Sunday, November 23, 2014

Five of the best oddball detective novels

Jeff Somers is the author of Lifers, the Avery Cates series from Orbit Books, Chum from Tyrus Books, and We Are Not Good People from Pocket/Gallery. He has published over thirty short stories as well.

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Somers tagged five detective novels featuring "oddballs who will satisfy your yen for mystery and your yen for surprisingly creative worlds," including:
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, by Michael Chabon

This fantastic novel is an alternative history novel, and what truly sets it apart from just about every novel ever written is how well it’s constructed. The alternative timeline, wherein Israel is destroyed in 1948 and a temporary Jewish settlement in Alaska becomes the Jewish state (something that almost happened) is simultaneously subtle and ambitious in scope. Add in a mystery that’s well-constructed just as a mystery, a long list of creative and fascinating characters (and genius riffs on one of the world’s most musical languages, Yiddish), and you’ve got a tremendous book that also happens to be an oddball detective novel.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Yiddish Policemen's Union is among J.D. Taylor's ten top counter-factual novels and Molly Driscoll's top six alternate-history novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Ann Purser reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Ann Purser, author of Suspicion at Seven: A Lois Meade Mystery.

Her entry begins:
I belong to a book club - around twelve of us turn up in the Reading Room (truly a small building erected about a hundred years ago in our tiny village, in an effort to educate the poor and neglected members of the parish}. We meet once a month, and this is about right for me to read one book a month. This month we have Fludd, by Hilary Mantel, a deliciously creepy read. Into churchy matters - dark corners of the mind - comes Fludd, a strange character who comes and goes at will, sometimes without apparently taking steps to appear or disappear. Frustrated women, corrupt clergy, all...[read on]
About the book, from the publisher:
Lois Meade has done enough buffing and polishing over the years with her cleaning business, New Brooms, to know that all that glitters is not gold. So when a bag of costume jewellery is the main clue in a murder, she has a strong suspicion that appearances may be deceiving…

After a woman is discovered in the Mill House Hotel, strangled with a silver necklace beside a bag filled with faux silver, gold and pearls, costume jewelry dealer Donald Black seems like the obvious suspect. But Lois knows Donald’s wife, who runs a baker’s shop near the hotel, and can’t believe her husband could be a killer. Plus, Donald has an airtight alibi.

Nevertheless, Donald is no angel. It appears he’s running a pyramid scheme, and Lois’s mother is getting sucked in. Could the murder have anything to do with his unscrupulous business practices?

As Inspector Cowgill and Lois hope the bling may shine a light on the killer, the discovery of a second body on the old waterwheel in the hotel may be grist for the mill in solving the murder—if they can manage to catch the culprit without getting the runaround.
Learn more about the book and author at Ann Purser's website.

The Page 69 Test: Found Guilty at Five.

Writers Read: Ann Purser.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Pg. 69: L. E. Modesitt Jr.'s "Heritage of Cyador"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Heritage of Cyador (Recluce Series #18) by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

About the book, from the publisher:
From New York Times bestselling author L.E. Modesitt comes Heritage of Cyador, the new novel in the Saga of Recluce.

Scarcely a year after the events of Cyador’s Heirs, Lerial uses his mastery of Order and Chaos, the competing natural forces that shape his world and define the magic that exists within it, to utterly destroy an Afritan military force crossing into Cigoerne.

Five years later, Lerial, now an overcaptain and a field commander of Cigoerne’s Mirror Lancers, must lead three companies of troops into Afrit on a mission of mutual interest: neighboring Heldya is threatening to invade Afrit, and if that nation falls, Cigoerne is certain to be next.

The mission is both delicate and dangerous; Lerial’s value in the effort to repelling Heldya is undeniable, but his troubled history against Afrit may reopen old wounds that will never truly heal.
Learn more about the author and his work at L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s website.

The Page 69 Test: Heritage of Cyador.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five cop books that hit the target

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Ellen Wehle tagged five cop books that hit the target, including:
Darkness, Darkness, by John Harvey

“Better, as far as they’re all concerned, for Jenny’s body to have stayed where it was, underground.” In England in 1984 the coal miners went on strike, police went undercover to spy on them, and a woman named Jenny Hardwick disappeared. DI Charlie Resnick was on duty at the strike, so 30 years later, when builders discover Jenny’s skeleton under a demolished house, he expects to be called in. What he doesn’t expect is the reluctance of everyone involved—including Jenny’s family—to find her killer. What is it they fear? Fans of realistic, character-based mysteries will love this dip into British history.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Claire Prentice's "The Lost Tribe of Coney Island," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Lost Tribe of Coney Island: Headhunters, Luna Park, and the Man Who Pulled Off the Spectacle of the Century by Claire Prentice.

