Monday, November 30, 2009

Ten best short-story collections of the noughties

One title on the A.V. Club's list of the 10 best short-story collections of the ’00s:
Shakespeare’s Kitchen, Lore Segal (2007)

One of the prominent recent movements in short-story collections has been to create books of interconnected short stories, the better to lull readers into thinking they’re reading a novel. (See, for instance, Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer-winner Olive Kitteridge.) Lore Segal’s Shakespeare’s Kitchen actually almost succeeds at this task. While all the stories are recognizably stories in their own right, the characters are so vivid, and the events so interrelated, that readers get a fuller sense of both the characters (a bunch of snobbish intellectuals) and the setting (upper-class Connecticut) than would normally be the case in a work like this.

Best story: “The Reverse Bug” pits Segal’s often vacuous characters against the question of great evil, of what might cause a people to commit genocide. The original version won an O. Henry prize.
Read about another collection on the list.

The Page 99 Test: Lore Segal's Shakespeare's Kitchen.

(h/t: escapegrace)

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: Kim Werker & Cleo

The current featured duo at Coffee with a Canine: Kim Werker and Cleo.

Werker, on how Cleo got her name:
My partner originally wanted to name her after the Grateful Dead song "Cassidy." I hate the Grateful Dead. I fought tooth and nail against "Cassidy" – the thought of naming our puppy after the most boring band in history just made me want to scream. Luckily the name didn't stick, and by the end of our first night together we knew we had to come up with something else. As a puppy, Cleo looked a lot like a wee lab, except she had wolf eyes. They were exotic looking. Sort of like heavily made-up women in ancient Egyptian art. So we named her Cleopatra. We've never called her...[read on].
Kim Werker's latest book is Crocheted Gifts: Irresistable Projects to Make and Give (Interweave Press, 2009):
A collection of projects from today’s most popular crochet designers, Crocheted Gifts includes 25 designs suited for gift-giving—even if the recipient is you. From baby gifts to mittens for the whole family, from home decor to fancy lace, this book is full of perfect projects for every occasion.
Visit Kim Werker's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Kim Werker and Cleo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Kelly Oliver's "Animal Lessons"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Animal Lessons: How They Teach Us to Be Human by Kelly Oliver.

About the book, from the publisher:
Philosophy reads humanity against animality, arguing that "man" is man because he is separate from beast. Deftly challenging this position, Kelly Oliver proves that, in fact, it is the animal that teaches us to be human. Through their sex, their habits, and our perception of their purpose, animals show us how not to be them.

This kinship plays out in a number of ways. We sacrifice animals to establish human kinship, but without the animal, the bonds of "brotherhood" fall apart. Either kinship with animals is possible or kinship with humans is impossible. Philosophy holds that humans and animals are distinct, but in defending this position, the discipline depends on a discourse that relies on the animal for its very definition of the human. Through these and other examples, Oliver does more than just establish an animal ethics. She transforms ethics by showing how its very origin is dependent upon the animal. Examining for the first time the treatment of the animal in the work of Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Derrida, Agamben, Freud, Lacan, and Kristeva, among others, Animal Lessons argues that the animal bites back, thereby reopening the question of the animal for philosophy.
Learn more about Animal Lessons at the Columbia University Press website.

See the Page 99 Test: Kelly Oliver's Women as Weapons of War: Iraq, Sex, and the Media.

The Page 99 Test: Animal Lessons.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: India Edghill's "Delilah"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Delilah by India Edghill, author of Queenmaker.

About the book, from the publisher:
Given to the temple of Atargatis as a child, Delilah is raised to be a priestess to the Five Cities that rule Canaan. With her beloved friend Aylah, Delilah grows up under the watchful eyes of high priestess Derceto, who sees the devout young priestesses as valuable playing pieces in her political schemes.

In the hills of Canaan, the Israelites chafe under the rule of the Five Cities, and choose Samson to lead them to victory. A reluctant warrior, Samson is a man of great heart who prefers peace to war. But fearing a rebellion, those who rule the Five Cities will do anything to capture Samson. When Samson catches a glimpse of Delilah, he is ready to risk his freedom to marry her, and Derceto seizes the chance to have Samson at her mercy. The Temple's intrigues against Samson force Aylah and Delilah apart, lead Delilah to question her own heart, and change her future forever.

A glorious and inventive retelling of an ancient story, Delilah is a soaring tale of political turmoil, searing betrayal, passionate friendship, and forbidden love.
Read an excerpt from Delilah, and learn more about the book and author at India Edghill's website. Watch the Delilah video trailer.

The Page 69 Test: Delilah.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 29, 2009

What is Susan Breen reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Susan Breen, author of The Fiction Class.

From her entry:
Every October when the finalists for the National Book Award are announced, I go out and buy the five books. (I consider that to be my annual Christmas present to myself and the book industry.) Usually I haven’t heard of any of the books, which is part of what makes it so much fun because it exposes me to work that is completely unexpected (and occasionally disagreeable.) After all, most of the time when I sit down with a book, I’ve carefully chosen something I think I’m going to like. I believe it’s important, especially for a writer, to expose myself to new voices....

