaceutical and business-to-business sectors.

McVety holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago and is a published essayist and short-story writer whose work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Tiny Lights, Career Woman, Philosophical Mother, and The Minetta Review.

Shamrock is her 2-1/2-year-old male golden retriever.

His proudest moment, according to McVety:
I’d say that his proudest moment was the first time he barked. He was about 6 months old at the time and was initially startled by the rich guttural sound that his throat produced. That feeling was quickly replaced by a proud glow of accomplishment, like, “Hey, I just became a dog today.”
Learn more about Eileen McVety at the Spot-on Writing website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Eileen McVety & Shamrock.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What is Richard Mahler reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Richard Mahler, author of The Jaguar's Shadow: Searching for a Mythic Cat and other books on travel, self-transformation, nature, social trends, and cooking, as well as thousands of articles to hundreds of websites, radio programs, and print publications, including the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune.

His entry begins:
I'm a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell and am half-way through his Outliers: The Story of Success (Little, Brown & Co., 2008). Gladwell has a pitch-perfect ear for the telling anecdote and is not afraid to reveal himself through interaction with his interview subjects. I identify with him because he asks questions and confesses ignorance in the same way most of us would. More importantly, I find his topics simply fascinating. They are rich, unmined veins of human behavior and psychology: how little things in life add up to big differences, the power of subliminal thinking, and what contributes to a person excelling at what he or she does. I suppose writers have discussed these sorts of things before, in academic journals and specialized books, but Gladwell has a wonderful way of keeping the conversation as lively as a good dinner party while at the same time introducing the little-known facts and up-to-the-deadline research results that are the hallmark of a....[read on]
Visit Richard Mahler's website.

Among the praise for Mahler's The Jaguar's Shadow:
“We must decide whether we have room in our lives for life itself. Richard Mahler's obsession with jaguars will convince anyone that we must have them out in the night of our wilder dreams. We need jaguars far more than they need us. They may be heavy, but they're our secretive spotted brothers.”
—Charles Bowden, author of Exodus/Éxodo

“Mahler has provided the most comprehensive portrait yet of one of the most elusive felines in the world.”
—Kevin Hansen, author of Bobcat: Master of Survival
Writers Read: Richard Mahler.

--Marshal Zeringue

Best children’s books: James Patterson

Bestselling novelist James Patterson named a best children's books list for The Week magazine.

One title on his list:
The Stinky Cheese Man by Jon Scieszka (Viking Juvenile, $18).

What if the Ugly Duckling grew up to be even uglier? These ­wonderfully warped fairy tales have shown up in a couple of my Cross novels, when Alex Cross would read Stinky Cheese to his kids. They always laugh uproariously, as did my son Jack when he was younger.
Read about another book on Patterson's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Louisa Edwards's "Can’t Stand the Heat," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Can’t Stand the Heat by Louisa Edwards.

The entry begins:
Can’t Stand the Heat might be my first book, but I’ve already refined my casting technique! My all-time favorite procrastination game when starting a new Recipe for Love novel is to cast the entire thing. I do it for every book; I have extensive files full of links to headshots and publicity stills. Clearly, this blog and I were made for each other!

I’d need someone charismatic, energetic, and irrepressible to play my hotshot chef hero, Adam Temple. With his wavy dark hair and mischievous grin that only hints at the intensity lurking in his brown eyes, I think Dominic West would work very well. I can see him daring a restaurant reviewer to spend a day in his kitchen doing real work, can’t you?

For pretty redhead, Miranda Wake, my snarky food critic who needs to learn to unwind, I’d cast the ever-adorable...[read on]
Can’t Stand the Heat, Edwards's debut, will hit bookshelves on September 1, 2009. On the Steamy Side, the second Recipe for Love novel, will be out in March of 2010.

For excerpts and deleted scenes from the Recipe for Love novels, as well as a tantalizing free original prequel, recipes, and more, visit Louisa Edwards's website.

My Book, The Movie: Can’t Stand the Heat.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Sarah McCoy's "The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico by Sarah McCoy.

About the book, from the publisher:
It is 1961 and Puerto Rico is trapped in a tug-of-war between those who want to stay connected to the United States and those who are fighting for independence. For eleven-year-old Verdita Ortiz-Santiago, the struggle for independence is a battle fought much closer to home.

