Thursday, April 30, 2020

Matt Gallagher's "Empire City," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Empire City: A Novel by Matt Gallagher.

The entry begins:
If Empire City were turned into a film ...

Though it's set in an alternate America, Empire City is very much concerned with modern issues of war and peace and the relationship between a republic and its military. There's only been one great post-Vietnam war film made, in my opinion: Three Kings, written and directed by David O. Russell. So he's my dream director, because I know he can walk the line between sincerity and dark humor so important to stories of armed conflict, and I know he understands the character nuances and ambiguities inherent to compelling soldier leads.

Speaking of those leads...

In a perfect world, Christopher Mintz-Plasse (of McLovin fame) plays Sebastian Rios. Sebastian's a goofball, but deep down possesses...[read on]
Visit Matt Gallagher's website.

The Page 69 Test: Empire City.

My Book, The Movie: Empire City.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Nicole C. Kear's "Foreverland"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Foreverland by Nicole C. Kear.

About the book, from the publisher:
Nicole C. Kear’s Foreverland is a bighearted coming-of-age story about being lost, and finding your way back home again.

Margaret is tired of everything always changing. Middle school has gone from bad to worse. Her best friend is becoming a stranger. And her family—well, it's not even a family anymore.

So Margaret is running away to Foreverland, her favorite amusement park. Hiding out there is trickier than she expects--until she meets Jaime, a thrill-seeking, fast-thinking runaway who teaches Margaret how to stay one step ahead of the captain of security.

At first, this after-hours, all-access pass to the park is a dream come true: sleepovers in the Haunted House, nonstop junk food, and an unlimited ticket to ride. But as the runaways learn each other’s secrets, they must face the reasons they left their normal lives behind. With the Captain closing in and Jaime's future on the line, can Margaret finally take control?

Foreverland is an exhilarating story about riding life's rollercoaster—figuring out how to hang on and learning when to let go.
Visit Nicole C. Kear's website.

Q&A with Nicole C. Kear.

My Book, The Movie: Foreverland.

The Page 69 Test: Foreverland.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Sopan Deb's "Missed Translations"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Missed Translations: Meeting the Immigrant Parents Who Raised Me by Sopan Deb.

About the book, from the publisher:
A bittersweet and humorous memoir of family—of the silence and ignorance that separate us, and the blood and stories that connect us—from an award-winning New York Times writer and comedian.

Approaching his 30th birthday, Sopan Deb had found comfort in his day job as a writer for the New York Times and a practicing comedian. But his stage material highlighting his South Asian culture only served to mask the insecurities borne from his family history. Sure, Deb knew the facts: his parents, both Indian, separately immigrated to North America in the 1960s and 1970s. They were brought together in a volatile and ultimately doomed arranged marriage and raised a family in suburban New Jersey before his father returned to India alone.

But Deb had never learned who his parents were as individuals—their ages, how many siblings they had, what they were like as children, what their favorite movies were. Theirs was an ostensibly nuclear family without any of the familial bonds. Coming of age in a mostly white suburban town, Deb’s alienation led him to seek separation from his family and his culture, longing for the tight-knit home environment of his white friends. His desire wasn’t rooted in racism or oppression; it was born of envy and desire—for white moms who made after-school snacks and asked his friends about the girls they liked and the teachers they didn’t. Deb yearned for the same.

Deb’s experiences as one of the few minorities covering the Trump campaign, and subsequently as a stand up comedian, propelled him on a dramatic journey to India to see his father—the first step in a life altering journey to bridge the emotional distance separating him from those whose DNA he shared. Deb had to learn to connect with this man he recognized yet did not know—and eventually breach the silence separating him from his mother. As it beautifully and poignantly chronicles Deb’s odyssey, Missed Translations raises questions essential to us all: Is it ever too late to pick up the pieces and offer forgiveness? How do we build bridges where there was nothing before—and what happens to us, to our past and our future, if we don’t?
Follow Sopan Deb on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Missed Translations.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Andrea Robertson

From my Q&A with Andrea Robertson, author of Forged in Fire and Stars:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Forged in Fire and Stars takes readers directly into the story. The first chapter of the book takes place at a smithy, introducing readers to the forge and its fire. Getting to the stars requires a journey with the protagonist Ara and her companions, while digging into the lore and history of the kingdom – Saetlund - they are trying to save.

The working title for Forged in Fire and Stars was Loresmith. By birthright, Ara should become the next Loresmith – a blacksmith who is able to craft weapons blessed by the gods. Her father would have passed his skills and secret knowledge onto her, but he was killed when the Vokkan empire conquered Saetlund. Ara must prove her worth to the gods before she can ascend to the mythical role.

My editor and I decided against keeping Loresmith for the title as it didn’t feel evocative enough. We wanted a title that would draw readers into a world of fallen kingdoms, hidden magic, and deep mysteries. We hope that Forged and Fire and Stars conveys those characteristics and...[read on]
Visit Andrea Robertson's website.

Q&A with Andrea Robertson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten novels about moving

Born in Beijing but mostly an artifact of the United States, C Pam Zhang has lived in thirteen cities across four countries and is still looking for home. She’s been awarded support from Tin House, Bread Loaf, Aspen Words and elsewhere, and currently lives in San Francisco.

Her new novel is How Much of These Hills Is Gold.

At the Guardian Zhang tagged ten top novels that "deal with movements physical and emotional," including:
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

There are books that make it their mission to shake the reader out of assumptions partway through, and Exit West is one such. What seems a typical, if well-written, contemporary realist love story takes a sharp turn once portals begin to open up, allowing people to cross into countries thousands of miles away. This book slyly undermines the ideas of borders and nationhood.
Read about another entry on the list.

Exit West is among Helen Phillips's six notable novels involving alternate realities.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Coffee with a canine: Morris Ardoin & Hugo

Featured at Coffee with a Canine: Morris Ardoin & Hugo.

