Monday, March 27, 2017

Bassem Youssef's six favorite books

Bassem Youssef was the host of Albernameg, the first-of-its-kind political satire show in the Middle East from 2011 until the show's termination by the Egyptian government in 2014. He now lives in the United States.

Youssef's new book is Revolution for Dummies: Laughing Through the Arab Spring.

One of his six favorite books, as shared at The Week magazine:
1984 by George Orwell

This is the "duh" choice. It's everyone's favorite book. But for me it is even more special. What I have seen in Egypt and how the media manipulated people on a daily basis might be a chapter out of Orwell's book — a chapter that is not even well written.
Read about another entry on the list.

Nineteen Eighty-four is on Joel Cunningham's list of twelve science fiction & fantasy books for the post-truth era, Stephen W. Potts's top five list of useful books about surviving surveillance, Linda Grant's top ten list of books about postwar Britain, Ella Cosmo's list of five fictional books-within-a-book too dangerous to read, the list of four books that changed Peter Twohig, the Guardian's list of the five worst book covers ever, the Independent's list of the fifteen best opening lines in literature, W.B. Gooderham's top ten list of books given in books, Katharine Trendacosta and Amanda Yesilbas's list of ten paranoid science fiction stories that could help you survive, Na'ima B. Robert's top ten list of Romeo and Juliet stories, Gabe Habash's list of ten songs inspired by books and a list of the 100 best last lines from novels. The book made Charlie Jane Anders's list of ten science fiction novels we pretend to have read, Juan E. Méndez's list of five books on torture, P. J. O’Rourke's list of the five best political satires, Daniel Johnson's five best list of books about Cold War culture, Robert Collins' top ten list of dystopian novels, Gemma Malley's top 10 list of dystopian novels for teenagers, is one of Norman Tebbit's six best books and one of the top ten works of literature according to Stephen King. It made a difference to Isla Fisher, and appears on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best Aprils in literature, ten of the best rats in literature, and ten of the best horrid children in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 26, 2017

What is Christina Kovac reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Christina Kovac, author of The Cutaway: A Thriller.

Her entry begins:
As of this writing, which is less than one week from the pub date of my debut novel, I’m a hot mess. My brain is pinging all over the place. Last minute tasks. All the time worries, including: will there be enough wine and beer at the launch? If not, will anyone show up? Reading is what calms me, yet it’s unfair to try any new authors, because I’m not in the right frame of mind. It’s not fair to the writer. What I need is a Joe Finder book. His writing is like a high-performance luxury car: it...[read on]
About The Cutaway, from the publisher:
The Cutaway draws you into the tangled world of corruption and cover-up as a young television producer investigates the disappearance of a beautiful Georgetown lawyer in this stunning psychological thriller, perfect for fans of Paula Hawkins and Gillian Flynn.

When brilliant TV news producer Virginia Knightly receives a disturbing “MISSING” notice on her desk related to the disappearance of a beautiful young attorney, she can’t seem to shake the image from her head. Despite skepticism from her colleagues, Knightly suspects this ambitious young lawyer may be at the heart of something far more sinister, especially since she was last seen leaving an upscale restaurant after a domestic dispute. Yet, as the only woman of power at her station, Knightly quickly finds herself investigating on her own.

Risking her career, her life, and perhaps even her own sanity, Knightly dives deep into the dark underbelly of Washington, DC business and politics in an investigation that will drag her mercilessly through the inextricable webs of corruption that bind the press, the police, and politics in our nation’s capital.

Harkening to dark thrillers such as Gone Girl, Luckiest Girl Alive, and Big Little Lies, The Cutaway is a striking debut that will haunt you long after you reach the last page.
Visit Christina Kovac's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Cutaway.

The Page 69 Test: The Cutaway.

Writers Read: Christina Kovac.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Sara Lövestam's "Wonderful Feels Like This"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Wonderful Feels Like This by Sara Lövestam.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Elegance of the Hedgehog meets The Perks of Being a Wallflower in Wonderful Feels Like This, a novel that celebrates being a little bit odd, finding your people, and the power of music to connect us.

For Steffi, going to school everyday is an exercise in survival. She's never fit in with any of the groups at school, and she's viciously teased by the other girls in her class. The only way she escapes is through her music—especially jazz music.

When Steffi hears her favorite jazz song playing through an open window of a retirement home on her walk home from school, she decides to go in and introduce herself.

The old man playing her favorite song is Alvar. When Alvar was a teenager in World War II Sweden, he dreamed of being in a real jazz band. Then and now, Alvar's escape is music—especially jazz music.

Through their unconventional but powerful friendship, Steffi comes to realize that she won't always be stuck and lonely in her town. She can go to music school in Stockholm. She can be a real musician. She can be a jitterbug, just like Alvar.

