Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pg. 99: David Weddle's "Miracles: Wonder and Meaning in World Religions"

This weekend's feature at the Page 99 Test: Miracles: Wonder and Meaning in World Religions by David L. Weddle.

About the book, from the publisher:
Despite the dominance of scientific explanation in the modern world, at the beginning of the twenty-first century faith in miracles remains strong, particularly in resurgent forms of traditional religion. In Miracles, David L. Weddle examines how five religious traditions—Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam—understand miracles, considering how they express popular enthusiasm for wondrous tales, how they provoke official regulation because of their potential to disrupt authority, and how they are denied by critics within each tradition who regard belief in miracles as an illusory distraction from moral responsibility.

In dynamic and accessible prose, Weddle shows us what miracles are, what they mean, and why, despite overwhelming scientific evidence, they are still significant today: belief in miracles sustains the hope that, if there is a reality that surpasses our ordinary lives, it is capable of exercising—from time to time—creative, liberating, enlightening, and healing power in our world.
Read the introduction to Miracles: Wonder and Meaning in World Religions, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

David L. Weddle is the David and Lucile Packard Professor at Colorado College.

The Page 99 Test: Miracles: Wonder and Meaning in World Religions.

--Marshal Zeringue

John Inverdale's 6 best books

John Inverdale, a BBC TV and radio presenter, named his six best books for the Daily Express.

One title on his list:
OLIVER TWIST by Charles Dickens

I'm reading Dickens's Oliver Twist - for the first time in my life - and enjoying it so much that I can't put it down. I was forced to read Dickens on sufferance at school and took no pleasure in it at all. Now I think the characterisation, story and attention to detail are just wonderful.
Read about another book on Inverdale's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Joanne Lessner's "Pandora's Bottle," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Pandora's Bottle by Joanne Lessner.

The entry begins:
It seems that whenever I tell people about Pandora's Bottle, their immediate response is: “Wow – that would make a great movie!” From their mouths to Hollywood’s ears! Casting could go any number of ways, but here are some of my current thoughts:

Sy Hampton: my lonely, middle-aged financier, a dreamer led astray by excess and hubris. Tom Hanks is probably my first choice, but isn’t he everyone’s for everything? I can also see Paul Reiser. But it could almost be anyone from Dennis Quaid to Kevin Costner to Robert Downey, Jr. to Alfred Molina.

Valentina D’Ambrosio: Aphrodite to Sy’s Bacchus. She needs to be all delicious femininity and curves, while sounding like Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny. A beautiful, but earthy innocent. Jamie-Lynn Sigler is kind of perfect. But I’d also thought of...[read on]
Read more about Pandora's Bottle at the publisher's website.

Visit Joanne Sydney Lessner's website.

Writers Read: Joanne Lessner.

The Page 69 Test: Pandora's Bottle.

My Book, The Movie: Pandora's Bottle.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 30, 2010

What is Jodi Compton reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Jodi Compton, author of the newly released novel Hailey's War.

Her entry begins:
Macbeth. Generally, I think Shakespeare loses a lot in just being read, instead of seen on the stage or screen. But I reread Macbeth every once in a while because it’s my favorite Shakespeare, and chances are relatively few to see it live (I blame the alleged ‘Scottish play curse’ for that).

You’d expect a four-hundred-year-old verse drama based on royal history to present murder as a well-choreographed ballet by villains with steely resolve, but instead, Macbeth and his wife act a lot like the poor 20-century shlubs who end up in the pages of Ann Rule’s true-crime books. The evening of the planned murder, the two are still debating about whether to do this thing or not. Lady Macbeth goes into Duncan’s bedchamber and comes back saying she would have stabbed him herself, had he not looked so much like her father as he slept. Macbeth does succeed in killing him, and then there’s a weak attempt at a frame job, a hasty, bloody cleanup afterward, and then a spiral into psychological collapse.

People tend to consider Macbeth a story about the big questions -- is there such a thing as fate? -- but I’m more interested in...[read on]
Among the early praise for Hailey's War:
An army brat, Hailey Cain left West Point near the end of her fourth year and became a bike messenger in San Francisco. She counts only two people close to her: her cousin CJ Mooney, a successful music producer, and Serena Delgadillo, leader of a female gang in L.A. At Serena’s request, Hailey drives undocumented Nidia Hernandez to her grandmother’s home in Mexico. But the trip is aborted when Hailey is shot and left for dead and Nidia, pregnant with the grandson and only possible heir of powerful Anton Skouras, is kidnapped, presumably because Skouras wants the child. Finding and protecting Nidia becomes a point of honor for Hailey, whose rigorous army training serves her well as she becomes a target of Skouras’ forces. The resolution is neatly symmetrical, with Hailey’s backstory revealed only in the final pages. Compton (The 37th Hour, 2004, and Sympathy between Humans, 2005) has a definite gift for portraying flawed, multidimensional characters, and Hailey may be her most compelling creation so far.
Read an excerpt from Hailey's War, and learn more about the book and author at Jodi Compton's website.

Writers Read: Jodi Compton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: Susannah Charleson & Puzzle

This weekend's featured couple at Coffee with a Canine: Susannah Charleson and Puzzle.

