Sunday, November 30, 2008

What is Jaclyn Moriarty reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Jaclyn Moriarty, who lives in Australia.

Her young-adult novels, Feeling Sorry for Celia and The Year of Secret Assignments, are both international bestsellers. Her newest novel is The Spell Book of Listen Taylor, about which Martha Brockenbrough wrote: "It's marketed as a young-adult novel, but I can't imagine anyone well into old-adulthood (sigh) not loving it."

One paragraph from her entry:
Last night, I finished The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, and I thought it was deliriously lovely. A couple of days ago I read a young adult book: the sharp, macabre and funny Martyn Pig by Kevin Brooks. Much of Martyn Pig is spent in the presence of a slowly decaying corpse. The smell is so vividly depicted that I’m still opening windows in my house, trying to let in some fresh air.[read on]
Visit Jaclyn Moriarty's website and blog.

Writers Read: Jaclyn Moriarty.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Sandra Ruttan's "The Frailty of Flesh"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Frailty of Flesh by Sandra Ruttan.

About the book, from the publisher:
The police got the call: A four-year-old boy had been found beaten to death in the park. But almost as soon as Hart and Tain arrived at the scene, the case took a strange turn. They found the victim’s brother hiding in the woods nearby. He said he saw the whole thing and claims his older sister is the killer. And she’s missing…. When the boy’s father is notified that his son is dead, his first response is to hire a high-powered attorney, who seems determined to create every legal roadblock he can for Hart and Tain. So now the search is on for the missing girl. But the clock is ticking, and the case is about to get even stranger.
Read an excerpt from The Frailty of Flesh, and learn more about the book and author at Sandra Ruttan's website and blog.

Described as “one of crime fiction's hot new voices” by Rick Mofina, Sandra Ruttan’s short stories have appeared in Out of the Gutter, Crimespree Magazine, Pulp Pusher, Demolition and The Cynic. Her previous novels are Suspicious Circumstances and What Burns Within. She is the editor of Spinetingler Magazine.

See January Magazine's Author Snapshot: Sandra Ruttan.

The Page 69 Test: Suspicious Circumstances.

My Book, The Movie: Suspicious Circumstances.

The Page 69 Test: What Burns Within.

The Page 69 Test: The Frailty of Flesh.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Pg. 99: Crais & Scully's "Sara Baartman and the Hottentot Venus"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Sara Baartman and the Hottentot Venus: A Ghost Story and a Biography by Clifton Crais and Pamela Scully.

About the book, from the publisher:
Displayed on European stages from 1810 to 1815 as the Hottentot Venus, Sara Baartman was one of the most famous women of her day, and also one of the least known. As the Hottentot Venus, she was seen by Westerners as alluring and primitive, a reflection of their fears and suppressed desires. But who was Sara Baartman? Who was the woman who became the Hottentot Venus? Based on research and interviews that span three continents, Sara Baartman and the Hottentot Venus tells the entwined histories of an illusive life and a famous icon. In doing so, the book raises questions about the possibilities and limits of biography for understanding those who live between and among different cultures.

In reconstructing Baartman's life, the book traverses the South African frontier and its genocidal violence, cosmopolitan Cape Town, the ending of the slave trade, the Industrial Revolution, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, London and Parisian high society, and the rise of racial science. The authors discuss the ramifications of discovering that when Baartman went to London, she was older than originally assumed, and they explore the enduring impact of the Hottentot Venus on ideas about women, race, and sexuality. The book concludes with the politics involved in returning Baartman's remains to her home country, and connects Baartman's story to her descendants in nineteenth- and twentieth-century South Africa.

Sara Baartman and the Hottentot Venus offers the authoritative account of one woman's life and reinstates her to the full complexity of her history.
Read an excerpt from Sara Baartman and the Hottentot Venus, and learn more about the book from the Princeton University Press website.

Clifton Crais is professor of history at Emory University. He is the author of The Politics of Evil. Pamela Scully is associate professor of women's studies and African studies at Emory University. She is the author of Liberating the Family?

The Page 99 Test: Sara Baartman and the Hottentot Venus.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top 10 sexy French books

Helena Frith Powell is the author of All You Need to Be Impossibly French: A Witty Investigation Into the Lives, Lusts, and Little Secrets of French Women and other books.

Back in 2005 she named a top ten list of "sexy French books" for the Guardian.

One title on her list:
Madame de by Louise de Vilmorin

Classic faux-brow, this is the book that French girls love to take seriously, even though it's nothing more than a story of adultery, written by the lover of Duff Cooper, British ambassador to France during the 1940s. When Cooper was away, Louise hunkered down with Diana, his wife. The smouldering passion between the fictitious ambassador and his mistress is a splendid example of Parisian society at its best and most snooty. Cooper himself did the English translation.
Read about Frith Powell's criteria for the list and another title on it.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 28, 2008

What is Laura E. Ruberto reading?

Currently featured at Writers Read: Laura E. Ruberto, co-chair, Arts and Cultural Studies Department, Berkeley City College.

Ruberto is the author of the books Italian Neorealism and Global Cinema (Wayne State University Press, 2007, co-edited with Kristi M. Wilson) and Gramsci, Migration, and the Representation of Women's Work in Italy and the U.S. (Lexington, 2007).