But how can Steffi convince her parents to let her go to Stockholm to audition? And how it that Steffi's school, the retirement home, the music, and even Steffi's worst bully are somehow all connected to Alvar? Can it be that the people least like us are the ones we need to help us tell our own stories?
Visit Sara Lövestam's website.

My Book, The Movie: Wonderful Feels Like This.

The Page 69 Test: Wonderful Feels Like This.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the unluckiest characters in science fiction & fantasy

At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, Meghan Ball tagged ten of the unluckiest characters in science fiction & fantasy, including:
Everyone (A Song of Ice and Fire, by George RR Martin)

Seriously. I mean it. Every single person in A Song of Ice and Fire, from Westeros to the Dothraki Sea. These are perhaps the unluckiest group of people in all of science fiction and fantasy, with nothing to look forward to but death, death, and more death. If you are a character in this series, you are going to die. It is going to be horrible, and probably senseless. And you’re still not one of the unluckiest of the bunch, because at least your suffering is over. If this series is a D&D campaign, every single person involved has rolled a critical miss on their luck check.
Read about another entry on the list.

A Game of Thrones is among Jeff Somers's top five dad moments in science fiction & fantasy history, Julie Kagawa's top ten dragons in fiction, Ryan Britt's six best Scout Finches from sci-fi & fantasy, Charlotte Seager's top five spoiled suppers in literature, Melissa Grey's five top female characters of under-appreciated strength, Non Pratt's top ten toxic friendships in literature, Becky Ferreira's eight best siblings in literature, and Nicole Hill's six fictional femmes who fatally smashed the glass ceiling and top six books on gluttony. A Song of Ice and Fire is among Ferreira's six favorite redheads in literature and six best books with dragons, Joel Cunningham's seven top books featuring long winters. The Red Wedding in A Storm of Swords is one of Ferreira's top six most momentous weddings in fiction. The Lannister family from A Game of Thrones is one of Jami Attenberg's top ten dysfunctional families in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Felix Arnold's "Islamic Palace Architecture in the Western Mediterranean"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Islamic Palace Architecture in the Western Mediterranean: A History by Felix Arnold.

About the book, from the publisher:
Palaces like the Aljafería and the Alhambra rank among the highest achievements of the Islamic world. In recent years archaeological work at Córdoba, Kairouan and many other sites has vastly increased our knowledge about the origin and development of Islamic palatial architecture, particularly in the Western Mediterranean region. This book offers a comprehensive and up-to-date overview of Islamic palace architecture in Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and southern Italy. The author, who has himself conducted archaeological field work at several prominent sites, presents all Islamic palaces known in the region in ground plans, sections and individual descriptions. The book traces the evolution of Islamic palace architecture in the region from the 8th to the 19th century and places them within the context of the history of Islamic culture. Palace architecture is a unique source of cultural history, offering insights into the way space was conceived and the way rulers used architecture to legitimize their power. The book discusses such topics as the influence of the architecture of the Middle East on the Islamic palaces of the western Mediterranean region, the role of Greek logic and scientific progress on the design of palaces, the impact of Islamic palaces on Norman and Gothic architecture and the role of Sufism on the palatial architecture of the late medieval period.
Learn more about Islamic Palace Architecture in the Western Mediterranean at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Islamic Palace Architecture in the Western Mediterranean.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 25, 2017

What is Bren McClain reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Bren McClain, author of One Good Mama Bone.

Her entry begins:
Kevin Wilson’s The Family Fang. I had heard a lot of wonderful things about this book, chief of which was the hugely dysfunctional family at its center. Boy, howdy does it, but this book takes dysfunction to a whole new level. I love this book, and I’ll tell you why – I was going along laughing, laughing, laughing – at times uncontrollably -- at the outrageousness of this family’s antics. And then – wham! – I...[read on]
About One Good Mama Bone, from the publisher:
A novel of courageous parental love and the instructive, healing bonds that form between humans and animals

Set in early 1950s rural South Carolina, One Good Mama Bone chronicles Sarah Creamer’s quest to find her “mama bone” after she is left to care for a boy who is not her own but instead is the product of an affair between her husband and her best friend and neighbor, a woman she calls “Sister.” When her husband drinks himself to death, Sarah, a dirt-poor homemaker with no family to rely on and the note on the farm long past due, must find a way for her and young Emerson Bridge to survive. But the more daunting obstacle is Sarah’s fear that her mother’s words, seared in her memory since she first heard them at the age of six, were a prophesy: “You ain’t got you one good mama bone in you, girl.”