Charleson, on her new book, Scent of the Missing:
Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search and Rescue Dog (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010) follows my journey with Puzzle -- from her puppyhood through certification tests and first search. It's a love-and-adventure story of how we came together as partners in the field and out of it. The book also includes individual searches that take readers into the field beside dog-and-handler teams looking for missing persons - from children thought to have run away to confused Alzheimer's patients to the astronauts of space shuttle Columbia.[read on]
Among the early praise for Scent of the Missing:
In this haunting meditation on trust, hope and love, Charleson chronicles her work as a handler with Dallas’ canine search-and-rescue team. A mesmerizing close-up of dogs trained to sniff for human scent, the book also celebrates Charleson’s extraordinary partnership with Puzzle, her golden retriever. Whether describing finding a missing child in an air duct or searching for survivors amid the debris of the Columbia space shuttle, Charleson’s prose is palpably alive, showing how each job, like life, entails placing “one foot before another, hoping for good but prepared for grief, and following the dog ahead anyhow.”
--Caroline Leavitt, People Magazine

Humans have long used dogs, with their remarkable scenting abilities, to find lost, injured, or dead people. However, recent tragedies and disasters—9/11, Hurricane Katrina—have brought search-and-rescue recovery to the forefront. Charleson introduces us to this world as she trains her dog Puzzle to work with Dallas’s elite Metro Area Rescue K9 unit. Interspersed with stories of such routine activities as housebreaking and walking on a leash are the hold-your-breath moments when the author describes actual rescue/recovery missions such as the shuttle Columbia explosion. VERDICT This memorable tribute to the dedication of these dog-handler teams is an essential read for dog lovers.
--Library Journal (starred review)
Watch the Scent of the Missing book trailer, narrated by Susannah Charleson and featuring Team Puzzle and the Mark-9 search and rescue team of Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas.

Visit the official Scent of the Missing website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Susannah Charleson and Puzzle.

--Marshal Zeringue

Philip Pullman's six best books

Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, named his six best books for the Daily Express.

One title on the list:
Middlemarch by George Eliot

The novel to go to once you’re well and truly grown up, once you’ve been married, you’ve had children, your parents have grown old and your hopes are beginning to look a little faded. It’ll remind you that this is the common experience of everyone and that everyone’s experience is strange, wonderful and unique.
Read about another book on the list.

Middlemarch also made John Mullan's lists of ten of the best marital rows, ten of the best examples of unrequited love, ten of the best funerals in literature, and ten of the best deathbed scenes in literature, as well as Rebecca Goldstein's five best list of novels of ideas and Tina Brown's five best list of books on reputation. It is one of Elizabeth Kostova favorite books. While it is one of Miss Manners' favorite novels, John Banville and Nick Hornby have not read it.

Also see: Philip Pullman's forty favorite books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Nancy Thayer's "Beachcombers"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Beachcombers by Nancy Thayer.

About the book, from the publisher:
Beautifully written, powerfully felt, full of both abundant joy and heart-wrenching sorrow, Beachcombers is an extraordinary novel that centers on the bittersweet reunion of three captivating, very different sisters on Nantucket over one gorgeous, exhilarating summer.

Abbie Fox hasn’t seen her father or two younger sisters in almost two years, during which she’s jetted around the world and experienced life, if not love. But now Lily, the baby of the family, is sending Abbie urgent emails begging her to return home to Nantucket. Their middle sister, Emma, has taken to her bed, emotionally devastated after the loss of her high-powered stockbroker’s job and a shockingly unexpected break-up with her fiancĂ©. Also, Lily is deeply worried that Marina, the beautiful, enigmatic woman renting their guesthouse, has set her sights on the sisters’ widowed father, Jim. The Fox girls closed ranks years ago after the haunting, untimely death of their mother, but seeing their dad move on with his life forces each of them to take stock.

Over the course of the summer, the sisters’ lives grow as turbulent as the unpredictable currents encircling Nantucket. When Abbie encounters an incredibly appealing married man, she breaks her own rules in the name of love, fearing all the while that she’ll regret it. Meanwhile, type-A Emma learns a new definition of success, and strong-minded Lily must reconcile her dreams with reality. Even Marina, who has come to Nantucket to forget heartbreak and betrayal, faces an astonishing turn of events that will find her torn between fate and freedom. At summer’s end, these unforgettable women will face profound choices—and undergo personal transformations that will surprise even themselves.
Read an excerpt from Beachcombers, and learn more about the book and author at Nancy Thayer's website.

The Page 69 Test: Summer House.

Writers Read: Nancy Thayer.

The Page 69 Test: Beachcombers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Pg. 99: Ilana Gershon's "The Breakup 2.0"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: The Breakup 2.0: Disconnecting over New Media by Ilana Gershon.

About the book, from the publisher:
A few generations ago, college students showed their romantic commitments by exchanging special objects: rings, pins, varsity letter jackets. Pins and rings were handy, telling everyone in local communities that you were spoken for, and when you broke up, the absence of a ring let everyone know you were available again. Is being Facebook official really more complicated, or are status updates just a new version of these old tokens?

Many people are now fascinated by how new media has affected the intricacies of relationships and their dissolution. People often talk about Facebook and Twitter as platforms that have led to a seismic shift in transparency and (over)sharing. What are the new rules for breaking up? These rules are argued over and mocked in venues from the New York Times to, but well-thought-out and informed considerations of the topic are rare.

Ilana Gershon was intrigued by the degree to which her students used new media to communicate important romantic information—such as “it’s over.” She decided to get to the bottom of the matter by interviewing seventy-two people about how they use Skype, texting, voice mail, instant messaging, Facebook, and cream stationery to end relationships. She opens up the world of romance as it is conducted in a digital milieu, offering insights into the ways in which different media influence behavior, beliefs, and social mores. Above all, this full-fledged ethnography of Facebook and other new tools is about technology and communication, but it also tells the reader a great deal about what college students expect from each other when breaking up—and from their friends who are the spectators or witnesses to the ebb and flow of their relationships. The Breakup 2.0 is accessible and riveting.
Read more about The Breakup 2.0 at the Cornell University Press website.

Ilana Gershon is Assistant Professor of Communication and Culture at Indiana University.

The Page 99 Test: The Breakup 2.0.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten transformation stories

Ali Shaw graduated from Lancaster University with a degree in English literature and has since worked as a bookseller and at Oxford’s Bodleian Library.

The Girl with Glass Feet, his highly acclaimed first novel, won The Desmond Elliott Prize for 2010. The judges said: “After some soul searching and much debate, we decided on The Girl with Glass Feet as our winner. This is an extraordinary first novel - bold, original, tragic and endlessly surprising. In its exploration of frozen landscapes, both interior and exterior, and in its precisely detailed and articulated fantasy, it is possible to see a substantial author of the future.”

