Friday, March 22, 2019

Five top fictional books inside of real books

K Chess was a W.K. Rose Fellow and her short stories have been honored by the Nelson Algren Award and the Pushcart Prize. She earned an MFA from Southern Illinois University and currently teaches at GrubStreet. Her new novel is Famous Men Who Never Lived.

At Tor.com Chess tagged five favorite fictional books inside of real books, including:
The Blind Assassin story from the fictional novel The Blind Assassin (from The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood)

In Sakiel-Norn, a city on the planet Zyrcon, a killer-for-hire who was blinded as a child by slave labor in a carpet factory falls in love with an escaped temple virgin. This is a tale spun by a young radical in 1940s Canada to entertain his privileged girlfriend when they meet in secret. A fictional novel called The Blind Assassin alternates between the two sets of lovers and wins posthumous fame for Laura Chase. Everyone assumes she is the woman in the rendezvous, but Atwood shuffles in recollections from Laura’s now-elderly sister, Iris, which reveal a more complicated truth. The Blind Assassin received a chilly reception in Iris and Laura’s hometown, where it was denounced from the pulpit and pulled from shelves, but I had trouble keeping myself from flipping ahead to get to the next Sakiel-Norn section and the barbed banter of the star-crossed young couple.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Blind Assassin is among Brendan Mathews's ten epic page-turners, Ciarán Hinds' six favorite books, and Lee Kelly's five favorite books with unforgettable sisters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Shelley Sackier's "The Antidote," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Antidote by Shelley Sackier.

The entry begins:
I’ve been so thoroughly disappointed with most book to screen adaptations in the past, that I oftentimes finding myself shouting at the screen, “Oh, my godfathers! Who was your casting director?!”

Yeah, it’s hard for me to keep quiet during films—especially if I loved the book and feel I know the characters deeply.

So … that said, I’m about to throw myself into peril with the rest of those directors and attempt to put a rather famous face on those of my lead roles.

Bear with me. And please don’t write me hate mail.

For Fee—the young apprentice healer, who discovers she has the nifty little gift of magic in her fingertips, I would love to cast Emilia Clarke (Khaleesi from Game of Thrones)—but with her natural dark hair. There is an innocence required to play her role successfully, but Fee also possesses a deep, thrumming desire to seek out her inner strength and blooming magical power. It’s a stretch of a character arc, but I can see this being a good match.

Xavi—Fee’s best friend and soon-to-be-king, would be served really well if played by an actor like...[read on]
Visit Shelley Sackier's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Antidote.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Ann Gleig's "American Dharma"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: American Dharma: Buddhism Beyond Modernity by Ann Gleig.

About the book, from the publisher:
This illuminating account of contemporary American Buddhism shows the remarkable ways the tradition has changed over the past generation

The past couple of decades have witnessed Buddhist communities both continuing the modernization of Buddhism and questioning some of its limitations. In this fascinating portrait of a rapidly changing religious landscape, Ann Gleig illuminates the aspirations and struggles of younger North American Buddhists during a period she identifies as a distinct stage in the assimilation of Buddhism to the West. She observes both the emergence of new innovative forms of deinstitutionalized Buddhism that blur the boundaries between the religious and secular, and a revalorization of traditional elements of Buddhism, such as ethics and community, that were discarded in the modernization process.

Based on extensive ethnographic and textual research, the book ranges from mindfulness debates in the Vipassana network to the sex scandals in American Zen, while exploring issues around racial diversity and social justice, the impact of new technologies, and generational differences between baby boomer, Gen X, and millennial teachers.
Learn more about American Dharma at the Yale University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: American Dharma.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Coffee with a canine: Laura Pohl & Vina

Featured at Coffee with a Canine: Laura Pohl & Vina.

The author, on how she and Vina were united:
Vina’s a rescue dog. Me and my roommate rescued her from people who were abusing her and did not want dogs. She was real quiet and scared at first, but she warmed up to us quickly and is very...[read on]
About Laura Pohl's The Last 8, from the publisher:
Extinction was just the beginning...

Clover Martinez has always been a survivor, which is the reason she isn't among the dead when aliens invade and destroy Earth as she knows it.

Clover is convinced she's the only one left until she hears a voice on the radio urging her to go to the former Area 51. When she arrives, she's greeted by a band of misfits who call themselves The Last Teenagers on Earth.

Only they aren't the ragtag group of heroes Clover was expecting. The seven strangers seem more interested in pretending the world didn't end than fighting back, and Clover starts to wonder if she was better off alone. But when she finds a hidden spaceship within the walls of the compound, she doesn't know what to believe...or who to trust.
Visit Laura Pohl's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Laura Pohl & Vina.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Karen Odden's "A Dangerous Duet"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: A Dangerous Duet: A Novel by Karen Odden.

About the book, from the publisher:
This dazzling new Victorian mystery from USA Today bestselling author Karen Odden introduces readers to Nell Hallam, a determined young pianist who stumbles upon the operations of a notorious—and deadly—crime ring while illicitly working as the piano player in a Soho music hall. Perfect for readers of Tasha Alexander, Anne Perry, and Deanna Raybourn.

Nineteen-year-old Nell Hallam lives in a modest corner of Mayfair with her brother Matthew, an inspector at Scotland Yard. An exceptionally talented pianist, she aspires to attend the Royal Academy; but with tuition beyond their means, Nell sets out to earn the money herself—by playing piano in a popular Soho music hall. And the fact that she will have to disguise herself as a man and slip out at night to do it doesn’t deter her.

