Friday, July 31, 2020

Eight books to take you back to the Eighties

Amanda Brainerd is a New York City real estate broker, wife and mother of three. She graduated from Harvard College and earned a Master of Architecture from Columbia University after being expelled from Choate Rosemary Hall boarding school in the 10th grade.

Age of Consent is her first novel.

At Electric Lit she tagged eight books to take you back to the 1980s, including:
Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead

An intimate portrait of the wealthy Black community in the Hamptons, Whitehead’s coming of age novel is set in 1985 and follows 15-year-old Benji during a summer in Sag Harbor at his moneyed parents’ house. Growing up, I was keenly aware of the racism and anti-Semitism in the Hamptons, which was the New York City version writ large, fueled by money and hidden behind private hedges.
Read about another entry on the list.

Sag Harbor is among Jeff Somers's top ten books to take you someplace you’ve likely never been.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with TJ Klune

From my Q&A with TJ Klune, author of The Extraordinaries:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Titles can be tough; there have been stories I’ve written where the title was one of the first things I thought of, and stories where even after I’ve finished, I have no idea what to call the book I’ve just spent months writing. I have a book right now that I finished recently. It’s the fifth book in a series that I’ve spent years writing, and for the life of me, I have no idea what to call it, even though the four previous titles were incredibly obvious.

I didn’t have that problem with The Extraordinaries. The title is what the book is about. In this world, Extraordinaries are the superheroes that exist alongside regular people. Some are good, some are evil, but they are all extraordinary because of what they’re capable of.

It also works twofold: while describing the supers, it also works as twist for the main character, Nick. Nick thinks he’s anything but extraordinary. In fact, he thinks he’s quite ordinary, and to him, that’s not the best thing to be. The novel follows Nick’s journey—one he thinks he needs—to change from ordinary into extraordinary. To him, the worst thing a person can be is...[read on]
Visit TJ Klune's website.

Q&A with TJ Klune.

--Marshal Zeringue

Rebecca Reid's "The Truth Hurts," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Truth Hurts: A Novel by Rebecca Reid.

The entry begins:
The Truth Hurts is the story of Poppy - a lost young woman who gets fired while working as a nanny in Ibiza, and Drew - an attractive and wealthy older man who falls for her on the spot. They get married in a whirlwind romance and move back to Drew's English mansion. But of course, if something seems too good to be true, it almost certainly is. Once they get back to the UK, secrets start to surface.

Excitingly enough, The Truth Hurts has actually been optioned. So when I play the dream casting game (which I have been doing on repeat since I first started writing it!) it's not entirely a fantasy. Of course, if it does make it to the screen in real life, then I'll defer to the wisdom of the producers and just be beyond blown-away that something I wrote in my tiny one-bed flat in London could become something so huge. But in the meantime, I love indulging in a game of fantasy casting.

Usually when I start writing, I 'shop' for my characters on the graduation headshot section of the websites for various drama schools. But when I was writing The Truth Hurts I had a picture of Florence Pugh on my desk. This was before she was so famous. I saw her in a little indie film about a fainting epidemic, and thought she was the most astonishing actor I'd ever seen. So she's still who I picture for Poppy. That said, my husband is absolutely insistent that it should be Sophie…[read on]
Follow Rebecca Reid on Twitter.

Q&A with Rebecca Reid.

The Page 69 Test: The Truth Hurts.

My Book, The Movie: The Truth Hurts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Top ten books by Charles Dickens

A.N. Wilson was born in 1950 and educated at Rugby and New College, Oxford. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he holds a prominent position in the world of literature and journalism. He is an award-winning biographer and a celebrated novelist, winning prizes for much of his work. He lives in North London.

Wilson's new book is The Mystery of Charles Dickens.

At the Guardian he tagged Dickens's top ten books, including:
Great Expectations

If Copperfield was a rather benign version of his autobiography, here he takes the gloves off. The person he is beating up is himself. Pip believes he has inherited wealth from the sinister Miss Havisham, the rich woman of Rochester, whereas in fact the source of his wealth is the convict, Magwitch, to whom as a child Pip had shown kindness. The mistake which Pip finds so shattering reveals, to him and to us, all his skewed values, all his cult of wealth and status. Technically the most flawless of the fictions, and one that makes for truly uncomfortable reading.
Read about another entry on the list.

Great Expectations appears on Will Harris's top ten list of random encounters in literature, Caroline Crampton's top ten list of books about the River Thames, Jenny Kawecki's list of four of the worst holidays in fiction, Lynne Truss's 6 best books list, Charlotte Seager's list of five well-known literary obsessives who take things too far, TheReadDown's list of seventeen books to read during wedding season, Phoebe Walker's list of eight of the best feasts quotes in literature, Rachel Cooke's top ten list of single women, Robert Williams's top ten list of loners in fiction, Chrissie Gruebel's top ten list of books set in London, Melissa Albert's list of five interesting fictional characters who would make undesirable roommates, Janice Clark's list of seven top novels about the horrors of adolescence, Amy Wilkinson's list of five books Kate Middleton should have read while waiting to give birth, Kate Clanchy's top ten list of novels that reflect the real qualities of adolescence, Joseph Olshan's list of six favorite books, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best clocks in literature, ten of the best appropriate deaths in literature, ten of the best castles in literature, ten of the best Hamlets, ten of the best card games in literature, and ten best list of fights in fiction. It also made Tony Parsons' list of the top ten troubled males in fiction, David Nicholls' top ten list of literary tear jerkers, and numbers among Kurt Anderson's five most essential books. The novel is #1 on Melissa Katsoulis' list of "twenty-five films that made it from the book shelf to the box office with credibility intact."