When Sarah reads in the local newspaper that a boy won $680 with his Grand Champion steer at the recent 1951 Fat Cattle Show & Sale, she sees this as their financial salvation and finds a way to get Emerson Bridge a steer from a local farmer to compete in the 1952 show. But the young calf is unsettled at Sarah’s farm, crying out in distress and growing louder as the night wears on. Some four miles away, the steer’s mother hears his cries and breaks out of a barbed-wire fence to go in search of him. The next morning Sarah finds the young steer quiet, content, and nursing on a large cow. Inspired by the mother cow’s act of love, Sarah names her Mama Red. And so Sarah’s education in motherhood begins with Mama Red as her teacher.

But Luther Dobbins, the man who sold Sarah the steer, has his sights set on winning too, and, like Sarah, he is desperate, but not for money. Dobbins is desperate for glory, wanting to regain his lost grand-champion dynasty, and he will stop at nothing to win. Emboldened by her lessons from Mama Red and her budding mama bone, Sarah is fully committed to victory until she learns the winning steer’s ultimate fate. Will she stop at nothing, even if it means betraying her teacher?

McClain’s writing is distinguished by a sophisticated and detailed portrayal of the day-to-day realities of rural poverty and an authentic sense of time and place that marks the best southern fiction. Her characters transcend their archetypes and her animal-as-teacher theme recalls the likes of Water for Elephants and The Art of Racing in the Rain. One Good Mama Bone explores the strengths and limitations of parental love, the healing power of the human-animal bond, and the ethical dilemmas of raising animals for food.
Visit Bren McClain's website.

My Book, The Movie: One Good Mama Bone.

The Page 69 Test: One Good Mama Bone.

Writers Read: Bren McClain.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Jennifer Brown's "Dare You"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Dare You by Jennifer Brown.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the second book of the suspenseful Shade Me trilogy, perfect for fans of Sara Shepard's Pretty Little Liars and Kimberly McCreight's The Outliers, Nikki Kill becomes embroiled in another mystery with the gorgeous Detective Martinez when she discovers that the Hollises are trying frame her for the murder of Peyton Hollis—and only her synesthesia can help her unravel the dark truth.

Nikki Kill didn't realize that trying to find out who killed Peyton Hollis would tangle her in a web of dangerous family secrets that would rock her identity to the core. But now that Nikki knows the truth, the all-powerful Hollises want to frame her for Peyton's murder.

And now Nikki's only chance at escaping the cold black bars of prison or the crimson grip of death is teaming up with the enigmatic Detective Martinez and relying on an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of clues...
Learn more about the book and author at Jennifer Brown's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jennifer Brown & Ursula and Aragorn.

My Book, The Movie: Life on Mars.

The Page 69 Test: Shade Me.

The Page 69 Test: Dare You.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten top supernatural mysteries

Jess Kidd has a PhD in Creative Writing from St. Mary’s University. She grew up as a part of a large family from Mayo and now lives in London with her daughter. Himself is her first novel. She is currently at work on a second novel and a collection of short stories.

One of Kidd's ten essential supernatural mysteries, as shared at Publishers Weekly:
Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel

The real mystery in Mantel’s darkly comic novel is the protagonist’s past, which is a riddle not easily solved. Alison is a stage-show medium, traveling the circuit, picking up a dour helper, Colette, en route. While Alison gives her clients comfort she knows that the afterlife is not a place of peace. Alison has her own methods of keeping her own traumatic past at bay, but history keeps resurfacing. I love this book for Mantel’s deft use of magic realism to create vile, heckling, down-to-earth ghosts. But also for the way in which Beyond Black explores how we deal with the phantoms of childhood, especially when that childhood is deeply damaged.
Read about another entry on the list.

Beyond Black is among Sarah Porter's five top books with unusual demons and devils.

--Marshal Zeringue

Becky Masterman's "A Twist of the Knife," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: A Twist of the Knife (Brigid Quinn Series, Volume 3) by Becky Masterman.

The entry begins:
When I first conceived Brigid Quinn, I had been reading a Jack Reacher novel. So I thought, what if Jack Reacher were a woman? Then I thought, what if Jack Reacher were a woman approaching 60? She'd be smart, and sexy, and physically fit, and could kill a man with her bare hands. So I guess...[read on]
Visit Becky Masterman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Rage Against the Dying.

The Page 69 Test: Rage Against the Dying.

My Book, The Movie: Fear the Darkness.

The Page 69 Test: Fear the Darkness.