One paragraph from her entry:
I’m in the middle of reading Emigrant Nation: The Making of Italy Abroad, by Mark I. Choate. It’s an impressive historical study on the construction of Italian national identity through the everyday lived realities of its emigrants. I find his approach refreshing since it sort of inverts the migration narrative back on to the country of origin and considers emigrants as agents of change in Italy (as well as in their adopted country). I’m especially interested in how Choate teases out the Italian government’s role in promoting Italo-culture beyond Italy.[read on]
Learn more about Laura E. Ruberto and her work.

Writers Read: Laura E. Ruberto.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Mary Logue's "Point No Point"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Point No Point by Mary Logue.

About the book, from the publisher:
The seventh book in the Claire Watkins mystery series. Deputy Sheriff Claire Watkins is faced with a difficult case when a friend of the family is suspected of killing his wife. Her investigation puts a great stress on her relationship with her husband. Things are further strained when the suspect attempts suicide, solidifying his guilt in Claire’s mind. But what if she’s wrong?
Read more about Point No Point at the publisher's website.

Mary Logue is an award-winning poet and mystery writer. Her books include Snatched, a middle-grade mystery she wrote with Pete Hautman; Poison Heart, her seventh crime novel; and Meticulous Attachment, her third book of poems. She has also published a young adult novel, Dancing with an Alien. Her non-fiction books include a biography of her grandmother, Halfway Home, and a book on Minnesota courthouses.

Visit Mary Logue's website.

The Page 69 Test: Point No Point.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Jason Goodwin's "The Snake Stone," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: The Snake Stone by Jason Goodwin.

The entry starts:
Orientalist painters in the 19th century fell over themselves to capture the Ottoman Empire on canvas. They painted the mosques and domes, the palaces and bazaars, and of course the naked odalisques, reclining with their pipes. They captured the tilework and the black eunuchs, the costume and the artefacts of an imperial civilisation that was, visually, utterly stunning. Here’s a curious thing: no-one has ever done it on screen.

But let’s face it: who’s man enough to play my central character, Yashim the Investigator?

He’s invisible. He’s active. He’s calm - and smart.

And he’s a eunuch.

I put this very question on my blog (the and the answer was:...[read on]
Jason Goodwin's Edgar Award–winning series set in Istanbul at the end of the Ottoman Empire--The Janissary Tree, The Snake Stone, and coming in 2009, The Bellini Card--features Investigator Yashim: detective, polyglot, chef, eunuch.

Learn more about Jason Goodwin and his work at his website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Snake Stone.

My Book, The Movie: The Snake Stone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Critic's chart: 6 books with big ideas

Tom Whitwell, assistant editor at the (London) Times online, named a critic's chart of "books with big ideas."

One title on the list:
The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

Explains how you can sell anything on the internet, just as long as it didn't cost you much to make.
Read about another title on Whitwell's chart.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Brian Ladd's "Autophobia"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Autophobia: Love and Hate in the Automotive Age by Brian Ladd.

About the book, from the publisher:
Cars are the scourge of civilization, responsible for everything from suburban sprawl and urban decay to environmental devastation and rampant climate change—not to mention our slavish dependence on foreign oil from dubious sources abroad. Add the astonishing price in human lives that we pay for our automobility—some thirty million people were killed in car accidents during the twentieth century—plus the countless number of hours we waste in gridlock traffic commuting to work, running errands, picking up our kids, and searching for parking, and one can’t help but ask: Haven’t we had enough already? After a century behind the wheel, could we be reaching the end of the automotive age?

From the Model T to the SUV, Autophobia reveals that our vexed relationship with the automobile is nothing new—in fact, debates over whether cars are forces of good or evil in our world have raged for over a century now, ever since the automobile was invented. According to Brian Ladd, this love and hate relationship we share with our cars is the defining quality of the automotive age. And everyone has an opinion about them, from the industry shills, oil barons, and radical libertarians who offer cars blithe paeans and deny their ill effects, to the technophobes, treehuggers, and killjoys who curse cars, ignoring the very real freedoms and benefits they provide us. Focusing in particular on our world’s cities, and spanning settings as varied as belle epoque Paris, Nazi Germany, postwar London, Los Angeles, New York, and the smoggy Shanghai of today, Ladd explores this love and hate relationship throughout, acknowledging adherents and detractors of the automobile alike.

Eisenhower, Hitler, Jan and Dean, J. G. Ballard, Ralph Nader, OPEC, and, of course, cars, all come into play in this wide-ranging but remarkably wry and pithy book. A dazzling display of erudition, Autophobia is cultural commentary at its most compelling, history at its most searching—and a surprising page-turner.
Read an excerpt from Autophobia and learn more about the book at the University of Chicago Press website.

Brian Ladd is an independent historian who received his Ph.D. from Yale University. He has taught history at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and is a research associate in the history department at the University of Albany, State University of New York. He is the author of The Ghosts of Berlin: Confronting German History in the Urban Landscape.

The Page 99 Test: Autophobia.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What is Linda Barnes reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Linda Barnes, Anthony award-winning author of the Carlotta Carlyle mysteries and the Michael Spraggue mysteries.

One segment of her entry:
This week I'm planning to read The Hungry Tide, by Amitav Ghosh. [read on]
Visit the official Linda Barnes website.

Read Ray Taras' review of Ghosh's The Hungry Tide here on the blog.

Writers Read: Linda Barnes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Jeffrey A. Carver's "Sunborn"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Sunborn by Jeffrey A. Carver.

