Saturday, October 31, 2009

Top ten vampire novels

Kevin Jackson's childhood ambition was to be a vampire (“you’d get to live in a castle – how cool is that!”) but instead he became the last living polymath. His colossal expertise ranges from Seneca to Sugababes, with a special interest in the occult, Ruskin, take-away food, Dante’s Inferno and the moose. He is the author of numerous books on numerous subjects, including Fast: Feasting on the Streets of London (Portobello 2006), and reviews regularly for the Sunday Times. His new book is Bite: A Vampire Handbook.

For the Guardian, he named a top ten list of vampire novels.

Number One on the list:
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Probably the single most influential vampire narrative written between Dracula in the late 1890s and Interview With The Vampire in the 1970s, (Anne Rice needs no plugging here; nor does Stephenie Meyer, nor Charlaine Harris ...), this was the novel which dragged vampires out of the gothic world of superstition and into the potentially even more terrifying world of science fiction. In the wake of a global war – probably a nuclear conflict – Robert Neville finds himself apparently the last man alive in all the world. But there are plenty of undead people, and every night when the sun has gone down, they attack his fortress home. There have been three film versions to date., most recently the big-budget production starring Will Smith, which had its moments; but none has captured the nihilistic chill of the original.
Read about another vampire novel on the list.

Also see Lisa Tuttle's top six vampire books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Derek Nikitas' "The Long Division"

This weekend's feature at the Page 69 Test: The Long Division by Derek Nikitas.

About the book, from the publisher:
An Atlanta housecleaner flees her nowhere life to reunite with the son she gave up for adoption. The teenage boy joins his longlost mother on an unlawful road trip that proves how much they both have to lose by finding each other. Elsewhere, a deputy must track down the shooter in a drug-related double murder before other investigators discover the deputy’s illicit ties to the case. The killer is an unbalanced college kid hunted by vengeful drug dealers and the police, haunted by loves both dead and for bidden. When the renegade mother and son arrive, past sins and present gambits will ensnare them in the violent endgame between the deputy and the desperate killer.
Read an excerpt from The Long Division, and learn more about the book and author at the official Derek Nikitas website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Long Division.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pg. 99: Peter H. Wilson's "The Thirty Years War"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: The Thirty Years War: Europe's Tragedy by Peter H. Wilson.

About the book, from the publisher:
A deadly continental struggle, the Thirty Years War devastated seventeenth-century Europe, killing nearly a quarter of all Germans and laying waste to towns and countryside alike. Peter Wilson offers the first new history in a generation of a horrifying conflict that transformed the map of the modern world.

When defiant Bohemians tossed the Habsburg emperor’s envoys from the castle windows in Prague in 1618, the Holy Roman Empire struck back with a vengeance. Bohemia was ravaged by mercenary troops in the first battle of a conflagration that would engulf Europe from Spain to Sweden. The sweeping narrative encompasses dramatic events and unforgettable individuals—the sack of Magdeburg; the Dutch revolt; the Swedish militant king Gustavus Adolphus; the imperial generals, opportunistic Wallenstein and pious Tilly; and crafty diplomat Cardinal Richelieu. In a major reassessment, Wilson argues that religion was not the catalyst, but one element in a lethal stew of political, social, and dynastic forces that fed the conflict.

By war’s end a recognizably modern Europe had been created, but at what price? The Thirty Years War condemned the Germans to two centuries of internal division and international impotence and became a benchmark of brutality for centuries. As late as the 1960s, Germans placed it ahead of both world wars and the Black Death as their country’s greatest disaster.

An understanding of the Thirty Years War is essential to comprehending modern European history. Wilson’s masterful book will stand as the definitive account of this epic conflict.
Learn more about The Thirty Years War at the Harvard University Press website.

Peter H. Wilson is G. F. Grant Professor of History at the University of Hull.

The Page 99 Test: The Thirty Years War.

--Marshal Zeringue

Harold Evans' six favorite­ bio­graphies & memoirs

Harold Evans is The Week’s editor-at-large and author of The American Century. His autobiography, My Paper Chase, will be released in the coming week.

For The Week, he named his six favorite­ bio­graphies and memoirs.

One title on the list:
Eating: A Memoir by Jason Epstein (Knopf, $25).

Lunching with this legendary Random House editor, an author never knows whether Epstein will vent on the virtues of St. Thomas Aquinas or a properly prepared artichoke. His memoir, more a collection of amusing short stories, is stuffed—no, graced—with recipes, and is designed to seduce the most frugal.
Read about another book on Evans' list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: Neil Plakcy & Samwise

This weekend's featured duo at Coffee with a Canine: Neil Plakcy & Samwise.

Plakcy is the author of Mahu, Mahu Surfer, Mahu Fire, and Mahu Vice, mystery novels which take place in Hawaii.

He is co-editor of Paws & Reflect: A Special Bond Between Man and Dog (Alyson Books, 2006) and editor of Hard Hats (Cleis, June 2008).

He is a journalist and book reviewer as well as an assistant professor of English at Broward College's south campus in Pembroke Pines. He is a member of Sisters in Crime, vice president of the Florida chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and a frequent contributor to gay anthologies.

Placky, on Samwise's literary connection:
One of my favorite books is (obviously) JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. My partner wanted to call the puppy Sam, and I agreed, provided we could register him with the AKC as Samwise. I already knew he was going to become my faithful companion, just as the hobbit Samwise is to Frodo in the books. (Plus he has furry feet, just like a hobbit.)[read on]
Visit Neil Plakcy's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Neil Plakcy & Samwise.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is David W. Berner reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: David W. Berner, author of Accidental Lessons—A Memoir of a Rookie Teacher and a Life Renewed.

