Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Six books about exile, migration, and resistance

Daniel Borzutzky is a poet and translator, and the author of The Performance of Becoming Human, winner of the 2016 National Book Award for Poetry. His latest book, Lake Michigan, a series of 19 lyric poems, imagines a prison camp located on the beaches of a Chicago that is privatized, racially segregated, and overrun by a brutal police force.

One of his recommended books about exile, migration, and resistance, as shared at The Week magazine:
Hardly War by Don Mee Choi

Choi is a distinguished poetry translator and one of our most important thinkers about the politics of bringing translated anti-colonial work to America. Hardly War is unlike any other book I know. It uses poetry, photography, opera libretto, interview transcript, and more to address last century's wars in Korea and Vietnam.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 19, 2018

Pg. 69: Dennis Palumbo's "Head Wounds"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Head Wounds by Dennis Palumbo.

About the book, from the publisher:
Psychologist Dr. Daniel Rinaldi consults with the Pittsburgh Police. His specialty is treating victims of violent crime—those who’ve survived an armed robbery, kidnapping, or sexual assault, but whose traumatic experience still haunts them. Head Wounds picks up where Rinaldi’s investigation in Phantom Limb left off, turning the tables on him as he, himself, becomes the target of a vicious killer.

“Miles Davis saved my life.” With these words Rinaldi becomes a participant in a domestic drama that blows up right outside his front door, saved from a bullet to the brain by pure chance. In the chaos that follows, Rinaldi learns his bad-girl, wealthy neighbor has told her hair-triggered boyfriend Rinaldi is her lover. As things heat up, Rinaldi becomes a murder suspect.

But this is just the first act in this chilling, edge-of-your-seat thriller. As one savagery follows another, Rinaldi is forced to relive a terrible night that haunts him still. And to realize that now he—and those he loves—are being victimized by a brilliant killer still in the grip of delusion. Determined to destroy Rinaldi by systematically targeting those close to him—his patients, colleagues, and friends—computer genius Sebastian Maddox strives to cause as much psychological pain as possible, before finally orchestrating a bold, macabre death for his quarry.

How ironic. As Pittsburgh morphs from a blue-collar town to a tech giant, a psychopath deploys technology in a murderous way.

Enter two other figures from Rinaldi’s past: retired FBI profiler Lyle Barnes, once a patient who Rinaldi treated for night terrors; and Special Agent Gloria Reese, with whom he falls into a surprising, erotically charged affair. Warned by Maddox not to engage the authorities or else random innocents throughout the city will die, Rinaldi and these two unlikely allies engage in a terrifying cat-and-mouse game with an elusive killer who’ll stop at nothing in pursuit of what he imagines is revenge.

A true page-turner, Head Wounds is the electrifying fifth in a critically acclaimed series of thrillers by Dennis Palumbo. Formerly a Hollywood screenwriter, Dennis Palumbo is now a licensed psychotherapist in private practice.
Learn more about the book and author at Dennis Palumbo's website.

My Book, The Movie: Night Terrors.

The Page 69 Test: Phantom Limb.

My Book, The Movie: Phantom Limb.

The Page 69 Test: Head Wounds.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: William I. Hitchcock's "The Age of Eisenhower"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Age of Eisenhower: America and the World in the 1950s by William I. Hitchcock.

About the book, from the publisher:
In a 2017 survey, presidential historians ranked Dwight D. Eisenhower fifth on the list of great presidents, behind the perennial top four: Lincoln, Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Teddy Roosevelt. Historian William Hitchcock shows that this high ranking is justified. Eisenhower’s accomplishments were enormous, and loom ever larger from the vantage point of our own tumultuous times.

A former general, Ike kept the peace: he ended the Korean War, avoided a war in Vietnam, adroitly managed a potential confrontation with China, and soothed relations with the Soviet Union after Stalin’s death. He guided the Republican Party to embrace central aspects of the New Deal like Social Security. He thwarted the demagoguery of McCarthy and he advanced the agenda of civil rights for African Americans. As part of his strategy to wage, and win, the Cold War, Eisenhower expanded American military power, built a fearsome nuclear arsenal and launched the space race. In his famous Farewell Address, he acknowledged that Americans needed such weapons in order to keep global peace—but he also admonished his citizens to remain alert to the potentially harmful influence of the “military-industrial complex.”

