Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What is Donna VanLiere reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Donna VanLiere, author of the recent book, The Christmas Journey, a modern retelling of the Nativity with brilliant watercolor paintings inside.

Her entry begins:
As usual, I am reading several books at one time (what is that about my personality?). Azar Nafisi's memoir, Reading Lolita in Tehran is not only the author's own story of life in Iran but also a book of social history. For two years Nafisi gathered seven of her female students (she taught at a university in Tehran) to secretly read forbidden Western classics like The Great Gatsby and Lolita. I was drawn to this work because, while Iran's leaders were calling America The Great Satan, Nafisi's life and the lives of her students were becoming intertwined with the ones they were reading about in the pages of each "forbidden" novel.

I'm also reading...[read on]
About The Christmas Journey:
The eighty-mile journey of a common carpenter and a simple peasant girl is one of the most powerful stories in history. As books go out of print and stories fade from memory, the journey of Joseph and Mary and her delivery inside a common barn continues to bless and inspire hope in people around the world.

Accompanied by moving and beautifully rendered original watercolor illustrations throughout, Donna's signature voice retelling shows that the story of the Nativity is alive in our modern world.
Donna VanLiere is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Christmas Hope books and Angels of Morgan Hill.

Visit Donna VanLiere's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Christmas Secret.

The Page 69 Test: Finding Grace.

Writers Read: Donna VanLiere.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Karl Gerth's "As China Goes, So Goes the World"

Today's feature at the Page 99 Test: As China Goes, So Goes the World: How Chinese Consumers Are Transforming Everything by Karl Gerth.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this revelatory examination of the most overlooked force that is changing the face of China, the Oxford historian and scholar of modern Asia Karl Gerth shows that as the Chinese consumer goes, so goes the world. While Americans and Europeans have become increasingly worried about China’s competition for manufacturing jobs and energy resources, they have overlooked an even bigger story: China’s rapid development of an American-style consumer culture, which is revolutionizing the lives of hundreds of millions of Chinese and has the potential to reshape the world.

This change is already well under way. China has become the world’s largest consumer of everything from automobiles to beer and has begun to adopt such consumer habits as living in large single-occupancy homes, shopping in gigantic malls, and eating meat-based diets served in fast-food outlets. Even rural Chinese, long the laggards of consumerism, have been buying refrigerators, televisions, mobile phones, and larger houses in unprecedented numbers. As China Goes, So Goes the World reveals why we should all care about the everyday choices made by ordinary Chinese. Taken together, these seemingly small changes are deeper and more profound than the headline-grabbing stories on military budgets, carbon emissions, or trade disputes.
Read more about As China Goes, So Goes the World at the publisher's website, and visit Karl Gerth's Oxford University homepage.

The Page 99 Test: As China Goes, So Goes the World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Beth Bernobich's "Passion Play"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Passion Play by Beth Bernobich.

About the book, from the publisher:
Ilse Zhalina is the daughter of one of Melnek’s more prominent merchants. She has lived most of her life surrounded by the trappings of wealth and privilege. Many would consider hers a happy lot. But there are dark secrets, especially in the best of families. Ilse has learned that for a young woman of her beauty and social station, to be passive and silent is the best way to survive.

When Ilse finally meets the older man she is to marry, she realizes he is far crueler and more deadly than her father could ever be. Ilse chooses to run. This choice will change her life forever.

And it will lead her to Raul Kosenmark, master of one of the land’s most notorious pleasure houses…and who is, as Ilse discovers, a puppetmaster of a different sort altogether. Ilse discovers a world where every pleasure has a price and there are levels of magic and intrigue she once thought unimaginable. She also finds the other half of her heart.
Read an excerpt from Passion Play, and learn more about the book and author at Beth Bernobich's website.

The Page 69 Test: Passion Play.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five best books about the secrets of espionage

Jonathan Miles is the author, most recently, of The Dangerous Otto Katz: The Many Lives of a Soviet Spy.

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of books on the secrets of espionage. One title on the list:
Anthony Blunt: His Lives
by Miranda Carter (2001)

A heroic attempt to sort the man from myth, misinformation and self-serving memoirs. Miranda Carter ably comprehends the complexity of the person behind Anthony Blunt's masks: scholar, aesthete, Soviet spy. Exploring characteristics that bedevil many high-flying traitors—self-absorption or the bored intellectual's capacity to become intoxicated by the challenge of deception—"Anthony Blunt: His Lives" is a biography in the fullest sense of the word. Spy fans might question the attention Carter devotes to Blunt's work as an art historian, but this is an important element in the excoriation of the lives of a double-dealer who penetrated to the Royal heartlands of the British establishment. The book demonstrates that the warmth of Blunt's aesthetic enthusiasms and sexual excesses proved unable to thaw his glacial, traitorous nature.
Read about another book on Miles's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 29, 2010

What is Lisa Rogak reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Lisa Rogak, author of more than forty books including Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King.

From her entry:
I'm currently working as co-author on a book along the lines of Marley & Me and Dewey the Library Cat, so obviously I want to read other similar tear-jerky animal & human memoirs. It helps that I'm just a sucker for these kinds of books.

I just finished Homer's Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned about Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat by Gwen Cooper, just out in paperback, which I loved. And awhile back I devoured...[read on]
Among the praise for Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King:
"Haunted Heart is a thoroughly respectful overview of King's life, and a great starter biography for new fans."
--Boston Globe

"The biographer is smart in sticking with the man himself. She looks at what scares King enough that he's been able to keep readers entertained for thirty years.... Rogak does an admirable job pulling together materials from disparate sources into a readable whole."
--Bangor Daily News

“Rogak… has pieced together King’s sometimes erratic life scrupulously into a clean, swift read.”
--Times Online (U.K.)
Lisa Rogak is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 40 books. Her works have been mentioned in the Wall Street Journal, Parade Magazine, USA Today, Family Circle, and hundreds of other publications, and she has appeared on Oprah.