Read an 1861 review of Great Expectations.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Ricardo Padrón's "The Indies of the Setting Sun"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Indies of the Setting Sun: How Early Modern Spain Mapped the Far East as the Transpacific West by Ricardo Padrón.

About the book, from the publisher:
Narratives of Europe’s sixteenth-century westward expansion often tell of how the Americas came to be known as a distinct land mass, a continent separate from Asia and uniquely positioned as new ground ripe for transatlantic colonialism. But this geographic vision of the Americas was not shared by all Europeans. While some imperialists imagined North and Central America as a new and undiscovered land, the Spanish pushed to define the New World as part of a larger and eminently flexible geography that they called las Indias, and that by right, belonged to the Crown of Castile and León. Las Indias included all of the New World as well as East and Southeast Asia, although Spain’s understanding of the relationship between the two areas changed as the realities of the Pacific Rim came into sharper focus. At first, the Spanish insisted that North and Central America were an extension of the continent of Asia. Eventually, they came to understand East and Southeast Asia as a transpacific extension of their empire in America called las Indias del poniente, or the Indies of the Setting Sun.

The Indies of the Setting Sun charts the Spanish vision of a transpacific imperial expanse, beginning with Balboa’s discovery of the South Sea and ending almost one hundred years later with Spain’s final push for control of the Pacific. Padrón traces a series of attempts—both cartographic and discursive—to map the space from Mexico to Malacca, revealing the geopolitical imaginations at play in the quest for control of the New World and Asia.
Learn more about The Indies of the Setting Sun at the University of Chicago Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Indies of the Setting Sun.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Jennifer Honeybourn's "The Do-Over"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Do-Over by Jennifer Honeybourn.

About the book, from the publisher:
In The Do-Over, a teenage girl gets the chance to redo her past in this smart and charming YA novel by the author of When Life Gives You Demons, Jennifer Honeybourn.

Emelia has always wanted to fit in with the A crowd. So, when Ben, the hottest guy in school, asks her out, she chooses him over Alistair, her best friend—even after he confesses his feelings to her.

Six months later, Emilia wonders how her life would have been different if she’d chosen Alistair instead. Haunted by her mistake, she finds a magical solution that promises to rectify the past. As a result, everything in her life is different.

Different, but not better.

What happens if her second chance is her only chance to make things right?
Visit Jennifer Honeybourn's website.

My Book, The Movie: Just My Luck.

Q&A with L. Annette Binder

From my Q&A with L. Annette Binder, author of The Vanishing Sky:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The title — The Vanishing Sky — does quite a bit of work to bring the readers into the story, but it does so indirectly. The title doesn’t refer to the setting or the characters but instead taps into a central theme of the book — How do you grapple with the demands of a regime that you have slowly come to realize is evil? It comes from a flashback scene, which is in many ways the key to understanding the novel as a whole. In that scene, Etta Huber — the mother in the story — remembers a terrible childhood event in which she was an unwilling participant, and she grapples with her guilt and the effects of her years of silence. The vanishing sky in that moment from her childhood carries over into her adult life — and the lives of the other Germans in her town — as they struggle with the terrible things happening all around them.

An earlier title for the book was Mutti, which means “mom” in German. This title was true to the story, since Etta’s role as a mother is so central to the story, but it was problematic, too. It’s easy for non-German speakers to mispronounce, and German-speakers would likely find it strange to name a novel “Mom.” So my publisher asked me to go back and look to the story for a more fitting title. My husband, who knows the novel as well as I do at this point, suggested I look at...[read on]
Visit L. Annette Binder's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Vanishing Sky.

My Book, The Movie: The Vanishing Sky.

Q&A with L. Annette Binder.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Eight top novels featuring odd couples & unexpected partnerships

Alice Feeney is a writer and journalist. She spent fifteen years with BBC News where she worked as a reporter, news editor, arts and entertainment producer, and One O'Clock news producer. Feeney has lived in London and Sydney and has now settled in the Surrey countryside, where she lives with her husband and dog. His & Hers is her third novel, after Sometimes I Lie and I Know Who You Are.

At CrimeReads Feeney tagged eight of her "favorite novels that have odd couples and unexpected partnerships at the heart of their stories," including:
My Lovely Wife, Samantha Downing

Millicent and her husband are definitely not your everyday couple in this unputdownable thriller. They fell in love, they had kids, they moved to the suburbs, and then they…I don’t want to spoil it for you. Every marriage has secrets, and theirs are pretty big. I loved everything about this novel.
Read about another entry on the list.

