Monday, February 24, 2020

Pg. 99: Alexander Watson's "The Fortress"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Fortress: The Siege of Przemysl and the Making of Europe's Bloodlands by Alexander Watson.

About the book, from the publisher:
A prizewinning historian tells the dramatic story of the siege that changed the course of the First World War

In September 1914, just a month into World War I, the Russian army laid siege to the fortress city of Przemysl, the Hapsburg Empire's most important bulwark against invasion. For six months, against storm and starvation, the ragtag garrison bitterly resisted, denying the Russians a quick victory. Only in March 1915 did the city fall, bringing occupation, persecution, and brutal ethnic cleansing.

In The Fortress, historian Alexander Watson tells the story of the battle for Przemysl, showing how it marked the dawn of total war in Europe and how it laid the roots of the bloody century that followed. Vividly told, with close attention to the unfolding of combat in the forts and trenches and to the experiences of civilians trapped in the city, The Fortress offers an unprecedentedly intimate perspective on the eastern front's horror and human tragedy.
Learn more about The Fortress at the Basic Books website.

The Page 99 Test: The Fortress.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Kathleen Barber's "Follow Me"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Follow Me by Kathleen Barber.

About the book, from the publisher:
Everyone wants new followers…until they follow you home.

Audrey Miller has an enviable new job at the Smithsonian, a body by reformer Pilates, an apartment door with a broken lock, and hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers to bear witness to it all. Having just moved to Washington, DC, Audrey busies herself impressing her new boss, interacting with her online fan base, and staving off a creepy upstairs neighbor with the help of the only two people she knows in town: an ex-boyfriend she can’t stay away from and a sorority sister with a high-powered job and a mysterious past.

But Audrey’s faulty door may be the least of her security concerns. Unbeknownst to her, her move has brought her within striking distance of someone who’s obsessively followed her social media presence for years—from her first WordPress blog to her most recent Instagram Story. No longer content to simply follow her carefully curated life from a distance, he consults the dark web for advice on how to make Audrey his and his alone. In his quest to win her heart, nothing is off-limits—and nothing is private.

With “compelling, suspenseful” (Liz Nugent) prose, Kathleen Barber’s electrifying new thriller will have you scrambling to cover your webcam and digital footprints.
Visit Kathleen Barber's website.

The Page 69 Test: Follow Me.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Six books that feature strong female voices

Allison Pataki is the New York Times bestselling author of The Queen’s Fortune: A Novel of Desiree, Napoleon, and the Dynasty That Outlasted the Empire, The Traitor’s Wife, The Accidental Empress, Sisi: Empress On Her Own, Where the Light Falls, as well as the nonfiction memoir Beauty in the Broken Places and two children’s books, Nelly Takes New York and Poppy Takes Paris.

At The Week magazine, Pataki tagged six books with strong female voices, including:
Circe by Madeline Miller (2018).

Circe was a fabled goddess who led a solitary life of island exile, tossed back and forth between the gods and the mortals as it served their whims. She's often remembered merely as a tangential character in Odysseus' legend, but in this brilliant fictional reimagining, Miller puts Circe squarely in the center of her own story. Greek mythology has never been so enjoyable.
Read about another entry on the list.

Circe is among Pam Grossman's thirteen stories about strong women with magical powers, Kris Waldherr's nine top books inspired by mythology, Katharine Duckett's eight novels that reexamine literature from the margins, and Steph Posts' thirteen top novels set in the world of myth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Aro Velmet's "Pasteur's Empire"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Pasteur's Empire: Bacteriology and Politics in France, Its Colonies, and the World by Aro Velmet.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the 1890s, the Pasteur Institute established a network of laboratories that stretched across France's empire, from Indochina to West Africa. Quickly, researchers at these laboratories became central to France's colonial project, helping officials monopolize industries, develop public health codes, establish disease containment measures, and arbitrate political conflicts around questions of labor rights, public works, and free association.

Pasteur's Empire shows how the scientific prestige of the Pasteur Institute came to depend on its colonial laboratories, and how, conversely, the institutes themselves became central to colonial politics. This book argues that decisions as small as the isolation of a particular yeast or the choice of a laboratory animal could have tremendous consequences on the lives of Vietnamese and African subjects, who became the consumers of new vaccines or industrially fermented intoxicants. Simultaneously, global forces, such as the rise of international standards and American competitors pushed Pastorians to their imperial laboratories, where they could conduct studies that researchers in France considered too difficult or controversial. Chapters follow not just Alexandre Yersin's studies of the plague, Charles Nicolle's public health work in Tunisia, and Jean Laigret's work on yellow fever in Dakar, but also the activities of Vietnamese doctors, African students and politicians, Syrian traders, and Chinese warlords. It argues that a specifically Pastorian understanding of microbiology shaped French colonial politics across the world, allowing French officials to promise hygienic modernity while actually committing to little development. In bringing together global history, imperial history, and science and technology studies, Pasteur's Empire deftly integrates micro and macro analyses into one connected narrative that sheds critical light on a key era in the history of medicine.
Learn more about Pasteur's Empire at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Pasteur's Empire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top books to make you feel less alone

Andrew Hunter Murray is a writer and comedian. He is one of the writers and researchers behind the BBC show QI and also cohosts the spinoff podcast, No Such Thing as a Fish, which, since 2014, has released 250 episodes, been downloaded 200 million times, and toured the world. It has also spawned two bestselling books, The Book of the Year and The Book of the Year 2018, as well as a BBC Two series No Such Thing as the News. He also writes for Private Eye magazine and hosts the Eye‘s in-house podcast, Page 94, interviewing the country’s best investigative journalists about their work. In his spare time he performs in the Jane Austen–themed improv comedy group Austentatious, which plays in London’s West End and around the UK. The Last Day is his debut novel.