Rogak’s book, Michelle Obama In Her Own Words, the companion volume to Barack Obama In His Own Words, was published in March 2009, and was a main selection at the Black Expressions Book Club.

Visit Lisa Rogak's website.

Writers Read: Lisa Rogak.

--Marshal Zeringue

The ten best illustrated children’s books

The Observer's Kate Kellaway named the finest picture books for youngsters for her newspaper.

One title on the list:
Babar at Home
Jean de Brunhoff (1938)

Babar helped launch picture books as a genre. His green suit is the most chic in literature (de Brunhoff was French and knew about clothes). But Babar is also a model father (no slapping from him). He is tenderly hands-on – or trunk-on – with his triplets – Pom, Flora and Alexander – and plays games with them in the nursery. He is the most human of elephants, concluding to his wife after a trying day which included saving Pom from a hungry crocodile: “Truly, it is not easy to bring up children… but aren’t they worth it!”
Read about another book on the list.

Also see Jim Bob's top ten illustrated books for adults.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: Rachel Aaron & Lettie

Today's featured duo at Coffee with a Canine: Rachel Aaron and Lettie.

Aaron, on how Lettie came into her home:
Lettie was a rescue dog from Athens Canine Rescue here in GA. She spent the first year of her life as a stray, which was probably where she acquired her taste for lizards. She was rescued by a family who took her to the vet and got her spayed and up to date on vaccinations only to then have their landlord tell them they couldn't keep a dog on the property. They surrendered Lettie to the tragically overcrowded Animal Control office in Athens hoping she would be adopted. But because there was no room in the inn and she was an owner surrender, Lettie was scheduled to be euthanized that same day. Fortunately for all involved, her future foster mother had come by the shelter on an unrelated errand that day. She stopped by to look at the adoptable dogs, saw Lettie, and couldn't stand to think of such a sweet, adorable dog being killed. She took her home that day and put her into the Athens Canine Rescue network where I found her a few weeks later. We'd actually...[read on]
Rachel Aaron is the author of The Spirit Thief and all the other Eli books forthcoming from Orbit. She lives in Athens, GA, (which, she always stresses, is not really Georgia, but a small island nation all its own adrift in the vast sea of East Georgia farmland) in a seventies house of the future with her husband, her son, and Lettie, a small, brown dog.

Read the first two chapters of The Spirit Thief, Book 1 in the Legend of Eli Monpress, at Rachel Aaron's website. Book 2, The Spirit Rebellion, is out now from Orbit books, and Book 3, The Spirit Eater, launches December 1st.

The Page 69 Test: The Spirit Thief.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Rachel Aaron and Lettie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Pauline Maier's "Ratification"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788 by Pauline Maier.

About the book, from the publisher:
When the delegates left the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in September 1787, the new Constitution they had written was no more than a proposal. Elected conventions in at least nine of the thirteen states would have to ratify it before it could take effect. There was reason to doubt whether that would happen. The document we revere today as the foundation of our country's laws, the cornerstone of our legal system, was hotly disputed at the time. Some Americans denounced the Constitution for threatening the liberty that Americans had won at great cost in the Revolutionary War. One group of fiercely patriotic opponents even burned the document in a raucous public demonstration on the Fourth of July.

In this splendid new history, Pauline Maier tells the dramatic story of the yearlong battle over ratification that brought such famous founders as Washington, Hamilton, Madison, Jay, and Henry together with less well-known Americans who sometimes eloquently and always passionately expressed their hopes and fears for their new country. Men argued in taverns and coffeehouses; women joined the debate in their parlors; broadsides and newspaper stories advocated various points of view and excoriated others. In small towns and counties across the country people read the document carefully and knew it well. Americans seized the opportunity to play a role in shaping the new nation. Then the ratifying conventions chosen by "We the People" scrutinized and debated the Constitution clause by clause.

Although many books have been written about the Constitutional Convention, this is the first major history of ratification. It draws on a vast new collection of documents and tells the story with masterful attention to detail in a dynamic narrative. Each state's experience was different, and Maier gives each its due even as she focuses on the four critical states of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Virginia, and New York, whose approval of the Constitution was crucial to its success.

The New Yorker Gilbert Livingston called his participation in the ratification convention the greatest transaction of his life. The hundreds of delegates to the ratifying conventions took their responsibility seriously, and their careful inspection of the Constitution can tell us much today about a document whose meaning continues to be subject to interpretation. Ratification is the story of the founding drama of our nation, superbly told in a history that transports readers back more than two centuries to reveal the convictions and aspirations on which our country was built.
Browse inside Ratification, and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

Pauline Maier is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of American History at M.I.T. She received her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1968. She is the author of several books and textbooks on American history, including From Resistance to Revolution: Colonial Radicals and the Development of American Opposition to Britain, 1765-1776, The Old Revolutionaries: Political Lives in the Age of Samuel Adams, and American Scripture, which was on the New York Times Book Review "Editor's Choice" list of the best 11 books of 1997 and a finalist in General Nonfiction for the National Book Critics' Circle Award.

The Page 99 Test: Ratification.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Katia Lief's "Next Time You See Me," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Next Time You See Me by Katia Lief.

The entry begins:
Next Time You See Me is the second in a series of suspense novels beginning with You Are Next, in which two strong characters, Karin Schaeffer and Mac MacLeary, battle evil and also come together romantically. Karin is the emotional heart of the series. She’s a damaged, impulsive, restless former cop whose combination of training and fearlessness draws her to danger; she’s also a strong, resilient, loving woman who feels perhaps too deeply. Tall and lean, with the ability to look plain or beautiful, and the capacity for a broad range of emotion, Hilary Swank would make a perfect Karin Schaeffer.

And Matt Damon would make her pitch-perfect counterpart as Mac MacLeary, whose strength and persistence help Karin save herself in You Are Next, and whose love shows her that renewed life after a terrible loss is possible. Matt’s quiet handsomeness and Hilary’s quirky beauty would create sparks on screen. They’re both excellent actors with a palpable presence; they’re both...[read on]
Read an excerpt from Next Time You See Me and view the trailer.

