Thursday, September 16, 2021

Campaign for the American Reader headquarters got stomped on by Hurricane Ida and is still without reliable internet access.

We will return as soon as possible.

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Six books with city settings that play a significant role

Alan Parks was born in Scotland and attended The University of Glasgow where he was awarded a M.A. in Moral Philosophy. Bloody January is his debut novel.

At CrimeReads he tagged six crime "books that have nothing in common but the huge part the cities in which they are set play," including:
Louise Welsh, The Cutting Room

Glasgow is a city which I’m very familiar. The best writers can make a familiar city, a new city, a place you think you know but you don’t. In The Cutting Room, Louise Welch simply carved out a new Glasgow. No hard men, no long-suffering women, no razor kings, no clich├ęs about the city that run from the thirties until now.

Her hero Rilke is ostensibly an auctioneer, but he’s really a connoisseur of things. Of the feel of them, the patina from the people who have used them, the smell of them. It makes sense that the crime he becomes involved in is discovered through an object. A fading black and white photograph. The object rather than the flesh.

His Glasgow is one of faded grandeur and tightly kept secrets. No one is quite who they seem, including Rilke. His homosexuality, hidden from some, plain to others is like the city he lives in, half hidden in shadow and more complex than it seems. Welsh’s Glasgow is embodied in Rilke and it in him. It’s a perfect match.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Cutting Room is among Sarah Lotz's eight novels featuring atypical amateur detectives and Irvine Welsh's five best crime novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Kira Jane Buxton's "Feral Creatures"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Feral Creatures by Kira Jane Buxton.

About the book, from the publisher:
Once upon an apocalypse, there lived an obscenely handsome American crow named S.T....

When the world last checked-in with its favorite Cheeto addict, the planet had been overrun by flesh-hungry beasts, and nature had started re-claiming her territory from humankind. S.T., the intrepid crow, alongside his bloodhound-bestie Dennis, had set about saving pets that had become trapped in their homes after humanity went the way of the dodo.

That is, dear reader, until S.T. stumbled upon something so rare—and so precious—that he vowed to do everything in his power to safeguard what could, quite literally, be humanity's last hope for survival. But in a wild world plagued by prejudiced animals, feather-raising environments, new threats so terrifying they make zombies look like baby bunnies, and a horrendous dearth of cheesy snacks, what's a crow to do?

Why, wing it on another big-hearted, death-defying adventure, that's what! Joined by a fabulous new cast of animal characters, S.T. faces many new challenges plus his biggest one yet: parenthood.
Visit Kira Jane Buxton's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kira Jane Buxton & Ewok.

My Book, The Movie: Hollow Kingdom.

The Page 69 Test: Hollow Kingdom.

My Book, The Movie: Feral Creatures.

Q&A with Kira Jane Buxton.

The Page 69 Test: Feral Creatures.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Ten of the best music memoirs & biographies

Fiona Sturges is an arts writer specializing in books, music, podcasting and TV.

At the Guardian she tagged ten candid memoirs and biographies that reveal the inner lives of musicians, including:
Life by Keith Richards

Given the legendarily debauched life of the Rolling Stones guitarist, it’s a wonder that he can remember enough of it to fill a book. Eye-watering in its candour, Life gleefully takes us through music, money, arrests, fallouts, makeups, drugs and “chicks”. It’s gossipy, spry and an absolute hoot from beginning to end.
Read about another entry on the list.

Life is among Liz Phair's ten favorite books, Dan Holmes's twenty best memoirs written by musicians, Ginni Chen's top six books that destroyed real life friendships, and Claire Zulkey's five top books "written by folks more famous for rocking out."

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: M. David Litwa's "The Evil Creator"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Evil Creator: Origins of an Early Christian Idea by M. David Litwa.