At the Guardian, Murray tagged five of the best books to make you feel less alone, including:
[T]ry Stoner, John Williams’s majestic biography of an American English don. Stoner is born alone and does die alone, without question – but the story of his life, and his brief, fragile encounter with true love, make the book one of the high points of American literature. Almost all the readers who have discovered and loved the novel did so after Williams’s death. How’s that for connection in spite of it all?
Read about another entry on the list.

Stoner is among Thomas Maloney's ten best deaths in fiction, Simon Kernick's six best books, The Secret Teacher author's ten top books about teaching, Jamie Fewery's ten best fictional fathers, and Colum McCann's top ten novels featuring poets.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Pg. 69: Clare Beams's "The Illness Lesson"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Illness Lesson: A Novel by Clare Beams.

About the book, from the publisher:
A searing novel which probes the world’s approach to women’s bodies and women’s minds, and the time-honored tradition of doubting both.

At their newly founded school, Samuel Hood and his daughter Caroline promise a groundbreaking education for young women. But Caroline has grave misgivings. After all, her own unconventional education has left her unmarriageable and isolated, unsuited to the narrow roles afforded women in 19th century New England.

When a mysterious flock of red birds descends on the town, Caroline alone seems to find them unsettling. But it’s not long before the assembled students begin to manifest bizarre symptoms: Rashes, seizures, headaches, verbal tics, night wanderings. One by one, they sicken. Fearing ruin for the school, Samuel overrules Caroline’s pleas to inform the girls’ parents and turns instead to a noted physician, a man whose sinister ministrations–based on a shocking historic treatment–horrify Caroline. As the men around her continue to dictate, disastrously, all terms of the girls’ experience, Caroline’s body too begins to betray her. To save herself and her young charges, she will have to defy every rule that has governed her life, her mind, her body, and her world.

Clare Beams’s extraordinary debut story collection We Show What We Have Learned earned comparisons to Shirley Jackson, Karen Russell and Aimee Bender, and established Beams as a writer who “creates magical-realist pieces that often calculate the high cost of being a woman” (The Rumpus). Precisely observed, hauntingly atmospheric, as fiercely defiant as it is triumphant, The Illness Lesson is a spellbinding piece of storytelling.
Visit Clare Beams's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Illness Lesson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight weird literary romances

Amy Bonnaffons's new novel is The Regrets.

At Lit Hub she tagged eight novels of unlikely love, including:
What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi (2016)

This collection of loosely-linked stories, centered around the concept of locks and keys, contains several whimsical explorations of love at its most surprising. The first story, “Books and Roses,” has a secret garden and library at its center—spaces embodying the private mystery of clandestine love. In “Is Your Blood as Red as This?”, a bookish introvert befriends a haunted puppet in order to pursue her aspiring-puppeteer crush, and finds herself a student at an elite puppetry academy where the lines between human and nonhuman, boy and girl, living and dead, are all intriguingly blurred. Wonderfully queer in every sense of the word, these stories yield dark insights despite their lighthearted conceits: “it’s not always affinity that draws us together (not always, not only)… you can be called to undo the deeds of another.”
Read about another entry on the list.

What is Not Yours is Not Yours is among Sam Reader's six ghost stories to read on a cold Christmas night.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Lani Forbes reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Lani Forbes, author of The Seventh Sun.

Her entry begins:
I recently started reading The Indigo Girl by Natasha Boyd. I had the opportunity to travel to South Carolina last fall and being a huge history nerd, I delved into some of the local history. One of the historians I spoke to highly recommended this book and I immediately recognized it as one of Blackstone Publishing’s books. I love when historical fiction addresses lesser known stories, and I was really curious to learn more about sixteen-year-old Eliza Lucas and how her actions...[read on]
About the book, from the publisher:
Thrust into leadership upon the death of his emperor father, young Prince Ahkin feels completely unready for his new position. Though his royal blood controls the power of the sun, he’s now responsible for the lives of all the Chicome people. And despite all Ahkin’s efforts, the sun is fading—and the end of the world may be at hand.

For Mayana, the only daughter of the Chicome family whose blood controls the power of water, the old emperor’s death may mean that she is next. Prince Ahkin must be married before he can ascend the throne, and Mayana is one of six noble daughters presented to him as a possible wife. Those who are not chosen will be sacrificed to the gods.

Only one girl can become Ahkin’s bride. Mayana and Ahkin feel an immediate connection, but the gods themselves may be against them. Both recognize that the ancient rites of blood that keep the gods appeased may be harming the Chicome more than they help. As a bloodred comet and the fading sun bring a growing sense of dread, only two young people may hope to change their world.

Rich in imagination and romance, and based on the legends and history of the Aztec and Maya people, The Seventh Sun brings to vivid life a world on the edge of apocalyptic disaster.
Visit Lani Fobes's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Seventh Sun.

Writers Read: Lani Forbes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 21, 2020

Eight top contemporary romantic novels

Owen Nicholls is a screenwriter and author. His first novel, Love, Unscripted, was chosen as part of the Escalator Talent Scheme run by the National Centre for Writing.

He lives in Norfolk, England with his partner and their two sons.