Shaw has described The Girl With Glass Feet as "a love story about a woman who is turning into glass."

For the Guardian, he named his top ten stories of metamorphosis. One title on the list:
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" by F Scott Fitzgerald

Populised by the recent film, but very different indeed, Fitzgerald's original story is funny and economical. It reminds me of that old riddle that asks what goes on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon and three legs in the evening, because it makes infancy and old age look like similar things.
Read about another book on the list.

Read an excerpt from Shaw's The Girl with Glass Feet, and learn more about the book and author at Ali Shaw's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Girl with Glass Feet.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Nancy Thayer reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Nancy Thayer, author of the newly released Beachcombers.

Her entry begins:
Richard Russo is my newest own personal literary discovery. This winter I read That Old Cape Magic, which is a wonderful book about relationships, funny and profound, so I bought Empire Falls, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize, and devoured that. Now I'm reading The Risk Pool. His books are full and his heart is...[read on]
Nancy Thayer is the New York Times bestselling author of Moon Shell Beach, The Hot Flash Club, The Hot Flash Club Strikes Again, Hot Flash Holidays, The Hot Flash Club Chills Out, Between Husbands and Friends, and Summer House. She lives on Nantucket.

The Page 69 Test: Summer House.

Among the early praise for Beachcombers:
"To quote some really old, really good Lionel Richie, Nancy Thayer’s newest novel, Beachcombers, is easy like a Sunday morning. It’s the kind of book you can trust to fulfill all your expectations; it will leave you feeling optimistic and satisfied. It is a cinnamon-colored cat kind of a novel; it is a hot mug of ginger tea kind of a novel."
--Elin Hilderbrand, author of The Island

"Thayer gives readers a charming summer read, filled with family and love."
Read an excerpt from Beachcombers, and learn more about the book and author at Nancy Thayer's website.

Writers Read: Nancy Thayer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Josie Brown's "Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives by Josie Brown.

About the book, from the publisher:
Suburbia is a jungle, filled with lots of vicious creatures.

Take the Paradise Heights Women's League board. Lyssa Harper should have warned golden-haired DILF du jour Harry Wilder what he was getting into when she invited him to meet the mommies who run their suburban, gated community. At least he brought cupcakes. Since meeting the former Master-of-the-Universe turned stay-at-home single dad, Lyssa has been his domestic Sherpa, teaching him the ins and outs of suburban life. She just didn't realize her friends would show up at his house unannounced with casseroles, leopard-print bikini briefs, and plans to rearrange his kitchen cabinets.

The truth is, if Harry and his wife, the neighborhood's "perfect couple," can call it quits, what does that mean for everyone else? Lyssa's husband, Ted, is a great father, but he pays her Pilates-pumped momtourage more attention than he does his own wife. Her friends gossip about the neighbors while ignoring their own problems: infertility, infidelity, and eating disorders.

When Harry sets boundaries with his new fan club, he is exiled from the neighborhood's in-clique. But Lyssa refuses to snub him. What she never expects is the explosive impact her ongoing friendship with Harry will have on her close-knit pals—and on her marriage.
Learn more about the book and author at Josie Brown's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pg. 99: Donald Stoker's "The Grand Design"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War by Donald Stoker.

About the book, from the publisher:
Of the tens of thousands of books exploring virtually every aspect of the Civil War, surprisingly little has been said about what was in fact the determining factor in the outcome of the conflict: differences in Union and Southern strategy.

In The Grand Design, Donald Stoker provides a comprehensive and often surprising account of strategy as it evolved between Fort Sumter and Appomattox. Reminding us that strategy is different from tactics (battlefield deployments) and operations (campaigns conducted in pursuit of a strategy), Stoker examines how Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis identified their political goals and worked with their generals to craft the military means to achieve them--or how they often failed to do so. Stoker shows that Davis, despite a West Point education and experience as Secretary of War, failed as a strategist by losing control of the political side of the war. His invasion of Kentucky was a turning point that shifted the loyalties and vast resources of the border states to the Union. Lincoln, in contrast, evolved a clear strategic vision, but he failed for years to make his generals implement it. At the level of generalship, Stoker notes that Robert E. Lee correctly determined the Union's center of gravity, but proved mistaken in his assessment of how to destroy it. Stoker also presents evidence that the Union could have won the war in 1862, had it followed the grand plan of the much-derided general, George B. McClellan.

Arguing that the North's advantages in population and industry did not ensure certain victory, Stoker reasserts the centrality of the overarching military ideas--the strategy--on each side, showing how strategy determined the war's outcome.
Read more about The Grand Design at the Oxford University Press website.

Donald Stoker is Professor of Strategy and Policy for the U.S. Naval War College's program at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

The Page 99 Test: The Grand Design.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six great books on natural disasters

M. L. Malcolm is a Harvard Law graduate, journalist, recovering attorney, and public speaker who has won several awards for short fiction, including recognition in the Lorian Hemingway International Short Story Competition, and a silver medal from ForeWord magazine for Historical Fiction Book of the Year.

Her new novel is Heart of Lies.

For Flashlight Worthy, she named six great books about natural disasters. One title on the list:
Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883
by Simon Winchester

I've climbed on volcanoes in Costa Rica and in Indonesia, and still vividly remember the awesome spectacle of Mount St. Helen's explosion. Then one day my son the budding geologist comes home from school and tells me he's just learned that there's a huge volcano under Yellowstone that will someday destroy the continent, so now volcanoes have moved to the top of my list of scary phenomena. Add to that the eruption that recently shut down air travel in Europe, and I think it's time volcanoes started getting more attention.