The entry begins:
On March 29, 1905 Dr Truman K. Hunt boarded the RMS Empress of China at Hong Kong Harbor, bound for Vancouver. Hunt was almost forty, a medical man from Iowa who had served as Lieutenant-Governor of the remote Bontoc region of the Philippines. And he wasnʼt traveling alone. With him were 50 Bontoc Igorrotes, tribesmen, women and children from the far north of the Philippines.

Ahead of them lay 20 days and nights at sea. And when they arrived on dry land they had another vast journey ahead of them, this time by train. It would take them across the United States to their new home, Coney Island. There, among the fairground rides and ʻfreak shows,ʼ the Igorrotes would perform a distorted sideshow version of their tribal life for the public who paid a quarter to gawk at the “dog eating, head hunting savages” [these were their managerʼs words]. Within weeks the Igorrotes were the talk of America.

Hunt would be a dream role for a gifted character actor. In fact he was a gifted actor himself. A brilliant self publicist, he sold stories about the Igorrotes to newspapers across the country. A charmer with an eye for the ladies, and the capacity to impose his will by flattery and force of personality, by the end of the summer he shows a darker side to his nature. He is a hero who turns villain, a chancer who believes his own tall tales. It would be a great role for Matthew...[read on]
Visit Claire Prentice's website. and follow her on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: The Lost Tribe of Coney Island.

My Book, The Movie: The Lost Tribe of Coney Island.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 21, 2014

Five books that changed Kimberley Freeman

Kimberley Freeman was born in London and grew up in Brisbane, Australia. Her books include Ember Island, Wildflower Hill, and Lighthouse Bay.

One of five books that changed her, as shared at the Sydney Morning Herald:
THE LORD OF THE RINGS
J.R.R. Tolkien

I was introduced to this book in grade 10 by my best friend, Mandy. I was one of the nerdiest kids at school, always being picked on, and spent most lunch hours in the library. When Mandy and I and some other friends started reading Tolkien we developed a distinct identity as the fantasy library nerds, which made us close and safe (the tough kids were never in the library). My partner recently read the Lord of the Rings aloud to me. Now that I'm an adult and have studied early medieval literature I have even more appreciation for the deep mythic resonances of the story and the beautifully chosen language.
Read about another book on the list.

The Lord of the Rings also made SF Said's top ten list of unlikely heroes, Nicole Hill's top eight list of notable royal figures in fiction, Becky Ferreira's top seven list of bromances in literature, Nicole Hill's list of eleven of the most eccentric relatives in fiction, Nicole Hill's top seven list of literary wedding themes, Charlie Jane Anders's list of fifteen moments from science fiction and fantasy that will make absolutely anyone cry, Elizabeth Wein's top ten list of dynamic duos in fiction, Katharine Trendacosta and Charlie Jane Anders's list of the ten sources that inspired the dark storytelling of Game of Thrones, Rob Bricken's list of 11 preposterously manly fantasy series, Conrad Mason's top ten list of magical objects in fiction, Linus Roache's six best books list, Derek Landy's top ten list of villains in children's books, Charlie Jane Anders and Michael Ann Dobbs' list of ten classic SF books that were originally considered failures, Lev Grossman's list of the six greatest fantasy books of all time, and appears on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best women dressed as men, ten of the best bows and arrows in literature, ten of the best beards in literature, ten of the best towers in literature, ten of the best volcanoes in literature, ten of the best chases in literature, and ten of the best monsters in literature. It is one of Salman Rushdie's five best fantasy novels for all ages. It is a book that made a difference to Pat Conroy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Malcolm Gaskill's "Between Two Worlds"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Between Two Worlds: How the English Became Americans by Malcolm Gaskill.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the 1600s, over 350,000 intrepid English men, women, and children migrated to America, leaving behind their homeland for an uncertain future. Whether they settled in Jamestown, Salem, or Barbados, these migrants—entrepreneurs, soldiers, and pilgrims alike—faced one incontrovertible truth: England was a very, very long way away.

In Between Two Worlds, celebrated historian Malcolm Gaskill tells the sweeping story of the English experience in America during the first century of colonization. Following a large and varied cast of visionaries and heretics, merchants and warriors, and slaves and rebels, Gaskill brilliantly illuminates the often traumatic challenges the settlers faced. The first waves sought to recreate the English way of life, even to recover a society that was vanishing at home. But they were thwarted at every turn by the perils of a strange continent, unaided by monarchs who first ignored then exploited them. As these colonists strove to leave their mark on the New World, they were forced—by hardship and hunger, by illness and infighting, and by bloody and desperate battles with Indians—to innovate and adapt or perish.