His entry begins:
On my floor-to-ceiling bookshelf in my living room is a copy of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. I read it in college, reread it about five years ago, and recently with all the talk of going “green” and sustainability, I started thinking again about Thoreau. I used a quote of his in the preface of my recently released memoir, Accidental Lessons. Thoreau’s words fit perfectly into a storyline of self-reinvention and discovery - The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.

Thoreau’s approach to the world and his approach to the art of writing have always fascinated me. But since I had already read a number of the biographies on him, I turned to what you might call the anti-biography. The reporter, Robert Sullivan, has written a wonderful book that peels the layers off the Thoreau onion and tells us more about the real man than any of the legends and half-truths ever could. The Thoreau You Don’t Know: What the Prophet of Environmentalism Really Meant is full of...[read on]
David W. Berner is an award-winning journalist, writer, documentarian, and teacher. His most recent book, Accidental Lessons—A Memoir of a Rookie Teacher and a Life Renewed, was published by AEG/Strategic in February, 2009.

Among the early praise for the book:
“Berner has given us a beautiful, elegantly-written book in the tradition of Blackboard Jungle and To Sir, With Love – the difference here is that Berner's story is not fiction, it's true.”
--Thomas E. Kennedy, 2008 Winner of the National Magazine Award; author of Riding the Dog: A Look Back at America
Berner's essays and reporting have been published in numerous magazines and literary journals, and his broadcast work has been aired on National Public Radio, the CBS Radio Network, and public radio stations across the United States. He is an assistant professor at Columbia College Chicago, teaching writing, audio documentary, and radio narrative.

Learn more about David W. Berner and his work at the Accidental Lessons website.

Writers Read: David W. Berner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pg. 69: Donna VanLiere's "Finding Grace"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Finding Grace: A True Story About Losing Your Way In Life...And Finding It Again by Donna VanLiere.

About the book, from the publisher:
Finding Grace is the powerful, often humorous, and deeply moving story of one woman’s journey of broken dreams. It is the story of how a painful legacy of the past is confronted and met with peace. This book is for anyone who has struggled to understand why our desires— even the simplest ones—are sometimes denied or who has questioned where God is when we need him most. This story is about one woman’s unlikely road to motherhood. Finally, it’s a book about the “undeserved gift which is life itself.” It’s the story of “Finding Grace.”

Donna VanLiere has entertained millions with her inspirational stories. In her new book, she gives us a candid look into her own life, a life filled with suffering and pain, but one that ultimately finds peace with itself.
Read an excerpt from Finding Grace, and learn more about the book and author at Donna VanLiere's website.

Donna VanLiere is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Christmas Hope series and Angels of Morgan Hill.

The Page 69 Test: The Christmas Secret.

The Page 69 Test: Finding Grace.

--Marshal Zeringue

Lauren Bjorkman's "My Invented Life," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: My Invented Life by Lauren Bjorkman.

The entry begins:
When my agent called to say that Brad Pitt’s production company Plan B had expressed an interest in My Invented Life, I immediately thought about actors. Not that they were going to ask me for suggestions. It was just plain fun to think about. Eventually the deal fizzled. But the question remained. How would I cast a movie of my book? To add to the challenge, I enjoy movies with unknowns or lesser-knowns.

My heroine, Roz is a very tall, not-very-skinny teen. As a drama queen and theater geek, she lives to be the center of attention. And she’s wounded. Her older sister who she’s worshipped since forever recently deleted her from her life. Roz hides the wound behind a snarky and hilarious attitude. Whoever plays her would have to be tall. Mandy Moore fits the bill at 5’10’’ and has proven herself capable of playing a teen with an attitude.

Still, I imagine Roz’s face to be more like singer/songwriter...[read on]
Read an excerpt from My Invented Life, and learn more about the book and author at Lauren Bjorkman's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: My Invented Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sandi Toksvig's top ten unsung heroines

Sandi Toksvig is a Danish-born English comedian, author and presenter on radio and television. Her many books for children include Hitler's Canary, based upon her family's experiences in Nazi-occupied Denmark, and Girls Are Best, a look at the overlooked achievements of women down the ages.

For the Guardian, she named a top ten list of unsung heroines. One woman on Toksvig's list:
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)

Nightingale is well known in history as the Lady with the Lamp but this was actually a phrase invented by a Times journalist. The men of the Crimean actually called her the Lady With the Hammer because she was quite happy to break into supply rooms if her patients needed something.
Read about another heroine on Toksvig's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Michael Goldfarb's "Emancipation"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Emancipation: How Liberating Europe's Jews from the Ghetto Led to Revolution and Renaissance by Michael Goldfarb.

About the book, from the publisher:
For almost 500 years the Jews of Europe were kept apart, confined to ghettos or tiny villages in the countryside. Then, in one extraordinary moment in the French Revolution, the Jews of France were emancipated. Soon the ghetto gates were opened all over Europe. The era of Emancipation had begun. What happened next would change the course of history.

Emancipation tells the story of how this isolated minority emerged from the ghetto and against terrible odds very quickly established themselves as shapers of history, as writers, revolutionaries, social thinkers, and artists. Their struggle to create a place for themselves in Western European life led to revolutions and nothing less than a second renaissance in Western culture.

The book spans the era from the French Revolution to the beginning of the twentieth century. The story is told through the lives of the people who lived through this momentous change. Some are well-known: Marx, Freud, Mahler, Proust, and Einstein; many more have been forgotten. Michael Goldfarb brings them all to life.

This is an epic story, and Goldfarb tells it with the skill and eye for detail of a novelist. He brings the empathy and understanding that has marked his two decades as a reporter in public radio to making the characters come alive. It is a tale full of hope, struggle, triumph, and, waiting at the end, a great tragedy.