Stylistically, this book reads like a cross between a lavish Michener novel and a first-rate thriller, with enough scientific information to satisfy the most erudite reader without boring a layperson. By the time the massive volcano explodes (resulting in deaths of over 40,000 people, mostly drowned in the resultant tsunamis) you'll find yourself dreading the powers that lurk beneath the surface of the earth, but you'll also gain respect for the resilience of the human spirit.
Read about another book on the list.

See Simon Winchester's favorite books on travel.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Charlotte Jacobs reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Charlotte Jacobs, author of Henry Kaplan and the Story of Hodgkin's Disease.

Her entry begins:
As a biographer, I tend to read lots of biographies and memoirs. One of my favorites, which I am re-reading, is My Own Country by Abraham Verghese. Many of your readers are familiar with his current novel and best-seller, Cutting for Stone, an exquisite saga of the type we rarely see today. Verghese is a gifted writer and storyteller whose talents span nonfiction and fiction.

My Own Country tells the story of a newly-trained infectious disease specialist who takes a position in Johnson City, Tennessee at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. We learn about AIDS as Verghese does through his patients and their families. The author captures the voice and spirit of the people of east Tennessee as he unfolds his experiences with them. The tale is as engrossing as a novel, except these people are or were real, and that makes the book even more compelling. Woven throughout are the issues of how it feels to be a foreign physician and how...[read on]
Among the early praise for Henry Kaplan and the Story of Hodgkin's Disease:
"This is an outstanding book. The story of Kaplan and Hodgkin's Disease is, indeed, the story of the transition from descriptive science and anecdotal care to evidence, trial-based clinical care and the scientific development of treatment. Dr. Jacobs has done medical history a huge service in capturing the people and the times, using a combination of interviews and experience in the field and at Stanford that would be impossible to duplicate."
—C. Norman Coleman, National Cancer Institutes, U.S. National Institutes of Health

"This is an engaging, sensitive portrait of a man and his mission. Dr. Jacobs describes the personal life and extraordinary professional accomplishments of Dr. Kaplan, chronicles the development of chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and integrated care, and relates the trials and tribulations that led to the 1970's National Cancer Act."
—Carlos Perez, Professor Emeritus, Washington University in St. Louis
Charlotte Jacobs, M.D., the Ben and A. Jess Shenson Professor of Medicine at Stanford University.

Learn more about Henry Kaplan and the Story of Hodgkin's Disease at the publisher's website.

Writers Read: Charlotte Jacobs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pg. 69: Lauren Belfer's "A Fierce Radiance"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: A Fierce Radiance by Lauren Belfer.

About the book, from the publisher:
From the New York Times bestselling author of City of Light comes a compelling, richly detailed tale of passion and intrigue set in New York City during the tumultuous early days of World War II.

Claire Shipley is a single mother haunted by the death of her young daughter and by her divorce years ago. She is also an ambitious photojournalist, and in the anxious days after Pearl Harbor, the talented Life magazine reporter finds herself on top of one of the nation's most important stories. In the bustling labs of New York City's renowned Rockefeller Institute, some of the country's brightest doctors and researchers are racing to find a cure that will save the lives of thousands of wounded American soldiers and countless others—a miraculous new drug they call penicillin. Little does Claire suspect how much the story will change her own life when the work leads to an intriguing romance.

Though Claire has always managed to keep herself separate from the subjects she covers, this story touches her deeply, stirring memories of her daughter's sudden illness and death—a loss that might have been prevented by this new "miracle drug." And there is James Stanton, the shy and brilliant physician who coordinates the institute's top secret research for the military. Drawn to this dedicated, attractive man and his work, Claire unexpectedly finds herself falling in love. But Claire isn't the only one interested in the secret development of this medicine. Her long-estranged father, Edward Rutherford, a self-made millionaire, understands just how profitable a new drug like penicillin could be. When a researcher at the institute dies under suspicious circumstances, the stakes become starkly clear: a murder has been committed to obtain these lucrative new drugs. With lives and a new love hanging in the balance, Claire will put herself at the center of danger to find a killer—no matter what price she may have to pay.

Lauren Belfer dazzled readers with her debut novel, City of Light, a New York Times notable book of the year. In this highly anticipated follow-up, she deftly captures the uncertainty and spirit, the dreams and hopes, of a nation at war. A sweeping tale of love and betrayal, intrigue and idealism, A Fierce Radiance is an ambitious and deeply engaging novel from an author of immense talent.
Read an excerpt from A Fierce Radiance, and learn more about the book and author at Lauren Belfer's website.

Writers Read: Lauren Belfer.

The Page 69 Test: A Fierce Radiance.

--Marshal Zeringue

Allen Barra's 6 favorite books

Critic, biographer, and sports columnist Allen Barra's latest book is Rickwood Field, A Century in America’s Oldest Ballpark.

He named his six favorite books for The Week magazine. One title on the list:
The Rise of American Democracy by Sean Wilentz

The best book by America’s greatest living historian lights a path from the Declaration of Independence to the first shots on Fort Sumter. “American democracy did not rise like the sun at its natural hour in history,” Wilentz writes. “Its often troubled ascent was the outcome of human conflicts, accommodations, and unforeseen events.” The outcome, he shows, was never certain.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Elise DeVido's "Taiwan's Buddhist Nuns"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Taiwan's Buddhist Nuns by Elise Anne DeVido.

About the book, from the publisher:
Explores the milieu of Taiwan’s Buddhist nuns, who have the greatest numbers in the Buddhist world and a prominent place in their own country.

