Saturday, February 29, 2020

Pg. 99: Michael Cavanagh's "Paradise Lost: A Primer"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Paradise Lost: A Primer by Michael Cavanagh, edited by Scott Newstok.

About the book, from the publisher:
A record of a teacher's lifelong love affair with the beauty, wit, and profundity of Paradise Lost, celebrating John Milton's un-doctrinal, complex, and therefore deeply satisfying perception of the human condition. After surveying Milton's recurrent struggle as a reconciler of conflicting ideals, this Primer undertakes a book-by-book reading of Paradise Lost, reviewing key features of Milton's "various style," and why we treasure that style. Cavanagh constantly revisits Milton the singer and maker, and the artistic problems he faced in writing this almost impossible poem.

This book is emphatically for first-time readers of Milton, with little or no prior exposure, but with ambition to encounter challenging poetry. These are readers who tell you they "have always been meaning to read Paradise Lost," who seek to enjoy the epic without being overwhelmed by its daunting learning and expansive frame of reference. Avoiding the narrowly specialized focus of most Milton scholarship, Cavanagh deals forthrightly with issues that recur across generations of readers, gathering selected voices—from scholars and poets alike—from 1674 through the present.

Lively and jargon-free, this Primer makes Paradise Lost accessible and fresh, offering a credible beginning to what is a great intellectual and aesthetic adventure.
Learn more about Paradise Lost: A Primer at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: Paradise Lost: A Primer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five nautical SFF books to read when you’re far from shore

Vanessa Armstrong is a book lover and writer with bylines at the LA Times, SYFY WIRE, and other publications. She lives in Los Angeles with her dog Penny and her husband Jon.

At Armstrong tagged "five books [she's] read at sea that have the ocean as an integral part of their stories," including:
Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller

Miller’s dystopian tale takes place on a barely floating city near the Arctic Circle called Qaanaaq, one of the few places left on the planet that hasn’t fallen to ruin after climate change and the spread of a genetically-engineered disease that has wiped out much of civilization. The worldbuilding of Qaanaaq, which is powered by thermal vents and organized into eight different sectors, is full of rich details that make the city come to life, especially when the imagery of the waves sloshing against Qaanaaq is eerily similar to the waves pounding against the side of the ship you’re on. Add in well-developed characters and the ability for certain humans to bond to orcas and/or polar bears make this story a resonant albeit sometimes scary one when traveling at sea.
Blackfish City is among Amy Brady's seven books that provocatively tackle climate change.

Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Brian Platzer reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Brian Platzer, author of The Body Politic: A Novel.

His entry begins:
At the moment, I’ve been reading Kudos, the third novel in Rachel Cusk’s Outline trilogy. Cusk is a genius at finding language for thoughts and emotions I’ve felt but couldn’t articulate. I spend so much time trying to make my plots feel inevitable--to make
every character's action have a clear consequence to the desires or actions of every other character. I think about what...[read on]
About The Body Politic, from the publisher:
New York City is still regaining its balance in the years following 9/11, when four twenty-somethings—Tess, Tazio, David, and Angelica—meet in a bar, each yearning for something: connection, recognition, a place in the world, a cause to believe in. Nearly fifteen years later, as their city recalibrates in the wake of the 2016 election, their bond has endured—but almost everything else has changed.

As freshmen at Cooper Union, Tess and Tazio were the ambitious, talented future of the art world—but by thirty-six, Tess is married to David, the mother of two young boys, and working as an understudy on Broadway. Kind and steady, David is everything Tess lacked in her own childhood—but a recent freak accident has left him with befuddling symptoms, and she’s still adjusting to her new role as caretaker.

Meanwhile, Tazio—who once had a knack for earning the kind of attention that Cooper Union students long for—has left the art world for a career in creative branding and politics. But in December 2016, fresh off the astonishing loss of his candidate, Tazio is adrift, and not even his gorgeous and accomplished fiancée, Angelica, seems able to get through to him. With tensions rising on the national stage, the four friends are forced to face the reality of their shared histories, especially a long-ago betrayal that has shaped every aspect of their friendship.

Elegant and perceptive, The Body Politic explores the meaning of commitment, the nature of forgiveness, the way that buried secrets will always find their way to the surface, and how all of it can shift—and eventually erupt—over the course of a life.
Visit Brian Platzer's website.

Writers Read: Brian Platzer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 28, 2020

Seven top books about dysfunctional rich families

Joseph Finder is the New York Times bestselling author of over a dozan suspense novels.

His latest Nick Heller novel is House on Fire.

At CrimeReads Finder tagged seven of his favorite books about screwed-up rich families. One title on the list:
Cristina Alger, The Darlings

Paul Ross, an attorney, has married into the billionaire Darling family, which is, of course, dysfunctional, in interesting ways. A corruption scandal and an SEC investigation pit family members against one another and test familial loyalties. Alger is a fine writer who freely dispenses authentic insider details about the life of the top 1/10th of 1 percent on the Upper East Side, the cavernous Park Avenue apartments and the weekends in the Hamptons. A twisty, elegant thriller.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Serena Kent's "Death in Avignon"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Death in Avignon: A Penelope Kite Novel by Serena Kent.