The author, on how he and Hugo were united:
We got Hugo from the same breeder that sold us our previous pooch, Moby. She only breeds vizslas. Hugo was one of 14 puppies. When we got there, there were only three of the siblings left. Hugo rushed right up to me (the other two were otherwise distracted) – and I said, “This one is Hugo,” and that was...[read on]
About Ardoin's Stone Motel: Memoirs of a Cajun Boy, from the publisher:
In the summers of the early 1970s, Morris Ardoin and his siblings helped run their family's roadside motel in a hot, buggy, bayou town in Cajun Louisiana. The stifling, sticky heat inspired them to find creative ways to stay cool and out of trouble. When they were not doing their chores—handling a colorful cast of customers, scrubbing motel-room toilets, plucking chicken bones and used condoms from under the beds—they played canasta, an old ladies’ game that provided them with a refuge from the sun and helped them avoid their violent, troubled father.

Morris was successful at occupying his time with his siblings and the children of families staying in the motel’s kitchenette apartments but was not so successful at keeping clear of his father, a man unable to shake the horrors he had experienced as a child and, later, as a soldier. The preteen would learn as he matured that his father had reserved his most ferocious attacks for him because of an inability to accept a gay or, to his mind, broken, son. It became his dad’s mission to “fix” his son, and Morris’s mission to resist—and survive intact. He was aided in his struggle immeasurably by the love and encouragement of a selfless and generous grandmother, who provides his story with much of its warmth, wisdom, and humor. There’s also suspense, awkward romance, naughty French lessons, and an insider’s take on a truly remarkable, not-yet-homogenized pocket of American culture.
Visit Morris Ardoin's website.

The Page 99 Test: Stone Motel.

Coffee with a Canine: Morris Ardoin & Hugo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Matt Gallagher's "Empire City"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Empire City: A Novel by Matt Gallagher.

About the book, from the publisher:
Thirty years after its great triumph in Vietnam, the United States has again become mired in an endless foreign war overseas. Stories of super soldiers known as the Volunteers tuck in little American boys and girls every night. Yet domestic politics are aflame. Violent protests erupt throughout the nation; an ex-military watchdog group clashes with police while radical terrorists threaten to expose government experiments within the veteran rehabilitation colonies.

Halfway between war and peace, the Volunteers find themselves waiting for orders in the vast American city-state, Empire City. There they encounter a small group of civilians who know the truth about their powers, including Sebastian Rios, a young bureaucrat wrestling with survivor guilt, and Mia Tucker, a wounded army pilot-turned-Wall Street banker. Meanwhile, Jean-Jacques Saint-Preux, a Haitian-American Volunteer from the International Legion, decides he’ll do whatever it takes to return to the front lines.

Through it all, a controversial retired general emerges as a frontrunner in the presidential campaign, promising to save the country from itself. Her election would mean unprecedented military control over the country, with promises of security and stability—but at what cost?

Featuring Gallagher’s “vital” (The Washington Post), “evocative” (The Wall Street Journal) prose, Empire City is a rousing vision of an alternate—yet all too familiar—America on the brink.
Visit Matt Gallagher's website.

The Page 69 Test: Empire City.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Lis Wiehl's "Hunting the Unabomber"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Hunting the Unabomber: The FBI, Ted Kaczynski, and the Capture of America's Most Notorious Domestic Terrorist by Lis Wiehl with Lisa Pulitzer.

About the book, from the publisher:
The spellbinding account of the most complex and captivating manhunt in American history.

On April 3, 1996, a team of FBI agents closed in on an isolated cabin in remote Montana, marking the end of the longest and most expensive investigation in FBI history. The cabin's lone inhabitant was a former mathematics prodigy and professor who had abandoned society decades earlier. Few people knew his name, Theodore Kaczynski, but everyone knew the mayhem and death associated with his nickname: the Unabomber.

For two decades, Kaczynski had masterminded a campaign of random terror, killing and maiming innocent people through bombs sent in untraceable packages. The FBI task force charged with finding the perpetrator of these horrifying crimes grew to 150 people, yet his identity remained a maddening mystery. Then, in 1995, a "manifesto" from the Unabomber was published in the New York Times and Washington Post, resulting in a cascade of tips--including the one that cracked the case.

Hunting the Unabomber includes:
  • Exclusive interviews with key law enforcement agents who attempted to track down Kaczynski, correcting the history distorted by earlier films and streaming series
  • Never-before-told stories of inter-agency law enforcement conflicts that changed the course of the investigation
  • An in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at why the hunt for the Unabomber was almost shut down by the FBI
New York Times bestselling author and former federal prosecutor Lis Wiehl meticulously reconstructs the white-knuckle, tension-filled hunt to identify and capture the mysterious killer. This is a can’t-miss, true crime thriller of the years-long battle of wits between the FBI and the brilliant-but-criminally insane Ted Kaczynski.
Visit Lis Wiehl's website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

My Book, The Movie: The Candidate.

The Page 69 Test: The Candidate.

The Page 99 Test: Hunting the Unabomber.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Taylor Brown

From my Q&A with Taylor Brown, author of Pride of Eden:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I like to think Pride of Eden does a fair bit of work in setting the right tone and mood of the novel, which is set on an exotic wildlife sanctuary called Little Eden. Malaya, an army veteran and anti-poacher ranger, comes home from Africa to work at the sanctuary, which is run by this eccentric former jockey and soldier of fortune, Anse Caulfield. Soon, Malaya realizes that many of the animals, particularly the big cats -- lions, tigers, etc. -- may not have come to Little Eden by legal means. In fact, Anse might be taking the concept of animal "rescue" quite literally, rescuing animals from abuse and neglect...