Spending evenings at the Octavian is like entering an alternate world, one of lively energy, fascinating performers, raucous patrons—and dark secrets. And when Nell stumbles upon the operations of an infamous crime ring working in the shadows of the music hall, she is drawn into a conspiracy that stretches the length of London. To further complicate matters, she has begun to fall for the hall owner's charismatic son, Jack, who has secrets of his own.

The more Nell becomes a part of the Octavian’s world, the more she risks the relationships with the people she loves. And when another performer is left for dead in an alley as a warning, she realizes her future could be in jeopardy in more ways than one.
Visit Karen Odden's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Karen Odden and Rosy.

The Page 69 Test: A Lady in the Smoke.

My Book, The Movie: A Lady in the Smoke.

My Book, The Movie: A Dangerous Duet.

The Page 69 Test: A Dangerous Duet.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Amber Royer reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Amber Royer, author of Pure Chocolate.

Her entry begins:
I just finished Twain's Feast: Searching for America's Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens by Andrew Beahrs. Twain was definitely an early influence on my sense of humor. ("The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavaras County" is the first short story I can clearly remember reading.) So it’s been interesting learning more about him as a person (I knew a bit, like that Twain was a steamboat pilot, but I underestimated how dangerous that occupation was – and understanding that gives the fact that he chose “Mark Twain,” which basically meant safe depths, as his pen name more profound), and seeing a critical look at the times he was living in and his complicated context within those times. This book starts with...[read on]
About Pure Chocolate, from the publisher:
To save everyone she loves, Bo Bonitez is touring Zant, home of the murderous, shark-toothed aliens who so recently tried to eat her. In the midst of her stint as Galactic paparazzi princess, she discovers that Earth has been exporting tainted chocolate to the galaxy, and getting aliens hooked on cocoa. Bo must choose whether to go public, or just smile for the cameras and make it home alive. She’s already struggling with her withdrawal from the Invincible Heart, and her love life has a life of its own, but when insidious mind worms intervene, things start to get complicated!
Visit Amber Royer's website.

The Page 69 Test: Free Chocolate.

My Book, The Movie: Pure Chocolate.

The Page 69 Test: Pure Chocolate.

Writers Read: Amber Royer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten toxic families in fiction

Hannah Beckerman is an author and journalist. Her new novel is If Only I Could Tell You.

One of ten toxic families in fiction Beckerman tagged at the Guardian:
A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

Smiley’s update of King Lear transports Shakespeare’s story to a farm in Iowa. Larry King is a proud, possessive and controlling father, who has raised his three daughters – Ginny, Rose and Caroline – since the death of their mother. While Smiley retains the themes and structure of Shakespeare’s original – in her Pulitzer prize-winning version, it is the inheritance of the farm that is at stake – she introduces new layers of emotional and psychological complexity, exploring issues of sexual abuse, infidelity and infertility.
Read about another entry on the list.

A Thousand Acres is among Brian Boone's five books that offer a brand new take on pre-existing works, Edward Docx's top ten Shakespearean stories in modern fiction, Emma Donoghue's six best books, Anne Tyler's six favorite books, Sally O'Reilly ten top novels inspired by Shakespeare, Alexia Nader's nine favorite books about unhappy families, and John Mullan's top ten twice-told tales.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Pg. 99: Christopher Klein's "When the Irish Invaded Canada"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: When the Irish Invaded Canada: The Incredible True Story of the Civil War Veterans Who Fought for Ireland’s Freedom by Christopher Klein.

About the book, from the publisher:
The outlandish, untold story of the Irish American revolutionaries who tried to free Ireland by invading Canada

Just over a year after Robert E. Lee relinquished his sword, a band of Union and Confederate veterans dusted off their guns. But these former foes had no intention of reigniting the Civil War. Instead, they fought side by side to undertake one of the most fantastical missions in military history: to seize the British province of Canada and to hold it hostage until the independence of Ireland was secured.

By the time that these invasions–known collectively as the Fenian raids–began in 1866, Ireland had been Britain’s unwilling colony for seven hundred years. Thousands of Civil War veterans who had fled to the United States rather than perish in the wake of the Great Hunger still considered themselves Irishmen first, Americans second. With the tacit support of the U.S. government and inspired by a previous generation of successful American revolutionaries, the group that carried out a series of five attacks on Canada–the Fenian Brotherhood–established a state in exile, planned prison breaks, weathered infighting, stockpiled weapons, and assassinated enemies. Defiantly, this motley group, including a one-armed war hero, an English spy infiltrating rebel forces, and a radical who staged his own funeral, managed to seize a piece of Canada–if only for three days.

When the Irish Invaded Canada is the untold tale of a band of fiercely patriotic Irish Americans and their chapter in Ireland’s centuries-long fight for independence. Inspiring, lively, and often undeniably comic, this is a story of fighting for what’s right in the face of impossible odds.
Visit Christopher Klein's website.

The Page 99 Test: When the Irish Invaded Canada.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Devin Murphy's "Tiny Americans"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Tiny Americans: A Novel by Devin Murphy.

About the book, from the publisher:
From the National Bestselling author of The Boat Runner comes a poignant, luminous novel that follows one family over decades and across the world—perfect for fans of the film Boyhood.

Western New York, 1978: Jamie, Lewis, and Connor Thurber watch their parents’ destructive dance of loving, hating, and drinking. Terrance Thurber spends this year teaching his children about the natural world: they listen to the heartbeat of trees, track animal footprints, sleep under the star-filled sky. Despite these lessons, he doesn’t show them how to survive without him. And when these seasons of trying and failing to quit booze and be a better man are over, Terrance is gone.

