Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What is Matt Hilton reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Matt Hilton, author of the Joe Hunter thriller series, including Dead Men’s Dust, Judgement and Wrath, Slash and Burn, and Cut and Run, with further books in the series coming soon.

His entry begins:
I enjoy books where events in the past come back to haunt the protagonist, so when I picked up Stuart Neville’s The Twelve – published in the USA as Ghosts of Belfast – I was in my own little corner of heaven. Not only do we have a torn, bruised figure trying to come to terms with his violent past, but in ex IRA hitman Jerry Fegan we also have a protagonist ‘literally’ haunted by the ghosts of his victims. Neville handles a very delicate political subject, giving us an antihero in the form of Fegan. To say that in life Fegan would be an enemy of mine is an understatement, but the manner in which Neville delivers the story, I sympathised with Fegan and...[read on]
Among the early praise for the Joe Hunter thriller series:
“Hilton is a sparkling new crime fiction talent.”
—Peter James, author of Looking Good Dead

“Lee Child’s Jack Reacher could have some worthy competition.”

“Hunter [is a] tough guy with the heart of gold and the engaging narrative voice.... Hilton also introduces a satisfyingly grotesque and psychotic bad guy, a professional assassin who calls himself Dantalion.... There’s also an assortment of other interesting characters, including a distressed damsel who comes across as genuinely human, which is unusual for female characters in this genre, and other rounded characters.”
Sydney Morning Herald
Read more about Judgment and Wrath, and visit Matt Hilton's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Dead Men's Dust.

Writers Read: Matt Hilton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten westerns of the decade

Bill Ott named the top ten westerns of the last decade (with an emphasis on more recent titles) for Booklist.

One title on the list:
Beecher Island. By Tim Champlin

Kansas, 1868. Matt Talbot is one of three scouts attacked by a band of renegade Cherokees. He is the only survivor, and as he makes his way from the now-hostile territory, he realizes that putting his near-death experience behind him won’t be easy. An engaging western with plenty of psychological insight.
Read about another novel on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Justin Peacock's "A Cure for Night"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: A Cure for Night by Justin Peacock.

About the book, from the publisher:
“That’s what the criminal law is: it’s how the day tries to correct the night’s mistakes. Most of my cases, people have done something they never would’ve dreamed of doing in broad daylight.”

“What does that make us?” I said. “The night’s janitors?”

“We’re absolutely that,” Myra said, sipping her cosmo. “What else do we do but clean up after it? That’s why we’ll never run out of work. Not unless someone invents a cure for night.

In Brooklyn’s criminal courts, justice often depends on who has the better story to tell.

After a drug-related scandal ejects Joel Deveraux from his job at a white-shoe law firm, he slides down the corporate ladder to the Public Defenders’ office in Brooklyn, where he defends the innocent and the guilty alike, a cog in the great clanking machine that is the New York City justice system. When his boss offers him the second chair to the savvy Myra Goldstein in a high-profile murder case, he eagerly takes it. The defendant is Lorenzo Tate, a black pot dealer from the projects who is charged with the murder of a white college student in a street shooting; and the tabloids have sunk their teeth into the racially tinged trial.

In this twisty and overwhelmingly authentic journey through the real Brooklyn, Justin Peacock paints a portrait of the law as a form of combat where the best story wins—but who’s telling the truth and who’s lying are matters of interpretation. And of life and death.

This compelling debut novel announces Justin Peacock as a writer who enters the territory of Richard Price and Scott Turow with a fresh new take on urban crime and punishment.
Read an excerpt from A Cure for Night, and learn more about the book and author at Justin Peacock's website.

The Page 69 Test: A Cure for Night.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 30, 2010

Jeannie Holmes' "Blood Law," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Blood Law by Jeannie Holmes.

The entry begins:
Blood Law has a modern twist on the vampire as well as combining love affairs gone sour, murder, forensic science, and complex family dynamics. If Hollywood called and wanted to turn Blood Law into a movie, here’s who Holmes would like to see in some of the roles:

Alexandra Sabian:

I honestly have no idea who would play Alex. Others have suggested everyone from Jessica Alba to Jessica Biel to Evan Rachel Wood to Rose McGowan. I would have to leave casting this role up to people with more knowledge than I. My only requirement would be that whoever they cast is willing to color her hair red for the role, if she isn’t a natural redhead.

Varik Baudelaire: Hands down, I would want Ben Barnes (Prince Caspian from The Chronicles of Narnia) to play Varik. Even before I knew Ben Barnes existed, he is exactly how I pictured Varik in my head -– the hair, the dark eyes, the body. In my mind, he has both the natural sex appeal and the acting ability to play someone with a dark past he’s trying to atone for so Ben Barnes is my ideal Varik.

Stephen Sabian: Alex’s brother runs a vampire bar and has a lot of charm as well as temper, especially where Varik is considered. I’d love to see...[read on]
Jeannie Holmes is a native of southwest Mississippi. A total caffeine junkie, she currently lives in Mobile, Alabama with her husband and four neurotic cats, and is hard to find during hurricane season. Blood Law, her debut novel, was released by Dell Publishing in July 2010.

Learn more about the book and author at Jeannie Holmes' website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Blood Law.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five best books on extreme cold

Bill Streever, a biologist who lives and works in Alaska, is the author of Cold: Adventures in the World’s Frozen Places.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of books about extreme cold.