At Electric Lit he tagged eight contemporary novels that will make you believe love is possible, including:
The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

Released in the same year as The Wedding Date, this book proves Guillory’s strike rate is second to none—unlike the swing and miss of her jerk of an antagonist, Fisher, who thinks a Jumbotron proposal is the way to control a woman’s response. Thankfully, this leads our hero Nikole to find Carlos, someone who understands that relationships need dialogue and consent.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: James Wellman Jr., Katie Corcoran, & Kate Stockly's "High on God"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: High on God: How Megachurches Won the Heart of America by James Wellman, Jr., Katie Corcoran, and Kate Stockly.

About the book, from the publisher:
"God is like a drug, a high, [I] can't wait for the next hit." This direct quote from a megachurch member speaking about his experience of God might be dismissed as some sort of spiritually-induced drug riff. However, according to the research in this book, it was not only sincere, but a deeply felt, and sought-after sensibility. Megachurch attendees desire this first-hand experience of God, and many report finding it in their congregations. The book focuses on the emotional, social and religious dynamics that pull thousands of people into megachurches and how those churches make some feel like they are "high on God" and can't wait to get their next spiritual "hit."

High on God gives the first robust and plausible explanation for why megachurches have conquered the churchgoing market of America. Without condescension or exaggeration, the authors show the genius of megachurches: the power of charisma, the design of facilities, the training of leaders, the emotional dynamics, and the strategies that bring people together and lead them to serve and help others. Using Emile Durkheim's concept of homo duplex, the authors plot the strategies that megachurches employ to satisfy the core human craving for personal meaning and social integration, as well as personal identity and communal solidarity. The authors also show how these churches can go wrong, sometimes tragically so. But they argue that, for the most part, megachurches help their attendees find themselves through bonding with and serving others.
Learn more about High on God at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: High on God.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six novels where the crimefighters also happen to be parents

Heather Chavez is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley’s English literature program and has worked as a newspaper reporter, editor and contributor to mystery and television blogs. Currently, she’s employed in public affairs for a major health care organization where she writes human interest stories. She lives with her family in Santa Rosa, California.

No Bad Deed is Chavez's first book.

At CrimeReads she tagged six crime novels in which the protagonist's own family life introduces another wrinkle to the case. One title on the list:
Hush Hush, Laura Lippman

In the twelfth book in the series, Baltimore private investigator Tess Monaghan now drives a minivan named Gladys. Tess is in total mom mode here: coaxing three-year-old Carla Scout to eat organic fish tacos and enduring Tasmanian Devil-level meltdowns. (Carla Scout steals every scene she’s in.) So when Tess is hired by the wealthy Melisandre Harris Dawes, notorious for having killed her own child, Tess is understandably uneasy. Melisandre is making a documentary about her case, and wants to reconnect with her now teenage daughters. In Hush, Hush, parental guilt is on full display—both Tess’s and Melisandre’s—as is the transformative nature of motherhood, for good and ill.
Read about another entry on the list.

Hush Hush is among Lisa Levy's ten top novels in mother-daughter noir.

The Page 69 Test: Hush Hush.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Pg. 69: Alena Dillon's "Mercy House"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Mercy House: A Novel by Alena Dillon.

About the book, from the publisher:
She would stop at nothing to protect the women under her care.

Inside a century-old row house in Brooklyn, renegade Sister Evelyn and her fellow nuns preside over a safe haven for the abused and abandoned. Gruff and indomitable on the surface, warm and wry underneath, little daunts Evelyn, until she receives word that Mercy House will be investigated by Bishop Hawkins, a man with whom she shares a dark history. In order to protect everything they’ve built, the nuns must conceal many of their methods, which are forbidden by the Catholic Church.

Evelyn will go to great lengths to defend all that she loves. She confronts a gang member, defies the church, challenges her own beliefs, and faces her past. She is bolstered by the other nuns and the vibrant, diverse residents of the shelter—Lucia, Mei-Li, Desiree, Esther, and Katrina—whose differences are outweighed by what unites them: they’ve all been broken by men but are determined to rebuild.

Amidst her fight, Evelyn discovers the extraordinary power of mercy and the grace it grants, not just to those who receive it, but to those strong enough to bestow it.
Visit Alena Dillon's website.

The Page 69 Test: Mercy House.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Katya de Becerra reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Katya de Becerra, author of Oasis: A Novel.

Her entry begins:
Every year I set a new reading goal, which has more to do with quality and diversity of my reading rather than quantity. For example, 2019 was my year of “reading widely”, meaning reading more books outside my go-to genres (YA thriller and contemporary fantasy). Specifically, I wanted to focus on reading books in formats I rarely pick up, such as graphic novels. I can’t recall exactly how I came across Vera Brosgol’s work but I’m so glad I did because two of her graphic novels (Anya’s Ghost and Be Prepared) are easily in my top five favorite reads from last year.

Brosgol is Moscow-born, US-based award-winning cartoonist (she has storyboarded for Coraline among other films), and once I knew she was...[read on]
About Oasis, from the publisher:
In this young adult thriller for fans of Lost and The Twilight Zone, a group of teens are saved when they come across a mysterious oasis. But who will save them from the oasis?

Alif had exciting summer plans: working on her father’s archeological dig site in the desert with four close friends ... and a very cute research assistant. Then the sandstorm hit.

Their camp wiped away, Alif and the others find themselves lost on the sands, seemingly doomed ... until they find the oasis. It has everything they need: food, water, and shade—and mysterious ruins that hide a deadly secret. As reality begins to shift around them, they question what’s real and what’s a mirage.