My Book, The Movie: A Twist of the Knife.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 24, 2017

Five top YA thrillers with a supernatural twist

S. Jae-Jones is the author of Wintersong. At the BN Teen blog she tagged five YA thrillers with a supernatural twist, [spoiler alert] including:
The Hidden Memory of Objects by Danielle Mages Amato

When Megan’s brother Tyler died, the police said it was because of a drug overdose. But that’s an explanation Megan is not willing to accept. A talented found-object artist, Megan begins to experience strange hallucinations when she touches things that once belonged to her brother. These hallucinations are more than just visions; they’re a sort of psychometry in which Megan experiences the memories of the objects she touches. With her newfound gift, she begins piecing together what happened to Tyler with the help of two of her classmates, and a man who possesses the same strange talent. A fast-paced read through time and grief, grounded by a sister’s love for her brother.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Christina Kovac's "The Cutaway"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Cutaway: A Thriller by Christina Kovac.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Cutaway draws you into the tangled world of corruption and cover-up as a young television producer investigates the disappearance of a beautiful Georgetown lawyer in this stunning psychological thriller, perfect for fans of Paula Hawkins and Gillian Flynn.

When brilliant TV news producer Virginia Knightly receives a disturbing “MISSING” notice on her desk related to the disappearance of a beautiful young attorney, she can’t seem to shake the image from her head. Despite skepticism from her colleagues, Knightly suspects this ambitious young lawyer may be at the heart of something far more sinister, especially since she was last seen leaving an upscale restaurant after a domestic dispute. Yet, as the only woman of power at her station, Knightly quickly finds herself investigating on her own.

Risking her career, her life, and perhaps even her own sanity, Knightly dives deep into the dark underbelly of Washington, DC business and politics in an investigation that will drag her mercilessly through the inextricable webs of corruption that bind the press, the police, and politics in our nation’s capital.

Harkening to dark thrillers such as Gone Girl, Luckiest Girl Alive, and Big Little Lies, The Cutaway is a striking debut that will haunt you long after you reach the last page.
Visit Christina Kovac's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Cutaway.

The Page 69 Test: The Cutaway.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Alex Bledsoe reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Alex Bledsoe, author of Gather Her Round.

His entry begins:
Like most (all?) writers, I have a couple of things going simultaneously. One is, What It Used to be Like: A Portrait of My Marriage to Raymond Carver, by Maryann Burk Carver. Raymond Carver had a life very similar to mine, and his determination to continue writing despite near-Wagnerian setbacks (poverty, alcoholism, having two children by the time he was twenty) is something with which I strongly identify. I’ve read scholarly biographies and reminiscences by other writers, but this is the closest to...[read on]
About Gather Her Round, from the publisher:
In critically-acclaimed Alex Bledsoe’s Tufa novel, Gather Her Round, a monster roams the woods of Cloud County, while another kind of evil lurks in the hearts of men.

Love and tragedy are not strange bedfellows among the Tufa. Young Kera Rogers disappears while hiking in the woods by Needsville. When her half-eaten remains are discovered, the blame falls upon a herd of wild hogs, a serious threat in this rural community. In response, the county’s best trackers, including game warden Jack Cates and ex-military Tufa Bronwyn Chess are assembled to hunt them down.

Kara’s boyfriend Duncan Gowen mourns her death, until he finds evidence she cheated on him with his best friend, Adam Procure. Seeking revenge, Duncan entices Adam to participate in their own boar hunt. Later, Bronwyn and Jack stumble across a devastated Duncan, who claims a giant boar impaled Adam and dragged him off. As this second death rocks the town, people begin to wonder who is really responsible.

Determined hunters pursue the ravenous horde through the Appalachians as other Tufa seek their own answers. Between literal beasts in the woods and figurative wolves in sheep’s clothing, what truths will arise come spring?
Learn more about the book and author at Alex Bledsoe's website.

The Page 69 Test: Wisp of a Thing (Tufa #2).

The Page 69 Test: Long Black Curl (Tufa #3).

My Book, The Movie: Gather Her Round (Tufa #5).

Writers Read: Alex Bledsoe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Nathan F. Sayre's "The Politics of Scale"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Politics of Scale: A History of Rangeland Science by Nathan F. Sayre.

About the book, from the publisher:
Rangelands are vast, making up one quarter of the United States and forty percent of the Earth’s ice-free land. And while contemporary science has revealed a great deal about the environmental impacts associated with intensive livestock production—from greenhouse gas emissions to land and water degradation—far less is known about the historic role science has played in rangeland management and politics. Steeped in US soil, this first history of rangeland science looks to the origins of rangeland ecology in the late nineteenth-century American West, exploring the larger political and economic forces that—together with scientific study—produced legacies focused on immediate economic success rather than long-term ecological well being.