Visit Katia Lief's website.

Writers Read: Katia Lief.

The Page 69 Test: Next Time You See Me.

My Book, The Movie: Next Time You See Me.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Don Bruns' "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Don't Sweat the Small Stuff by Don Bruns.

About the book, from the publisher:
It’s official: stumbling, bumbling James Lessor and Skip Moore are licensed private investigators. Now, that’s some scary stuff. It could take time to get More or Less Investigations off the ground, so James takes a job with a traveling carnival show. But this show has a dubious reputation, having had a string of accidents and at least one death in the past year.

When they’re hired to investigate what’s caused the carnival chaos, James and Skip set into motion a dizzying, roller coaster chain of events. After a terrifying trip on the Dragon Tail ride, a not-so-fun dust-up in Freddy’s Fun House, and a host of threats, James and Skip realize they’ll get anything but cooperation from this cantankerous cast of carnies.

But when a carnival worker is murdered, James and Skip will have to act fast . . . because they might be next in line. For James and Skip, the only thing sweeter than the smell of corndogs and fried dough will be the sweet smell of success—but in this case, ‘success’ means getting out alive.
Learn more about the book and author at Don Bruns' website.

The Page 99 Test: Stuff to Die For.

My Book, The Movie: Stuff Dreams Are Made Of.

The Page 69 Test: Stuff to Spy For.

The Page 69 Test: Don't Sweat the Small Stuff.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best fishing trips in literature

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

One book on the list:
The Human Stain by Philip Roth

Roth's novel ends with a fishing episode that is as far from philosophic serenity as you can get. Zuckerman finds Les Farley, whom he knows to be a killer, ice fishing on a secluded New England lake. On the ice next to him lies the ice-augur, his murderously sharp cutting tool. "And now you know my secret spot ... You know everything ... But you won't tell nobody, will you?"
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Gary Corby reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Gary Corby, author of the debut novel The Pericles Commission.

His entry begins:
I usually have several books going at once.

The Naked Olympics by Tony Perrottet. It's a short and fascinating account of the ancient Olympics, as it really happened. Really it's a series of anecdotes. This counts as book research, because the third book in my series is set at the Olympics of 460BC. It's so nice when work can be...[read on]
Among the early praise for The Pericles Commission:
...Moves along at a good clip, even borrowing some tropes from the noir subgenre...Corby draws the murder and many of his characters from historical documents, lending that much more believability to the story.
--Library Journal

Those who like their historicals with a touch of humor will welcome Australian author Corby's promising debut, set in fifth-century B.C.E. Greece. When the arrow-pierced body of Ephialtes, the main force behind democratic reform in Athens, literally falls at the feet of Nicolaos, a sculptor's son expected to follow in his father's footsteps, fate hands Nicolaos another career. Ephialtes's politician friend, Pericles, who appears on the scene moments after the murder, is impressed enough by Nicolaos's preliminary conclusions to hire him to solve the crime. Members of the Areopagus, the city's ruling council, had the most to lose from Ephialtes's policies, but the neophyte detective finds that not even his exalted employer is above suspicion. The bodies pile up as the investigation continues, leading to a dramatic climax in which Nicolaos's survival hinges on his cracking the mystery. Corby displays a real gift for pacing and plotting.
--Publishers Weekly, starred review
Read more about The Pericles Commission at the publisher's website.

Visit Gary Corby's blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Pericles Commission.

Writers Read: Gary Corby.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pg. 99: Duncan Kelly's "The Propriety of Liberty"

This weekend's feature at the Page 99 Test: The Propriety of Liberty: Persons, Passions, and Judgement in Modern Political Thought by Duncan Kelly.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this book, Duncan Kelly excavates, from the history of modern political thought, a largely forgotten claim about liberty as a form of propriety. By rethinking the intellectual and historical foundations of modern accounts of freedom, he brings into focus how this major vision of liberty developed between the seventeenth and the nineteenth centuries.

In his framework, celebrated political writers, including John Locke, Montesquieu, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, and Thomas Hill Green pursue the claim that freedom is best understood as a form of responsible agency or propriety, and they do so by reconciling key moral and philosophical claims with classical and contemporary political theory. Their approach broadly assumes that only those persons who appropriately regulate their conduct can be thought of as free and responsible. At the same time, however, they recognize that such internal forms of self-propriety must be judged within the wider context of social and political life. Kelly shows how the intellectual and practical demands of such a synthesis require these great writers to consider freedom as part of a broader set of arguments about the nature of personhood, the potentially irrational impact of the passions, and the obstinate problems of individual and political judgement. By exploring these relationships, The Propriety of Liberty not only revises the intellectual history of modern political thought, but also sheds light on contemporary debates about freedom and agency.
Read an excerpt from The Propriety of Liberty, and learn more about the book at the Princeton University Press website.

Duncan Kelly is a University Senior Lecturer in Political Theory in the Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge.

The Page 99 Test: The Propriety of Liberty.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books on the rise and fall of America

Patrick Porter is a Senior Lecturer in the Defence Studies Department. His first book is Military Orientalism: Eastern War through Western Eyes.

With Daisy Banks at FiveBooks, he discussed his top books on the rise and fall of America. One of the titles:
A Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration, and the Cold War by Melvyn P Leffler

Tell me about Melvyn Leffler’s book
– A Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration, and the Cold War.

This book is really going back to the seeds of the Cold War and what Leffler sees as the tragedy of the Cold War. He asks the very important question: was the Cold War actually avoidable? He looks at whether there were moments between 1946 and the early 50s when we could have stepped back from the brink and had some kind of modus vivendi with the Soviet Union instead of having this confrontation.