As later generations acclimated to the wilderness, they recognized that they had evolved into something distinct: no longer just the English in America, they were perhaps not even English at all. These men and women were among the first white Americans, and certainly the most prolific. And as Gaskill shows, in learning to live in an unforgiving world, they had begun a long and fateful journey toward rebellion and, finally, independence
Visit Malcolm Gaskill's website.

The Page 99 Test: Between Two Worlds.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six top YA antiheroes

One title on Dahlia Adler's list of six top Young Adult antiheroes, as shared on The Barnes & Noble Book Blog:
Parker Fadley (Cracked Up to Be, by Courtney Summers)

This book was pretty much my gateway into my love for the modern incarnation of YA, and more than five years later, Parker is still one of my favorite characters. Once upon a time, she was a popular and powerful cheerleader, and an utterly adored girlfriend and best friend. Now she’s…well, not much of anything, or at least that’s what she’s going for. But just because she’s trying to detach herself from everyone these days doesn’t mean they’ll let her, no matter how cruel she is. (And she is hilariously cruel, and cruelly hilarious.)
Read about another entry on the list.

Cracked Up to Be also appears on Dahlia Adler's list of five books for Veronica Mars fans.

The Page 69 Test: Cracked Up to Be.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Jen Nadol reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Jen Nadol, author of This Is How It Ends.

Her entry begins:
I’m reading two middle grade books right now, unusual in that I rarely read MG or more than one book at a time.

The first is Cornelia Funke’s The Thief Lord which I bought several months ago, thinking my ten year old might like it. He hadn’t picked it up so I started reading it aloud to my two younger sons who are riveted by the story of a group of homeless children living in an abandoned movie theater in Venice. We’re about halfway through and I think the story is about to take a turn for the speculative with the item the children are going to steal. It’s a wonderful book to read aloud because the writing is so graceful and the author has really taken time to paint vividly both the characters and the cold, damp atmosphere of Venice as...[read on]
About This Is How It Ends, from the publisher:
If you could see the future, would you want to? After the disturbing visions Riley and his friends see turn out to be more than hallucinations, fate takes a dangerous twist in this dark and suspenseful page-turner.

Riley and his friends are gearing up for their senior year by spending one last night hanging out in the woods, drinking a few beers, and playing Truth or Dare. But what starts out as a good time turns sinister when they find a mysterious pair of binoculars. Those who dare to look through them see strange visions, which they brush off as hallucinations. Why else would Riley see himself in bed with his best friend’s girlfriend—a girl he’s had a secret crush on for years?

In the weeks that follow, the visions begin to come true...including a gruesome murder. One of Riley’s closest friends is now the prime suspect. But who is the murderer? Have Riley and his friends really seen the future through those mysterious binoculars? And what if they are powerless to change the course of events?
Visit Jen Nadol's website.

Writers Read: Jen Nadol.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Seven top books on feeding the world

One title from the Guardian's list of the top seven books on feeding the world:
The Politics of Food: The Global Conflict Between Food Security and Food Sovereignity by William D Schanbacher

Our current global food system is a violation of human rights, says Schanbacher. This passionate and informative book argues the current model for combating global hunger is too dependent on trade and international agribusiness. Schanbacher puts together a concise argument – examining global trade and corporate monopolisation of the food industry – on why food sovereignty is a more sustainable and effective approach to solving world hunger.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Beth Bernobich's "Allegiance"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Allegiance: River of Souls (Volume 3 of 3) by Beth Bernobich.

About the book, from the publisher:
King Leos of Károví, the tyrannical despot whose magic made him near immortal and who controlled a tattered empire for centuries through fear and intimidation, is finally dead. Ilse Zhalina watched as the magical jewels that gave him such power reunited into a single essence, a manifestly God-like creature who then disappeared into the cosmic void. Ilse is now free to fulfill her promise to Valara Baussay, the rogue Queen of Morennioù, who wants to return to her kingdom and claim her throne.

Ilse will do all in her power to help Valara if only as a means to get to her home. Home to her lover, Raul Kosenmark, who is gathering forces in their homeland of Veraene now that Leos is dead in order to save them from an ill-advised war. Pulled by duty and honor, Ilse makes this long journey back to where her story began, to complete the journey she attempted lives and centuries before and bring peace between the kingdoms. Along the way she learns some hard truths and finally comes to a crossroads of power and magic. She must decide if duty is stronger than a love that she has sought through countless lifetimes.