During the late 1880s and early 1890s, a variety of forces—from the Homestead Act of 1862 to the extermination of bison, foreign investment, and lack of government regulation—promoted free-for-all access to and development of the western range, with disastrous environmental consequences. To address the crisis, government agencies turned to scientists, but as Nathan F. Sayre shows, range science grew in a politically fraught landscape. Neither the scientists nor the public agencies could escape the influences of bureaucrats and ranchers who demanded results, and the ideas that became scientific orthodoxy—from fire suppression and predator control to fencing and carrying capacities—contained flaws and blind spots that plague public debates about rangelands to this day. Looking at the global history of rangeland science through the Cold War and beyond, The Politics of Scale identifies the sources of past conflicts and mistakes and helps us to see a more promising path forward, one in which rangeland science is guided less by capital and the state and more by communities working in collaboration with scientists.
Learn more about The Politics of Scale at the University of Chicago Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Politics of Scale.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 23, 2017

What is Tessa Arlen reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Tessa Arlen, author of A Death by Any Other Name.

Her entry begins:
I have recently finished writing a historical fiction of Diana Manners early life during the First World War where every single one of her group of male friends was killed. How on earth would one manage to come through that sort of experience in one early twenties? Was the question I asked myself over and over as I researched and wrote this novel. Among the many great books I read about this time, re-reading Robert Graves’ autobiography Goodbye To All That was pure joy if the word joy should be used in connection to the catastrophe of the Great War.

I first read Graves’ memoir of the war many years ago at school and detested it! My only regret this time around was that...[read on]
About A Death by Any Other Name, from the publisher:
A Death by Any Other Name is a delightful Edwardian mystery set in the English countryside. Building on the success of her last two mysteries in the same series, Tessa Arlen returns us to the same universe full of secrets, intrigue, and, this time, roses.

The elegant Lady Montfort and her redoubtable housekeeper Mrs. Jackson's services are called upon after a cook is framed and dismissed for poisoning a guest of the Hyde Rose Society. Promising to help her regain her job and her dignity, the pair trek out to the countryside to investigate a murder of concealed passions and secret desires. There, they are to discover a villain of audacious cunning among a group of mild-mannered, amateur rose-breeders. While they investigate, the rumor mill fills with talk about a conflict over in Prussia where someone quite important was shot. There is talk of war and they must race the clock to solve the mystery as the idyllic English summer days count down to the start of WWI.

Brimming with intrigue, Tessa Arlen's latest does not disappoint.
Visit Tessa Arlen's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Tessa Arlen & Daphne.

The Page 69 Test: Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman.

My Book, The Movie: Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman.

The Page 69 Test: Death Sits Down to Dinner.

My Book, The Movie: Death Sits Down to Dinner.

The Page 69 Test: A Death by Any Other Name.

Writers Read: Tessa Arlen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Bren McClain's "One Good Mama Bone"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: One Good Mama Bone by Bren McClain.

About the book, from the publisher:
A novel of courageous parental love and the instructive, healing bonds that form between humans and animals

Set in early 1950s rural South Carolina, One Good Mama Bone chronicles Sarah Creamer’s quest to find her “mama bone” after she is left to care for a boy who is not her own but instead is the product of an affair between her husband and her best friend and neighbor, a woman she calls “Sister.” When her husband drinks himself to death, Sarah, a dirt-poor homemaker with no family to rely on and the note on the farm long past due, must find a way for her and young Emerson Bridge to survive. But the more daunting obstacle is Sarah’s fear that her mother’s words, seared in her memory since she first heard them at the age of six, were a prophesy: “You ain’t got you one good mama bone in you, girl.”

When Sarah reads in the local newspaper that a boy won $680 with his Grand Champion steer at the recent 1951 Fat Cattle Show & Sale, she sees this as their financial salvation and finds a way to get Emerson Bridge a steer from a local farmer to compete in the 1952 show. But the young calf is unsettled at Sarah’s farm, crying out in distress and growing louder as the night wears on. Some four miles away, the steer’s mother hears his cries and breaks out of a barbed-wire fence to go in search of him. The next morning Sarah finds the young steer quiet, content, and nursing on a large cow. Inspired by the mother cow’s act of love, Sarah names her Mama Red. And so Sarah’s education in motherhood begins with Mama Red as her teacher.

But Luther Dobbins, the man who sold Sarah the steer, has his sights set on winning too, and, like Sarah, he is desperate, but not for money. Dobbins is desperate for glory, wanting to regain his lost grand-champion dynasty, and he will stop at nothing to win. Emboldened by her lessons from Mama Red and her budding mama bone, Sarah is fully committed to victory until she learns the winning steer’s ultimate fate. Will she stop at nothing, even if it means betraying her teacher?

McClain’s writing is distinguished by a sophisticated and detailed portrayal of the day-to-day realities of rural poverty and an authentic sense of time and place that marks the best southern fiction. Her characters transcend their archetypes and her animal-as-teacher theme recalls the likes of Water for Elephants and The Art of Racing in the Rain. One Good Mama Bone explores the strengths and limitations of parental love, the healing power of the human-animal bond, and the ethical dilemmas of raising animals for food.
Visit Bren McClain's website.

