Monday, October 31, 2016

Martha Freeman's "Strudel's Forever Home," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Strudel's Forever Home by Martha Freeman.

The entry begins:
Strudel’s Forever Home has a tale within the tale. (Both are about dogs, so each tale also has a tail… but never mind.) The principal plot concerns a boy, Jake, who reads to a dog named Strudel at a shelter, then eventually adopts him. The book he reads is Chief, Dog of the Old West. Listening to the stories, Strudel, a dachshund in the big city, aspires to be Chief, a German shepherd on the lone prairie. Results for Strudel are mixed.

Anyway, I never really saw any big stars playing the parts of Jake or his family. While I did just cast Matthew McConaughey in the MS I’m working on now, that was unusual. I rarely think of my characters in Hollywood terms. With the “Chief” story being larger-than-life, though, I definitely had old westerns in mind. I see...[read on]
Visit Martha Freeman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Strudel's Forever Home.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Tina Connolly reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Tina Connolly, author of Seriously Shifted.

From her entry:
Will McIntosh, Burning Midnight. A super fun story of an alternate America where magical spheres are hidden all around, in the city, in nature, etc. Collect two of a kind and you gain a superpower. Of course, it’s entirely possible these superpowers have a price.... Recommended for fans of...[read on]
About Seriously Shifted, from the publisher:
Tina Connolly's Seriously Shifted is a sparkling new adventure about teen witch Camellia and her mother, wicked witch Sarmine, introduced to readers in Seriously Wicked.

Teenage witch Cam isn’t crazy about the idea of learning magic. She’d rather be no witch than a bad one. But when a trio of her mother’s wicked witch friends decide to wreak havoc in her high school, Cam has no choice but to try to stop them.

Now Cam’s learning invisibility spells, dodging exploding cars, and pondering the ethics of love potions. All while trying to keep her grades up and go on a first date with her crush. If the witches don’t get him first, that is.

Can’t a good witch ever catch a break?
Visit Tina Connolly's website and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: Seriously Wicked.

The Page 69 Test: Seriously Wicked.

Writers Read: Tina Connolly.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten brilliant novels that each have one fatal flaw

Charlie Jane Anders is the author of All the Birds in the Sky. She’s the organizer of the Writers With Drinks reading series, and she was a founding editor of io9, a website about science fiction, science and futurism.

In 2015 she consulted some book boffins for a list of top novels that are marred by a fatal flaw. Kij Johnson's suggestion:
Silverlock by John Myers Myers

A cynic from Chicago shipwrecks near the Commonwealth, an island where the classics of literature are real — where you can fall in love with Rosalind, fight with Robin Hood, and ride to Canterbury with Emma Watson. Shandon does all these things and many, many more, in a sweeping, enchanting adventure that never fails to delight me, even as it infuriates me.

Because really, once I tell you about Emma and Rosalind, I have mentioned many of the women in the book. That’s not entirely his fault: the Commonwealth of letters that he is drawing from is full of tragic victimized pathetic women, and who want to adventure with Tess of the D’Urbervilles?
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Oswald Schmitz's "The New Ecology"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The New Ecology: Rethinking a Science for the Anthropocene by Oswald J. Schmitz.

About the book, from the publisher:
Our species has transitioned from being one among millions on Earth to the species that is single-handedly transforming the entire planet to suit its own needs. In order to meet the daunting challenges of environmental sustainability in this epoch of human domination—known as the Anthropocene—ecologists have begun to think differently about the interdependencies between humans and the natural world. This concise and accessible book provides the best available introduction to what this new ecology is all about—and why it matters more than ever before.

Oswald Schmitz describes how the science of ecology is evolving to provide a better understanding of how human agency is shaping the natural world, often in never-before-seen ways. The new ecology emphasizes the importance of conserving species diversity, because it can offer a portfolio of options to keep our ecosystems resilient in the face of environmental change. It envisions humans taking on new roles as thoughtful stewards of the environment to ensure that ecosystems have the enduring capacity to supply the environmental services on which our economic well-being—and our very existence—depend. It offers the ecological know-how to maintain and enhance our planet’s environmental performance and ecosystem production for the benefit of current and future generations.

Informative and engaging, The New Ecology shows how today’s ecology can provide the insights we need to appreciate the crucial role we play in this era of unprecedented global environmental transition.
Learn more about The New Ecology at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The New Ecology.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The top 25 cats in sci-fi & fantasy

Jeff Somers is the author of the Avery Cates series, The Ustari Cycle, Lifers, and Chum (among many other books) and numerous short stories.

At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog he tagged twenty-five of the best cats in sci-fi & fantasy, including:
Churchill from Pet Sematary, by Stephen King

Poor Church. A lively, loving cat, he is run over and killed on the road outside Creed’s house early in King’s classic 1983 novel. Brought back to life by the mysterious Pet Sematary [sic], Church initially seems like a miracle—especially for any readers who have lost pets. Sadly, resurrected Church comes back wrong—he smells bad, has an ill temper, and his playful hunting for mice and birds becomes slightly more…psychopathic. In the end, though, the tragedy of getting your pet back and discovering he’s not the same makes Church one of the most memorable cats in genre writing.
Read about another entry on the list.

Pet Sematary is among Jessica Ferri's five top books on American small towns and Sandra Greaves's top ten ghost stories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Sara Ella's "Unblemished"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Unblemished by Sara Ella.

About the book, from the publisher:
Eliyana can’t bear to look at her own reflection. But what if that were only one Reflection—one world? What if another world exists where her blemish could become her strength?

Eliyana is used to the shadows. With a birthmark covering half her face, she just hopes to graduate high school unscathed. That is, until Joshua hops a fence and changes her perspective. No one, aside from her mother, has ever treated her like he does: normal. Maybe even beautiful. Because of Joshua, Eliyana finally begins to believe she could be loved.
Visit Sara Ella's website.

