Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Seven top fictional characters who are bent but not broken

Kate McLaughlin's new novel is What Unbreakable Looks Like.

At CrimeReads she tagged seven "favorite Bent-But-Not-Broken characters who take the traumas of their past and triumph over them, or use them as sources of strength." One title on the list:
Sadie by Courtney Summers

Sadie girl, if you were real I’d want to be your friend. I just realized that several of these characters have something in common —love for family, and sisters in particular—whether by birth or by choice. Sadie doted on her younger sister, Maddie. She was more of a mother than sister, since their own mother was off doing her own thing. Sadie suffered a lot, but Maddie was a shining star in her life. Then, Maddie was killed, and Sadie almost broke. But, like the other women on this list, Sadie took her grief and turned it into something else. She took the pain and abuse of her past and channeled it into a quest for truth and justice. Teen-age Sadie buys a car, stocks up on salt and vinegar chips and sets out on a road trip to avenge her sister’s death. Along the way she meets up with some unsavory characters who would like to deepen the cracks in her veneer, but Sadie refuses to break.
Read about another entry on the list.

Sadie is among Kate Kessler's six top revenge thrillers featuring female protagonists.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Riley Sager's "Home Before Dark"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Home Before Dark: A Novel by Riley Sager.

About the book, from the publisher:
What was it like? Living in that house.

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

Alternating between Maggie’s uneasy homecoming and chapters from her father’s book, Home Before Dark is the story of a house with long-buried secrets and a woman’s quest to uncover them—even if the truth is far more terrifying than any haunting.
Visit Riley Sager's website.

The Page 69 Test: Home Before Dark.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Diana Clarke

From my Q&A with Diana Clarke, author of Thin Girls:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I am a notoriously bad titler, so I didn’t actually come up with Thin Girls, although now I can’t imagine the book with any other name. I usually call a book some incomprehensible combination of letters (mcisnanxjcjw) until someone helps me out with a title. Titles give me stage fright; it’s terrifying, to name a book! A name, I think, should glance without pointing, suggest without winking, and I’m so unsubtle. I am also always wary of the dreaded aha (!) moment in which the reader comes across the book’s title in the book and is immediately ejected from the story’s world, so it was important to me that, if the title phrase did come up in the book, it wasn’t in a cheesy ‘big reveal’ way. The phrase “thin girls” is mentioned on the first page, and then regularly throughout the book. It’s a to-the-point title, an immediate declaration – this is a story about eating disorders, body image, the dieting industry. It’s a book about girls who are thin and girls who want to be and girls who can’t be and the fact that every girl is under the pressure to be...[read on]
Visit Diana Clarke's website.

My Book, The Movie: Thin Girls.

Q&A with Diana Clarke.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: David M. Carballo's "Collision of Worlds"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Collision of Worlds: A Deep History of the Fall of Aztec Mexico and the Forging of New Spain by David M. Carballo.

About the book, from the publisher:
Mexico of five centuries ago was witness to one of the most momentous encounters between human societies, when a group of Spaniards led by Hernando Cortés joined forces with tens of thousands of Mesoamerican allies to topple the mighty Aztec Empire. It served as a template for the forging of much of Latin America and initiated the globalized world we inhabit today. The violent clash that culminated in the Aztec-Spanish war of 1519-21 and the new colonial order it created were millennia in the making, entwining the previously independent cultural developments of both sides of the Atlantic.

Collision of Worlds provides a deep history of this encounter, one that considers temporal depth in the richly layered cultures of Mexico and Spain, from their prehistories to the urban and imperial societies they built in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Leading Mesoamerican archaeologist David Carballo offers a unique perspective on these fabled events with a focus on the physical world of places and things, their similarities and differences in trans-Atlantic perspective, and their interweaving in an encounter characterized by conquest and colonialism, but also resilience on the part of Native peoples. An engrossing and sweeping account, Collision of Worlds debunks long-held myths and contextualizes the deep roots and enduring consequences of the Aztec-Spanish conflict as never before.
Learn more about Collision of Worlds at the Oxford University Press website.
The Page 99 Test: Collision of Worlds.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 29, 2020

Eleven nonfiction procedurals that don’t involve police

Preety Sidhu, an intern at Electric Literature, tagged eleven thrilling nonfiction procedurals that don’t involve police, including:
The Scarlett Letters by Jenny Nordbak

Nordbak’s memoir details her time working as a dominatrix in a Los Angeles dungeon. It has a case-of-the-week procedural feel as she learns the ropes of her new trade and puzzles out how to cater to each client’s fantasies while staying true to her own boundaries and comfort levels. She investigates new kinks at the conferences and festivals she attends with her colleagues, all while living a double life as a healthcare construction supervisor by day. If you like the idea of sex worker procedurals replacing cop procedurals in your life, this book is a fine place to start.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Daniel Riley's "Barcelona Days"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Barcelona Days by Daniel Riley.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this captivating novel, an erupting Icelandic volcano grounds all flights in and out of Europe, forcing four vacationing Americans to reckon with the problems they'd hoped to leave behind in Barcelona.

Whitney and Will are a perfect couple by all appearances, their relationship rock-solid, and their engagement soon to be announced. Before their impending nuptials, however, Whitney suggests a lighthearted experiment: why not give each other three romantic "free passes" before getting married? Three opportunities to imagine other lives before returning with new appreciation for each other. On what's meant to be the last night of a romantic Barcelona vacation, they agree to regale one another with details of these harmless trysts. They grin and bear it, and fall asleep feeling mostly satisfied, and relieved to be firmly together again.