Alone with their artist mother, Catrin, the Thurber children are left to grapple with the anger they feel for the one parent who deserted them and a growing resentment for the one who didn’t. As Catrin withdraws into her own world, Jamie throws herself into painting while her brothers smash out their rage in brutal, no-holds-barred football games with neighborhood kids. Once they can leave—Jamie for college, Lewis for the navy, and Connor for work—they don’t look back.

But Terrance does. Crossing the country, sobering up, and starting over has left him with razor-sharp regret. Terrance doesn’t know that Jamie, now an academic, inhabits an ever-shrinking circle of loneliness; that Lewis, a merchant marine, fears life on dry land; that Connor struggles to connect with the son he sees teetering on an all-too-familiar edge. He only knows that he has one last try to build a bridge, through the years, to his family.

Composed of a series of touchstone moments, Tiny Americans is a thrilling and bittersweet rendering of a family that, much like the tides, continues to come together and drift apart.
Visit Devin Murphy's website.

My Book, The Movie: Tiny Americans.

Writers Read: Devin Murphy.

The Page 69 Test: Tiny Americans.

--Marshal Zeringue

Elisabeth Elo's "Finding Katarina M.," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movies: Finding Katarina M. by Elisabeth Elo.

The entry begins:
I have only one request. Please cast Rachel Weisz as Dr. Natalie March!

Thirty-nine-year-old Natalie is a powerful if understated person. She’s reached the peak of her profession through brains and hard work. She’s confident, but she knows from experience that disease always wins in the end, so she has a certain humility. She sticks to the facts and doesn’t get ahead of herself, but she is also quite willing to take the next step, and the next, as options present themselves. I have no idea whether she’s beautiful or not. She doesn’t think about it, so neither did I. Her looks are...[read on]
Visit Elisabeth Elo's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Elisabeth Elo & Freddie.

My Book, The Movies: Finding Katarina M.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six crime novels where past & present crimes are connected

S. C. Perkins is a fifth-generation Texan who grew up hearing fascinating stories of her ancestry and eating lots of great Tex-Mex, both of which inspired the plot of her debut mystery novel, Murder Once Removed.

At CrimeReads she tagged six crime novels where past and present crimes are connected, including:
The Crossing Places, by Elly Griffiths

Griffiths’ first novel in the series features Dr. Ruth Galloway, a forensic anthropologist who’s content to live in a remote area of Norfolk, England, with only her cats and her daily life of digs at an Iron Age site. While usually she identifies ancient artifacts and bones, her calm life changes when the bones of a child are found on the beach. It is believed they may be those of a little girl named Lucy Downey, who disappeared ten years earlier. Galloway is asked to identify the bones by Detective Chief Inspector Nelson, who continues to receive strange, harassing letters by the person believed to have kidnaped the little girl. When a second girl is reported missing and the details are eerily similar to the abduction of Lucy Downey, Galloway must determine if the killer is the same person or someone new who’s copying the decade-old murder.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: The Crossing Places.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

What is Vanessa McGrady reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Vanessa McGrady, author of Rock Needs River: A Memoir About a Very Open Adoption.

Her entry begins:
I’m furiously consuming more memoirs. Right now I’m ‘halfway through Educated by Tara Westover, but I just finished A River Could be a Tree by Angela Himsel and Maid by Stephanie Land. I’d also recommend Priestdaddy and The Glass Castle. It’s sort of horrifying to think how tough it is for some people to just survive childhood. What a triumph it is to...[read on]
About Rock Needs River, from the publisher:
From a story first told in the popular New York Times parenting blog comes a funny, touching memoir about a mother who welcomes more than a new daughter into her home.

After two years of waiting to adopt—slogging through paperwork and bouncing between hope and despair—a miracle finally happened for Vanessa McGrady. Her sweet baby, Grace, was a dream come true. Then Vanessa made a highly uncommon gesture: when Grace’s biological parents became homeless, Vanessa invited them to stay.

Without a blueprint for navigating the practical basics of an open adoption or any discussion of expectations or boundaries, the unusual living arrangement became a bottomless well of conflicting emotions and increasingly difficult decisions complicated by missed opportunities, regret, social chaos, and broken hearts.

Written with wit, candor, and compassion, Rock Needs River is, ultimately, Vanessa’s love letter to her daughter, one that illuminates the universal need for connection and the heroine’s journey to find her tribe.
Visit Vanessa McGrady's website.

My Book, The Movie: Rock Needs River.

The Page 99 Test: Rock Needs River.

Writers Read: Vanessa McGrady.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jessie Morgan-Owens's "Girl in Black and White"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Girl in Black and White: The Story of Mary Mildred Williams and the Abolition Movement by Jessie Morgan-Owens.

About the book, from the publisher:
The riveting, little-known story of Mary Mildred Williams—a slave girl who looked “white”—whose photograph transformed the abolitionist movement.

When a decades-long court battle resulted in her family’s freedom in 1855, seven-year-old Mary Mildred Williams unexpectedly became the face of American slavery. Famous abolitionists Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Henry David Thoreau, and John Albion Andrew would help Mary and her family in freedom, but Senator Charles Sumner saw a monumental political opportunity. Due to generations of sexual violence, Mary’s skin was so light that she “passed” as white, and this fact would make her the key to his white audience’s sympathy. During his sold-out abolitionist lecture series, Sumner paraded Mary in front of rapt audiences as evidence that slavery was not bounded by race.