Verdita has always been safe and secure in her sleepy mountain town, far from the excitement of the capital city of San Juan or the glittering shores of the United States, where her older cousin lives. She will be a señorita soon, which, as her mother reminds her, means that she will be expected to cook and clean, go to Mass every day, choose arroz con pollo over hamburguesas, and give up her love for Elvis. And yet, as much as Verdita longs to escape this seemingly inevitable future and become a blond American bombshell, she is still a young girl who is scared by late-night stories of the chupacabra, who wishes her mother would still rub her back and sing her a lullaby, and who is both ashamed and exhilarated by her changing body.

Told in luminous prose spanning two years in Verdita’s life, The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico is much more than a story about getting older. In the tradition of The House on Mango Street and Annie John, it is about the struggle to break free from the people who have raised us, and about the difficulties of leaving behind one's homeland for places unknown. At times joyous and at times heartbreaking, Verdita’s story is of a young girl discovering her power and finding the strength to decide what sort of woman she’ll become.
Read an excerpt from The Time It Snowed In Puerto Rico, and learn more about the book and author at Sarah McCoy’s website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pg. 99: James Belich's "Replenishing the Earth"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Anglo-World by James Belich.

About the book, from the publisher:
Why are we speaking English? Replenishing the Earth gives a new answer to that question, uncovering a "settler revolution" that took place from the early nineteenth century that led to the explosive settlement of the American West and its forgotten twin, the British West, comprising the settler dominions of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Between 1780 and 1930 the number of English-speakers rocketed from 12 million in 1780 to 200 million, and their wealth and power grew to match. Their secret was not racial, or cultural, or institutional superiority but a resonant intersection of historical changes, including the sudden rise of mass transfer across oceans and mountains, a revolutionary upward shift in attitudes to emigration, the emergence of a settler "boom mentality," and a late flowering of non-industrial technologies--wind, water, wood, and work animals--especially on settler frontiers. This revolution combined with the Industrial Revolution to transform settlement into something explosive--capable of creating great cities like Chicago and Melbourne and large socio-economies in a single generation.

When the great settler booms busted, as they always did, a second pattern set in. Links between the Anglo-wests and their metropolises, London and New York, actually tightened as rising tides of staple products flowed one way and ideas the other. This "re-colonization" re-integrated Greater America and Greater Britain, bulking them out to become the superpowers of their day. The "Settler Revolution" was not exclusive to the Anglophone countries--Argentina, Siberia, and Manchuria also experienced it. But it was the Anglophone settlers who managed to integrate frontier and metropolis most successfully, and it was this that gave them the impetus and the material power to provide the world's leading super-powers for the last 200 years.

This book will reshape understandings of American, British, and British dominion histories in the long 19th century. It is a story that has such crucial implications for the histories of settler societies, the homelands that spawned them, and the indigenous peoples who resisted them, that their full histories cannot be written without it.
Read more about Replenishing the Earth at the Oxford University Press website.

James Belich is professor of history at the Stout Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington. He previously held the inaugural Keith Sinclair Chair in History at the University of Auckland, and has held visiting positions at Cambridge, Melbourne, and Georgetown Universities. His earlier books, all award-winners, include a two volume general history of New Zealand, Making Peoples and Paradise Reforged, and The New Zealand Wars and the Victorian Interpretation of Racial Conflict, winner of the Trevor Reese Prize for an outstanding work of imperial or commonwealth history published in the preceding two years.

The Page 99 Test: Replenishing the Earth.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Gene M. Heyman reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Gene M. Heyman, author of Addiction: A Disorder of Choice (Harvard University Press).

His entry begins:
Camus, Albert (1996). The First Man. New York: Vintage Books.

My reading tends toward nonfiction, but I often have a novel going too. Over the years, my favorites have been Dickens and Philip Roth. Yesterday I finished Albert Camus' posthumously published, unfinished, last novel, The First Man. My impression is that Camus was less than half way done with the story and was planning to go back, revise, delete, and fill in hastily sketched scenes and characters. Nevertheless, the book is a “must read.” I can't imagine anyone who would not find pleasure and inspiration in the main character, Jacques.

The novel is autobiographical, but told in the third person. Jacques grows up in an impoverished French-Arab neighborhood in Algiers. He shares a small, bare apartment with his nearly deaf-mute mother, a tyrannical grandmother, a madcap, possibly brain-damaged, uncle, and an older brother. The brother is one of several blank spots in the book. We learn virtually nothing about him, although he is nearly the same age as Jacques. Possibly Camus planned to flesh him out after the narration was more underway. At the age of one, Jacques loses his father in World War I. The Camus family never recovers. They have few possessions, little family lore, no cultural traditions, and....[read on]
Gene M. Heyman is a research psychologist at McLean Hospital, a Lecturer in Psychology at Harvard Medical School, and an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology
at Boston College.