But then a volcano erupts overnight, spewing a cloud of ash across Europe and grounding all flights indefinitely. Trapped in Barcelona, their paths intertwine with a star basketball player, his future dashed by a crippling injury, and a foreign exchange student with a double life, about to return home and face reality.

Whitney and Will flirt, provoke, dance, and drink. Over the next three days, they will use and be used by their new friends, once again testing the boundaries of their relationship -- but this time, can it survive?
Visit Daniel Riley's website.

The Page 69 Test: Barcelona Days.

--Marshal Zeringue

Diana Clarke's "Thin Girls," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Thin Girls by Diana Clarke.

The entry begins:
It’s hard for me to think of this book as a movie. My main fear about putting this work into the world is its potential to do harm. It deals with subjects that can send minds spiralling and it unrelentingly talks of bodies when, sometimes, I think bodies are best left unsaid. These are the concerns I have with the story in book form.

In film, though, those concerns are amplified. I’m so anxious and uncomfortable about the ways in which women’s bodies are generally mediated: as spectacles, disasters, masterpieces, objects of nothing but desire. Thin Girls deals with extreme thinness and fatness and both gaining and losing weight, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen these subjects covered responsibly on a screen to date. I’m not sure if it’s possible, but I hope it is!

If I’m not panicking about all of that, though, then I’d cast the Olsen Twins as the leads. Duh. It’s a book about twins and they’re the face of twinship. Mary Kate would play Rose. While I think every woman in the western world has disordered thinking about eating and food, Mary Kate struggled with anorexia, specially, which is what Rose is diagnosed with, so I think she’d understand the character through and through without having...[read on]
Visit Diana Clarke's website.

My Book, The Movie: Thin Girls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Gennifer Choldenko

From my Q&A with Gennifer Choldenko, author of Orphan Eleven:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The title Orphan Eleven is designed to work on two levels. The first level is to make a reader interested in opening the novel. Once you begin reading the book, the title operates like a puzzle. Orphan Eleven is not paid off until chapter 25 (of 36). But some readers may figure out why the book is named Orphan Eleven before this reveal. I like to think that both readers who guess and readers who don’t will feel an ah-hah moment once they understand...[read on]
Visit Gennifer Choldenko's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Six crime books for those in need of a fresh start

Born and raised in Santa Monica, California, Julie Clark grew up reading books on the beach while everyone else surfed. After attending college at University of the Pacific, and a brief stint working in the athletic department at University of California, Berkeley, she returned home to Santa Monica to teach. She now lives there with her two young sons and a golden doodle with poor impulse control.

Clark's new novel is The Last Flight.

At CrimeReads she tagged six "books that fall under the theme of escaping. Of slipping into someone else’s skin and leaving our old lives for something better," including:
Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle

In this national bestseller, Kimberly Belle brings you Beth Murphy, a woman on the run from a man she used to love. She plans her escape carefully, making sure to leave no trace behind. Meanwhile, a few hundred miles away, a man returns home from work to learn his wife, Sabine, is missing. The reader will be turning pages trying to figure out how these two story lines collide, and I promise you, it won’t be in the way you think.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Dear Wife.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Nicola Maye Goldberg's "Nothing Can Hurt You"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Nothing Can Hurt You by Nicola Maye Goldberg.

About the book, from the publisher:
Inspired by a true story, this haunting debut novel pieces together a chorus of voices to explore the aftermath of a college student's death.On a cold day in 1997, student Sara Morgan was killed in the woods surrounding her liberal arts college in upstate New York. Her boyfriend, Blake Campbell, confessed, his plea of temporary insanity raising more questions than it answered.In the wake of his acquittal, the case comes to haunt a strange and surprising network of community members, from the young woman who discovers Sara's body to the junior reporter who senses its connection to convicted local serial killer John Logan. Others are looking for retribution or explanation: Sara's half sister, stifled by her family's bereft silence about Blake, poses as a babysitter and seeks out her own form of justice, while the teenager Sara used to babysit starts writing to Logan in prison.A propulsive, taut tale of voyeurism and obsession, Nothing Can Hurt You dares to examine gendered violence not as an anomaly, but as the very core of everyday life. Tracing the concentric circles of violence rippling out from Sara's murder, Nicola Maye Goldberg masterfully conducts an unforgettable chorus of disparate voices.
Visit Nicola Maye Goldberg's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Kevin Duong's "The Virtues of Violence"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Virtues of Violence: Democracy Against Disintegration in Modern France by Kevin Duong.

About the book, from the publisher:
If democracy liberates individuals from their inherited bonds, what can reunite them into a sovereign people? In The Virtues of Violence, Kevin Duong argues that one particular answer captivated modern French thinkers: popular violence as social regeneration. In this tradition of political theory, the people's violence was not a sign of anarchy or disorder. Instead, it manifested a redemptive power capable of binding and repairing a society on the cusp of social disintegration. This was not a fringe view of French democracy at the time, but central to its momentous development.

Duong analyzes the recurring role of the people's redemptive violence across four historical moments: the French Revolution, the imperial conquest of Algeria, the Paris Commune, and the years leading up to World War I. Bringing together democratic theory and intellectual history, he reveals how political thinkers across the spectrum proclaimed that violence by the people could repair the social fabric, even as they experienced democratization as social disintegration. The path from an anarchic multitude to an organized democratic society required the virtuous expression of violence by the people--not its prohibition.