This is a book that will have meaning for anyone interested in the struggle of immigrants and minorities to succeed. We live in a world where vast numbers are on the move, where religions and races are grinding against each other in new combinations; Emancipation is a book of history for our time.
Read an excerpt from Emancipation, and learn more about the book and author at Michael Goldfarb's website.

The Page 99 Test: Emancipation.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pg. 69: Charles Kipps' "Hell’s Kitchen Homicide"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Hell’s Kitchen Homicide by Charles Kipps.

About the book, from the publisher:
Introducing Conor Bard, the fortysomething New York City homicide detective from precinct One Eight in Hell's Kitchen who dreams of becoming a rock star and finally finding the right woman, as he travels the streets of Manhattan in search of a cold-blooded killer.

When a corpse is discovered at the edge of the Hudson River, homicide detective Conor Bard is called to the scene. The victim is Walter Lawton, a hugely successful criminal defense attorney with rumored ties to the Mafia. Among the prime suspects is Lawton's chic, sexy wife, who stands to inherit two hundred million dollars and was having an affair with one of her husband's most dangerous associates.

Did Lawton's ruthless wife kill him with the help of her mafioso lover? Or was it one of Lawton's bitter clients who murdered him? Or an elusive Albanian gunman? And how does Monica, the sorrowful, intriguing young Albanian woman Conor meets, fit into the picture?

From the first page to the last, no one is who they seem. Conor quickly becomes enmeshed in a web of secrets, lies, and seduction, and his life may be in jeopardy.

Set on the streets of New York City, this tantalizing blend of authentic fast-paced action, crossing plotlines, and complex, multifaceted characters marks the start of an exciting new mystery series.
Read an excerpt from Hell’s Kitchen Homicide, and learn more about the book and author at Charles Kipps's website.

The Page 69 Test: Hell’s Kitchen Homicide.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books about comedians

William Cook's books about comedy include: Ha Bloody Ha - Comedians Talking (Fourth Estate); The Comedy Store - The Club That Changed British Comedy (Little, Brown); Tragically I Was An Only Twin - The Complete Peter Cook, and Goodbye Again - The Definitive Peter Cook & Dudley Moore (both published by Century); 25 Years of Viz (Boxtree), Eric Morecambe Unseen - The Lost Diaries, Jokes & Photographs (HarperCollins), and Morecambe & Wise Untold (HarperCollins).

In 2006 he named his top ten books about comedians for the Guardian. One title on the list:
That Was the Satire That Was by Humphrey Carpenter (Victor Gollancz, 2000); US title: A Great, Silly Grin: The British Satire Boom of the 1960s

The biographer of Jesus Christ and Dennis Potter scrutinises the 1960s satire boom, in a book that almost doubles as a biography of Peter Cook. As Carpenter points out, the four cornerstones of 60s satire were the stage show Beyond The Fringe, the private members club The Establishment, the periodical Private Eye and the TV series That Was The Week That Was (TW3). Cook was the star of Beyond The Fringe, the founder of The Establishment and the owner of Private Eye, and the only reason he wasn't all over TW3 was because he was busy performing Beyond The Fringe on Broadway when it started.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: Charlaine Harris & Scrunch, Rocky, and Oscar

Today's featured guests at Coffee with a Canine: Charlaine Harris & Scrunch, Rocky, and Oscar.

How did the dogs find their way to Harris' home in Southern Arkansas?
We adopted all of them. Rocky was a puppy; he’s probably eight years old now. The lady who was giving his litter away brought all of them over in her car trunk. W e have no idea how old Oscar is, but he’s a grumpy old man. I found him in the local animal shelter when our priest did a blessing of the animals on St. Francis Day. Scrunch is about three, and a horse had kicked her, crushing her hip. The lady that owned her (I’m gathering) may not have wanted to deal with all the surgery Scrunch...[read on]
Charlaine Harris' books include the lighthearted Aurora Teagarden series, featuring "a diminutive Georgia librarian whose life never turns out quite the way she planned"; the much edgier Shakespeare series -- set not in England, but in rural Arkansas -- featuring "Lily Bard, a tough and taciturn woman whose life has been permanently reshaped by a terrible crime and its consequences"; and the Southern Vampire series, starring a telepathic barmaid called Sookie Stackhouse and her life among vampires and werewolves and other creatures of the night.

The Southern Vampire series is the basis for HBO's hit series, True Blood.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Charlaine Harris & Scrunch, Rocky, and Oscar.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Jessica Brody reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Jessica Brody, author of two adult books from St. Martin’s Press (Love Under Cover and The Fidelity Files) and two forthcoming young adult books from Farrar, Straus & Giroux (The Karma Club and My Life Undecided).

The Fidelity Files is now in development as a television series from the producer of the Academy Award-winning Best Picture, Crash.

Her entry begins:
As a person who can never sit still, I’m usually always reading four or five books at once. I stash them in different rooms of my house so I always have something to read no matter where I am. Here are a couple of my recent favorites:

The Espressologist by Kristina Springer. This is a debut, young adult novel that I picked up because my editor sent it to me. It’s from the same publisher/editorial team as my young adult novels. I expected it to be cute, (I mean, just look at the cover!) but I didn’t expect it to be down right amazing! It’s about a teen girl who works as a barista at a fictional “Starbucks”-esque coffee shop and has a knack for match making customers and friends based on their favorite coffee drinks. Kristina Springer is a fantastic new storyteller who is going to do great things. The writing is engaging and charming and humorous. I finished the whole book in one sitting! Quite a feat given my...[read on]
Watch Brody's award-winning book trailers and visit her online at

Writers Read: Jessica Brody.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pg. 99: Mark Garvey's "Stylized"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Stylized: A Slightly Obsessive History of Strunk & White's the Elements of Style by Mark Garvey.