From 1953 to 1961, no one dominated the world stage as did President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The Age of Eisenhower is the definitive account of this presidency, drawing extensively on declassified material from the Eisenhower Library, the CIA and Defense Department, and troves of unpublished documents. In his masterful account, Hitchcock shows how Ike shaped modern America, and he astutely assesses Eisenhower’s close confidants, from Attorney General Brownell to Secretary of State Dulles. The result is an eye-opening reevaluation that explains why this “do-nothing” president is rightly regarded as one of the best leaders our country has ever had.
Learn more about The Age of Eisenhower at the Simon & Schuster website.

The Page 99 Test: The Age of Eisenhower.

--Marshal Zeringue

Two dozen books to soothe your post awards-season letdown

At B&N Reads Tara Sonin tagged twenty-four books to soothe your post awards-season letdown, including:
Mudbound, by Hillary Jordan

In 1964, a woman from the city is trying to raise a family in the Mississippi Delta when two soldiers return from war and help out on the farm. One of them is black. In the Jim Crow South, bonds between family, between brothers, and friends, are all tested by the realities of the harsh world they live in.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Mudbound.

My Book, The Movie: Mudbound.

--Marshal Zeringue

Jerry Gershenhorn's "Louis Austin and the Carolina Times," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Louis Austin and the Carolina Times: A Life in the Long Black Freedom Struggle by Jerry Gershenhorn.

The entry begins:
It’s March 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, in Durham, North Carolina, where African Americans are segregated and oppressed by Jim Crow-era white supremacy. Blacks attend segregated, woefully under-financed primary and secondary public schools. There is also a black public college in Durham, North Carolina College for Negroes (NCC), which suffers because of weak financing from the state government, and unlike the nearby white institution, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), NCC has no graduate or professional programs. The movie opens with four black men driving a 1928 Model A Ford from Durham to nearby Chapel Hill. In the car are two local lawyers in their early 30s, Conrad Pearson and Cecil McCoy; a black journalist, 35-year-old Louis Austin, the editor and publisher of Durham’s Carolina Times; and 24-year-old Thomas Raymond Hocutt, who dreams of becoming a pharmacist. However, no black college in North Carolina offers a pharmacy program. So Hocutt, backed by Pearson, McCoy, and Austin, has decided to mount the first legal challenge to segregated education in the South. A courtroom scene...[read on]
Learn more about Louis Austin and the Carolina Times at The University of North Carolina Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Louis Austin and the Carolina Times.

My Book, The Movie: Louis Austin and the Carolina Times.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 18, 2018

What is Beth Gutcheon reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Beth Gutcheon, author of The Affliction: A Novel.

Her entry begins:
The novel that completely knocked my socks off this year was Days Without End by Sebastian Barry. I reviewed the audio version for AudioFile Magazine, and am so glad I took the assignment; I almost didn’t, as it didn’t sound like my line of country. Forget that. It is gorgeously written, a rare quality in a book that also has a plot that moves like a train. When reading audiobooks I’m usually outdoors in earphones taking long walks to nowhere. Nearing the end of this one, I was so gripped that I didn’t even want the distraction of crossing a busy street so I kept walking around and around the same block in SoHo until I found out what had happened to … oh, just read it. Don’t read plot summaries, don’t worry what it’s about, it’s...[read on]
About The Affliction, from the publisher:
Since retiring as head of a famous New York City private school, Maggie Detweiler is busier than ever. Chairing a team to evaluate the faltering Rye Manor School for girls, she will determine whether, in spite of its fabled past, the school has a future at all. With so much on the line for so many, tensions on campus are at an excruciating pitch, and Maggie expects to be as welcome as a case of Ebola virus.

At a reception for the faculty and trustees to "welcome" Maggie’s team, no one seems more keen for all to go well than Florence Meagher, a star teacher who is loved and respected in spite of her affliction—that she can never stop talking.

Florence is one of those dedicated teachers for whom the school is her life, and yet the next morning, when Maggie arrives to observe her teaching, Florence is missing. Florence’s husband, Ray, an auxiliary policeman in the village, seems more annoyed than alarmed at her disappearance. But Florence’s sister is distraught. There have been tensions in the marriage, and at their last visit, Florence had warned, "If anything happens to me, don’t assume it’s an accident."