Duong's book urges us to reject accounts that view redemptive violence as an antidemocratic pathology. It challenges the long-held view that popular violence is a sign of anarchy or disorder. As shocking and unsettling as redemptive violence could be, it appealed to thinkers across the spectrum, because it answered a fundamental dilemma of political modernity: how to replace the severed bonds of the old regime with a superior democratic social bond. The Virtues of Violence argues we do not properly understand modern democracy unless we can understand why popular redemptive violence could be invoked on its behalf.
Visit Kevin Duong's website and learn more about The Virtues of Violence at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Virtues of Violence.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Brianna Wolfson

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The title, That Summer in Maine, sets the stage for where the majority our story will take place, and suggests that Maine is a destination, not a home. The characters that occupy the stage, and the drama that will unfold, is left more to the imagination.

What's in a name?

The character that the plot revolves around is Eve. She is, almost above all else, naive and her naivete that leads to the inciting incident of the story. I think you can see where we are going here! This is definitely a reference to Eve, the first woman, who succumbs to the temptation to eat the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. In That Summer in Maine, Eve similarly succumbs to the temptation of knowledge; in her case, to...[read on]
Visit Brianna Wolfson's website.

Q&A with Brianna Wolfson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Ten works of literary fiction for runners

Emily Temple holds a BA from Middlebury College and an MFA in fiction from the University of Virginia, where she was a Henry Hoyns fellow and the recipient of a Henfield Prize.

Temple's new novel, her first, is The Lightness.

At Lit Hub she tagged ten works of fiction "to boost your new running routine, or just help you cool down... complete with running-centric quotations to help you choose." One title on the list:
Lauren Groff, The Monsters of Templeton (2008)

We run; we like to run; we have run together for twenty-nine years now; we will run until we can run no more. Until our hips click and shatter apart, until our lungs revolt and bleed. Until we pass from middle age into old age, as we once passed from youth into middle age. Running. In the winter, we run, through the soft snow, slipping over the ice. In the Templeton summer, soft as chamois, glowing from within, we run. We run in the morning, when the beauty of our town gives us pause. When it is ours and ours alone, the tourists still tunneling into their dreams of baseball, of Clydesdales, of golf. Oh, the beauty of the town, oh the sunrise over the town as we crest the hill by the gym all spread before us like a feast, our hospital with its fingerlike smokestack, beyond, the lake like a chip of serpentine, and the baseball museum, and the Farmer’s Museum, and the hills, and in the foggy hollow, our houses, fanned across the town, where, inside, our families sleep, peaceful. But we, the Running Buds, are together, moving, we behold this as we have beheld it for twenty-nine summers, twenty-nine winters, twenty-nine springs and falls.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 99 Test: The Monsters of Templeton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Susan M. Reverby's "Co-conspirator for Justice"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Co-conspirator for Justice: The Revolutionary Life of Dr. Alan Berkman by Susan M. Reverby.

About the book, from the publisher:
Alan Berkman (1945–2009) was no campus radical in the mid-1960s; he was a promising Ivy League student, football player, Eagle Scout, and fraternity president. But when he was a medical student and doctor, his politics began to change, and soon he was providing covert care to members of revolutionary groups like the Weather Underground and becoming increasingly radicalized by his experiences at the Wounded Knee takeover, at the Attica Prison uprising, and at health clinics for the poor. When the government went after him, he went underground and participated in bombings of government buildings. He was eventually captured and served eight years in some of America's worst penitentiaries, barely surviving two rounds of cancer. After his release in 1992, he returned to medical practice and became an HIV/AIDS physician, teacher, and global health activist. In the final years of his life, he successfully worked to change U.S. policy, making AIDS treatment more widely available in the global south and saving millions of lives around the world.

Using Berkman's unfinished prison memoir, FBI records, letters, and hundreds of interviews, Susan M. Reverby sheds fascinating light on questions of political violence and revolutionary zeal in her account of Berkman's extraordinary transformation from doctor to co-conspirator for justice.
Learn more about Co-conspirator for Justice at the University of North Carolina Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Examining Tuskegee.

The Page 99 Test: Co-conspirator for Justice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Nicola Maye Goldberg

From my Q&A with Nicola Maye Goldberg, author of Nothing Can Hurt You:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Quite a lot. It’s from Louise Gluck’s incredible poem “A Myth of Devotion” which I kept taped above my desk while I was writing the book. The phrase also appears in certain translations of Luke 10:19. It’s a promise many of the characters make to one another, which none of them are able to keep.

What's in a name?

For the name “Sara Morgan,” I wanted it to have the same number of syllables as “Laura Palmer,” who is sort of the dead white girl prototype in contemporary culture. But that’s...[read on]
Visit Nicola Maye Goldberg's website.

Q&A with Nicola Maye Goldberg.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 26, 2020

Five great thrillers set in isolated places

Nina Laurin studied Creative Writing at Concordia University in Montreal, where she currently lives. She arrived there when she was just twelve years old, and she speaks and reads in Russian, French, and English but writes her novels in English. She wrote her first novel while getting her writing degree, and Girl Last Seen was a bestseller a year later in 2017.

Laurin's latest novel is A Woman Alone.

At CrimeReads she tagged five great thrillers set in isolated places, including:
Kill Creek by Scott Thomas

I love books about writers, especially those that show the less cutesy or less glamorous side of it. So I was initially drawn to this book by the, ahem, colorful cast of horror writers who all end up at the same allegedly haunted house in search of inspiration, to say nothing of a career boost. Inspiration is what they find in this creepy abandoned house, site of many strange happenings. And then there’s the requisite bricked-in door hiding something ominous and terrible… Before long, each of the writers is penning their own novel based on their time at the house, but when they suddenly hit a (metaphorical and literal) wall, they must go back to Kill Creek to find out how the story ends.