The Page 69 Test: Unblemished.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five of the best books with unusual demons and devils

Sarah Porter is the author of several books for young adults, including Vassa in the Night. One of her five "favorite books featuring out-of-the-ordinary denizens of Hell," as shared at
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

McCarthy’s nightmare Western follows a band of sadistic marauders as they inflict atrocities on anyone in their path. But even these psychopaths, who festoon trees with dead babies, live in awe-struck dread of their leader, the judge, who can overhear the slightest whisper of dissent with “ears like a fox.” The judge spouts a morose and hellish philosophy as his men enter, all too eagerly, into the creation of an Inferno on earth. It’s the following exchange, though, that reveals the judge’s true identity:

The freedom of birds is an insult to me. I’d have them all in zoos.

That would be a hell of a zoo.

The judge smiled. Yes, he said. Even so.
Read about another entry on the list.

Blood Meridian is one authority's pick for the Great Texas novel; it is among Chet Williamson's top ten novels about deranged killers, Callan Wink's ten best books set in the American West, Simon Sebag Montefiore's six favorite books, Richard Kadrey's five books about awful, awful people, Jason Sizemore's top five books that will entertain and drop you into the depths of despair, Robert Allison's top ten novels of desert war, Alexandra Silverman's top fourteen wrathful stories, James Franco's six favorite books, Philipp Meyer's five best books that explain America, Peter Murphy's top ten literary preachers, David Vann's six favorite books, Robert Olmstead's six favorite books, Michael Crummey's top ten literary feuds, Philip Connors's top ten wilderness books, six books that made a difference to Kazuo Ishiguro, Clive Sinclair's top 10 westerns, Maile Meloy's six best books, and David Foster Wallace's five direly underappreciated post-1960 U.S. novels. It appears on the New York Times list of the best American fiction of the last 25 years and among the top ten works of literature according to Stephen King.

--Marshal Zeringue

Stephen D. Engle's "Gathering to Save a Nation," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Gathering to Save a Nation: Lincoln and the Union's War Governors by Stephen D. Engle.

The entry begins:
I would cast John Goodman as John Andrew because he could best embody the forceful, direct, and often blunt characteristics that Andrew displayed in getting his way with political adversaries….he looks the part….with his...[read on]
Learn more about Gathering to Save a Nation at the publisher's website.

My Book, The Movie: Gathering to Save a Nation.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Seven top haunted houses in literature

At the B&N Reads blog Dell Villa tagged seven of the best haunted houses in literature, including:
Hell House, by Richard Matheson

Many have tried to uncover the mysteries of Belasco House, but their quests have all ended in one grisly manner or another—death, insanity, or debilitating paranoia. Four more people make an attempt at the outset of this novel, and pure terror awaits.
Read about another entry on the list.

Hell House is among Ashley Brooke Roberts's seven best haunted house books.

Also see Christopher Golden's top five haunted house novels you may not have read, Claire Barker's top ten haunted houses in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Andrew Monaghan's "The New Politics of Russia"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The New Politics of Russia: Interpreting Change by Andrew Monaghan.

About the book, from the publisher:
The political realities of contemporary Russia are poorly understood by Western observers and policy-makers. Yet whether it is the conflict in Syria, the Winter Olympics in Sochi or the crisis in Ukraine, Russia dominates the headlines.

In this highly engaging book, Andrew Monaghan explains the importance of 'getting Russia right', and not simply accepting dominant political narratives that focus on the theme of Russia's historical progress towards democracy, and more recently, on the increasing turn towards authoritarianism, and the major obstacle posed by President Vladimir Putin to Russia's development and reform.

The New Politics of Russia reflects on the evolution of Russia studies since the end of the Cold War, offering a robust critique of the mainstream view of Russia. It goes on to place the Ukraine crisis within a broader historical framework and considers the ongoing evolution in Russian domestic politics. The book also explores the relationship between the West and Russia, charting the development of relations and investigating causes of the increasingly obvious sense of strategic dissonance.

By delving into the depths of these difficult questions, the work offers a more dynamic and complex model for interpreting Russia, and in doing so, makes a significant contribution to public policy and academic debate. The New Politics of Russia is essential reading for students and scholars of Russian politics.
Visit Andrew Monaghan's website.

The Page 99 Test: The New Politics of Russia.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Nisi Shawl reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Nisi Shawl, author of Everfair.

Her entry begins:
I generally read more than one book at a time. For purely escapist pleasure I’ll pick up work by Trollope or Gaskell or another British Victorian, but at the moment you’ve caught me in the midst of overlapping perusal of two science fiction texts. Because I’m a science fiction writer myself these sorts of books tend to bring out my critical faculties rather than relaxing them.

I’m on the last chapter of David Levine’s debut novel, Arabella of Mars. Combining steampunkish elements such as a highly complicated version of the 18th- and 19th-centuries’ notorious, fraudulent “chessplaying automaton” with wooden ships sailing gale-force winds through an interplanetary atmosphere, Levine manages to simultaneously invoke C.S. Forester’s Hornblower series and Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Barsoomian adventures. An audacious heroine...[read on]
About Everfair, from the publisher:
Everfair is a wonderful Neo-Victorian alternate history novel that explores the question of what might have come of Belgium's disastrous colonization of the Congo if the native populations had learned about steam technology a bit earlier. Fabian Socialists from Great Britian join forces with African-American missionaries to purchase land from the Belgian Congo's "owner," King Leopold II. This land, named Everfair, is set aside as a safe haven, an imaginary Utopia for native populations of the Congo as well as escaped slaves returning from America and other places where African natives were being mistreated.