I tend to prefer harder physical nouns in my titles, but "Pride" has a nice double meaning for this book. I mainly think of a lion pride -- the human/animal families at the heart of this book -- but the title also signifies an exploration of human pride and hubris, especially as it relates to dominion over the natural world. These are ideas...[read on]
Visit Taylor Brown's website.

My Book, The Movie: The River of Kings.

The Page 69 Test: The River of Kings.

Writers Read: Taylor Brown.

My Book, The Movie: Pride of Eden.

The Page 69 Test: Pride of Eden.

Q&A with Taylor Brown.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best novels about France

Liz Boulter is a subeditor on the Guardian travel desk.

One of her "personal top 10 novels that give une véritable saveur" of France:
Perfume by Patrick Süskind

This 1985 masterpiece takes us to a Paris very different from today’s City of Light. In 18th century France “there reigned in the cities a stench barely conceivable to us modern men and women … Even the king himself stank, stank like a rank lion, and the queen like an old goat, summer and winter.” Around this malodorous world prowls the gifted and abominable Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, with his “killer” sense of smell. Yet those familiar with the city’s first arrondissement can follow in their mind’s eye as he “so thoroughly smelled out the quarter between Saint-Eustache and the Hôtel de Ville that he could find his way around in it by pitch-dark night”. Grenouille later leaves Paris and makes his way south via the hills of the Massif Central. The book’s final chapters are played out a few miles from the Côte d’Azur – amid the lavender fields of the world’s perfume capital, Grasse.
Read about another entry Boulter tagged at the Guardian.

Perfume is among Glenn Skwerer's top ten real-life monsters in fiction, four books that changed Meg Keneally, four books that changed Katrina Lawrence, Karen Runge's five (damn-near) perfect (dark) novels, and Lara Feigel's top ten smelly books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Pg. 69: Mariah Fredericks's "Death of an American Beauty"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Death of an American Beauty (A Jane Prescott Novel, Volume 3) by Mariah Fredericks.

About the book, from the publisher:
Death of an American Beauty is the third in Mariah Fredericks's compelling series, set in Gilded Age New York, featuring Jane Prescott.

Jane Prescott is taking a break from her duties as lady’s maid for a week, and plans to begin it with attending the hottest and most scandalous show in town: the opening of an art exhibition, showcasing the cubists, that is shocking New York City.

1913 is also the fiftieth anniversary of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation speech, and the city's great and good are determined to celebrate in style. Dolly Rutherford, heiress to the glamorous Rutherford’s department store empire, has gathered her coterie of society ladies to put on a play—with Jane’s employer Louise Tyler in the starring role as Lincoln himself. Jane is torn between helping the ladies with their costumes and enjoying her holiday. But fate decides she will do neither, when a woman is found murdered outside Jane’s childhood home—a refuge for women run by her uncle.

Deeply troubled as her uncle falls under suspicion and haunted by memories of a woman she once knew, Jane—with the help of old friends and new acquaintances, reporter Michael Behan and music hall pianist Leo Hirschfeld—is determined to discover who is making death into their own twisted art form.
Visit Mariah Fredericks's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Girl in the Park.

The Page 69 Test: A Death of No Importance.

My Book, The Movie: Death of an American Beauty.

The Page 69 Test: Death of an American Beauty.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight novels to make you question reality

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 CrimeReads, Bruce tagged eight novels that explore the uncanny in fiction, including:
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

It is hard to talk about this novel without giving away the startling twist. On the surface, this is a fast-paced psychological thriller set in a domestic environment. Behind Her Eyes is all about deception, though, and likely not what you think it is. The story is about Louise, a single mom who works as a secretary, who gets involved in the lives of a wealthy couple, David and Adele, who seems to lead a picture-perfect life. The more involved Louise gets, however, the stronger becomes her sense of dread, and the conviction that something is very wrong. The ending of this novel had me reeling (in a good way).
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Gerardo Martí's "American Blindspot"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: American Blindspot: Race, Class, Religion, and the Trump Presidency by Gerardo Martí.

About the book, from the publisher:
American Blindspot: Race, Class, Religion, and the Trump Presidency is a careful exploration of the forces that led to the election of the 45th president of the United States.Author Gerardo Martí synthesizes the latest scholarship and historical research to examine the roles that race, class, and religion have played in politics—both historically and today. This book goes beyond the initial claims that the American working class was the force behind Donald Trump’s election or policies and instead offers a nuanced perspective on how race, religion, and class have shaped our national views, Trump’s election, and his policies.
Learn more about American Blindspot at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: American Blindspot.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Ellen Lindseth

From my Q&A with Ellen Lindseth, author of The Long Path Home:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Quite a bit really, as it reflects both the heroine’s physical journey through the course of the book as well as her emotional one. I wasn’t sure at first, though, to be quite honest. The working title, the one that guided me through the story’s creation, was Violet Exposed. That one would have accurately portrayed the dilemma the heroine, Violet, finds herself by the end of the story, when her many personas get in the way of finding true love and redemption.

While readers might not be burlesque dancers, or runaway daughters, or even find themselves in the midst of a spy plot, I think we all eventually face the choice of whether or not to reveal our true selves to someone else. And I think we all secretly wonder if we would have the courage to do so?

My publisher, however, thought my working title sounded to much like an erotica, and wanted me to come up with a more wistful title. Not being an author who is wedded to her titles, I tossed out some ideas, and we settled on The Long Path Home.

With the benefit of time, I think this new title does give the reader a better feel for both the external plot in which she travels overseas with the USO to a war-torn Italy, hoping to free herself of murder charges and find her way back to Chicago, and the internal one where she is forced to...[read on]
Visit Ellen Lindseth's website.

Q&A with Ellen Lindseth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 27, 2020

Nicole C. Kear's "Foreverland," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Foreverland by Nicole C. Kear.