The writer archetypes are spot-on perfect and over-the-top, which goes hand in hand with the recurring theme of the book: to what extent are the horrors that haunt us the product of our own minds?
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Ivy Pochoda's "These Women"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: These Women: A Novel by Ivy Pochoda.

About the book, from the publisher:
From the award-winning author of Wonder Valley and Visitation Street comes a serial killer story like you’ve never seen before—a literary thriller of female empowerment and social change

In West Adams, a rapidly changing part of South Los Angeles, they’re referred to as “these women.” These women on the corner … These women in the club … These women who won’t stop asking questions … These women who got what they deserved…

In her masterful new novel, Ivy Pochoda creates a kaleidoscope of loss, power, and hope featuring five very different women whose lives are steeped in danger and anguish. They’re connected by one man and his deadly obsession, though not all of them know that yet. There’s Dorian, still adrift after her daughter’s murder remains unsolved; Julianna, a young dancer nicknamed Jujubee, who lives hard and fast, resisting anyone trying to slow her down; Essie, a brilliant vice cop who sees a crime pattern emerging where no one else does; Marella, a daring performance artist whose work has long pushed boundaries but now puts her in peril; and Anneke, a quiet woman who has turned a willfully blind eye to those around her for far too long. The careful existence they have built for themselves starts to crumble when two murders rock their neighborhood.

Written with beauty and grit, tension and grace, These Women is a glorious display of storytelling, a once-in-a-generation novel.
Learn more about the book and author at Ivy Pochoda's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Art of Disappearing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Aya Gruber's "The Feminist War on Crime"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Feminist War on Crime: The Unexpected Role of Women's Liberation in Mass Incarceration by Aya Gruber.

About the book, from the publisher:
Many feminists grapple with the problem of hyper-incarceration in the United States, and yet commentators on gender crime continue to assert that criminal law is not tough enough. This punitive impulse, prominent legal scholar Aya Gruber argues, is dangerous and counterproductive. In their quest to secure women’s protection from domestic violence and rape, American feminists have become soldiers in the war on crime by emphasizing white female victimhood, expanding the power of police and prosecutors, touting the problem-solving power of incarceration, and diverting resources toward law enforcement and away from marginalized communities.

Deploying vivid cases and unflinching analysis, The Feminist War on Crime documents the failure of the state to combat sexual and domestic violence through law and punishment. Zero-tolerance anti-violence law and policy tend to make women less safe and more fragile. Mandatory arrests, no-drop prosecutions, forced separation, and incarceration embroil poor women of color in a criminal justice system that is historically hostile to them. This carceral approach exacerbates social inequalities by diverting more power and resources toward a fundamentally flawed criminal justice system, further harming victims, perpetrators, and communities alike.

In order to reverse this troubling course, Gruber contends that we must abandon the conventional feminist wisdom, fight violence against women without reinforcing the American prison state, and use criminalization as a technique of last—not first—resort.
Learn more about The Feminist War on Crime at the University of California Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Feminist War on Crime.

--Marshal Zeringue

Meghan Holloway's "Hunting Ground," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Hunting Ground by Meghan Holloway.

The entry begins:
I never have a model or actor in mind for a character as I am writing. The characters reveal themselves to me as fully evolved, entirely unique individuals, not based on any specific person. It is not simply a matter of looks that captures a character. The strength of the actor, the range of emotions they are able to portray, the actors’ presence on the screen balancing the parallel of the character on the page…I gave the subject of starring roles for Hunting Ground some consideration before I came up with my answer.

I wrote Hector more in the vein of an antihero than a hero. He lived a hard life from the time he was a boy, and he is a cold man driven by obsession. The only gentling influences in his life are Frank, his dog, and Maggie, his wife’s closest friend. Although he is a bit younger than the character, I think Josh Brolin could pull off the stern, weathered, distant character of Hector.

Evelyn is a complex character. Her family background is bittersweet, and she is a taciturn, reserved woman who is proud of the work she does and longing to make connections in her new home. She knows what it is to be...[read on]
Visit Meghan Holloway's website, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

My Book, The Movie: Once More Unto the Breach.

The Page 69 Test: Once More Unto the Breach.

Writers Read: Meghan Holloway (May 2019).

Q&A with Meghan Holloway.

The Page 69 Test: Hunting Ground.

My Book, The Movie: Hunting Ground.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Top ten books about remaking the future

"My latest series, The Salvation Sequence, is set in the far future after a catastrophe has scattered the human race across the stars, and sees us hunted," writes Peter F Hamilton in the Guardian. "The story follows a single goal that everyone shares, to defeat our enemy – which will finally allow us to reunite and live the life we once had. This quest for an ordinary existence is regarded as a destiny that’s worth fighting for."

Hamilton tagged ten top "stories of remaking the future that contain hope – or at least stability," including:
Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

The human fascination for a fresh start on a new world is given a new twist in Tchaikovsky’s trademark other-view style. The exoplanet in question is terraformed by a project that accidently goes … horribly right? We get to see a world with one of the most definitive alien civilisations that’s been written about, growing from the humblest of origins into a world that humans want for themselves. The conflict arising from this paradise-denied set-up is decided with imaginative non-human resolution.
Read about another entry on Hamilton's list.

Children of Time is among Gareth L. Powell's top ten spaceships in fiction and Spencer Ellsworth’s five top works of SF that turn weird bug behavior into great fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Jennifer Ryan's "Sisters and Secrets"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Sisters and Secrets: A Novel by Jennifer Ryan.