Weaving together long-overlooked primary sources and arresting images, including the daguerreotype that turned Mary into the poster child of a movement, Jessie Morgan-Owens investigates tangled generations of sexual enslavement and the fraught politics that led Mary to Sumner. She follows Mary’s story through the lives of her determined mother and grandmother to her own adulthood, parallel to the story of the antislavery movement and the eventual signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Girl in Black and White restores Mary to her rightful place in history and uncovers a dramatic narrative of travels along the Underground Railroad, relationships tested by oppression, and the struggles of life after emancipation. The result is an exposé of the thorny racial politics of the abolitionist movement and the pervasive colorism that dictated where white sympathy lay—one that sheds light on a shameful legacy that still affects us profoundly today.
Visit Jessie Morgan-Owens's website.

The Page 99 Test: Girl in Black and White.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Amber Royer's "Pure Chocolate"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Pure Chocolate by Amber Royer.

About the book, from the publisher:
To save everyone she loves, Bo Bonitez is touring Zant, home of the murderous, shark-toothed aliens who so recently tried to eat her. In the midst of her stint as Galactic paparazzi princess, she discovers that Earth has been exporting tainted chocolate to the galaxy, and getting aliens hooked on cocoa. Bo must choose whether to go public, or just smile for the cameras and make it home alive. She’s already struggling with her withdrawal from the Invincible Heart, and her love life has a life of its own, but when insidious mind worms intervene, things start to get complicated!
Visit Amber Royer's website.

The Page 69 Test: Free Chocolate.

My Book, The Movie: Pure Chocolate.

The Page 69 Test: Pure Chocolate.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top books for helping with loss

Diana Evans is the award-winning author of Ordinary People, The Wonder and 26a. Her prize nominations include the Guardian and Commonwealth Best First Book awards, and she was the inaugural winner of the Orange Award for New Writers. Ordinary People was nominated for the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction, selected in The New Yorker Best Books of 2018, and has been longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Rathbones Folio Prize.

At the Guardian Evans tagged five books for helping with loss, including:
There are different kinds of loss – of self, of someone else, of a dream. Sometimes a book can speak across these boundaries, reaching out from the particularities of a singular experience to address broader themes. A few years ago I lost my father, someone towards whom my emotions were complex, and it was Elena Ferrante’s The Days of Abandonment that worked as a kindness and offered an understanding of what exactly was, or could be, happening within – though she was writing not about death, but about a woman being deserted by her husband. Death does feel like desertion, and the way to address it is to find where one’s feet are placed on the ground, to walk newly alone, temporarily clipped, which this protagonist eventually does, with her anger and pride and dismay. We are taken along the entire journey, and we see that it is in facing her loss, observing and absorbing what is left, and waiting for herself on the other side of the chasm, that she reaches a place of redemption – a return to a truer, strengthened self.
Read about another book Evans tagged.

The Days of Abandonment is among Claudia Dey's six favorite instances of dogs in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 18, 2019

What is Katia Lief reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Katia Lief, author of (writing as Karen Ellis) Last Night.

Her entry begins:
When I realized that I’d never read Shirley Jackson’s seminal story “The Lottery,” I got a copy of the collection The Lottery and Other Stories. Because this story has been embedded in the literary zeitgeist since it was first published in 1948, I forgave myself for thinking I’d read it—I had seen a short film based on it, so I knew the essentials of the story—but now I craved the experience of reading it in the author’s own words.

I turned to the table of contents, found the titular story at the very end, and...[read on]
About Last Night, from the publisher:
NYPD detective Lex Cole tracks a missing Brooklyn teen whose bright future is endangered by the ghosts of his unknown father’s past, in this highly anticipated sequel to A Map of the Dark.

One of the few black kids on his Brighton Beach block, Titus “Crisp” Crespo was raised by his white mother and his Russian grandparents. He has two legacies from his absent father, Mo: his weird name and his brown skin. Crisp has always been the odd kid out, but a fundamentally good kid, with a bright future.

But one impulsive decision triggers a horrible domino effect–an arrest, no reason not to accompany his richer, whiter friend Glynnie on a visit to her weed dealer, and a trip onto his father’s old home turf where he’ll face certain choices he’s always strived to avoid.

As Detective Lex Cole tries to unravel the clues from Crisp’s night out, they both find that what you don’t know about your past can still come back to haunt you.
Visit Katia Lief/Karen Ellis's website.

The Page 69 Test: Last Night.

Writers Read: Katia Lief.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Steve Luxenberg’s "Separate"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America's Journey from Slavery to Segregation by Steve Luxenberg.

About the book, from the publisher:
A myth-shattering narrative of how a nation embraced "separation" and its pernicious consequences.

Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court case synonymous with “separate but equal,” created remarkably little stir when the justices announced their near-unanimous decision on May 18, 1896. Yet it is one of the most compelling and dramatic stories of the nineteenth century, whose outcome embraced and protected segregation, and whose reverberations are still felt into the twenty-first.

Separate spans a striking range of characters and landscapes, bound together by the defining issue of their time and ours—race and equality. Wending its way through a half-century of American history, the narrative begins at the dawn of the railroad age, in the North, home to the nation’s first separate railroad car, then moves briskly through slavery and the Civil War to Reconstruction and its aftermath, as separation took root in nearly every aspect of American life.