Will Isle give up her heart’s desire so that her nation can finally know lasting peace?

Allegiance is the thrilling conclusion to Beth Bernobich's River of Souls trilogy.
Learn more about the book and author at Beth Bernobich's website.

The Page 69 Test: Passion Play.

The Page 69 Test: Allegiance.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Erik J. Wielenberg's "Robust Ethics"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Robust Ethics: The Metaphysics and Epistemology of Godless Normative Realism by Erik J. Wielenberg.

About the book, from the publisher:
Erik J. Wielenberg draws on recent work in analytic philosophy and empirical moral psychology to defend non-theistic robust normative realism and develop an empirically-grounded account of human moral knowledge. Non-theistic robust normative realism has it that there are objective, non-natural, sui generis ethical features of the universe that do not depend on God for their existence. The early chapters of the book address various challenges to the intelligibility and plausibility of the claim that irreducible ethical features of things supervene on their non-ethical features as well as challenges from defenders of theistic ethics who argue that objective morality requires a theistic foundation. Later chapters develop an account of moral knowledge and answer various recent purported debunkings of morality, including those based on scientific research into the nature of the proximate causes of human moral beliefs as well as those based on proposed evolutionary explanations of our moral beliefs.
Learn more about Robust Ethics at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Robust Ethics.

--Marshal Zeringue

John Lawton's "Sweet Sunday," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Sweet Sunday by John Lawton.

The entry begins:
Sweet Sunday? Oddly, I never cast anyone for Raines in the Cinema-of-the-Mind. Only time I have so lapsed. Troy? Easy … James Mason … and I have argued the case for Robert Downey Jr with producers on several occasions to no avail. (Dear Bob, I do hope you’re reading this ... the part is yours for the asking.) Tosca? … Janeane Garofalo to a T.

The parts I cast in this book were mainly the women … Rose is Alex Kingston (ER, Dr Who, Moll Flanders), Althea is Alfre Woodard (First Contact) and perhaps Lois would be Grace Zabriskie … and, sad to say, as fictions never age and actors do ... all of them as they were ten or twenty years ago.

Turner Raines … well, he’s a Texan and perhaps Texas’s most famous actor is Tommy Lee Jones, but TLJ must be my age at least so maybe Texas’s 2nd star actor gets the part...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at John Lawton's website.

The Page 69 Test: Then We Take Berlin.

Writers Read: John Lawton.

The Page 69 Test: Sweet Sunday.

My Book, The Movie: Sweet Sunday.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Todd Moss' "The Golden Hour"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Golden Hour by Todd Moss.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Golden Hour: In international politics, the hundred hours following a coup, when there is still a chance that diplomacy, a secret back channel, military action—something—might reverse the chain of events.

As the top American diplomat for West Africa, Todd Moss saw a great deal about how diplomacy and politics actually work. But as he shows us, the results aren’t always pretty.

When Judd Ryker is appointed director of the new State Department Crisis Reaction Unit, he figures he has a mandate to help the United States respond more quickly to foreign crises, but he hasn’t reckoned with the intense State, Defense, Pentagon, White House, and CIA infighting and turf battles he would face. Then comes the coup in Mali. It is his chance to prove that his theory of the Golden Hour actually works—but in the real world, those hours move very, very quickly indeed, and include things he’d never even imagined.

As Ryker races from Washington across Europe to the Sahara Desert, he finds that personalities, loyalties, everything he thought he knew, begin to shift and change beneath his feet—and that friends and enemies come in many forms.
Visit Todd Moss' website.

Writers Read: Todd Moss.

The Page 69 Test: The Golden Hour.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Nine top books for fans of Kate Atkinson’s "Life After Life"

At Bustle, Kate Erbland tagged nine books for fans of Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, including:
If the seemingly dueling possible lives of the book enthralled you, Anya Seton’s Green Darkness is just the ticket

A number of Ursula’s lives appear to be at odds with each other — how can the same girl get into such different narratives? — and that same theme runs through Seton’s dreamy romance. Set in both 20th century and Tudor England, Seton’s book follows the brave Celia as she journeys back in time to right old wrongs in order to have a happy future. What she finds there is, well, it’s pretty unexpected.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Joseph P. Laycock's "The Seer of Bayside"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Seer of Bayside: Veronica Lueken and the Struggle to Define Catholicism by Joseph P. Laycock.