About the book, from the publisher:
There’s nothing more complicated than the relationship among family…Especially when the Silva Sisters are keeping secrets.

For Sierra it means returning home with her two little boys after a devastating Napa wildfire takes her home, her job, and even the last mementos of her late husband, David. Determined to start over, how can she ever reveal the truth—that her husband may have led a double life?

To the world, Amy’s world is perfect: handsome husband, delightful children, an Instagram-worthy home. But behind this facade lies an awful truth: her marriage is rocky, her children resentful, her home on the verge of breaking up.

Heather, impulsive, free-spirited, and single mom to an adorable little girl, lives for the moment wearing a carefree smile. But she refuses to reveal the truth about her daughter’s father, and his identity remains a mystery even to her family.

As the Silva Sisters secrets are revealed, each realizes that there is more to their family than meets the eyes…and forgiveness may be the only way to move forward and reclaim true happiness at last.

Sisters and Secrets is a moving novel of sisterhood, second chances, and the secrets that have the power to break or bond families—and alter destinies.
Visit Jennifer Ryan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Sarah Glosson's "Performing Jane"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Performing Jane: A Cultural History of Jane Austen Fandom by Sarah Glosson.

About the book, from the publisher:
Jane Austen has resonated with readers across generations like no other writer. More than two hundred years after the publication of her most celebrated novel, Pride and Prejudice, people around the world continue to honor “dear Jane.” In Performing Jane, Sarah Glosson explores this vibrant fandom, examining a long history of Austen fans engaging with her work, from wearing hand-­sewn bonnets and period-­appropriate corsets to creating spirited fanfiction and comical gifsets. Sophisticated and engaging, this study demonstrates that Austen fans of today have a great deal in common with those who loved the English novelist long before the term “fan” came into use. 
Performing Jane analyzes three ways fans engage with Austen and her work: collecting material related to the writer, whether in physical scrapbooks or on social­-media platforms; creating and consuming imitative works, including fanfiction and modernized adaptations such as The Lizzie Bennet Diaries; and making pilgrimages to Steventon, Hampshire, Chawton Cottage, and even to annual meetings of Jane Austen societies. Key to Glosson’s exploration of Austen fans is the notion that all of these activities, whether occurring in private or in public, are fundamentally performative. And in counterbalance to studies that center on fans with a tendency to transform and disrupt the original text, this study provides much-­needed understanding of a fandom that predominantly reaffirms Austen’s works. 
Because Austen’s writing has bridged the realms of both literary and popular culture, this fandom serves as an excellent case study to understand the ways in which we draw distinctions between fandom and other forms of intensive engagement and, more importantly, to appreciate how fluid those distinctions can be. Performing Jane embraces a holistic view of the long history of Austen fandom, relying on archival research, literary and visual analyses, and ethnographic study. This groundbreaking book not only demonstrates the ways in which fan practices, today and in the past, are performative, but also provides fresh perspectives into fandom and contributes to our understanding of the ways readers engage with literature.
Learn more about Performing Jane at the Louisiana State University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Performing Jane.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Lesley Kara

From my Q&A with Lesley Kara, author of Who Did You Tell?:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Who Did You Tell? was one of the first titles I thought of and luckily, my agent and editor liked it too. Psychological thrillers nearly always have a question at their heart and this title hints at a secret - a secret that’s been shared. It ties in with one of the key themes in the book and that’s addiction. The main character, Astrid, is a recovering alcoholic, who is forced to move back home with her mother. She is reluctantly attending AA meetings which are, by their very nature, confessional, so the title plays on this. What happens if...[read on]
Visit Lesley Kara's website.

Q&A with Lesley Kara.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Five top mysteries about characters searching for relatives

Sarah Stewart Taylor is the author of the Sweeney St. George series and the Maggie D'arcy series. She grew up on Long Island, and was educated at Middlebury College in Vermont and Trinity College, Dublin, where she studied Irish Literature. She has worked as a journalist and writing teacher and now lives with her family on a farm in Vermont where they raise sheep and grow blueberries.

Taylor's new novel is The Mountains Wild.

[See--The Page 69 Test: The Mountains Wild.]

At CrimeReads she tagged a few "favorite mysteries about characters searching for relatives—and themselves." One title on the list:
What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman

In Laura Lipman’s terrific 2007 novel, based on the real-life disappearances of the Lyon sisters from a mall in Wheaton, Maryland, Heather Bethany, the fictional version of one of the long-missing-and-presumed-dead sisters reappears one day, the suspect in a hit and run accident. For the detectives who were never able to find the missing sisters, it feels like the conclusion to a horrible mystery. But things are more complicated than that and Heather doesn’t do or say the things she’s expected to do or say. In fact, she doesn’t want to talk about what happened to her and her sister Sunny.

One of the best things about the novel, to my mind, is the complex portrait of these sisters, as adolescents before they disappear and in the imaginations of those who loved them and ... well, to give anymore away would be a crime, but it’s Lippman’s skillful portrait of Heather and Sunny Bethany that stayed with me long after I’d read the twisty, revelatory, and believable resolution.
Read about another entry on the list.

What the Dead Know is among Kathleen Donohoe's ten top books about missing persons.

The Page 69 Test: What the Dead Know.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Catherine McKenzie's "You Can't Catch Me"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: You Can't Catch Me by Catherine McKenzie.

About the book, from the publisher:
Do you want to play a game?