[O]n my list of NBA nominees is Let the Great World Spin (Random House) by Colum McCann. Then In Other Rooms, Other Wonders (W.W. Norton & Co.) by Daniyal Mueenuddin, Lark and Termite (Alfred A. Knopf) by Jayne Anne Phillips and ....[read on]
Susan Breen's novel, The Fiction Class, is the story of a woman's relationship with her ailing mother and the offbeat members of the creative writing workshop she leads.

Among the praise for The Fiction Class:
“In this poignant, funny novel, a writing teacher, nearly 40 and single, is concerned not with romance or writing, but with her difficult, dying mother—until she teaches her mother to write.”
--MORE magazine
The Fiction Class reminds us of what the right words in the proper order can give: pleasure, laughter, heartache, and, on rare and stunning occasions and just in the nick of time, redemption.”
—Marisa de los Santos, author, Love Walked In
Breen's short stories have been published by a number of literary magazines, among them American Literary Review and anderbo (which lists her story “Triplet” as an anderbo classic).

Visit Susan Breen's website and blog.

Writers Read: Susan Breen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five best: historical novels

Rebecca Stott is a professor of English literature and creative writing at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. She is the author of the novels The Coral Thief and Ghostwalk and a biography, Darwin and the Barnacle, and is a regular contributor to BBC Radio.

For the Wall Street Journal, she named a five best list of historical novels.

One title on the list:
One Hundred Years of Solitude
by Gabriel García Márquez
Avon, 1970

My breath is still taken away by the audacity and power of this story about the many generations of a family in the fictional Colombian town of Macondo. It is a tale, as well, of Colombia itself— a mix of romance, fantasy and history. Shipwrecked Spanish galleons turn up in the middle of the jungle; a pious woman disappears into the sky like an angel; a pair of star-crossed lovers are shadowed constantly by a cloud of yellow butterflies. Magic erupts into the mundane. Gabriel García Márquez meant this novel, first published in Spanish in 1967, to show the workings of time, how it stops and starts, relapses, circles and changes speed. But "One Hundred Years of Solitude" is intended to show, above all, how much more than the mere recording of fact is required to fathom the past. Having lived under a series of Colombian dictators who revised history as they pleased, Márquez has an understandable passion for distrusting received wisdom and delving for deeper truths.
Read about another novel on Stott's list.

One Hundred Years of Solitude is one of Walter Mosley's 5 favorite books, one of Eric Kraft's 5 most important books, and one of James Patterson's five most important books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Jordan Summers' "Red," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Red by Jordan Summers.

The entry begins:
If I could choose a director for my novel, Red, it would be an easy decision. I love a lot of different directors, but Peter Jackson would have the job. I believe he (and Weta) could do wonders with the post-apocalyptic world I established, especially since there are genetically created werewolves, vampires, chimeras hiding in plain sight.

I’d want Jerry Bruckheimer to produce, although I’m not sure I can picture those two titans working together.

When it comes to the actors, the decision gets a little tougher. I originally started out with Hugh Jackman in mind for Sheriff Morgan Hunter, but that changed as...[read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Jordan Summers' website and blog.

Read about Crimson, the latest book in the Dead World Series.

My Book, The Movie: Red.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pg. 69: Brian Keaney's "The Hollow People"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Hollow People by Brian Keaney.

About the book, from the publisher:
How do you come of age under a mind-controlling dictatorship?

In Tanegar, a sinister island where the laws of the mysterious Dr. Sigmundus hold sway, dreaming will get you locked up and branded a lunatic. Dante is a lowly kitchen boy. Bea is the privileged daughter of physicians. They aren’t meant to meet or share ideas, or, most dangerous of all, their dreams. But with the arrival of a notorious prisoner to the island's asylum, their worlds collide. Together they begin to question whether the promises they’ve based their lives on have been spun from lies and illusion—and if now is the time to break them.
Read an excerpt from The Hollow People and view a video of Brian Keaney discussing the book.

Learn more about the author and his work at Brian Keaney's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: The Hollow People.

The Page 69 Test: The Hollow People.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best chases in literature

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best chases in literature.

One chase on the list:
Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household

An English country gentleman has tried to use his hunting skills to stalk a foreign dictator. Now the tyrant's secret police are after him. Much of the novel is a pursuit, a memorable section of which involves our hero being chased through the London underground and killing one pursuer at Aldwych station.
Read about another chase on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Robert Marion’s "Genetic Rounds"

This weekend's feature at the Page 99 Test: Genetic Rounds: A Doctor's Encounters in the Field that Revolutionized Medicine by Robert Marion, MD.

About the book, from the publisher:
Renowned pediatrician and author Dr. Robert Marion, whose bestselling book The Intern Blues is revered by doctors of all ages, offers a powerful and moving account of his experiences in modern genetics. His gripping stories illuminate a cutting-edge field of impossible moral complexities and incredible scientific breakthroughs that draw him deep into the lives of his patients and their families when they need him the most.

Genetics is a specialty of secrets. After thirty years as a pediatric geneticist in New York City, Dr. Robert Marion knows things about his patients that their friends, their families, and even they themselves do not. Having access to this kind of inside information is at once a terrific honor and a terrible burden. It requires Dr. Marion to play detective, philosopher, physician, and friend, sometimes all over the course of a single visit.