The answers turn Alif and her friends against each other, and they begin to wonder if they’ve truly been saved. And while it was easy to walk into the oasis, it may be impossible to leave...
Visit Katya de Becerra's blog and follow @KatyaDeBecerra on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Writers Read: Katya de Becerra.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Alejandro de la Fuente & Ariela Gross's "Becoming Free, Becoming Black"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Becoming Free, Becoming Black: Race, Freedom, and the Law in Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana by Alejandro de la Fuente and Ariela J. Gross.

About the book, from the publisher:
How did Africans become 'blacks' in the Americas? Becoming Free, Becoming Black tells the story of enslaved and free people of color who used the law to claim freedom and citizenship for themselves and their loved ones. Their communities challenged slaveholders' efforts to make blackness synonymous with slavery. Looking closely at three slave societies - Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana - Alejandro de la Fuente and Ariela J. Gross demonstrate that the law of freedom - not slavery - established the meaning of blackness in law. Contests over freedom determined whether and how it was possible to move from slave to free status, and whether claims to citizenship would be tied to racial identity. Laws regulating the lives and institutions of free people of color created the boundaries between black and white, the rights reserved to white people, and the degradations imposed only on black people.
Learn more about Becoming Free, Becoming Black at the Cambridge University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Ariela J. Gross's What Blood Won't Tell.

The Page 99 Test: Becoming Free, Becoming Black.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten random encounters in literature

Will Harris is a writer of mixed Anglo-Indonesian heritage, born and based in London. His debut pamphlet of poems, All this is implied, published by HappenStance in 2017, was joint winner of the London Review Bookshop Pamphlet of the Year and shortlisted for the Callum Macdonald Memorial Award by the National Library of Scotland. Mixed-Race Superman, an essay, was published by Peninsula Press in 2018 and in an expanded edition by Melville House in the US in 2019. His first full poetry collection, RENDANG, is forthcoming from Granta in the UK in February 2020 and from Wesleyan University Press in the US later in the year.

At the Guardian, Harris tagged ten notable random encounters in literature, including:
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Victorian novels often have random encounters at their heart, but Pip’s childhood meeting with Magwitch, in a graveyard on Christmas Eve, holds a special place. It’s what changes Pip’s fortunes without him realising and takes him away from his life among the “open marshes”. Dickens’ novel is a parable of class and capitalism: Pip is magically lifted out of poverty and then left stranded when he’s made aware of the illicit origins of his wealth.
Read about another entry on the list.

Great Expectations appears on Caroline Crampton's top ten list of books about the River Thames, Jenny Kawecki's list of four of the worst holidays in fiction, Lynne Truss's 6 best books list, Charlotte Seager's list of five well-known literary obsessives who take things too far, TheReadDown's list of seventeen books to read during wedding season, Phoebe Walker's list of eight of the best feasts quotes in literature, Rachel Cooke's top ten list of single women, Robert Williams's top ten list of loners in fiction, Chrissie Gruebel's top ten list of books set in London, Melissa Albert's list of five interesting fictional characters who would make undesirable roommates, Janice Clark's list of seven top novels about the horrors of adolescence, Amy Wilkinson's list of five books Kate Middleton should have read while waiting to give birth, Kate Clanchy's top ten list of novels that reflect the real qualities of adolescence, Joseph Olshan's list of six favorite books, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best clocks in literature, ten of the best appropriate deaths in literature, ten of the best castles in literature, ten of the best Hamlets, ten of the best card games in literature, and ten best list of fights in fiction. It also made Tony Parsons' list of the top ten troubled males in fiction, David Nicholls' top ten list of literary tear jerkers, and numbers among Kurt Anderson's five most essential books. The novel is #1 on Melissa Katsoulis' list of "twenty-five films that made it from the book shelf to the box office with credibility intact."

Read an 1861 review of Great Expectations.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Ismée Williams's "This Train Is Being Held," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: This Train Is Being Held by Ismée Williams.

The entry begins:
Alex Rosario is an athlete with a tender and poetic heart. And he’s super good-looking (he’s nicknamed Papichulo!) So the actor has to look the part. Of course Alex could be played by famed baseball great Alex Rodriguez, if A-Rod were younger and wore brown contact lens. A contemporary pick would be Reggaeton singer, Ozuna, who is set to star in his first feature film this year. Ozuna is half Puerto Rican and half Dominican–which would be fine–however he’s only 5ft 5in. The director would have to get creative with the shot angles to make sure Alex looked tall.

Isabel Warner is a blonde, tall, lithe ballerina who is half-Cuban. She has the epitome of a ballerina body type (I took ballet for 13 years and was always jealous of girls like her!). Isa could be played by...[read on]
Visit Ismée Williams's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Ismée Amiel Williams & Rowan.

My Book, The Movie: Water in May.

My Book, The Movie: This Train Is Being Held.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Garett Jones's "10% Less Democracy"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: 10% Less Democracy: Why You Should Trust Elites a Little More and the Masses a Little Less by Garett Jones.

About the book, from the publisher:
During the 2016 presidential election, both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders argued that elites were hurting the economy. But, drawing together evidence and theory from across economics, political science, and even finance, Garett Jones says otherwise. In 10% Less Democracy, he makes the case that the richest, most democratic nations would be better off if they slightly reduced accountability to the voting public, turning up the dial on elite influence.

