Friday, June 18, 2021

Good books filled with “bad” gays

P. J. Vernon was born in South Carolina. Called a "rising star thriller writer" by Library Journal, Vernon's debut, When You Find Me, was both an Audible Plus #1 Listen and Associated Press Top Ten U.S. Audiobook.

[The Page 69 Test: When You Find MeWriters Read: P. J. Vernon (November 2018)My Book, The Movie: When You Find MeCoffee with a Canine: P. J. Vernon & Chauncey and Mikko.]

His new novel is Bath Haus, praised as "a nightmarish white-knuckler by O, The Oprah Magazine.

Vernon lives in Calgary with his husband and two wily dogs.

At CrimeReads he shared a list of "good books filled with 'bad' (i.e. 'real') gays," including:
When homecoming means opening old wounds:
Cottonmouths, Kelly J. Ford

For this queer, paying home a visit was (is?) complicated. While away at school, nothing had me sweating bullets quite like the inevitability of Winter Break. You know, when all your friends abscond to their own hometowns and you’re left with a gutting dilemma: T-gives alone or T-gives served with a heaping side of toxicity and pain. I can also readily envision being forced home. Happens all the time because life happens all the time. You need help getting back on your feet, and you sacrifice safety and well-being for food and shelter. Cottonmouths (Sky Horse) by Kelly J. Ford unpacks devastating homecomings, generational cycles of abuse and poverty, and a Gothic bleakness so sharp, you know shit’s gonna get real bad, real fast. But you’ll also find company Ford’s beautifully drawn characters. Emily, the college drop-out forced to confront a painful past while surviving a just-as-painful present. The “heroin-chic” Jody, Emily’s unrequited high school love whose own life has taken a dark turn. Chickens, lesbians, and meth aside (what a pitch!), Ford delivers a narrative about how far we’ll go to chase those three, frighteningly powerful words: I love you.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jim Cullen's "Martin Scorsese and the American Dream"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Martin Scorsese and the American Dream by Jim Cullen.

About the book, from the publisher:
More than perhaps any other major filmmaker, Martin Scorsese has grappled with the idea of the American Dream. His movies are full of working-class strivers hoping for a better life, from the titular waitress and aspiring singer of Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore to the scrappy Irish immigrants of Gangs of New York. And in films as varied as Casino, The Aviator, and The Wolf of Wall Street, he vividly displays the glamour and power that can come with the fulfillment of that dream, but he also shows how it can turn into a nightmare of violence, corruption, and greed.

This book is the first study of Scorsese’s profound ambivalence toward the American Dream, the ways it drives some men and women to aspire to greatness, but leaves others seduced and abandoned. Showing that Scorsese understands the American dream in terms of a tension between provincialism and cosmopolitanism, Jim Cullen offers a new lens through which to view such seemingly atypical Scorsese films as The Age of Innocence, Hugo, and Kundun. Fast-paced, instructive, and resonant, Martin Scorsese and the American Dream illuminates an important dimension of our national life and how a great artist has brought it into focus.
Visit Jim Cullen's website.

The Page 99 Test: Sensing the Past.

Writers Read: Jim Cullen (February 2013).

The Page 99 Test: From Memory to History.

The Page 99 Test: Martin Scorsese and the American Dream.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Nev March's "Murder in Old Bombay"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Murder in Old Bombay: A Mystery by Nev March.

About the book, from the publisher:
In 19th century Bombay, Captain Jim Agnihotri channels his idol, Sherlock Holmes, in Nev March’s Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award-winning debut.

In 1892, Bombay is the center of British India. Nearby, Captain Jim Agnihotri lies in Poona military hospital recovering from a skirmish on the wild northern frontier, with little to do but re-read the tales of his idol, Sherlock Holmes, and browse the daily papers. The case that catches Captain Jim's attention is being called the crime of the century: Two women fell from the busy university’s clock tower in broad daylight. Moved by Adi, the widower of one of the victims — his certainty that his wife and sister did not commit suicide — Captain Jim approaches the Parsee family and is hired to investigate what happened that terrible afternoon.