About the book, from the publisher:
Set amidst the gorgeous backdrop of Provence, Serena Kent’s second book in the deliciously entertaining Penelope Kite series finds the amateur sleuth romantically linked with the mayor of St. Merlot and dashing to solve the murder of an expat artist—perfect for fans of Peter Mayle and Agatha Christie.

After an eventful first few months in Provence, it seems Penelope is finally settling into her delightful new life, complete with a gorgeous love interest in the mayor of St. Merlot.

When Penelope and the mayor attend a glamorous gallery opening, Penelope’s biggest worry is embarrassing herself in front of her date. But the evening takes a horrifying turn when a controversial expat painter, Roland Doncaster, chokes to death.

A tragic accident? Or a malicious plot? Reluctantly drawn into the murder investigation, Penelope discovers that any number of jealous lovers and scheming rivals could be involved. And with dashing art dealers to charm, patisseries to resist, and her own friends under suspicion, Penelope will need to draw upon all her sleuthing talents to uncover the truth.

Set against the stunning vistas of Provence, Serena Kent returns with the second installment of her charming mystery series featuring the unflappable Penelope Kite.
Visit Serena Kent's website.

The Page 69 Test: Death in Provence.

The Page 69 Test: Death in Avignon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Florence Passy & Gian-Andrea Monsch's "Contentious Minds"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Contentious Minds: How Talk and Ties Sustain Activism by Florence Passy and Gian-Andrea Monsch.

About the book, from the publisher:
Why does the mind matter for collective action? In Contentious Minds, Florence Passy and Gian-Andrea Monsch explain how cognitive and relational processes allow activists participate in and sustain their commitment to activism. Based on a wide array of survey and interview data with activists engaged in protest, volunteering and unions, they highlight how a commitment community develop shared values, identities, and meanings through interaction. The interplay of talk and ties enables stories and meanings to be constructed and exchanged, conveys worldviews and intentions that are modified through ongoing conversations, and reinforces and maintains commitment over time. Passy and Monsch's ambitious work brings the mind and culture back into the study of social movements and highlights the crucial role social networks play in constructing the communities and shared values that sustain commitment.
Learn more about Contentious Minds at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Contentious Minds.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 27, 2020

What is Ismée Williams reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Ismée Williams, author of This Train Is Being Held.

Her entry begins:
I try to read as much as I can. I belong to two different book clubs that I love as they give me the opportunity to read books I wouldn’t necessarily pick out for myself. Since I live in New York City, I usually end up reading on my iPhone on the subway and then switch to the audiobook when I get out to walk along the streets. I prefer an old-fashioned book that I can hold in my hands, but the benefit of e-books and audiobooks is that they are always with me when I’m on the go (and seeing patients in the hospital and having three children means if I’m not writing, I’m on the go!).

Over the winter break, I read The Testament by Margaret Atwood. I loved The Handmaid’s Tale–the story, the themes, the plotting. But whereas The Handmaid’s Tale was sparse and clever in its release of information, forcing the reader to piece together the world, The Testament felt like more...[read on]
About This Train Is Being Held, from the publisher:
Alex is a baseball player. A great one. His papi is pushing him to go pro, but Alex maybe wants to be a poet. Not that Papi would understand or allow that.

Isa is a dancer. She'd love to go pro, if only her Havana-born mom weren't dead set against it...just like she's dead set against her daughter falling for a Latino. And Isa's privileged private-school life—with her dad losing his job and her older brother struggling with mental illness—is falling apart. Not that she'd ever tell that to Alex.

Fate—and the New York City subway—bring Alex and Isa together. Is it enough to keep them together when they need each other most?
Visit Ismée Williams's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Ismée Amiel Williams & Rowan.

My Book, The Movie: Water in May.

My Book, The Movie: This Train Is Being Held.

Writers Read: Ismée Williams.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten scary books featuring fictional pandemics

At BookRiot, Anna Gooding-Call tagged ten fictional pandemics that will make you sweat, including:
The Last One by Alexandra Oliva

It’s supposed to be a reality TV show. Sent to the woods to endure challenges a la Survivor, Zoo can’t quite believe that the devastation of society is real. Whether the end of the world has truly come or it’s just another producer’s trick, she’ll need to live through it on her own.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: The Last One.

--Marshal Zeringue

Suzanne Redfearn’s "In An Instant," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: In an Instant by Suzanne Redfearn.

The entry begins:
I love this prompt. What author doesn’t want to dream up a cast of actors to play their characters? Of course I want Bradley Cooper for the male lead, and if Brad is not available, I guess I would settle for Hugh Jackman. I will have to be on the set of course for script consultation and perhaps wardrobe fittings, and though the story is serious and not musical in the least, we might need to add a ditty in there somewhere so they can sing.

The narrator for In An Instant is a dead feisty sixteen-year-old named Finn. I don’t think you would see her after her death, which happens pretty early in the story, so the voice would be really important. Maybe someone who has a great rasp, like...[read on]
Visit Suzanne Redfearn's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Suzanne Redfearn and Cooper.

My Book, The Movie: Hush Little Baby.

The Page 69 Test: Hush Little Baby.

The Page 69 Test: No Ordinary Life.

Writers Read: Suzanne Redfearn (February 2016).