To do this, Jones builds on three foundational lines of evidence in areas where he has personal experience. First, as a former staffer in the U.S. Senate, he saw how senators voted differently as elections grew closer. Second, as a macroeconomist, Jones knows the merits of "independent" central banks, which sit apart from the political process and are controlled by powerful insiders. The consensus of the field is that this detached, technocratic approach has worked far better than more political and democratic banking systems. Third, his previous research on the effects of cognitive skills on political, social, and economic systems revealed many ways in which well-informed voters improve government.

Discerning repeated patterns, Jones draws out practical suggestions for fine-tuning, focusing on the length of political terms, the independence of government agencies, the weight that voting systems give to the more-educated, and the value of listening more closely to a group of farsighted stakeholders with real skin in the game—a nation's sovereign bondholders. Accessible to political news junkies while firmly rooted and rigorous, 10% Less Democracy will fuel the national conversation about what optimal government looks like.
Learn more about 10% Less Democracy at the Stanford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: 10% Less Democracy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five dark and intelligent thrillers with strong female leads

Jenny Quintana grew up in Essex and Berkshire, before studying English Literature in London. She has taught in London, Seville and Athens and has also written books for teaching English as a foreign language. She is a graduate of the Curtis Brown Creative writing course. She lives with her family in Berkshire. She is the author of The Missing Girl and Our Dark Secret.

At the Waterstones blog, Quintana tagged five of her favorite dark and intelligent thrillers with strong female leads, including:
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

A beautifully written novel that follows the story of 14-year old Susie Salmon. Quirky and clever, on the edge of falling in love and with all her life ahead, Susie is brutally murdered at the very start of the novel. From a version of heaven, she watches her devastated family coping with their grief, living their lives, interacting even with the killer. The prose is heart-breaking, yet touched with poignancy and humour while the story is so taut with suspense and emotion it’s almost impossible to put down. I don’t often read a book more than once, but I have returned to The Lovely Bones several times and each time my heart aches at the plight of Susie Salmon which I feel is an absolute testimony to Alice Sebold’s brilliant writing.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Lovely Bones is among Louise Doughty's top ten ghost stories, Tim Thornton's top ten books about the afterlife, Jeff Somers's top eight speculative works with dead narrators, Nadiya Hussain's six best books, Judith Claire Mitchell's ten best (unconventional) ghosts, Laura McHugh's ten favorite books about serial killers, and Tamzin Outhwaite's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Pg. 69: Mary Kubica's "The Other Mrs."

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Other Mrs.: A Novel by Mary Kubica.

About the book, from the publisher:
She tried to run, but she can’t escape the other Mrs.

Sadie and Will Foust have only just moved their family from bustling Chicago to small-town Maine when their neighbor Morgan Baines is found dead in her home. The murder rocks their tiny coastal island, but no one is more shaken than Sadie.

But it’s not just Morgan’s death that has Sadie on edge. And as the eyes of suspicion turn toward the new family in town, Sadie is drawn deeper into the mystery of what really happened that dark and deadly night. But Sadie must be careful, for the more she discovers about Mrs. Baines, the more she begins to realize just how much she has to lose if the truth ever comes to light.
Visit Mary Kubica's website.

The Page 69 Test: Every Last Lie.

The Page 69 Test: When the Lights Go Out.

The Page 69 Test: The Other Mrs..

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven of the best books of extremely British satire

Hannah Rothschild CBE is a British writer, documentary filmmaker, businesswoman and philanthropist. Her biography, The Baroness, was published in 2012 in the UK, US and twelve other territories. Her first novel, The Improbability of Love, published in 2015 won the Bollinger Wodehouse Prize for best comic novel and was runner up for the Bailey Women's Prize for fiction in 2015.

Her much anticipated new novel, House of Trelawney, published this month.

At Lit Hub, Rothschild tagged "seven books that exemplify the long and glorious tradition of British Social Satires." One title on the list:
Nancy Mitford, The Pursuit of Love

In Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love, the family are“always either on a peak of happiness or drowning in black waters of despair; their emotions [on] no ordinary plane, they loved or they loathed, they laughed or they cried, they lived in a world of superlatives.” The father’s hobbies include smearing his daughters with fox excrement and setting his hounds on their trail.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Pursuit of Love is among Jemma Forte's top ten books about love, Anjelica Huston's seven favorite books, Elizabeth Buchan's top ten books to comfort & console during a divorce, and Anna Quindlen's five best novels on women in search of themselves.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Mark B. Smith's "The Russia Anxiety"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Russia Anxiety: And How History Can Resolve It by Mark B. Smith.

About the book, from the publisher:
A history of Russophobia and its living legacy in world affairs

With proof of election-meddling and the relationship between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin an ongoing conundrum, little wonder many Americans are experiencing what historian Mark B. Smith calls "the Russia Anxiety." This is no new phenomenon. Time and time again, the West has judged Russia on assumptions of its inherent cunning, malevolence, and brutality. Yet for much of its history, Russia functioned no differently-or at least no more dysfunctionally-than other absolutist, war-mongering European states. So what is it about this country that so often provokes such excessive responses? And why is this so dangerous?

Russian history can indeed be viewed as a catalog of brutal violence, in which a rotation of secret police-from Ivan the Terrible's Oprichina to Andropov's KGB and Putin's FSB-hold absolute sway. However, as Smith shows, there are nevertheless deeper political and cultural factors that could lead to democratic outcomes. Violence is not an innate element of Russian culture, and Russia is not unknowable. From foreign interference and cyber-attacks to mega-corruption and nuclear weapons, Smith uses Russia's sprawling history to throw light on contemporary concerns. Smith reveals how the past has created today's Russia and how this past offers hints about its future place in the world-one that reaches beyond crisis and confrontation.
Visit Mark Smith's Beyond the Kremlin blog, and learn more about The Russia Anxiety at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Russia Anxiety.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Kathleen West reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Kathleen West, author of Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes.