But in a land of divided loyalties, asking questions is dangerous. Captain Jim's investigation disturbs the shadows that seem to follow the Framji family and triggers an ominous chain of events. And when lively Lady Diana Framji joins the hunt for her sisters’ attackers, Captain Jim’s heart isn’t safe, either.

Based on a true story, and set against the vibrant backdrop of colonial India, Nev March's Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award-winning lyrical debut, Murder in Old Bombay, brings this tumultuous historical age to life.
Visit Nev March's website.

Q&A with Nev March.

The Page 69 Test: Murder in Old Bombay.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Top ten books about public spaces

Jonathan Lee is an award-winning, internationally bestselling novelist, editor, and screenwriter living in New York. His new novel is The Great Mistake.

Lee's writing has been called “achingly good” in The New Yorker, and The New York Times has stated that “Lee’s prose will shame just about anyone who writes for a living.” According to The Guardian, “Lee dives deep into the minds and hearts of his characters, skillfully shoring up ‘the private moments history so rarely records.’”

At the Guardian Lee tagged ten stories that are "are celebrations of areas where strangers can mingle, think, and be less alone," including:
Jaws by Peter Benchley

Someone really should make a movie out of this book! The power of Jaws lies not in one-note horror but in its consideration of what would actually happen if a great predator laid siege to the public spaces that are the lifeblood of a resort community: the beach and the ocean. Before writing Jaws, Benchley worked as a speechwriter for President Lyndon B Johnson. After it became a bestseller, he spent much of the rest of his life working in shark conservation.
Read about another entry on the list.

Jaws is among L.C. Shaw's nine most unforgettable antagonists in fiction, Kat Rosenfield's list of eight books that’ll make you scared to go back in the water, Rebecca Jane Stokes's seven books not to bring to the beach, the Barnes & Noble Review's five top books set at the beach, and six hugely popular books that accidentally screwed the world.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Sujit Sivasundaram's "Waves Across the South"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Waves Across the South: A New History of Revolution and Empire by Sujit Sivasundaram.

About the book, from the publisher:
This is a story of tides and coastlines, winds and waves, islands and beaches. It is also a retelling of indigenous creativity, agency, and resistance in the face of unprecedented globalization and violence. Waves Across the South shifts the narrative of the Age of Revolutions and the origins of the British Empire; it foregrounds a vast southern zone that ranges from the Arabian Sea and southwest Indian Ocean across to the Bay of Bengal, and onward to the South Pacific and the Tasman Sea. As the empires of the Dutch, French, and especially the British reached across these regions, they faced a surge of revolutionary sentiment. Long-standing venerable Eurasian empires, established patterns of trade and commerce, and indigenous practice also served as a context for this transformative era. In addition to bringing long-ignored people and events to the fore, Sujit Sivasundaram opens the door to new and necessary conversations about environmental history, the consequences of historical violence, the legacies of empire, the extraction of resources, and the indigenous futures that Western imperialism cut short. The result is nothing less than a bold new way of understanding our global past, one that also helps us think afresh about our shared future.
Learn more about Waves Across the South at the University of Chicago Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Waves Across the South.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Martine Bailey

From my Q&A with Martine Bailey, author of The Prophet:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I didn’t find choosing a title easy. My sleuth character, Tabitha, is drawn into the orbit of a dangerous preacher, Baptist Gunn. As his prophecies are central to the book I played with poetic phrases about divination and omens but nothing suited. I also wanted a title that neatly followed The Almanack with a similar feel such as The Quickening – but that was recently taken.

The story asks, is it possible to see into the future? Tabitha becomes increasingly fearful that Gunn’s prophecies concern her unborn child. Her husband, Nat, investigates Baptist Gunn’s claims, acknowledging that over centuries prophets have guided mankind. So finally I chose the plainest statement of all – The Prophet.

What's in a name?

Baptist Gunn is a rare but true-life phenomenon, a sleeping prophet who appears to make predictions in a sleep-like trance. In choosing his name I was attracted to the combination of the evangelical with...[read on]
Visit Martine Bailey's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: An Appetite for Violets.

The Page 69 Test: An Appetite for Violets.

My Book, The Movie: A Taste for Nightshade.