Nisi Shawl's speculative masterpiece manages to turn one of the worst human rights disasters on record into a marvelous and exciting exploration of the possibilities inherent in a turn of history. Everfair is told from a multiplicity of voices: Africans, Europeans, East Asians, and African Americans in complex relationships with one another, in a compelling range of voices that have historically been silenced. Everfair is not only a beautiful book but an educational and inspiring one that will give the reader new insight into an often ignored period of history.
Visit Nisi Shawl's website.

Writers Read: Nisi Shawl.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 28, 2016

Five novels with vampires who don’t sparkle

Silvia Moreno-Garcia's new novel is Certain Dark Things. One of her five favorite lesser known stories featuring a vampire who doesn't sparkle, as shared at
Vlad — Carlos Fuentes

This short novel by literary darling Carlos Fuentes tells the story of a lawyer assisting an eccentric European refugee in finding proper lodgings in Mexico City. If you liked the black and white Mexican movie El Vampiro and ever wondered what it might look like in print, this is the book for you. Full of lush descriptions, it also features a nasty vampire, ensuring no romantic longings will be stirred upon the page. There are plenty of digs at Mexican bourgeoisie customs, but you do not need to get them all to enjoy it.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s "Treachery’s Tools"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Treachery's Tools by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

About the book, from the publisher:
Treachery's Tools is L. E. Modesitt's tenth novel in the New York Times bestselling Imager Portfolio fantasy series and begins thirteen years after the events of Madness in Solidar, Alastar has settled into his role as the Maitre of the Collegium. Now married with a daughter, he would like nothing better than to focus his efforts on improving Imager Isle and making it more self-sufficient.

However, the rise in fortune of the merchant classes in Solidar over the years does not sit well with the High Holders, who see the erosion of their long-enjoyed privileges. Bad harvests and worse weather spark acts of violence and murder. In the midst of the crisis, some High Holders call for repeals of the Codis Legis, taking authority away from the Rex.

Once again, Alastar must maintain a careful political balance, but he cannot avoid the involvement of the Collegium when someone begins killing students. Trying to protect his imagers and hold Solidar together for the good of all, Alastar stumbles on to a plot by the High Holders involving illegal weapons, insurrection, and conspiracy.
Learn more about the author and his work at L. E. Modesitt, Jr.'s website.

The Page 69 Test: Scholar.

The Page 69 Test: Princeps.

The Page 69 Test: Imager's Battalion.

The Page 69 Test: Antiagon Fire.

The Page 69 Test: Treachery's Tools.

--Marshal Zeringue

Rebecca Rideal's "1666: Plague, War, and Hellfire," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: 1666: Plague, War, and Hellfire by Rebecca Rideal.

The entry begins:
Hollywood has an annoying habit of casting its men too old and its women too young so I would try to rectify this with the film version of 1666. Like the book, the film would be an ensemble piece and would be cast as follows:

The Earl of Rochester (portrayed by Johnny Depp in The Libertine) was in his late-teens during the mid-1660s so he would need to be played by someone far too young to be on my radar, perhaps a teenage Shia LaBeouf.

The role of Charles II would require an actor in his mid-thirties, with the dark features that made the king so striking to his contemporaries… perhaps someone like...[read on]
Visit Rebecca Rideal's website.

My Book, The Movie: 1666: Plague, War, and Hellfire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven of the best life-scarring scary books

Sarah Skilton is the author of Bruised, a martial arts drama for young adults; and High and Dry, a hardboiled teen mystery. At B&N Reads she tagged seven life-scarring scary books, including:
Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn

Damaged kleptomaniac Libby Day (portrayed by Cherlize Theron in the film adaptation) survived her family’s massacre as a child, and even identified her older brother, Ben, as the murderer. But then an underground club of true crime aficionados convinces her Ben wasn’t the culprit. Chilling, ghastly, desperate figures abound in this book—particularly in flashbacks—as the truth is revealed about what really went down the night of the killings, and why.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 27, 2016

What is Ed Lin reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Ed Lin, author of Incensed.

His entry begins:
Joseph T. "Cap" Shaw was the editor of Black Mask during its best years but mystery wasn't the only genre he was into. Shaw's anthology of Western stories, Spurs West, was published in 1951 (one year before he died), and it included "Deep Winter," a great short story by Ernest Haycox, an author I'd never heard of.

Haycox was famous in his day. He was all over the slicks--the well-paying magazines. John Ford's film Stagecoach was based on one of his stories and another Ernest, Hemingway, was a big fan.

In the course of my research, I found that "Deep Winter" was part of a series of shorts Haycox had written about a frontier town. Originally it was the fifth of six stories, the sixth of which was never published, possibly because the editors of Collier's weren't ready for a Jewish hero.

Look up Haycox online and marvel at his output. How the hell did Haycox write that much without a word processor? I wanted to read more of his work...[read on]
About Incensed, from the publisher:
Family secrets come to light in this dark, comedic crime caper set in Taipei during the annual Mid-Autumn Festival.

In Taiwan, the Mid-Autumn Festival is a time for prioritizing family. When 25-year-old Jing-nan’s gangster uncle, Big Eye, asks a favor, Jing-nan can’t exactly say no, especially because two goons are going to follow him around to make sure he gets it done right. The favor is this: Big Eye’s 16-year-old daughter, Mei-ling, has a biker boyfriend from the wrong side of the tracks—in Big Eye’s gangster opinion—and Big Eye wants Jing-nan to bring her to Taipei, away from the bad influences, and straighten her out.

It doesn’t take Jing-nan long to discover Mei-ling is even more trouble than the average bratty, rebellious teenager. She’s been spoiled rotten and doesn’t know how to take no for an answer. She has her father’s thugs wrapped around her finger and quickly becomes the miniature dictator of Jing-nan’s life. But Mei-ling is also hiding a secret—one that puts her in harm’s way. If Jing-nan wants to save his cousin from her own demons, he has to figure out the truth, even if it tears his family apart—again.
Learn more about the book and author at Ed Lin's website.