Taiwan’s Buddhist nuns are as unique as they are noteworthy. Boasting the greatest number of Buddhist nuns of any country, Taiwan has a much larger number of nuns than monks. These women are well known and well regarded as dharma teachers and for the social service work that has made them a central part of Taiwan’s civil society. In this, the first English-language book exclusively devoted to the subject of Taiwanese women and Buddhism, Elise Anne DeVido introduces readers to Taiwan’s Buddhist nuns, but also looks at the larger question of how Taiwan’s Buddhism shapes and is shaped by women—mainly nuns but also laywomen, who, like their clerical sisters, flourish in that country. Providing a historical overview of Buddhist women in China and Taiwan, DeVido discusses various reasons for the vibrancy of Taiwan’s nuns’ orders. She introduces us to the nuns of the Buddhist Compassion–Relief Foundation (Ciji), as well as those of the Luminary Buddhist Institute. Discussing “Buddhism for the Human Realm,” DeVido asks whether this popular philosophy has encouraged and supported the singular strength of Taiwan’s Buddhist women.
Read an excerpt from Taiwan's Buddhist Nuns, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

Elise Anne DeVido is Assistant Professor of History at St. Bonaventure University.

The Page 99 Test: Taiwan's Buddhist Nuns.

--Marshal Zeringue

Nic Pizzolatto's "Galveston," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto.

The entry opens:
We've sold the movie option to a production company that's very enthusiastic about the work, so hopefully a movie will go forward. In my fanboy imagination, though, I suppose I'd fantasy cast something like this: Sam Peckinpah circa 1972 to direct. I of course would write the script. Starring Nick Nolte circa 1985 as Roy (I'd also take Warren Oates,'76), Natalie Portman circa 2002 as Rocky, Harvey Keitel as Sam Ptiko, Annabella Sciorra as Loraine, and, uh, Marisa Tomei as Carmen. Sure, why not.

Obviously Roy and Rocky are the two big roles, and you need a brutish, atavistic man to play Roy, an old-school tough guy possessing range, with a...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Nic Pizzolatto's website.

Writers Read: Nic Pizzolatto.

The Page 69 Test: Galveston.

My Book, The Movie: Galveston.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ten of the best nameless protagonists in literature

For the Guardian, John Mullan named ten of the best nameless protagonists in literature.

One novel on the list:
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

The African-American narrator of Ellison's postwar novel considers himself invisible, and the withholding of his name is a sign that he has no social identity. Ironically, having migrated from the south, he has become a political activist in New York, acquiring a "name" as a speech-maker. But his true self remains secret.
Read about another novel on the list.

Invisible Man
comes in second on the list of the 100 best last lines from novels; it is one of Joyce Hackett's top ten musical novels and one of Sam Munson's six best stoner novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Janni Lee Simner's "Thief Eyes"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Thief Eyes by Janni Lee Simner.

About the novel:
After her mother mysteriously disappears, sixteen-year-old Haley convinces her father to take her to Iceland, where her mother was last seen. There, amidst the ancient fissures and crevices of that volcanic island, Haley picks up a silver coin that entangles her in a spell cast by her ancestor Hallgerd, a sorceress intent on stealing another's life to escape her own.

To break the spell, Haley sets off on an epic adventure with gorgeous Ari, a boy with a dangerous side who appoints himself her protector. They soon learn that Hallgerd's spell and her mother's disappearance are connected to a chain of events that could unleash terrifying powers and consume the world. Haley must find a way to contain the growing fires of the spell—and her growing attraction to Ari.
Visit Janni Lee Simner's website and blog/journal.

Writers Read: Janni Lee Simner.

The Page 69 Test: Thief Eyes.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Lauren Belfer reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Lauren Belfer, author of City of Light and A Fierce Radiance.

Her entry begins:
I just finished What I Loved, by Siri Hustvedt. On the surface, this novel is a portrait of two families involved in art world in New York’s SoHo neighborhood, beginning in 1975 and continuing for over two decades. I lived in New York during that time, and I was fascinated to see the evolution of the neighborhood as the lives of these two families, the closest of friends, played out. But What I Loved is much more than a novel about the art world and about New York City. Beneath the surface, it’s a riveting suspense story that accumulates tiny, precise clues one by one by one, to...[read on]
Among the early praise for A Fierce Radiance:
"Lauren Belfer's story of love in the time of penicillin is enthralling. A Fierce Radiance shines with fascinating detail about a moment in American history we have mostly forgotten, when penicillin was new, miraculous, and in short supply. Belfer's powerful portrayal of how people are changed in pursuit of a miracle makes this book an especially compelling read."
--Nancy Horan, author of Loving Frank

"An engrossing and ambitious novel that vividly portrays a critical time in American history."
--Booklist, starred review

"Belfer's second novel (after acclaimed City of Light) follows the development of penicillin during World War II. This fulsome tale crackles with twists and rich, compelling characters struggling through. And it's a beautiful valentine to 1940s New York City. Lauren Belfer is a feeling person's Dan Brown! Great storytelling and worth the wait!."
--Eileen Charbonneau
Visit Lauren Belfer's website.

Writers Read: Lauren Belfer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Thomas Kessner's "The Flight of the Century"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: The Flight of the Century: Charles Lindbergh and the Rise of American Aviation by Thomas Kessner.

About the book, from the publisher:
In late May 1927 an inexperienced and unassuming 25-year-old Air Mail pilot from rural Minnesota stunned the world by making the first non-stop transatlantic flight. A spectacular feat of individual daring and collective technological accomplishment, Charles Lindbergh's flight from New York to Paris ushered in America's age of commercial aviation.

In The Flight of the Century, Thomas Kessner takes a fresh look at one of America's greatest moments, explaining how what was essentially a publicity stunt became a turning point in history. He vividly recreates the flight itself and the euphoric reaction to it on both sides of the Atlantic, and argues that Lindbergh's amazing feat occurred just when the world--still struggling with the disillusionment of WWI--desperately needed a hero to restore a sense of optimism and innocence. Kessner also shows how new forms of mass media made Lindbergh into the most famous international celebrity of his time, casting him in the role of a humble yet dashing American hero of rural origins and traditional values. Much has been made of Lindbergh's personal integrity and his refusal to cash in on his fame. But Kessner reveals that Lindbergh was closely allied with, and managed by, a group of powerful businessmen--Harry Guggenheim, Dwight Morrow, and Henry Breckenridge chief among them--who sought to exploit aviation for mass transport and massive profits. Their efforts paid off as commercial air traffic soared from 6,000 passengers in 1926 to 173,000 passengers in 1929. Kessner's book is the first to fully explore Lindbergh's central role in promoting the airline industry--the rise of which has influenced everything from where we live to how we wage war and do business.