Her entry begins:
I recently read and loved Unscripted by Nicole Kronzer. This YA gem arrives from Abrams on April 21st, and adult and teen readers of contemporary fiction will want to pick it up. Here’s what you’re getting into: Improv phenom Zelda Bailey-Cho arrives at her comedy summer camp with her boots laced and ready for action. She knows how the summer will unfold: she’ll make the Varsity improv team, dazzle in the end-of-summer showcase, and start down a certain path to SNL.

But almost immediately, things seem not-quite-as-she-imagined. First, there are only five girls of the 175 campers at Rocky Mountain Theater Arts, and their counselor is MIA. Ben, the handsome Varsity coach is definitely interested in Zelda, but perhaps for insidious reasons. And none of the improv rules Zelda’s memorized—she keeps her bible, The Scene Must Win by comedy legend and camp founder, Jane Lloyd, always on hand—seem to help her in...[read on]
About Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes, from the publisher:
Perfect for fans of Where’d You Go, Bernadette and Small Admissions, a wry and cleverly observed debut novel about the privileged bubble that is Liston Heights High—the micro-managing parents, the overworked teachers, and the students caught in the middle—and the fallout for each of them when the bubble finally bursts.

When a devoted teacher comes under pressure for her progressive curriculum and a helicopter mom goes viral on social media, two women at odds with each other find themselves in similar predicaments, having to battle back from certain social ruin.

Isobel Johnson has spent her career in Liston Heights sidestepping the community’s high-powered families. But when she receives a threatening voicemail accusing her of Anti-Americanism and a liberal agenda, she’s in the spotlight. Meanwhile, Julia Abbott, obsessed with the casting of the school’s winter musical, makes an error in judgment that has far-reaching consequences for her entire family.

Brought together by the sting of public humiliation, Isobel and Julia learn firsthand how entitlement and competition can go too far, thanks to a secret Facebook page created as an outlet for parent grievances. The Liston Heights High student body will need more than a strong sense of school spirit to move past these campus dramas in an engrossing debut novel that addresses parents behaving badly and teenagers speaking up, even against their own families.
Visit Kathleen West's website.

The Page 69 Test: Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes.

Writers Read: Kathleen West.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 17, 2020

Ten top books about missing persons

Kathleen Donohoe is the author the novels Ashes of Fiery Weather and the newly released Ghosts of the Missing.

Her stories and essays have appeared in Web Conjunctions, Harpur Palate, Inkwell, Washington Square, Irish America Magazine and the anthology The Writing Irish of New York.

She grew up in Brooklyn, NY and currently lives there with her husband and son.

At CrimeReads, Donohoe tagged ten "books about missing persons, fiction and nonfiction, [that] grapple with what it is like to search and mourn at once." One title on the list:
What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman

In 1975, the Bethany sisters, eleven and fifteen years old, disappear from a Baltimore, Maryland shopping mall. There are no witnesses to an abduction, no suspects. As one character asks, who grabs two?

Thirty years later, a woman comes forward, claiming to be the younger of the two girls. Lippman has arranged the plot so that an answer via DNA is not an option. The novel is concerned not only with the pain of a family that lost both their daughters, but also the is-she-or-isn’t she aspect of the plot, and how a family can ever truly know a child who was taken from them.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: What the Dead Know.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Meg Gardiner's "The Dark Corners of the Night"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Dark Corners of the Night by Meg Gardiner.

About the book, from the publisher:
I am the legion of the night…

He appears in the darkness like a ghost, made of shadows and fear—the Midnight Man. He comes for the parents but leaves the children alive, tiny witnesses to unspeakable horror. The bedroom communities of Los Angeles are gripped with dread, and the attacks are escalating.

Still reeling from her best friend’s close call in a bombing six months ago, FBI behavioral analyst Caitlin Hendrix has come to Los Angeles to assist in the Midnight Man investigation and do what she does best—hunt a serial killer. Her work is what keeps her going, but something about this UNSUB—unknown subject—doesn’t sit right. She soon realizes that this case will test not only her skills but also her dedication, for within the heart of a killer lives a secret that mirrors Caitlin’s own past. Hesitancy is not an option, but will she be able to do what must be done if the time comes?

Tense and impactful, Edgar Award winner Meg Gardiner’s latest UNSUB thriller will leave you on the edge of your seat until its riveting conclusion.
Learn more about the book and author at Meg Gardiner's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The Dirty Secrets Club.

The Page 69 Test: The Memory Collector.

My Book, The Movie: Meg Gardiner's Evan Delaney series.

The Page 69 Test: The Liar's Lullaby.

My Book, The Movie: Meg Gardiner's Jo Beckett series.

The Page 69 Test: The Nightmare Thief.

The Page 69 Test: Ransom River.

The Page 69 Test: The Shadow Tracer.

The Page 69 Test: Phantom Instinct.

The Page 69 Test: UNSUB.

The Page 69 Test: Into the Black Nowhere.

The Page 69 Test: The Dark Corners of the Night.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Donna Kornhaber's "Nightmares in the Dream Sanctuary"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Nightmares in the Dream Sanctuary: War and the Animated Film by Donna Kornhaber.