Leffler, as a revisionist historian, finds some of the seeds of the conflict in the evolving world view of the Truman administration, where America’s new sense of its own relative power in the world, mixed with a sense of Messianic crusading, culminated in the Truman Doctrine in 1947. Leffler asks the question, that as tyrannical and dangerous as Stalin was in his own region, was he ultimately an old power tsar who could be accommodated with classical spheres of influence rather than having a global struggle? He tests out this idea that the revolutionary tyrant at home actually was a tsar abroad and could be lived with, and that Stalin, in a very cold and calculating way, was someone you could do business with.

This particularly centres in the debate about whether or not to commit to containing Communism everywhere all the time, and also how realistic it was that America and the Soviet Union could have negotiated a mutual withdrawal from Germany and left a buffer zone between them.

This, of course, throws up lots of moral issues about whether America was prepared to operate like that.

Oh it does, and part of the difficulty of foreign policy is that you have to hold your nose and compromise with all sorts of regimes. The Allies had, after all, been dealing with Stalin during World War II from 1941, in order to defeat something that we thought was even worse – Hitler. So foreign policy is difficult because it involves that moral compromise. Leffler poses the question whether dealing with and accommodating Stalin would have been better for the world than this terrifying new conflict with the potential for World War III, and, with catastrophic ventures like the Afghan War, Vietnam, Cambodia and Chile, how the trillions of dollars that America sunk into it could have been spent on more productive things. So the morality question is a very interesting one and very difficult. Sometimes the most immoral thing you can do as a great power is be at war with other great powers, and it is better to compromise around that with a negotiated and imperfect peace.

Do you begin to see this time as the fall of America?

In a way I do, because it takes on a role as the guardian of world order that ultimately is exhausting, although in some ways it is the making of America. It emerges from World War II as the biggest power, the biggest financier and creditor, the centre of dynamism and intellectual achievement and scientific innovation. It is also the military superpower with global reach. But in other ways America was being drawn into this imperial temptation, which means it chooses to shoulder burdens on others’ behalf. Every time there is a crisis America is increasingly expected to solve it. Also, I think it is dangerous because becoming an empire makes it harder to be a republic. It results in things like the rise of an imperial presidency, which becomes less balanced with the constitution and the erosion of civil liberties. There is this coarsening of domestic policies and weakening of the economy, which are things that damage what is meant to be the constitutional identity of the country – so it is a very mixed bag.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pg. 69: David Wellington's "Overwinter"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Overwinter by David Wellington.

About the book, from the publisher:
The days grow colder. The nights grow longer. And every time the moon rises, the wolf inside her grows a little stronger.

Cheyenne Clark—a woman whose hatred for werewolves has turned her into the very beast she most despises—prowls the Arctic Circle on the trail of an ancient secret, hunting for the one thing that could remove the lycanthropic curse and make her human again.

Yet standing between Chey and her goal are a werewolf hunter armed with a diabolically brilliant weapon, a centuries-old werewolf with her own mysterious agenda…and Chey’s own complicated feelings for the man who doomed her to this existence but on whom her life now depends.

Worse, with every hour that passes, the wolf inside Chey becomes more powerful. It won’t be long before the woman disappears completely, and only the beast is left.
Read an excerpt from Overwinter, and visit David Wellington's website.

David Wellington is the author of seven novels. His zombie novels Monster Island, Monster Nation and Monster Planet form a complete trilogy. He has also written a series of vampire novels including (so far) Thirteen Bullets, Ninety-Nine Coffins, Vampire Zero and Twenty-Three Hours, and in October of 2009 began his new Werewolf series, starting with Frostbite.

The Page 69 Test: Monster Nation.

My Book, The Movie: 13 Bullets and 99 Coffins.

The Page 69 Test: Overwinter.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Jay Kirk reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Jay Kirk, author of Kingdom Under Glass: A Tale of Obsession, Adventure, and One Man's Quest to Preserve the World's Great Animals.

His entry begins:
Ideally I would have some kind of machine that decides what I read each night. Like a vending machine where I put in a coin, and a book comes out, and I can’t put in another slug for another book. Such a machine might make me a more committed reader. Instead, what often happens is, I’ll read ten pages of something, dislike it, and then read three more things, dislike that too, or just not get into the groove, and then I have to go search my bookshelves, which I’ve been doing for fifteen years or so now. It’s a really bad habit. It’s not like this always happens to me though. I’ll go for months happily reading, loving everything I pick up, gaining momentum. But then I find myself back in this purgatory of indecision, caught between a history, a novel, or a how-to. Sometimes, on especially bad nights, I’ll just read the dictionary. It drives my wife, a librarian, crazy. However, lately, I did re-subscribe to the New York Times, to the paper version that actually arrives at my door, and in a way this has temporarily solved the problem. I also recently began reading War and Peace on...[read on]
Among the early praise for Kingdom Under Glass:
"One might say that an author who stumbles across the story of a man who wrestles a leopard to death, stuffs the first Jumbo for Barnum & Bailey, and perfects the art of mounting dead gorillas really can't go wrong. But Jay Kirk has created such a boisterously good-natured account of the life of the great taxidermist and conservationist Carl Akeley that a tale already well-nigh-incredible becomes in his hands just wonderfully sensational. This is a true gem of a book, well worthy of its extraordinary subject."
—Simon Winchester, author of The Professor and the Madman and Atlantic: a Biography of the Ocean

"A beguiling, novelistic portrait of a man and an era straining to hear the call of the wild."
Publishers Weekly

"A genuinely rip-roaring read!"

"Kirk skillfully illuminates an era that saw ‘a dawning of sensitivity to the plight of wildlife’... The author shines in his reanimation of Africa’s inherent dangers as Akeley risked his life on safari battling ravenous leopards, charging elephants, five-hour hikes without rations and debilitating fevers—including the one that would take his life in 1926. The feral escapades of a creative wunderkind stitched together with novelistic zeal."
Kirkus Reviews
Read an excerpt from Kingdom Under Glass, and learn more about the book and author at Jay Kirk's website.