My Book, The Movie: No Ordinary Life.

My Book, The Movie: In an Instant.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books about imaginary friends

Camilla Bruce was born in central Norway and grew up in an old forest, next to an Iron Age burial mound. She holds a master's degree in comparative literature, and has co-run a small press that published dark fairytales. Bruce currently lives in Trondheim with her son and cat.

You Let Me In is her first novel.

At the Guardian, Bruce tagged ten top books about imaginary friends, including:
The Boy Who Could See Demons by Carolyn Jess-Cooke

Child psychiatrist Anya Molokova meets 10-year-old Alex after his mother’s fifth suicide attempt. Alex is a normal boy, but his best friend, Ruen, is a 9,000-year-old, shape-shifting demon. Anya naturally assumes that Alex is mentally unwell, but during the course of his treatment, Alex tells her things he could not possibly know. The novel courts the supernatural without ever losing its grip on reality, which is part of what makes it so enticing.
Read about another entry on the list.

My Book, The Movie: The Boy Who Could See Demons.

The Page 69 Test: The Boy Who Could See Demons.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

What is Alena Dillon reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Alena Dillon, author of Mercy House: A Novel.

Her entry begins:
I’m currently reading nonfiction essay collections on early motherhood. My son just celebrated his first birthday. I’ve found motherhood to be rewarding and challenging and confusing and joyous and overwhelming. When my emotions are this complex, I turn to the page, both by writing and reading. I’m consuming the world of motherhood so that I can...[read on]

About Mercy House, from the publisher:
She would stop at nothing to protect the women under her care.

Inside a century-old row house in Brooklyn, renegade Sister Evelyn and her fellow nuns preside over a safe haven for the abused and abandoned. Gruff and indomitable on the surface, warm and wry underneath, little daunts Evelyn, until she receives word that Mercy House will be investigated by Bishop Hawkins, a man with whom she shares a dark history. In order to protect everything they’ve built, the nuns must conceal many of their methods, which are forbidden by the Catholic Church.

Evelyn will go to great lengths to defend all that she loves. She confronts a gang member, defies the church, challenges her own beliefs, and faces her past. She is bolstered by the other nuns and the vibrant, diverse residents of the shelter—Lucia, Mei-Li, Desiree, Esther, and Katrina—whose differences are outweighed by what unites them: they’ve all been broken by men but are determined to rebuild.

Amidst her fight, Evelyn discovers the extraordinary power of mercy and the grace it grants, not just to those who receive it, but to those strong enough to bestow it.
Visit Alena Dillon's website.

The Page 69 Test: Mercy House.

My Book, The Movie: Mercy House.

Writers Read: Alena Dillon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight novels that will make you never want to look at your phone again

Kathleen Barber is a former attorney, incurable wanderer, and yoga enthusiast. Originally from Galesburg, Illinois, she is a graduate of the University of Illinois and Northwestern University School of Law. She now lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and son. Her first novel, Truth Be Told (2017, originally published as Are You Sleeping), has been adapted as a series for Apple TV+ by Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine media company.

Barber's new novel is Follow Me.

At CrimeReads she tagged "eight books that will make you consider logging off—permanently." One title on the list:
The Arrangement by Robyn Harding

The internet isn’t just for establishing personal relationships; it’s also for conducting business…and for the point where the two commingle. Natalie is desperate for extra cash when a friend encourages her to make a profile on a website connecting young women with sugar daddies. It’s supposed to be safe—but Natalie soon finds herself caught in a dangerous game with one of the rich men she’s met online.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: The Arrangement.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Joseph P. Laycock's "Speak of the Devil"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Speak of the Devil: How The Satanic Temple is Changing the Way We Talk about Religion by Joseph P. Laycock.

About the book, from the publisher:
In 2013, when the state of Oklahoma erected a statue of the Ten Commandments on the grounds of the state capitol, a group calling themselves The Satanic Temple applied to erect a statue of Baphomet alongside the Judeo-Christian tablets. Since that time, The Satanic Temple has become a regular voice in national conversations about religious freedom, disestablishment, and government overreach. In addition to petitioning for Baphomet to appear alongside another monument of the Ten Commandments in Arkansas, the group has launched campaigns to include Satanic "nativity scenes" on government property in Florida, Michigan, and Indiana, offer Satanic prayers at a high school football game in Seattle, and create "After School Satan" programs in elementary schools that host Christian extracurricular programs. Since their 2012 founding, The Satanic Temple has established 19 chapters and now claims 100,000 supporters. Is this just a political group perpetuating a series of stunts? Or is it a sincere religious movement?

Speak of the Devil is the first book-length study of The Satanic Temple. Joseph Laycock, a scholar of new religious movements, contends that the emergence of "political Satanism" marks a significant moment in American religious history that will have a lasting impact on how Americans frame debates about religious freedom. Though the group gained attention for its strategic deployment of outrage, it claims to have developed beyond politics into a genuine religious movement. Equal parts history and ethnography, Speak of the Devil is Laycock's attempt to take seriously The Satanic Temple's work to redefine religion, the nature of pluralism and religious tolerance, and what "religious freedom" means in America.
Learn more about Speak of the Devil at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Seer of Bayside.