About the book, from the publisher:
With a plot inspired by chaos theory, fully realized characters, and plenty of twists and turns, this exciting hard SF adventure will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

John Bandicut and several aliens and artificial intelligences have been thrown together by a force greater than themselves to prevent cataclysmic disasters on an interstellar scale. Now, before they can take a break after a world-saving mission, they are pulled into a waystation that is being threatened by highly destructive gravity waves.

The waves are part of a much larger problem. Something is causing stars to become unstable and go prematurely nova--they're being murdered. When the waystation is destroyed by the gravity waves, Bandicut and his crew barely escape on a jury-rigged ship. Their destination is a star nursery in the Orion Nebula, where sentient stars are being driven to destruction by an artificial intelligence bent on remaking the cosmos in its own image.
Get a free PDF of Sunborn and the books in the Chaos Chronicles that precede it at

Visit Jeffrey A. Carver's website and blog.

Jeffrey A. Carver's most recent novel, Eternity's End, was a finalist for the Nebula Award. He's written more than a dozen novels, including his critically acclaimed novelization of Battlestar Galactica.

The Page 69 Test: Sunborn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pg. 99: Brian DeLay's "War of a Thousand Deserts"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: War of a Thousand Deserts: Indian Raids and the U.S.-Mexican War by Brian DeLay.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the early 1830s, after decades of relative peace, northern Mexicans and the Indians whom they called “the barbarians” descended into a terrifying cycle of violence. For the next fifteen years, owing in part to changes unleashed by American expansion, Indian warriors launched devastating attacks across ten Mexican states. Raids and counter-raids claimed thousands of lives, ruined much of northern Mexico’s economy, depopulated its countryside, and left man-made “deserts” in place of thriving settlements. Just as important, this vast interethnic war informed and emboldened U.S. arguments in favor of seizing Mexican territory while leaving northern Mexicans too divided, exhausted, and distracted to resist the American invasion and subsequent occupation.

Exploring Mexican, American, and Indian sources ranging from diplomatic correspondence and congressional debates to captivity narratives and plains Indians’ pictorial calendars, War of a Thousand Deserts recovers the surprising and previously unrecognized ways in which economic, cultural, and political developments within native communities affected nineteenth-century nation-states. In the process this ambitious book offers a rich and often harrowing new narrative of the era when the United States seized half of Mexico’s national territory.
Read an excerpt from War of a Thousand Deserts, and learn more about the book at the Yale University Press website.

Brian DeLay is assistant professor of history, University of Colorado, Boulder.

The Page 99 Test: War of a Thousand Deserts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: David Farland's "The Wyrmling Horde"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Wyrmling Horde by David Farland.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Saga of the Runelords is written in the finest tradition of Tolkien and other works that rise above the fantasy genre to special and individual heights.

Now the epic story continues: at the end of Worldbinder, Fallion Orden, son of Gaborn, was imprisoned on a strange and fantastic world that he created by combining two alternate realities. It's a world brimming with dark magic, ruled by a creature of unrelenting evil who is gathering monstrous armies from a dozen planets in a bid to conquer the universe. Only Fallion has the power to mend the worlds, but at the heart of a city that is a vast prison, he lies in shackles. The forces of evil are growing and will soon rage across the heavens. Now, Fallion's allies must risk everything in an attempt to free him from the wyrmling horde.
Read an excerpt from The Wyrmling Horde, and learn more about the book and author at David Farland's website.

David Farland has published over forty fantasy and science fiction novels for both adults and younger readers.

The Page 69 Test: The Wyrmling Horde.

--Marshal Zeringue

Alex Ross' 5 most important books

Alex Ross, music critic for The New Yorker since 1996 and author of The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, recently told Newsweek about his five most important books.

And answered a related question:
A book to which you always return:

I always have Wallace Stevens's poems by my desk. They recharge my love of language.
Read more about Ross' five most important books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 24, 2008

What is Robert Tsai reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Robert Tsai, law professor and author of the newly released Eloquence and Reason: Creating a First Amendment Culture.

One part of his entry:
I recently re-read Robert H. Jackson's The Struggle for Judicial Supremacy, written while he was U.S. Attorney General and published the same year he was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In it, Jackson [pictured left] looks back on the transformative New Deal years as part of a constant struggle in American politics between judicial supremacy and popular government. Although he is obviously a partisan--someone who participated actively in the making of history and law during these formative years and would continue to do so--he tried to put events in historical context. The book is highly accessible. It demonstrates that the issues intellectuals struggled with during the war years are much the same as the ones we struggle with now: how to reconcile the rule of law with rule by the majority; and how to reform government to render it more accountable to the needs of average Americans.[read on]
Robert L. Tsai is associate professor of law at American University, Washington College of Law. Learn more about Robert Tsai's teaching and research at his personal website.

His new book is Eloquence and Reason: Creating a First Amendment Culture.

Among the praise for the book:
“Just when I thought that there was nothing new to say about the First Amendment, Robert Tsai comes along and writes a book which encourages me to think again.”
—Bruce Ackerman, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science, Yale University

"Tsai's exciting work on the interplay between the Supreme Court and the executive branch in the nineteen forties sheds new light on the origins of modern constitutional law. And his new account of the relationship between language and power in political discourse is sure to be controversial and should be widely read."
—H. Jefferson Powell, Duke Law School
Read an excerpt from Eloquence and Reason, and learn more about the book at the Yale University Press website.

Visit the Eloquence and Reason blog.

Writers Read: Robert Tsai.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Morgan Howell's "A Woman Worth Ten Coppers"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: A Woman Worth Ten Coppers by Morgan Howell.