The Page 99 Test: Kingdom Under Glass.

Writers Read: Jay Kirk.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six books every prison should stock

Avi Steinberg's memoir is Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian.

In The Week magazine he named six books every prison should stock.

One title on the list:
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Heller’s war novel is full of characters and scenarios that resonate with the absurdity of prison life. The description of this character sounds as though it could have been written about an inmate or guard: “The Texan turned out to be good-natured, generous, and likable. In three days no one could stand him.”
Read about the other titles on the list.

is among Patrick Hennessey's six books to take to war, Jasper Fforde's five most important books, Thomas E. Ricks' top ten books about U.S. military history, and Antony Beevor's five best works of fiction about World War II. While it disappointed Nick Hornby upon rereading, it made Cracked magazine's "Wit Lit 101: Five Classic Novels That Bring the Funny."

See Avi Steinberg's list of what Lindsay Lohan should read in jail.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sheldon Russell's "The Insane Train," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: The Insane Train by Sheldon Russell.

The entry begins:
My protagonist in The Insane Train is Hook Runyon, a one-arm railroad bull who collects rare books and drinks busthead liquor. He’s both down-in-the dirt tough and intellectually curious. He’s sensitive but lethal and has an abiding affection for the underdogs of the world.

The actor who comes to mind, I mean as long as we’re dreaming here, is...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Sheldon Russell's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Yard Dog.

Writers Read: Sheldon Russell.

The Page 69 Test
: The Insane Train.

My Book, The Movie: The Insane Train.

--Marshal Zeringue

Christopher Timothy's six best books

The actor Christopher Timothy is best known for starring as vet James Herriot in the hit TV drama All Creatures Great And Small.

He named his six best books for the Daily Express. One title on the list:
by Roald Dahl

I read this to my daughter Grace 20-odd years ago each night before bed. As much as I wanted to know what happened next I didn’t cheat and read it to myself beforehand – we discovered it together.

Once again, a great storyteller who, like Stephen King, is not afraid to go where it’s dark. Great stuff.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Giles Whittell's "Bridge of Spies"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Bridge of Spies: A True Story of the Cold War by Giles Whittell.

About the book, from the publisher:
Who were the three men the American and Soviet superpowers exchanged at Berlin's Glienicke Bridge and Checkpoint Charlie in the first and most legendary prisoner exchange between East and West? Bridge of Spies vividly traces their paths to that exchange on February 10, 1962, when their fate helped to define the conflicts and lethal undercurrents of the most dangerous years of the Cold War.

Bridge of Spies is the true story of three extraordinary characters – William Fisher, alias Rudolf Abel, a British born KGB agent arrested by the FBI in New York City and jailed as a Soviet superspy for trying to steal America’s most precious nuclear secrets; Gary Powers, the American U-2 pilot who was captured when his plane was shot down while flying a reconnaissance mission over the closed cities of central Russia; and Frederic Pryor, a young American graduate student in Berlin mistakenly identified as a spy, arrested and held without charge by the Stasi, East Germany’s secret police.

By weaving the three strands of this story together for the first time, Giles Whittell masterfully portrays the intense political tensions and nuclear brinkmanship that brought the United States and Soviet Union so close to a hot war in the early 1960s. He reveals the dramatic lives of men drawn into the nadir of the Cold War by duty and curiosity, and the tragicomedy of errors that eventually induced Khrushchev to send missiles to Castro. Two of his subjects — the spy and the pilot — were the original seekers of weapons of mass destruction. The third, an intellectual, fluent in German, unencumbered by dependents, and researching a Ph.D. thesis on the foreign trade system of the Soviet bloc, seemed to the Stasi precisely the sort of person the CIA should have been recruiting. He was not. In over his head in the world capital of spying, he was wrongly charged with espionage and thus came to the Agency’s notice by a more roundabout route. The three men were rescued against daunting odds by fate and by their families, and then all but forgotten. Yet they laid bare the pathological mistrust that fueled the arms race for the next 30 years.

Drawing on new interviews conducted in the United States, Europe and Russia with key players in the exchange and the events leading to it, among them Frederic Pryor himself and the man who shot down Gary Powers, Bridge of Spies captures a time when the fate of the world really did depend on coded messages on microdots and brave young men in pressure suits. The exchange that frigid day at two of the most sensitive points along the Iron Curtain represented the first step back from where the superpowers had stood since the building of the Berlin Wall the previous summer – on the brink of World War III.
Read more about Bridge of Spies at the publisher's website.

Giles Whittell is currently the Washington bureau chief for the London Times. He has been based in Times bureaus all over the world, including Moscow and Los Angeles.

The Page 99 Test: Bridge of Spies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pg. 69: Gary Corby's "The Pericles Commission"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: The Pericles Commission by Gary Corby.

About the book, from the publisher:
Nicolaos walks the mean streets of Classical Athens as an agent for the promising young politician Pericles. His mission is to find the assassin of the statesman Ephialtes, the man who brought democracy to Athens and whose murder has thrown the city into uproar. It’s a job not made any easier by the depressingly increasing number of dead witnesses.

But murder and mayhem don’t bother Nico; what’s really on his mind is how to get closer (much closer) to Diotima, the intelligent and annoyingly virgin priestess of Artemis, and how to shake off his irritating twelve year-old brother Socrates.

The Pericles Commission is the first in an exciting new series by first-time novelist Gary Corby, who takes us to Ancient Greece at one of the most exciting times in history. In this wonderfully approachable, historically rich novel, Athens is brought vividly to life in a mystery engaging from the first page to last.
Read more about The Pericles Commission at the publisher's website.

Visit Gary Corby's blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Pericles Commission.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Julie Metz reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Julie Metz, author of Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal.