About the book, from the publisher:
In 2008, Waltz with Bashir shocked the world by presenting a bracing story of war in what seemed like the most unlikely of formats—an animated film. Yet as Donna Kornhaber shows in this pioneering new book, the relationship between animation and war is actually as old as film itself. The world’s very first animated movie was made to solicit donations for the Second Boer War, and even Walt Disney sent his earliest creations off to fight on gruesome animated battlefields drawn from his First World War experience. As Kornhaber strikingly demonstrates, the tradition of wartime animation, long ignored by scholars and film buffs alike, is one of the world’s richest archives of wartime memory and witness.

Generation after generation, artists have turned to this most fantastical of mediums to capture real-life horrors they can express in no other way. From Chinese animators depicting the Japanese invasion of Shanghai to Bosnian animators portraying the siege of Sarajevo, from African animators documenting ethnic cleansing to South American animators reflecting on torture and civil war, from Vietnam-era protest films to the films of the French Resistance, from firsthand memories of Hiroshima to the haunting work of Holocaust survivors, the animated medium has for more than a century served as a visual repository for some of the darkest chapters in human history. It is a tradition that continues even to this day, in animated shorts made by Russian dissidents decrying the fighting in Ukraine, American soldiers returning from Iraq, or Middle Eastern artists commenting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Arab Spring, or the ongoing crisis in Yemen.

Nightmares in the Dream Sanctuary: War and the Animated Film vividly tells the story of these works and many others, covering the full history of animated film and spanning the entire globe. A rich, serious, and deeply felt work of groundbreaking media history, it is also an emotional testament to the power of art to capture the endurance of the human spirit in the face of atrocity.
Learn more about Nightmares in the Dream Sanctuary at the University of Chicago Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Nightmares in the Dream Sanctuary.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six books Erik Larson keeps returning to

Erik Larson's books include Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, The Devil in the White City, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and won an Edgar Award for fact-crime writing, In the Garden of Beasts, about how America’s first ambassador to Nazi Germany and his daughter experienced the rising terror of Hitler’s rule, and Isaac’s Storm, about the giant hurricane that destroyed Galveston, Texas in 1900.

The Splendid and the Vile, Larson's latest nonfiction thriller, offers a close-up view of Winston Churchill's first year as Great Britain's prime minister.

At The Week magazine, Larson tagged six books he keeps returning to, including:
The Shipping News by Annie Proulx (1993).

The perfect novel: atmospheric to the point where I practically have to take a shower to rinse off the brine cast up by waves crashing against the Newfoundland cliffs as our hero, Quoyle, lumbers his way from despair toward salvation.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Shipping News appears on Lissa Evans's list of six novels about nonconformist women, David Vann's six favorite books list, Rachel Seiffert's top ten list of books about troubled families, RJ Ellory's five best list of human dramas, Elise Valmorbida's list of top ten books with a happy ending, and John Mullan's list of ten of the best fishing trips.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 16, 2020

What is Robert Dugoni reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Robert Dugoni, author of A Cold Trail (Tracy Crosswhite #7).

His entry begins:
I just finished reading The Rescue by Steven Konkoly and I loved the way he wove in multiple story lines and his fresh take on a man wrongly convicted who gets out of prison and has to prove himself innocent against tremendous obstacles. Steven wove into the story the Russian Mafia, The FBI and US Senators, and...[read on]
About A Cold Trail, from the publisher:
In New York Times bestselling author Robert Dugoni’s riveting series, Seattle homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite returns home to a brutal murder and her haunted past.

The last time homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite was in Cedar Grove, it was to see her sister’s killer put behind bars. Now she’s returned for a respite and the chance to put her life back in order for herself, her attorney husband, Dan, and their new daughter. But tragic memories soon prove impossible to escape.

Dan is drawn into representing a local merchant whose business is jeopardized by the town’s revitalization. And Tracy is urged by the local PD to put her own skills to work on a new case: the brutal murder of a police officer’s wife and local reporter who was investigating a cold-case slaying of a young woman. As Tracy’s and Dan’s cases crisscross, Tracy’s trail becomes dangerous. It’s stirring up her own haunted past and a decades-old conspiracy in Cedar Grove that has erupted in murder. Getting to the truth is all that matters. But what’s Tracy willing to risk as a killer gets closer to her and threatens everyone she loves?
Visit Robert Dugoni's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Wrongful Death.

The Page 69 Test: Bodily Harm.

My Book, The Movie: Bodily Harm.

The Page 69 Test: Murder One.

My Book, The Movie: Murder One.

My Book, The Movie: The Eighth Sister.

Writers Read: Robert Dugoni (April 2019).

The Page 69 Test: The Eighth Sister.

My Book, The Movie: A Cold Trail.

The Page 69 Test: A Cold Trail.

Writers Read: Robert Dugoni.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Josh Seim's "Bandage, Sort, and Hustle"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Bandage, Sort, and Hustle: Ambulance Crews on the Front Lines of Urban Suffering by Josh Seim.

About the book, from the publisher:
What is the role of the ambulance in the American city? The prevailing narrative provides a rather simple answer: saving and transporting the critically ill and injured. This is not an incorrect description, but it is incomplete.

Drawing on field observations, medical records, and his own experience as a novice emergency medical technician, sociologist Josh Seim reimagines paramedicine as a frontline institution for governing urban suffering. Bandage, Sort, and Hustle argues that the ambulance is part of a fragmented regime that is focused more on neutralizing hardships (which are disproportionately carried by poor people and people of color) than on eradicating the root causes of agony. Whether by compressing lifeless chests on the streets or by transporting the publicly intoxicated into the hospital, ambulance crews tend to handle suffering bodies near the bottom of the polarized metropolis.