In Genetic Rounds, he tells the surprising true stories of daily life as a clinical geneticist. From the girl whose bones break at the lightest touch to the boy who is unable to sweat, Dr. Marion imparts the life-long lessons he has learned from his most incredible cases. He walks us through perplexing medical puzzles that have sharpened his wit and transformed him into a Sherlock Holmes in his field. He shares ingenious practical insights that have changed his patients’ lives. And he delves into the moral quandaries through which his patients in turn have changed his life: Should he wait until after Christmas to break bad news to a frightened family? Should he tell a close friend that his daughter may have a life-threatening, previously undiagnosed disease? And, most importantly, how can he persevere in a specialty that deals with so much heartbreak?

The first book of its kind, Genetic Rounds is the story of a remarkable doctor in a field unlike any other. With unforgettable candor and compassion, Dr. Marion not only explores the human side of medicine: he shows what medicine can teach us about being human.
Browse inside Genetic Rounds, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: Genetic Rounds.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 27, 2009

What is Erin Dionne reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Erin Dionne, author of Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies and The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet.

Her entry opens:
I read in a range of genres, but I'm streaky: I'll immerse myself in middle grade or YA fiction for a while, then switch to nonfiction, short stories, or adult contemporary or literary fiction. The giant To Be Read pile next to my bed never seems to shrink in size. As a matter of fact, my daughter frequently uses it as a step to help her climb up and down off my bed!

I'm nearly done with Stephen King's Just After Sunset, a story collection that came out several months ago. I'm an unabashed King fan, and I always find a gem or two in his story collections. In this one, "The Gingerbread Girl" is a standout. Originally published in Esquire magazine, it's a suspenseful story with a resourceful heroine. King also added notes at the end of Sunset that detail the origins of each story, which I really appreciate. It's fascinating to get a glimpse into...[read on]
Erin Dionne’s debut novel, Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies, was inspired by events that occurred in seventh grade, when she wore a scary peach bridesmaid dress in her cousin’s wedding and threw up on her gym teacher’s shoes (not at the same event). Although humiliating at the time, these experiences are working for her now. Erin lives outside of Boston with her husband and daughter, and a very insistent dog named Grafton. She roots for the Red Sox, teaches English at an art college, and sometimes eats chocolate cookies.

Among the praise for Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies:
“The wry, funny tone makes this book a pleasurable read, and teens of all body types will enjoy Celeste’s original voice.”
School Library Journal

“It’s a clever premise…engaging [scenes].…readers will warm to Celeste.”
Kirkus Reviews
Dionne's new novel, The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet, is out in early January 2010.

Visit Erin Dionne's website and blog.

Writers Read: Erin Dionne.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: Therese Walsh & Kismet

This weekend's featured duo at Coffee with a Canine: Therese Walsh & Kismet.

Walsh, on how Kismet joined her household:
My daughter participated in a musical competition several years back. She performed very well, so she, my son and I stopped for lunch on the way home to celebrate, then visited a nearby pet store. I saw a cute JR and suggested we take her out to visit. I remember the kids looking at me as if I’d lost my mind, which maybe I had; we weren’t planning to buy a dog. We played with this adorable white pup with brown spots until our time was up, and then Kiz looked at me with eyes that said, “You know I’m for you, right?” So we took her home and have never once regretted the decision. It was kind of funny calling my husband, who was at a gig that day with his band, to say we’d bought a dog. He thought we were kidding at first but fell in mad love with her, too, once he...[read on]
Therese Walsh is a cofounder of the blog

The Last Will of Moira Leahy, her first novel, was published last month by Shaye Areheart Books.

Read an excerpt from The Last Will of Moira Leahy, and learn more about the book and author at Therese Walsh's website, blog, and Facebook page. Follow her on Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: The Last Will of Moira Leahy.

Walsh lives in upstate New York, with her husband, two children, a cat, and Kismet.

Read Coffee with a Canine: Therese Walsh & Kismet.

--Marshal Zeringue

NY Times: 100 notable books, 2009 -- nonfiction

The staff of the New York Times Book Review named their "100 Notable Books of 2009."

A couple of the books and writers from the non-fiction side of the list that have appeared here on the blog:
'Cold: Adventures in the World’s Frozen Places'
From the physics of absolute zero to the cold-resistant gluttony of small birds, Streever reports on the extreme regions of low temperatures and the scientists who love them. (Little, Brown, $24.99.)
Read an excerpt from Cold, and learn more about the book and author at Bill Streever's website.

The Page 99 Test: Cold.
'The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found'
A Cambridge classics professor leads a fine tour, turning up surprises around every corner. (Belknap/Harvard University, $26.95.)
Read an excerpt from The Fires of Vesuvius, and learn more about the book at the Harvard University Press website.

Visit Mary Beard's University of Cambridge faculty webpage and read her blog, “A Don's Life.”

The Page 99 Test: The Roman Triumph.

The Page 99 Test: The Fires of Vesuvius.
Read about a few books from the fiction side of the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Mark Coggins' "The Big Wake-Up"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Big Wake-Up by Mark Coggins.

About the book, from the publisher:
The odyssey of Eva Perón — the Argentine first lady made famous in the play and the movie Evita — was as remarkable in death as it was in life. A few years after she succumbed to cervical cancer, her specially preserved body was taken by the military dictatorship that succeeded her deposed husband Juan. Hidden for sixteen years in Italy in a crypt under a false name, she was eventually exhumed and returned to Buenos Aires to be buried in an underground tomb said to be secure enough to withstand a nuclear attack.