My Book, The Movie: The Almanack.

My Book, The Movie: The Prophet.

Q&A with Martine Bailey.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Nine books that explore the weirder side of reproduction

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 Utah with her husband and her two young sons.

Murphy is the author of two novels: The Possessions (2017) and Girl One (2021).

At Lit Hub she tagged "nine books that prove, in different ways, that the question of how we get here is one of the richest topics in literature," including:
Joanne Ramos, The Farm

Ramos’s incisive novel isn’t a dystopia, as she points out in her author’s note. For all our scientific advances, artificial wombs still aren’t a reality. Ramos explores the ways that surrogates (often women of color) are exploited for their reproductive ability. Jane sees a financial lifeline in joining Golden Oaks, where she lives with other pregnant Hosts in a cushy but highly surveilled environment. Ramos explores tricky ethical considerations: for example, a religious Host whose clients request a termination, or the conflict Jane feels at being separated from her own daughter to gestate for anonymous one-percenters.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Nina Rattner Gelbart's "Minerva’s French Sisters"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Minerva's French Sisters: Women of Science in Enlightenment France by Nina Rattner Gelbart.

About the book, from the publisher:
A fascinating collective biography of six female scientists in eighteenth-century France, whose stories were largely written out of history

This book presents the stories of six intrepid Frenchwomen of science in the Enlightenment whose accomplishments—though celebrated in their lifetimes--have been generally omitted from subsequent studies of their period: mathematician and philosopher Elisabeth Ferrand, astronomer Nicole Reine Lepaute, field naturalist Jeanne Barret, garden botanist and illustrator Madeleine Françoise Basseporte, anatomist and inventor Marie-Marguerite Biheron, and chemist Geneviève d’Arconville. By adjusting our lens, we can find them.

In a society where science was not yet an established profession for men, much less women, these six audacious and inspiring figures made their mark on their respective fields of science and on Enlightenment society, as they defied gender expectations and conventional norms. Their boldness and contributions to science were appreciated by such luminaries as Franklin, the philosophes, and many European monarchs. The book is written in an unorthodox style to match the women’s breaking of boundaries.
Learn more about Minerva's French Sisters at the Yale University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Minerva's French Sisters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Nick Jones's "The Shadows of London"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Shadows of London by Nick Jones.

About the book, from the publisher:
A time traveler’s work is never done.

Likable antiques dealer Joseph Bridgeman is back in the present and dreaming of a quiet life. But when a mysterious and enigmatic time traveler arrives in his shop, Joe learns that his first trip was just the beginning and this time, the rules of the game have changed.

Blackmailed into accepting a new mission, Joe is flung back to 1960s London where he comes face-to-face with a ruthless gangster and witnesses the brutal murder of an innocent woman. Joe knows better than most that death can be reversed and the final chapter is sometimes where the story actually begins. Emotionally involved, he has no choice but to act, and quickly. With the help of Vinny, his vinyl-loving sidekick, Joe once again sets out to change the course of history. Sounds simple enough … but when it comes to time travel, nothing is ever as it seems. Who is the old time traveler working for? And who decides what can and can’t be changed?

In a thrilling twist, Joe discovers that the victim is critically important to the future, and what starts out as a straightforward mission soon becomes a race to unravel a mystery—one that threatens the very timeline he fought so hard to protect. Joe must dig deeper than ever, master his newfound skills, and save the woman before the past catches up with him for good.

Turns out time doesn’t heal after all. It just adds salt.
Visit Nick Jones's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Shadows of London.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Five sci-fi & fantasy books that set sail for adventure

F.T. Lukens is the author of In Deeper Waters, So This is Ever After, and four young adult novels published through Interlude Press. Her book Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths & Magic was a 2017 Cybils Award finalist in YA Speculative Fiction, won the ForeWord INDIES Book of the Year Gold Award for YA Fiction, and the Bisexual Book Award for Speculative Fiction, and it was also recently named to ALA’s 2019 Rainbow List. Lukens lives in North Carolina with her husband, three kids, three dogs, and three cats.