Twelve years ago Jessica Williams escaped a cult. Thanks to the private detective who rescued her, she reintegrated into society, endured an uncomfortable notoriety, and tried to put it all behind her. Then, at an airport bar, Jessica meets a woman with an identical name and birth date. It appears to be just an odd coincidence—until a week later, when Jessica finds her bank account drained and her personal information stolen.

Following a trail of the grifter’s victims, each with the same name, Jessica gathers players—one by one—for her own game. According to her plan, they’ll set a trap and wait for the impostor to strike again. But plans can go awry, and trust can fray, and as Jessica tries to escape the shadows of her childhood, the risks are greater than she imagined. Now, confronting the casualties of her past, Jessica can’t help but wonder…

Who will pay the price?
Visit Catherine McKenzie's website.

My Book, The Movie: You Can't Catch Me.

The Page 69 Test: You Can't Catch Me.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Peter J. Thuesen's "Tornado God"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Tornado God: American Religion and Violent Weather by Peter J. Thuesen.

About the book, from the publisher:
One of the earliest sources of humanity's religious impulse was severe weather, which ancient peoples attributed to the wrath of storm gods. Enlightenment thinkers derided such beliefs as superstition and predicted they would pass away as humans became more scientifically and theologically sophisticated. But in America, scientific and theological hubris came face-to-face with the tornado, nature's most violent windstorm. Striking the United States more than any other nation, tornadoes have consistently defied scientists' efforts to unlock their secrets. Meteorologists now acknowledge that even the most powerful computers will likely never be able to predict a tornado's precise path.

Similarly, tornadoes have repeatedly brought Americans to the outer limits of theology, drawing them into the vortex of such mysteries as how to reconcile suffering with a loving God and whether there is underlying purpose or randomness in the universe. In this groundbreaking history, Peter Thuesen captures the harrowing drama of tornadoes, as clergy, theologians, meteorologists, and ordinary citizens struggle to make sense of these death-dealing tempests. He argues that, in the tornado, Americans experience something that is at once culturally peculiar (the indigenous storm of the national imagination) and religiously primal (the sense of awe before an unpredictable and mysterious power). He also shows that, in an era of climate change, the weather raises the issue of society's complicity in natural disasters. In the whirlwind, Americans confront the question of their own destiny-how much is self-determined and how much is beyond human understanding or control.
Visit Peter J. Thuesen's website.

The Page 99 Test: Tornado God.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Kimberly Belle

From my Q&A with Kimberly Belle, author of Stranger in the Lake: A Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Six books in, and not one of my titles has ever stuck, so I’ve stopped spending energy thinking about what to call it until the story is finished. When I turned this one in, it was called “Book #6,” though admittedly, Stranger in the Lake is a much catchier title. An accurate one, too, since that’s how the story begins, with an unnamed woman floating in the lake behind my main character Charlotte’s home, in the same exact spot where her brand new husband’s first wife drowned. A coincidence? Maybe, but what the title also does is suggest that the stranger may not be a stranger at all—something that turns out to be true. Charlotte saw the woman talking to her husband the day before, even though he tells the police he’s never met the woman. His lie exposes cracks in their fragile new marriage, and it...[read on]
Visit Kimberly Belle's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dear Wife.

Writers Read: Kimberly Belle (July 2019).

Q&A with Kimberly Belle.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Six books searching for meaning in times of despair

Tara Isabella Burton's debut novel, Social Creature, praised by The New York Times' Janet Maslin as "a wicked original with echoes of the greats," was published in June 2018. It was named a "book of the year" by The New York Times, New York's Vulture, and The Guardian, and has been shortlisted for a Shirley Jackson Award and the WH Smith Thumping Good Read Award. A film adaptation is in development with Lionsgate.

Her next book, Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World -- explores the rites and practices of the religiously unaffiliated from SoulCycle to witchcraft.

At Lit Hub she tagged six books "that capture our hunger for something, anything, to believe in." One title on the list:
Victor LaValle, Big Machine

Equal parts black comedy and phantasmagoric thriller, this surreal 2011 novel about the heroin-addicted childhood survivor of a suicide cult summoned to a mysterious gathering of paranormal investigators known as “Unlikely Scholarss” is a bleakly funny meditation on faith, ideology, group order, and the fine lines between them.
Read about another entry on the list.

Big Machine is among Laura van den Berg's six favorite unconventional mystery novels.

The Page 69 Test: Big Machine.

--Marshal Zeringue

Jane L. Rosen's "Eliza Starts a Rumor," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Eliza Starts a Rumor by Jane L. Rosen.

The entry begins:
As an author I am asked many questions like where do you get your ideas (where don’t I,) and when is your best time to write (first thing in the morning,) and what do you do about writer’s block (write through it). Originally a screenwriter, I tend to write visually and in doing so I picture each character as a person in my head. I don’t picture actual actors though, more like blurry avatars. Which brings me to my favorite question, who do you see cast in the film version of your book?

I’ll start with Eliza.

Eliza Hunt is a stay at home mom, in the most literal sense of the word. She suffers from agoraphobia and has hardly left the house since her twins flew off to college. She is a good person who gets herself into hot water, as the title of the book implies, by starting a rumor. She is funny, in a self-deprecating way, even when dealing with some very serious issues. I believe that Eliza Hunt is the perfect part for Drew Barrymore. Drew has great comic timing and priceless facial expressions and while she hasn’t really displayed her dramatic acting chops since...[read on]
Follow Jane L. Rosen on Facebook and Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: Eliza Starts a Rumor.

My Book, The Movie: Eliza Starts a Rumor.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Meghan Holloway's "Hunting Ground"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Hunting Ground by Meghan Holloway.