About the book, from the publisher:

Since 1959, The Elements of Style has been required reading for aspiring writers, English majors, and anyone with a love of language. Strunk and White's guidelines for good grammar and style have been discussed, debated, and occasionally even debunked...but they cannot be dismissed.

A Strunk and White devotee since high school, writer and editor Mark Garvey has long appreciated Elements for its character, its attitude, and its bracing good sense. The book is not only a helpful guide to creating better prose, it is also a compelling reminder of the virtues of clarity, simplicity, and truth in writing -- and an inspiring celebration of the individual voice. To tell the story of this timeless, beloved, sometimes controversial book, and the men behind it, Garvey digs deep into the Cornell University archives and the personal letters of E. B. White and his professor William Strunk Jr.

Stylized is a lovingly crafted history that explores Elements' staying power and takes us from the hallowed halls of academia to the bustling offices of The New Yorker magazine to the dazzling days of old Hollywood -- and into the hearts and minds of some of the most respected writers working today.
Read an excerpt from Stylized, and learn more about the book and author at Mark Garvey's website and blog.

The Page 99 Test: Stylized.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top 10 Halloween books

In 2006 Book Sense came up with a top ten list of Halloween books. One title on the list:
THE MERCY OF THIN AIR: A Novel, by Ronlyn Domingue (Washington Square Press, $14 paper)

"With a ghost who hangs around from 1920s New Orleans until today, Domingue's novel would make a great Halloween read for the gentler spirits whose interests run toward human inter-relationships."
Read about another book on the list.

Visit Ronlyn Domingue's website and MySpace page; see The Mercy of Thin Air Page 69 Test.

Also see The Rap Sheet's suggested Halloween reading. "If any holiday seems perfectly paired to crime fiction, it’s Halloween," wrote editor J. Kingston Pierce in 2006.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Donna VanLiere's "The Christmas Secret"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Christmas Secret by Donna VanLiere.

About the book, from the publisher:
When a struggling young single mother saves the life of an elderly woman, she sets into motion a series of events that will test her strength, loyalty, and determination, all the while setting her on the path to finding true love. Christine Eisley is the mother of seven-year-old Zach and five-year-old Haley. Her ex-husband provides little, if any, child support and makes life difficult for Christine by using the children as pawns. She works long hours as a waitress to make ends meet, but her job is in jeopardy because she’s often late to work due to the unreliable teenaged sitters she’s forced to use. When Christine saves the life of a woman who works in Wilson’s department store, the owner of Wilson’s wants to find her, to thank her, but Christine has disappeared, losing another job once again. He sets his grandson, Jason, to the task of finding the mysterious “Christy.” Jason, an accountant by trade who has lost his job to downsizing, thinks he is “above” working at Wilson’s. Soon, he discovers that this new task gives him more than he bargains for. The Christmas Secret is a novel for anyone who wants to see how love is a gift that keeps giving back; that hope is a treasure that never runs dry, and that faith is a miracle that is reborn with each new day.
Read more about the book and author at Donna VanLiere's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Christmas Secret.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 26, 2009

Walter Greatshell's "Xombies: Apocalypse Blues," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Xombies: Apocalypse Blues by Walter Greatshell.

The entry begins:
If they made my book Xombies: Apocalypse Blues into a film, here's who I'd like them to cast:

For the plucky-but-difficult heroine, Lulu Pangloss, I originally envisioned Christina Ricci circa Addams Family Values, but she's the wrong age bracket now, so I'm thinking Abigail Breslin or Dakota Fanning. The '70s actress Kim Darby (True Grit) would have been ideal.

For her doomed mother, I can picture Kathy Bates, but the ultimate crazy-mom candidate would have been late-Fifties-era Shelley Winters.

Steve Buscemi would be a bug-eyed marvel as Lulu's estranged dad, Fred Cowper--both before and after Xombification.

The role of unctuous Chairman Sandoval demands the sleazy charm of...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Walter Greatshell's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Xombies: Apocalypse Blues.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Sean Lovelace reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Sean Lovelace, author of the recently released How Some People Like Their Eggs, winner of the Third Annual Rose Metal Press Short Short Chapbook Contest.

His entry begins:
I am mostly reading three things at once these days—I switch off/switch on, like maybe a giant firefly, or a dog fight. Since it’s autumn now, I am reading things that I can easily flip through, fold up, hold in my gloves as I sit in a tree about 30 feet above a lowland forest of dappling sun/shifting leaf-shadows/winding trails of deer and cats (been seeing several cats recently—not sure why) and coyotes and raccoons and one time this girl walked under my stand with a white dog, and she must have had That Feeling, so looked up at me—crouched in full camo off a tulip poplar in a metal appendage like some form of Orwellian insect/spy—and I waved my paw and she waved her paw (white glove with a tiny pink bell sown on) and walked off with her white dog, sort of drifted thinking, Was that real, or a wood sprite, or God?

So, anyway, books-I-am-reading while bowhunting.

1.) Blake Butler’s Scorch Atlas.

This post-apocalyptic mind-funk of mud and muck and seepage and musty moss head-crunch, seep, moil your spleen into crush-cakes, etc. is an excellent read for the deer stand. Why? It looks like a burnt piece of toast. Or toast clasped too tightly in a desperate mother’s hand, then burnt in the toaster, then drenched in cheap lipstick and regret, then re-burnt (like refried, only different), then flung and forgotten in a rain gutter full of tears for six months. Seriously. The book is black cover on black pages on soot. So no sunlight prisms off, no whitetail deer perceives me carefully flip the pages. I am about halfway through this book; it is horrifying and depressing so far. But then the language uplifts me. Kind of like...[read on]
Visit Sean Lovelace's blog.