My Book, The Movie: One Good Mama Bone.

The Page 69 Test: One Good Mama Bone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Christina Kovac's "The Cutaway," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Cutaway: A Thriller by Christina Kovac.

The entry begins:
The Cutaway sold its TV rights, so it will never be a feature film. But I always imagined Virginia Knightly with that same physicality as the British actress, Keira Knightley. Above average height, willowy, fragile looking—until you notice her chin. She’s got a strong, determined chin, and big intelligent eyes that refuse to look away. I love the complexity of...[read on]
Visit Christina Kovac's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Cutaway.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten top stories of obsession

Sara Flannery Murphy grew up in Arkansas, where she divided her time between Little Rock and Eureka Springs, a small artists’ community in the Ozark Mountains. She received her MFA in creative writing at Washington University in St. Louis and studied library science in British Columbia. She lives in Oklahoma with her husband and son.

Murphy's newly released first novel is The Possessions.

One of the author's top ten stories of obsession, as shared at the Guardian:
Moby–Dick by Herman Melville (1851)

Captain Ahab embodies obsession as completely as any character ever will. As he stalks the whale that took his leg, his burning need for vengeance pushes aside all other considerations. My husband, an English professor, loves the novel for what he’s dubbed the “Starbuck moment”, when the first mate pleads with Ahab to give up his quest before the whole crew suffers. It’s a moment when the captain has a final chance to pull back from the brink. When he pushes ahead with his doomed quest anyway, everything that follows is all the more shocking.
Read about another entry on the list.

Moby-Dick appears among Harold Bloom's six favorite books that helped shape "the American Sublime,"  Charlotte Seager's five well-known literary monomaniacs who take things too far, Ann Leary's top ten books set in New England, Martin Seay's ten best long books, Ian McGuire's ten best adventure novels, Jeff Somers's five top books that will expand your vocabulary and entertain, Four books that changed Mary Norris, Tim Dee's ten best nature books, the Telegraph's fifteen best North American novels of all time, Nicole Hill's top ten best names in literature to give your dog, Horatio Clare's five favorite maritime novels, the Telegraph's ten great meals in literature, Brenda Wineapple's six favorite books, Scott Greenstone's top seven allegorical novels, Paul Wilson's top ten books about disability, Lynn Shepherd's ten top fictional drownings, Peter Murphy's top ten literary preachers, Penn Jillette's six favorite books, Peter F. Stevens's top ten nautical books, Katharine Quarmby's top ten disability stories, Jonathan Evison's six favorite books, Bella Bathurst's top 10 books on the sea, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best nightmares in literature and ten of the best tattoos in literature, Susan Cheever's five best books about obsession, Christopher Buckley's best books, Jane Yolen's five most important books, Chris Dodd's best books, Augusten Burroughs' five most important books, Norman Mailer's top ten works of literature, David Wroblewski's five most important books, Russell Banks' five most important books, and Philip Hoare's top ten books about whales.

My Book, The Movie: The Possessions.

The Page 69 Test: The Possessions.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

What is Kevin Egan reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Kevin Egan, author of A Shattered Circle: A Novel.

His entry begins:
I recently re-read This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I first read the book in college, where a standard litmus test among English majors was whether you preferred Fitzgerald to Hemingway or vice-versa. (I was firmly in the Fitzgerald camp.) Though I read The Great Gatsby in three college English courses and re-read it several more times over the years, I never returned to any of Fitzgerald’s other novels. In fact, as time removed me from my undergraduate youthfulness, I actually switched to the Hemingway camp. (A Farewell to Arms and The Sun Also Rises aged well with me.)

In January, I binge-watched the first season of Z, which is the story of the Fitzgerald marriage told from Zelda’s point of view. The episodes...[read on]
About A Shattered Circle, from the publisher:
Barbara Lonergan is ferociously protective of her husband, Judge William Lonergan. After a New Year’s Day accident leaves the judge mentally impaired, Barbara draws a small circle around him to protect his health, his career, and his reputation. The circle consists only of Barbara, who doubles as the judge’s confidential secretary, and the judge’s law clerk. Together, and with the cooperation of the administrative judge of the well-known New York County Courthouse, they support Judge Lonergan enough for him to fulfill his judicial duties. Months pass under this exhausting routine, but as August deepens into heat and humidity, Barbara finds her small circle under siege from a persistent private investigator who needs the judge’s help in investigating the April murder of a well-known lawyer in upstate New York and a demented litigant in Judge Lonergan’s last trial who has filed a grievance with the Judicial Conduct Commission. Meanwhile, court officer Foxx, in keeping a deathbed promise to a childhood friend, pokes at the edges of Barbara Lonergan’s protective circle.