Among the early praise for Heyman's Addiction:
We have a justice system that treats drug use as a malevolent act of will (to be punished) and a medical profession that treats it as an unfortunate disease (to be cured). Who is right? In a magnificent new book, Addiction: A Disorder of Choice, Gene M. Heyman, a lecturer in psychology at Harvard Medical School, argues that it is not his fellow medical professionals.... Heyman shows that the ordinary dynamics of human decision-making are sufficient to bring addiction into line with what we know about other, non-addictive behaviors..."No one chooses to be an addict," as the saying goes. Mr Heyman shows that this is wrong--or at least that this is the wrong way of getting at the problem... Maybe nobody would choose to be an addict. But being an addict is not what substance abusers are choosing. They are choosing a momentary action, not a lifetime identity. This is a rich book that reverberates far beyond the field of addiction studies. Attentive readers will find in it lessons about debt-financed consumerism, environmental spoliation and the whole, vast range of self-destructive behavior that we engage in out of self-interest.
--Christopher Caldwell, Financial Times
Read an excerpt from Addiction, and learn more about the book at the Harvard University Press website.

Writers Read: Gene M. Heyman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top 10 Turkish books

Selçuk Altun's first novel was published in Turkey in 2001. Songs My Mother Never Taught Me, his fourth, and the first to be translated into English, was published in 2008. His latest novel, Many and Many a Year Ago, is now available in the US.

One book on the list:
Istanbul, Memories of a City by Orhan Pamuk

A genre-defying jewel of literature, İstanbul and Pamuk time-travelling together. Captivatingly sorrowful, the book is enriched by photos, excerpts and anecdotes.
Read about another title on Altun's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: H. R. F. Keating's "Inspector Ghote's First Case"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: Inspector Ghote's First Case by H. R. F. Keating.

About the book, from the publisher:
From Gold and Cartier Diamond Dagger–Winner H. R. F. Keating, the long awaited prequel to the acclaimed series

Newly promoted Inspector Ghote of the Bombay Police is thrilled to be granted casual leave until he takes up his post, as it allows him to spend time with his heavily pregnant wife, who is desperate to watch a showing of Hamlet at the cinema. Their plans are ruined, however, when Sir Rustom Engineer asks Ghote to investigate the suicide of his friend’s wife.

Worried about his wife’s imminent delivery, Ghote nevertheless travels to the home of Mr. Dawkins, where he is unconvinced by the story of Iris Dawkins’s death. Especially when he recognizes the officer in charge, Darrani, who is well known for his closed mindedness. Ghote investigates further, with a Hamlet-esque awareness of how deceiving appearances can really be.

The New York Times called Inspector Ghote “one of the great characters of the contemporary mystery novel” and H. R. F. Keating returns to his well-liked Indian detective with much energy and vision.
Read more about the author and the Inspector Ghote series at H. R. F. Keating's website.

The Page 69 Test: Inspector Ghote's First Case.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: Edie Jarolim & Frankie

The current featured duo at Coffee with a Canine: Edie Jarolim & Frankie.

Jarolim has a new book out--Am I Boring My Dog?: And 99 Other Things Every Dog Wishes You Knew-- and is running a contest this week. To win a copy of Am I Boring My Dog?, visit the book's official website, recommend a book that would bore a dog--like War and Pee; Das Catipal; To the Dog House; and the Great Catsby--and take your chances.

One exchange from the Coffee with a Canine Q & A:
What's Frankie's role in your new book, Am I Boring My Dog?

Frankie was instrumental. He was my inspiration for writing it, and serves to illustrate many of the points I make. Because I was a first-time dog owner and thus clueless about dogs in general and Frankie in particular, I panicked when I first got him. As a result, I read lots of books and asked lots of questions.

Once I felt I had finally succeeded with Frankie -- if you can call having an 11-pound alien take over your life a success -- I realized I was in a unique position to help others who were as clueless as I was when I first adopted him. Unlike those who grew up with dogs, I knew just how much I didn’t know. That’s how "Am I Boring My Dog?" got started.[read on]
Visit the Will My Dog Hate Me? blog and Edie Jarolim's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Edie Jarolim & Frankie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pg. 99: Rick Grannis' "From the Ground Up"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: From the Ground Up: Translating Geography into Community through Neighbor Networks by Rick Grannis.