Two days later, Florence’s body is found in the campus swimming pool.

Maggie is asked to stay on to coach the very young and inexperienced head of Rye Manor through the crisis. Maggie obviously knows schools, but she also knows something about investigating murder, having solved a mysterious death in Maine the previous year when the police went after the wrong suspect. She is soon joined by her madcap socialite friend Hope, who is jonesing for an excuse to ditch her book club anyway, before she has to actually read Silas Marner.

What on earth is going on in this idyllic town? Is this a run-of-the-mill marital murder? Or does it have something to do with the school board treasurer’s real estate schemes? And what is up with the vicious cyber-bullying that’s unsettled everyone, or with the disturbed teenaged boy whom Florence had made a pet of? And is it possible that someone killed Florence just so she’d finally shut up?
Visit Beth Gutcheon's website.

Writers Read: Beth Gutcheon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Anna Zeide's "Canned"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Canned: The Rise and Fall of Consumer Confidence in the American Food Industry by Anna Zeide.

About the book, from the publisher:
A century and a half ago, when the food industry was first taking root, few consumers trusted packaged foods. Americans had just begun to shift away from eating foods that they grew themselves or purchased from neighbors. With the advent of canning, consumers were introduced to foods produced by unknown hands and packed in corrodible metal that seemed to defy the laws of nature by resisting decay.

Since that unpromising beginning, the American food supply has undergone a revolution, moving away from a system based on fresh, locally grown goods to one dominated by packaged foods. How did this come to be? How did we learn to trust that food preserved within an opaque can was safe and desirable to eat? Anna Zeide reveals the answers through the story of the canning industry, taking us on a journey to understand how food industry leaders leveraged the powers of science, marketing, and politics to win over a reluctant public, even as consumers resisted at every turn.
Visit Anna Zeide's website.

The Page 99 Test: Canned.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top books with different visions for a connected future

Nick Clark Windo is the author of The Feed. One of five "books with different visions for a connected future" he tagged at Tor.com:
The Circle by Dave Eggers

I was really worried when I first heard about this novel. As a writer, it’s a nightmare, isn’t it: not only is someone else is doing your idea, but it’s a brilliant person. And they’re publishing it sooner than you are. Actually, while there are similar themes, the worlds are completely different. But in terms of living in a connected future, that’s the heart of The Circle, and it’s a pretty dark heart at that. It’s a horror story in a way—like at the end of The Thing, when you suspect that all may not be as it seems…well here you have a lot of people who are very happy on the surface, but what’s that you see lurking in their eyes…?
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Alma Katsu's "The Hunger"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Hunger by Alma Katsu.

About the book, from the publisher:
Evil is invisible, and it is everywhere.

That is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the wagon train known as the Donner Party. Depleted rations, bitter quarrels, and the mysterious death of a little boy have driven the isolated travelers to the brink of madness. Though they dream of what awaits them in the West, long-buried secrets begin to emerge, and dissent among them escalates to the point of murder and chaos. They cannot seem to escape tragedy…or the feelings that someone–or something–is stalking them. Whether it’s a curse from the beautiful Tamsen Donner (who some think might be a witch), their ill-advised choice of route through uncharted terrain, or just plain bad luck, the ninety men, women, and children of the Donner Party are heading into one of one of the deadliest and most disastrous Western adventures in American history.

As members of the group begin to disappear, the survivors start to wonder if there really is something disturbing, and hungry, waiting for them in the mountains…and whether the evil that has unfolded around them may have in fact been growing within them all along.

Effortlessly combining the supernatural and the historical, The Hunger is an eerie, thrilling look at the volatility of human nature, pushed to its breaking point.
Learn more about the book and author at Alma Katsu's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Taker.

My Book, The Movie: The Hunger.

The Page 69 Test: The Hunger.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Six YA novels set in Ireland

At the BN Teen Blog Dahlia Adler tagged six YAs set in Ireland, including:
No Filter, by Orlagh Collins

Emerald works hard to maintain a social media image of perfection, especially since her real life isn’t exactly Instagram-friendly. When she finds her prescription drug–addicted mother unconscious, she gets a serious change of scenery, traveling to spend the summer with her grandmother on the Irish coast. It’s there she meets Liam, an aspiring songwriter who’s also no stranger to keeping certain aspects of his life hidden. But with both of them so used to putting up false fronts, how can they possibly trust each other and explore the chemistry sparking between them?
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Amy Wallen's "When We Were Ghouls"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: When We Were Ghouls: A Memoir of Ghost Stories by Amy E. Wallen.