Award-winning author Steve Luxenberg draws from letters, diaries, and archival collections to tell the story of Plessy v. Ferguson through the eyes of the people caught up in the case. Separate depicts indelible figures such as the resisters from the mixed-race community of French New Orleans, led by Louis Martinet, a lawyer and crusading newspaper editor; Homer Plessy’s lawyer, Albion Tourgée, a best-selling author and the country’s best-known white advocate for civil rights; Justice Henry Billings Brown, from antislavery New England, whose majority ruling endorsed separation; and Justice John Harlan, the Southerner from a slaveholding family whose singular dissent cemented his reputation as a steadfast voice for justice.

Sweeping, swiftly paced, and richly detailed, Separate provides a fresh and urgently-needed exploration of our nation’s most devastating divide.
Visit Steve Luxenberg’s website.

The Page 99 Test: Annie's Ghosts.

The Page 99 Test: Separate.

--Marshal Zeringue

Laurie Halse Anderson's six favorite books

Laurie Halse Anderson is the New York Times-bestselling author who writes for kids of all ages. Known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity, her work has earned numerous international, national, and state awards. She has been nominated three times for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. Two of her books, Speak and Chains, were National Book Award finalists, and Chains was also short-listed for the Carnegie medal.

Shout is Anderson's new memoir-in-verse.

One of Anderson's six favorite books, as shared at The Week magazine:
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (2014)

Woodson is the master of evoking place and time with just a few words. In Brown Girl Dreaming, winner of the 2014 National Book Award for Young People's Literature, she brings the South Carolina and New York City of her childhood to life vividly and uses them as the backdrops of her coming of age during the 1960s and '70s.
Read about another entry on the list.

Brown Girl Dreaming is among Sona Charaipotra's ten YA books that will change your life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Joy Fielding's "All the Wrong Places," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: All the Wrong Places: A Novel by Joy Fielding.

The entry begins:
There are strong roles for four women in this book, and any number of fine actresses who could play any of the younger women roles: Emma Stone, Jennifer Lawrence, Brie Larson, Lucy Boynton, Amy Adams, to name a few.

As for Joan, the oldest of the women at 70, I'd suggest Jane...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Joy Fielding's website.

The Page 69 Test: Shadow Creek.

My Book, The Movie: Shadow Creek.

The Page 69 Test: Someone Is Watching.

My Book, The Movie: Someone Is Watching.

My Book, The Movie: The Bad Daughter.

The Page 69 Test: The Bad Daughter.

My Book, The Movie: All the Wrong Places.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Four books that changed Fiona McCallum

Fiona McCallum was raised on a farm in South Australia. She now lives in suburban Adelaide, but remains a country girl at heart. McCallum writes "heart-warming journey of self-discovery stories" that draw on her life experiences, love of animals and fascination with the human condition. She is the author of ten Australian bestsellers. A Life of Her Own will be her eleventh novel.

One of four books that changed the author, as shared at the Sydney Morning Herald:
PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK
Joan Lindsay

This is the book that got me back into reading as a young adult after finishing school and starting my working life. I think subliminally it also instilled in me the importance of the right setting and how it can be a character in its own right. My copy is a beautifully illustrated edition, which adds further weight to the fabulous intrigue about whether the story is fact or fiction. It's such a clever device.
Read about another entry on the list.

Picnic at Hanging Rock is among Jeff Somers's six famous novels without an ending.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Kartik Hosanagar's "A Human's Guide to Machine Intelligence"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: A Human’s Guide to Machine Intelligence: How Algorithms Are Shaping Our Lives and How We Can Stay in Control by Kartik Hosanagar.

About the book, from the publisher:
A Wharton professor and tech entrepreneur examines how algorithms and artificial intelligence are starting to run every aspect of our lives, and how we can shape the way they impact us

Through the technology embedded in almost every major tech platform and every web-enabled device, algorithms and the artificial intelligence that underlies them make a staggering number of everyday decisions for us, from what products we buy, to where we decide to eat, to how we consume our news, to whom we date, and how we find a job. We’ve even delegated life-and-death decisions to algorithms–decisions once made by doctors, pilots, and judges. In his new book, Kartik Hosanagar surveys the brave new world of algorithmic decision-making and reveals the potentially dangerous biases they can give rise to as they increasingly run our lives. He makes the compelling case that we need to arm ourselves with a better, deeper, more nuanced understanding of the phenomenon of algorithmic thinking. And he gives us a route in, pointing out that algorithms often think a lot like their creators–that is, like you and me.

Hosanagar draws on his experiences designing algorithms professionally–as well as on history, computer science, and psychology–to explore how algorithms work and why they occasionally go rogue, what drives our trust in them, and the many ramifications of algorithmic decision-making. He examines episodes like Microsoft’s chatbot Tay, which was designed to converse on social media like a teenage girl, but instead turned sexist and racist; the fatal accidents of self-driving cars; and even our own common, and often frustrating, experiences on services like Netflix and Amazon. A Human’s Guide to Machine Intelligence is an entertaining and provocative look at one of the most important developments of our time and a practical user’s guide to this first wave of practical artificial intelligence.
Visit Kartik Hosanagar's website.

The Page 99 Test: A Human’s Guide to Machine Intelligence.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Alyssa Wees's "The Waking Forest"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees.

About the book, from the publisher:
Pan’s Labyrinth meets The Hazel Wood in this novel about a girl with terrifying visions and a wish-granting witch whose lives collide in the most unexpected of ways.