The Flight of the Century sheds new light on one of America's fascinatingly enigmatic heroes and most transformative moments.
Learn more about The Flight of the Century at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Flight of the Century.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Pg. 69: Gregg Hurwitz's "They're Watching"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: They're Watching by Gregg Hurwitz.

About the book, from the publisher:
Patrick Davis is a man with troubles. First his Hollywood dreams crumble and then his storybook marriage hits a snag. Now, DVDs start being delivered to his house—DVDs which show that someone is watching him and his wife, that the two of them are being stalked and recorded by cameras hidden in their house. Then the e-mails start, and someone offers to fix everything, to take the mess his life has become and make it all right. Patrick figures it’s the offer of a lifetime.

But Patrick couldn’t be more wrong. With every step he falls deeper into a web of intrigue that threatens everything he values in this world. Before he knows it, he’s in and in deep—and his only escape is to outwit and outplay his unseen opponents at their own game.
Learn more about the book and author at Gregg Hurwitz's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: The Crime Writer.

The Page 69 Test: Trust No One.

Writers Read: Gregg Hurwitz.

The Page 69 Test: They're Watching.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five best novels about success

Tad Friend is the author of "Cheerful Money: Me, My Family, and the Last Days of Wasp Splendor.

For the Wall Street Journal he named a five best list of novels on success.

One title on the list:
Of Human Bondage
by W. Somerset Maugham

A wrenching tale overdue for a revival. Philip Carey is a prickly, club-footed orphan whose youth in a rural vicarage is sustained by dreams of greatness—he's a Dickens protagonist with no waiting benefactors. Philip studies in Heidelberg and learns that God is dead. He paints in Paris but learns he lacks talent (God is still dead). He trains as a doctor in London and falls for a waitress named Mildred, whose indifference exerts an uncanny hold on him; she ruins him emotionally and financially (God's a goner, all right). Yet Mildred, too, engages our pity as she becomes a streetwalker and sinks to her doom; in Maugham's hands her shabby cruelties become piercingly sad. Philip, stripped of his hope and even his home, surfaces at last as a doctor in prosaic Dorset, engaged to the motherly daughter of a lower-class friend. He is a success not as he'd imagined but as the first existential hero. Maugham writes: "Life was not so horrible if it was meaningless, and he faced it with a strange sense of power."
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Mark Geiger's "Financial Fraud and Guerrilla Violence in Missouri's Civil War"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Financial Fraud and Guerrilla Violence in Missouri's Civil War, 1861-1865 by Mark W. Geiger.

About the book, from the publisher:
This highly original work explores a previously unknown financial conspiracy at the start of the American Civil War. The book explains the reasons for the puzzling intensity of Missouri’s guerrilla conflict, and for the state’s anomalous experience in Reconstruction. In the broader history of the war, the book reveals for the first time the nature of military mobilization in the antebellum United States.
View a video trailer for Financial Fraud and Guerrilla Violence in Missouri's Civil War, 1861-1865, and learn more about the book at the Yale University Press website.

Mark W. Geiger is a postdoctoral fellow at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.

The Page 99 Test: Financial Fraud and Guerrilla Violence in Missouri's Civil War, 1861-1865.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What is Cynthia Robinson reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Cynthia Robinson, author of The Dog Park Club.

Her entry begins:
Momento Mori by Muriel Spark

There’s a lot of buzz about Muriel Spark right now. Her biography, by Martin Stannard, has just come out and that’s what turned me on to her—I caught a review of it in the New York Times.

Once I learned a bit about Ms. Spark—she was imperious, tempestuous, brilliant, a documented speed-freak and a purported lesbian—I had to read her.

I went to a local bookstore intending to buy The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Instead, I came away with Momento Mori. Two reasons: The Tennessee Williams endorsement on the cover. And the book’s subject.

It’s about a set of aged, 1950s British aristocrats being terrorized by an anonymous phone caller who keeps reminding them that they must die.

How germane, I thought, in this time when...[read on]
Cynthia Robinson lives in San Francisco, where she works as a part-time advertising shill, and a full-time raconteur.

Her novel The Dog Park Club is a noir comedy. It’s the first installment in a series about the reluctant adventures of Max Bravo—an opera singer whose real life adventures are even more dramatic than his stage roles. The sequel, The Barbary Galahad, is coming in 2011.

Read an excerpt from The Dog Park Club, and learn more about the book and author at Cynthia Robinson's website.

Writers Read: Cynthia Robinson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Books that made a difference to Isla Fisher

Last summer Isla Fisher (Confessions of a Shopaholic) named a list of books that made a difference in her life for O, The Oprah Magazine.

One novel on the list:
by George Orwell

I read this book when I was 16; it was one of the most terrifying books I'd ever read, and it's stayed in my mind ever since. Orwell presents an imaginary future where a totalitarian state controls everything. The story is told by Winston, a man living in London under a dictator called Big Brother. Winston is a loyal party member who begins breaking the law: He falls in love, smokes, commits "thoughtcrime" by writing in his diary. It's frightening—the control that Big Brother has over everyone, the social dangers of political authority. It makes me think of surveillance cameras, particularly in London. We don't live in a totalitarian state, obviously, but it's scary to realize how easily a government can tip toward that.
Read about another book on Fisher's list.

Nineteen Eighty-four is #7 on a list of the 100 best last lines from novels. The book made Daniel Johnson's five best list of books about Cold War culture, Robert Collins' top ten list of dystopian novels, Gemma Malley's top 10 list of dystopian novels for teenagers, is one of Norman Tebbit's six best books and one of the top ten works of literature according to Stephen King. It appears on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best rats in literature and ten of the best horrid children in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Blake Crouch's "Snowbound"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Snowbound by Blake Crouch.