The Page 99 Test: Speak of the Devil.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Dan Vyleta's "Soot"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Soot: A Novel by Dan Vyleta.

About the book, from the publisher:
The electrifying sequel to the national bestseller Smoke – bringing back readers to a world that Entertainment Weekly called “Part Dickens, part dystopia, and totally immersive.”

The year is 1909. It has been ten years since Thomas Argyle, Charlie Cooper and Livia Naylor set off a revolution by releasing Smoke upon the world. They were raised to think Smoke was a sign of sin manifested, but learned its suppression was really a means of controlling society. Smoke allowed people to mingle their emotions, to truly connect, and the trio thought that freeing the Smoke would bring down the oppressive power structure and create a fair and open society. But the consequences were far greater than they had imagined, and the world has fractured.

Erasmus Renfrew, the avowed enemy of Smoke, is now Lord Protector of what remains of the English state. Charlie and Livia live in Minetowns, an egalitarian workers’ community in the north of England which lives by Smoke. Thomas Argyle is in India on a clandestine mission to find out the origins of Smoke, and why the still-powerful Company is mounting an expedition in the Himalayas.

Mowgli, the native whose body was used to trigger the tempest that unleashed the Smoke, now calls himself Nils and is a chameleon-like thief living in New York. And Eleanor Renfrew, Erasmus’ niece who was the subject of his cruel experiments in suppressing Smoke, is in hiding from her uncle in provincial Canada. What she endured has given her a strange power over Smoke, which she fears as much as her uncle.
Believing her uncle’s agents have found her, she flees to New York with a theater troupe led by Balthazar Black, an impresario with secrets of his own. There they encounter Nils and a Machiavellian Company man named Smith.

All these people seek to discover the true nature of Smoke, and thereby control its power. As their destinies entwine, a cataclysmic confrontation looms, and the Smoke will either bind them together or rend the world.
Visit Dan Vyleta's website.

See Vyleta's top 10 list of books in second languages.

Writers Read: Dan Vyleta (February 2012).

The Page 69 Test: Soot.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

What is Teddy Wayne reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Teddy Wayne, author of Apartment.

His entry begins:
I've just reread the late William Goldman's two screenwriting memoirs, Adventures in the Screen Trade and Which Lie Did I Tell? Both are brisk, entertaining, incisive looks at screenwriting, the movie business, and the characters (real and fictional) Goldman dealt with over his long career. Goldman's pleasure in storytelling is evident on the page as well as the screen; he loves a punchy, revealing anecdote. There are...[read on]
About Apartment, from the publisher:
From the award-winning author of Loner and The Love Song of Jonny Valentine, a powerful novel about loneliness and friendship, gender and sexuality, and the political schisms that dominate our times.

In 1996, the unnamed narrator of Teddy Wayne's Apartment is attending the MFA writing program at Columbia on his father's dime and living in an illegal sublet of a rent-stabilized apartment. Feeling guilty about his good fortune, he offers his spare bedroom--rent-free--to Billy, a talented, charismatic classmate from the Midwest eking out a hand-to-mouth existence in Manhattan.

The narrator's rapport with Billy develops into the friendship he's never had due to a lifetime of holding people at arm's length, hovering at the periphery, feeling “fundamentally defective.” But their living arrangement, not to mention their radically different upbringings, breeds tensions neither man could predict. Interrogating the origins of our contemporary political divide and its ties to masculinity and class, Apartment is a gutting portrait of one of New York's many lost, disconnected souls by a writer with an uncommon aptitude for embodying them.
Learn more about the book and author at Teddy Wayne's website.

The Page 69 Test: Kapitoil.

Writers Read: Teddy Wayne.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six SFF novels featuring women on the high seas

Adalyn Grace's debut novel is All the Stars and Teeth.

At she tagged six sci-fi & fantasy books featuring women on the high seas, including:
The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke
“There are three ways of bettering yourself in the Pirates’ Confederation, Mama told me once: murder, mutiny, and marriage.”
Ananna wants nothing more than to captain her own ship. So when her parents try to marry her off instead, Ananna flees. What ensues is an adventure about a somewhat arrogant, cunning girl on the run from an assassin who’s been hired to track her down. But of course, things don’t always go as planned, and let’s just say that the assassin and the pirate are forced to work together in what I thought was one of the most delightful ways possible. Which, dare I say, is a trope I will never stop loving.

My favorite thing about Ananna was that she was a bit prickly and precocious, which are traits I adore in female characters. Her thievery and trickery also made for some highly entertaining scenes, and the banter gets a solid A+.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Alena Dillon's "Mercy House," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Mercy House: A Novel by Alena Dillon.

The entry begins:
I have a distinct image of Sister Evelyn in my mind because she is based (loosely) on a nun I knew, so it’s harder in this case to assign her an actress. However, there are so many incredibly talented older actresses I would be so honored to see inhabit (no pun intended) the role.

Meryl we know is spectacular in everything and has already played a nun in Doubt.

Frances...[read on]
Visit Alena Dillon's website.

The Page 69 Test: Mercy House.