The entry begins:
I used to be an actor, and consequently, dreamcasting is something of a habit of mine. This exercise was the most fun I’ve had in ages.

I’ve chosen the inimitable Greta Gerwig as the director of the film. She’s the master of funny, heartbreaking coming-of-age stories, which leave you feeling uplifted in the most earned way. It’s exactly what I was hoping to achieve when I wrote Foreverland.

Foreverland’s leading lady is Margaret, a shy, eccentric girl with trouble at home who runs away to live away in her favorite amusement park. Natalie Portman, at 12 years old, would be perfect. She’d express Margaret’s intelligence and intensity, and poignantly portray her emotional journey as she learns, through the course of her adventures, to make her voice heard. There’s a really fun scene about halfway through the book in which Margaret goes “all witness protection program,” giving herself a DIY makeover to avoid being caught by security. She explains that she’s never liked looking in mirrors because the plain, cookie-cutter girl she sees reflected doesn’t feel like her. By going incognito, she ends up transforming her outer self to match her inner self – lopping off her ponytail, cutting short bangs. I can visualize Natalie Portman, the age she was in The Professional, staring at her reflection in the bathroom mirror as she slides her hair in between the scissor blades.

Margaret’s transformation would not be possible without Jaime, a 12-year-old boy who has also run away to live at the park for mysterious reasons of his own. Jaime is...[read on]
Visit Nicole C. Kear's website.

Q&A with Nicole C. Kear.

My Book, The Movie: Foreverland.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top sibling relationships in fiction

Born in Beijing but mostly an artifact of the United States, C Pam Zhang has lived in thirteen cities across four countries and is still looking for home. She’s been awarded support from Tin House, Bread Loaf, Aspen Words and elsewhere, and currently lives in San Francisco.

Her new novel is How Much of These Hills Is Gold.

At the Waterstones blog Zhang tagged five favorite sibling relationships in fiction, including:
All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

If you need a palate cleanser after the brooding pairs in the above two books, then there is no better rendition of the depth of sibling love than that between sisters Elf and Yoli. There’s no questioning the love that shimmers between the sisters, who also share a language of humor (the book is quietly hilarious). The one real source of conflict is pianist Elf’s quiet commitment to killing herself. This novel is rich with affection, and yet this question hangs over each page: is love enough? How do we love those who will leave us?
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Janelle Brown's "Pretty Things"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Pretty Things: A Novel by Janelle Brown.

About the book, from the publisher:
Two wildly different women—one a grifter, the other an heiress—are brought together by the scam of a lifetime in a page-turner from the New York Times bestselling author of Watch Me Disappear.

Nina once bought into the idea that her fancy liberal arts degree would lead to a fulfilling career. When that dream crashed, she turned to stealing from rich kids in L.A. alongside her wily Irish boyfriend, Lachlan. Nina learned from the best: Her mother was the original con artist, hustling to give her daughter a decent childhood despite their wayward life. But when her mom gets sick, Nina puts everything on the line to help her, even if it means running her most audacious, dangerous scam yet.

Vanessa is a privileged young heiress who wanted to make her mark in the world. Instead she becomes an Instagram influencer—traveling the globe, receiving free clothes and products, and posing for pictures in exotic locales. But behind the covetable façade is a life marked by tragedy. After a broken engagement, Vanessa retreats to her family’s sprawling mountain estate, Stonehaven: a mansion of dark secrets not just from Vanessa’s past, but from that of a lost and troubled girl named Nina.

Nina’s, Vanessa’s, and Lachlan’s paths collide here, on the cold shores of Lake Tahoe, where their intertwined lives give way to a winter of aspiration and desire, duplicity and revenge.

This dazzling, twisty, mesmerizing novel showcases acclaimed author Janelle Brown at her best, as two brilliant, damaged women try to survive the greatest game of deceit and destruction they will ever play.
Learn more about the book and author at Janelle Brown's website.

The Page 69 Test: All We Ever Wanted Was Everything.

The Page 69 Test: Watch Me Disappear.

The Page 69 Test: Pretty Things.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Constantine Singer

From my Q&A with Constantine Singer:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Titles are the most difficult part of a manuscript for me -- they’re the reader’s introduction to the work and they direct the cover design which becomes the primary enticement tool on the shelf.

Strange Days got its final title less than a day before it was sent for cover design. It had previously held at least a dozen different titles, none of which were effective. Putnam had finally settled on Patched! Which they thought was a “tech-forward” title but nobody, including them, loved it.

My agent earned every penny of his cut and more by refusing to allow it and tossing Strange Days out there as an alternative. My editor agreed, saying something along the lines of “whatever,” and I...[read on]
Visit Constantine J. Singer's website.

The Page 69 Test: Strange Days.

My Book, The Movie: Strange Days.

Q&A with Constantine Singer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Nose in a book: Claudia M.

Who: Claudia M.

What: The Prettiest by Brigit Young

When: April 2020

Where: Sunset Park, Brooklyn

Photo credit: Lauren Young

Visit Brigit Young's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Prettiest.

My Book, The Movie: The Prettiest.

--Marshal Zeringue

Fourteen top crime novels in the time of plague

Molly Odintz is the Associate Editor for CrimeReads. She grew up in Austin and worked as a bookseller at BookPeople for years before her recent move up to New York City for a life in crime. She likes cats, crime novels, and coffee.