About the book, from the publisher:
Seer, healer, goddess, slave–she is all these things and more.

Yim is a young woman suddenly cast into slavery, a gifted seer with a shocking secret–and a great destiny. Honus is a Sarf, a warrior dedicated to the service of the compassionate goddess Karm. A Sarf’s sole purpose is to serve a holy person called a Bearer. But Honus’s Bearer has been killed by the minions of an evil god known only as the Devourer. Masterless and needing someone to bear his pack, Honus purchases Yim for the price of ten coppers–and their fates are forever entwined.
Read an excerpt from A Woman Worth Ten Coppers, and learn more about the book and author at Morgan Howell's website.

Morgan Howell is the author of the Queen of the Orcs trilogy: King’s Property, Clan Daughter, and Royal Destiny.

The Page 69 Test: A Woman Worth Ten Coppers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pg. 99: Thomas S. Kidd's "American Christians and Islam"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: American Christians and Islam: Evangelical Culture and Muslims from the Colonial Period to the Age of Terrorism.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, many of America's Christian evangelicals have denounced Islam as a "demonic" and inherently violent religion, provoking frustration among other Christian conservatives who wish to present a more appealing message to the world's Muslims. Yet as Thomas Kidd reveals in this sobering book, the conflicted views expressed by today's evangelicals have deep roots in American history.

Tracing Islam's role in the popular imagination of American Christians from the colonial period to today, Kidd demonstrates that Protestant evangelicals have viewed Islam as a global threat--while also actively seeking to convert Muslims to the Christian faith--since the nation's founding. He shows how accounts of "Mahometan" despotism and lurid stories of European enslavement by Barbary pirates fueled early evangelicals' fears concerning Islam, and describes the growing conservatism of American missions to Muslim lands up through the post-World War II era. Kidd exposes American Christians' anxieties about an internal Islamic threat from groups like the Nation of Islam in the 1960s and America's immigrant Muslim population today, and he demonstrates why Islam has become central to evangelical "end-times" narratives. Pointing to many evangelicals' unwillingness to acknowledge Islam's theological commonalities with Christianity and their continued portrayal of Islam as an "evil" and false religion, Kidd explains why Christians themselves are ironically to blame for the failure of evangelism in the Muslim world.

American Christians and Islam is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the causes of the mounting tensions between Christians and Muslims today.
Read an excerpt from American Christians and Islam, and learn more about the book at the Princeton University Press website.

Thomas Kidd is associate professor of history at Baylor University and resident scholar at Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion. He is the author of The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America and The Protestant Interest: New England after Puritanism.

The Page 99 Test: American Christians and Islam.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Diane Hammond's "Hannah’s Dream"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Hannah’s Dream by Diane Hammond.

About the book, from the publisher:
An elephant never forgets ... but can she dream?

For forty-one years, Samson Brown has been caring for Hannah, the lone elephant at the down-at-the-heels Max L. Biedelman Zoo. Having vowed not to retire until an equally loving and devoted caretaker is found to replace him, Sam rejoices when smart, compassionate Neva Wilson is hired as the new elephant keeper. But Neva quickly discovers what Sam already knows: that despite their loving care, Hannah is isolated from other elephants and her feet are nearly ruined from standing on hard concrete all day. Using her contacts in the zookeeping world, Neva and Sam hatch a plan to send Hannah to an elephant sanctuary—just as the zoo's angry, unhappy director launches an aggressive revitalization campaign that spotlights Hannah as the star attraction, inextricably tying Hannah's future to the fate of the Max L. Biedelman Zoo.

A charming, poignant, and captivating novel certain to enthrall readers of Water for Elephants, Diane Hammond's Hannah's Dream is a beautifully told tale rich in heart, humor, and intelligence.
Browse inside Hannah’s Dream.

Diane Hammond, the author of Going to Bend and Homesick Creek, is the recipient of an Oregon Arts Commission literary fellowship and served as a spokesperson for the Free Willy Keiko Foundation and the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

Learn more about the book and author at Diane Hammond's website.

The Page 69 Test: Hannah’s Dream.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five best: rare books on early America

For the Wall Street Journal, Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, a former rare-books dealer, named a five best list of "rare books on early America."

One title on the list:
An Account of the Method and Success of Inoculating the Small-Pox ...
by Cotton Mather

Cotton Mather is best known for his incendiary influence on the Salem witch trials, but he was also an intellectual omnivore, a prolific science writer whose interests included rainbows and rattlesnakes, cures for syphilis and Indian methods of keeping time. Having witnessed the devastation of smallpox epidemics, Mather was fascinated when one of his slaves told him of a form of inoculation practiced in his native Sudan. Mather found writings on the subject by Turkish doctors and English scientists eager to try it, and he soon threw his religious passion behind a campaign for inoculation trials in Boston. The campaign faced fierce opposition, but American medical history was born here, in a conversation between a Puritan preacher and his African slave.
Read about Number One on da Fonseca-Wollheim's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What is Brenda Shaughnessy reading?

This weekend's featured contributor to Writers Read: Brenda Shaughnessy, a Lecturer in Creative Writing in the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University and the Poetry Editor of Tin House magazine and Tin House Books.