My Book, The Movie: Mercy House.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top cozy mysteries set in the Pacific Northwest

Nancy Coco AKA Nancy J Parra AKA Nell Hampton is the author of over 27 published novels which include five mystery series: The Oregon Honey-comb Mystery Series (Kensington), The Candy-Coated Mysteries (Kensington), The Kensington Palace Mystery Series (Crooked Lane), The Wine Country Tours Mystery Series (Crooked Lane) The Gluten-free Baker’s Treat Mysteries (Berkley Prime Crime), and The Perfect Proposal Mysteries (Berkley Prime Crime).

At CrimeReads, Coco tagged five cozy mystery series set in the Pacific Northwest, including:
We’ll start with Ellie Alexander’s Bakeshop Mystery series (St. Martin’s Press), set in small-town Oregon. Her latest is titled A Cup of Holiday Fear. This is the tenth book in the series set in Ashland, Oregon—a small town in southwestern Oregon near the California border. The protagonist Jules Capshaw and friends are enjoying the Christmas season and a Charles Dickens feast when the weather becomes frightful and one of the guests turns up dead.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 24, 2020

What is Alyssa Palombo reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Alyssa Palombo, author of The Borgia Confessions: A Novel.

Her entry begins:
What I’m Currently Reading:

More Than Maybe by Erin Hahn: I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of this YA contemporary romance, coming in May 2020. The story is about two music-obsessed teens: Luke Greenly, son of a famous British rocker; and Vada Carsewell, an aspiring music journalist. They both have a crush on each other, with no idea that their crush is requited. I’m loving the snappy dialogue and, as a music-obsessed former teen myself, can relate a great deal to...[read on]
About The Borgia Confessions, from the publisher:
During the sweltering Roman summer of 1492, Rodrigo Borgia has risen to power as pope. Rodrigo’s eldest son Cesare, forced to follow his father into the church and newly made the Archbishop of Valencia, chafes at his ecclesiastical role and fumes with jealousy and resentment at the way that his foolish brother has been chosen for the military greatness he desired.

Maddalena Moretti comes from the countryside, where she has seen how the whims of powerful men wreak havoc on the lives of ordinary people. But now, employed as a servant in the Vatican Palace, she cannot help but be entranced by Cesare Borgia’s handsome face and manner and finds her faith and conviction crumbling in her want of him.

As war rages and shifting alliances challenge the pope’s authority, Maddalena and Cesare's lives grow inexplicably entwined. Maddalena becomes a keeper of dangerous Borgia secrets, and must decide if she is willing to be a pawn in the power games of the man she loves. And as jealousy and betrayal threaten to tear apart the Borgia family from within, Cesare is forced to reckon with his seemingly limitless ambition.

Alyssa Palombo's captivating new novel, The Borgia Confessions, is a story of passion, politics, and class, set against the rise and fall of one of Italy's most infamous families--the Borgias.
Visit Alyssa Palombo's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Violinist of Venice.

The Page 69 Test: The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence.

My Book, The Movie: The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel.

My Book, The Movie: The Borgia Confessions.

Writers Read: Alyssa Palombo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books that leave you with hope for humanity

M.K. England is an author and YA librarian who grew up on the Space Coast of Florida and now calls the mountains of Virginia home. When she’s not writing or librarianing, England can be found drowning in fandom, rolling dice at the gaming table, climbing on things in the woods, feeding her video game addiction, or talking way too much about space and science literacy. She loves Star Wars with a desperate, heedless passion. It’s best if you never speak of Sherlock Holmes in her presence. You’ll regret it. Her debut novel, The Disasters, is followed by the recently released Spellhacker.

At England tagged five books that leave you with hope for humanity, including:
Nyxia by Scott Reintgen
You get in there and fight, Emmett. Be worthy. Not in their eyes, but in yours. Break the rules you need to, but never forget who you are and where you come from. When they knock you down, and they will, don’t you quit on me.
This book doesn’t pull punches. There will be deaths that hit you in the feels, and plenty of twists and turns. There’s also powerful social commentary, a fighting spirit, and that relentless drive to do what’s right for family, friends, and humanity. This now-complete trilogy wraps up with plenty of drama, action, and pain, but never loses that feeling that got it on this list to begin with.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Nyxia.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Alexander Watson's "The Fortress"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Fortress: The Siege of Przemysl and the Making of Europe's Bloodlands by Alexander Watson.

About the book, from the publisher:
A prizewinning historian tells the dramatic story of the siege that changed the course of the First World War

In September 1914, just a month into World War I, the Russian army laid siege to the fortress city of Przemysl, the Hapsburg Empire's most important bulwark against invasion. For six months, against storm and starvation, the ragtag garrison bitterly resisted, denying the Russians a quick victory. Only in March 1915 did the city fall, bringing occupation, persecution, and brutal ethnic cleansing.

In The Fortress, historian Alexander Watson tells the story of the battle for Przemysl, showing how it marked the dawn of total war in Europe and how it laid the roots of the bloody century that followed. Vividly told, with close attention to the unfolding of combat in the forts and trenches and to the experiences of civilians trapped in the city, The Fortress offers an unprecedentedly intimate perspective on the eastern front's horror and human tragedy.
Learn more about The Fortress at the Basic Books website.

The Page 99 Test: The Fortress.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Kathleen Barber's "Follow Me"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Follow Me by Kathleen Barber.