At CrimeReads she tagged fourteen "mysteries and thrillers set against a backdrop of epidemics, contagions, and outbreaks," including:
The Illness Lesson, Clare Beams
Setting: New England, 1870s
Epidemic: A Variety of Symptoms

Like Megan Abbott’s The Fever, or some theories about the teen girls whose accusations jumpstarted the Salem Witch Trials, The Illness Lesson explores a different kind of contagion—that of the popular girl’s suffering, imitated by her acolytes (although in this case, the women’s illness is also explored as a form of rebellion against domesticity). The Illness Lesson takes place in a 19th century educational experiment, where a number of young women gather at a former utopian community to study at a new school meant to educate women as well as their male counterparts. Education, however, does not signify freedom from future female drudgery, and the bored teenagers soon begin manifesting their budding feminist rage as ticks, seizures, rashes, barefoot walks in the snow, and rebellious self-harm. Brilliant, fascinating, and complex.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: The Illness Lesson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Marie Mutsuki Mockett's "American Harvest"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: American Harvest: God, Country, and Farming in the Heartland by Marie Mutsuki Mockett.

About the book, from the publisher:
For over one hundred years, the Mockett family has owned a seven-thousand-acre wheat farm in the panhandle of Nebraska, where Marie Mutsuki Mockett’s father was raised. Mockett, who grew up in bohemian Carmel, California, with her father and her Japanese mother, knew little about farming when she inherited this land. Her father had all but forsworn it.

In American Harvest, Mockett accompanies a group of evangelical Christian wheat harvesters through the heartland at the invitation of Eric Wolgemuth, the conservative farmer who has cut her family’s fields for decades. As Mockett follows Wolgemuth’s crew on the trail of ripening wheat from Texas to Idaho, they contemplate what Wolgemuth refers to as “the divide,” inadvertently peeling back layers of the American story to expose its contradictions and unhealed wounds. She joins the crew in the fields, attends church, and struggles to adapt to the rhythms of rural life, all the while continually reminded of her own status as a person who signals “not white,” but who people she encounters can’t quite categorize.

American Harvest is an extraordinary evocation of the land and a thoughtful exploration of ingrained beliefs, from evangelical skepticism of evolution to cosmopolitan assumptions about food production and farming. With exquisite lyricism and humanity, this astonishing book attempts to reconcile competing versions of our national story.
Visit Marie Mutsuki Mockett's website.

Writers Read: Marie Mutsuki Mockett (November 2009).

The Page 99 Test: American Harvest.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Sam Wiebe

From my Q&A with Sam Wiebe:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Never Going Back is about Alison Kidd, a reformed master thief whose brother is kidnaped. To free him she’s forced to pull off one last heist—a set of priceless photographs owned by a retired hockey star. When the book opens, Ali is being released from incarceration, wondering why her brother isn’t waiting to pick her up.

The title speaks to her immediate situation—she’s on the straight and narrow, vowing never to return to prison, and yet circumstances force her to take on one last dangerous job. Existentially, the title speaks to her desire for...[read on]
Visit Sam Wiebe's website.

My Book, The Movie: Invisible Dead.

The Page 69 Test: Invisible Dead.

The Page 69 Test: Cut You Down.

Q&A with Sam Wiebe.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Seven thrilling SFF murder mysteries

Elisa Shoenberger is a freelance writer and journalist. At she tagged seven books that combine "the genre of murder mysteries with that of fantasy and science fiction, whether it’s the locked room mystery but in space, or innovative retellings of the British manor history." One entry on the list:
Golden State by Ben Winters

The Golden State has made lying a crime. Citizens meretriciously record all details of their lives, even signing each other’s registers about conversations had. Laszlo Ratesic is a veteran of the Speculative Service, a police force that specifically fights against misrepresentation, following his brilliant brother Charlie. When Ratesic is brought in to inspect a likely accidental death, something feels wrong to him. Members of the Speculative Service physically feel the impact of lies. He starts investigating with his new, unwanted partner, a rookie who reminds him of his brilliant brother who died in the Service. They discover several incongruences with the death that makes him wonder if it wasn’t actually an accident. Ratesic will have to figure out if the man was murdered and why that may cause him to question the very apparatus of the state that he is sworn to protect.
Read about another title on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Jeff Garvin's "The Lightness of Hands"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Lightness of Hands by Jeff Garvin.

About the book, from the publisher:
A quirky and heartfelt coming-of-age story about a teen girl with bipolar II who signs her failed magician father up to perform his legendary but failed illusion on live TV in order to make enough money to pay for the medications they need—from the author of Symptoms of Being Human. Perfect for fans of Adi Alsaid, David Arnold, and Arvin Ahmadi.

Sixteen-year-old Ellie Dante is desperate for something in her life to finally go right. Her father was a famous stage magician until he attempted an epic illusion on live TV—and failed. Now Ellie lives with her dad in a beat-up RV, attending high school online and performing with him at birthday parties and bars across the Midwest to make ends meet.

But when the gigs dry up, their insurance lapses, leaving Dad’s heart condition unchecked and forcing Ellie to battle her bipolar II disorder without medication.

Then Ellie receives a call from a famous magic duo, who offer fifteen thousand dollars and a shot at redemption: they want her father to perform the illusion that wrecked his career—on their live TV special, which shoots in Los Angeles in ten days.

Ellie knows her dad will refuse—but she takes the deal anyway, then lies to persuade him to head west. With the help of her online-only best friend and an unusual guy she teams up with along the way, Ellie makes a plan to stage his comeback. But when her lie is exposed, she’ll have to confront her illness and her choices head-on to save her father—and herself.
Visit Jeff Garvin's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Lightness of Hands.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jennifer Keishin Armstrong's "Pop Star Goddesses"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Pop Star Goddesses: And How to Tap Into Their Energies to Invoke Your Best Self by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong.

About the book, from the publisher:
A compendium of thirty-five incredible female pop stars whose energies, virtues, and vices make them the ideal role models for our age—powerful women who can teach us all how to discover our own inner goddess.

We are living in the age of the music goddess: Beyoncé. Lady Gaga. Taylor Swift. Katy Perry. Britney. Nicki Minaj. Cardi B. Pink. Madonna. Rihanna. Gwen Stefani. Alicia Keys. Kelly Clarkson.