At Tor.com Lukens tagged five favorite books "involving mythology of the deep, pirates and their exploits, action and adventure, and sailing across the wide deep blue sea," including:
The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember

A queer, Norse retelling of “The Little Mermaid,” this novel follows Ersel, a mermaid who longs for a different life outside of the patriarchal mermaid society. Ersel meets Ragna, a shipwrecked Viking shield-maiden who is stranded on the mermaids’ glacier. From Ragna, Ersel learns of the life she wants and strikes a bargain with Loki, the trickster god. Of course, the bargain goes awry. To save herself, Ersel and Ragna must embark on an adventure that involves breaking their societal barriers, trying to outsmart Loki, while falling for each other. This story has lush worldbuilding, and action-adventure and there is a companion novel that tells Ragna’s story, The Navigator’s Touch which has a revenge arc and pirates!
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Mia Bloom & Sophia Moskalenko's "Pastels and Pedophiles"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Pastels and Pedophiles: Inside the Mind of QAnon by Mia Bloom and Sophia Moskalenko.

About the book, from the publisher:
Two experts of extremist radicalization take us down the QAnon rabbit hole, exposing how the conspiracy theory ensnared countless Americans, and show us a way back to sanity.

In January 2021, thousands descended on the U.S. Capitol to aid President Donald Trump in combating a shadowy cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles. Two women were among those who died that day. They, like millions of Americans, believed that a mysterious insider known as "Q" is exposing a vast deep-state conspiracy. The QAnon conspiracy theory has ensnared many women, who identify as members of "pastel QAnon," answering the call to "save the children."

With Pastels and Pedophiles, Mia Bloom and Sophia Moskalenko explain why the rise of QAnon should not surprise us: believers have been manipulated to follow the baseless conspiracy. The authors track QAnon's unexpected leap from the darkest corners of the Internet to the filtered glow of yogi-mama Instagram, a frenzy fed by the COVID-19 pandemic that supercharged conspiracy theories and spurred a fresh wave of Q-inspired violence.

Pastels and Pedophiles connects the dots for readers, showing how a conspiracy theory with its roots in centuries-old anti-Semitic hate has adapted to encompass local grievances and has metastasized around the globe—appealing to a wide range of alienated people who feel that something is not quite right in the world around them. While QAnon claims to hate Hollywood, the book demonstrates how much of Q's mythology is ripped from movie and television plot lines.

Finally, Pastels and Pedophiles lays out what can be done about QAnon's corrosive effect on society, to bring Q followers out of the rabbit hole and back into the light.
Learn more about Pastels and Pedophiles at the Stanford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Bombshell: Women and Terrorism by Mia Bloom.

The Page 99 Test: Pastels and Pedophiles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Laurie Frankel

From my Q&A with Laurie Frankel, author of One Two Three: A Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Lots! I can’t take credit for the title One Two Three — my editor came up with it — but it’s doing a lot of heavy lifting here. For one thing, it’s a book about triplets. For another, the title reflects the book’s structure, which is told in turns by three narrators. I think of it like a waltz. And third (I had to have three points, right?), it previews the characters, said aforementioned narrator-triplets, who go by the nicknames One, Two, and Three.

What's in a name?

When the narrators’ mother found out she was having triplets, she gave them all M-names with escalating syllables so she’d be able to keep them straight (or, if you prefer, I did that so you would be able to keep them straight). Mab — named for Shakespeare’s fairy queen from Romeo and Juliet — was born first and is nicknamed One. Monday came second and...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Laurie Frankel's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Laurie Frankel and Calli.

The Page 69 Test: The Atlas of Love.

My Book, The Movie: Goodbye for Now.

The Page 69 Test: Goodbye for Now.

My Book, The Movie: This Is How It Always Is.

The Page 69 Test: This Is How It Always Is.

Writers Read: Laurie Frankel (February 2017).

The Page 69 Test: One Two Three.

Q&A with Laurie Frankel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 14, 2021

Third reading: D.W. Buffa on "Lord Jim"

D.W. Buffa was a criminal defense attorney for 10 years and his Joseph Antonelli novels reflect that experience. The New York Times called The Defense "an accomplished first novel" which "leaves you wanting to go back to the beginning and read it over again." The Judgment was nominated for the Edgar Award for best novel of the year. The latest Joseph Antonelli novel is The Privilege.