About the book, from the publisher:
When Amy E. Wallen’s southern, blue-collar, peripatetic family was transferred from Ely, Nevada, to Lagos, Nigeria, she had just turned seven. From Nevada to Nigeria and on to Peru, Bolivia, and Oklahoma, the family wandered the world, living in a state of constant upheaval. When We Were Ghouls follows Wallen’s recollections of her family who, like ghosts, came and went and slipped through her fingers, rendering her memories unclear. Were they a family of grave robbers, as her memory of the pillaging of a pre-Incan grave site indicates? Are they, as the author’s mother posits, “hideous people?” Or is Wallen’s memory out of focus?

In this quick-paced and riveting narrative, Wallen exorcizes these haunted memories to clarify the nature of her family and, by extension, her own character. Plumbing the slipperiness of memory and confronting what it means to be a “good” human, When We Were Ghouls links the fear of loss and mortality to childhood ideas of permanence. It is a story about family, surely, but it is also a representation of how a combination of innocence and denial can cause us to neglect our most precious earthly treasures: not just our children but the artifacts of humanity and humanity itself.
Visit Amy Wallen's website.

The Page 99 Test: When We Were Ghouls.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Susan Goldman Rubin reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Susan Goldman Rubin, author of Coco Chanel: Pearls, Perfume, and the Little Black Dress.

Her entry begins:
I write biographies for young adults and middle-grade children, and struggle to bring my subjects to life. What events are the most important to include? How to dramatize those episodes as if I had been there? I look to other biographers as role models whether they write for adults or children. I found understanding and delight in The Shadow in the Garden: A Biographer’s Tale by James Atlas. I’ve devoured every chapter. Atlas, the celebrated biographer of poet Delmore Schwartz and writer Saul Bellow, is also a former editor at The New York Times. Despite his professional achievements, he confides how he struggles along as I do with each biography.

Atlas discusses his process of research and writing with humor, honesty, and brilliance. The reading, the trips to the library, the heaps and piles of endless notes, are, he says, “the pleasures and ordeals of archival research.” Atlas writes as though he’s...[read on]
About Coco Chanel, from the publisher:
Award-winning author Susan Goldman Rubin introduces readers to the most well-known fashion designer in the world, Coco Chanel. Beginning with the difficult years Chanel spent in an orphanage, Goldman Rubin traces Coco’s development as a designer and demonstrates how her determination to be independent helped her gain worldwide recognition. Coco Chanel focuses on the obstacles Chanel faced as a financially independent woman in an era when women were expected to marry; as well as her fierce competition with the Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli; and some of her most memorable firsts for the fashion industry, including the little black dress, the quilted purse with gold chain, and the perfume Chanel No. 5. The book includes a bibliography, a list of where to see her work, and an index.
Visit Susan Goldman Rubin's website.

Writers Read: Susan Goldman Rubin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Denise Mina's six best books

Denise Mina's latest novel is The Long Drop.

One of her six best books, as shared at the Daily Express:
POSTMORTEM by Patricia Cornwell

She has lost favour now but this is a perfect crime novel.

It’s the first in the Kay Scarpetta series and the arc of it is beautiful.

In her later books, the characters are powerful and they end in a shootout.

But in this, the character’s a bit beleaguered.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 16, 2018

Pg. 69: Ruth Downie's "Memento Mori"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Memento Mori: A Crime Novel of the Roman Empire by Ruth Downie.

About the book, from the publisher:
The eighth gripping novel in the bestselling Medicus series, in which Ruso and Tilla investigate the death of the wife of Ruso's friend in the sacred hot spring of Aquae Sulis.

A scandal is threatening to engulf the popular spa town of Aquae Sulis (modern-day Bath). The wife of Ruso's best friend, Valens, has been found dead in the sacred hot spring, stabbed through the heart. Fearing the wrath of the goddess and the ruin of the tourist trade, the temple officials are keen to cover up what's happened. But the dead woman's father is demanding justice, and he's accusing Valens of murder.

If Valens turns up to face trial, he will risk execution. If he doesn't, he'll lose his children.