The waking forest has secrets. To Rhea, it appears like a mirage, dark and dense, at the very edge of her backyard. But when she reaches out to touch it, the forest vanishes. She’s desperate to know more–until she finds a peculiar boy who offers to reveal its secrets. If she plays a game.

To the Witch, the forest is her home, where she sits on her throne of carved bone, waiting for dreaming children to beg her to grant their wishes. One night, a mysterious visitor arrives and asks her what she wishes for, but the Witch sends him away. And then the uninvited guest returns.

The strangers are just the beginning. Something is stirring in the forest, and when Rhea’s and the Witch’s paths collide, a truth more treacherous and deadly than either could ever imagine surfaces. But how much are they willing to risk to survive?
Visit Alyssa Wees's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Waking Forest.

The Page 69 Test: The Waking Forest.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five titles featuring complex mother/daughter relationships

Leanna Renee Hieber is an actress, playwright, ghost tour guide and award-winning, bestselling author. Her new book is Miss Violet and the Great War.

At Tor.com she tagged five books featuring complex mother/daughter relationships, including:
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

The most formative early fiction in my life is Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. I love that Meg is a thorny, imperfect character. We see her mother and family grapple with that fact, and all the “Mrs.” characters wrestle with it too and try to meet her where she is, encouraging her individuality and the ways in which she is uniquely suited to the task of saving her loved ones, especially her little brother. An extended array of maternal and mentor figures in each of the “Mrs.” allows for many iterations of a mother/daughter dynamic that I found to be profoundly entertaining, each with their own gift to share. This is a likely source of my insistence on writing team stories with quirky, enigmatic supporting casts.
Read about another entry on the list.

Visit Leanna Renee Hieber's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 16, 2019

St. Patrick's Day

In observance of St. Patrick's Day, an excerpt from Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization:
Ireland, a little island at the edge of Europe that has known neither Renaissance nor Enlightenment--in some ways, a Third World country with, as John Betjeman claimed, a Stone Age culture had one moment of unblemished glory. For, as the Roman Empire fell, as all through Europe matted, unwashed barbarians descended on the Roman cities, looting artifacts and burning books, the Irish, who were just learning to read and write, took up the great labor of copying all of western literature--everything they could lay their hands on. These scribes then served as conduits through which the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian cultures were transmitted to the tribes of Europe, newly settled amid the rubble and ruined vineyards of the civilization they had overwhelmed. Without this Service of the Scribes, everything that happened subsequently would have been unthinkable. Without the Mission of the Irish Monks, who single-handedly refounded European civilization throughout the continent in the bays and valleys of their exile, the world that came after them would have been an entirely different one--a world without books. And our own world would never have come to be.
--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Keith Laybourn's "Going to the Dogs"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Going to the Dogs: A history of greyhound racing in Britain 1926-2017 by Keith Laybourn.

About the book, from the publisher:
Greyhound racing emerged rapidly in Britain in 1926 but in its early years was subject to rabid institutional middle-class opposition largely because of the legal gambling opportunities it offered to the working class. Though condemned as a dissipate and impoverishing activity, it was, in fact, a significant leisure opportunity for the working class, which cost little for the minority of bettors involved in what was clearly little more than a 'bit of the flutter'.

This book is the first national study of greyhound racing in Britain from its beginnings, to its heyday in the 1930s and 1940s, and up its long slow decline of the late twentieth century. Much of the study will be defined by the dominating issue of working-class gambling and the bitter opposition to both it and greyhound racing, although the attractions of this 'American Night Out' will also be examined.
Learn more about Going to the Dogs at the Manchester University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Going to the Dogs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight top books set in prisons

International bestselling author Brad Parks is the only writer to have won the Shamus, Nero, and Lefty Awards, three of American crime fiction’s most prestigious prizes. His novels have been translated into 15 languages and have won critical acclaim across the globe, including stars from every major pre-publication review outlet. A graduate of Dartmouth College, Parks is a former journalist with The Washington Post and The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger. He is now a full-time novelist living in Virginia with his wife and two school-aged children.

Parks's new novel is The Last Act.

At CrimeReads he tagged eight great books set in prisons, including:
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Roy and Celestial are the upside of the New South—a young African-American couple on the rise. Yet just as they seem to be reaching escape velocity from the racial oppression that defined their parents’ generation, Roy is sentenced to twelve years for a rape he did not commit. Much of the book is letters between the couple while he’s incarcerated, and while Roy doesn’t really delve into the nitty gritty of prison life, it’s a gripping reminder that for every person sitting in prison, there’s usually someone outside who is serving a different kind of sentence.
Read about another entry on the list.

An American Marriage is among Sara Shepard's six top stories of deception and Julia Dahl's ten top books about miscarriages of justice.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Devin Murphy reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Devin Murphy, author of Tiny Americans: A Novel.

His entry begins:
The last few novels I’ve read were all wonderful.

The Vegetarian, by Han Kang, was certainly the most unsettling book I’ve read in a long time. My wife read it first and handed it over when she finished with this sort of concerned expression. The book is broken into three sections that each take a different path into a character’s extreme mental illness. At the start of the story, the focal character can’t get enough sunlight, and is constantly bearing herself to the sky, which was such a strong image that I think of her every time I...[read on]
About Tiny Americans, from the publisher:
From the National Bestselling author of The Boat Runner comes a poignant, luminous novel that follows one family over decades and across the world—perfect for fans of the film Boyhood.