Never before have so many women dominated their industry and pop culture itself with such creativity, passion, and force. Visionary and ferociously talented, these women are reshaping our society and our lives. In this stunningly designed compendium, Jennifer Armstrong offers an intimate, up-close look at thirty-five of pop music’s most revered goddesses, analyzing their performances, songs, videos, interviews, social media, activism, and personal lives to illuminate their significance for both critics and fans.

These divas post astounding album sales, enjoy millions of radio plays, YouTube views, and social media followings, and sell out stadiums. While we are awed and inspired by their success, we worship them for so much more. Beyoncé’s work ethic. Nicki Minaj’s no-bullshit attitude. Taylor Swift’s relatability. Pink’s sense of social justice. Jennifer Lopez’s transformation from “Jenny from the block” to fashion icon. Each of these goddesses speaks to us in her own unique way. Beyoncé is our superhuman alter ego; Britney is our survival instinct.

Armstrong pairs each pop star goddess with a corresponding goddess from ancient cultures, and offers advice on how to invoke the pop star goddess’s energy in your own life, providing journal prompts and a Power Song List that allows you harness the power of a particular pop goddess’s energy when you need it.

Filled with information, advice, insights, playlists, and forty gorgeous color illustrations, Pop Star Goddess will help you tune in and turn on your own divine energy.

The Pop Star Goddesses are: Beyoncé, Britney Spears, Kelly Clarkson, Taylor Swift, M.I.A., Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, Lady Gaga, Carla Bruni, Pink, JLo, Kesha, Rihanna, Janelle Monae, Gwen Stephani, Alicia Keys, Katy Perry, Demi Lovato, Jennifer Hudson, Mariah Carey, Adele, Missy Elliott, Shakira, Solange, Miranda Lambert, Celine Dion, Sia, Queen Latifah, SZA, Kacey Musgraves, Mary J. Blige, Christina Aguilera, Laura Jane Grace, Ariana Grande, Carly Rae Jepsen.
Visit Jennifer Keishin Armstrong's website.

My Book, The Movie: Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted.

The Page 99 Test: Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted.

The Page 99 Test: Seinfeldia.

The Page 99 Test: Sex and the City and Us.

The Page 99 Test: Pop Star Goddesses.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 24, 2020

Eight of the most toxic friendships in crime fiction

Lisa Levy is a columnist and contributing editor at LitHub and CrimeReads. She is the former EIC of crime fiction site The Life Sentence and the former Mystery/Noir editor at the LA Review of Books.

At CrimeReads Levy tagged eight toxic friendships in crime fiction, including:
Megan Abbott, The End of Everything

Among Abbott’s many gifts is a talent for describing the nuances and the extremes of female relationships, from the most intimate friendships to the most hostile enemies. In Everything she gives us Lizzie Hood and Evie Verver, thirteen-year-old neighbors and best friends. When Evie disappears, Lizzie does her own investigation and discovers secrets about her best friend that make her wonder if she really knew Evie at all.
Read about another entry on the list.

The End of Everything is among Hallie Ephron's top ten mysteries that harness unreliable narrators.

The Page 69 Test: The End of Everything.

--Marshal Zeringue

Mariah Fredericks's "Death of an American Beauty," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Death of an American Beauty (A Jane Prescott Novel, Volume 3) by Mariah Fredericks.

The entry begins:
My son once asked me if I thought Lupita Nyong’o could play Jane Prescott. And while I’m not sure that the novels would adequately reflect the experience of a lady’s maid in 1910s New York as played by Ms. Nyong’o, it’s good casting. As an actress, Ms. Nyong’o projects a rare combination of penetrating intelligence and emotional generosity. There’s a depth of kindness to her that I associate with Jane, something she shares with the first actress I thought of, Carey Mulligan.

My new book, Death of an American Beauty, is the third in the Gilded Age Jane Prescott series. It is 1913, Jane is on vacation and is staying at her uncle’s refuge for women who are leaving the world’s oldest profession. It is the night of the refuge’s annual dance, known as The Whore’s Ball. One of the women is found murdered, and Jane’s uncle becomes the prime suspect. To clear him, Jane has to search for Otelia Brooks, a woman who came to the refuge years ago and may be the only person who survived an attack by the killer.

As a female servant who solves murders, Jane has to have allies; there are places she can’t go alone, people she would not have access to without help. Her key ally is tabloid reporter, Michael Behan. Mel Gibson circa Gallipoli was my starting point for this character. Frank Dunne’s arc from cocky, ridiculously good-looking guy to shattered awareness has notes I like for Michael. If you can’t stomach Gibson, feel free to swap in...[read on]
Visit Mariah Fredericks's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Girl in the Park.

The Page 69 Test: A Death of No Importance.

My Book, The Movie: Death of an American Beauty.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Nicole C. Kear

From my Q&A with Nicole C. Kear:
What's in a name?

I have to disagree with Shakespeare here. I think there’s a lot in a name, as far as fiction is concerned. One of my favorite parts about coming up with a new character is naming them; it’s a priceless opportunity to communicate something essential about the character. Foreverland is heavily inspired by Peter Pan but I wanted to keep the re-telling very modern and very loose, so that readers discover the connection at some point, but not until they’re pretty far into the book. Because of this, I had to keep my references to the source material soft, subtle.

When it came to Jaime, the charismatic, impulsive, unforgettable boy Margaret meets in the park, who’s cut from the same character cloth as Peter Pan, I didn’t want to choose something obvious, like Peter or Pete. The author of Peter Pan is J. M. Barrie (the J is for James) and I immediately thought of Jaime. It felt modern, a little more gender-neutral and it works in Spanish, which was something I was looking for, because Jaime is Latino.

I rejected “Wendy” for the female protagonist of my story because it’s too on the nose. Instead, I discovered...[read on]
Visit Nicole C. Kear's website.