The Page 69 Test: Snakes Can't Run.

The Page 69 Test: One Red Bastard.

My Book, The Movie: Ghost Month.

Writers Read: Ed Lin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Drew Leder's "The Distressed Body"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Distressed Body: Rethinking Illness, Imprisonment, and Healing by Drew Leder.

About the book, from the publisher:
Bodily pain and distress come in many forms. They can well up from within at times of serious illness, but the body can also be subjected to harsh treatment from outside. The medical system is often cold and depersonalized, and much worse are conditions experienced by prisoners in our age of mass incarceration, and by animals trapped in our factory farms. In this pioneering book, Drew Leder offers bold new ways to rethink how we create and treat distress, clearing the way for more humane social practices.

Leder draws on literary examples, clinical and philosophical sources, his medical training, and his own struggle with chronic pain. He levies a challenge to the capitalist and Cartesian models that rule modern medicine. Similarly, he looks at the root paradigms of our penitentiary and factory farm systems and the way these produce distressed bodies, asking how such institutions can be reformed. Writing with coauthors ranging from a prominent cardiologist to long-term inmates, he explores alternative environments that can better humanize—even spiritualize—the way we treat one another, offering a very different vision of medical, criminal justice, and food systems. Ultimately Leder proposes not just new answers to important bioethical questions but new ways of questioning accepted concepts and practices.
Learn more about The Distressed Body at the University of Chicago Press website, and visit Drew Leder's webpage.

The Page 99 Test: The Distressed Body.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten top books of radical history

Sheila Rowbotham’s latest book is Rebel Crossings: New Women, Free Lovers and Radicals in Britain and the United States.

One of her ten favorite books of radical history, as shared at the Guardian:
Eve and the New Jerusalem: Socialism and Feminism in the 19th Century by Barbara Taylor (1983)

Examining how women developed ideas of freedom and equality in the Owenite movement of the early 19th century, Taylor reveals their challenge to the male-dominated co-operative movement. Some insisted that while woman was “unfree”, man must “ever be a slave”. Others argued that women possessed a distinct mission to create a society based on love and association rather than competition. Their shared dream was sex and class equality.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Keith Donohue's "The Motion of Puppets"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Motion of Puppets by Keith Donohue.

About the book, from the publisher:
From the bestselling author of The Boy Who Drew Monsters and The Stolen Child comes a modern take on the Orpheus and Eurydice Myth—A Suspenseful tale of romance and enchantment

In the Old City of Québec, Kay Harper falls in love with a puppet in the window of the Quatre Mains, a toy shop that is never open. She is spending her summer working as an acrobat with the cirque while her husband, Theo, is translating a biography of the pioneering photographer Eadweard Muybridge. Late one night, Kay fears someone is following her home. Surprised to see that the lights of the toy shop are on and the door is open, she takes shelter inside.

The next morning Theo wakes up to discover his wife is missing. Under police suspicion and frantic at her disappearance, he obsessively searches the streets of the Old City. Meanwhile, Kay has been transformed into a puppet, and is now a prisoner of the back room of the Quatre Mains, trapped with an odd assemblage of puppets from all over the world who can only come alive between the hours of midnight and dawn. The only way she can return to the human world is if Theo can find her and recognize her in her new form. So begins the dual odyssey of Keith Donohue’s The Motion of Puppets: of a husband determined to find his wife, and of a woman trapped in a magical world where her life is not her own.
Visit Keith Donohue's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Boy Who Drew Monsters.

The Page 69 Test: The Motion of Puppets.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

What is Hannah Pittard reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Hannah Pittard, author of Listen to Me.

Her entry begins:
My reading life is all over the place right now. On my nightstand are The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Nancy Jo Sales’ American Girls, and Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer, all of which I’m actively reading. But the book I want to say something about is that one I've only just finished and have therefore already (and somewhat wistfully) re-shelved. This is Elizabeth Taylor’s Angel. It’s the story of Angel, an impetuous young woman (we meet her in the last year of Queen Victoria’s reign) who is determined to become an admired and famous writer. She does become a famous author but ...[read on]
About Listen to Me, from the publisher:
Mark and Maggie’s annual drive east to visit family has gotten off to a rocky start. By the time they’re on the road, it’s late, a storm is brewing, and they are no longer speaking to each other. Adding to the stress, Maggie—recently mugged at gunpoint—is lately not herself, and Mark is at a loss about what to make of the stranger he calls his wife. When the couple is forced to stop for the night at a remote inn completely without power, Maggie’s paranoia reaches an all-time and terrifying high. But as Mark finds himself threatened in a dark parking lot, it’s Maggie who takes control.
Visit Hannah Pittard's website.

Writers Read: Hannah Pittard.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sharon Farrow's "Dying For Strawberries," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Dying For Strawberries by Sharon Farrow.

Her entry begins:
One of my hobbies is second guessing the casting choices of many movies and TV shows I watch. Suffice it to say, I picked the cast for Dying For Strawberries while writing the first draft of my book.

Sandra Bullock is my only choice for Marlee Jacob, the 30-year-old brunette owner of The Berry Basket shop. While Marlee is pretty, she is not Angelina Jolie gorgeous; few people are. And the attractive Sandra Bullock deserves the series’ starring role. Especially Sandra as she appears in Miss Congeniality: strong, funny, down to earth, sarcastic and smart. Marlee’s fiancé Ryan Zellar is another easy one to cast. Marlee actually mentions in the book that it’s ironic he is named Ryan since he’s a dead ringer for...[read on]
Visit Sharon Farrow's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dying For Strawberries.