About the book, from the publisher:
Fifteen years ago, Hector Lewis’s wife and young daughter vanished without a trace. People have long thought he was responsible, but the man he knows is behind their disappearance still walks free. As a police officer, he is sworn to uphold the law. But he has seen how little justice there is in the world. And when a newcomer’s arrival sparks a harrowing series of crimes, Hector finds himself in a race to catch a man he is convinced is a killer.

Evelyn Hutto knows what it is to be prey. She moved west to start over. But the remote town of Raven’s Gap, Montana, is not as quiet and picturesque as it appears. The wild borderlands of Yellowstone National Park are home to more than one kind of predator. Women are going missing, and Evelyn’s position at the local museum unearths a collection of Native American art steeped in secrets. As she traces the threads of the past and the present, she finds them tied to one man.

Hector is a man obsessed with finding answers. Evelyn is a woman with secrets of her own. As winter whittles the land to bone and ice, the body count rises, and both become locked in a deadly game of cat and mouse with a dangerous man. A man who is as cunning as he is charismatic. A man whose new hunting season is only just beginning.
Visit Meghan Holloway's website, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

My Book, The Movie: Once More Unto the Breach.

The Page 69 Test: Once More Unto the Breach.

Writers Read: Meghan Holloway (May 2019).

Q&A with Meghan Holloway.

The Page 69 Test: Hunting Ground.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Geoffrey Plank's "Atlantic Wars"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Atlantic Wars: From the Fifteenth Century to the Age of Revolution by Geoffrey Plank.

About the book, from the publisher:
In a sweeping account, Atlantic Wars explores how warfare shaped the experiences of the peoples living in the watershed of the Atlantic Ocean between the late Middle Ages and the Age of Revolution. At the beginning of that period, combat within Europe secured for the early colonial powers the resources and political stability they needed to venture across the sea. By the early nineteenth century, descendants of the Europeans had achieved military supremacy on land but revolutionaries had challenged the norms of Atlantic warfare.

Nearly everywhere they went, imperial soldiers, missionaries, colonial settlers, and traveling merchants sought local allies, and consequently they often incorporated themselves into African and indigenous North and South American diplomatic, military, and commercial networks. The newcomers and the peoples they encountered struggled to understand each other, find common interests, and exploit the opportunities that arose with the expansion of transatlantic commerce. Conflicts arose as a consequence of ongoing cultural misunderstandings and differing conceptions of justice and the appropriate use of force. In many theaters of combat profits could be made by exploiting political instability. Indigenous and colonial communities felt vulnerable in these circumstances, and many believed that they had to engage in aggressive military action--or, at a minimum, issue dramatic threats--in order to survive. Examining the contours of European dominance, this work emphasizes its contingent nature and geographical limitations, the persistence of conflict and its inescapable impact on non-combatants' lives.

Addressing warfare at sea, warfare on land, and transatlantic warfare, Atlantic Wars covers the Atlantic world from the Vikings in the north, through the North American coastline and Caribbean, to South America and Africa. By incorporating the British, French, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, Africans, and indigenous Americans into one synthetic work, Geoffrey Plank underscores how the formative experience of combat brought together widely separated people in a common history.
Learn more about Atlantic Wars at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Jennifer Ryan

From my Q&A with Jennifer Ryan, author of Sisters and Secrets: A Novel:
Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

There are pieces of me in every book. But I really relate to these sisters in different ways.

Sierra is the most like me. She’s the middle sister. So am I, though I have two brothers. She’s self-sufficient and very capable. Asking for help is not her way, because she feels like she can do it all. I’ve always been that way.

Amy is a bit neurotic and a perfectionist. I’m a little bit of this, but not as much as Amy. I get her desire to make her family happy by giving them a nice home life and being the best mom she can be. I don’t go overboard like Amy does, which actually makes her family resent her a bit. My kids would probably say I tend to get lost in books and ignore them – but they get that about me. And I make them brownies to make up for it.

Heather is a free spirit who leans toward being selfish. She’s...[read on]
Visit Jennifer Ryan's website.

Q&A with Jennifer Ryan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 22, 2020

Seven true stories about the journey to seek asylum in the U.S.

Joe Meno is a fiction writer and journalist who lives in Chicago. He is the winner of the Nelson Algren Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Great Lakes Book Award, and was a finalist for the Story Prize. The bestselling author of seven novels and two short story collections including Marvel and a Wonder, The Boy Detective Fails, and Hairstyles of the Damned, he is a professor in the English and Creative Writing department at Columbia College Chicago.

Meno's new nonfiction book is Between Everything and Nothing: The Journey of Seidu Mohammed and Razak Iyal and the Quest for Asylum.

At Electric Lit he tagged seven true tales about the journey to seek asylum in the U.S., including:
The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea

The fate of 26 men who attempt to cross the Mexican border into the southern Arizona desert is described in blistering, poetic detail. Facing Mexican federales, the U.S. Border Patrol, armed vigilantes, and the inhospitable, physical landscape, the men confront dangers both physical and deeply political while Urrea details longstanding policy failures on both sides of the border that lead individuals to put their lives into peril in exchange for some sense of the future.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Emily Temple's "The Lightness"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Lightness: A Novel by Emily Temple.

About the book, from the publisher:
A stylish, stunningly precise, and suspenseful meditation on adolescent desire, female friendship, and the female body that shimmers with rage, wit, and fierce longing—an audacious, darkly observant, and mordantly funny literary debut for fans of Emma Cline, Ottessa Moshfegh, and Jenny Offill.