About the book, from the publisher:
Where do neighborhoods come from and why do certain resources and effects--such as social capital and collective efficacy--bundle together in some neighborhoods and not in others? From the Ground Up argues that neighborhood communities emerge from neighbor networks, and shows that these social relations are unique because of particular geographic qualities. Highlighting the linked importance of geography and children to the emergence of neighborhood communities, Rick Grannis models how neighboring progresses through four stages: when geography allows individuals to be conveniently available to one another; when they have passive contacts or unintentional encounters; when they actually initiate contact; and when they engage in activities indicating trust or shared norms and values.

Seamlessly integrating discussions of geography, household characteristics, and lifestyle, Grannis demonstrates that neighborhood communities exhibit dynamic processes throughout the different stages. He examines the households that relocate in order to choose their neighbors, the choices of interactions that develop, and the exchange of beliefs and influence that impact neighborhood communities over time. Grannis also introduces and explores two geographic concepts--t-communities and street islands--to capture the subtle features constraining residents' perceptions of their environment and community.

Basing findings on thousands of interviews conducted through door-to-door canvassing in the Los Angeles area as well as other neighborhood communities, From the Ground Up reveals the different ways neighborhoods function and why these differences matter.
Visit Rick Grannis' personal homepage.

The Page 99 Test: From the Ground Up.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight novels with characters who are changed by music

Cecil Castellucci, author of five books including the rock novel Beige, named eight YA novels with characters whose lives are changed by music.

One novel on the list:
"Audrey, Wait!" by Robin Benway

When Audrey breaks up with her musician boyfriend, he ends up writing a song about her that becomes an instant hit. Suddenly Audrey is notorious and everyone has an opinion about her. But do they want to know the real story behind the song?
Read about another book on Castellucci's list.

Also see: Writers Read: Robin Benway.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Laura Wiess' "How It Ends"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: How It Ends by Laura Wiess.

About the book, from the publisher:
Laura Wiess, the acclaimed author who once brought us "a girl to walk alongside Harper Lee's Scout and J. D. Salinger's Phoebe" (Luanne Rice), brings us another memorable young woman, this one at the center of an extraordinary novel of how love ends, how it begins, and what it's worth to protect it...

All Hanna's wanted since sophomore year is Seth. She's gone out with other guys, even gained a rep for being a flirt, all the while hoping cool, guitar-playing Seth will choose her. Then she gets him -- but their relationship is hurtful, stormy and critical, not at all what Hanna thinks a perfect love should be. Bewildered by Seth's treatment of her and in need of understanding, Hanna decides to fulfill her school's community service requirement by spending time with Helen, her terminally ill neighbor, who she's turned to for comfort and wisdom throughout her life. But illness has changed Helen into someone Hanna hardly knows, and her home is not the refuge it once was. Feeling more alone than ever, Hanna gets drawn into an audiobook the older woman is listening to, a fierce, unsettling love story of passion, sacrifice, and devotion. Hanna's fascinated by the idea that such all-encompassing love can truly exist, and without her even realizing it, the story begins to change her.

Until the day when the story becomes all too real...and Hanna's world is spun off its axis by its shattering, irrevocable conclusion.
Read an excerpt from How It Ends, and learn more about the book and author at the official Laura Wiess website.

Laura Wiess' books include Such a Pretty Girl and Leftovers.

The Page 69 Test: Such a Pretty Girl.

My Book, The Movie: Such a Pretty Girl.

The Page 69 Test: Leftovers.

The Page 69 Test: How It Ends.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 24, 2009

What is Chip Brantley reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Chip Brantley, author of The Perfect Fruit: Good Breeding, Bad Seeds and the Hunt for the Elusive Pluot.

His entry begins:
I'd been thinking about reading Roberto Bolaño's 2666 for a while and felt like making it my big summer commitment. But my friend Joel suggested easing into 2666 by starting with some of Bolaño's stories and his shorter (but, at 672 pages, still long) The Savage Detectives. So I read Last Evenings on Earth, which is a sinister and just incredible collection of short stories. I'm not sure how to articulate why I love them. You could break them up and examine them, and I'm not sure you'd be any closer to knowing how and why they work so well.