One title on the list:
Winter World
by Bernd Heinrich

Bernd Heinrich is a world-renowned biologist, but even as he approaches the world with a scientific eye, his child-like curiosity and love of anecdotal evidence remain intact. In "Winter World," he tests the insulation of a squirrel's winter nest with a baked potato. He relates the discovery of a frozen wood frog by 19th-century naturalist John Burroughs. He quotes biologist Lynn Rogers on hibernating bears. Through Heinrich's words we understand that things are lively under the snow—that the subnivean is a vigorous, biologically fascinating place. Central Park on a brisk February morning will never be the same.
Read about another book on the list.

Read an excerpt from Cold, and learn more about the book and author at Bill Streever's website.

The Page 99 Test: Cold.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: Adele Griffin & Edith

The current featured couple at Coffee with a Canine: Adele Griffin and Edith.

Griffin, on how Edith got her name:
I named her after my great-grandmother, who was also considered a beauty in her day. We call her Edie, Beedle, Bee, the Bee, the Great Beadle, Squeedly, Beedlix, Chach, Rach, and of course...[read on]
Griffin's latest book is The Julian Game, a "riveting novel [which] explores the issues of generation Facebook: the desire to be someone else, real versus online friends, and the pitfalls and fallouts of posting your personal life online for all the world to judge."

Among the early praise for The Julian Game:
"Adele Griffin has a contemporary hit on her hands with The Julian Game. Fun, witty, ... this book was a fantastic look at how kids us the web to bully outside of school.... The book is the best kind of brain candy...."

"Cyber-bullying, alter egos, and crazy revenge plots against exes who've wronged you. You can't get anymore high school than that, which is exactly why I loved this book. The Julian Game was a really fun read."
--The Book Girl
Visit Adele Griffin’s website and Facebook page.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Adele Griffin and Edith.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Daniel Swift's "Bomber County"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Bomber County: The Poetry of a Lost Pilot's War by Daniel Swift.

About the book, from the publisher:
In early June 1943, James Eric Swift, a pilot with the 83rd Squadron of the Royal Air Force, boarded his Lancaster bomber for a night raid on Münster and disappeared.

Widespread aerial bombardment was to the Second World War what the trenches were to the First: a shocking and new form of warfare, wretched and unexpected, and carried out at a terrible scale of loss. Just as the trenches produced the most remarkable poetry of the First World War, so too did the bombing campaigns foster a haunting set of poems during the Second.

In researching the life of his grandfather, Daniel Swift became engrossed with the connections between air war and poetry. Ostensibly a narrative of the author’s search for his lost grandfather through military and civilian archives and in interviews conducted in the Netherlands, Germany, and England, Bomber County is also an examination of the relationship between the bombing campaigns of World War II and poetry, an investigation into the experience of bombing and being bombed, and a powerful reckoning with the morals and literature of a vanished moment.
Read more about Bomber County at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: Bomber County.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What is Katie Hickman reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Katie Hickman, author of The Aviary Gate and The Pindar Diamond.

Her entry begins:
I've just come back from our family holiday in France - so I've done a fair amount of novel reading recently, more so than I usually do when I'm at home working.

When I'm writing fiction I find it incredibly hard to read other people's novels. Somehow the voices of all those other characters get inside my head and distract me from hearing my own fictional voices - those elusive siren songs - and so during a writing period I tend to concentrate on non-fiction, mostly research-related. I'm a real magpie - anything from clothes, furniture and food, to politics and merchant trading-rights . It's what I call the 'what they eat for breakfast' factor. The greater the detail the better. With The Aviary Gate and The Pindar Diamond this has been the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean period, in England, Turkey and Venice. I really love the research I do for my novels, and it's probably the reason I write historical fiction. Any excuse to get into that library.

But on holiday - what a feast! I had almost forgotten the exquisite pleasure of sinking down into someone else's fictional world. An English novelist friend, Howard Jacobsen, has just published a new book, The Finkler Question, but since it's only out in hardback, I took with me his first novel instead, Coming From Behind, which I have never read. It describes the life and various disappointments (sexual, professional, and otherwise) of an academic working in a small town polytechnic in the north of England. In the hands of almost anyone else this would be a totally dismal subject, but Howard is one of those rare writers who can...[read on]
Among the early praise for The Pindar Diamond:
"Katie Hickman’s vividly drawn historical confection transports us to 17th-century Venice, where an English merchant schemes to win the 322-carat gem of the novel’s title at the gaming table while several storylines converge with page-turning satisfaction."
—Barnes & Noble Review

“Hickman’s well-researched, vivid portraits of seventeenth-century life—from the stinking Venetian canals to the threat of plague, in settings ranging from a sultan’s harem to a cloistered convent—add much vigor to this historical novel.”—Booklist

“Masks, courtesans, nefarious plots, plague—Hickman’s panorama of early-17th-century Venice has it all.”
Kirkus Reviews
Learn more about the author and her work at Katie Hickman's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Aviary Gate.

Writers Read: Katie Hickman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best railway journeys in literature

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

One novel on the list:
Strangers on a Train, by Patricia Highsmith

Who would an unhappy husband with an unfaithful wife meet on a train? In a Patricia Highsmith novel, a helpful psychopath, naturally. Cuckold Guy gets talking to loopy Bruno and is offered a deal: I'll kill your wife, if you murder my dad; with no connection between us, the police will never track us down.
Read about another novel on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Kristina Riggle's "The Life You've Imagined"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Life You've Imagined by Kristina Riggle.

About the book, from the publisher:
Is the life you're living all you imagined?

Have you ever asked yourself, "What if??" Here, four women face the decisions of their lifetimes in this stirring and unforgettable novel of love, loss, friendship, and family.