One year ago, the person Olivia adores most in the world, her father, left home for a meditation retreat in the mountains and never returned. Yearning to make sense of his shocking departure and to escape her overbearing mother—a woman as grounded as her father is mercurial—Olivia runs away from home and retraces his path to a place known as the Levitation Center.

Once there, she enrolls in their summer program for troubled teens, which Olivia refers to as “Buddhist Boot Camp for Bad Girls”. Soon, she finds herself drawn into the company of a close-knit trio of girls determined to transcend their circumstances, by any means necessary. Led by the elusive and beautiful Serena, and her aloof, secretive acolytes, Janet and Laurel, the girls decide this is the summer they will finally achieve enlightenment—and learn to levitate, to defy the weight of their bodies, to experience ultimate lightness.

But as desire and danger intertwine, and Olivia comes ever closer to discovering what a body—and a girl—is capable of, it becomes increasingly clear that this is an advanced and perilous practice, and there’s a chance not all of them will survive. Set over the course of one fateful summer that unfolds like a fever dream, The Lightness juxtaposes fairy tales with quantum physics, cognitive science with religious fervor, and the passions and obsessions of youth with all of these, to explore concepts as complex as faith and as simple as loving people—even though you don’t, and can’t, know them at all.
Visit Emily Temple's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Lightness.

The Page 69 Test: The Lightness.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Uzma Quraishi's "Redefining the Immigrant South"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Redefining the Immigrant South: Indian and Pakistani Immigration to Houston during the Cold War (New Directions in Southern Studies) by Uzma Quraishi.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the early years of the Cold War, the United States mounted expansive public diplomacy programs in the Global South, including initiatives with the recently partitioned states of India and Pakistan. U.S. operations in these two countries became the second- and fourth-largest in the world, creating migration links that resulted in the emergence of American universities, such as the University of Houston, as immigration hubs for the highly selective, student-led South Asian migration stream starting in the 1950s. By the late twentieth century, Houston’s South Asian community had become one of the most prosperous in the metropolitan area and one of the largest in the country.

Mining archives and using new oral histories, Uzma Quraishi traces this pioneering community from its midcentury roots to the early twenty-first century, arguing that South Asian immigrants appealed to class conformity and endorsed the model minority myth to navigate the complexities of a shifting Sunbelt South. By examining Indian and Pakistani immigration to a major city transitioning out of Jim Crow, Quraishi reframes our understanding of twentieth-century migration, the changing character of the South, and the tangled politics of race, class, and ethnicity in the United States.
Learn more about Redefining the Immigrant South at the University of North Carolina Press.

The Page 99 Test: Redefining the Immigrant South.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Elle Cosimano

From my Q&A with Elle Cosimano, author of Seasons of the Storm:
What's in a name?

Names play a critical role in Seasons of the Storm. Each character’s name is self-chosen, reflecting their new identity once they are turned from humans into the immortal embodiments of their assigned season on earth. The Seasons each possess a specific elemental magic, and they are grouped by their creators to live with others of the same nature in order to foster competition between those that are different. My main character is a Winter named Jack Sommers. His chosen name not only hints at his elemental magic (a nod to Jack Frost), but also reveals a glimmer of his defiant personality—a character trait that drives him to...[read on]
Visit Elle Cosimano's website.

Q&A with Elle Cosimano.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Six top World War II spy stories

At The Strand Magazine, Imogen Kealey (the pseudonym of American screenwriter Darby Kealey and British novelist Imogen Robertson) tagged six favorite World War II spy books, including:
Night Soldiers — Alan Furst

Echoing Imogen’s pick, I’m going with another one of Furst’s World War II novels. Impeccably researched and meticulously plotted, Night Soldiers spans vast lengths of time and distance to draw together a tale of intrigue, power, and the raw brutality of survival. Perhaps the most appealing aspect of Furst’s writing is the immaculate detail, the great care he takes with every description, every moment, every choice. In doing so, he really draws you into his world, fleshing out characters who are flawed and fascinating and altogether human. If you’re looking for a sweeping tale about the tragedies and triumphs of war, Night Soldiers is a great choice.
Read about another entry on the list.

Night Soldiers is among six books Joseph Kanon recommends and Dwyer Murphy's ten top spy thrillers featuring Russia versus the West.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Sarah Stewart Taylor's "The Mountains Wild"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Mountains Wild by Sarah Stewart Taylor.

About the book, from the publisher:
In a series debut for fans of Tana French and Kate Atkinson, set in Dublin and New York, homicide detective Maggie D'arcy finally tackles the case that changed the course of her life.

Twenty-three years ago, Maggie D'arcy's family received a call from the Dublin police. Her cousin Erin has been missing for several days. Maggie herself spent weeks in Ireland, trying to track Erin's movements, working beside the police. But it was to no avail: no trace of her was ever found.

The experience inspired Maggie to become a cop. Now, back on Long Island, more than 20 years have passed. Maggie is a detective and a divorced mother of a teenager. When the Gardaí call to say that Erin's scarf has been found and another young woman has gone missing, Maggie returns to Ireland, awakening all the complicated feelings from the first trip. The despair and frustration of not knowing what happened to Erin. Her attraction to Erin's coworker, now a professor, who never fully explained their relationship. And her determination to solve the case, once and for all.

A lyrical, deeply drawn portrait of a woman - and a country - over two decades - The Mountains Wild introduces a compelling new mystery series from a mesmerizing author.
Visit Sarah Stewart Taylor's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Mountains Wild.

--Marshal Zeringue