Western New York, 1978: Jamie, Lewis, and Connor Thurber watch their parents’ destructive dance of loving, hating, and drinking. Terrance Thurber spends this year teaching his children about the natural world: they listen to the heartbeat of trees, track animal footprints, sleep under the star-filled sky. Despite these lessons, he doesn’t show them how to survive without him. And when these seasons of trying and failing to quit booze and be a better man are over, Terrance is gone.

Alone with their artist mother, Catrin, the Thurber children are left to grapple with the anger they feel for the one parent who deserted them and a growing resentment for the one who didn’t. As Catrin withdraws into her own world, Jamie throws herself into painting while her brothers smash out their rage in brutal, no-holds-barred football games with neighborhood kids. Once they can leave—Jamie for college, Lewis for the navy, and Connor for work—they don’t look back.

But Terrance does. Crossing the country, sobering up, and starting over has left him with razor-sharp regret. Terrance doesn’t know that Jamie, now an academic, inhabits an ever-shrinking circle of loneliness; that Lewis, a merchant marine, fears life on dry land; that Connor struggles to connect with the son he sees teetering on an all-too-familiar edge. He only knows that he has one last try to build a bridge, through the years, to his family.

Composed of a series of touchstone moments, Tiny Americans is a thrilling and bittersweet rendering of a family that, much like the tides, continues to come together and drift apart.
Visit Devin Murphy's website.

My Book, The Movie: Tiny Americans.

Writers Read: Devin Murphy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 15, 2019

Five top genre-bending YA novels

Astrid Scholte's new novel is Four Dead Queens.

At Tor.com she tagged five favorite genre-bending YA novels, including:
The Dark Days Club (A Lady Helen Novel) by Alison Goodman

Genres: Paranormal and Historical. Goodman’s research into the Regency era is absolutely exquisite in its detail. You can see, touch, and taste the world—it’s a fully transformative experience. There is no other book I’ve read where I’ve felt so completely swept into the past. The prim and proper Regency era setting of Goodman’s Lady Helen novels provides a contrast to the vicious paranormal elements of the ghastly, soul-sucking Deceivers, and only the Reclaimers—including the titular Lady Helen—stand in the way of their total domination. The blend between the details of the Regency era and the brashness of the paranormal creates a wonderfully otherworldly reading experience. I’m currently reading the final book in the trilogy and I never want it to end…
Read about another entry on the list.

The Dark Days Club is among Jenny Kawecki's top five YA novels in which every action has an equal but opposite reaction—especially magic.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Vanessa McGrady's "Rock Needs River"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Rock Needs River: A Memoir About a Very Open Adoption by Vanessa McGrady.

About the book, from the publisher:
From a story first told in the popular New York Times parenting blog comes a funny, touching memoir about a mother who welcomes more than a new daughter into her home.

After two years of waiting to adopt—slogging through paperwork and bouncing between hope and despair—a miracle finally happened for Vanessa McGrady. Her sweet baby, Grace, was a dream come true. Then Vanessa made a highly uncommon gesture: when Grace’s biological parents became homeless, Vanessa invited them to stay.

Without a blueprint for navigating the practical basics of an open adoption or any discussion of expectations or boundaries, the unusual living arrangement became a bottomless well of conflicting emotions and increasingly difficult decisions complicated by missed opportunities, regret, social chaos, and broken hearts.

Written with wit, candor, and compassion, Rock Needs River is, ultimately, Vanessa’s love letter to her daughter, one that illuminates the universal need for connection and the heroine’s journey to find her tribe.
Visit Vanessa McGrady's website.

My Book, The Movie: Rock Needs River.

The Page 99 Test: Rock Needs River.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Karen Ellis's "Last Night"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Last Night by Karen Ellis.

About the book, from the publisher:
NYPD detective Lex Cole tracks a missing Brooklyn teen whose bright future is endangered by the ghosts of his unknown father’s past, in this highly anticipated sequel to A Map of the Dark.

One of the few black kids on his Brighton Beach block, Titus “Crisp” Crespo was raised by his white mother and his Russian grandparents. He has two legacies from his absent father, Mo: his weird name and his brown skin. Crisp has always been the odd kid out, but a fundamentally good kid, with a bright future.

But one impulsive decision triggers a horrible domino effect–an arrest, no reason not to accompany his richer, whiter friend Glynnie on a visit to her weed dealer, and a trip onto his father’s old home turf where he’ll face certain choices he’s always strived to avoid.

As Detective Lex Cole tries to unravel the clues from Crisp’s night out, they both find that what you don’t know about your past can still come back to haunt you.
Visit Karen Ellis's website.

The Page 69 Test: Last Night.

--Marshal Zeringue

Karen Odden's "A Dangerous Duet," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: A Dangerous Duet by Karen Odden.

The entry begins:
I’d tap Emma Watson for any one of my heroines. She has such a mobile, expressive face; she can light up with joy, but she also displays a quiet fierceness and a capacity for insight in many of her roles. My heroine Nell Hallam is passionate about her piano but reflective—and well aware of the danger of her mother’s legacy of mental illness.

Ben Barnes for Jack. I had him in mind as I wrote; his face is dark, pensive, watchful, expressive. In the film Prince Caspian, he suggests a searing pain stemming from a father-figure’s betrayal quite similar to...[read on]
Visit Karen Odden's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Karen Odden and Rosy.

The Page 69 Test: A Lady in the Smoke.

My Book, The Movie: A Lady in the Smoke.

My Book, The Movie: A Dangerous Duet.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Coffee with a canine: Elisabeth Elo & Freddie

Featured at Coffee with a Canine: Elisabeth Elo & Freddie.