One paragraph from her entry:
Books of prose I recently finished that I keep thinking about are Ed Park's hilariously-and-sadly-perfect-for-our-times Personal Days. I also loved Kelly Link's Magic For Beginners. And on the serious side, Simone Weil's essays Waiting for God.[read on]
Brenda Shaughnessy is the author of Interior with Sudden Joy and Human Dark with Sugar, and co-editor of Satellite Convulsions: Poems from Tin House. Her poems have been published in Bomb, Boston Review, Colorado Review, Conjunctions, McSweeney’s, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Yale Review and elsewhere. She is the recent recipient of the prestigious James Laughlin award.

Read some of Brenda Shaughnessy's poems online at Boston Review and listen to others at

Writers Read: Brenda Shaughnessy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Serena Mackesy's "Hold My Hand"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Hold My Hand by Serena Mackesy.

About the book, from the author's website:

Bridget Sweeny and her daughter, Yasmin, need to get out of London, fast. They’re drowning in debt and living in hell – and Kieran, Yasmin’s violent father, won’t take no for an answer, even if it’s the courts that are saying it. So when Bridget is offered a cash-in-hand job caretaking Rospetroc House, a granite-built Elizabethan mansion on the edge of Cornwall’s Bodmin Moor, it seems like the answer to their prayers. They can disappear. Their problems, if not over, can at least go on hold.

But Rospetroc has a reputation in the village and a history of high staff turnover. The house’s former owners didn't die happily. Her predecessor has left without even finishing her meal. Strange things start happening, and Yasmin develops an imaginary friend. And Kieran, back in London, is still not taking no for an answer. Slowly, as events in the house escalate, Bridget begins to suspect that they are not alone after all...

Hold My Hand is a supernatural thriller on two timelines. It tells the intertwined stories of Bridget, Yasmin and Lily, an unwanted child from the Portsmouth docks, evacuated to escape the Luftwaffe into the unwelcoming arms of the dysfunctional Blakemore family. Lily’s and Yasmin’s situations are tied together over the decades — but who is Lily: avenging angel or angry demon?
Read an excerpt from Hold My Hand, and learn more about the book and author at Serena Mackesy's website.

Serena Mackesy is a journalist and novelist. Her journalism includes features and travel writing, mostly for The Times; her Independent column was published as a novel, The Temp, which soared into the Sunday Times Top 10, and was followed by the critically acclaimed Virtue and Simply Heaven.

The Page 69 Test: Hold My Hand.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Alex Beam's "A Great Idea at the Time"

This weekend's feature at the Page 99 Test: A Great Idea at the Time: The Rise, Fall, and Curious Afterlife of the Great Books by Alex Beam.

About the book, from the publisher:
By the author of the Boston Globe #1 bestseller Gracefully Insane: A wry, witty history of an unlikely literary fad, and of American pop culture in the 1950s and early 1960s

Today the classics of the western canon, written by the proverbial "dead white men," are cannon fodder in the culture wars. But in the 1950s and 1960s, they were a pop culture phenomenon. The Great Books of Western Civilization, fifty-four volumes chosen by intellectuals at the University of Chicago, began as an educational movement, and evolved into a successful marketing idea. Why did a million American households buy books by Hippocrates and Nicomachus from door-to-door salesmen? And how and why did the great books fall out of fashion?

In A Great Idea at the Time Alex Beam explores the Great Books mania, in an entertaining and strangely poignant portrait of American popular culture on the threshold of the television age. Populated with memorable characters, A Great Idea at the Time will leave readers asking themselves: Have I read Lucretius's De Rerum Natura lately? If not, why not?
Read an excerpt from A Great Idea at the Time, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

Alex Beam is an award-winning columnist for the Boston Globe. His writing has also appeared in the Atlantic, Slate, the New York Times and many other magazines. He is the author of Gracefully Insane: Life and Death Inside America's Premier Mental Hospital and of two novels.

Visit Alex Beam's column archive at the Boston Globe.

My Book, The Movie: Alex Beam's Gracefully Insane.

The Page 69 Test: Gracefully Insane.

The Page 99 Test: Great Idea at the Time.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 21, 2008

Charles Cumming's "The Spanish Game," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: The Spanish Game by Charles Cumming.

The entry begins:
A recent review of my novel, The Spanish Game, described the central character, Alec Milius, as “excessively paranoid, a womanizer, an alcoholic, and generally of questionable morality”.

It’s a fairly accurate description. Milius is an ex-MI5 agent who was drummed out of the Service following a botched industrial espionage operation, described in my first novel, A Spy By Nature. At the start of The Spanish Game, we find Alec living in Madrid, sleeping with his boss’s wife, drinking heavily and wondering when his old enemies are going to catch up with him.

Milius has no recognisably heroic attributes, beyond a basic desire to make the best of himself. He is essentially self-serving, untrustworthy and paranoid. Which begs the question – what actor would want to play a character with those attributes? For a long time, I thought...[read on]
Learn more about the author and his work at Charles Cumming's website.

Charles Cumming is a British spy novelist who has been hailed as the heir apparent to John le Carré. His most recent novel, Typhoon, was published in the UK to huge critical acclaim. Cumming’s first novel, A Spy By Nature, has just been released in the US in paperback. The sequel, The Spanish Game, is available in hardcover from St. Martin’s Press.

The Page 69 Test: A Spy By Nature.

My Book, The Movie: The Spanish Game.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sports books: 5 that need to be on your shelf invited David Zirin to "[r]ecommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise."

One title on Zirin's list of Five Sports Books That Need to Be on Your Shelf:
Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete by William C. Rhoden
Read the complete list.