Anna Geneva, a Chicago attorney coping with the death of a cherished friend, returns to her "speck on the map" hometown of Haven to finally come to terms with her mother, the man she left behind, and the road she did not take.

Cami Drayton, Anna's dearest friend from high school, is coming home too, forced by circumstance to move in with her alcoholic father . . . and to confront a dark family secret.

Maeve, Anna's mother, never left Haven, firmly rooted there by her sadness over her abandonment by the husband she desperately loved and the hope that someday he will return to her.

And Amy Rickart—thin, beautiful, and striving for perfection—faces a future with the perfect man . . . but is haunted by the memory of what she used to be.

Kristina Riggle's The Life You've Imagined takes a provocative look at the choices we make—and the courage we must have to change.
Browse inside The Life You've Imagined, and learn more about the book and author at Kristina Riggle's website.

The Page 69 Test: Real Life & Liars.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Kristina Riggle & Lucky.

Writers Read: Kristina Riggle.

The Page 69 Test: The Life You've Imagined.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Pg. 99: Mark Jones' "Children as Treasures"

This weekend's feature at the Page 99 Test: Children as Treasures: Childhood and the Middle Class in Early Twentieth Century Japan by Mark Jones.

About the book, from the publisher:
Mark Jones examines the making of a new child’s world in Japan between 1890 and 1930 and focuses on the institutions, groups, and individuals that reshaped both the idea of childhood and the daily life of children. Family reformers, scientific child experts, magazine editors, well- educated mothers, and other prewar urban elites constructed a model of childhood—having one’s own room, devoting time to homework, reading children’s literature, playing with toys—that ultimately became the norm for young Japanese in subsequent decades.

This book also places the story of modern childhood within a broader social context—the emergence of a middle class in early twentieth century Japan. The ideal of making the child into a “superior student” (yutosei) appealed to the family seeking upward mobility and to the nation-state that needed disciplined, educated workers able to further Japan’s capitalist and imperialist growth. This view of the middle class as a child-centered, educationally obsessed, socially aspiring stratum survived World War II and prospered into the years beyond.
Learn more about Children as Treasures at the Harvard University Press website.

Mark A. Jones is Associate Professor of History at Central Connecticut State University.

The Page 99 Test: Children as Treasures.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six books to take to war

Patrick Hennessey was born in 1982 and educated at Berkhamsted School and Balliol College, Oxford, where he read English. He joined the Army in January 2004, undertaking officer training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst where he was awarded the Queen’s Medal and commissioned into The Grenadier Guards. He served as a Platoon Commander and later Company Operations Officer from the end of 2004 to early 2009 in the Balkans, Africa, South East Asia and the Falkland Islands and on operational tours to Iraq in 2006 and Afghanistan in 2007, where he became the youngest Captain in the Army and was commended for gallantry.

His book is The Junior Officers' Reading Club: Killing Time and Fighting Wars.

For The Week magazine, he recommended six books...to take to war. One title on his list:
Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne

There is something so gentle and human about Sterne’s inspired novel, and I liked to keep it close by as a counterpoint to the violence of conflict. A million miles in every sense from Baghdad or Helmand, but, in its own way, a great anti-war book. It’s also one of the funniest and cleverest books in the English language.
Read about another novel on Hennessey's list.

Tristram Shandy
appears among John Mullan's list of ten of the best deathbed scenes in literature, the top ten works of literature according to Peter Carey, Thomas C. Schelling's influential books, and Bamber Gascoigne's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Bill Crider reading?

This weekend's featured contributor at Writers Read: Bill Crider, author of more than fifty novels, including the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series. The new Dan Rhodes novel is Murder in the Air.

Crider's entry begins:
Every time I’m asked to write about what I’m reading, I’m tempted to begin by saying something like, “I’ve been re-reading Shakespeare’s comedies, as I do every third year. Ask me next year, and I’ll be reading the histories. And the tragedies the year after that.”

But that would be wrong. That would be A Lie. So I might as well admit that what I’ve been reading lately is Go, Mutants by Larry Doyle. It’s a tender coming-of-age story about a mutant teenager living on an alternate Earth where the ‘50s monster movies from our world are documentaries, not fiction. There’s a tip of the hat to just about every monster that ever stalked across the screen, with so many in-jokes that I’m sure I missed half of them. But...[read on]
Among the early praise for Murder in the Air:
"Crider’s use of subtle humor and Sheriff Dan Rhodes’s unassuming competence make this 17th series entry a laid-back delight."
--Library Journal

"Few will be able to resist Crider's brand of broad humor, eccentric characters, and murder."
--Publishers Weekly

"[Crider] continues his mastery of the series that remains as popular as ever."
--Joseph Scarpato, Jr., Mystery Scene Magazine
Read the Page 69 Test entries for Crider's A Mammoth Murder, Murder Among the OWLS, Of All Sad Words, and Murder in Four Parts, as well as an excellent write-up about Dan Rhodes on the big screen at "My Book, The Movie."

Also see Steve Hockensmith's Q & A with Bill Crider.

Visit Bill Crider's website and blog.

Writers Read: Bill Crider.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 27, 2010

Alden Bell's "The Reapers Are the Angels," the movie

Now showing at My Book, the Movie: The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell.