About the book, from the publisher:
M. David Litwa here examines the origins of the creator concept in early Christian biblical interpretations. His interpretation moves beyond previous attempts to root the analysis in Judaism or in a social-psychological crisis. Rather, it connects the ancient readings with Christianity today. In Gnostic readings, ancient Egyptians' assimilation of the Jewish god to the deity Seth-Typhon is studied to understand Gnostics' reapplication to a "Judeo-catholic" creator. The Christian reception of sections in the gospel of John is shown to implicate the Judeo-catholic figure in murdering Christ. Litwa then discusses Marcionism, where God's harmful behavior continues to be displayed. In the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, the "god of this world" blinds people from illumination. He destroys the Law and the Lawgiver. Christ also succumbs to the "curse of the Law" inflicted by God. In both streams of biblical interpretation, it is shown how ancient readers logically concluded that the creator of this world was not simply just or cruel, but outright evil in his attempt to curse and destroy Christ.

The Evil Creator: Origins of an Early Christian Idea shows how this analysis is a product of Christian biblical exegesis and connects its ancient origins to modern theology. Litwa shows how readers of today's Christian Bible still find wickedness and how these early explications have contributed to the atheism phenomenon.
Visit M. David Litwa's website.

The Page 99 Test: How the Gospels Became History.

The Page 99 Test: The Evil Creator.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 30, 2021

Ten top psychological thrillers

S.F. Kosa is a clinical psychologist with a fascination for the seedy underbelly of the human psyche. Though The Quiet Girl is her debut psychological suspense novel, writing as Sarah Fine, she is the author of over two dozen fantasy, urban fantasy, sci-fi, and romance novels, several of which have been translated into multiple languages. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and their (blended) brood of five young humans.

Kosa's latest novel is The Night We Burned.

At CrimeReads she tagged ten of her favorite psychological thrillers, including:
Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden

Speaking of rich and unvarnished depictions … Virgil Wounded Horse, an enforcer on who exacts justice for those the American legal system neglects, nearly loses his nephew, Nathan, to an overdose and goes on a mission to track down the scourge selling heroin to kids on “the rez.” It’s a compelling and gritty crime novel, a solid mystery—but it’s also a keen portrait of the modern consequences of colonization, the relentless drag of injustice and poverty that too often leads to despair, and the power of dignity, community, and spirituality. The author paints us a lovingly complex picture of the pulls of loyalty, grief, ambition, heritage, and identity—and the absolute necessity of hope and belongingness (a major predictor of psychological wellbeing, by the way).
Read about another entry on the list.

Winter Counts is among Stephen Miller's favorite crime fiction of 2020, Molly Odintz's six favorite titles from the "new wave of thrillers where the oppressed get some well-earned revenge," and Jennifer Baker's top twelve mystery novels featuring BIPOC protagonists.

The Page 69 Test: Winter Counts.

My Book, The Movie: Winter Counts.

Q&A with David Heska Wanbli Weiden.

--Marshal Zeringue

Andrew Welsh-Huggins's "An Empty Grave," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: An Empty Grave: An Andy Hayes Mystery by Andrew Welsh-Huggins.

The entry begins:
I get this question a lot, and the answer is easy: the best person to play Andy Hayes, my disgraced former Ohio State University quarterback, is actor Keanu Reeves. Why? He’s done it twice on screen already.

The first time, in 1991’s Point Break, he teamed with Patrick Swayze in a crime fiction tale involving the FBI’s investigation of a violent California bank robbery gang whose members investigators believe are surfers. Reeves plays Johnny Utah, a former Ohio State quarterback who quit the sport after blowing out his knee, and later becomes an FBI agent. The second time, in...[read on]
Visit Andrew Welsh-Huggins's website.

My Book, The Movie:: An Empty Grave.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Matthew FitzSimmons's "Constance"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Constance by Matthew FitzSimmons.

About the book, from the publisher:
A breakthrough in human cloning becomes one woman’s waking nightmare in a mind-bending thriller by the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Gibson Vaughn series.