Writers Read: Sharon Farrow.

My Book, The Movie: Dying For Strawberries.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five of the best novels written as genre parodies that stand on their own

At the B&N Reads blog Nicole Hill tagged five novels written as genre parodies that stand on their own, including:
The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

The complexities run deep in Goldman’s beloved book and the equally beloved movie classic. In its published form, the narrative in-joke is that this, The Princess Bride, is merely an abridged version of a classic fairy tale, originally by S. Morgenstern, itself a supposed satire. It’s not, of course. Instead, Goldman penned the novel based on stories he made up for his daughters. The result is a book that lovingly tweaks the fairy tale format, while delivering a swashbuckling escapade that has all the fantasy elements you could want.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Princess Bride is among Jeff Somers's five best grandfathers in literary history, Sebastien de Castell's five duelists you should never challenge, the Guardian's five worst book covers ever, Nicole Hill's eight notable royal figures in fiction, Rosie Perez's six favorite books, Stephanie Perkins' top ten most romantic books, Matthew Berry's six favorite books, and Jamie Thomson's top seven funny books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: J. M. Tyree's "Vanishing Streets"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Vanishing Streets: Journeys in London by J. M. Tyree.

About the book, from the publisher:
Vanishing Streets reveals an American writer's twenty-year love affair with London. Beguiling and idiosyncratic, obsessive and wry, it offers an illustrated travelogue of the peripheries, retracing some of London's most curious locations. As J. M. Tyree wanders deliriously in "the world's most visited city," he rediscovers and reinvents places that have changed drastically since he was a student at Cambridge in the 1990s. Tyree stumbles into the ghosts of Alfred Hitchcock, Graham Greene, and the pioneers of the British Free Cinema Movement. He offers a new way of seeing familiar landmarks through the lens of film history, and reveals strange nooks and tiny oddities in out-of-the-way places, from a lost film by John Ford supposedly shot in Wapping to the beehives hidden in Tower Hamlets Cemetery, an area haunted by a translation error in W. G. Sebald's Austerlitz.

This book blends deeply personal writing with a foreigner's observations on a world capital experiencing an unsettling moment of transition. Vanishing Streets builds into an astonishing and innovative multi-layered project combining autobiography, movie madness, and postcard-like annotations on the magical properties of a great city. Tyree argues passionately for London as a cinematic dream city of perpetual fascinations and eccentricities, bridging the past and the present as well as the real and the imaginary.
Learn more about Vanishing Streets at the Stanford University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: Vanishing Streets.

The Page 99 Test: Vanishing Streets.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Top ten books on architecture

Barbara Miller Lane is Andrew W. Mellon Professor Emeritus in the Humanities and Research Professor in Growth and Structure of Cities at Bryn Mawr College. Her books include Architecture and Politics in Germany, 1918–1945, National Romanticism and Modern Architecture, Housing and Dwelling, and Houses for a New World: Builders and Buyers in American Suburbs, 1945–1965.

One of her top ten books on architecture, as shared at the Princeton University Press blog:
Looking Beyond the Icons: Midcentury Architecture, Landscape, and Urbanism
Richard Longstreth

In this collection of persuasive writings, Richard Longstreth urges American architectural and urban historians to pay more attention to mid-century building and landscape design. New forms of shopping centers, new kinds of community buildings, new types of buildings for business, and above all, “extraordinary” new kinds of suburbs, are the focus of the author’s essays. The book represents an important shift of emphasis from “the icons”, that is, from the “masters of modern architecture” emphasis of many architectural historians, and from the focus on earlier periods by many historians of planning. Longstreth sees landscape as the “central defining component of post-World War II development.”
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Barry Eisler's "Livia Lone"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Livia Lone by Barry Eisler.

About the book, from the publisher:
Seattle PD sex crimes detective Livia Lone knows the monsters she hunts. Sold by her Thai parents along with her little sister Nason, marooned in America, abused by the men who trafficked them. . . the only thing that kept Livia alive as a teenager was her determination to find Nason.

Livia has never stopped looking. And she copes with her failure to protect her missing sister by doing everything she can to put predators in prison.

Or, when that fails, by putting them in the ground.

But when a fresh lead offers new hope of finding Nason and the men who trafficked them, Livia will have to go beyond just being a cop. Beyond even being a vigilante. She'll have to relive the horrors of the past. Take on one of the most powerful men in the US government. And uncover a conspiracy of almost unimaginable evil.

In every way, it's an unfair fight. But Livia has two advantages. Her unending love for Nason—

And a lifelong lust for vengeance.
Visit Barry Eisler's website.

The Page 69 Test: Livia Lone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six magically weird YA fantasy novels

One title on Melissa Albert's list of six magically weird YA fantasy books, as shared at the BN Teen blog:
Worlds of Ink and Shadow, by Lena Coakley

From a mix of historical record, the Brontë sisters’ great novels (and unpublished juvenilia), and the windswept moors, early feminism, and pagan folk beliefs of the Brontës’ upbringing on the Yorkshire moors, Coakley has created a gripping, layered work of portal fiction, complete with forbidden love and devil’s deals. Her page-turner explores the dark terrain of childhood fancies, the indignities of growing up, and the idea of a child as the ruler—benevolent or tyrannical—of their play worlds, imagining the Brontë siblings can travel at will into the fantasy realms they create on the page. But soon their creations start developing inner lives, questioning the world order, and rebelling against being used as as living props. Not only does Coakley evoke the Brontës’ home and invented lives with equal verve, but she maps it effortlessly onto their extraordinary fates, using fantasy to explain how Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and brother Branwell created fictional works including two of the greatest books in the English canon, before meeting their early ends (three of them within a year of each other).
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Worlds of Ink and Shadow.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Sharon Farrow reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Sharon Farrow, author of Dying For Strawberries.