The entry begins:
The Reapers Are the Angels has a lot to do with American landscapes. So it’s worth noting that, for me, the cinematography would be as essential an element as the actors. The earth itself is a major character—and much of the story could be told simply through still shots of the post-apocalyptic devastation of the American South. Terrence Malick, for example, tells the most significant parts of his stories through visual images that make dialogue seem almost redundant. While Reapers is definitely driven by an action-heavy plot, I always love the contrast between moments of movement or violence and the moments of quiet stillness in between.

Let’s start with the director. Because I see Reapers as more of a Southern Gothic than a zombie novel, my ideal director for the film would be David Gordon Green—a masterful Malick-inspired filmmaker responsible for such achingly lovely movies as All the Real Girls and George Washington. I understand that one of his future projects will be a remake of Dario Argento’s Suspiria, which I’m dying to see because I think Green knows exactly how to balance lyrical beauty with morbid strangeness.

Temple, our heroine, is a tough, pragmatic, zombie-killing fifteen year old girl. It’s easy to picture...[read on]
Learn more about Alden Bell's work Joshua Gaylord's website.

Alden Bell is a pseudonym for Joshua Gaylord, whose first novel, Hummingbirds, was released in Fall 2009. He teaches at a New York City prep school and is an adjunct professor at The New School.

The Page 69 Test: Hummingbirds.

Writers Read: Alden Bell.

The Page 69 Test: The Reapers Are the Angels.

My Book, the Movie: The Reapers Are the Angels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books you were forced to read in school

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the publication of Harper Lee's perennial middle-school novel To Kill a Mockingbird, TIME magazine came up with a list of the top ten books you were forced to read in school.

One title on the list:
The Catcher in the Rye

Published in 1951, Catcher has long been a literary touchstone for alienated high school students. Main character Holden Caulfield is the ultimate whiner — everyone's a phony, everyone's a crumbum, and the only person who is really worth a damn is his little sister. Because Catcher is a fairly glum tale about a screwup of a kid who may be going crazy following the death of his brother, it's really easy to forget that it's kind of the ultimate high school fantasy — Holden roams around New York City for a couple of days, gets into bars, dances with older women and gets beaten up while trying to procure a lady of ill repute. While it may seem like the boy is just drifting, that sounds like living! For those very reasons, though, many of today's teens are having trouble relating to the book, according to a June 2009 New York Times article. "I can't really feel bad for this rich kid with a weekend free in New York City," said one teacher, paraphrasing some of her students. But despite the generational gap, this book won't be leaving classrooms anytime soon.
Read about another book on the list.

The Catcher In The Rye
appears on Tony Parsons' list of the top ten troubled males in fiction, Dan Rhodes' top ten list of short books, and Sarah Ebner's top 25 list of boarding school books; it is one of Sophie Thompson's six best books. Upon rereading, the novel disappointed Khaled Hosseini, Mary Gordon, and Laura Lippman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Laurie Frankel's "The Atlas of Love"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Atlas of Love by Laurie Frankel.

About the book, from the publisher:
When Jill becomes both pregnant and single at the end of one spring semester, she and her two closest friends plunge into an experiment in tri-parenting, tri-schooling, and trihabitating as grad students in Seattle. Naturally, everything goes wrong, but in ways no one sees coming. Janey Duncan narrates the adventure of this modern family with hilarity and wisdom and shows how three lives are forever changed by (un)cooperative parenting, literature, and a tiny baby named Atlas who upends and uplifts their entire world. In this sparkling and wise debut novel, Frankel’s unforgettable heroines prove that home is simply where the love is.
Read an excerpt from The Atlas of Love, and learn more about the book and author at Laurie Frankel's website.

Laurie Frankel lives in Seattle and teaches in the English Department at the University of Puget Sound.

The Page 69 Test: The Atlas of Love.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pg. 99: Michael T. Bernath's "Confederate Minds"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Confederate Minds: The Struggle for Intellectual Independence in the Civil War South by Michael T. Bernath.

About the book, from the publisher:
During the Civil War, Confederates fought for much more than their political independence. They also fought to prove the distinctiveness of the Southern people and to legitimate their desire for a separate national existence through the creation of a uniquely Southern literature and culture. In this important new book, Michael Bernath follows the activities of a group of Southern writers, thinkers, editors, publishers, educators, and ministers--whom he labels Confederate cultural nationalists--in order to trace the rise and fall of a cultural movement dedicated to liberating the South from its longtime dependence on Northern books, periodicals, and teachers.

This struggle for Confederate intellectual independence was seen as a vital part of the larger war effort. For the Southern nationalists, independence won on the battlefield would be meaningless as long as Southerners remained in a state of cultural vassalage to their enemy. As new Confederate publications appeared at a surprising rate and Southerners took steps toward establishing their own system of education, cultural nationalists believed they saw the Confederacy coalescing into a true nation. Ultimately, however, Confederates proved no more able to win their intellectual independence than their political freedom.

By analyzing the motives driving the struggle for Confederate intellectual independence, by charting its wartime accomplishments, and by assessing its failures, Bernath makes provocative arguments about the nature of Confederate nationalism, life within the Confederacy, and the perception of Southern cultural distinctiveness.
Michael T. Bernath is the Charlton W. Tebeau Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University of Miami.

The Page 99 Test: Confederate Minds.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five classic chase stories

Louise Bagshawe is the author of twelve bestselling novels and a Conservative MP for Corby and East Northamptonshire.

One classic chase story she discussed with Anna Blundy at FiveBooks:
The Pelican Brief by John Grisham

Tell me why you like The Pelican Brief.