In the near future, advances in medicine and quantum computing make human cloning a reality. For the wealthy, cheating death is the ultimate luxury. To anticloning militants, it’s an abomination against nature. For young Constance “Con” D’Arcy, who was gifted her own clone by her late aunt, it’s terrifying.

After a routine monthly upload of her consciousness―stored for that inevitable transition―something goes wrong. When Con wakes up in the clinic, it’s eighteen months later. Her recent memories are missing. Her original, she’s told, is dead. If that’s true, what does that make her?

The secrets of Con’s disorienting new life are buried deep. So are those of how and why she died. To uncover the truth, Con is retracing the last days she can recall, crossing paths with a detective who’s just as curious. On the run, she needs someone she can trust. Because only one thing has become clear: Con is being marked for murder―all over again.
Visit Matthew FitzSimmons's website.

The Page 69 Test: Constance.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Seven top thrillers about the dark side of academia

Ceillie Clark-Keane is a writer and editor based in Boston. Her work has been published by Electric Literature, Bustle, the Ploughshares blog, and other outlets. She is a nonfiction reader for Salamander and Pangyrus.

At Electric Lit Clark-Keane tagged seven "excellent thrillers that use the college campus as a setting to explore the darker side of academia, leverage the competitive atmosphere, and present a compactly contained mystery that keeps you reading." One title on the list:
The Girls Are All So Nice Here by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

Like [Ashley Winstead's] In My Dreams I Hold a Knife, this thriller centers on a college reunion that dredges up old feelings of inadequacy, competition, and, of course, guilt. Ambrosia Turner is reluctant to attend her 10-year reunion at Wesleyan, but she relents after receiving letters from her former friend Sloan Sullivan, or Sully. Although they haven’t talked in years, Ambrosia is touched, and not a little concerned, that Sully has reached out this way. In chapters alternating between the present day and the beginning of college, we learn why Ambrosia is uncomfortable returning to a campus where she felt awkward and out of place, how her fiery friendship with Sully made her feel like she finally fit in, and what tragic ending to their friendship kept them away from each other and campus—until now.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Kate Myles

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

The Receptionist
is short and to-the-point. People tell me it’s a great title, so that must count for something! It lets us know we’ll be meeting an entry level worker who does something in the thriller vein…something nefarious. As we get into the book, I like the fact that the title character is not the protagonist. She’s more of a change agent in the other characters’ lives.

What's in a name?

Doug. Say it with me, “Doug.” He’s a monosyllable. A gen-xer. A former frat boy running his dad’s company into the ground. In fifth grade, I sat next to a Doug. He was always...[read on]
Visit Kate Myles's website.

Q&A with Kate Myles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Catherine J. Ross's "A Right to Lie?"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: A Right to Lie?: Presidents, Other Liars, and the First Amendment by Catherine J. Ross.

About the book, from the publisher:
In A Right to Lie?, legal scholar Catherine J. Ross addresses the urgent issue of whether the nation's highest officers, including the president, have a right to lie under the Speech Clause, no matter what damage their falsehoods cause. Does freedom of expression protect even factual falsehoods? If so, are lies by candidates and public officials protected? And is there a constitutional path, without violating the First Amendment, to stop a president whose persistent lies endanger our lives and our democracy?

Perhaps counter-intuitively, the general answer to each question is "yes." Drawing from dramatic court cases about defamers, proponents of birtherism, braggarts, and office holders, Ross reveals the almost insurmountable constitutional and practical obstacles to legal efforts to rein in public deception. She explains the rules that govern the treatment of lies, while also demonstrating the incalculable damage presidential mendacity may lead to, as revealed in President Trump's lies about the COVID-19 pandemic and the legitimacy of the 2020 election.