Ruso and Tilla do their best to help but it's difficult to get anyone--even Valens himself--to reveal what really happened. Could Ruso's friend really be guilty as charged?
Learn more about the book and author at Ruth Downie's website.

The Page 69 Test: Caveat Emptor.

The Page 69 Test: Tabula Rasa.

The Page 69 Test: Vita Brevis.

The Page 69 Test: Memento Mori.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Alexandra Cox's "Trapped in a Vice"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Trapped in a Vice: The Consequences of Confinement for Young People by Alexandra Cox.

About the book, from the publisher:
Trapped in a Vice explores the consequences of a juvenile justice system that is aimed at promoting change in the lives of young people, yet ultimately relies upon tools and strategies that enmesh them in a system that they struggle to move beyond. The system, rather than the crimes themselves, is the vice. Trapped in a Vice explores the lives of the young people and adults in the criminal justice system, revealing the ways that they struggle to manage the expectations of that system; these stories from the ground level of the justice system demonstrate the complex exchange of policy and practice.
Learn more about Trapped in a Vice at the Rutgers University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Trapped in a Vice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six outstanding standalone fantasy epics

Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon are the co-authors of Blood of the Four. At Tor.com they tagged six outstanding standalone fantasy novels. One of Lebbon's picks:
Imajica by Clive Barker

Weaveworld and The Great and Secret Show were classics, but for me Imajica is Barker’s fantasy novel (admittedly with some pretty dark horror elements) that works best. Perhaps part of that is nostalgia—I was reading this book whilst on holiday with my wife when we were very young—but there’s also an epic sense of scope and import to the book. It’s a triumph of imagination, a wide-reaching story that not only addresses questions of religion, sex, love and politics, but also makes the reader really think about why our world is as it is … and whether, perhaps, it might make more sense if it was meant to be part of other realms.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Matthew Restall's "When Montezuma Met Cortés," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: When Montezuma Met Cortés: The True Story of the Meeting that Changed History by Matthew Restall.

The entry begins:
It would seem simple to cast three central characters in the epic tale of the Spanish invasion of the Aztec Empire: Benicio del Toro playing Hernando Cortés as a ruggedly handsome, fascinatingly flawed hero; one of the current Latina rising stars, like Ana de la Reguera (already a telenovela star in the Spanish-speaking world) to play Malinche, Cortés’s native interpreter and lover; and a Native American actor like Zahn McClarnon or Raoul Max Trujillo to play a brooding, doomed Emperor Montezuma.

But it is not that simple. Such a casting reflects the racist romanticism of the traditional narrative, in which Montezuma surrenders his empire and Malinche her heart to an irresistible Cortés—a metaphor for the providential inevitability of Spanish triumph. Such a movie might have worked in the mid-20th century, but today it would seem absurdly and offensively outdated. The reality of the co-called Conquest of Mexico was...[read on]
Learn more about When Montezuma Met Cortés at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: When Montezuma Met Cortés.

My Book, The Movie: When Montezuma Met Cortés.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Top ten books about Kenya

Peter Kimani is an award-winning Kenyan author and journalist. He works in fiction, non-fiction, poetry and plays. His latest novel, Dance of the Jakaranda, is a New York Times Editors’ Choice.

One of Kimani's top ten books about Kenya, as shared at the Guardian:
Coming to Birth by Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye

This deceptively simple novel by a Kenyan of British origin chronicles the life of Paulina, 16, coming of age at a time of rapid social change in Kenya. She leaves the village for the city to join her new husband, Martin, himself a recent arrival. For a while, Martin’s heavy-handedness procures Paulina’s cooperation, but does not quell her desire for self-reliance and self-discovery.
Read about another entry on the list.

Also see Pushpinder Khaneka's three best books on Kenya.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Amanda Izzo's "Liberal Christianity and Women's Global Activism"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Liberal Christianity and Women's Global Activism: The YWCA of the USA and the Maryknoll Sisters by Amanda Izzo.

About the book, from the publisher:
Religiously influenced social movements tend to be characterized as products of the conservative turn in Protestant and Catholic life in the latter part of the twentieth century, with women's mobilizations centering on defense of the “traditional” family. In Liberal Christianity and Women’s Global Activism, Amanda L. Izzo argues that, contrary to this view, liberal wings of Christian churches have remained an instrumental presence in U.S. and transnational politics. Women have been at the forefront of such efforts.