David Zirin is the author of three books, including What's My Name, Fool? and Welcome to the Terrordome. He writes the popular weekly online sports column, "The Edge of Sports," and is a regular contributor to the Nation, SLAM, and the Los Angeles Times.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Scott Pratt's "An Innocent Client"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: An Innocent Client by Scott Pratt.

About the book, from the publisher:
This is the kind of crime the tabloids love... This is the kind of case most lawyers dream of... This is the kind of trial that destroys more lives than it saves... This is the kind of “terrific debut novel”( Sheldon Siegel, New York Times BestSelling Author of Judgment Day) that reinvents the legal thriller.

A preacher is stabbed to death in a Tennessee motel. The suspect is a waitress at a strip club. Defense attorney Joe Dillard’s too burnt out to defend anyone he knows in his heart is guilty. Then he meets the vulnerable Angel—the accused, incriminated by circumstantial evidence. Dillard’s sure she’s not capable of killing anyone. What Dillard doesn’t count on are the others drawn into the storm of the stunning crime—from the vindictive detective to the victim’s avenging son to Dillard’s own deeply troubled sister—all of whom will help to erase the line between guilt and innocence, and between an unthinkable lie and the unbelievable truth.
Read an excerpt from An Innocent Client, and learn more about the book and author at Scott Pratt's website.

The Page 69 Test: An Innocent Client.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pg. 99: Steven Nadler's "The Best of All Possible Worlds"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: The Best of All Possible Worlds: A Story of Philosophers, God, and Evil by Steven Nadler.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the spring of 1672, the German philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz arrived in Paris on a furtive diplomatic mission. That project was abandoned quickly, but Leibniz remained in Paris with a singular goal: to get the most out of the city’s intellectual and cultural riches. He benefited, above all, from his friendships with France’s two greatest philosopher-theologians of the period, Antoine Arnauld and Nicolas de Malebranche. The interactions of these three men would prove of great consequence not only for Leibniz’s own philosophy but for the development of modern philosophical and religious thought.

Despite their wildly different views and personalities, the three philosophers shared a single, passionate concern: resolving the problem of evil. Why is it that, in a world created by an allpowerful, all-wise, and infinitely just God, there is sin and suffering? Why do bad things happen to good people, and good things to bad people?

This is the story of a clash between radically divergent worldviews. But it is also a very personal story. At its heart are the dramatic—and often turbulent—relationships between three brilliant and resolute individuals. In this lively and engaging book, Steven Nadler brings to life a debate that obsessed its participants, captivated European intellectuals, and continues to inform our ways of thinking about God, morality, and the world.
Read more about The Best of All Possible Worlds at the publisher's website.

Learn more about Steven Nadler's teaching, research and publications at his faculty webpage.

Steven Nadler is the William H. Hay II Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he has been teaching since 1988. His books include Spinoza: A Life, winner of the Koret Jewish Book Award in 2000, and Rembrandt’s Jews, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2004.

The Page 99 Test: The Best of All Possible Worlds.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Porter Shreve reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Porter Shreve, author of the recently released When the White House Was Ours.

One book mentioned in his entry:
Hunger by Lan Samantha Chang, who ... visited Purdue a couple weeks ago and gave a wonderful reading from a novella in progress. I'm amazed by the title novella in Hunger, told from the point of view of a mother looking back over the course of her whole life, from her mother's warnings about yuanfen, "that apportionment of love which is destined for you in this world," to her arrival in New York and mostly loveless marriage, to her raising of two very different daughters to her death and return at the end as a hungry ghost, still haunting the New York apartment where one of her daughters still lives. It's a moving, beautifully written story that uses the supernatural in surprising yet inevitable ways.[read on]
Porter Shreve's first novel, The Obituary Writer, was a 2000 New York Times Notable Book, a Book Sense pick, and a Borders Original Voices selection. His second novel, Drives Like a Dream, was a 2005 Chicago Tribune Book of the Year, a People "Great Reads" selection, and a Britannica Book of the Year. His third novel, When the White House Was Ours, was published by Mariner Houghton Mifflin in September.

Shreve currently directs the Creative Writing Program at Purdue University.

Learn more about Porter Shreve and his work at his website.

Writers Read: Porter Shreve.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pg. 69: Tony Richards' "Dark Rain"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Dark Rain by Tony Richards.

About the book, from the publisher:
Raine's Landing, Massachusetts, can't be located on any map. On the surface it appears an ordinary New England small town, but anyone who stumbles in wants to leave immediately . . . and once gone, they forget they were ever there. Real magic pervades this village of shadows, practiced by powerful adepts descended from the original Salem witches. But a curse has made it impossible for any resident to step beyond the town line. Those born here must die here as well.

Ross Devries and Cassandra Mallory saw their worlds destroyed by magic run amok, and dedicated their lives to keeping supernatural catastrophe at bay. But now a being more terrible than anything they've ever encountered has just crossed over the border—a powerful entity no known magic can defeat; a fierce, ancient god who feeds on terror . . . and blood. A new nightmare is descending upon Raine's Landing—and for Ross, Cass, and the entire trapped population there can be no escape ... not even in death.
Browse inside Dark Rain, and learn more about the book and author at Tony Richards' website and blog.

Tony Richards is the author of five novels—the first was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award—plus many short stories and articles. His work has appeared in numerous venues, including The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Cemetery Dance, Asimov's, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, and Weird Tales.