About the book, from the publisher:
In 1968, Veronica Lueken, a Catholic housewife in Bayside, Queens, New York, began to experience visions of the Virgin Mary. Over almost three decades, she imparted over 300 messages from Mary, Jesus, and other heavenly personages. These revelations, which were sent all over the world through newsletters, billboards, and local television, severely criticized the liturgical changes of Vatican II and the wickedness of American society. Unless everyone repented, Lueken warned, a "fiery ball" would collide with the Earth, causing death and destruction around the world.

When Catholic Church authorities tried to dismiss, discredit, and even banish her, Lueken declared Pope Paul VI a communist imposter, accused the Church of being in error since Vatican II, and sought new venues in which to communicate her revelations. Since her death in 1995, her followers have continued to gather to promote her messages in Flushing Meadows Park, Queens. Known as "the Baysiders," they believe that St. Robert Bellarmine's Church, from which Lueken was banned from holding vigils, will someday become "the Lourdes of America" and that Lueken will be elevated to sainthood.

Joseph P. Laycock delves into untapped archival materials and a wealth of ethnographic research to unfold the fascinating story of Veronica Lueken and the Baysiders from 1968 to the present. Though scholars have characterized the Baysiders variously as a new religious movement, a form of folk piety, and a traditionalist sect, members of the group regard themselves as loyal Catholics-maybe the last in existence. They are critical of the Church hierarchy, which they believe corrupted by modernism, and reject ultra-traditionalist Catholic groups who believe that the papal see is vacant.

Laycock shows how the Baysiders have deviated significantly from mainstream Catholic culture while keeping in dialogue with Church authorities, and reveals how the persistence of the Baysiders and other Marian groups has contributed to greater amenability toward devotional culture and private revelation on the part of Church authorities. The Seer of Bayside is an invaluable study of the perpetual struggle between lay Catholics and Church authorities over who holds the power to define Catholic culture.
Learn more about The Seer of Bayside at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Seer of Bayside.

--Marshal Zeringue

Cover story: "Wine, Sugar, and the Making of Modern France"

Elizabeth Heath is an Assistant Professor of History at Baruch College, City University of New York, having taught previously at Florida International University. She received her PhD from the Department of History at the University of Chicago. She is a former Harper–Schmidt Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Chicago and the holder of a number of fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the Newberry Library, the Getty Research Institute, and the Wolfsonian Museum. Her research focuses on modern France and the French empire, and she is particularly interested in the way that colonialism shaped the fundamental features of modern French life, whether citizenship and welfare, or consumer habits, hygiene, and economic tools. She is currently at work on a new book-length project on French colonial commodities entitled Everyday Colonialism: Commodities of Empire and the Making of Modern France.

Heath's new book is Wine, Sugar, and the Making of Modern France: Global Economic Crisis and the Racialization of French Citizenship, 1870-1910.

Here she explains the connection of the book's cover to the pages within:
It may be the case that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but it can be hoped that the cover offers key insights into the story contained inside. When I first saw the image that now adorns my book I could not believe my good fortune: it was an attractive, colorful, and beautifully stylized image of Guadeloupe originally produced as a schoolbook cover during the French Third Republic. Sugar cane, field workers, tropical vistas, colonial officers, naval ships all joined together to create an image of a tropical paradise that was, simultaneously beguiling and transparent about the racial inequalities that defined French imperialism.

As I studied it more closely, I realized that the image actually encapsulates one of the central claims I make in Wine, Sugar, and the Making of Modern France. The book began with two fundamental questions: why did colonial citizens in Guadeloupe, who began the Third Republic with rights equal to rural citizens in metropolitan France, acquire the status of second-class citizens by 1910? How did these two different and unequal forms of citizenship emerge? The answer, I argue, has to do with the way that the French state attempted to mitigate the political and social effects of global economic crisis in the late nineteenth century. In an era of declining prices and profits, growing protectionism, and heightened imperialism, the French state encouraged French businesses to seek investment opportunities in the empire. Guadeloupe, which had been waylaid by the global sugar crisis, was not one of the places that French investors sought out. However, metropolitan banks and businesses had extended loans to Guadeloupean sugar factories earlier in the Third Republic in order to keep the industry—and the colony—afloat. Sugar producers deflected much of the costs of these loans onto sugar industry workers. When beleaguered worker-citizens of color protested their growing immiseration and went on strike in the early twentieth century, the French Third Republic intervened to preserve the Guadeloupean sugar industry—and by extension the empire—as a “safe” space for investment. Far from preserving the rights and wellbeing of colonial citizens, the Third Republic crushed the worker movement and undercut the workers’ political rights, thereby creating the foundation for new, and unequal form of colonial citizenship.