From there, I moved right into The Savage Detectives, with the goal of finishing it in a week or two. That was...[read on]
The cofounder of, Chip Brantley is a former food writer for the San Francisco Examiner and features writer for the Albany Times Union. He has contributed to many other publications, including Slate, the Boston Globe, the Oxford American, and Gastronomica.

Among the early praise for The Perfect Fruit:
"[This] book is great. After reading it, you'll take your next stroll down the fruit and produce aisle in your grocery with a newfound appreciation of the bounty surrounding you."
Jim Noles

"Brantley’s engaging mixture of agronomy, reportage and food porn... goes down easy."
Publishers Weekly

"With great humor, a love of detail and the kind of curiosity that opens one roomful of questions after another, Brantley leads us through the history of plums, the San Joaquin Valley, fruit breeding and the deep connections between food and love."—Susan Salter Reynolds, in the Los Angeles Times
Visit Chip Brantley's website.

Writers Read: Chip Brantley.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best concerts in literature

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best concerts in literature.

One book on the list:
Howards End, by EM Forster

Poor Leonard Bast! If only he had not aspired to culture and attended that performance of Beethoven's Fifth symphony ("Gusts of splendour, gods and demigods contending with vast swords, colour and fragrance broadcast on the field of battle, magnificent victory, magnificent death!"). Wealthy, Bohemian Helen Schlegel takes Leonard's umbrella by mistake, and a disastrous entanglement ensues.
Learn more about this concert in Howards End: "A goblin, with increased malignity, walked quietly over the universe from end to end."

Read about another novel on Mullan's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Gerald Elias' "Devil's Trill"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: Devil's Trill by Gerald Elias.

About the book, from the publisher:
From concert violinist Gerald Elias comes this debut set in the classical music world about the theft of a priceless violin.

Daniel Jacobus is a blind, reclusive, crotchety violin teacher living in self-imposed exile in rural New England. He spends his time chain-smoking, listening to old LPs, and occasionally taking on new students, whom he berates in the hope that they will flee.

Jacobus is drawn back into the world he left behind when he decides to attend The Grimsley Competition at Carnegie Hall. The young winner of this competition is granted the honor of playing the Piccolino Stradivarius, a uniquely dazzling three-quarter-size violin that has brought misfortune to all who possessed it over the centuries. But the violin is stolen before the winner of the competition has a chance to play it, and Jacobus is the primary suspect.

With the help of his friend and former musical partner, Nathaniel Williams, his new student, Yumi Shinagawa, and several quirky sidekicks, Jacobus sets out to prove his innocence and find the stolen Piccolino Strad. Will he be successful? The quest takes him through the halls of wealth and culture, across continents to Japan, and leads him to a…murder.

Devil’s Trill gives the reader a peek into the world of classical music, with its backstabbing teachers and performers, venal patrons, and shady violin dealers. It is the remarkable beginning of a wonderful new series.
Read an excerpt from Devil's Trill, and learn more about the book and author at Gerald Elias' website.

Hear Elias perform Tartini's Devil's Trill Sonata.

The Page 69 Test: Devil's Trill.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Lawrence Glickman's "Buying Power"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Buying Power: A History of Consumer Activism in America by Lawrence B. Glickman.

About the book, from the publisher:
Far from ephemeral consumer trends, buying green and avoiding sweatshop-made clothing represent the most recent points on a centuries-long continuum of American consumer activism. A sweeping and definitive history of this political tradition, Buying Power traces its lineage back to our nation’s founding, revealing that Americans used purchasing power to support causes and punish enemies long before the word boycott even entered our lexicon.

Taking the Boston Tea Party as his starting point, Lawrence Glickman argues that the rejection of British imports by revolutionary patriots inaugurated a continuous series of consumer boycotts, campaigns for safe and ethical consumption, and efforts to make goods more broadly accessible. He explores abolitionist-led efforts to eschew slave-made goods, African American consumer campaigns against Jim Crow, a 1930s refusal of silk from fascist Japan, a range of contemporary boycotts, and emerging movements like fair trade and slow food. Uncovering previously unknown episodes and analyzing famous events from a fresh perspective, Glickman emphasizes both change and continuity in the long tradition of consumer activism. In the process, he illuminates moments when its multifaceted trajectory intersected with fights for political and civil rights. He also sheds new light on activists’ relationship with the consumer movement, which gave rise to lobbies like the National Consumers League and Consumers Union as well as ill-fated legislation to create a federal Consumer Protection Agency.