Or was she?

When San Francisco private eye August Riordan engages in a flirtation with a beautiful university student from Buenos Aires, he witnesses her death in a tragic shooting and is drawn into mad hunt for Evita’s remains. He needs all of his wits, his network of friends and associates, and an unexpected legacy from the dead father he has never known to help him survive the deadly intrigue between powerful Argentine movers and shakers, ex-military men, and a mysterious woman named Isis who is expert in ancient techniques of mummification.

The fifth novel in the August Riordan series, The Big Wake-Up plunges everyman PI Riordan and his sidekick Chris Duckworth into their most terrifying and anguishing case ever.
Read an excerpt from The Big Wake-Up, and learn more about the book and author at Coggins' website and blog.

Check out the post over at The Rap Sheet on the story behind the story of The Big Wake-Up.

Read the results of the Page 69 Test for Mark Coggins' Candy from Strangers, and see who he -- and some Hollywood-types -- would cast in an adaptation of Candy from Strangers.

The Page 69 Test: The Big Wake-Up.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Luke Lively's "A Questionable Life," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: A Questionable Life by Luke Lively.

The entry begins:
My book, A Questionable Life, has been described as ideal for movie adaption, especially with the current economic and social conditions. Set against a backdrop of greed, deceit and corruption, the story follows a ruthless banker, Jack Oliver, as he attempts to climb to the top of the corporate ladder in Philadelphia. When his plans are derailed, Jack’s life begins an uncontrollable downward spiral. On the verge of losing everything he had worked to achieve, Jack’s best friend, John Helms connects him with an old, rural banker—Benjamin “Benny” Price. Benny helps Jack to change his greedy perspective by introducing Jack to a different kind of life in the Blue Ridge Mountains of rural Virginia—a life of giving.

- With much of the movie connected to hiking and the outdoors, the ideal Director would be Robert Redford. Redford has already made excellent movies in rural surroundings (A River Runs Through It). In addition, Redford won an Oscar directing a movie where a family was destroyed by class consciousness and greed (Ordinary People). Also in his list of directing credits is an inspirational story of redemption and hope (The Legend of Bagger Vance).


Benjamin “Benny” Price
- Redford,...[read on]
Read more about the book and author at the publisher's website and Luke Lively's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Questionable Life.

--Marshal Zeringue

Norman Tebbit's 6 best books

Norman Tebbit served in the RAF before becoming a Conservative MP. An ally of Margaret Thatcher, he held a number of high-profile government posts in the 1980s.

He told the Daily Express about his six best books. One title on the list:
by Michael Dobbs

One of the best pieces of "faction" (fiction based on historical events) you're likely to read, conveying so well the atmosphere of 1940 and the utter ruthlessness of Churchill at that time. All that mattered to him was survival and he was prepared to do absolutely anything to ensure victory.
Read about another book on Tebbit's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Bryant Simon's "Everything but the Coffee"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Everything But the Coffee: Learning about America from Starbucks by Bryant Simon.

About the book, from the publisher:
Everything but the Coffee casts a fresh eye on the world's most famous coffee company, looking beyond baristas, movie cameos, and Paul McCartney CDs to understand what Starbucks can tell us about America. Bryant Simon visited hundreds of Starbucks around the world to ask, Why did Starbucks take hold so quickly with consumers? What did it seem to provide over and above a decent cup of coffee? Why at the moment of Starbucks' profit-generating peak did the company lose its way, leaving observers baffled about how it might regain its customers and its cultural significance? Everything but the Coffee probes the company's psychological, emotional, political, and sociological power to discover how Starbucks' explosive success and rapid deflation exemplify American culture at this historical moment. Most importantly, it shows that Starbucks speaks to a deeply felt American need for predictability and class standing, community and authenticity, revealing that Starbucks' appeal lies not in the product it sells but in the easily consumed identity it offers.
Preview Everything but the Coffee, and learn more about the book at the University of California Press website.

Bryant Simon is Professor of History and the Director of American Studies at Temple University and the author of Boardwalk Dreams: Atlantic City and the Fate of Urban America and other scholarly works.

Writers Read: Bryant Simon.

The Page 99 Test: Everything But the Coffee.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pg. 69: Joel Shepherd's "Sasha"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Sasha by Joel Shepherd.

About the book, from the publisher:
Spurning her royal heritage to be raised by the great warrior, Kessligh, her exquisite swordplay astonishes all who witness it. But Sasha is still young, untested in battle and often led by her rash temper. In the complex world of Lenayin loyalties, her defiant wilfulness is attracting the wrong kind of attention.

Lenayin is a land almost divided by its two faiths: the Verenthane of the ruling classes and the pagan Goeren-yai, amongst whom Sasha now lives. The Goeren-yai worship swordplay and honour and begin to see Sasha as the great spirit—the Synnich—who will unite them. But Sasha is still searching for what she believes and must choose her side carefully.

When the Udalyn people—the symbol of Goeren-yai pride and courage—are attacked, Sasha will face her moment of testing. How will she act? Is she ready to lead? Can she be the saviour they need her to be?
Read an excerpt from Sasha and learn more about the land of Lenayin. Read about the author and his work at Joel Shepherd's website and blog.