One book mentioned in her entry:
Laura Furman, The Mother Who Stayed

An editor sent me this collection of stories in galley form. This book has really stayed with me. The stories probe the relationship between mother and child, in the loosest sense of the word. With wonderfully rendered scenes of American landscape, the stories form a kind of national portrait so much greater than the domestic dramas of the plots....[read on]
Julie Metz is the recipient of a MacDowell Fellowship; her work has appeared in publications including the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, Glamour, Hemispheres, and the New York City storysite Mr. Beller's Neighborhood. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.

Among the praise for Perfection:
"Heart-wrenching but triumphant."

"A lyrical, haunting, and utterly gripping memoir."

"A dark, evocative memoir from a woman forced to come to terms with her husband's death and the revelation of his infidelity."
--Shelf Awareness

"A fascinating memoir."

"A delectable summer read."
--USA Today

"She brings refreshing candor to a startling, painful tale."
--New York Times

"Metz's Perfection chronicles with lapidary precision one woman's climb back to happiness after not just a spouse's death, but also the shocking recognition that her life before that death was not what she had thought it was. The journey is a painful one, but Ms. Metz is much the stronger for having survived to recount it."
--Julie Powell, author of Julie & Julia
Read an excerpt from Perfection, and learn more about the book and author at Julie Metz's website.

The Page 99 Test: Perfection.

The Page 69 Test: Perfection.

Writers Read: Julie Metz.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best spas in literature

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

One title on the list:
C by Tom McCarthy

McCarthy advances his neo-modernist credentials by sending his constipated protagonist Serge Carrefax to a spa town called Klodebrady, where his excrement is analysed by the disapproving Dr Filip. "Nationality seems less of a defining label here than type of illness." He too gets a bit of a sex cure.
Read about another book on the list.

C is one of Nicole Krauss's four favorite new books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pg. 99: Sarahlee Lawrence's "River House"

Today's feature at the Page 99 Test: River House by Sarahlee Lawrence.

About the book, from the publisher:
An exquisite blend of memoir and nature writing, River House is the story of a young woman returning home to her family’s ranch and building a log house with the help of her father. An avid river rafter, Sarahlee Lawrence grew up in remote central Oregon and, by the age of twenty-one, had rafted some of the most dangerous rivers of the world as an accomplished river guide. But living her dream led her back to the place she least expected—her dusty beginnings and her family’s home.

River House is a beautiful story about a daughter’s return and her relationship with her father, whom she enlists to help brave the cold winter and build a log house by hand. Together, they work through the harsh winter, father helping daughter every step of the way.
Read an excerpt from River House.

Writers Read: Sarahlee Lawrence.

The Page 99 Test: River House.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Julie Metz's "Perfection"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal by Julie Metz.

About the book, from the publisher:
Julie Metz’s life changes forever on one ordinary January afternoon when her husband, Henry, collapses on the kitchen floor and dies in her arms. Suddenly, this mother of a six-year-old is the young widow in a bucolic small town. And this is only the beginning. Seven months after Henry’s death, just when Julie thinks she is emerging from the worst of it, comes the rest of it: She discovers that what had appeared to be the reality of her marriage was but a half-truth. Henry had hidden another life from her.

“He loved you so much.” That’s what everyone keeps telling her. It’s true that he loved Julie and their six-year-old daughter ebulliently and devotedly, but as she starts to pick up the pieces and rebuild her life without Henry in it, she learns that Henry had been unfaithful throughout their twelve years of marriage. The most damaging affair was ongoing—a tumultuous relationship that ended only with Henry’s death. For Julie, the only thing to do was to get at the real truth—to strip away the veneer of “perfection” that was her life and confront each of the women beneath the veneer.

Perfection is the story of Julie Metz’s journey through chaos and transformation as she creates a different life for herself and her young daughter. It is the story of coming to terms with painful truths, of rebuilding both a life and an identity after betrayal and widowhood. It is a story of rebirth and happiness—if not perfection.
Read an excerpt from Perfection, and learn more about the book and author at Julie Metz's website.

The Page 99 Test: Perfection.

The Page 69 Test: Perfection.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five best fantasy novels for all ages

Salman Rushdie's most recent novel is Luka and the Fire of Life.

He named a five best list of fantasy novels not just for the young. One entry on the list:
The Lord of the Rings
by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954-55)

I was introduced to the Tolkien trilogy—"The Fellowship of the Ring," "The Two Towers," "The Return of the King"—and its prequel, "The Hobbit," by a history teacher when I was 15, the perfect age at which to read Tolkien. I plunged into the world of Middle-earth with a will, even acquiring the rudiments of Elvish and the ability to recite the dread inscription on the Ring of Power in the dark tongue of Mordor. I believe that the secret of the trilogy's enduring success lies in Tolkien's infinitely detailed creation of the world it inhabits—there is so much "back story" that is only hinted at, so much to do with the history and legends and religions of dwarves, elves and men, that the world we are given becomes almost too rich with allusion to that submerged information. And then, of course, there is one genuinely immortal character, a greater creation than Gandalf the Grey or the Lord of the Rings himself: that is to say, Gollum.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Lord of the Rings also made Charlie Jane Anders and Michael Ann Dobbs' list of ten classic SF books that were originally considered failures, Lev Grossman's list of the six greatest fantasy books of all time, and appears on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best towers in literature, ten of the best volcanoes in literature, ten of the best chases in literature, and ten of the best monsters in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Jeri Westerson reading?

Today's featured contributor at Writers Read: Jeri Westerson, author of Veil of Lies, Serpent in the Thorns, The Demon's Parchment.

Her entry begins:
Very often I find myself escaping from fiction by reading nonfiction. Of course, I read a lot of nonfiction anyway to research for my own fiction, but to escape even that, I’ll look for an interesting alternative. Usually, I don’t care for memoirs (I think of them as waaah texts: “Oh look at my poor tragic life.”). But in this case, I was drawn to Julia Child’s book My Life in France, as part of it was used for the delightful movie Julie and Julia. In the movie, I craved more of Julia and less of Julie and here it was in spades.