Q&A with Nicole C. Kear.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Pg. 69: Martha Waters's "To Have and to Hoax"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: To Have and to Hoax: A Novel by Martha Waters.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this fresh and hilarious historical rom-com, an estranged husband and wife in Regency England feign accidents and illness in an attempt to gain attention—and maybe just win each other back in the process.

Five years ago, Lady Violet Grey and Lord James Audley met, fell in love, and got married. Four years ago, they had a fight to end all fights, and have barely spoken since.

Their once-passionate love match has been reduced to one of cold, detached politeness. But when Violet receives a letter that James has been thrown from his horse and rendered unconscious at their country estate, she races to be by his side—only to discover him alive and well at a tavern, and completely unaware of her concern. She’s outraged. He’s confused. And the distance between them has never been more apparent.

Wanting to teach her estranged husband a lesson, Violet decides to feign an illness of her own. James quickly sees through it, but he decides to play along in an ever-escalating game of manipulation, featuring actors masquerading as doctors, threats of Swiss sanitariums, faux mistresses—and a lot of flirtation between a husband and wife who might not hate each other as much as they thought. Will the two be able to overcome four years of hurt or will they continue to deny the spark between them?

With charm, wit, and heart in spades, To Have and to Hoax is a fresh and eminently entertaining romantic comedy—perfect for fans of Jasmine Guillory and Julia Quinn.
Visit Martha Waters's website.

Writers Read: Martha Waters.

The Page 69 Test: To Have and to Hoax.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten Latin American short stories

Fernando Sdrigotti's latest story collection is Jolts.

At the Guardian he tagged ten top Latin American short stories, including:
"The Trail of Your Blood in the Snow" by Gabriel García Márquez

Better known for his immortal novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, the Colombian García Márquez was also the author of outstanding short stories. In this one, a wealthy couple on their honeymoon in Europe go through a dramatic, Kafkaesque ordeal, taking the reader on a suffocating journey. Legend has it Borges said that 50 years would have sufficed for One Hundred Years of Solitude, but not one word is a word too many in this magnificent story.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: John G. Turner's "They Knew They Were Pilgrims"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: They Knew They Were Pilgrims: Plymouth Colony and the Contest for American Liberty by John G. Turner.

About the book, from the publisher:
An ambitious new history of the Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony, published for the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s landing

In 1620, separatists from the Church of England set sail across the Atlantic aboard the Mayflower. Understanding themselves as spiritual pilgrims, they left to preserve their liberty to worship God in accordance with their understanding of the Bible.

There exists, however, an alternative, more dispiriting version of their story. In it, the Pilgrims are religious zealots who persecuted dissenters and decimated the Native peoples through warfare and by stealing their land. The Pilgrims’ definition of liberty was, in practice, very narrow.

Drawing on original research using underutilized sources, John G. Turner moves beyond these familiar narratives in his sweeping and authoritative new history of Plymouth Colony. Instead of depicting the Pilgrims as otherworldly saints or extraordinary sinners, he tells how a variety of English settlers and Native peoples engaged in a contest for the meaning of American liberty.
Visit John G. Turner's website.

The Page 99 Test: They Knew They Were Pilgrims.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Cherise Wolas

From my Q&A with Cherise Wolas:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

When I first thought of Harry, Roma, Phoebe, Camille, and Simon—patriarch, matriarch and their adult children—whose lives, collectively and individually, are at the center of my second novel, they arrived with their last name already fixed. They were, from the start, the Tabors. And before I’d written a single word, before I knew it would become a novel, I was already calling it The Family Tabor. A spare title, but a little mysterious too–no further clues other than they might be close-knit, and by gathering them under that single umbrella and placing Family before Tabor, perhaps indicating that whatever they experience, they will do so together. And indeed, over a broiling summer weekend in Palm Springs, CA, gathered to celebrate Harry being named Man of the Decade, all the Tabors experience individual life-altering revelations while collectively immersed in a shocking...[read on]
Visit Cherise Wolas's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Resurrection of Joan Ashby.

The Page 69 Test: The Family Tabor.

Q&A with Cherise Wolas.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Brigit Young's "The Prettiest," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Prettiest by Brigit Young.

The entry begins:
The Prettiest explores the fallout of an anonymously written list of the fifty “prettiest” eighth grade girls in a Michigan middle school. The story alternates between the perspectives of Eve Hoffman, a shy girl disturbed by her spot as “number one” on the list; Sophie Kane, the school’s most popular girl who is furious about her number two ranking; and Nessa Flores-Brady, a confident and gifted kid who is not on the list at all.

I’m not quite up to speed on current child actors, and boy, do they grow fast, anyway. (Are the Stranger Things kids getting their PhDs by now?) When I dream up my middle school aged characters, I usually picture the younger selves of adult actors. I envision the shy, sensitive, and wide-eyed Eve as a young Rachel Weisz. For Sophie, I imagine a 13-year-old...[read on]
Visit Brigit Young's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Prettiest.

My Book, The Movie: The Prettiest.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten must-read crime-fighting duos

Darynda Jones's new novel is A Bad Day for Sunshine.

At CrimeReads, she tagged ten "must-read teams to which every lover of crime fiction should treat themselves," including:
Tarabotti and Maccon

What is a list of crime-fighting duos without a little paranormal mystery thrown in for good measure? The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger begins with Soulless (2009) and is pitched as Buffy meets Jane Austen. This wickedly funny romp has a solid mystery in which our heroine, Alexia Tarabotti, a spinster with no soul, is rudely attacked by a vampire, an act that apparently breaks all constructs of social etiquette. When she accidentally kills him, the gruff Lord Maccon is sent by the queen to investigate. The fact that the lord is a werewolf only adds to the tension in this highly recommended humorous comedy of errors.
Read about another entry on the list.

My Book, The Movie: Soulless by Gail Carriger.