Joel Shepherd was born in Adelaide, South Australia, in 1974. He has studied Film and Television, International Relations, has interned on Capitol Hill in Washington, and traveled widely in Asia. His first trilogy, the Cassandra Kresnov Series, consists of Crossover, Breakaway and Killswitch.

My Book, The Movie: Crossover.

The Page 69 Test: Sasha.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books about bankers

David Charters is a former diplomat and investment banker. He has published six novels and is best known in the U.K. for his best-selling Dave Hart series of satires, set in the fictional world of "Grossbank."

For the Guardian, he named a top ten list of books about bankers.

One title on the list:
Liar's Poker by Michael Lewis

A superbly written, City perennial that shows you the inside workings of a high octane investment bank at the peak of its power, complete with rampant egos.
Read about another book on Charters' list.

Liar's Poker also appears on Stephen Frey's list of the five best books about life on Wall Street.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: C.M. Mayo & Picadou

Today's featured couple at Coffee with a Canine: C.M. Mayo & Picadou, aka "Minky Chica."

Mayo on how Picadou got her name:
She's black so my husband wanted to name her Zapote, after the sapodilla, that squishy black fruit, which I thought sounded very butch. I happened to have a reference book on cheese, so I opened that and found a goat cheese called "picadou." I assumed it had a black ash crust, like chevre. It turns it out that it doesn't (it's a white cheese wrapped in herbs), but never mind, Picadou...[read on]
C.M. Mayo is the author of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (Unbridled Books, 2009), a novel based on the true story.

The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire made Library Journal's Top Books 2009 list.

Mayo is also author of Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico (Milkweed Editions, 2007) and Sky Over El Nido (University of Georgia Press, 1995) which won the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, and editor of Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion, a portrait of Mexico in the works of 24 Mexican writers. She lives in Washington DC and Mexico City.

Learn more about the author and her work -- and Picadou -- at

Read--Coffee with a Canine: C.M. Mayo & Picadou.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Colleen Thompson reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Colleen Thompson, author of Beneath Bone Lake and over a dozen other novels.

Her entry begins:
I’m a voracious reader who enjoys a wide variety of books. I could probably go on all day, but here are a few highlights from my year in reading.

The most recent novel that made me sit and say “Wow!” was The Help by Kathryn Stockett. While some might say this is a look at the early civil rights movement in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, at its heart, it’s the story of growing relationship between three women, a privileged but sensitive young white woman (who insists on getting answers to the era’s “unspeakable” – and incredibly risky — questions), a wise and courageous older black maid named Aibleen, and Aibleen’s smart-mouth, often-unemployed friend, Minny. It’s one of those stories that feels more real than real life, and though I grew up in the North and can’t remember the early sixties, I gained a new appreciation for the ironies, incongruities, and dangers of that period. Stockett grabbed me...[read on]
Colleen Thompson has written fifteen novels for Dorchester Publishing (romantic suspense) and Kensington (historical romance, written as Gwyneth Atlee), along with articles on the craft and business of writing for Writer’s Digest and the Romance Writer’s Report.

Among the praise for Beneath Bone Lake:
“Gripping and engaging from the very first page, Thompson’s novel demonstrates why she's a master of suspense and mystery. The author weaves a well-plotted tale of corruption, horror, violence and the enduring love formed by an impenetrable bond of trust.”
--Romantic Times BOOKreviews
“BENEATH BONE LAKE continues Colleen Thompson's fantastic storytelling. The fleshed-out characters, the setting and the suspense will keep you reading page after page.”
--Fresh Fiction

"From start to finish, BENEATH BONE LAKE is a must read for romantic suspense lovers with its edge-of-the seat suspense and its daring romance."
--Merrimon Crawford, Book Illuminations

"[A]n exhilarating romantic suspense that focuses on the thriller elements with the romance segues deftly handled... Colleen Thompson provides a strong chilling thriller that is well crafted and enjoyable."
--Midwest Book Review

Beneath Bone Lake "delivers on the chills and thrills."
--Kylie Brant
Read more reviews of Colleen Thompson's writing.

Visit Colleen Thompson's website and follow her on Twiiter.

Writers Read: Colleen Thompson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pg. 99: Brenda Cooper's "Wings of Creation"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Wings of Creation by Brenda Cooper.

About the book, from the publisher:
Joseph has succeeded in rescuing his sister, Chelo, from a pitched battle on the colony planet Fremont. Now he and Chelo and the love of his life, Alicia, and all of their extended family, are finally returning home. Halfway there, a probe intercepts them, sending them new coordinates and a message from Joseph’s enigmatic supporter and teacher, Marcus.

War is brewing.

Joseph is wanted for escaping to save Chelo. To stay safe, Joseph must bring his family and friends to the renowned planet of Lopali, where men and women can fly, and peace and freedom abound. Or do they? Alicia has always wanted to fly, but the modifications that give humans wings kill as often as they work.

Joseph must learn to actually change humans, to free the fliers of a tyranny that has enslaved them, since their species was born. If he can do this, the fliers have agreed to help him stop the war. But it’s not as easy as it seems.
Visit Brenda Cooper's website and her LiveJournal.

The Page 99 Test: The Silver Ship and the Sea.

The Page 99 Test: Reading the Wind.

The Page 99 Test: Wings of Creation.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten music books of the decade

The staff at Paste magazine came up with a list of the ten best music books of the decade (2000-2009).