The fun part about reading the book is that you can hear her strident voice throughout and it’s a very charming read. I like to do my own fair share of gourmet cooking, though with a writer’s time constraints I don’t get to do as much as I used to. And let me tell you, the...[read on]
Among the early praise for The Demon's Parchment:
“Westerson skillfully lulls her sleuth and the reader into a sense of ‘I know what is going on,’ then zings them with the truth. Absolutely first-class; highly recommended for fans of medieval mysteries.”
-–Library Journal, starred review

“The best yet in the series!”
-–Publisher’s Weekly

TOP PICK! ****1/2 “The writing is wonderful and the history vividly presented. Not to be missed by fans of real historical mysteries.”
-–Romantic Times Magazine, four and a half stars

“There’s no shortage of mysteries set in the medieval period, but since the era lasted about a thousand years, there’s always room for more. Especially when they’re this good: a solid plot and cast of characters, a feel for the story’s place and time, and an appealing noirish air. A welcome addition to the medieval-mystery landscape.”
Learn more about the author and her work at Jeri Westerson's website, her "Getting Medieval" blog, and the Crispin Guest Medieval Noir blog.

Westerson wrote about Crispin Guest's place among fictional detectives for The Rap Sheet.

The Page 69 Test: Veil of Lies.

The Page 69 Test: Serpent in the Thorns.

The Page 69 Test: The Demon's Parchment.

Writers Read: Jeri Westerson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 22, 2010

Keith Raffel's "Smasher," the movie

Now showing at My Book, The Movie: Smasher by Keith Raffel.

The entry begins:
A pair of award-winning scriptwriters have picked up an option on my Smasher: A Silicon Valley Thriller. I do know the chances of actually seeing it on the screen at the cineplex are about the same as a Wall Street banker turning down her bonus. Still, like Willy Loman, a man "is got to dream." So humor me, will you, and play along?

Who should play the protoganist Ian Michaels? He's 37 or so, about six feet tall, dark hair. He's a Silicon Valley workaholic and a pretty good runner. Here are some candidates my kids and wife came up with.

Chris O'Donnell? Kind of a pretty boy. I don't think so.

My kids are big fans of the show Chuck and are plumping hard for its star Zachary Levi. He plays a klutzy spy on the show, but my wife is convinced he’s the guy.

Leo DiCaprio? Well, he...[read on]
Read an excerpt from Smasher, and learn more about the book and author at Keith Raffel's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Smasher.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jay Kirk's "Kingdom Under Glass"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Kingdom Under Glass: A Tale of Obsession, Adventure, and One Man's Quest to Preserve the World's Great Animals by Jay Kirk.

About the book, from the publisher:
A sweeping historical narrative of the life of Carl Akeley, the famed explorer and taxidermist who changed the way Americans viewed the conservation of the natural world

During the golden age of safaris in the early twentieth century, one man set out to preserve Africa's great beasts. In this epic account of an extraordinary life lived during remarkable times, Jay Kirk follows the adventures of the brooding genius who revolutionized taxidermy and created the famed African Hall we visit today at New York's Museum of Natural History. The Gilded Age was drawing to a close, and with it came the realization that men may have hunted certain species into oblivion. Renowned taxidermist Carl Akeley joined the hunters rushing to Africa, where he risked death time and again as he stalked animals for his dioramas and hobnobbed with outsized personalities of the era such as Theodore Roosevelt and P. T. Barnum. In a tale of art, science, courage, and romance, Jay Kirk resurrects a legend and illuminates a fateful turning point when Americans had to decide whether to save nature, to destroy it, or to just stare at it under glass.
Read an excerpt from Kingdom Under Glass, and learn more about the book and author at Jay Kirk's website.

The Page 99 Test: Kingdom Under Glass.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pat Conroy's 6 favorite contemporary Southern novelists

At The Daily Beast, novelist Pat Conroy (My Reading Life) tagged his six favorite contemporary Southern novelists.

One entry on his list:
To Dance With The White Dog by Terry Kay

I met Terry Kay when I served as chef for a group of men who met once a month in Atlanta. For a year, Terry would talk about his dad’s depression over the death of his wife of 57 years, Terry’s mother. Terry worried about his father’s senility because he kept telling his 12 children that a beautiful white dog came out of the woods each day to keep him company, and make him happy. Since no one else had ever seen such a dog, Terry was terrified the white dog was some delusion or strange vision. Then one of Terry’s sisters saw the dog standing up on their dad’s walker and dancing around the yard. Our men’s group went to Terry’s father’s funeral, where we heard that the white dog had disappeared. Terry turned that experience into To Dance With the White Dog, one of the most haunting, spiritual books ever written.
Read about another novelist on Conroy's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: L.E. Modesitt, Jr.'s "Empress of Eternity"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Empress of Eternity by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the far future, an indestructible and massive canal more than 2,000 miles long spans the mid-continent of Earth. Nothing can mar it, move it, or affect it in any fashion. At its western end, where it meets the sea, is an equally indestructible structure comprising three levels of seemingly empty chambers.

Scientists from three different civilizations, separated in time by hundreds of thousands of years, are investigating the canal. In the most distant of these civilizations, religious rebellion is brewing. A plot is hatched to overthrow the world government of the Vanir, using a weapon that can destroy anything-except the canal. If used at full power it might literally unravel the universe and destroy all life forever. The lives and fates of all three civilizations become intertwined as the forces behind the canal react to the threat, and all three teams of scientists find their lives changed beyond belief.
Read an excerpt from Empress of Eternity, and learn more about the author and his work at L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s website and his blog.

L.E. Modesitt, Jr. is the bestselling author of over forty novels encompassing two science fiction series and three fantasy series, as well as several other novels in the science fiction genre.

My Book, The Movie: L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s Flash.

The Page 69 Test: The Lord-Protector's Daughter.

The Page 69 Test: Empress of Eternity.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pg. 99: Joe Perry's "Christmas in Germany"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Christmas in Germany: A Cultural History by Joe Perry.