Seim illustrates how this work puts crews in recurrent, and sometimes tense, contact with the emergency department nurses and police officers who share their clientele. These street-level relations, however, cannot be understood without considering the bureaucratic and capitalistic forces that control and coordinate ambulance labor from above. Beyond the ambulance, this book motivates a labor-centric model for understanding the frontline governance of down-and-out populations.
Learn more about Bandage, Sort, and Hustle, and follow Josh Seim on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Bandage, Sort, and Hustle.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top books on social mobility

Hashi Mohamed is a barrister and broadcaster based in London, England.

He arrived in Britain aged nine, as an unaccompanied child refugee. He attended some of Britain’s worst schools and was raised exclusively on state benefits. Yet today he is a successful barrister, with an Oxford degree and a CV that includes numerous appearances on the BBC.

In his debut book People Like Us: What it Takes to Make it in Modern Britain, Mohamed explores what his own experience can tell us about social mobility in Britain today.

At the Waterstones blog, he tagged five notable books on social mobility, Including:
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Noah’s experiences growing up in South Africa as a child of a black mother and white father may seem quite far from my own experience. But his observations and conversations with his mother about his father were powerful. The need to reconcile, understand, digest and ultimately be at peace with the fact of an absent father is crucial to many people’s social mobility journey.

Whether it means finding your father for the first time, re-establishing a relationship, or learning to live with their absence, you have to do it to be able to move on with your life. On this, I am with the mother of comedian Trevor Noah. Noah, who is mixed-race, was brought up in apartheid South Africa, and born at a time when interracial relationships were still a crime. His father wasn’t around during his childhood, and when he was twenty-four, over his own protests, his mother told him:

‘Too many men grow up without their fathers, so they spend their lives with a false impression of who their father is and what a father should be. You need to find your father. You need to show him what you’ve become. You need to finish that story.'
Read about another entry on the list.

Born a Crime is among Brian Boone's five hilarious Thurber Prize-winning reads and Keith Rice's ten best books on South Africa.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Alyssa Palombo's "The Borgia Confessions," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Borgia Confessions: A Novel by Alyssa Palombo.

The entry begins:
I, for one, would love to see The Borgia Confessions on the big screen (or the small screen, should some network or streaming service want to adapt it!) and as such have thought about who I would envision playing some of the characters. There are a lot of characters in this book, so my picks for a few of the main ones are below:

Maddalena Moretti – Sophie Turner

I’m a big Game of Thrones fan, and I loved Sophie Turner’s portrayal of Sansa Stark, and the way she grew the character over the eight seasons of the show. I think for that reason that she would make a great Maddalena, and she definitely looks the part for me!

Cesare Borgia – Francois Arnaud

Okay, so this is cheating, because...[read on]
Visit Alyssa Palombo's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Violinist of Venice.

The Page 69 Test: The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence.

My Book, The Movie: The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel.

My Book, The Movie: The Borgia Confessions.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Mary Beth Norton's "1774: The Long Year of Revolution"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: 1774: The Long Year of Revolution by Mary Beth Norton.

About the book, from the publisher:
From one of our most acclaimed and original colonial historians, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, 2018 president of the American Historical Association, a groundbreaking book–the first to look at the critical “long year” of 1774 and the revolutionary change that took place from December 1773 to mid-April 1775, from the Boston Tea Party and the first Continental Congress to the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

This masterly work of historical writing, Mary Beth Norton’s first in almost a decade, looks at the sixteen months during which the traditional loyalists to King George III began their discordant “discussions” that led to their acceptance of the inevitability of war against the British Empire and to the clashes at Lexington and Concord in mid-April 1775.

Drawing extensively on pamphlets, newspapers, and personal correspondence, Norton reconstructs colonial political discourse as it happened, showing the vigorous campaign mounted by conservatives criticizing congressional actions. But by then it was too late. In early 1775, governors throughout the colonies informed colonial officials in London that they were unable to thwart the increasing power of the committees and their allied provincial congresses. Although the Declaration of Independence would not be formally adopted until July 1776, Americans, even before the outbreak of war in April 1775, had in effect “declared independence” by obeying the decrees of their new provincial governments rather than colonial officials.

The much-anticipated new book by one of America’s most dazzling historians–the culmination of more than four decades of Norton’s research and thought.
Visit Mary Beth Norton's faculty webpage.

The Page 99 Test: 1774: The Long Year of Revolution.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven top books from the end of the world

Tosca Lee is the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of The Line Between, The House of Bathory Duology (The Progeny, Firstborn), Iscariot, The Legend of Sheba, Demon: A Memoir, Havah: The Story of Eve, and the Books of Mortals series with New York Times bestseller Ted Dekker.

A notorious night-owl, she loves watching TV, eating bacon, playing video games with her kids, and sending cheesy texts to her husband. You can find Tosca hanging around the snack table or wherever bacon is served.

A Single Light, a sequel to The Line Between, is now available.

At CrimeReads, Lee tagged seven top apocalyptic reads, including:
After the Flood

Fellow Nebraskan Kassandra Montag’s 2019 debut story takes place over a century in the future after the world has been transformed into a vast scape of open water, an archipelago of mountaintops the only land above sea level. Myra and her young daughter, Pearl, embark on a dangerous journey to find the older daughter Myra believed to be dead but learns may still be alive. A Chicago Tribune Best Book of the Year.
Read about another entry on the list.

My Book, The Movie: After the Flood.

The Page 69 Test: After the Flood.

--Marshal Zeringue