Focusing on the histories of two highly influential groups, the Young Women’s Christian Association of the USA, an interdenominational Protestant organization, and the Maryknoll Sisters, a Roman Catholic religious order, Izzo offers new perspectives on the contributions of these women to transnational social movements, women’s history, and religious studies, as she traces the connections between turn-of-the-century Christian women’s reform culture and liberal and left-wing religious social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Izzo suggests that shared ethical, theological, and institutional underpinnings can transcend denominational divides, and that strategies for social change often associated with secular feminism have ties to spiritually inspired social movements.
Learn more about Liberal Christianity and Women's Global Activism at the Rutgers University Press.

The Page 99 Test: Liberal Christianity and Women's Global Activism.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Phillip Margolin's "The Third Victim"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Third Victim by Phillip Margolin.

About the book, from the publisher:
A woman stumbles onto a dark road in rural Oregon—tortured, battered, and bound. She tells a horrific story about being kidnapped, then tortured, until she finally managed to escape. She was the lucky one—two other women, with similar burns and bruises, were found dead.

The surviving victim identifies the house where she was held captive and the owner, Alex Mason—a prominent local attorney—is arrested. Although he loudly insists upon his innocence, his wife’s statements about his sexual sadism and the physical evidence found at the scene, his summer home, is damning.

Regina Barrister is a legendary criminal defense attorney, known as “The Sorceress” for her courtroom victories. But she’s got a secret, one that threatens her skill, her reputation, and, most of all, her clients. And she’s agreed to take on the seemingly impossible task of defending Alex Mason.

Robin Lockwood, a young lawyer and former MMA fighter, has just left a clerkship at the Oregon Supreme Court to work for Regina Barrister. The Alex Mason trial is her first big one, a likely death penalty case, and she’s second chair to Regina. Increasingly, she’s worried her boss’s behavior and the details in the case against their client don’t quite add up.
Visit Phillip Margolin's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: Woman with a Gun.

The Page 69 Test: Woman with a Gun.

The Page 69 Test: Violent Crimes.

My Book, The Movie: Violent Crimes.

Writers Read: Phillip Margolin.

My Book, The Movie: The Third Victim.

The Page 69 Test: The Third Victim.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Clarissa Harwood reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Clarissa Harwood, author of Impossible Saints.

Her entry begins:
Lately I’ve read two works of fiction that are very different in genre and plot, yet similar in their masterful use of sensory details and setting. I’m always impressed by other writers’ abilities to transport me to a place so different from my own.

Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers, by Sara Ackerman, is a historical novel set in Hawaii during WWII. Violet’s husband has disappeared, and she senses that her troubled daughter Ella knows something about his disappearance. The uncertainty of not knowing whether her husband is alive or dead is amplified by the uncertainty of wartime. When the American soldiers they make friends with leave to fight abroad, Violet and Ella are again left in a suspended state.

Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers is much more than a war story. It is a story about many different kinds of love: maternal love, friendship, romance, love for animals, love for one’s neighbors: “in the islands, the Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Hawaiian, haole, all managed to coexist.” One of the ways Violet and her friends show their love is...[read on]
About Impossible Saints, from the publisher:
Set in England in 1907, Impossible Saints is a novel that burns as brightly as the suffrage movement it depicts, with the emotional resonance of Tracy Chevalier and Jennifer Robson.

Escaping the constraints of life as a village schoolmistress, Lilia Brooke bursts into London and into Paul Harris’s orderly life, shattering his belief that women are gentle creatures who need protection. Lilia wants to change women’s lives by advocating for the vote, free unions, and contraception. Paul, an Anglican priest, has a big ambition of his own: to become the youngest dean of St. John’s Cathedral. Lilia doesn’t believe in God, but she’s attracted to Paul’s intellect, ethics, and dazzling smile.

As Lilia finds her calling in the militant Women’s Social and Political Union, Paul is increasingly driven to rise in the church. They can’t deny their attraction, but they know they don’t belong in each other’s worlds. Lilia would rather destroy property and serve time in prison than see her spirit destroyed and imprisoned by marriage to a clergyman, while Paul wants nothing more than to settle down and keep Lilia out of harm’s way. Paul and Lilia must reach their breaking points before they can decide whether their love is worth fighting for.
Visit Clarissa Harwood's website.