This was probably the last book I read where I literally stayed up until three o’clock in the morning because I could not stop reading it. I just think it is such a brilliant fast-paced story. The characterisation is sparse, terse, but nevertheless really well-drawn. He doesn’t do psychology but it’s a chase story with an ongoing mystery in the back. As an example of popular fiction I don’t think you can do any better. It starts slowly, but after about chapter three you’re hooked. A perfect example of how to do a chase story. There are some love elements, but very little. It is essentially about this girl – will she solve the mystery, expose the villain and get away with her life?

Give me a brief plot outline.

A supreme court justice is murdered. Nobody knows why. A beautiful young law student comes up with an off-beat theory that she gives to her professor. The professor is then assassinated and it becomes clear to her that they weren’t after him, they were after her. She goes on the run and the professor’s best friend tries to protect her. And in the end he also gets killed. We see the chase from the point of view of the villain, the best friend, the supreme court justice, the heroine. Point of view jumps around a lot and the story is constantly moving.
Read about another book on Bagshawe's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Kristina Riggle reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Kristina Riggle, author of the novels Real Life & Liars and The Life You've Imagined.

Her entry opens:
This is going to sound strange perhaps from an author of commercial fiction, but I just read two financial non-fiction books in a row, starting with Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin, a novelistic and gripping recount of the recent financial crisis followed by The Smartest Guys in the Room, by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, about the Enron debacle. My husband expressed shock that I was interested in this kind of wonky financial stuff. But I believed based on radio interviews with the authors -- and the reading bore this out -- that both these crises came down at least partly to emotion, psychology and basic human frailty. I found the psychological implications...[read on]
Among the early praise for The Life You've Imagined:
“A richly woven story laced with unforgettable characters…. A beautiful book.”
—Therese Walsh, author of The Last Will of Moira Leahy

The Life You’ve Imagined is a terrific novel about love and loss, letting go and holding on. A book to share with family and friends—I loved it.”
—Melissa Senate, author of The Secret of Joy

"In this engaging, companionable novel about family, expectations, and adversities overcome, Kristina Riggle performs the admirable feat of giving us characters who are somehow both familiar and wonderfully original. Unpredictable, touching, and true, The Life You’ve Imagined is a stand-out story; I devoured it and wanted more."
—Therese Fowler, author of Souvenir and Reunion

"(Riggle) explores what happens when real life diverges sharply from childhood dreams. Her strong and complicated female characters are interesting and likable, and she ably weaves together multiple story lines."
Visit Kristina Riggle's website.

The Page 69 Test: Real Life & Liars.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Kristina Riggle & Lucky.

Writers Read: Kristina Riggle.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pg. 69: Chris Ewan's "The Good Thief's Guide to Vegas"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Good Thief's Guide to Vegas by Chris Ewan.

About the book, from the publisher:
Charlie Howard isn’t only a part-time crime writer and part-time thief; he’s also a magician. For his next trick, he’ll relieve Josh Masters, the famous illusionist vying for the affections of Charlie’s friend Victoria, of $60,000 in casino chips stashed in his hotel safe.

Revenge would be sweet—if there weren’t a dead redhead floating in Masters’ bathtub and if Masters hadn’t just disappeared in a puff of smoke after cheating at roulette. Convinced that Charlie was in on the scam, the casino’s owners give him an impossible mission: either pull off an elaborate heist to reimburse the house for every dollar his “accomplice” made off with, or enjoy a one-way trip into the desert.
Learn more about Chris Ewan and his work at his website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Good Thief's Guide to Paris.

Writers Read: Chris Ewan.

The Page 69 Test: The Good Thief's Guide to Vegas.

--Marshal Zeringue

Books that made a difference to Brian Williams

NBC news anchor Brian Williams told O, The Oprah Magazine about a short list of books that made a difference to him.

One title on the list:
Isaac's Storm
by Erik Larson

In 1900 a hurricane barreled through the Gulf of Mexico and leveled an unsuspecting Galveston, Texas, killing more than 6,000 people. Larson recounts the mistakes the newly established U.S. Weather Bureau operatives made and gives an almost hour-by-hour description of what survivors went through. "This storm transformed the way we look at hurricanes," Williams says. "I think it may be the perfect short work of nonfiction. Wherever you're reading it, the air suddenly turns humid and dank and charged. I've given it more than any other book as a gift."
Read about another book on Williams' list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Ruth Harris' "Dreyfus"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Dreyfus: Politics, Emotion, and the Scandal of the Century by Ruth Harris.

About the book, from the publisher:
The definitive history of the infamous scandal that shook a nation and stunned the world

In 1894, Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer in the French army, was wrongfully convicted of being a spy for Germany and imprisoned on Devil's Island. Over the following years, attempts to correct this injustice tore France apart, inflicting wounds on the society which have never fully healed.

But how did a fairly obscure miscarriage of justice come to break up families in bitterness, set off anti-Semitic riots across the French empire, and nearly trigger a coup d'état? How did a violently reactionary, obscurantist attitude become so powerful in a country that saw itself as the home of enlightenment? Why did the battle over a junior army officer occupy the foremost writers and philosophers of the age, from Émile Zola to Marcel Proust, Émile Durkheim, and many others? What drove the anti-Dreyfusards to persist in their efforts even after it became clear that much of the prosecution's evidence was faked?

Drawing upon thousands of previously unread and unconsidered sources, prizewinning historian Ruth Harris goes beyond the conventional narrative of truth loving democrats uniting against proto-fascists. Instead, she offers the first in-depth history of both sides in the Affair, showing how complex interlocking influences—tensions within the military, the clashing demands of justice and nationalism, and a tangled web of friendships and family connections—shaped both the coalition working to free Dreyfus and the formidable alliances seeking to protect the reputation of the army that had convicted him. Sweeping and engaging, Dreyfus offers a new understanding of one of the most contested and significant moments in modern history.
Learn more about Dreyfus at the publisher's website.