The cover illustrates the position of Guadeloupe in 1910 beautifully. Though in theory a colony of citizens, Guadeloupe has been hemmed in by the economic imperatives of the empire at large. In the center, Guadeloupean workers toil in the cane fields, recalling an earlier period of slavery. A colonial official and naval officer stand on guard to preserve the new imperial order and, like in 1910, to step in to quell any form of labor unrest. Once touted as symbols of France’s policy of assimilation, the Guadeloupean workers have been drawn into, and constrained, by the logic of an empire based association and new forms of inequality.

The cover conveys all this, but also operates at yet another level. In many ways it replicates the work it would have done in its earlier manifestation as a schoolbook cover. The image places the reader in the position of a metropolitan school child and invites him or her to fantasize about distant lands and adventures. By helping the reader see Guadeloupe and the French empire from this perspective, it prepares the reader to figure out how and why this image, with its clearly demarcated racial hierarchy and power relations would have been so unremarkable and natural in the eyes of a metropolitan school child living in 1910.
Learn more about Wine, Sugar, and the Making of Modern France at the Cambridge University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Todd Moss reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Todd Moss, author of The Golden Hour.

His entry begins:
I just finished The Director by David Ignatius, the longtime columnist for the Washington Post. I love David’s books because they are always complex international thrillers about the US intelligence community which draw on extraordinary insider information. In his latest, a new CIA director learns the Agency’s computers have been hacked. Cybersecurity can be...[read on]
About The Golden Hour, from the publisher:
The Golden Hour: In international politics, the hundred hours following a coup, when there is still a chance that diplomacy, a secret back channel, military action—something—might reverse the chain of events.

As the top American diplomat for West Africa, Todd Moss saw a great deal about how diplomacy and politics actually work. But as he shows us, the results aren’t always pretty.

When Judd Ryker is appointed director of the new State Department Crisis Reaction Unit, he figures he has a mandate to help the United States respond more quickly to foreign crises, but he hasn’t reckoned with the intense State, Defense, Pentagon, White House, and CIA infighting and turf battles he would face. Then comes the coup in Mali. It is his chance to prove that his theory of the Golden Hour actually works—but in the real world, those hours move very, very quickly indeed, and include things he’d never even imagined.

As Ryker races from Washington across Europe to the Sahara Desert, he finds that personalities, loyalties, everything he thought he knew, begin to shift and change beneath his feet—and that friends and enemies come in many forms.
Visit Todd Moss' website.

Writers Read: Todd Moss.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Five sci-fi books that explore gender in unexpected & challenging ways

Jeff Somers is the author of Lifers, the Avery Cates series from Orbit Books, Chum from Tyrus Books, and We Are Not Good People from Pocket/Gallery. He has published over thirty short stories as well.

At The Barnes & Noble Book Blog Somers tagged five sci-fi novels that explore gender in unexpected and challenging ways, including:
Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie

Another obvious choice for this subject, Ancillary Justice again plays with gender in a very straightforward way: the POV character in the book comes from a society without gender, and is forced to interact with a gendered society, referring to everyone they meet as “she” internally and making some occasionally dramatic incorrect guesses about the gender of others. Perhaps the greatest power of the novel in regards to gender is that it isn’t really treated as a subject to be discussed. The genderless society just is, where a lesser writer might have made it the whole point.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Deborah Halber's "The Skeleton Crew"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths Are Solving America's Coldest Cases by Deborah Halber.

About the book, from the publisher:
Solving cold cases from the comfort of your living room…

The Skeleton Crew provides an entree into the gritty and tumultuous world of Sherlock Holmes–wannabes who race to beat out law enforcement—and one another—at matching missing persons with unidentified remains.

In America today, upwards of forty thousand people are dead and unaccounted for. These murder, suicide, and accident victims, separated from their names, are being adopted by the bizarre online world of amateur sleuths.

It’s DIY CSI.

The web sleuths pore over facial reconstructions (a sort of Facebook for the dead) and other online clues as they vie to solve cold cases and tally up personal scorecards of dead bodies. The Skeleton Crew delves into the macabre underside of the Internet, the fleeting nature of identity, and how even the most ordinary citizen with a laptop and a knack for puzzles can reinvent herself as a web sleuth.
Visit Deborah Halber's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Skeleton Crew.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sean Williams's "Crashland," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Crashland: A Twinmaker Novel by Sean Williams.