About the book, from the publisher:
For Will Innis and his daughter, Devlin, the loss was catastrophic. Will’s wife, Devlin’s mother, vanished one night during an electrical storm on a lonely desert highway and, suspected of her death, Will took his daughter and fled. Then one night, a hardedged FBI agent appears on their doorstep and says, “I know you’re innocent, because Rachael wasn’t the first…or the last.”
Learn more about the book and author at Blake Crouch's website.

Read an excerpt from Snowbound.

The Page 69 Test: Abandon.

Writers Read: Blake Crouch.

The Page 69 Test: Snowbound.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hope Tarr's "The Tutor," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: The Tutor by Hope Tarr.

The entry begins:
Period pieces adapted to film are my personal favorite. There’s something about imagining oneself in a far away, and presumably more genteel time, that screams romance, glamour, and yes, escape.

Flash backward in time to late 19th century Scotland. Victoria is still queen, the English empire is still sufficiently vast that the sun never sets on all of it, and technological advances such as the telephone and telegraph are finding their way into middle and upper class daily life.

The hero of The Tutor, Ralph Sylvester (maybe his real name, probably not) holds court as a scalawag turned semi-respectable private secretary in the Scottish castle now owned by his friend and former partner-in-crime. Fortunately for the sensually curious and newly engaged Lady Beatrice Lindsey, Ralph’s…skills extend well beyond dictation and telegraph wiring. When Bea makes Ralph an indecent proposal he can’t refuse, to teach her everything he knows about sex in preparation for her wedding night, seven sexy days and nights ensue.

Ralph is inspired, dare I say modeled, on fair-haired Aussie TV and film actor, Simon Baker. I’ve followed Simon Baker’s…career for some time now. My fan-ship started late in the game when Baker starred as Nick Fallon on the short-lived CBS drama series, The Guardian (2001-2004). A recovering coke-addicted attorney, Simon’s Fallon found redemption through child advocacy despite being thwarted in love. I so wanted to help him out. With the love part, I mean.

But it’s Baker’s...[read on]
Look for The Tutor in bookstores now, and visit Hope Tarr's website and blog.

Also see Hope Tarr's novella, “Tomorrow’s Destiny” in a Harlequin Victorian Christmas anthology with bestselling authors, Betina Krahn and Jacquie D’Alessandro.

My Book, The Movie: Twelve Nights.

My Book, The Movie: The Tutor.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Brian Loveman's "No Higher Law"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: No Higher Law: American Foreign Policy and the Western Hemisphere since 1776 by Brian Loveman.

About the book, from the publisher:
Dismantling the myths of United States isolationism and exceptionalism, No Higher Law is a sweeping history and analysis of American policy toward the Western Hemisphere and Latin America from independence to the present. From the nations earliest days, argues Brian Loveman, U.S. leaders viewed and treated Latin America as a crucible in which to test foreign policy and from which to expand American global influence. Loveman demonstrates how the main doctrines and policies adopted for the Western Hemisphere were exported, with modifications, to other world regions as the United States pursued its self-defined global mission.

No Higher Law reveals the interplay of domestic politics and international circumstances that shaped key American foreign policies from U.S. independence to the first decade of the twenty-first century. This revisionist view considers the impact of slavery, racism, ethnic cleansing against Native Americans, debates on immigration, trade and tariffs, the historical growth of the military-industrial complex, and political corruption as critical dimensions of American politics and foreign policy.

Concluding with an epilogue on the Obama administration, Loveman weaves together the complex history of U.S. domestic politics and foreign policy to achieve a broader historical understanding of American expansionism, militarism, imperialism, and global ambitions as well as novel insights into the challenges facing American policymakers at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
Learn more about No Higher Law at the publisher's website, and visit Brian Loveman's website for access to key documents and bibliographical sources mentioned in No Higher Law.

The Page 99 Test: No Higher Law.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five best books on appeasement

Bruce Bawer is the author of Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of books about appeasement.

One title on the list:
The Tyranny of Guilt
by Pascal Bruckner

It's clear why democracies appeased Hitler and Stalin—they preferred making concessions to waging war. But why do current European leaders kowtow to tinhorn tyrants abroad and to the bullies who run European Muslim communities, none of whom wield the kind of power that those dictators did? In this eloquent book—virtually every line of which is an aphorism worth quoting—French intellectual Pascal Bruckner finds the answer to today's appeasement largely in yesterday's: remorse over Europe's failure to prevent world war, the Shoah and the Gulag (not to mention remorse over colonialism) has led Europeans to view their civilization as intrinsically destructive and thus not worth defending. But by choosing guilt over responsibility, Bruckner argues, they're only repeating past errors. The lesson of the 20th century, he says, isn't that peace is worth any price; it's that "democracies have to be powerfully armed in order not to be defeated by the forces of tyranny."
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Janni Lee Simner reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Janni Lee Simner. Her first novel for teens, Bones of Faerie, is a post-apocalyptic fairy tale, set after the war with Faerie has destroyed much of the world. Her second, Thief Eyes, is a contemporary fantasy based on the Icelandic sagas, Njal's Saga in particular.

One book tagged in her Writers Read entry:
Laini Taylor's Blackbringer--with its miniature winged fairies and talking crows--is steeped in a sort of whimsy that doesn't always work for me, but in this case, that whimsy was bound up in worldbuilding that was so original and dark and textured that it won me over.