The Page 69 Test: Dark Rain.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten snow books

At the Guardian, author and deputy editor of the Saturday Guardian Charlie English named his top ten "books that include snow, or are about snow."

One title on the list:
Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

The title alone reminds me of the Pacific Northwest, where some of the world's tallest and oldest trees grow in the humid air driven in from the ocean. The snow thrives here too: this is a part of the world that claims the highest snowfall on the planet. Guterson's drama starts with the wonderful description of a snowstorm in which the flakes blow into an island community and stick to the windows of the courthouse where the story is to unfold.
Read about Number One on English's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Thomas M. Truxes' "Defying Empire"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Defying Empire: Trading with the Enemy in Colonial New York by Thomas M. Truxes.

About the book, from the publisher:
This enthralling book is the first to uncover the story of New York City merchants who engaged in forbidden trade with the enemy before and during the Seven Years’ War (also known as the French and Indian War). Ignoring British prohibitions designed to end North America’s wartime trade with the French, New York’s merchant elite conducted a thriving business in the French West Indies, insisting that their behavior was protected by long practice and British commercial law. But the government in London viewed it as treachery, and its subsequent efforts to discipline North American commerce inflamed the colonists.

Through fast-moving events and unforgettable characters, historian Thomas M. Truxes brings eighteenth-century New York and the Atlantic world to life. There are spies, street riots, exotic settings, informers, courtroom dramas, interdictions on the high seas, ruthless businessmen, political intrigues, and more. The author traces each phase of the city’s trade with the enemy and details the frustrations that affected both British officials and independent-minded New Yorkers. The first book to focus on New York City during the Seven Years’ War, Defying Empire reveals the important role the city played in hastening the colonies’ march toward revolution.
Read an excerpt from Defying Empire, and learn more about the book at the Yale University Press website.

Thomas M. Truxes is a senior lecturer in the history department at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and a member of the Irish Studies faculty at New York University. His previous books include Irish American Trade, 1660-1783.

The Page 99 Test: Defying Empire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pg. 69: Elaine Viets' "Murder with All the Trimmings"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Murder with All the Trimmings by Elaine Viets.

About the book, from the publisher:
A humbug of a Shopping mystery... From The Anthony and Agatha Award-Winning Author of Accessory to Murder

Includes insider shopping tips!

Mystery shopper Josie Marcus doesn't get the appeal of the year-round Christmas shop. But when three such holiday houses pop up within two blocks, she's assigned to rate them anonymously.

Easy enough, Josie thinks, until she realizes that shoppers at one store are finding a strange—even deadly—secret ingredient in their holiday cake. And Josie must get to the bottom of it all before someone else becomes a Christmas spirit.
Read an excerpt from Murder with All the Trimmings, and learn more about the book and author at Elaine Viets' website.

Elaine Viets is the author of the bestselling Dead-End Job series and the Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper series.

The Page 69 Test: Murder with All the Trimmings.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is John McNeill reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: John R. McNeill, a faculty member of the School of Foreign Service and History Department at Georgetown University. From 2003 until 2006 he held the Cinco Hermanos Chair in Environmental and International Affairs, until his appointment as University Professor. He teaches world history, environmental history, and international history at Georgetown.

His books include Epidemics and Geopolitics in the American Tropics, 1640-1920 (2008) and Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the 20th-Century World (2000).

One book from his entry:
Elizabeth Fenn's Pox Americana, about the smallpox epidemic in North America in the 1770s, a fabulous piece of history writing. I had read it a few years ago, but wanted to remind myself of how a good book is put together.[read on]
Learn more about John McNeill's research and teaching at his faculty webpage.

Writers Read: John R. McNeill.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 17, 2008

Pg. 99: Warren Hammond's "Ex-KOP"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Ex-KOP by Warren Hammond.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this hardboiled science fiction thriller, Juno, having been booted off the police force, is barely getting by as a low-level bagman and photographer for the scandal rags. But it gets worse: his wife is in critical condition at the hospital and Juno doesn’t have the money to pay her bills. Desperate for cash, Juno agrees to help his ex-partner, Maggie Orzo, solve a difficult case. A young girl sits on death row, accused of brutally murdering her own parents. She’s confessed to the murders, but Maggie isn’t buying it, so she sends Juno out to get some answers.

Working with Maggie, Juno comes into contact with her new partner, Ian. As dirty as they come, Ian is eager to rise in the police force no matter what the cost. Somehow Ian, a vicious serial killer, and the girl on death row are all connected. It is up to Juno and Maggie to find out how before more people die.
Read an excerpt from Ex-KOP, and learn more about the author and his work at Warren Hammond's website.

Warren Hammond's first novel, KOP, was published in 2007 and is now available in paperback.

The Page 99 Test: KOP.

The Page 99 Test: Ex-KOP.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Ruth Brandon's "Caravaggio's Angel"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Caravaggio's Angel by Ruth Brandon.

About Caravaggio's Angel, from the publisher:
Dr Reggie Lee, new at London’s National Gallery, is planning a small exhibition of three almost identical Caravaggio paintings when she discovers a fourth. One must be a forgery. That discovery detonates multiple murders.
Caravaggio's Angel is the first of a series featuring the canny and ambitious heroine, Reggie Lee.

Ruth Brandon is a historian, biographer and novelist. Her other book released this year is Other People's Daughters (in America, Governess, the Lives and Times of the Real Jane Eyres), which is about governesses, a social history told through seven short lives.

Read more about the book and author at Ruth Brandon's website.