Ruth Harris is the author of Lourdes: Body and Spirit in the Secular Age. A fellow and tutor at Oxford University, she has written widely on topics in French history, cultural history, women’s history, and the history of medicine.

The Page 99 Test: Dreyfus.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What is Carrie Vaughn reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Carrie Vaughn, author of Discord's Apple as well the New York Times bestselling urban fantasy series featuring werewolf talk radio host, Kitty Norville.

Her entry begins:
The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson

I've been happily diving into Steven Erikson's epic fantasy series, The Malazan Book of the Fallen. This is actually kind of surprising, because I'm not a huge reader of epic fantasy. Sure, I've read The Lord of the Rings, as all fantasy fans ought at least once. But my usual pattern is to read the first book in a long series (such as Robert Jordan's The Eye of the World, the first book in the monster-huge The Wheel of Time Series), agree that it's a lot of fun, and feel absolutely no need to go on to the next book. Usually, I get enough of a sense of the style and tone of the writing, and where the story is going, that I get quite enough of that world, thank you very much. I'm a slow reader. I don't want to take the time to read seven eight-hundred-page books about the same thing.

What makes Erikson different? Well, everything. The trappings are all there -- warriors, vast armies battling for the fate of the world, magic, wizards, thieves, dark prophecies, deposed kings, long journeys, and so on. But they're all tilted. Skewed. Erikson has a built a history that covers hundreds of thousands of years, in which immortal beings actually remember those hundreds of thousands of years. They've watched thousands of vast armies battle for thousands of worlds in that time. The scale is...[read on]
Among the early praise for Discord's Apple:
"Carrie Vaughn weaves a gorgeous tapestry of the human condition in a post apocalyptic world filled with mystery, magic, and immortals. Her world building is masterful!"
--L.A. Banks, New York Times bestselling author of The Thirteenth

Discord’s Apple is an intriguing blend of fantasy, action, and adventure. A modern day fairy tale you won’t want to end!”
--Gena Showalter, New York Times bestselling author of The Darkest Whisper

"Myths, magic and mayhem abound in Carrie Vaughn’s Discord’s Apple. Once you take a bite, you won’t be able to put it down."
--Lori Handeland, New York Times bestselling author of Apocalypse Happens
Read an excerpt from Discord's Apple, and learn more about the author and her work at Carrie Vaughn's website, blog, MySpace page, and Facebook page.

The Page 99 Test: Kitty and the Silver Bullet.

The Page 99 Test: Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand.

The Page 69 Test: Discord's Apple.

Writers Read: Carrie Vaughn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eoin Colfer's 6 favorite books

Eoin Colfer is the author of the bestselling Artemis Fowl series. He named his six favorite books for The Week Magazine.

One title on his list:
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

This is always on any list I compile. Scary, funny, and loaded with the kind of unforgettable characters that make all writers want to try harder. This novel has featured on best-of compilations for more than 100 years.
Read about another book on Colfer's list.

Treasure Island also appears on John Mullan's list of ten of the best pirates in fiction and among Philip Pullman's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Nancy Thayer's "Beachcombers," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Beachcombers by Nancy Thayer.

The entry begins:
What fun to cast Beachcombers as a movie!

The major parts are for young women, and there are so many brilliant young actresses. For the three sisters, I'd cast Jessica Biel, Ellen Page, and Evangeline Lilly, because they're all beautiful and accomplished and I can easily envision them as sisters who love each other and often drive one another crazy.

Marina, the "older" woman at forty who rents the sisters' playhouse-turned-cottage in the Foxes' back yard, would be played by Demi Moore. What man could resist Demi Moore in his playhouse?

The father, Jim Fox, is around 50. He's a gentle, loving father, mystified and sorrowing for his wife who died fifteen years before, so the actor would need to be capable of sweetness. Jim is also a working man, a contractor who has a boat and loves to fish. He's a bit of the strong, silent type. I'd love to see...[read on]
Read an excerpt from Beachcombers, and learn more about the book and author at Nancy Thayer's website.

The Page 69 Test: Summer House.

Writers Read: Nancy Thayer.

The Page 69 Test: Beachcombers.

My Book, The Movie: Beachcombers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pg. 69: Carrie Vaughn's "Discord's Apple"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Discord's Apple by Carrie Vaughn.

About the book, from the publisher:
When Evie Walker goes home to spend time with her dying father, she discovers that his creaky old house in Hope’s Fort, Colorado, is not the only legacy she stands to inherit. Hidden behind the old basement door is a secret and magical storeroom, a place where wondrous treasures from myth and legend are kept safe until they are needed again. The magic of the storeroom prevents access to any who are not intended to use the items. But just because it has never been done does not mean it cannot be done.

And there are certainly those who will give anything to find a way in.

Evie must guard the storeroom against ancient and malicious forces, protecting the past and the future even as the present unravels around them. Old heroes and notorious villains alike will rise to fight on her side or to undermine her most desperate gambits. At stake is the fate of the world, and the prevention of nothing less than the apocalypse.
Read an excerpt from Discord's Apple, and learn more about the author and her work at Carrie Vaughn's website, blog, MySpace page, and Facebook page.