One title on the list:
1. Carl Wilson—Let’s Talk About Love (A Journey To The End Of Taste) (2007)

No one expected Continuum’s 33 1/3 series to cover Céline Dion’s Let’s Talk About Love—we were used to glowing observations on records that don’t suck, like Pet Sounds and OK Computer and Exile On Main Street. Céline seems like an easy target—she’s just so detestable, especially for fellow Canadians like Globe And Mail writer Carl Wilson. But Wilson avoids cheap shots in favor of a brainy socio-cultural examination of taste: Why do so many people love her? Why do so many more people hate her? What does this say about us as culture consumers? While Love isn’t Dion’s most popular album, it’s her most egregious—mostly because it features that ubiquitous song from Titanic—and Wilson gives it his undivided attention, even attending one of her Vegas shows. Now that’s a devoted author. Kate Kiefer
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Roy Chaney's "The Ragged End of Nowhere"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Ragged End of Nowhere by Roy Chaney.

About the book, from the publisher:
Hagen thought his family had left Las Vegas for good. He had joined the CIA and moved to Berlin, while his younger brother had followed in their father’s footsteps and joined the French Foreign Legion. For a while they had seemed free from the criminal underworld upon which the Vegas strip was built. But five days after his brother returns from his tour of duty, his body is found on the outskirts of the city. Word is that he’d returned from Europe with a valuable—and possibly stolen—ancient relic to sell. Now, Hagen has no choice but to come back and track down that missing item—and with it, his brother’s killer.

A quick-moving, fast-talking mystery in the vein of Elmore Leonard, the second Tony Hillerman Prizewinner offers a look at Vegas from beyond the casino floors. The Ragged End of Nowhere follows after the critically acclaimed first Hillerman winner, Christine Barber’s The Replacement Child.
Read an excerpt from The Ragged End of Nowhere, and learn more about the novel at the publisher's website.

The Ragged End of Nowhere won the the 2008 Tony Hillerman Prize for best debut mystery set in the American Southwest.

The Page 69 Test: The Ragged End of Nowhere.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gail Dayton's "New Blood," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: New Blood by Gail Dayton.

The entry begins:
I am one of those authors who needs to cast my main characters before I can really get a story untracked. Often, I use character actors—those actors who’ve made a career of playing the villain, or the hero’s best friend or father or brother. Sometimes I do use “the big names.” It’s not always my choice, because while sometimes I do cast my characters myself, sometimes they cast themselves after I’ve come up with the character, and sometimes they show up already wearing an actor’s face and tell me to get busy and write their story—once I figure out what it is.

That’s what happened with New Blood. Jax walked fully formed out of the swamp in my head where my story ideas come from. (Some authors have a basement, some have a factory in Tulsa, I have a swamp ... which probably gives you an idea of what’s in there.) He was wearing a brown leather duster over a Victorian era suit with a brocade waistcoat and high boots. He told me his name was Jax, he was searching for something but didn’t know what. It was my job to figure out what that was. Oh, and he was wearing the face of English actor Jason...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Gail Dayton's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: New Blood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten best debut novels of the decade (2000-2009)

The staff at Paste magazine came up with a list of the ten best debut novels of the decade (2000-2009).

One title on the list:
2. Junot Diaz: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao [Riverhead] (2007)

There’s a curse, and there’s a nerd. And through the huge, ungainly body of one, we learn about the other—and, along with it, about science fiction, high school, heartbreak and all the blessings and burden of family, ethnicity, history, life. It’s a story about storytelling itself, how to reconcile all these other lives with our own (brief or wondrous or otherwise), its lessons illuminated in the voices of Junot Diaz’s round, warm characters, funny and fraught and realer than real. Rachael Maddux
Read about another book on the list.

See Junot Díaz's most important books and the Page 99 Test: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: Barbara O'Connor & Ruby and Matty

Today's featured trio at Coffee with a Canine: Barbara O'Connor & Ruby and Matty. Ruby is a 7-month old Golden Retriever. Matty is a ten-year-old English Cocker Spaniel.

O'Connor on what an ordinary day is like for her dogs:
They have a great life! Matty sleeps right in the bed with me. Ruby is still in the crate, which is in the bedroom. Ruby wakes up early (5 or 6), goes out for a break, then comes into bed with me and Matty and snuggles. Ruby is a real snuggler.

In the summer, I take Ruby for a romp on the beach before beachgoers arrive. She loves the beach but doesn't care much about swimming in the ocean. Matty doesn't care much for the beach.

I can set my clock by Matty, who lets me know when it's time for breakfast and dinner.

Then I write while they sleep. We take breaks to play and then to go for...[read on]
Barbara O'Connor's latest book, The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis, was named a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year and Kirkus Best Book of the Year for 2009. Watch the video trailer.

Other books include Greetings from Nowhere, How to Steal a Dog, Moonpie and Ivy, and Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia.

In addition to being a five-time winner of the Parents Choice Award, O'Connor's awards include the Massachusetts Book Award, the South Carolina Children's Book Award, School Library Journal Best Books, Bank Street College Best Books, and ALA Notables.

Visit Barbara O'Connor's website and blog.

Coffee with a Canine: Barbara O'Connor & Ruby and Matty.

--Marshal Zeringue
Top photo credit: Getty Images.

What is John J. Miller reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: John J. Miller, author of The First Assassin.