About the book, from the publisher:
Everyone wants new followers…until they follow you home.

Audrey Miller has an enviable new job at the Smithsonian, a body by reformer Pilates, an apartment door with a broken lock, and hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers to bear witness to it all. Having just moved to Washington, DC, Audrey busies herself impressing her new boss, interacting with her online fan base, and staving off a creepy upstairs neighbor with the help of the only two people she knows in town: an ex-boyfriend she can’t stay away from and a sorority sister with a high-powered job and a mysterious past.

But Audrey’s faulty door may be the least of her security concerns. Unbeknownst to her, her move has brought her within striking distance of someone who’s obsessively followed her social media presence for years—from her first WordPress blog to her most recent Instagram Story. No longer content to simply follow her carefully curated life from a distance, he consults the dark web for advice on how to make Audrey his and his alone. In his quest to win her heart, nothing is off-limits—and nothing is private.

With “compelling, suspenseful” (Liz Nugent) prose, Kathleen Barber’s electrifying new thriller will have you scrambling to cover your webcam and digital footprints.
Visit Kathleen Barber's website.

The Page 69 Test: Follow Me.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Six books that feature strong female voices

Allison Pataki is the New York Times bestselling author of The Queen’s Fortune: A Novel of Desiree, Napoleon, and the Dynasty That Outlasted the Empire, The Traitor’s Wife, The Accidental Empress, Sisi: Empress On Her Own, Where the Light Falls, as well as the nonfiction memoir Beauty in the Broken Places and two children’s books, Nelly Takes New York and Poppy Takes Paris.

At The Week magazine, Pataki tagged six books with strong female voices, including:
Circe by Madeline Miller (2018).

Circe was a fabled goddess who led a solitary life of island exile, tossed back and forth between the gods and the mortals as it served their whims. She's often remembered merely as a tangential character in Odysseus' legend, but in this brilliant fictional reimagining, Miller puts Circe squarely in the center of her own story. Greek mythology has never been so enjoyable.
Read about another entry on the list.

Circe is among Pam Grossman's thirteen stories about strong women with magical powers, Kris Waldherr's nine top books inspired by mythology, Katharine Duckett's eight novels that reexamine literature from the margins, and Steph Posts' thirteen top novels set in the world of myth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Aro Velmet's "Pasteur's Empire"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Pasteur's Empire: Bacteriology and Politics in France, Its Colonies, and the World by Aro Velmet.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the 1890s, the Pasteur Institute established a network of laboratories that stretched across France's empire, from Indochina to West Africa. Quickly, researchers at these laboratories became central to France's colonial project, helping officials monopolize industries, develop public health codes, establish disease containment measures, and arbitrate political conflicts around questions of labor rights, public works, and free association.

Pasteur's Empire shows how the scientific prestige of the Pasteur Institute came to depend on its colonial laboratories, and how, conversely, the institutes themselves became central to colonial politics. This book argues that decisions as small as the isolation of a particular yeast or the choice of a laboratory animal could have tremendous consequences on the lives of Vietnamese and African subjects, who became the consumers of new vaccines or industrially fermented intoxicants. Simultaneously, global forces, such as the rise of international standards and American competitors pushed Pastorians to their imperial laboratories, where they could conduct studies that researchers in France considered too difficult or controversial. Chapters follow not just Alexandre Yersin's studies of the plague, Charles Nicolle's public health work in Tunisia, and Jean Laigret's work on yellow fever in Dakar, but also the activities of Vietnamese doctors, African students and politicians, Syrian traders, and Chinese warlords. It argues that a specifically Pastorian understanding of microbiology shaped French colonial politics across the world, allowing French officials to promise hygienic modernity while actually committing to little development. In bringing together global history, imperial history, and science and technology studies, Pasteur's Empire deftly integrates micro and macro analyses into one connected narrative that sheds critical light on a key era in the history of medicine.
Learn more about Pasteur's Empire at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Pasteur's Empire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top books to make you feel less alone

Andrew Hunter Murray is a writer and comedian. He is one of the writers and researchers behind the BBC show QI and also cohosts the spinoff podcast, No Such Thing as a Fish, which, since 2014, has released 250 episodes, been downloaded 200 million times, and toured the world. It has also spawned two bestselling books, The Book of the Year and The Book of the Year 2018, as well as a BBC Two series No Such Thing as the News. He also writes for Private Eye magazine and hosts the Eye‘s in-house podcast, Page 94, interviewing the country’s best investigative journalists about their work. In his spare time he performs in the Jane Austen–themed improv comedy group Austentatious, which plays in London’s West End and around the UK. The Last Day is his debut novel.

At the Guardian, Murray tagged five of the best books to make you feel less alone, including:
[T]ry Stoner, John Williams’s majestic biography of an American English don. Stoner is born alone and does die alone, without question – but the story of his life, and his brief, fragile encounter with true love, make the book one of the high points of American literature. Almost all the readers who have discovered and loved the novel did so after Williams’s death. How’s that for connection in spite of it all?
Read about another entry on the list.

Stoner is among Thomas Maloney's ten best deaths in fiction, Simon Kernick's six best books, The Secret Teacher author's ten top books about teaching, Jamie Fewery's ten best fictional fathers, and Colum McCann's top ten novels featuring poets.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Pg. 69: Clare Beams's "The Illness Lesson"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Illness Lesson: A Novel by Clare Beams.