Writers Read: Sean Lovelace.

--Marshal Zeringue

Desmond Morris' 6 best books

Desmond Morris is an internationally famous zoologist, ethnologist and artist. He is a prolific author, whose works include The Naked Ape, Manwatching and Amazing Baby. His new book is Planet Ape.

He named his six best books for the Daily Express. One book on the list:
by WH Auden & Christopher Isherwood
Faber, print on demand, £12

As a schoolboy my discovery of Auden’s writings fed my need both for fantasy and the detached observation of human oddities. I loved his description of suburban properties as “Villas… isolated from one another like cases of fever. To each a lean-to shed, containing a well-oiled engine of escape.”
Read about another book on Morris' list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Edward M. Lerner's "Small Miracles"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Small Miracles by Edward M. Lerner.

About the book, from the publisher:
Garner Nanotechnology is developing nanotech-enhanced protective suits and autonomous first-aid nanobots. It’s cutting-edge stuff, and when it saves Brent Cleary from a pipeline explosion that killed hundreds, the Army takes notice.

Near-death experience changes a person, so no one is entirely surprised when easy-going Brent turns somber and studious, focused and cold. Not at first. But Kim O’Donnell, Brent’s best friend, cannot get past some of the changes. This just isn’t her friend, and she wonders what’s gotten into him.

With an Army field trial imminent and the company’s future at stake, possible nanotech side effects aren’t something anyone wants to discuss. The bad news is, Kim’s right. Something has gotten into Brent – and he isn’t the only one changing.

If Kim can’t stop them … maybe we’ll all change.
Edward M. Lerner is a writer of SF and technothrillers. Learn more about the author and his work (including his collaborations with SF master Larry Niven) at the Edward M. Lerner, Perpetrator of Science Fiction and Technothrillers website and at his blog, SF and Nonsense.

The Page 99 Test: Small Miracles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: Laura Wiess, Janie & Maggie

Today's featured trio at Coffee with a canine: Laura Wiess, Janie & Maggie. Wiess [left, in the photo at right] is the author of the S&S novels Such a Pretty Girl, Leftovers and most recently, How It Ends. Her friends are Janie and Marvelous Maggie May, a "smart and sassy three year-old spayed Welsh Corgi."

How did Laura and Janie meet Maggie?
Jane's Basset hound took gravely ill and died suddenly, leaving her heartbroken, and swearing she could never bear to get another dog. But as time passed the house felt too lonely, so she began to think about it.

She went on a retreat and while walking in the woods with her sister, Jane broached the still painful subject of perhaps getting another dog, specifically a Welsh Corgi.

Five minutes after Jane had finished explaining the breed to her sister, who was unfamiliar with them, she looked up and blurted, "There! That's a Welsh Corgi right there!" because – and talk about a truly bizarre coincidence -- one had just darted out of the woods and down the path in front of them.
So Jane went home, located a woman who showed Corgis and was told of a family that had bred their Corgi one time before spaying, and there were pups available.

Jane drove out to see them, and came home with her Maggie girl.

As for me? I met Janie through her delightful brother Stew, and was totally enchanted with Maggie the first moment I saw her. I am...[read on]
Visit the official Laura Wiess website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Such a Pretty Girl.

My Book, The Movie: Such a Pretty Girl.

The Page 69 Test: Leftovers.

The Page 69 Test: How It Ends.

Read--Coffee with a canine: Laura Wiess, Janie & Maggie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pg. 69: Yona Zeldis McDonough's "Breaking the Bank"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Breaking the Bank by Yona Zeldis McDonough.

About the book, from the publisher:

Mia Saul is down on her luck. Dumped by her husband, jettisoned from her job, and estranged from her adored older brother, she and her young daughter, Eden, have had to make a downscale move to a crummy apartment, where their neighbors include a tough young drug dealer and a widower who lets his dogs use the hallways as their own personal litter box. Juggling a series of temporary jobs, wrangling with her ex-husband over child support, and trying to keep pace with Eden's increasingly erratic behavior have left Mia weary and worn out.


So when a seemingly functional ATM starts handing Mia thousands and thousands of dollars -- and not deducting the money from her account, because it sure isn't in there -- she isn't about to give it back. Her newfound cash stash opens up a world of opportunity, and a whole lot of trouble. Worried friends, family, and in-laws start questioning her judgment about everything, and the cops really, really want to know where all that cash is coming from. And then there's Patrick, a man Mia most definitely would never have met if things hadn't spun out of control. Mia is beginning to think that maybe somebody, somewhere, is trying to teach her a lesson about what matters in life, and what doesn't....
Read an excerpt from Breaking the Bank, and learn more about the author and her work at Yona Zeldis McDonough's website and blog.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Yona Zeldis McDonough & Queenie and Tallulah.

The Page 69 Test: Breaking the Bank.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best examples of Moon poetry

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best examples of Moon poetry.

One poem on his list:
"Sad Steps" by Philip Larkin

This is Larkin's response to Sidney's moon poem. Unpoetically "Groping back to bed after a piss" he witnesses a moonlit scene: "wedge-shadowed gardens lie / Under a cavernous, a wind-picked sky". It should be poetic – "Lozenge of love! Medallion of art! / O wolves of memory! Immensements!" – but the poet just shivers at the moon's "hardness" and "brightness" and thinks of lost youth.
Read about another Moon poem.