In Blackbringer world is a tapestry woven by the dreams of djinns. Only the tapestry is fraying--as tapestries do over time--letting in darkness and an ancient enemy who seeks the unmaking of all things. Worse, the memory that the tapestry is even real has slipped from the world--as such memories do--leaving most creatures unaware their existence is imperiled. So it falls to the (miniature, winged) fairy Magpie Windwitch--the first non-djinn with the ability to reweave the tattered threads--to set things right. And she does, and if as readers we never doubted it, that doesn't change the fact that the tapestry feels so real that it's hard not to look for its hidden threads behind the workings of our own world when...[read on]
Among the early praise for Thief Eyes:
"Adopting figures from Icelandic sagas, Simner (Bones of Faerie) creates a captivating modern odyssey ... Incorporating references to Star Wars and Norse myth alike, Simner is poetic whether writing about magic and sorcery or simply getting inside her characters' heads."
Publishers Weekly

"Simner's second book, a fantasy set in modern times but rooted in ancient Icelandic sagas, has great reader appeal. The plot is compelling—a page-turner ... The climax is a humdinger, and while the resolution is bittersweet, it makes sense and is consistent with the magical rules of the book. There's some innocent romance to pique reader interest, while dark magic will attract readers who enjoy touches of Norse mythology in their fantasy reading."

"Simner skillfully weaves Haley and Ari’s modern emotional struggles into the ancient saga and enlivens the story with an intriguing cast of characters from the original tale. With its urgent pace and unique setting, this offering from the author of Bones of Faerie (2009) will stay with readers."
Visit Janni Lee Simner's website and blog/journal.

Writers Read: Janni Lee Simner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pg. 69: Joanne Lessner's "Pandora's Bottle"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Pandora's Bottle by Joanne Sydney Lessner.

About the book, from the publisher:
What happens when you pin all your hopes on a single event—and it all goes terribly wrong? When that event is the uncorking of a fabled bottle of 1787 Château Lafite once owned by Thomas Jefferson, the repercussions are emotional, financial, theatrical and, in every way, unexpected. In this tale of hubris and redemption, aspiration and perseverance, first-time novelist Joanne Sydney Lessner provides a provocative glimpse into the world of fine wine, from the whirl of New York City haute cuisine to the historic vineyards of the Hudson Valley.

When Sy Hampton purchases this legendary bottle—which, through a quirk of preservation, may yet be drinkable—he shocks the wine community by choosing to uncork it privately with a female companion, rather than at a special public event. Sy intends the evening to be a quiet reassertion of his virility in the throes of middle age, but for ambitious restaurateur Annette Lecocq, the event offers an irresistible opportunity for much-needed publicity. Their competing agendas are not the only things to collide on the fateful night. Caught in the crossfire are Tripp Macgregor, a waiter on the verge of his long-awaited Broadway debut, and Valentina D’Ambrosio, the beautiful but unworldly working girl from Brooklyn Sy hopes to impress.
Visit Joanne Sydney Lessner's website.

Writers Read: Joanne Lessner.

The Page 69 Test: Pandora's Bottle.

--Marshal Zeringue

What Lindsay Lohan should read in jail

Avi Steinberg, a former prison librarian, is the author of the forthcoming book, Running the Books, due out in November.

For The Daily Beast, he named a brief list of books Lindsay Lohan should read while serving her jail sentence. One book on the list:
Super Sad True Love Story
by Gary Shteyngart

We live in a world where a grainy YouTube clip of Lindsay Lohan shopping for books draws a bigger audience than Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin, this year’s National Book Award Winner. Lohan’s personal life seems frightening close to the consumerist dystopia imagined in Gary Shteyngart’s new novel, Super Sad True Love Story. In this painfully funny satire, set in the not-too-distant future, the word “Media” has come to replace “cool,” as in, “that guy is so Media.” Often these words are spoken by Eunice Park, a clever 24-year-old woman who communicates in a constant flow of hip abbreviations, whose beauty belies deep family pain, and who is described as having (literally) “majored in Images, with a minor in Assertiveness.” There is, in short, a good deal of Lindsay in Eunice. If Lohan wants to come to grips with the culture that has created her, and which she has helped create, she should read this book in the quiet of her cell. In other words, before she’s thrust back out into the noise and the cameras.

There are also some books Lohan should not read. She shouldn’t read Sylvia Plath, for example. After doing a photo shoot in which Lohan posed as Marilyn Monroe, one of her heroes, she may be tempted to read, assuming she can get an advanced galley, the forthcoming Fragments, a collection of Marilyn’s personal writings, letters, poems. This is going to be an interesting book, no doubt. With the right perspective, it may even be helpful to Ms. Lohan. But it’s worth skipping. Any time she feels the impulse to read about Marilyn, my advice is this: take out a prison-issue bendy pen and write an old-fashioned letter to Meryl Streep. Whatever reply she gets back will be worth hundreds of books.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Thomas L. Carson's "Lying and Deception"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Lying and Deception: Theory and Practice by Thomas L. Carson.

About the book, from the publisher:
Thomas Carson offers the most comprehensive and up-to-date investigation of moral and conceptual questions about lying and deception. Part I addresses conceptual questions and offers definitions of lying, deception, and related concepts such as withholding information, "keeping someone in the dark," and "half truths." Part II deals with questions in ethical theory. Carson argues that standard debates about lying and deception between act-utilitarians and their critics are inconclusive because they rest on appeals to disputed moral intuitions. He defends a version of the golden rule and a theory of moral reasoning. His theory implies that there is a moral presumption against lying and deception that causes harm -- a presumption at least as strong as that endorsed by act-utilitarianism. He uses this theory to justify his claims about the issues he addresses in Part III: deception and withholding information in sales, deception in advertising, bluffing in negotiations, the duties of professionals to inform clients, lying and deception by leaders as a pretext for fighting wars (with special attention to the case of Bush and Cheney), and lying and deception about history (with special attention to the Holocaust), and cases of distorting the historical record by telling half-truths. The book concludes with a qualified defence of the view that honesty is a virtue.
See Thomas L. Carson's Loyola University webpage for more information about him and to see a list of some of his favorite books.

Learn more about Lying and Deception at the Oxford University Press website.

Writers Read: Thomas L. Carson.

The Page 99 Test: Lying and Deception

--Marshal Zeringue