Buffa writes a monthly review for the Campaign for the American Reader that we're calling "Third Reading." Buffa explains. "I was reading something and realized that it was probably the third time that I knew it well enough to write something about it. The first is when I read it when it was in college or in my twenties, the second, however many years later, when I wanted to see if it was as good as I remembered, and the third when I knew I was going to have to write about it."

Buffa's "Third Reading" of Conrad's Lord Jim begins:
Time moves backward, all our dreams of the future become part of an irredeemable past, what happened long ago the mark of Cain, if we are unfortunate, the burden of our existence, something we do not want to remember and can never forget. It is what Joseph Conrad tells us Marlow tells a few friends, seamen like himself, men who often listen to Marlow tell stories about the sea. Marlow tells them, not just what he observed about a young ill-fated Englishman called Jim, not just what Jim has told him, but what others told him as well, the partial stories that shed their different light on a man who wanted to be a hero and, on the occasion when he could have shown great courage, acted the coward instead. Marlow tells the story of a failed romantic, a hero in all his youthful 19th century dreams, the story of how, because of that failure, he became Lord Jim.

Marlow tells the story, but only after the story is well under way. Jim is a young officer on a rusted out old merchant ship called Patna which is transporting eight hundred Muslim pilgrims across the Indian Ocean. Staring out across a calm and endless sea glimmering in the light of a thousand shining stars, he “seemed to gaze hungrily into the unattainable, and did not see the shadow of the coming event.” His thoughts were “full of valorous deeds: he loved these dreams and the success of his imaginary achievements.” Suddenly, without warning, the ship hits something and the bow starts to rise straight up. Jim hurries below to inspect the single thin bulkhead and discovers that it is about to buckle and break apart. There are only minutes, perhaps only seconds, before the ship sinks and everyone on it goes down to their death. The captain and the other officers...[read on]
About Buffa's new novel The Privilege, from the publisher:
Joseph Antonelli, who never lost a case he should have won and won nearly every case he should have lost, is about to see his client, Justin Friedrich, convicted for a crime he did not commit. His wife was found shot to death in the bedroom of their yacht in the San Francisco marina, and Friedrich does not have a chance. But then the real killer approaches Antonelli…

Famous and enigmatic, James Michael Redfield, the head of a high tech company that leads the world in the development of artificial intelligence, Redfield gives Antonelli evidence that proves Friedrich is innocent. But why did Redfield wait until the last minute to give Antonelli this proof?

Before Antonelli can even begin to solve that riddle, there is another murder, and Antonelli finds himself an unwilling participant in a conspiracy he does not understand. Antonelli has never known anyone like James Michael Redfield. Because for Redfield, it isn’t about murder at all; it is all about the trial. Because only a trial can show the world what Redfield believes it needs to know…no matter how many people need to die.
Visit D.W. Buffa's website.

Third reading: The Great Gatsby

Third reading: Brave New World.

Third reading: Lord Jim.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight books for reality TV enthusiasts

Alexandria Juarez is a Chicanx lesbian writer, editor, and pop culture enthusiast from Southern California. A recent graduate of the BFA Writing Program at Pratt Institute, they are currently an editorial intern for Electric Literature.

At Electric Lit Juarez tagged eight "books that fictionalize new reality TV premises, or open conversations about all of the shows we can’t stop watching," including:
One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London

Main Squeeze (basically The Bachelorette) is fashion blogger Bea’s favorite TV program. When she gets asked to join the newest season as the first plus-sized lead, she agrees, but only because she wants to spread body positivity to the millions of young women who watch. But of course, the men are charming, the dates are out of this world, and the drama is addicting, so can Bea keep her promise? One to Watch is fun and frustrating in all of the ways dating shows can be and Bea is a lead worth supporting.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Debra Bokur's "The Bone Field"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Bone Field by Debra Bokur.

About the book, from the publisher:
Celebrated travel writer Debra Bokur reveals the dark side of paradise while exploring the nuanced culture and captivating beauty of Hawaii in The Bone Field, the second installment in her acclaimed series featuring Maui detective and Hawaiian cultural expert Kali Māhoe.