Also see: Ten of the best journeys to the Moon, a five best list of insider accounts of the Apollo moon landings, and Ted Gioia's list of six great moon novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Arthur Ripstein's "Force and Freedom"

Today's feature at the Page 99 Test: Force and Freedom: Kant's Legal and Political Philosophy by Arthur Ripstein.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this masterful work, both an illumination of Kant’s thought and an important contribution to contemporary legal and political theory, Arthur Ripstein gives a comprehensive yet accessible account of Kant’s political philosophy. Ripstein shows that Kant’s thought is organized around two central claims: first, that legal institutions are not simply responses to human limitations or circumstances; indeed the requirements of justice can be articulated without recourse to views about human inclinations and vulnerabilities. Second, Kant argues for a distinctive moral principle, which restricts the legitimate use of force to the creation of a system of equal freedom. Ripstein’s description of the unity and philosophical plausibility of this dimension of Kant’s thought will be a revelation to political and legal scholars.

In addition to providing a clear and coherent statement of the most misunderstood of Kant’s ideas, Ripstein also shows that Kant’s views remain conceptually powerful and morally appealing today. Ripstein defends the idea of equal freedom by examining several substantive areas of law—private rights, constitutional law, police powers, and punishment—and by demonstrating the compelling advantages of the Kantian framework over competing approaches.
Read an excerpt from Force and Freedom, and learn more about the book at the Harvard University Press website.

Arthur Ripstein is a professor of law and of philosophy at the University of Toronto. He is the author of Equality, Responsibility and the Law (1999), and editor of Ronald Dworkin (Cambridge 2007) and co-editor of Law and Morality (1996, second edition 2001, third edition 2007), and Practical Rationality and Preference (2001).

The Page 99 Test: Force and Freedom.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 24, 2009

What is Michael Idov reading?

This weekend's featured contributor at Writers Read: Michael Idov, author of Ground Up, his first novel, which was published this summer by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

An excerpt from his entry:
This is one of those questions that tempt you into concocting a beautifully balanced and meaningful self-portrait of a list in response. In the words of Julia Child, Whooo's to knooow? For the sake of honesty, however, here's what I'm actually reading at the moment. And by reading, I mean snatching a few pages here and there between the frequently insane requirements of my journalistic research ("Effect of Neonatal Circumcision on Pain Response During Subsequent Routine Vaccination," anyone?)....

Thunder at Twilight, by Frederic Morton. An amazing portrait of Vienna between 1913 and 1914: the city and the moment in which Trotsky, Freud, Lenin, Hitler, and Josip Broz Tito could have been using the same coffee cup.

Indignation, by Philip Roth. The consistency of his greatness is almost wearying, at this point. There really doesn't seem to be any reason to write realistic U.S.-set novels while the man is still alive.[read on]
Among the praise for Ground Up:
“Charming, manic, and delicious. A caffeinated valentine from a New York already gone, but certainly not forgotten. I drank it right up and felt oddly comforted.”
—Gary Shteyngart, author of Absurdistan

“Every quotable sentence in Michael Idov’s brilliantly funny first novel (First novel? How is this possible?) induced in this reader awe and jealousy. Ground Up’s narrator is a voice and sensibility I’d follow into any story, any neighborhood. There’s talent here of the Nabokovian kind, wresting truth, love, and mordant wit from delightfully misguided dreams. I loved every word.”
—Elinor Lipman, author of Then She Found Me
Visit Michael Idov's website.

Writers Read: Michael Idov.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five best books on the history of New York City

Russell Shorto, author of The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America, named a five best list of books on the history of New York City for the Wall Street Journal.

One book on his list:
by Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace
Oxford, 1999

New York is so superlative—so big, so fecund, so messy and ever-churning—that it squashes the life out of most books attempting to corral it. Not "Gotham." Eschewing the tendency of modern historians to retreat to narrow niches, Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace go old-school and try to tackle the whole big bear of a subject. (Or at least up to 1898; Wallace is working solo on volume two.) "Gotham" begins by describing the "lush ecosystem" that astonished Europeans when they arrived three and a half centuries ago, a place that 50,000 years earlier had been covered by a sheet of glacial ice 1,000 feet thick. The story ends more than 1,400 pages later with the chapter "Imperial City." This book is a rarity: gargantuan in size—fittingly, given the subject—yet elegant in execution.
Read about another book on Shorto's list.

Gotham is one of Pete Hamill's five best books about cities.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Gina Buonaguro & Janice Kirk's "Ciao Bella"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Ciao Bella by Gina Buonaguro and Janice Kirk.

About the book, from the publisher:
For Graziella, the quiet, cultured life she lived in Venice with her musician husband, Ugo, was everything she could have hoped for. But when Italy allied itself with Nazi Germany in 1940, her world changed forever. Ugo, trading in his violin for a gun, joined the Resistance, while Graziella was forced to seek refuge at his family’s farm in the nearby Euganean Hills. “Just until the war is over,” Ugo had promised, but it has been months now since the Nazis retreated, and no one has seen him since.

With Ugo gone, it seems as if she will be trapped forever on this remote farm with her lost husband’s difficult family. So when an American soldier named Frank is stranded on the mountain, Graziella embraces this unexpected chance at being happy again. But as tempting as it is to leave behind this war-torn country and her painful memories for a new life in America, can she go without learning her husband’s fate?

With quiet grace and humor, Ciao Bella explores the possibilities of love and redemption in the wake of war, showing that some of the hardest decisions come only after the fighting has stopped.
Learn more about the book and authors on their website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Ciao Bella.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 23, 2009

Pg. 99: Josh Sides' "Erotic City"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Erotic City: Sexual Revolutions and the Making of Modern San Francisco by Josh Sides.