Her entry begins:
As a longtime fan of Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse mysteries, I was thrilled when Harris launched a new series set in the paranormal world first featured in Sookie’s hometown of Bon Ton, Louisiana. This time Harris has a new setting – Midnight, Texas – and a new cast of characters, each with a gift or secret as alarming as Sookie’s.

Over the summer, I read the first two books in Harris’s Midnight, Texas series: Midnight Crossroad and Day Shift. I’ve just finished Night Shift, her third installment. If you love Sookie and her coterie of vampires, shapeshifters, and shamans, you’ll find the new series...[read on]
About Dying For Strawberries, from the publisher:
With seasonal crowds flocking to its sandy beaches, lively downtown shops, and the Berry Basket, a berry emporium with something for everyone, the lakeshore village of Oriole Point is ripe for summer fun—and murder.

Much has changed for Marlee Jacob since she returned to Oriole Point, Michigan. Between running the Berry Basket, dodging local gossip, and whipping up strawberry muffins, smoothies, and margaritas to celebrate the town’s first annual Strawberry Moon Bash, the thirty-year-old hardly has time for her fiancé, let alone grim memories of her old life in New York...

But unfortunately for Marlee, Oriole Point is muddled with secrets of its own. First her friend Natasha disappears after an ominous dream. Next the seediest man in town threatens to crush her business. Then an unknown person nearly kills her on the night of the Bash. When she discovers a dead body while searching for Natasha, Marlee realizes she’ll have to foil a killer’s plot herself—before the past permanently stains her future.
Visit Sharon Farrow's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dying For Strawberries.

Writers Read: Sharon Farrow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 24, 2016

Top ten books set in Bangkok

At Deep Travel and Lifestyle, Will Bowie tagged ten top books set in Bangkok, including:
Bangkok Tattoo (Sonchai Jitpleecheep) by John Burdett

My first exposure to John Burdett and still my favourite. There is many other classics, however this is the read that holds the most special place in my heart. I love the mix of buddhism balancing corruption, crime and the madness that is the infamous Soi Cowboy. I truly love how the fourth wall is broken & the narrator Sonchai speaks to you as ‘farang’.

To date, I’ve read (and reread) the first four of Burdett’s Bangkok novels, and found them all fun, diverting, and at times, fascinating reads – primarily for the protagonist’s semi-comic philosophical musings about the differences of view between East & West, North & South on everything from love, sex, violence, corruption, prostitution, etc.

Of the first four, the second, “Tattoo,” remains my favorite – it’s certainly the funniest of the first four – though I’d still recommend that the curious reader start with “Bangkok 8,” before jumping into the fun of “Tattoo.”

Looking forward to reading the fifth…
Read about another book on the list.

The Page 69 Test: The Godfather of Kathmandu.

The Page 69 Test: Vulture Peak.

My Book, The Movie: Vulture Peak.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Steve Pincus's "The Heart of the Declaration"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Heart of the Declaration: The Founders’ Case for an Activist Government by Steve Pincus.

About the book, from the publisher:
An eye-opening, meticulously researched new perspective on the influences that shaped the Founders as well as the nation's founding document

From one election cycle to the next, a defining question continues to divide the country’s political parties: Should the government play a major or a minor role in the lives of American citizens? The Declaration of Independence has long been invoked as a philosophical treatise in favor of limited government. Yet the bulk of the document is a discussion of policy, in which the Founders outlined the failures of the British imperial government. Above all, they declared, the British state since 1760 had done too little to promote the prosperity of its American subjects. Looking beyond the Declaration’s frequently cited opening paragraphs, Steve Pincus reveals how the document is actually a blueprint for a government with extensive powers to promote and protect the people’s welfare. By examining the Declaration in the context of British imperial debates, Pincus offers a nuanced portrait of the Founders’ intentions with profound political implications for today.
Learn more about The Heart of the Declaration at the Yale University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: 1688: The First Modern Revolution.

The Page 99 Test: The Heart of the Declaration.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six fictional femmes who fatally fractured the glass ceiling

At the B&N Reads blog Nicole Hill tagged six fictional women who broke the glass ceiling, including:
Beryl Markham (Circling the Sun, by Paula McLain)

Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s May—no, she’s definitely born with it. McLain’s proven the go-to scribe for fictionalized accounts of real, bold, complicated women. Her latest novel follows pioneering female aviator Beryl Markham, who breaks hearts with the same ferocity she uses to break records. In the early 20th century, the air belonged largely to men. That didn’t stop Beryl from flying solo across the Atlantic. She was just as unflinchingly fascinating and independent in every other aspect in her life, including in love.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tabish Khair's "Just Another Jihadi Jane," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Just Another Jihadi Jane by Tabish Khair.

His entry begins:
My novel tells the story of two British-Asian girls who run off to Syria-Iraq to join the so-called ‘jihad,’ and what happens to them. One of them, Jamilla, has been born and brought up in a narrowly religious Muslim family from Pakistan, and almost grows into fundamentalism. The other, Ameena, comes from a broken Indian Muslim household, and is attracted to Islamist extremism for another set of (personal and political) reasons. Both are in their early 20s. Jamilla is studious, submissive and has been wearing a hijab from the time she turned thirteen; she is also strikingly beautiful: I think Nazneen Contractor, from Star Trek Into Darkness, has the sort of sensuality that will come across even in a hijab, and hence she will be good for the role, despite being a few years older than Jamilla in the book. Ameena is a different kind of girl, spunky, more conflicted that Jamilla: the Canadian actress, Lisa Ray from I Can’t Think Straight, or Freida Pinto, from Slumdog Millionaire, though both are...[read on]
Visit Tabish Khair's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Thing about Thugs.