About the book, from the publisher:
For poets, priests, and politicians--and especially ordinary Germans--in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the image of the loving nuclear family gathered around the Christmas tree symbolized the unity of the nation at large. German Christmas was supposedly organic, a product of the winter solstice rituals of pagan "Teutonic" tribes, the celebration of the birth of Jesus, and the age-old customs that defined German character. Yet, as Joe Perry argues, Germans also used these annual celebrations to contest the deepest values that held the German community together: faith, family, and love, certainly, but also civic responsibility, material prosperity, and national belonging.

This richly illustrated volume explores the invention, evolution, and politicization of Germany's favorite national holiday. According to Perry, Christmas played a crucial role in public politics, as revealed in the militarization of "War Christmas" during World War I and World War II, the Nazification of Christmas by the Third Reich, and the political manipulation of Christmas during the Cold War. Perry offers a close analysis of the impact of consumer culture on popular celebration and the conflicts created as religious, commercial, and political authorities sought to control the holiday's meaning. By unpacking the intimate links between domestic celebration, popular piety, consumer desires, and political ideology, Perry concludes that family festivity was central in the making and remaking of public national identities.
Read more about Christmas in Germany: A Cultural History at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: Christmas in Germany: A Cultural History.

--Marshal Zeringue

Vanora Bennett: five favorite historical novels

Vanora Bennett is the author of two works of nonfiction, Crying Wolf: The Return of War to Chechnya and The Taste of Dreams: An Obsession with Russia and Caviar, and the novels Portrait of an Unknown Woman, Figures in Silk, and The Queen's Lover.

She discussed five favorite historical novels with Erin Yardley at FiveBooks, including:
An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears

This one is really complicated – maybe I just like them complicated. Pears is also a really intelligent man and has oscillated between writing fiction for entertainment and academics. He’s lived in Italy and he’s a professor and this book sort of speaks to all of those things. On the face of it, it’s about a murder in 17th-century Oxford, but quite amazing things are going on that are creepy yet fascinating. There were things I hadn’t thought about before like body-stealing to learn dissections and anatomy. There is a lot about this rudimentary science, well, rudimentary to us but very exciting and magical to them. The first part of the book is told by one character and you feel you’ve learned the story. You get to the next part and it’s one of the other characters telling the same story but from his point of view and it’s really different. There are four characters who each tell it and each time you learn something new. Then you’re thinking it’s a clever game, but with the final story it suddenly becomes something different. I don’t want to give the story away but it’s a very moving and strange story with these religious overtones and it’s just amazing. It really blows you away.

As a reader you tend to trust your narrator, so how does having four affect the way you’re reading the story?

I think it is reinforcing the way that the boundaries were being shifted at the time and that knowledge was expanding. You’re looking at the cadaver from different points of view and then looking at the story from different points of view too. It all fits together very beautifully. Then there’s the shock of something else.
Read about another book on Bennett's list.

An Instance of the Fingerpost is one of Val McDermid's top 10 Oxford novels.

Learn more about the author and her work at Vanora Bennett's website.

The Page 69 Test: Figures in Silk.

The Page 69 Test: The Queen's Lover.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Sarahlee Lawrence reading?

The current feature at Writers Read: Sarahlee Lawrence, author of River House.

Her entry begins:
I read only non-fiction, mostly first-person memoir or the like. I am a slow reader and enjoy poetic prose from the late Ellen Meloy in Anthropology of Turquoise, Terry Tempest Williams’ in Red, or Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire.

The book on my bed stand is Harriet Fasenfest’s Householder’s Guide to the Universe. She’s...[read on]
Read an excerpt from River House and learn more about the book at the publisher's website.

Among the praise for River House:
"Handy with tools and rafts, a good neighbor, and a mighty fine horsewoman, Lawrence is also adept with language, writing with arresting lucidity and a driving need to understand her father, her legacy, the land, community, work, and herself. A true adventure story of rare dimension."
Booklist, starred review

"With her keen eye and talent for writing about the natural world, Lawrence pays homage to the American West... Lawrence is one of those remarkable young women spawned by the American West who are adept at running wild rivers, operating heavy equipment, and building a log home, all evocatively told in this informative book."
Publishers Weekly

"It's messy, this building of houses and relationships, but the experiences give this memoir an existential grace."
Kirkus Reviews
Sarahlee Lawrence was born and raised on her family ranch in Terrebonne, Oregon. After a decade spent studying, traveling, river rafting, and earning an MS in Environmental Science and Writing from the University of Montana, she returned to the ranch, where she owns and operates an organic vegetable farm.

Writers Read: Sarahlee Lawrence.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pg. 69: Jeri Westerson's "The Demon's Parchment"

This weekend's feature at the Page 69 Test: The Demon's Parchment by Jeri Westerson.

About the book, from the publisher:
In fourteenth century London, Crispin Guest is a disgraced knight convicted of treason and stripped of his land, title and his honor. He has become known as the “Tracker”—a man who can find anything, can solve any puzzle and, with the help of his apprentice, Jack Tucker, an orphaned street urchin with a thief's touch—will do so for a price. But this time, even Crispin is wary of taking on his most recent client. Jacob of Provencal is a Jewish physician at the King’s court, even though all Jews were expelled from England nearly a century before. Jacob wants Crispin to find stolen parchments that might be behind the recent, ongoing, gruesome murders of young boys, parchments that someone might have used to bring forth a demon which now stalks the streets and alleys of London.
Read an excerpt from The Demon's Parchment, and learn more about the book and author at Jeri Westerson's website, her "Getting Medieval" blog, and the Crispin Guest Medieval Noir blog.

Westerson wrote about Crispin Guest's place among fictional detectives for The Rap Sheet.

The Page 69 Test: Veil of Lies.

The Page 69 Test: Serpent in the Thorns.

The Page 69 Test: The Demon's Parchment.

--Marshal Zeringue