About the book, from the publisher:
Since the 1960s, San Francisco has been America's capital of sexual libertinism and a potent symbol in its culture wars. In this highly original book, Josh Sides explains how this happened, unearthing long-forgotten stories of the city's sexual revolutionaries, as well as the legions of longtime San Franciscans who tried to protect their vision of a moral metropolis. Erotic dancers, prostitutes, birth control advocates, pornographers, free lovers, and gay libbers transformed San Francisco's political landscape and its neighborhoods in ways seldom appreciated. But as sex radicals became more visible in the public spaces of the city, many San Franciscans reacted violently. The assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were but the most brazen acts in a city caught up in a battle over morality. Ultimately, Sides argues, one cannot understand the evolution of postwar American cities without recognizing the profound role that sex has played. More broadly, one cannot understand modern American politics without taking into account the postwar transformation of San Francisco and other cities into both real and imagined repositories of unfettered sexual desire.
Learn more about Erotic City at the Oxford University Press website.

Josh Sides is Whitsett Professor of California History, and Director of the Center for Southern California Studies, at California State University, Northridge.

The Page 99 Test: Erotic City.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tracy Kidder's best books

Tracy Kidder is the Pulitzer–winning author of The Soul of a New Machine and House. His new book, Strength in What Remains, follows a refugee from ethnic violence in Burundi and from genocide in Rwanda who returns to Africa to open a medical clinic.

For The Week magazine, Kidder named his six best books. One book on his list:
I Sailed With Magellan by Stuart Dybek (Picador, $15).
Stuart Dybek is one of America’s best living short-story writers, an original. His stories, many of them set in his native Chicago, have a haunting, myth-like quality, but they escape easy classification. I Sailed With Magellan is his third volume of stories. In some ways, it’s his best.
Read about another book on Kidder's list.

The Page 99 Test: Stuart Dybek's I Sailed with Magellan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: Sydney Salter & Jack and Rosie

This weekend's featured trio at Coffee with a Canine: Sydney Salter & Jack and Rosie.

Salter, on how her Bernese Mountain Dog siblings have influenced her writing:
Actually, my writing influences my dogs. I used to be a cat person. Not having grown up with anyone of the canine persuasion, I didn’t get dogs. Compared to cats they seemed rather needy, plus they didn’t know how to use litter boxes. But then I started researching a novel set in Alaska. Again and again, I read amazing tales about the dogs beloved by native Inuit, gold rush adventurers, and many others who survived those harsh winters. Hmm, I thought, my cat would not sit through a snowstorm to warm my frostbitten body, unless it benefited him, of course. I decided I wanted to live with one of these amazing creatures—or maybe two (part of me hankered for a whole dog sled team). My family was thrilled when I announced that I was finally ready to own dogs.

Now that I have big, hairy, shedding dogs who eat 40 pounds of dog food every ten days or so, I understand...[read on]
Salter is the author of My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters, Jungle Crossing, and Swoon At Your Own Risk.

Visit Sydney Salter's website and blog.

Writers Read: Sydney Salter.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Sydney Salter & Jack and Rosie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pg. 69: Nancy Mauro's "New World Monkeys"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: New World Monkeys by Nancy Mauro.

About the book, from the publisher:
A savagely smart, darkly comic literary debut, New World Monkeys exposes the false idols of marital tranquillity, small-town idyll, and corporate Darwinism in the dazzling voice of a major new talent.

Duncan and Lily, young and adrift in a prickly marriage and lackluster careers, flee Manhattan for the peaceful allure of a recently inherited crumbling Victorian home. But the two are left with little time to ponder the traditional "he said, she said" failings of a relationship: On an upstate road miles shy of their house, a wild boar leaps to his death in front of their Saab–an accident whose consequences will haunt them throughout the summer.

That was no ordinary hog.

Lily and Duncan arrive in the eccentric town of Osterhagen to discover the boar had a name: The Sovereign of the Deep Wood. That it was the town mascot. And, as the hapless urbanites are coerced into the vortex of tea socials, cannon fire, and communal history, they realize that the residents of the bizarre hamlet intend to seek justice for their fallen hero.

Next come the bones.

Duncan, an adman whose controversial new campaign could make or break his career, wants a temporary escape from the pressures of urban life. But his pastoral retreat darkens when an attempt at gardening turns up a human femur in the lawn, a headstone inscribed simply Tinker, 1902, and a sense that Lily’s family may have violence in its aristocratic blood.

And then there’s Lloyd.

Lily, conflicted about her marriage and her career, spends her days at the local library researching her impossibly arcane dissertation topic but can’t seem to make any progress. One day she observes the town pervert in action and befriends him.

Lloyd, a Peeping Tom, invites her to follow him on a bird’s-eye tour of Osterhagen that may help her home in on her own flaws and failings.

Keep digging.

Thrown together in their complicity over the boar’s death, fueled to exhume Tinker’s bones from the garden, and inspired by Lloyd’s philosophical savoir faire, Duncan and Lily begin to excavate the profound truth about themselves and their marriage. But how deep can the two dig before the summer’s violent beginning catches up with them?
Read an excerpt from New World Monkeys and learn more about the book and author at Nancy Mauro's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: New World Monkeys.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Diana Welch & Liz Welch's "The Kids Are All Right"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: The Kids Are All Right by Diana Welch and Liz Welch with Amanda Welch and Dan Welch.

About the book, from the publisher:
“Perfect is boring.”

Well, 1983 certainly wasn’t boring for the Welch family. Somehow, between their handsome father’s mysterious death, their glamorous soap-opera-star mother’s cancer diagnosis, and a phalanx of lawyers intent on bankruptcy proceedings, the four Welch siblings managed to handle each new heartbreaking misfortune in the same way they dealt with the unexpected arrival of the forgotten-about Chilean exchange student–together.