As the private investigator reveals troubling information and the judicial grievance heads toward resolution, Barbara removes her husband to the supposed safety of their summer home in the Berkshires. She does not realize that she has placed both of them in greater danger.
Learn more about the book and author at Kevin Egan's website.

The Page 69 Test: Where It Lies.

The Page 69 Test: Midnight.

The Page 69 Test: A Shattered Circle.

Writers Read: Kevin Egan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Jeff Zentner's "Goodbye Days"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner.

About the book, from the publisher:
“Gorgeous, heartbreaking, and ultimately life-affirming,” says Nicola Yoon, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Everything, Everything and The Sun Is Also A Star, of this novel about finding strength and hope after tragedy. Perfect for fans of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and Looking for Alaska and for readers of author Jeff Zentner’s own The Serpent King, one of the most highly acclaimed YA debuts of 2016.

Carver Briggs never thought a simple text would cause a fatal crash, killing his three best friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake. But now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident and even worse, a powerful judge is pressuring the district attorney to open up a criminal investigation.

Luckily, Carver has some unexpected allies: Eli’s girlfriend, the only person to stand by him at school; Dr. Mendez, his new therapist; and Blake’s grandmother, who asks Carver to spend a “goodbye day” together to share their memories and say a proper farewell.

Soon the other families are asking for their own goodbye day with Carver—but he’s unsure of their motives. Will they all be able to make peace with their losses, or will these goodbye days bring Carver one step closer to a complete breakdown or—even worse—prison?
Visit Jeff Zentner's website.

Writers Read: Jeff Zentner (March 2016).

My Book, The Movie: The Serpent King.

The Page 69 Test: The Serpent King.

The Page 69 Test: Goodbye Days.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten sci-fi & fantasy books that will remind you what joy feels like

At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog Sarah Gailey tagged ten sci-fi & fantasy books that will remind you that life is about more than suffering, including:
The Amulet of Samarkand, by Jonathan Stroud

This book comes off my shelf at least once every couple of years for a reread. Five-thousand-year-old djinni Bartimaeus supplements what could be a dark-ish book (a political conspiracy! Murders! A wizard’s apprentice with a chip on his shoulder! More murders!) with sarcastic narrative footnotes that help lend brightness to a creative, fast-paced story. The Cave-Bear Book Club gives it a unanimous growl of approval. It’s guaranteed to replenish your sense of snark.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Amulet of Samarkand is among Django Wexler's top ten animal companions in children's fiction and Francesca Simon's top ten fictional antiheroes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Sharon Ann Murphy's "Other People’s Money"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Other People's Money: How Banking Worked in the Early American Republic by Sharon Ann Murphy.

About the book, from the publisher:
Pieces of paper that claimed to be good for two dollars upon redemption at a distant bank. Foreign coins that fluctuated in value from town to town. Stock certificates issued by turnpike or canal companies—worth something... or perhaps nothing. IOUs from farmers or tradesmen, passed around by people who could not know the person who first issued them. Money and banking in antebellum America offered a glaring example of free-market capitalism run amok—unregulated, exuberant, and heading pell-mell toward the next "panic" of burst bubbles and hard times.

In Other People’s Money, Sharon Ann Murphy explains how banking and money worked before the federal government, spurred by the chaos of the Civil War, created the national system of US paper currency. Murphy traces the evolution of banking in America from the founding of the nation, when politicians debated the constitutionality of chartering a national bank, to Andrew Jackson’s role in the Bank War of the early 1830s, to the problems of financing a large-scale war. She reveals how, ultimately, the monetary and banking structures that emerged from the Civil War also provided the basis for our modern financial system, from its formation under the Federal Reserve in 1913 to the present.

Touching on the significant role that numerous historical figures played in shaping American banking—including Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and Louis Brandeis— Other People’s Money is an engaging guide to the heated political fights that surrounded banking in early America as well as to the economic causes and consequences of the financial system that emerged from the turmoil. By helping readers understand the financial history of this period and the way banking shaped the society in which ordinary Americans lived and worked, this book broadens and deepens our knowledge of the Early American Republic.
Learn more about Other People's Money at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Other People's Money.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sara Lövestam's "Wonderful Feels Like This," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Wonderful Feels Like This by Sara Lövestam.

The entry begins:
Anytime anyone asks me: Which one of your books would you like to see as a movie? I answer Wonderful Feels Like This (Hjärta av jazz in Swedish). It already has an awesome soundtrack, as so much of the story is based on jazz tunes from the 40s, and I would just love to see the scenes where Alvar as a young man bikes through Stockholm and gets into the legendary swing jazz clubs.