The entry begins:
My usual response to this question is that my main character, Clair, would be played by Amandla Stenberg, who played Rue in the first Hunger Games movie. I didn’t have her in mind, but as soon as I saw her I thought “Yes!” Clair is 17, so they’re almost exactly the same age right now. Hurry up, Hollywood!

But I thought this time I’d consider another character, that of Clair’s boyfriend’s father, Dylan Linwood. This would be a challenging role to play. In Twinmaker, he’s a prickly outsider artist who doesn’t get on with Clair at all. And then, um, something happens to him (trying to avoid spoilers here for those who haven’t read the book) and he seems to become a completely different person. He looks the same, if a bit more beaten up than he was before, but he sounds different, acts different, and has very different reasons to try to catch Clair. He’s trying to murder her, in fact. So he goes from boyfriend’s dad to psycho killer overnight, which is...[read on]
Visit Sean Williams' website.

The Page 69 Test: Crashland.

Writers Read: Sean Williams.

My Book, The Movie: Crashland.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: David Gordon's "White Tiger on Snow Mountain"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: White Tiger on Snow Mountain: Stories by David Gordon.

About the book, from the publisher:
Thirteen hilarious, moving, and beautifully brutal stories by David Gordon, the award-winning author of Mystery Girl and The Serialist.

In these funny, surprising, and touching stories, Gordon gets at the big stuff — art and religion, literature and madness, the supernatural, and the dark fringes of sexuality — in his own unique style, described by novelist Rivka Galchen as “Dashiell Hammett divided by Don DeLillo, to the power of Dostoyevsky — yet still pure David Gordon.”

Gordon's creations include ex-gangsters and terrifying writing coaches, Internet girlfriends and bogus memoirists, Chinatown ghosts, and vampires of Queens. “The Amateur” features a cafe encounter with a terrible artist who carries a mind-blowing secret. In the long, beautifully brutal title story, a man numbed by life finds himself flirting with and mourning lost souls in the purgatory of sex chatrooms. The result is both unflinching and hilarious, heartbreaking and life-affirming.
Learn more about the book and author at David Gordon's blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Serialist.

Writers Read: David Gordon (July 2013).

The Page 69 Test: Mystery Girl.

The Page 69 Test: White Tiger on Snow Mountain.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 17, 2014

William Gibson's 6 favorite books

William Gibson's novels include Neuromancer, Pattern Recognition, and The Peripheral.

One of his six favorite books, as shared at The Week magazine:
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

For my money, this was the birth of modern science fiction. Mary Shelley invented science fiction with Frankenstein, but The Time Machine is something else. I like to try to imagine people reading this when it was originally published as a newspaper serial in 1895 England. Still unforgettable, thrilling, haunting.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Time Machine is among Paul Southern's ten top underground menaces, Jane Rogers's top ten cozy catastrophes, Adam Roberts's five notable science fiction classics, David Lodge's top ten H.G. Wells books, and Linda Buckley-Archer's top ten time-travelling stories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Karen Piper's "The Price of Thirst"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Price of Thirst: Global Water Inequality and the Coming Chaos by Karen Piper.

About the book, from the publisher:
“There's Money in Thirst,” reads a headline in the New York Times. The CEO of Nestlé, purveyor of bottled water, heartily agrees. It is important to give water a market value, he says in a promotional video, so “we're all aware that it has a price.” But for those who have no access to clean water—a fifth of the world's population—the price is thirst. This is the frightening landscape that Karen Piper leads us through in The Price of Thirst—one where thirst is political, drought is a business opportunity, and more and more of our most necessary natural resource is controlled by multinational corporations.

In visits to the hot spots of water scarcity and the hotshots in water finance, Piper shows us what happens when global businesses with mafia-like powers buy up the water supply and turn off the taps of people who cannot pay: border disputes between Iraq and Turkey, a “revolution of the thirsty” in Egypt, street fights in Greece, an apartheid of water rights in South Africa. The Price of Thirst takes us to Chile, the first nation to privatize 100 percent of its water supplies, creating a crushing monopoly instead of a thriving free market in water; to New Delhi, where the sacred waters of the Ganges are being diverted to a private water treatment plant, fomenting unrest; and to Iraq, where the U.S.-mandated privatization of water resources destroyed by our military is further destabilizing the volatile region. And in our own backyard, where these same corporations are quietly buying up water supplies, Piper reveals how “water banking” is drying up California farms in favor of urban sprawl and private towns.