Falsehoods have been at issue in every presidential impeachment proceeding from Nixon to Trump. But, until now, no one has analyzed why public lies might be impeachable offenses, and whether the First Amendment would provide a defense. Noting that speech by public employees does not receive the same First Amendment protection as the speech of ordinary citizens, Ross proposes the constitutionally viable solution of treating presidents as public employees who work for the people. Charged with oversight of the Executive, Congress may—and should—put future presidents on notice that material lies to the public on substantial matters will be deemed a "high crime and misdemeanor" subject to censure and even impeachment. A Right to Lie? explains how this approach could work if the political will were in place.
Visit Catherine J. Ross's website.

The Page 99 Test: A Right to Lie?.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Seven of the best books about islands

Kiran Millwood Hargrave is a British author, poet, and playwright.

Her debut book, The Girl of Ink & Stars, won the Waterstones Children's Book Prize, and British Children's Book of the Year.

Her second book, The Island at the End of Everything, received starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and VOYA. She holds degrees from both Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and lives by the river in Oxford.

The Mercies is her debut novel for adults.

At the Guardian Hargrave tagged seven favorite books about islands, including:
Madeline Miller’s Circe offers a very different sort of origin story, this time for the witch banished by Zeus to live out her days on Aeaea. Formerly known as a bit player in the Odyssey, Circe’s life story is offered here, full of salt and herbs and sex. It’s a romp, and also a beautiful account of making a home, and making peace with yourself.
Learn about another entry on the list.

Circe is among Zen Cho's six SFF titles about gods and pantheons, Jennifer Saint's ten top books inspired by Greek myth, Adrienne Westenfeld's fifteen feminist books that will inspire, enrage, & educate you, Ali Benjamin's top ten classic stories retold, Lucile Scott's eight books about hexing the patriarchy, E. Foley and B. Coates's top ten goddesses in fiction, Jordan Ifueko's five fantasy titles driven by traumatic family bonds, Eleanor Porter's top ten books about witch-hunts, Emily B. Martin's six stunning fantasies for nature lovers, Allison Pataki's top six books that feature strong female voices, Pam Grossman's thirteen stories about strong women with magical powers, Kris Waldherr's nine top books inspired by mythology, Katharine Duckett's eight novels that reexamine literature from the margins, and Steph Posts' thirteen top novels set in the world of myth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Veronica Bond's "Death in Castle Dark"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Death in Castle Dark (A Dinner and a Murder Mystery) by Veronica Bond.

About the book, from the publisher:
Actor Nora Blake finds her dream job when she is cast in a murder-mystery troupe that performs in an imposing but captivating old castle. When she stumbles upon a real murder, things take a nightmarish turn in this first book in an exciting new series.

Maybe it was too good to be true, but when Nora Blake accepted the job from Derek Corby, proprietor of Castle Dark, she could not see any downsides. She would sink her acting chops into the troupe’s intricately staged murder-mystery shows, earn free room and board in the fairy tale–like castle, and make friends with her new roommates, which include some seriously adorable kittens.

But something sinister lurks behind the walls of Castle Dark. During Nora’s second performance, one of her castmates plays the part of the victim a little too well. So well, in fact, that no one can revive him. He has been murdered. Not ready to give up her dream gig—or to be the next victim—Nora sets out to see which one of her fellow actors has taken the role of a murderous real-life villain.
Visit Julia Buckley's website and follow Veronica Bond on Facebook.

Q&A with Julia Buckley.

Writers Read: Veronica Bond.

The Page 69 Test: Death in Castle Dark.

--Marshal Zeringue

Jo Perry's "Pure," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Pure by Jo Perry.

The entry begins:
Ascher requires a character-actor, not a movie star––someone really funny and real to bring her to life. A young Sarah Silverman would be perfect. I wish Ascher and Silverman were the same age, but Ascher is much younger. I’m pretty sure Silverman could play a character younger than she is now, but if she couldn’t...[read on]
Visit Jo Perry's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jo Perry & Lola and Lucy.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Better.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Better.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Best.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Best.

My Book, The Movie: Dead Is Good.

The Page 69 Test: Dead Is Good.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Beautiful.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Beautiful.

Writers Read: Jo Perry (February 2019).