A powerful corrective to the notion that a consumer society degrades and diminishes its citizenry, Buying Power provides a new lens through which to view the history of the United States.
Learn more about Buying Power at the University of Chicago Press website.

Lawrence B. Glickman is professor of history at the University of South Carolina. He is the author of A Living Wage: American Workers and the Making of Consumer Society.

The Page 99 Test: Buying Power.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli's "Dead Floating Lovers," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Dead Floating Lovers by Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli.

The entry begins:
Oh my God! Who's the actress from Fargo? Her--she's the perfect Deputy Dolly Wakowski--kind of square-bodied, kind of officious, but always a step ahead of the people who condescend to her. I love when the underdog makes a total ass of the big shot.

And for Emily Kincaid--since she's partly me she'll have to be gorgeous, thin, not over 35, and have the ability to make any man fall in love with her on sight. So, let's see:...[read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Dead Floating Lovers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Brian DeLeeuw's "In This Way I Was Saved"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: In This Way I Was Saved by Brian DeLeeuw.

About the book, from the publisher:
On a chilly November afternoon, six-year-old Luke Nightingale's life changes forever. On the playground across from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, he encounters Daniel. Soon the boys are hiding from dinosaurs and shooting sniper rifles. Within hours, Luke and his mother, Claire, are welcoming Daniel into their Upper East Side apartment -- and their lives.

Daniel and Luke are soon inseparable. With his parents divorcing, Luke takes comfort in having a near-constant playmate. But there's something strange about Daniel, who is more than happy to bind himself to the Nightingales. The divorce has cut Luke's father out of the picture, and as his increasingly fragile mother struggles with the insidious family depression, Daniel -- shrewd, adventurous, and insightful -- provides Luke both recreation and refuge.

As Luke grows from a child to an adolescent to a young man, he realizes that as much as his mother needs him, Daniel needs him more. Jealous of Luke's other attachments, Daniel moves from gestures of friendship into increasingly sinister manipulations. In the end, Luke finds himself in a daily battle for control of his own life -- wondering whether he or Daniel will emerge victorious.

Brian DeLeeuw's debut is a haunting and provocative story of a family's love and madness that you will not be able to put down.
Read an excerpt from In This Way I Was Saved, and learn more about the book and author at Brian DeLeeuw's website.

The Page 69 Test: In This Way I Was Saved.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five best books: trial lawyers at work

The trial lawyer John Quinn is the founder and managing ­partner of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges LLP in Los Angeles.

For the Wall Street Journal he named a five best list of books about trial lawyers at work. One book on the list:
A Civil Action
by Jonathan Harr
Random House, 1995

Crusaders don't win every courtroom drama, as Jonathan Harr makes clear in this account of a lawsuit brought against W.R. Grace and a Beatrice subsidiary by plaintiffs who claimed that the companies dumped cancer-causing toxins into the water supply of Woburn, Mass. In Harr's telling, the plaintiffs' lawyer, Jan Schlichtman, risked his career and his sanity by pursuing justice against corporate giants who were represented by an army of ­sophisticated litigators. In absorbing detail, Harr shows how ­Schlichtman pieced together the evidence. The author conveys as well the tension and drama of the pre-trial maneuvers that are the crucial battleground in most lawsuits. But the book's core is the story of Schlichtman's struggle against both limited resources and his own arrogance. "A Civil Action" far outshines the 1998 movie it inspired.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Pg. 99: Allison Burnett's "Undiscovered Gyrl"

This weekend's feature at the Page 99 Test: Undiscovered Gyrl by Allison Burnett.

About the book, from the publisher:
Only on the internet can you have so many friends and be so lonely.

Beautiful, wild, funny, and lost, Katie Kampenfelt is taking a year off before college to find her passion. Ambitious in her own way, Katie intends to do more than just smoke weed with her boyfriend, Rory, and work at the bookstore. She plans to seduce Dan, a thirty-two-year-old film professor.

Katie chronicles her adventures in an anonymous blog, telling strangers her innermost desires, shames, and thrills. But when Dan stops taking her calls, when her alcoholic father suffers a terrible fall, and when she finds herself drawn into a dangerous new relationship, Katie's fearless narrative begins to crack, and dark pieces of her past emerge.