His entry begins:
If you don’t count children’s stories at bedtime, the book I’ve read more than any other is probably The Day of the Jackal, by Frederick Forsyth. I haven’t just read it; I’ve studied it. Nobody has ever written a better thriller. The characters are well drawn and the story moves at a brisk pace. The setting may be more dated than it once was, but now it seems rooted in history rather than surpassed by events. You know how the tale has to finish: It cannot end with de Gaulle’s assassination. Yet you’re never too sure, and you desperately want to learn how the...[read on]
John J. Miller writes for National Review, the Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. He is the author of several books, a contributing editor of Philanthropy magazine, and a consultant to grantmaking foundations.

Among the early praise for The First Assassin:
“An excellent book—it’s like The Day of the Jackal set in 1861 Washington.”
—Vince Flynn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Pursuit of Honor

“Packed with fascinating information, superb characters, and sublime plot twists, The First Assassin is one of the most exciting thrillers I have read in a long, long time. This is historical fiction at its best and John J. Miller is the hot new author everyone will be talking about.”
—Brad Thor, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Apostle

“The story moves with swift suspense, but Miller’s real achievement is to take us inside a mindset nearly lost to time, and to create identifiable, sympathetic characters on all sides, including those who are willing to do murder to preserve the Confederacy and its ‘peculiar institution.’”
—Andrew Klavan, author of Empire of Lies
Visit John J. Miller's website.

Writers Read: John J. Miller.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pg. 69: Tony Richards' "Night of Demons"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Night of Demons by Tony Richards.

About the book, from the publisher:
Centuries ago, the Salem witches founded the village of Raine's Landing, then cloaked it in magic to hide it from sight. Many of their descendants still practice the supernatural arts—and no one who lives here can ever leave.

Now evil has breached its boundaries once again...

A serial killer with a corrupt and twisted soul, Cornelius Hanlon has freely entered Raine's Landing, undeterred by the ancient magical safeguards. And when he chooses the town's oldest adept as his first victim, the maniac inadvertently gains possession of a powerful "gift" more terrible than anything he could have sadistically dreamed.

Ex-town cop Ross Devries and his Harley-riding sometime-partner, Cassandra Mallory, have no supernatural abilities. But they are the last line of defense in this village of secrets and shadows—facing a psychopath who now wields the power to bend the living and the dead to his will.
Read an excerpt from Night of Demons, and learn more about the book and author at Tony Richards' website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Dark Rain.

My Book, The Movie: Dark Rain.

The Page 69 Test: Night of Demons.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best teachers in literature

At the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best teachers in literature.

One teacher on the list:
Lucy Snowe

The heroine of Charlotte Brontë's last novel, Villette, finds employment teaching in a private girls' boarding school in Belgium. Plain and brainy, she's scornful of the silly, rich girls she has to teach. The school hums with sexual tension, and Lucy falls for first the school doctor, then a teacher.
Read about another teacher on Mullan's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Susan M. Reverby's "Examining Tuskegee"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Examining Tuskegee: The Infamous Syphilis Study and Its Legacy by Susan M. Reverby.

About the book, from the publisher:
The forty-year "Tuskegee" Syphilis Study has become the American metaphor for medical racism, government malfeasance, and physician arrogance. The subject of histories, films, rumors, and political slogans, it received an official federal apology from President Bill Clinton in a White House ceremony.

Susan M. Reverby offers a comprehensive analysis of the notorious study of untreated syphilis, which took place in and around Tuskegee, Alabama, from the 1930s through the 1970s. The study involved hundreds of African American men, most of whom were told by doctors from the U.S. Public Health Service that they were being treated, not just watched, for their late-stage syphilis. Reverby examines the study and its aftermath from multiple perspectives to explain what happened and why the study has such power in our collective memory. She follows the study's repercussions in facts and fictions.

Reverby highlights the many uncertainties that dogged the study during its four decades and explores the newly available medical records. She uncovers the different ways it was understood by the men, their families, and health care professionals, ultimately revising conventional wisdom on the study.

Writing with rigor and clarity, Reverby illuminates the events and aftermath of the study and sheds light on the complex knot of trust, betrayal, and belief that keeps this study alive in our cultural and political lives.
Learn more about the book and author at Susan M. Reverby's website.

Susan M. Reverby is the McLean Professor in the History of Ideas and Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. She is editor of Tuskegee's Truths: Rethinking the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. She writes on the history of American women, health care and race.

The Page 99 Test: Examining Tuskegee.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Five best works of fiction about World War II

Antony Beevor has written both novels and non-fiction. His new book is D-Day: The Battle for Normandy.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of works of fiction about World War II.

One title on the list:
by Joseph Heller
Simon & Schuster, 1961

"Catch-22" is probably the most devastating satire ever written about the lunacy of war and military bureaucracy. Set in Italy toward the end of World War II, the novel is a triumph of construction, with its fiendishly unbreakable circle of counter-logic, as a U.S. bomber squadron is sent on more and more missions by ambitious officers trying to exceed their objectives. In a way, the officers' double-think is similar to that of the para-Stalinist system evoked in George Orwell's dystopia, "1984." Joseph Heller's protagonist, Yossarian, bemused by the self-perpetuating madness all around him, is one of the great anti-heroes of modern literature.
Read about another book on Beevor's list.