This story is about Steffi and Alvar. Steffi is a 15 year old girl who loves music and hates school. She gets bullied every day, partly because her father is Cuban, so she looks different than the other people in this small village, Björke. When I think of her in a movie setting, the first actress who comes to mind is a young America Ferrera. I do see Steffi a little bit like (an even younger) Ugly Betty, except more introverted and less clumsy.

Alvar is a 89-year-old man, who throughout the book remembers his youth and tells his stories to Steffi. In 1942, he traveled from Björke to the big city of Stockholm as a 17-year-old boy, trying to make it as a jazz musician. As the old Alvar, I picture someone like a very old James...[read on]
Visit Sara Lövestam's website.

My Book, The Movie: Wonderful Feels Like This.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Caite Dolan-Leach's "Dead Letters"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach.

About the book, from the publisher:
A missing woman leads her twin sister on a twisted scavenger hunt in this clever debut novel of suspense for readers of Luckiest Girl Alive and Reconstructing Amelia.

“Ahoy, Ava! Welcome home, my sweet jet-setting twin! So glad you were able to wrest yourself away from your dazzling life in the City of Light; I hope my ‘death’ hasn’t interrupted anything too crucial.”

Ava Antipova has her reasons for running away: a failing family vineyard, a romantic betrayal, a mercurial sister, an absent father, a mother slipping into dementia. In Paris, Ava renounces her terribly practical undergraduate degree, acquires a French boyfriend and a taste for much better wine, and erases her past. Two years later, she must return to upstate New York. Her twin sister, Zelda, is dead.

Even in a family of alcoholics, Zelda Antipova was the wild one, notorious for her mind games and destructive behavior. Stuck tending the vineyard and the girls’ increasingly unstable mother, Zelda was allegedly burned alive when she passed out in the barn with a lit cigarette. But Ava finds the official explanation a little too neat. A little too Zelda. Then she receives a cryptic message—from her sister.

Just as Ava suspected, Zelda’s playing one of her games. In fact, she’s outdone herself, leaving a series of clues about her disappearance. With the police stuck on a red herring, Ava follows the trail laid just for her, thinking like her sister, keeping her secrets, immersing herself in Zelda’s drama and her outlandish circle of friends and lovers. Along the way, Zelda forces her twin to confront their twisted history and the boy who broke Ava’s heart. But why? Is Zelda trying to punish Ava for leaving, or to teach her a lesson? Or is she simply trying to write her own ending?

Featuring a colorful, raucous cast of characters, Caite Dolan-Leach’s debut thriller takes readers on a literary scavenger hunt for clues concealed throughout the seemingly idyllic wine country, hidden in plain sight on social media, and buried at the heart of one tremendously dysfunctional, utterly unforgettable family.
Visit Caite Dolan-Leach's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dead Letters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top books about people who simply…disappeared

At the B&N Reads blog Jeff Somers tagged five excellent books about people who simply…disappeared, including:
Skyjack, by Geoffrey Gray

In 1971 flying was very different, so different that a man with a vague resemblance to Kevin Spacey in sunglasses could buy a plane ticket using an alias and hijack a plane with a note. D.B. Cooper actually used the name Dan Cooper to buy his ticket, and then received $200,000 in ransom before jumping out of the plane somewhere over the Pacific Northwest. Some of the money was found in the woods, but most of it was never found—and neither was the man who called himself Cooper. Although most believe he died in the jump, the FBI kept the investigation open for decades, and no body has ever been found.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Jacob Stone reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Jacob Stone, author of Deranged: A Morris Brick Thriller #1.

His entry begins:
I’ve been reading John Lutz’s Frank Quinn crime thriller series, but I’ve been doing so out of order, and the last book I read (finishing it last week) was the first in the series, Darker Than Night. I really love this series, and the quickness, wit, and humor in Lutz’s writing. When reading Lutz you’re reading a true master in...[read on]
About Deranged, from the publisher:
Introducing L.A. investigator Morris Brick, a former homicide cop on the trail of a murderous psychopath who gives a terrifying new meaning to the word DERANGED...

They call him the Skull Cracker Killer. He drugs his victims. Breaks open their skulls with a hammer and chisel. The rest is inhuman.

Five years ago he terrorized New York City, claiming twelve victims before the killing stopped. Now he’s racking up victims on a fresh hunting ground. Where former LAPD homicide detective Morris Brick is working as a consultant on a serial-killer film. Where a desperate mayor pleads with Brick to take on the case. And where the only way he can stop the next wave of murders is by outsmarting a madman—before he strikes again, this time much too close to home...
Jacob Stone is the byline chosen by award-winning author Dave Zeltserman for his new Morris Brick series of serial-killer thrillers. Visit Zeltserman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Deranged.

The Page 69 Test: Deranged.

Writers Read: Jacob Stone.

--Marshal Zeringue