About the book, from the publisher:
A searing novel which probes the world’s approach to women’s bodies and women’s minds, and the time-honored tradition of doubting both.

At their newly founded school, Samuel Hood and his daughter Caroline promise a groundbreaking education for young women. But Caroline has grave misgivings. After all, her own unconventional education has left her unmarriageable and isolated, unsuited to the narrow roles afforded women in 19th century New England.

When a mysterious flock of red birds descends on the town, Caroline alone seems to find them unsettling. But it’s not long before the assembled students begin to manifest bizarre symptoms: Rashes, seizures, headaches, verbal tics, night wanderings. One by one, they sicken. Fearing ruin for the school, Samuel overrules Caroline’s pleas to inform the girls’ parents and turns instead to a noted physician, a man whose sinister ministrations–based on a shocking historic treatment–horrify Caroline. As the men around her continue to dictate, disastrously, all terms of the girls’ experience, Caroline’s body too begins to betray her. To save herself and her young charges, she will have to defy every rule that has governed her life, her mind, her body, and her world.

Clare Beams’s extraordinary debut story collection We Show What We Have Learned earned comparisons to Shirley Jackson, Karen Russell and Aimee Bender, and established Beams as a writer who “creates magical-realist pieces that often calculate the high cost of being a woman” (The Rumpus). Precisely observed, hauntingly atmospheric, as fiercely defiant as it is triumphant, The Illness Lesson is a spellbinding piece of storytelling.
Visit Clare Beams's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Illness Lesson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight weird literary romances

Amy Bonnaffons's new novel is The Regrets.

At Lit Hub she tagged eight novels of unlikely love, including:
What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi (2016)

This collection of loosely-linked stories, centered around the concept of locks and keys, contains several whimsical explorations of love at its most surprising. The first story, “Books and Roses,” has a secret garden and library at its center—spaces embodying the private mystery of clandestine love. In “Is Your Blood as Red as This?”, a bookish introvert befriends a haunted puppet in order to pursue her aspiring-puppeteer crush, and finds herself a student at an elite puppetry academy where the lines between human and nonhuman, boy and girl, living and dead, are all intriguingly blurred. Wonderfully queer in every sense of the word, these stories yield dark insights despite their lighthearted conceits: “it’s not always affinity that draws us together (not always, not only)… you can be called to undo the deeds of another.”
Read about another entry on the list.

What is Not Yours is Not Yours is among Sam Reader's six ghost stories to read on a cold Christmas night.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Lani Forbes reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Lani Forbes, author of The Seventh Sun.

Her entry begins:
I recently started reading The Indigo Girl by Natasha Boyd. I had the opportunity to travel to South Carolina last fall and being a huge history nerd, I delved into some of the local history. One of the historians I spoke to highly recommended this book and I immediately recognized it as one of Blackstone Publishing’s books. I love when historical fiction addresses lesser known stories, and I was really curious to learn more about sixteen-year-old Eliza Lucas and how her actions...[read on]
About the book, from the publisher:
Thrust into leadership upon the death of his emperor father, young Prince Ahkin feels completely unready for his new position. Though his royal blood controls the power of the sun, he’s now responsible for the lives of all the Chicome people. And despite all Ahkin’s efforts, the sun is fading—and the end of the world may be at hand.

For Mayana, the only daughter of the Chicome family whose blood controls the power of water, the old emperor’s death may mean that she is next. Prince Ahkin must be married before he can ascend the throne, and Mayana is one of six noble daughters presented to him as a possible wife. Those who are not chosen will be sacrificed to the gods.

Only one girl can become Ahkin’s bride. Mayana and Ahkin feel an immediate connection, but the gods themselves may be against them. Both recognize that the ancient rites of blood that keep the gods appeased may be harming the Chicome more than they help. As a bloodred comet and the fading sun bring a growing sense of dread, only two young people may hope to change their world.

Rich in imagination and romance, and based on the legends and history of the Aztec and Maya people, The Seventh Sun brings to vivid life a world on the edge of apocalyptic disaster.
Visit Lani Fobes's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Seventh Sun.

Writers Read: Lani Forbes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 21, 2020

Eight top contemporary romantic novels

Owen Nicholls is a screenwriter and author. His first novel, Love, Unscripted, was chosen as part of the Escalator Talent Scheme run by the National Centre for Writing.

He lives in Norfolk, England with his partner and their two sons.

At Electric Lit he tagged eight contemporary novels that will make you believe love is possible, including:
The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

Released in the same year as The Wedding Date, this book proves Guillory’s strike rate is second to none—unlike the swing and miss of her jerk of an antagonist, Fisher, who thinks a Jumbotron proposal is the way to control a woman’s response. Thankfully, this leads our hero Nikole to find Carlos, someone who understands that relationships need dialogue and consent.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: James Wellman Jr., Katie Corcoran, & Kate Stockly's "High on God"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: High on God: How Megachurches Won the Heart of America by James Wellman, Jr., Katie Corcoran, and Kate Stockly.