The product of seven years of investigation across six continents and a dozen countries, and scores of interviews with CEOs, activists, environmentalists, and climate change specialists, The Price of Thirst paints a harrowing picture of a world out of balance, with the distance between the haves and have-nots of water inexorably widening and the coming crisis moving ever closer.
Learn more about The Price of Thirst at the University of Minnesota Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Price of Thirst.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Gail Carriger reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Gail Carriger, author of Waistcoats & Weaponry.

Her entry begins:
Lately I have been reading His Fair Assassin trilogy by Robin LaFevers. I just finished both Grave Mercy & Dark Triumph, because the final volume, Mortal Heart, is out this month.

The series premise got me initially: three girls from different backgrounds are deemed daughters of death and taken in to a mysterious convent where they are trained as assassins, called death's handmaidens. Each is then sent from the convent into the politics of late 1400s Brittany, and given...[read on]
About Waistcoats & Weaponry, from the publisher:
Class is back in session...

Sophronia continues her second year at finishing school in style--with a steel-bladed fan secreted in the folds of her ball gown, of course. Such a fashionable choice of weapon comes in handy when Sophronia, her best friend Dimity, sweet sootie Soap, and the charming Lord Felix Mersey stowaway on a train to return their classmate Sidheag to her werewolf pack in Scotland. No one suspected what--or who--they would find aboard that suspiciously empty train. Sophronia uncovers a plot that threatens to throw all of London into chaos and she must decide where her loyalties lie, once and for all.

Gather your poison, steel tipped quill, and the rest of your school supplies and join Mademoiselle Geraldine's proper young killing machines in the third rousing installment in the New York Times bestselling Finishing School Series by steampunk author, Gail Carriger.
Learn more about the book and author at Gail Carriger's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Soulless.

The Page 69 Test: Changeless.

The Page 69 Test: Waistcoats & Weaponry.

Writers Read: Gail Carriger.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: K. M. Hewitt & Lucy

Featured at Coffee with a Canine: K. M. Hewitt & Lucy.

The author, on Lucy's best pet pal:
[U]p until last May, her best bud and constant companion was a rescue dog named Schoobie. We lost him to bone cancer and we were all at quite a loss for him. Schoobie was a 1 year old standard poodle rescue when he arrived 12 years ago, and in very poor health. On the day Schoobie arrived, he stood in a corner of our yard, shaking with fear. He was pretty frightened of his new environment and as my husband and I were deciding what to do next, Lucy looked around, picked up one of her stuffy toys, and placed it at Schoobie's feet, sat down and nodded towards Schoobie as if to say: It’s okay, you’re gonna love it here! From that day on, a very shy and sensitive Schoobie never left Lucy’s protective side. She took Schoobie under her wing for his entire life. We...[read on]
About Hewitt's new novel, A Life Unbroken:
As the sole witness to a devastating accident at a secret Biological Weapons Lab, Alex McKay vanishes while on assignment in South America. Six years later… through luck and a twist of fate… she resurfaces in the U.S. with a new name, a new face and a new identity. Alex has a frightening story to tell and she knows it could send shockwaves throughout the nation and world… if she lives long enough to tell it.
Visit K.M. Hewitt's website and Facebook page.

Coffee with a Canine: K. M. Hewitt & Lucy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: John Lawton's "Sweet Sunday"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Sweet Sunday by John Lawton.

About the book, from the publisher:
In Sweet Sunday, John Lawton turns his talents to the United States in a standalone thriller that Lawton’s American fans will be intrigued by and that is an ideal book for readers new to Lawton’s work.

Turner Raines is in his thirties, but he’s already a has-been—among the things he has been are a broken civil rights worker, a law school dropout, and a tenth-rate journalist. But as a private eye, he’s found his niche. In the hot summer of 1969, the Vietnam War is ripping the country to pieces. If your kid dodges the draft, hooks up with a hippie commune, makes a dash for Canada, Raines is the man to find him. That turbulent May of 1969, as Norman Mailer stands for mayor of New York, Raines leaves the city, chasing a draft-dodging punk all the way to Toronto. Nothing goes as planned. By the time Raines gets back to NYC, his oldest friend, a reporter for the Village Voice, is dead, and Raines’s life has changed forever. Following the trail of his friend’s death, he finds himself blasted back to the Texas of his childhood, confronted anew with his divided family and blown into the path of people who know about secret goings-on in Vietnam, stories they may now be willing to tell. Lucky for Raines, he’s a good listener.
Learn more about the book and author at John Lawton's website.

The Page 69 Test: Then We Take Berlin.

Writers Read: John Lawton.

The Page 69 Test: Sweet Sunday.

--Marshal Zeringue