Sexually frank, often heartbreaking, and bursting with devilish humor, Undiscovered Gyrl is an extraordinarily accomplished novel of identity, voyeurism, and deceit.
Read an excerpt from the novel, and visit the Undiscovered Gyrl website and Allison Burnett's website.

Allison Burnett is a screenwriter, journalist, poet, director, and novelist and short story writer.

His novels include Christopher: A Tale of Seduction, a finalist for the 2004 PEN Center USA Literary Award in Fiction, and The House Beautiful: A Novel of High Ideals, Low Morals, and Lower Rent.

The Page 69 Test: The House Beautiful.

Allison Burnett's "Christopher," the movie.

The Page 99 Test: Undiscovered Gyrl.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Michael Gebert reading?

This weekend's featured contributor at Writers Read: Michael Gebert, creator of the Chicago-based food video podcast and blog Sky Full of Bacon, and writer about food and media for various publications.

His entry begins:
After 9/11 I found it hard to read fiction. There were two reasons for this. One was a conviction that today's fiction writers simply weren't up to the task-- look at Updike's book about a terrorist in which he imagines him to be pretty much exactly like every other Updike protagonist, or John LeCarre's last ten unreadable anti-US screeds. The world was so much richer as revealed by non-fiction writers, from Bernard Lewis with his polymath understanding of the Arab world to books like Rise of the Vulcans or The Looming Tower, so full of complex real-life characters. Honestly, what novelist in the last 30 years has conjured up characters as compelling as The Looming Tower's main figures-- the philandering FBI goodfella John O'Neill, his should-be ally but bureaucratic archenemy the CIA terror geek Michael Scheuer, the pitiless intellectual Dr. Zawahiri, the aimless rich kid turned terror celebrity Osama Bin Laden? What a wonderful movie it would make, if Hollywood had the balls.[read on]
Visit Michael Gebert's website to learn more about Sky Full of Bacon and links to his writing about food and media.

Writers Read: Michael Gebert.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Victor LaValle's "Big Machine"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Big Machine by Victor LaValle.

About the book, from the publisher:
A fiendishly imaginative comic novel about doubt, faith, and the monsters we carry within us.

Ricky Rice was as good as invisible: a middling hustler, recovering dope fiend, and traumatized suicide cult survivor running out the string of his life as a porter at a bus depot in Utica, New York. Until one day a letter appears, summoning him to the frozen woods of Vermont. There, Ricky is inducted into a band of paranormal investigators comprised of former addicts and petty criminals, all of whom had at some point in their wasted lives heard The Voice: a mysterious murmur on the wind, a disembodied shout, or a whisper in an empty room that may or may not be from God.

Evoking the disorienting wonder of writers like Haruki Murakami and Kevin Brockmeier, but driven by Victor LaValle’s perfectly pitched comic sensibility Big Machine is a mind-rattling literary adventure about sex, race, and the eternal struggle between faith and doubt.
Read an excerpt from Big Machine and learn more about the book and author at Victor LaValle's website.

The Page 69 Test: Big Machine.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 21, 2009

Critic's chart: six books featuring medical breakthroughs

Last year Thomas Stuttaford, The Times (London) doctor, named a critic's chart of six books featuring medical breakthroughs.

One title on the list:
The Greatest Benefit to Mankind by Roy Porter

Chronicles medical history in a readable but accurate and detailed way.
Read about another book on Stuttaford's list.

The Greatest Benefit to Mankind
also appears on Stephanie J. Snow's five best list of books on the history of medicine.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Lev Grossman's "The Magicians"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Magicians by Lev Grossman.

About the book, from the publisher:
A thrilling and original coming-of- age novel about a young man practicing magic in the real world

Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A senior in high school, he’s still secretly preoccupied with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the craft of modern sorcery.

He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. Something is missing, though. Magic doesn’t bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he dreamed it would. After graduation he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real. But the land of Quentin’s fantasies turns out to be much darker and more dangerous than he could have imagined. His childhood dream becomes a nightmare with a shocking truth at its heart.

At once psychologically piercing and magnificently absorbing, The Magicians boldly moves into uncharted literary territory, imagining magic as practiced by real people, with their capricious desires and volatile emotions. Lev Grossman creates an utterly original world in which good and evil aren’t black and white, love and sex aren’t simple or innocent, and power comes at a terrible price.
Read an excerpt from The Magicians, and learn more about the book and author at Lev Grossman's website and The Magicians website.

The Page 69 Test: The Magicians.

--Marshal Zeringue