About the book, from the publisher:
"God is like a drug, a high, [I] can't wait for the next hit." This direct quote from a megachurch member speaking about his experience of God might be dismissed as some sort of spiritually-induced drug riff. However, according to the research in this book, it was not only sincere, but a deeply felt, and sought-after sensibility. Megachurch attendees desire this first-hand experience of God, and many report finding it in their congregations. The book focuses on the emotional, social and religious dynamics that pull thousands of people into megachurches and how those churches make some feel like they are "high on God" and can't wait to get their next spiritual "hit."

High on God gives the first robust and plausible explanation for why megachurches have conquered the churchgoing market of America. Without condescension or exaggeration, the authors show the genius of megachurches: the power of charisma, the design of facilities, the training of leaders, the emotional dynamics, and the strategies that bring people together and lead them to serve and help others. Using Emile Durkheim's concept of homo duplex, the authors plot the strategies that megachurches employ to satisfy the core human craving for personal meaning and social integration, as well as personal identity and communal solidarity. The authors also show how these churches can go wrong, sometimes tragically so. But they argue that, for the most part, megachurches help their attendees find themselves through bonding with and serving others.
Learn more about High on God at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: High on God.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six novels where the crimefighters also happen to be parents

Heather Chavez is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley’s English literature program and has worked as a newspaper reporter, editor and contributor to mystery and television blogs. Currently, she’s employed in public affairs for a major health care organization where she writes human interest stories. She lives with her family in Santa Rosa, California.

No Bad Deed is Chavez's first book.

At CrimeReads she tagged six crime novels in which the protagonist's own family life introduces another wrinkle to the case. One title on the list:
Hush Hush, Laura Lippman

In the twelfth book in the series, Baltimore private investigator Tess Monaghan now drives a minivan named Gladys. Tess is in total mom mode here: coaxing three-year-old Carla Scout to eat organic fish tacos and enduring Tasmanian Devil-level meltdowns. (Carla Scout steals every scene she’s in.) So when Tess is hired by the wealthy Melisandre Harris Dawes, notorious for having killed her own child, Tess is understandably uneasy. Melisandre is making a documentary about her case, and wants to reconnect with her now teenage daughters. In Hush, Hush, parental guilt is on full display—both Tess’s and Melisandre’s—as is the transformative nature of motherhood, for good and ill.
Read about another entry on the list.

Hush Hush is among Lisa Levy's ten top novels in mother-daughter noir.

The Page 69 Test: Hush Hush.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Pg. 69: Alena Dillon's "Mercy House"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Mercy House: A Novel by Alena Dillon.

About the book, from the publisher:
She would stop at nothing to protect the women under her care.

Inside a century-old row house in Brooklyn, renegade Sister Evelyn and her fellow nuns preside over a safe haven for the abused and abandoned. Gruff and indomitable on the surface, warm and wry underneath, little daunts Evelyn, until she receives word that Mercy House will be investigated by Bishop Hawkins, a man with whom she shares a dark history. In order to protect everything they’ve built, the nuns must conceal many of their methods, which are forbidden by the Catholic Church.

Evelyn will go to great lengths to defend all that she loves. She confronts a gang member, defies the church, challenges her own beliefs, and faces her past. She is bolstered by the other nuns and the vibrant, diverse residents of the shelter—Lucia, Mei-Li, Desiree, Esther, and Katrina—whose differences are outweighed by what unites them: they’ve all been broken by men but are determined to rebuild.

Amidst her fight, Evelyn discovers the extraordinary power of mercy and the grace it grants, not just to those who receive it, but to those strong enough to bestow it.
Visit Alena Dillon's website.

The Page 69 Test: Mercy House.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Katya de Becerra reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Katya de Becerra, author of Oasis: A Novel.

Her entry begins:
Every year I set a new reading goal, which has more to do with quality and diversity of my reading rather than quantity. For example, 2019 was my year of “reading widely”, meaning reading more books outside my go-to genres (YA thriller and contemporary fantasy). Specifically, I wanted to focus on reading books in formats I rarely pick up, such as graphic novels. I can’t recall exactly how I came across Vera Brosgol’s work but I’m so glad I did because two of her graphic novels (Anya’s Ghost and Be Prepared) are easily in my top five favorite reads from last year.

Brosgol is Moscow-born, US-based award-winning cartoonist (she has storyboarded for Coraline among other films), and once I knew she was...[read on]
About Oasis, from the publisher:
In this young adult thriller for fans of Lost and The Twilight Zone, a group of teens are saved when they come across a mysterious oasis. But who will save them from the oasis?

Alif had exciting summer plans: working on her father’s archeological dig site in the desert with four close friends ... and a very cute research assistant. Then the sandstorm hit.

Their camp wiped away, Alif and the others find themselves lost on the sands, seemingly doomed ... until they find the oasis. It has everything they need: food, water, and shade—and mysterious ruins that hide a deadly secret. As reality begins to shift around them, they question what’s real and what’s a mirage.

The answers turn Alif and her friends against each other, and they begin to wonder if they’ve truly been saved. And while it was easy to walk into the oasis, it may be impossible to leave...
Visit Katya de Becerra's blog and follow @KatyaDeBecerra on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Writers Read: Katya de Becerra.

--Marshal Zeringue