A series of strange cold-case ritual murders leads Maui detective Kali Māhoe on a trail of legendary vengeful spirits and more human monsters in paradise.


Kali Māhoe, Hawaiian cultural expert and detective with the Maui Police Department, has been called to a bizarre crime scene. In the recesses of a deep trench on Lanai Island, a derelict refrigerator has been unearthed. Entombed inside are the skeletal remains of someone buried decades ago. Identification is a challenge. The body is headless, the skull replaced with a chilling adornment: a large, ornately carved wooden pineapple.

The old field soon yields more long-buried secrets, and Kali is led along an increasingly winding path that brings to light an unlikely suspect, an illegal cock-fighting organization, and a strange symbol connected to a long-disbanded religious cult. Her task is to dispel the dark shadows lingering over the Palawai Basin plains, and to solve a puzzle that no one wants exposed by the bright, hot tropical light.

To discover the answer, Kali will be drawn deeper in the mysteries of the island's ancient legends—stories that tell of an enraged rooster god and man-eating monsters. For Kali, a detective of sound logic and reason, it's not easy to consider the unknown for explanations for what appears to be a series of illogical links in a twisting chain of deadly events. Or safe. Because the dormant pineapple fields of Lanai have yet to give up their darkest and most terrifying secrets.
Visit Debra Bokur's website.

Q&A with Debra Bokur.

The Page 69 Test: The Fire Thief.

My Book, The Movie: The Fire Thief.

Writers Read: Debra Bokur.

My Book, The Movie: The Bone Field.

The Page 69 Test: The Bone Field.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Robin Derricourt's "Creating God"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Creating God: The birth and growth of major religions by Robin Derricourt.

About the book, from the publisher:
What do we really know about how and where religions began, and how they spread?

In this bold new book, award-winning author Robin Derricourt takes us on a journey through the birth and growth of several major religions, using history and archaeology to recreate the times, places and societies that witnessed the rise of significant monotheistic faiths. Beginning with Mormonism and working backwards through Islam, Christianity and Judaism to Zoroastrianism, Creating God opens up the conditions that allowed religious movements to emerge, attract their first followers and grow.

Throughout history there have been many prophets: individuals who believed they were in direct contact with the divine, with instructions to spread a religious message. While many disappeared without trace, some gained millions of followers and established a lasting religion. In Creating God, Robin Derricourt has produced a brilliant, panoramic book that offers new insights on the origins of major religions and raises essential questions about why some succeeded where others failed.
Learn more about Creating God at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: Creating God.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Five of the best squads in sci-fi & fantasy

Alexis Nedd is a Brooklyn-based pop culture "fanthropologist" who has only ever loved things in a big, obsessive way. As the Senior Entertainment Reporter at Mashable.com, she covers television, movies, and video games with a focus on sci-fi and fantasy universes like Game of Thrones and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Don't Hate the Player is her first novel.

At Tor.com Nedd tagged five favorite "SFF books where loners band together to kick butt, steal stuff, support each other, or simply survive," including:
The Physical Kids — The Magicians series by Lev Grossman

In Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, Quentin Coldwater is a fantasy-obsessed high school senior who longs to be a part of something special and interesting. He thinks he’s found that something when he’s accepted to Brakebills, a school for real-life magic users, but being a Magician doesn’t fulfill him for long. Quentin eventually finds his place with the Physical Kids, a group of students who use their power to go absolutely bonkers on magical hedonism. If I was going to party with one fantasy squad, they’re the ones I’d pick. No question. Magic isn’t the answer to anyone’s problems in The Magicians. The Physical Kids feel broken in ways all the power in the world couldn’t fix, and it’s only through their parallel journeys at Brakebills and beyond that help them grow together over the course of the trilogy.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Magicians is among Nicole Hill's twenty top fantasies to introduce beginners to the genre, Soman Chainani's five top SFF novels with perfect opening lines, Christian McKay Heidicker's six top read-aloud books for grown-ups, Diana Biller's five creepiest rabbits in fiction, Jenny Kawecki's seven fictional schools that couldn't pass a safety inspection, Entertainment Weekly's top ten wickedly great books about witches, Jason Diamond's top fifty books that define the past five years in literature, and Joel Cunningham's eight great books for fans of Donna Tartt's The Secret History.