Catch-22 is one of Jasper Fforde's five most important books and is on Thomas E. Ricks' top ten books about U.S. military history. While it disappointed Nick Hornby upon rereading, it made Cracked magazine's "Wit Lit 101: Five Classic Novels That Bring the Funny." Heller's second novel did not enjoy the success of Catch-22; in fact, it found a place on Luke Leitch's top ten list of "writers who couldn't quite match their initial success."

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Alex Flinn reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Alex Flinn, author of Beastly, A Kiss in Time, and other books.

Her entry begins:
I'm currently reading The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade. This is sort of like The Hunchback of Notre Dame (my very favorite book as a teen, which I read a few dozen times) if Quasimodo, the hunchback of the title, had been a shape-shifting spy. The book takes place in Victorian England. Modo, found near Notre Dame Cathedral and adopted from a freak show by Mr. Socrates, has a freakish appearance but compensates by being able to change his form for up to five hours. Mr. Socrates tells him that his ugliness is an asset because people will always underestimate him. Modo has been educated in regular subjects as well as combat, and has been dropped off in London where he has set up a business finding lost items. There, he has been hired by the mysterious Octavia Milkweed, who asks him to find her brother. However, the man he is searching for is not...[read on]
Alex Flinn is the author of a modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast titled Beastly, which was named a VOYA Editor's Choice for 2007, a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age for 2008, and a 2008 ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. Her other books include Breathing Underwater, an ALA Top 10 Best Book for Young Adults, Breaking Point, Nothing to Lose, Fade to Black, and Diva.

Among the praise for A Kiss in Time, her latest novel:
"Alex Flinn has cleverly brought an old fairy tale back to life with a modern twist, offering an incredible and humorous page-turner ... A Kiss in Time is entertaining, romantic, funny and enchanting."

"Flinn builds a credible romance around two vastly different (and highly entertaining) characters, injects a little magic and chivalry into the modern world, and lightly explores concepts of love and fate—all on the road to a satisfying 'happily ever after.'"
Horn Book

"Clever and humorous ... Fans of happily-ever-after endings will delight in the upbeat resolution, which confirms the notion that 'love conquers all.'"
Publishers Weekly
Visit Alex Flinn's website and blog.

Writers Read: Alex Flinn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Juliet Marillier's "Heart’s Blood"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier.

About the book, from the publisher:
Anluan has been crippled since childhood, part of a curse that has besieged his family and his home of Whistling Tor. But when the young scribe Caitrin is retained to sort through family documents, she brings about unexpected changes in the household, casting a hopeful light against the despairing shadows.

But to truly free Anluan’s burdened soul, Caitrin must unravel the web of sorcery woven by his ancestors before it claims his life—and their love…
Read an excerpt from Heart’s Blood, and learn more about the author and her work at Juliet Marillier's website.

The Page 69 Test: Heart’s Blood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lara Zielin's "Donut Days," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Donut Days by Lara Zielin.

The entry begins:
Donut Days’ protagonist, Emma, is something of a budding hipster living in a community of conformists. Her parents are evangelical ministers who want her to attend a Christian college when she graduates from high school, but Emma can think of nothing worse.

Emma has a funny, often sarcastic voice, so the actress who plays her would need to be edgy, but not too edgy since the book takes place in the Midwest and, well, no one is that mean in the heartland. I think Ellen Page would be a fabulous option. Emma Watson, too, if she lost the British accent. I also think Amanda Bynes could do the role a great justice, and also I’d like her to play me in the Lifetime movie they’ll make about me one of these days: Lara Zielin: The Lara Zielin story: Hallowed Pages [subtitle] Not Without My Pen.

Emma’s in a fight with her best friend, Nat, who is tall and gorgeous, and who has red hair. Her character is more conservative and simple than Emma, so I’m thinking of someone fresh-faced and wholesome like...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Lara Zielin’s website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Donut Days.

--Marshal Zeringue

Fifty best winter reads

The Independent complied a list of the fifty best winter reads.

Winter will be over before this book from the list is in American bookstores:
Maxim [Jakubowski] recommends The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest. 'The final and long-awaited instalment of the best-selling 'Millennium' trilogy grips like its predecessors. Long but rewarding,' he says.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: Gerry Bartlett & Jet

This weekend's featured duo at Coffee with a Canine: Gerry Bartlett & Jet, her rescue Whippet.

Bartlett on Jet's relationship with her writing:
I've always been an animal lover and any person who would hurt a defenseless animal is a villain in my book. I use that when I write. Also, our pets are a great comfort and will defend us. I incorporate those qualities when I write my stories and usually include an animal....[read on]
Real Vampires Hate Their Thighs, book 5 of Bartlett's Glory St. Clair Real Vampires series, is being released in trade paperback in February, 2010. Book 3, Real Vampires Get Lucky, is in stores now in mass market form.

Kimberly Raye, USA Today bestselling author of Dead End Dating, called Glory St. Clair a “vampire to die for.”

Gerry Bartlett is a former teacher and now writes full time. She also owns an antique business on the historic strand in Galveston, Texas. which she rebuilt after losing everything in the shop during Hurricane Ike.

Learn more about Gerry Bartlett and her writing at, her MySpace page, and the Glory St. Clair Fansite.

Writers Read: Gerry Bartlett.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Gerry Bartlett & Jet.

--Marshal Zeringue