The author, on how she and Freddie were united:
I was allergic to the last dog we had and spent twelve years sniffling and feeling scratchy whenever I got too close to him. It was OK because that dog was really my kids’ dog and he got lots of attention from them. I knew that our next dog would be mostly mine, and I couldn’t risk feeling uncomfortable around him, so I figured he would have to be a poodle or poodle mix. I did a lot of research and visited a number of breeders. In the end the search was...[read on]
About Elo's new novel, Finding Katarina M., from the publisher:
Natalie March is a respected surgeon enjoying a busy, productive life in Washington DC. As her demanding career has left little time for friends or romance, her deepest relationship is with her mother, Vera March, a Russian immigrant and MS patient confined to a rehabilitation center. Vera is still haunted by the fact that her Ukrainian parents, innocent of any wrongdoing, were sent to the gulag, Stalin’s notorious network of labor camps, when she was just a baby. All her life she has presumed that they perished there along with millions of other Russian citizens. Natalie would do anything to heal her mother’s psychic pain: it’s the one wound that she, a doctor, cannot mend.

When a young Russian dancer named Saldana Tarasova comes to Natalie’s office claiming to be her cousin, and providing details about her grandmother that no stranger could know, Natalie must face a surprising truth: her grandmother, Katarina Melnikova, is still very much alive. She escaped from the labor camp, married a native Siberian, and had another child, Saldana’s mother. Natalie is thrilled to think that her Russian family is reaching out and that Vera may be able to reunite with her mother after so many years. In fact, Saldana has a darker motive for making contact. Suggesting that her family is in grave danger from Putin’s government, she pleads for Natalie’s help to defect. Unwilling to break the law, Natalie puts her off. Then the unthinkable happens, and Natalie is drawn step by step into a web of family secrets that will ultimately pit her against Russian security forces and even her own government.

How far will Natalie go to find Katerina M. and satisfy her mother’s deepest wish? How much will she risk to protect her Russian family―and her own country―from a dangerous international threat? Masterfully plotted and beautifully written, FINDING KATARINA M. takes the reader on an extraordinary journey across Siberia―to reindeer herding camps, Russian prisons, Sakha villages, and parties with endless vodka toasts―while it explores what it means to be loyal to one’s family, one’s country, and ultimately to oneself.
Visit Elisabeth Elo's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Elisabeth Elo & Freddie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jay Howard Geller's "The Scholems"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Scholems: A Story of the German-Jewish Bourgeoisie from Emancipation to Destruction by Jay Howard Geller.

About the book, from the publisher:
The evocative and riveting stories of four brothers—Gershom the Zionist, Werner the Communist, Reinhold the nationalist, and Erich the liberal—weave together in The Scholems, a biography of an eminent middle-class Jewish Berlin family and a social history of the Jews in Germany in the decades leading up to World War II.

Across four generations, Jay Howard Geller illuminates the transformation of traditional Jews into modern German citizens, the challenges they faced, and the ways that they shaped the German-Jewish century, beginning with Prussia's emancipation of the Jews in 1812 and ending with exclusion and disenfranchisement under the Nazis. Focusing on the renowned philosopher and Kabbalah scholar Gershom Scholem and his family, their story beautifully draws out the rise and fall of bourgeois life in the unique subculture that was Jewish Berlin. Geller portrays the family within a much larger context of economic advancement, the adoption of German culture and debates on Jewish identity, struggles for integration into society, and varying political choices during the German Empire, World War I, the Weimar Republic, and the Nazi era. What Geller discovers, and unveils for the reader, is a fascinating portal through which to view the experience of the Jewish middle class in Germany.
Learn more about The Scholems at the Cornell University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Scholems.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Margaret Verble reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Margaret Verble, author of Cherokee America.

Her entry begins:
I tend to buy a whole bunch of wildly different kinds of books in a one or two day period. Then I stack them on my bedside table, and select them for reading according to how I’m feeling at a particular moment, usually in the evening. If I’m writing on the early drafts of a novel, I go lightly on fiction, more heavily on background sources for my work, biographies, histories, or true crimes. Of the books I’ve read in the past two months, my favorites are these:

Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Sanders, is the best novel I’ve read in a couple of years. It’s innovative in style, evocative of deep emotion, historically grounded, and spiritually intriguing. I will read it again. And again. Once is...[read on]
About Cherokee America, from the publisher:
From the author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist Maud’s Line, an epic novel that follows a web of complex family alliances and culture clashes in the Cherokee Nation during the aftermath of the Civil War, and the unforgettable woman at its center.

It’s the early spring of 1875 in the Cherokee Nation West. A baby, a black hired hand, a bay horse, a gun, a gold stash, and a preacher have all gone missing. Cherokee America Singer, known as “Check,” a wealthy farmer, mother of five boys, and soon-to-be widow, is not amused.

In this epic of the American frontier, several plots intertwine around the heroic and resolute Check: her son is caught in a compromising position that results in murder; a neighbor disappears; another man is killed. The tension mounts and the violence escalates as Check’s mixed race family, friends, and neighbors come together to protect their community—and painfully expel one of their own.

Cherokee America vividly, and often with humor, explores the bonds—of blood and place, of buried histories and half-told tales, of past grief and present injury—that connect a colorful, eclectic cast of characters, anchored by the clever, determined, and unforgettable Check.
Visit Margaret Verble's website.

My Book, The Movie: Maud's Line.

Writers Read: Margaret Verble.

--Marshal Zeringue