The Page 69 Test: The Magicians.

--Marshal Zeringue

Debra Bokur's "The Bone Field," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Bone Field by Debra Bokur.

The entry begins:
When I ran into rough spots while working on The Bone Field—the second book in my Dark Paradise Mysteries series—I played a game with myself that involved a hard deadline built upon a promise to director Ron Howard that he’d have a draft at least one month before my publisher did. I figured he could use the extra time scouting locations and securing the list of actors I planned to provide. This mind-play actually helped me finish the book an exact month before the manuscript was due. Mr. Howard’s name, alas, has yet to show up on my phone screen.

He needs to call so we can discuss whether it’s Chris Hemsworth or Finnish actor Ville Seivo who should be cast in the recurring role of Elvar Ellinsdóttir. I’m on the fence. Hemsworth is a good physical fit and would bring his trademark subtle humor to the part; but Elvar is Icelandic, and Ville Seivo has a Nordic melancholy that would provide a nice level of depth to Elvar’s character.

Actress Keisha Castle-Hughes has long been my dream choice for Detective Kali Māhoe. Castle-Hughes is known for her role in Whale Rider, and for...[read on]
Visit Debra Bokur's website.

Q&A with Debra Bokur.

The Page 69 Test: The Fire Thief.

My Book, The Movie: The Fire Thief.

Writers Read: Debra Bokur.

My Book, The Movie: The Bone Field.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Patrick Chiles

From my Q&A with Patrick Chiles, author of Frontier:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Hopefully a lot. People might immediately think of Star Trek and the “final frontier,” but when I was putting the story together I realized it actually was something of a frontier narrative. It’s about pushing outward, beyond humanity’s current reach, which makes certain other humans greedy. They want to reap the benefits from the risks others have taken. So what are the rules when people are beyond Earthbound jurisdictions? What right or claim does any one group have over anything? Does it all become a free-for-all, like the Wild West or high seas piracy?

What's in a name?

I put a fair amount of thought into character names, but not for any symbolism. It just has to feel right for the character. My main protagonist, Marshall Hunter, is...[read on]
Visit Patrick Chiles's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Patrick Chiles & Frankie and Beanie.

The Page 69 Test: Frozen Orbit.

My Book, The Movie: Frontier.

The Page 69 Test: Frontier.

Q&A with Patrick Chiles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Four unforgettable fictional serial killers

Jen Williams lives in London with her partner and their small ridiculous cat. Having been a fan of grisly fairy tales from a young age, these days Williams writes dark unsettling thrillers with strong female leads, as well as character-driven fantasy novels with plenty of adventure and magic. She has twice won the British Fantasy Award for her Winnowing Flame trilogy, and when she's not writing books she works as a bookseller and a freelance copywriter.

Her new novel is A Dark and Secret Place.

At CrimeReads Williams tagged four favorite dark and twisted villains of fictional lore, including:
Francis Dolarhyde of Red Dragon

You could hardly have a list like this without talking about Thomas Harris and his iconic cast of serial killers, and, specifically of course, Dr Hannibal Lector. First appearing in 1981’s Red Dragon, the doctor is in many ways the grandfather of fictional serial killers, undoubtedly giving birth to hordes of murderers after the huge success of The Silence of the Lambs. After all, it’s Dr. Lector who has really sold us on the idea of a murderer who is just so much cleverer than anyone else in the room, and if you’re a fan of the TV series Hannibal, one who dresses impeccably well, too. But for me the killer that truly haunts me from Thomas Harris’s excellent books is Francis Dolarhyde. Dubbed “the Tooth Fairy” by the press (and what a fantastically rubbish nickname that is), Dolarhyde is murdering entire families to quicken his transformation into a being he calls “the Great Red Dragon,” and Will Graham must enlist the help of Dr. Lector to stop him. Dolahyde is equal parts fascinating, terrifying, and tragic. He is obsessed with William Blake’s painting “The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed With the Sun,” even going so far as to eat the original watercolour, and there is something flatly alien about his transformation into a beast. Yet Harris undercuts all this by having Dolahyde unexpectedly fall for a blind woman at his work place. This, combined with flashbacks to his horrifically abusive childhood, give the reader an uncomfortably intimate portrait of a monster.
Read about another entry on the list.