My Book, The Movie: The Thing About Thugs.

Writers Read: Tabish Khair.

My Book, The Movie: Just Another Jihadi Jane.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Five top YA books inspired by real life murderers

At the BN Teen blog Sarah Hannah Gómez tagged five top YA books inspired by not-so-fictional murderers, including:
Charles Howard Schmid, Jr., in Half in Love With Death, by Emily Ross

You know how sometimes it’s just another day, and other times you wake up and just want to do something totally random? I think I’ll try sushi today, you might say. Or I want to learn fencing! Or maybe I want to kill a girl. Oh, is that last one just something Charles Schmid said? While this book about being drawn to someone with a dark side is technically about made-up people, the author is pretty clear on the fact that she was totally inspired by this charismatic chick magnet murderer, also known as the Pied Piper of Tucson.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Half In Love With Death.

My Book, The Movie: Half In Love With Death.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Jan Fedarcyk reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Jan Fedarcyk, author of Fidelity.

Her entry begins:
The complicated challenges that America faces in the area of national security continues to drive my interest in non-fiction books that shed light on these issues. I tend to have at least two books that I alternate reading, and these can be historical or about current events that will define us for generations to come. Right now, I’m nearly finished with The Billion Dollar Spy by David E. Hoffman and...[read on]
About Fidelity, from the publisher:
A gripping debut novel from “the FBI’s First Lady” (Vanity Fair) Jan Fedarcyk, featuring a brilliant young Special Agent named Kay Malloy, whose assignment to the Counterintelligence Program in New York City has devastating consequences—both personal and professional.

Kay Malloy always knew hers would be a life of service. Following the tragic death of her humanitarian parents, Kay and her brother, Christopher, were raised in a world of wealth and culture by their godparents. With ambition and selflessness, Kay joins the FBI to honor her parent’s legacy, even while Christopher’s life grows increasingly aimless.

Paramilitary and male-dominated, the FBI could be an intimidating employer to anyone less confident, devoted, and insightful than Kay. But after early success in the Violent Crime Program in Baltimore she struggles working counterintelligence in New York. When Kay is assigned to investigate the loss of Russian government double agents, she sees this as her chance to prove herself. As pressure mounts and conflicting leads cloud the investigation, Kay discovers she must make the impossible choice between those she loves and the country she’s sworn to protect.

Filled with vivid detail from retired FBI Special Agent Jan Fedarcyk, Fidelity is both a thrilling, authentic look into the workings of the FBI and the gripping story of one woman’s fight to honor both love and duty.
Visit Jan Fedarcyk's website.

My Book, The Movie: Fidelity.

The Page 69 Test: Fidelity.

Writers Read: Jan Fedarcyk.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best bachelors

At the Guardian Michael Hogan came up with a list of the ten best bachelors. Most of the entries are actual men; among the fictional characters to make the list:
Bertie Wooster

PG Wodehouse’s comic hero Bertram Wilberforce Wooster wouldn’t have got into nearly as many scrapes had he been married. Besides, his valet Jeeves in many ways fulfils the role of long-suffering wife. Bertie does propose several times – to icy blonde Lady Florence Craye (who tells him “your Aunt Agatha… called you a spineless invertebrate and advised me strongly not to marry you”), American millionaire’s daughter Pauline Stoker, scarily sporty Honoria Glossop, soppy romantic Madeline Bassett and reckless redhead Bobbie Wickham – but once the charms of his intended’s “lovely profile” wear off, he tends to see engagement merely as a trap from which Jeeves must extricate him. What ho!
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Sharon Farrow's "Dying For Strawberries"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Dying For Strawberries by Sharon Farrow.

About the book, from the publisher:
With seasonal crowds flocking to its sandy beaches, lively downtown shops, and the Berry Basket, a berry emporium with something for everyone, the lakeshore village of Oriole Point is ripe for summer fun—and murder.

Much has changed for Marlee Jacob since she returned to Oriole Point, Michigan. Between running the Berry Basket, dodging local gossip, and whipping up strawberry muffins, smoothies, and margaritas to celebrate the town’s first annual Strawberry Moon Bash, the thirty-year-old hardly has time for her fiancé, let alone grim memories of her old life in New York...

But unfortunately for Marlee, Oriole Point is muddled with secrets of its own. First her friend Natasha disappears after an ominous dream. Next the seediest man in town threatens to crush her business. Then an unknown person nearly kills her on the night of the Bash. When she discovers a dead body while searching for Natasha, Marlee realizes she’ll have to foil a killer’s plot herself—before the past permanently stains her future.
Visit Sharon Farrow's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dying For Strawberries.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Seven top weird westerns

Sam Reader is a writer and conventions editor for The Geek Initiative. He also writes literary criticism and reviews at One of seven weird westerns he tagged at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog:
Dark Alchemy, by Laura Bickle

Dark Alchemy is more neo-Western than weird Western, but still brings the bizarre West into focus. In the small town of Temperance, Wyoming, a geologist by the name of Petra Dee searches for clues to her father’s disappearance. Instead, she finds a town where meth flows as easily as gold once did, and a series of twisted skeletons somehow tied to the flocks of crows that keep appearing around town. It turns out that Temperance is, of course, a town with many alchemical secrets, and major powers will do anything to keep them hidden. Bickle has a good handle on her setting, but truly excels at building a steadily mounting sense of doom. It’s also a good time to catch up on Petra’s past actions, as her next adventure, Nine of Stars, comes out in December.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Dark Alchemy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Keally McBride's "Mr. Mothercountry," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Mr. Mothercountry: The Man Who Made the Rule of Law by Keally McBride.