Carrie Vaughn is the bestselling author of a series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty, as well as numerous short stories in various anthologies and magazines. She's also a contributor to the Wild Cards series edited by George R. R. Martin.

The Page 99 Test: Kitty and the Silver Bullet.

The Page 99 Test: Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand.

The Page 69 Test: Discord's Apple.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best pigs in literature

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

One title on the list:
Animal Farm by George Orwell

Which animals do duty for Stalin and his henchman? Pigs, of course. Snowball and Napoleon lead the animals' successful revolt, but then fall out. Napoleon triumphs and rules the farm. The other animals become mere labourers, while the pigs drink whisky and become more and more like human beings.
Read about another novel on the list.

Animal Farm is one of Chuck Klosterman's most important books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: Jenny Nelson & Clarabelle

The current featured couple at Coffee with a Canine: Jenny Nelson and Clarabelle.

Nelson, on how she and Clarabelle were united:
Clarabelle was a rescue dog from Georgia who came to us by way of Perfect Pets Rescue in Red Hook, NY. Apparently there are a lot of kill shelters in Georgia and Perfect Pets travels there and scoops up as many as they think they can find homes for. They’re a great organization. Anyone looking for a dog in the Dutchess County, NY area should...[read on]
Among the early praise for Jenny Nelson's Georgia’s Kitchen:
“All the right ingredients— an insider’s look at the restaurant industry, a heart–warming heroine, and a romp through Tuscany—make for a delightful and delicious book. Buyer be warned: GEORGIA’S KITCHEN will leave you hungry for more from Jenny Nelson.”
—Julie Buxbaum, author of The Opposite of Love and After You

Georgia’s Kitchen really is a delightful meal of a read—delicious, satisfying, and served with confidence and flourish. This new writer is one to watch!”
—Katie Crouch, bestselling author of Girls in Trucks and Men and Dog

“Jenny Nelson is no flash in the pan; this delectable concoction of gastronomy and self-discovery, spiced with fashion and romance, will have her fans clamoring for more.”
—Daphne Uviller, author of Super in the City
Read an excerpt from Georgia’s Kitchen, and learn more about the book and author at Jenny Nelson's website and blog.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Jenny Nelson and Clarabelle.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Tom Grimes' "Mentor"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Mentor by Tom Grimes.

About the book, from the publisher:
A chance encounter between two writers, one young, one older, develops into a wonderful friendship neither expected. Frank Conroy, author of the classic memoir Stop-Time, meets Tom Grimes, an aspiring writer and an applicant to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, which Conroy directs. First as teacher and student--and gradually as friends—their lives become entwined, and through both successes and disappointments, their bond deepens.

Exquisitely written, Mentor is an honest and heartbreaking exploration of the writing life and the role of a very important teacher.
Read an excerpt from Mentor, and learn more about the book and author at Tom Grimes' website.

The Page 99 Test: Mentor.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Five best books about the oil industry

Peter Maass is a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine and has reported from the Middle East, Asia, South America and Africa. He has written as well for The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, the Washington Post and Slate. Maass is the author of Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War, which chronicled the Bosnian war and won prizes from the Overseas Press Club and the Los Angeles Times.

His latest book is Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of books on the oil industry. One title on the list:
A Month and a Day
by Ken Saro-Wiwa

The spill in the Gulf of Mexico has brought to American shores the sort of environmental disaster that many Nigerians have been living with for nearly a half-century. Their oil region, the Niger Delta, has endured years of leaks as well as warfare pitting local tribes against a corrupt government allied with multinational oil companies. The Nigerian writer Ken Saro-Wiwa famously led an environmental-justice movement in the 1990s, and his account of his imprisonment, "A Month and a Day," presents a searing portrait of the ecological and political travesties that led him to put his life on the line (and he would lose it—the government executed him in 1995). Saro-Wiwa describes his Ogoni homeland as "a blighted countryside . . . full of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons; a land in which wildlife is unknown; a land of polluted streams and creeks, of rivers without fish." After reading this book, you will find it hard to buy a gallon of gas without thinking of the misery at the other end of the pipeline.
Read about another book on the list.

Learn more about Crude World and its author at Peter Maass' website and blog.

The Page 99 Test: Crude World.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Lynn Kilpatrick reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Lynn Kilpatrick, author of the short story collection, In The House.

Her entry begins:
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

So many people recommended this book I had to pick it up. Many of the conversations I had about this book began with someone saying to me, “I liked it, but…” and having finished it, I’d have to say that I agree. The book felt extremely French to me, or maybe more like a French film, with a lot of talking and not a lot of action. I love books that include meditations on ideas or philosophical investigations, and this book was full of those. Overall, I loved the book, though I found the ending disappointing. But the writing is...[read on]
Among the praise for In The House:
“With astonishing agility and the sharp edge of terrifying humor, Lynn Kilpatrick slits the fragile skin of identity to expose a thousand marvelously dangerous possibilities. You might be the child who disappears or the girl who becomes Miss America. Either way, your life is precarious, held in place by your own tenuous illusions and the wild confabulations of the woman on the other side of the glass, your bold, inventive neighbor.”
--Melanie Rae Thon, author of Sweet Hearts

In The House is a dazzlingly smart and deeply funny excavation of what goes on behind closed doors. Lynn Kilpatrick’s characters are at once utterly bizarre and entirely recognizable and the stories she tells about them in you-have-to-go-back-and-read-that-sentence-one-more-time-because-it’s-so-damn-good prose are tender and sharp and full of heart. This is a book that is brave enough to say what most of us won’t and wise enough to remind us why that kind of bravery matters.”
--Cheryl Strayed, author of Torch
Lynn Kilpatrick’s fiction has recently appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and Hotel Amerika. Her essays have been published in Ninth Letter, Creative Nonfiction, and Brevity. She earned her PhD in Fiction from the University of Utah and an MA in Poetry from Western Washington University. She teaches at Salt Lake Community College and lives in Salt Lake with her husband, son and German Shorthair Pointer.