All that changed with the death of their mother. While nineteen-year-old Amanda was legally on her own, the three younger siblings–Liz, sixteen; Dan, fourteen; and Diana, eight–were each dispatched to a different set of family friends. Quick-witted and sharp-tongued, Amanda headed for college in New York City and immersed herself in an ’80s world of alternative music and drugs. Liz, living with the couple for whom she babysat, followed in Amanda’s footsteps until high school graduation when she took a job in Norway as a nanny. Mischievous, rebellious Dan, bounced from guardian to boarding school and back again, getting deeper into trouble and drugs. And Diana, the red-haired baby of the family, was given a new life and identity and told to forget her past. But Diana’s siblings refused to forget her–or let her go.

Told in the alternating voices of the four siblings, their poignant, harrowing story of un­breakable bonds unfolds with ferocious emotion. Despite the Welch children’s wrenching loss and subsequent separation, they retained the resilience and humor that both their mother and father endowed them with–growing up as lost souls, taking disastrous turns along the way, but eventually coming out right side up. The kids are not only all right; they’re back together.
Visit the official The Kids Are All Right website and blog.

The Page 99 Test: The Kids Are All Right.

--Marshal Zeringue

Beth Kery's "Daring Time," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Daring Time by Beth Kery.

The entry begins:
I actually had asked my readers the "My Book, The Movie" question about my time travel/erotic romance Daring Time.

We narrowed it down via consensus to Eric Winter cast as the alpha male, twenty-first century detective, yet cerebral Ryan Daire, and the lovely, spirited Anne Hathaway as early twentieth century suffragette, Hope Stillwater.

The readers had a lot of fun with it, and web designer Fiona Jayde even came up with a movie poster with Chicago as the backdrop.

I rarely have an actor or actress in mind when I write a character; I typically want to provide some milestones as far as physical appearance and allow the reader to link the dots in their own...[read on]
Read more about Daring Time, and visit Beth Kery's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Daring Time.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five best biographies about FDR

Richard Norton Smith is Scholar-in-Residence of History and Public Policy at George Mason University. A presidential historian and former head of six presidential libraries, his books include An Uncommon Man: The Triumph of Herbert Hoover (1984), The Harvard Century: The Making of a University to a Nation (1986) and Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation (1993). His book, Thomas E. Dewey and His Times, was a finalist for the 1983 Pulitzer Prize.

In 2006 he named a five best list of biographies about FDR for the Wall Street Journal. One title on the list:
"A First-Class Temperament" by Geoffrey Ward (Harper & Row, 1989).

This is a pointillist portrait of a man groping his way toward greatness. Of special note is the chapter ("The Place") describing Roosevelt's semi-feudal Hyde Park estate as a metaphor for the tradition-loving side of this famous innovator. (Long before the Civilian Conservation Corps reforested Depression-era America, FDR planted 300,000 trees on his ancestral acres.) Ward offers sobering evidence that, physical infirmity aside, Roosevelt had enough character defects--from his cheerful mistruths to his use of government agencies to pursue enemies--that he might not have survived the gantlet of today's gotcha journalism.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Monica Holloway reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Monica Holloway, author of the newly released Cowboy & Wills.

Her entry begins:
The book I just finished is The Possibility of Everything by Hope Edelman. It’s brand new (came out in September), and I devoured it. I’ve been a fan of Hope Edelman’s since reading her book, Motherless Daughters, and waited with great anticipation for her first memoir. It was well worth the wait.

In the book, Hope details her journey to Belize where she travels with her husband and three-year-old daughter, Maya. Maya has developed a very difficult, almost unmanageable, imaginary friend and Hope takes her to a Mayan healer in hopes that they might banish this imaginary friend. Along the way, she discovers a completely new side of herself, one that truly believes in miracles, not just what can be explained scientifically.

The writing is...[read on]
Monica Holloway is the critically acclaimed author of the memoir Driving With Dead People, which Newsweek called “unforgettable,” Glamour christened “a classic,” and the Washington Post deemed “irresistible.” She contributed to the anthology Mommy Wars, from which her essay “Red Boots and Cole Haans” was described by Newsday as “brilliant, grimly hilarious.”

Among the early praise for Cowboy & Wills:
"A boy and his dog -- that is sacred stuff. Layer onto that autism and the singular love of a mother and you've got the makings for deeply worthwhile reading. Monica Holloway is any one of us, doubled over with hope and pain and wishing."
--Kelly Corrigan, New York Times bestselling author of The Middle Place

"A young boy with autism is able to make friends with the aid of his pet dog named Cowboy. Pets can help open up social doors."
--Temple Grandin, New York Times bestselling author of Animals in Translation and Animals Make Us Human
Writers Read: Monica Holloway.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pg. 99: Martin Kitchen's "Rommel's Desert War"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Rommel's Desert War: Waging World War II in North Africa, 1941-1943 by Martin Kitchen.

About the book, from the publisher:
At the height of his power in January 1941 Hitler made the fateful decision to send troops to North Africa to save the beleaguered Italian army from defeat. Martin Kitchen's masterful new history of the Axis campaign provides a fundamental reassessment of the key battles of 1941–3, Rommel's generalship and the campaign's place within the broader strategic context of the war. He shows that the British were initially helpless against the operational brilliance of Rommel's Panzer divisions. However, Rommel's initial successes and refusal to follow orders committed the Axis to a campaign well beyond their means. Without the reinforcements or supplies he needed to deliver a knockout blow, Rommel was forced onto the defensive and Hitler's Mediterranean strategy began to unravel. The result was the loss of an entire army which, together with defeat at Stalingrad, signalled a decisive shift in the course of the war.
Read an excerpt from Rommel's Desert War, and learn more about the book at the Cambridge University Press website.

Martin Kitchen is Professor Emeritus in the Department of History, Simon Fraser University. His publications include The Third Reich: Charisma and Community (2007), A History of Modern Germany, 1800–2000 (2006) and Europe Between the Wars (second edition, 2006).

The Page 99 Test: Rommel's Desert War.

--Marshal Zeringue