The Page 69 Test: Changeless.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Margaret K. Nelson's "Like Family"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Like Family: Narratives of Fictive Kinship by Margaret K. Nelson.

About the book, from the publisher:
For decades, social scientists have assumed that “fictive kinship” is a phenomenon associated only with marginal peoples and people of color in the United States. In this innovative book, Nelson reveals the frequency, texture and dynamics of relationships which are felt to be “like family” among the white middle-class. Drawing on extensive, in-depth interviews, Nelson describes the quandaries and contradictions, delight and anxiety, benefits and costs, choice and obligation in these relationships. She shows the ways these fictive kinships are similar to one another as well as the ways they vary—whether around age or generation, co-residence, or the possibility of becoming “real” families. Moreover she shows that different parties to the same relationship understand them in some similar – and some very different – ways. Theoretically rich and beautifully written, the book is accessible to the general public while breaking new ground for scholars in the field of family studies.
Learn more about Like Family at the Rutgers University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Parenting Out of Control.

The Page 99 Test: Like Family.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Beth Morrey

From my Q&A with Beth Morrey:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The very first draft of my book was called Why Keep a Dog. When I was first querying agents and getting nothing back, I started to reconsider the title, and decided it was obscure, misleading (too doggy) and also a bit dry. For my next round of queries, it evolved into The Love Story of Missy Carmichael, which I thought was nice because it’s not a love story in the traditional sense – it’s about different types of love, with my protagonist Missy at the centre. The title has poetry, rhythm and resonance, but it’s also not quite what you think, which is a good indicator of...[read on]
Visit Beth Morrey's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Beth Morrey & Polly.

The Page 69 Test: The Love Story of Missy Carmichael.

My Book, The Movie: The Love Story of Missy Carmichael.

Q&A with Beth Morrey.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Pg. 69: Megan Campisi's "Sin Eater"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Sin Eater: A Novel by Megan Campisi.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Sin Eater walks among us, unseen, unheard
Sins of our flesh become sins of Hers
Following Her to the grave, unseen, unheard
The Sin Eater Walks Among Us.

For the crime of stealing bread, fourteen-year-old May receives a life sentence: she must become a Sin Eater—a shunned woman, brutally marked, whose fate is to hear the final confessions of the dying, eat ritual foods symbolizing their sins as a funeral rite, and thereby shoulder their transgressions to grant their souls access to heaven.

Orphaned and friendless, apprenticed to an older Sin Eater who cannot speak to her, May must make her way in a dangerous and cruel world she barely understands. When a deer heart appears on the coffin of a royal governess who did not confess to the dreadful sin it represents, the older Sin Eater refuses to eat it. She is taken to prison, tortured, and killed. To avenge her death, May must find out who placed the deer heart on the coffin and why.
Visit Megan Campisi's website.

The Page 69 Test: Sin Eater.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five top horror novels driven by maternal instinct

Amanda Mactas is a freelance writer based in New York City. She’s on a mission to stay in as many haunted houses around the world as possible and is currently reading her way through the Encyclopedia of Serial Killers. Despite what it may seem, she’s pretty normal.

At, Mactas tagged five novels in which maternal instinct helps to drive the plot, including:
The Need by Helen Phillips

This one may hit too close for some—especially parents—which is probably what makes it so terrifying. The Need follows Molly, a mother of two, who begins to hear and see things that may or may not be there in her home. But soon her nightmare is realized when she discovers an intruder in her house. This isn’t your typical “someone’s in my house who isn’t supposed to be here” thriller. Instead it plays on reality and forces readers to imagine worse-case scenarios, bringing with it all the kookiness of Stephen King’s The Outsiders and merging it with all the panic in the 2020 film adaptation of The Invisible Man. The story explores the lengths a mother would go to to save her children, the split second decisions that can change your life, how your identity changes once you have children and the immense grief that accompanies you if you lose them.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Need is among Michael J. Seidlinger's top ten terrifying home invasions in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Feisal G. Mohamed's "Sovereignty"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Sovereignty: Seventeenth-Century England and the Making of the Modern Political Imaginary by Feisal G. Mohamed.

About the book, from the publisher:
This book argues that sovereignty is the first-order question of political order, and that seventeenth-century England provides an important case study in the roots of its modern iterations. It offers fresh readings of Thomas Hobbes, John Milton, and Andrew Marvell, as well as lesser-known figures and literary texts. In addition to political philosophy and literary studies, it also takes account of the period's legal history, exploring the exercise of the crown's feudal rights in the Court of Wards and Liveries, debates over habeas rights, and contests of various courts over jurisdiction. Theorizing sovereignty in a way that points forward to later modernity, the book also offers a sustained critique of the writings of Carl Schmitt, the twentieth century's most influential, if also most controversial, thinker on this topic.
Learn more about Sovereignty at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Sovereignty.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Susann Cokal

From my Q&A with Susann Cokal:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I suppose the question could be generally philosophical: How much work should the title do? I always agonize over titles. For a long time, I called this book The Half-Made Moon, which I thought was a lovely title that pointed to a real moment of change—a half moon can wax or wane, and when it is half-made it is full of potential. The action takes place over four days when the moon over the Thirty-Seven Dark Islands cuts that half-slice in the sky.

But then I thought, This is a novel about a mermaid; shouldn’t there be some indication of that? You know, for people actively looking for books about mermaids (or trying to avoid books about mermaids, I suppose). So I decided that a half-made moon really looks like the flukes of a mermaid’s tail, and the people who are around for the action during a half-moon might name that shape after the person who brought about the events that...[read on]
Visit Susann Cokal's website.

The Page 69 Test: Mermaid Moon.

My Book, The Movie: Mermaid Moon.

Writers Read: Susann Cokal (March 2020).

Q&A with Susann Cokal.

--Marshal Zeringue