The entry begins:
I envision Daniel Day-Lewis in the lead role of Mr. Mothercountry, playing James Stephen, who was given that name because he ran the British Empire from 1813-1847. Running the British Empire sounds like a big job, but back then it was considered dull, pesky detail work. No one had ever heard of those places now that the North American colonies had declared independence! Stephen worked in a building that was literally falling down and regularly had raw sewage seep into its floors from London. Day-Lewis would be sitting in a basement usually alone, surrounded by maps, pouring over documents that determined the fates of thousands of people. The surprising thing is that Stephen really cared about all of these people, and worked himself into nervous exhaustion trying to use his position to be a force for good in what he saw as the evils of the British Empire. He was educated, devout, and hypersensitive. His wife said he was “a man with no skin”. He hated looking in mirrors, loved playing with the babies of his family, and led a life of complete rectitude and self-renunciation. His children said: “He was a walking categorical imperative.” His granddaughter, Virginia Woolf, recounted that he smoked a cigar once, and liked it so much that...[read on]
Learn more about Mr. Mothercountry at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Mr. Mothercountry.

My Book, The Movie: Mr. Mothercountry.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Benjamin K. Bergen's "What the F"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves by Benjamin K. Bergen.

About the book, from the publisher:
It may be starred, beeped, and censored—yet profanity is so appealing that we can't stop using it. In the funniest, clearest study to date, Benjamin Bergen explains why, and what that tells us about our language and brains.

Nearly everyone swears—whether it's over a few too many drinks, in reaction to a stubbed toe, or in flagrante delicto. And yet, we sit idly by as words are banned from television and censored in books. We insist that people excise profanity from their vocabularies and we punish children for yelling the very same dirty words that we'll mutter in relief seconds after they fall asleep. Swearing, it seems, is an intimate part of us that we have decided to selectively deny.

That's a damn shame. Swearing is useful. It can be funny, cathartic, or emotionally arousing. As linguist and cognitive scientist Benjamin K. Bergen shows us, it also opens a new window onto how our brains process language and why languages vary around the world and over time.

In this groundbreaking yet ebullient romp through the linguistic muck, Bergen answers intriguing questions: How can patients left otherwise speechless after a stroke still shout Goddamn! when they get upset? When did a cock grow to be more than merely a rooster? Why is crap vulgar when poo is just childish? Do slurs make you treat people differently? Why is the first word that Samoan children say not mommy but eat shit? And why do we extend a middle finger to flip someone the bird?

Smart as hell and funny as fuck, What the F is mandatory reading for anyone who wants to know how and why we swear.
Learn more about What the F at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: What the F.

--Marshal Zeringue

Nose in a book: Robert Wilder

Who: Robert Wilder

What: Nickel by Robert Wilder

When: October 2016

Where: The Renaissance Denver Stapleton Hotel, Denver, Colorado (Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association, Fall Discovery Show 2016)

Photo credit: Tori

Visit Robert Wilder's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: Nickel.

Writers Read: Robert Wilder.

The Page 69 Test: Nickel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 21, 2016

Six YA books featuring teens with strange abilities

Parker Peevyhouse is the author of the acclaimed debut novel Where Futures End. One of her six favorite YAs centering on teens with unusual abilities, as shared at the BN Teen blog:
Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies, by Lindsay Ribar

Aspen can steal the strangest things—emotions, memories, thoughts, and even abilities. He can heal his own injuries by stealing your wellness, can get rid of his anxiety by skimming off a little of your peace of mind. But what’s really surprising is that Aspen uses much of what he steals to placate the cliff hanging over his town so it won’t come crashing down on everyone. In the end, Aspen is forced to face one of my favorite dilemmas in stories about gifted teens: he must finally choose whether to use his ability for himself or for the good of others.
Read about another book on the list.

Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies is among Sarah Skilton's six amazing YA books that take place in slanted realities.

The Page 69 Test: Rocks Fall Everyone Dies.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Meera Lester reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Meera Lester, author of The Murder of a Queen Bee.

Her entry begins:
I’m currently reading After the Storm, by Linda Castillo. I’m enamored of her extraordinary storytelling ability. She writes police procedural thrillers that include Her Last Breath, Pray for Silence, Sworn to Silence, and others. An added plus is that she populates them with believable characters—English and Amish. These books tick all the boxes for me—an engaging and believable protagonist, and equally worthy adversary, and the intense roller-coaster ride for the truth. The author seamlessly integrates what activities the police must do to find a killer while revealing the inner conflicts, suppressed emotions, and compassion of her sleuth.

As with other authors, reading informs my writing. My choices in reading run an eclectic gamut, from early Christian history and Celtic spirituality to cozy mysteries, thrillers, women’s fiction, and modern fables. I often re-read novels and nonfiction...[read on]
About The Murder of a Queen Bee, from the publisher:
All abuzz about murder...

Former police officer Abigail Mackenzie has made a fresh start as a beekeeper and farmer in picturesque Las Flores, California—but she never suspected her new hometown would prove to be a hive of criminal activity.

When Abby invites her free-spirited friend, Fiona Mary Ryan, owner of Ancient Wisdom Botanicals, to her farmette for lunch, she never imagines that Fiona’s no-show will lead to a murder investigation.

Only hours after their lunch date, Fiona’s body is found in a burning car in what at first appears to be a tragic accident. But after the coroner’s report is issued, it’s clear she was dead before being placed in the vehicle. Someone has gone to great lengths to cover up a murder. But who—and why?

Driven by her loyalty to her friend, and her deeply ingrained skills as a trained investigator, Abby sorts through suspects—who seem to be sprouting up everywhere. Speculating that Fiona’s herbal business might hold the key to motive, Abby isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty to smoke out a killer...
Visit Meera Lester's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Murder of a Queen Bee.

The Page 69 Test: The Murder of a Queen Bee.

Writers Read: Meera Lester.

--Marshal Zeringue