Red Dragon appears on Caroline Louise Walker's list of six terrifying villain-doctors in fiction, Peter Swanson's list of ten thrillers that explore mental health, John Verdon's list of the ten best whodunits, Laura McHugh's list of ten favorite books about serial killers, Kimberly Turner's list of the ten most disturbing sociopaths in literature, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best dragons in literature and ten of the best tattoos in literature, and the (U.K.) Telegraph 110 best books; Andre Gross says "it should be taught as [a text] in Thriller 101."

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jocelyn C. Zuckerman's "Planet Palm"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Planet Palm: How Palm Oil Ended Up in Everything—and Endangered the World by Jocelyn C. Zuckerman.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the tradition of Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, a groundbreaking global investigation into the industry ravaging the environment and global health—from the James Beard Award–winning journalist

“Palm oil . . . has quietly become one of the most indispensable substances on Earth.” —Jocelyn Zuckerman, in the New Yorker

Over the past few decades, palm oil has seeped into every corner of our lives. Worldwide, palm oil production has nearly doubled in just the last decade: oil-palm plantations now cover an area nearly the size of New Zealand, and some form of the commodity lurks in half the products on U.S. grocery shelves. But the palm oil revolution has been built on stolen land and slave labor; it’s swept away cultures and so devastated the landscapes of Southeast Asia that iconic animals now teeter on the brink of extinction. Fires lit to clear the way for plantations spew carbon emissions to rival those of industrialized nations.

James Beard Award–winning journalist Jocelyn C. Zuckerman spent years traveling the globe, from Liberia to Indonesia, India to Brazil, reporting on the human and environmental impacts of this poorly understood plant. The result is Planet Palm, a riveting account blending history, science, politics, and food as seen through the people whose lives have been upended by this hidden ingredient.

This groundbreaking work of first-rate journalism compels us to examine the connections between the choices we make at the grocery store and a planet under siege.
Visit Jocelyn C. Zuckerman's website.

The Page 99 Test: Planet Palm.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Laurie Frankel's "One Two Three"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: One Two Three: A Novel by Laurie Frankel.

About the book, from the publisher:
In a town where nothing ever changes, suddenly everything does...

Everyone knows everyone in the tiny town of Bourne, but the Mitchell triplets are especially beloved. Mirabel is the smartest person anyone knows, and no one doubts it just because she can’t speak. Monday is the town’s purveyor of books now that the library’s closed—tell her the book you think you want, and she’ll pull the one you actually do from the microwave or her sock drawer. Mab’s job is hardest of all: get good grades, get into college, get out of Bourne.

For a few weeks seventeen years ago, Bourne was national news when its water turned green. The girls have come of age watching their mother’s endless fight for justice. But just when it seems life might go on the same forever, the first moving truck anyone’s seen in years pulls up and unloads new residents and old secrets. Soon, the Mitchell sisters are taking on a system stacked against them and uncovering mysteries buried longer than they’ve been alive. Because it's hard to let go of the past when the past won't let go of you.

Three unforgettable narrators join together here to tell a spellbinding story with wit, wonder, and deep affection. As she did in This Is How It Always Is, Laurie Frankel has written a laugh-out-loud-on-one-page-grab-a-tissue-the-next novel, as only she can, about how expanding our notions of normal makes the world a better place for everyone and how when days are darkest, it’s our daughters who will save us all.
Learn more about the book and author at Laurie Frankel's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Laurie Frankel and Calli.

The Page 69 Test: The Atlas of Love.

My Book, The Movie: Goodbye for Now.

The Page 69 Test: Goodbye for Now.

My Book, The Movie: This Is How It Always Is.

The Page 69 Test: This Is How It Always Is.

Writers Read: Laurie Frankel (February 2017).

The Page 69 Test: One Two Three.

--Marshal Zeringue