The Page 69 Test: Impossible Saints.

Writers Read: Clarissa Harwood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Six YA novels featuring evil (and irresistible) magical ladies

At the BN Teen Blog, Nicole Brinkley tagged six YA novels featuring magical ambitious ladies willing to do whatever it takes to get what they want, including:
Sea Witch, by Sarah Henning

If you’ve ever danced around singing “Poor Unfortunate Souls” from The Little Mermaid, or wondered exactly how Ursula became the evil villain she is, then I’ve got good news: Sarah Henning has you covered. Though Evie isn’t necessarily evil at the beginning of The Sea Witch—she is an outcast, true, and the death of her best friend contributes to a great villain origin story—but all magic comes with a cost, and when a girl who looks weirdly like her lost best friend washes ashore, that magic is stretched to its limits. I’m reluctant to say more until Sea Witch releases in July—spoilers!—but if you love Wicked or Heartless, you’ll love this one, too.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Patricia Fara's "A Lab of One’s Own"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: A Lab of One's Own: Science and Suffrage in the First World War by Patricia Fara.

About the book, from the publisher:
Patricia Fara unearths the forgotten suffragists of World War I who bravely changed women's roles in the war and paved the way for today's female scientists.

Many extraordinary female scientists, doctors, and engineers tasted independence and responsibility for the first time during the First World War. How did this happen? Patricia Fara reveals how suffragists including Virginia Woolf's sister, Ray Strachey, had already aligned themselves with scientific and technological progress, and that during the dark years of war they mobilized women to enter conventionally male domains such as science and medicine. Fara tells the stories of women including mental health pioneer Isabel Emslie, chemist Martha Whiteley, a co-inventor of tear gas, and botanist Helen Gwynne Vaughan. Women were carrying out vital research in many aspects of science, but could it last?

Though suffragist Millicent Fawcett declared triumphantly that "the war revolutionized the industrial position of women. It found them serfs, and left them free," the truth was very different. Although women had helped the country to victory and won the vote for those over thirty, they had lost the battle for equality. Men returning from the Front reclaimed their jobs, and conventional hierarchies were re-established.

Fara examines how the bravery of these pioneers, temporarily allowed into a closed world before the door slammed shut again, paved the way for today's women scientists.
Learn more about A Lab of One's Own at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Erasmus Darwin.

Writers Read: Patricia Fara.

The Page 99 Test: A Lab of One's Own.

--Marshal Zeringue

Alma Katsu's "The Hunger," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Hunger by Alma Katsu.

The entry begins:
It’s fun to play this game this time around because The Hunger, unlike my previous books, has already been optioned for film. And by none other than Ridley Scott. His son Luke Scott is going to direct, and they’re working on the script now for Fox. I still can’t get used to saying that. Still, whether it will actually be made into a movie one day is a long shot, or so I’ve been told, and so being a ruthless pragmatist I’ve refused to dwell on it. This is actually the first time I’ve let myself think about it!

The Hunger is an ensemble cast and with few exceptions, the characters are based on real people. One of the main characters is Tamsen Donner, wife of George Donner, feckless leader of the wagon party. I’ve portrayed Tamsen as a bewitchingly beautiful, intelligent woman who is tired of being subject to the whims of men—which, given the times, can only lead to trouble and frustration. In an earlier era, Vivian Leigh would be the perfect Tamsen, but among today’s actresses, Jessica Biel (The Illusionist) or Olivia...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Alma Katsu's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Taker.

My Book, The Movie: The Hunger.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books to help you understand the future

Michio Kaku's newest book is The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and Our Destiny Beyond Earth. At the Guardian, he tagged five books to help you understand the future, including:
Beyond Earth by Charles Wohlforth and Amanda R Hendrix imagines what will it be like to create settlements on Mars and even Titan, a moon of Saturn. We might be entering a new age of space exploration. Nasa has laid out a timetable, starting with going back to the moon after 50 years, and then going to Mars, perhaps to the asteroids and beyond. What will we find when we explore the oceans of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn? Can Titan be colonised, or used as a “gas station” for future space missions? Will we find intelligent life in outer space?
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 99 Test: Beyond Earth.

--Marshal Zeringue