My Book, The Movie: Pure.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 27, 2021

Five top dangers-of-dating thrillers

Catherine Ryan Howard has been a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel, the CWA’s Ian Fleming Steel and John Creasey (New Blood) Daggers, and Irish Crime Novel of the Year multiple times. The Nothing Man, her mix of true crime and crime fiction, was a no. 1 bestseller in her native Ireland. She is currently based in Dublin, where she divides her time between the desk and the couch.

Howard's new novel, 56 Days, is a thriller about a couple locked down together in Dublin that the author wrote while she was locked down in Dublin.

At CrimeReads she tagged five favorite dangers-of-dating thrillers, including:
Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

Twenty-something Catherine exists rather than lives in London, isolated, mistrustful and struggling with crippling OCD. But when we flashback to just four years earlier, we meet a confident and outgoing party-girl who relishes a drunken night on the town with her friends – until, on one of those nights, she meets Lee. What happened in between that wreaked such havoc on Catherine’s life? And what will happen now that Lee is being released from prison? Where this thriller is in a league of its own is in its depiction of the slow, insidious nature of domestic abuse and coercive control. If you’ve ever wondered ‘Why didn’t she just leave?’, this novel has a definitive answer for you: because by the time there was any reason to, it was already too late. Truly terrifying and forever my recommendation for an exceptional psychological thriller that you may have missed first time around.
Read about another entry on the list.

Into the Darkest Corner is among Shalini Boland's five savviest, toughest women in crime fiction and Jane Robins's top ten creepy psychological thrillers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Vivienne Sanders's "Wales, the Welsh and the Making of America"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Wales, the Welsh and the Making of America by Vivienne Sanders.

About the book, from the publisher:
A systematic account of the contributions of Welsh immigrants to the United States.

This book is the first systematic attempt to both recount and evaluate the considerable, though undervalued, contributions of Welsh immigrants to the development of the United States. Vivienne Sanders recounts the lives and achievements of Welsh immigrants and their descendants within a narrative outline of American history that emphasizes the Welsh influence upon the colonists’ rejection of British rule, as well as upon the establishment, expansion, and industrialization of the new American nation.
Follow Vivienne Sanders on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Wales, the Welsh and the Making of America.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Avery Bishop reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Avery Bishop, author of One Year Gone: A Novel.

The entry begins:
Like many writers, I'm often reading several books at the same time, and I often like to read in many different genres. Usually I'm reading a book on my Kindle, an ebook on my phone, a hardcover or paperback, and listening to an audiobook when I'm driving or shopping or walking the dog.

On my Kindle: Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry. A short novel, not even 45,000 words, but it's dark and gritty and has a lyrical quality to its prose. I'm currently halfway through and really enjoying it.

On my phone: The Cipher by Isabella Maldonado. A thriller about...[read on]
About One Year Gone, from the publisher:
A mother will risk everything to find her missing daughter in this twisty thriller from the author of Girl Gone Mad.

“Sometimes teenagers run away…Give her a few days. She’ll be back.”

That’s what the police tell Jessica Moore when her seventeen-year-old daughter, Wyn, vanishes. All signs point to this being true. But days become weeks. Weeks become months. And Jessica begins to fear the terrible truth―that she may never see her daughter again.

Then, one year later, when all hope seems lost, Jessica gets a flurry of text messages from Wyn that freeze her blood: mom. please help. i think he’s going to kill me. But Wyn’s terrified plea comes with a warning not to call the police. Her kidnapper wears a badge.

As Jessica’s fears are raised again, so are the stakes. Delving into the months leading up to Wyn’s disappearance, Jessica stumbles upon information that could put her own life in danger. With each revelation, the nightmare deepens. Now she must decide just how far she’ll go to bring her daughter home.
Visit Avery Bishop's website.

The Page 69 Test: Girl Gone Mad.

Q&A with Avery Bishop.

Writers Read: Avery Bishop.

--Marshal Zeringue