Visit Lynn Kilpatrick's website.

Writers Read: Lynn Kilpatrick.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Pg. 69: Matthew Dicks' "Unexpectedly, Milo"

This weekend's feature at the Page 69 Test: Unexpectedly, Milo by Matthew Dicks.

About the book, from the publisher:
The author of SOMETHING MISSING returns with another hilarious and sneakily profound tale about a man whose behavior is truly odd, but also oddly relatable.

Milo Slade, a thirty-three year old home healthcare aide, is witnessing the rapid dissolution of his three-year marriage to a polished, high-powered attorney named Christine. Though Milo doesn't quite know the root of his marital problems, he inevitably blames himself, or more specifically, he faults the demands his obsessive compulsive personality place upon him--the need to open a jar of Smuckers grape jelly or sing 99 Luftballons in front of an audience, to name just a couple.

Yet Christine is still none the wiser about these inexplicable quirks as Milo has painstakingly hidden them from her and everyone else for years. No one knows the true--and in his mind more insidious--Milo, and such is the root of his profound loneliness, especially now that he and Christine are living apart during a trial separation.

Then one day Milo stumbles across a video camera and tapes, left behind in a park. He watches the first tape, which is a heartfelt confessional by a young woman who begins to reveal her secrets, starting small at first, and finally revealing that she blames herself for a tragic death of a friend. But not all the details add up and Milo is struck with the urge to free the sweet confessor from her guilt. He is, after all, an expert in keeping secrets…

In typical screwball fashion, Milo sets out on a cross-country journey to crack the case, but quickly gets sidetracked as his un-ignorable demands call. But it is during these sidetracks that the true meaning of his adventure takes shape. Milo is weird, but as he discovers, so is everyone else. UNEXPECTEDLY, MILO is a humorous and touching novel about finding oneself, embracing the journey, and, unexpectedly, love.
Visit Matthew Dicks' website and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Matthew Dicks.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Matthew Dicks & Kaleigh.

The Page 69 Test: Unexpectedly, Milo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten favorite San Francisco-backdropped crime novels

Janet Rudolph is the organizer of Mystery Readers International and the editor of Mystery Readers Journal. She also blogs at Mystery Fanfare.

She named her ten favorite San Francisco-backdropped crime novels for The Rap Sheet. One title on the list:
Death and Taxes (1941), by David Dodge.

It stars James “Whit” Whitney, a tax accountant turned detective in 1940s San Francisco. Dodge was an excellent writer with a real sense of the city. He actually made taxes and tax investigation exciting.
Read about another novel on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Eric Jay Dolin's "Fur, Fortune, and Empire"

This weekend's feature at the Page 99 Test: Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America by Eric Jay Dolin.

About the book, from the publisher:
From the best-selling author of Leviathan comes this sweeping narrative of one of America’s most historically rich industries.

As Henry Hudson sailed up the broad river that would one day bear his name, he grew concerned that his Dutch patrons would be disappointed in his failure to find the fabled route to the Orient. What became immediately apparent, however, from the Indians clad in deer skins and “good furs” was that Hudson had discovered something just as tantalizing.

The news of Hudson’s 1609 voyage to America ignited a fierce competition to lay claim to this uncharted continent, teeming with untapped natural resources. The result was the creation of an American fur trade, which fostered economic rivalries and fueled wars among the European powers, and later between the United States and Great Britain, as North America became a battleground for colonization and imperial aspirations.

In Fur, Fortune, and Empire, best-selling author Eric Jay Dolin chronicles the rise and fall of the fur trade of old, when the rallying cry was “get the furs while they last.” Beavers, sea otters, and buffalos were slaughtered, used for their precious pelts that were tailored into extravagant hats, coats, and sleigh blankets. To read Fur, Fortune, and Empire then is to understand how North America was explored, exploited, and settled, while its native Indians were alternately enriched and exploited by the trade. As Dolin demonstrates, fur, both an economic elixir and an agent of destruction, became inextricably linked to many key events in American history, including the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, and the War of 1812, as well as to the relentless pull of Manifest Destiny and the opening of the West.

This work provides an international cast beyond the scope of any Hollywood epic, including Thomas Morton, the rabble-rouser who infuriated the Pilgrims by trading guns with the Indians; British explorer Captain James Cook, whose discovery in the Pacific Northwest helped launch America’s China trade; Thomas Jefferson who dreamed of expanding the fur trade beyond the Mississippi; America’s first multimillionaire John Jacob Astor, who built a fortune on a foundation of fur; and intrepid mountain men such as Kit Carson and Jedediah Smith, who sliced their way through an awe inspiring and unforgiving landscape, leaving behind a mythic legacy still resonates today.

Concluding with the virtual extinction of the buffalo in the late 1800s, Fur, Fortune, and Empire is an epic history that brings to vivid life three hundred years of the American experience, conclusively demonstrating that the fur trade played a seminal role in creating the nation we are today.
Read an excerpt from Fur, Fortune, and Empire, and learn more about the book and author at Eric Jay Dolin's website.

The Page 99 Test: Fur, Fortune, and Empire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 20, 2010