The Page 69 Test: Caravaggio's Angel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Critic's Chart: six linguistic experiments

Chris Power, who reviews fiction for the Times (London), picked a "critic's chart" of six linguistic experiments.

One title on his list:
Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar

155 chapters through which the author encourages you to choose your own path.
Read about another title on Power's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 16, 2008

What is Andrea Weiss reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Andrea Weiss, a documentary filmmaker and nonfiction author.

She is also Professor and Chair of the Department of Media and Communication Arts at The City College of New York, CUNY.

Her most recent book is In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain: The Erika and Klaus Mann Story.

Her entry begins:
Last week I finished reading The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of The Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester. You've already heard, unless you've been hiding under a rock, that the story is fascinating and Winchester tells it amazingly well. Hard to believe that what is essentially a history of the dictionary can make for such a compelling read. All those accolades he received for it are well deserved.[read on]
Read more about Andrea Weiss' films and books, and read an excerpt from and learn more about In the Shadow of the Magic Mountain at the University of Chicago Press website.

Writers Read: Andrea Weiss.

--Marshal Zeringue

Jeff Carlson's "Plague Year," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Jeff Carlson's Plague Year.

The entry opens:
Will Smith. Doesn’t everyone say Will Smith? Give me Will Smith and my head will explode with excitement. Sure, the lead character in Plague Year is a 25-year-old Hispanic, but that’s easily changed. For example, in Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novel Pay It Forward, the male lead was an African-American who’d lost one arm and a lot of his face in a grenade explosion. What you got on the big screen was Kevin Spacey with minor, elegant scars. Movie magic!

This sort of daydreaming is extra fun for me because....[read on]
Check out the video “book trailer” at maybe the actor/writer has an acting career ahead of him.

Jeff Carlson's short fiction has appeared in venues such as Asimov's, Strange Horizons, Fantastic Stories, and Writers of the Future XXIII. His first novel, Plague Year, was published last year. His new novel, Plague War, was published this summer.

Visit Jeff Carlson's website and his blog.

The Page 69 Test: Plague Year.

The Page 99 Test: Plague War.

My Book, The Movie: Plague Year.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Andrew Rimas & Evan Fraser's "Beef"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Beef: The Untold Story of How Milk, Meat, and Muscle Shaped the World, by Andrew Rimas and Evan D. G. Fraser.

About the book, from the publisher:
The cow. The most industrious animal in the world. A beast central to human existence since time began, it has played a vital role in our history not only as a source of food, but also as a means of labor, an economic resource, an inspiration for art, and even as a religious icon. Prehistoric people painted it on cave walls; explorers, merchants, and landowners traded it as currency; many cultures worshipped it as a god. So how did it come to occupy the sorry state it does today—more factory product than animal?

In Beef, Andrew Rimas and Evan D. G. Fraser answer that question, telling the story of cattle in its entirety. From the powerful auroch, a now extinct beast once revered as a mystical totem, to the dairy cows of seventeenth-century Holland to the frozen meat patties and growth hormones of today, the authors deliver an engaging panoramic view of the cow's long and colorful history.

Peppered with lively anecdotes, recipes, and culinary tidbits, Beef tells a story that spans the globe, from ancient Mediterranean bullfighting rings to the rugged grazing grounds of eighteenth-century England, from the quiet farms of Japan's Kobe beef cows to crowded American stockyards to remote villages in East Africa, home of the Masai, a society to which cattle mean everything. Leaving no stone unturned in its exploration of the cow's legacy, the narrative serves not only as a compelling story but as a call to arms, offering practical solutions for confronting the current condition of the wasteful beef and dairy industries.

Beef is a captivating history of an animal whose relationship with humanity has shaped the world as we know it, and readers will never look at steak the same way again.
Browse inside Beef, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

Visit Andrew Rimas's website and Dr. Evan Fraser's website.

The Page 99 Test: Beef.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Pg. 69: Chris Ewan's "The Good Thief's Guide to Paris"

This weekend's feature at the Page 69 Test: The Good Thief's Guide to Paris by Chris Ewan.

About the book, from the publisher:
The moment I’d scanned the outside of the building, I turned to Bruno and said, “First impressions, it looks straightforward.” Looking back, I can’t help but wonder what I was thinking. I mean, put that line at the opening of a crime novel and it’s practically a guarantee that everything is about to get complicated.

Charlie Howard—globe-trotting mystery writer, professional thief, and poor decision maker—is in Paris. Flush with the success of his latest book reading, not to mention a few too many glasses of wine, Charlie agrees to show a complete novice how to break into an apartment in the Marais. Fast-forward twenty-four hours and Charlie’s hired to steal an ordinary-looking oil painting—from the exact same address.

Mere coincidence? Charlie figures there’s no harm in finding out—until a dead body turns up in his living room and he finds himself evading the law while becoming caught up in a quite outrageous heist. And that’s before Charlie’s literary agent, Victoria (who’s naive enough to assume that he looks like his author photo), finally decides they should meet face-to-face.

Nobody ever said a life of suspense was easy, but Charlie, the most disarmingly charming burglar since Cary Grant, soon finds things are getting way out of control.
Chris Ewan’s debut novel, The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam, won the Long Barn Books First Novel Competition and was shortlisted for the CrimeFest Last Laugh Award for the best humorous crime novel published in the British Isles in 2007.

Learn more about the author and his work at Chris Ewan's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Good Thief's Guide to Paris.

--Marshal Zeringue