My Lovely Wife is among Pip Drysdale's seven top revenge thrillers featuring women who have had enough, Christina McDonald's seven top thrillers with flawed characters, C.J. Tudor's seven crime novels where murder is a group activity, Lisa Levy's top seven psychological thrillers with manipulative male narrators, Kaira Rouda's top seven literary couples whose relationships are deeply disturbing in the most fascinating ways possible, and Margot Hunt's top five villains who have had about enough of domestic life.

The Page 69 Test: My Lovely Wife.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Christine Leuenberger & Izhak Schnell's "The Politics of Maps"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Politics of Maps: Cartographic Constructions of Israel/Palestineby Christine Leuenberger and Izhak Schnell.

About the book, from the publisher:
The land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan Valley has been one of the most disputed territories in history. Since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, Palestinians and Israelis have each sought claim to the national identity of the land through various martial, social and scientific tactics, but no method has offered as much legitimacy and national controversy as that of the map.

The Politics of Maps delves beneath the battlefield to unearth the cartographic strife behind the Israel/Palestine conflict. Blending science and technology studies, sociology, and geography with a host of archival material, in-depth interviews and ethnographies, this book explores how the geographical sciences came to be entangled with the politics, territorial claim-making, and nation-state building of Israel/Palestine. Chapters chart the cartographic history of the region, from the introduction of Western scientific and legal paradigms that seemingly legitimized and depoliticized new land regimes to the rise of new mapping technologies and software that expanded access to cartography into the public sphere. Maps produced by various sectors like the "peace camps" or the Jewish community enhanced national belonging, while others, like that of the Green Line, served largely to divide.

The stories of Israel's many boundaries reveal that there is no absolute, technocratic solution to boundary-making. As boundaries continue to be controversial and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains intractable and unresolved, The Politics of Maps uses nationally-based cartographic discourses to provide insight into the complexity, fissures and frictions within internal political debates, illuminating the persistent power of the nation-state as a framework for forging identities, citizens, and alliances.
Learn more about The Politics of Maps at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Politics of Maps.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Jay Stringer's "Marah Chase and the Fountain of Youth"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Marah Chase and the Fountain of Youth: A Novel by Jay Stringer.

About the book, from the publisher:
Adventurer Marah Chase can’t resist one last globe-trotting quest to rescue a friend and discover a legendary locale.

Marah Chase has everything she wanted. Her academic career is back on track, she’s moved into a Manhattan apartment, and a dream job is waiting at the American Museum of Natural History. So why can’t she seem to stop slipping into her old ways, traveling the world in search of lost relics and buried treasure?

Back out in the field, Chase finds the lost Ark of the Covenant, a discovery that could trigger a holy war, as religions and nations argue over ownership of the sacred item. The Ark also brings Chase into conflict with another legendary relic runner, August Nash, a clash the entire underground smuggling community has been waiting for, and not one that will end anytime soon.

Upon returning home, Chase is hired by US soda billionaire Lauren Stanford to find the Fountain of Youth. At first, Chase dismisses this idea. But then Stanford tells her that an old friend found some information on the Fountain’s location and is now missing. Chase agrees to take the job—but only to find her friend—and enlists allies along the way on a trail from New York to London, and then on to Glasgow. Behind the myth, they find, lies a much older secret, and now they’re in a race to find the Fountain ahead of Nash and his nefarious cohorts. Whoever gets there first will have control over the future of humanity.

Marah Chase and the Fountain of Youth is a tense, exciting, and epic adventure novel, spanning three continents and broadening the world of the Marah Chase series, placing Chase in the unique position to confront questions of identity, faith, imperialism, and appropriation.
Visit Jay Stringer's website.

Q&A with Jay Stringer.

My Book, The Movie: Marah Chase and the Fountain of Youth.

The Page 69 Test: Marah Chase and the Fountain of Youth.

--Marshal Zeringue

L. Annette Binder's "The Vanishing Sky," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Vanishing Sky by L. Annette Binder.

The entry begins:
The Vanishing Sky tells the story of a German mother named Etta Huber who is trying to hold her family together during the closing months of WW2. Etta’s older son Max has come home from the Eastern front suffering from a mental breakdown, and Etta struggles to hide his condition from the authorities because she knows they’ll take him from her if they find out how sick he really is. She can’t rely on her husband Josef for help, since he’s become increasingly forgetful and nationalistic. At the same time, her younger son Georg, who is fifteen years old, runs away from his post in the Hitler Youth and tries to make his way back home to her.

One dream director for the book would have to be Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. The Lives of Others is one of my favorite films. In it, Donnersmarck brilliantly shows how ordinary people struggled with doing the right thing when faced with the demands of the brutal East German regime. The regime and ideology are both different in my book, but the themes are largely the same — How do you navigate the expectations of an evil regime when...[read on]
Visit L. Annette Binder's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Vanishing Sky.

My Book, The Movie: The Vanishing Sky.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Ten top mysteries set in Maine

Mary Kubica is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Good Girl, Pretty Baby, Don't You Cry, Every Last Lie, and When the Lights Go Out.

A former high school history teacher, Kubica holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in History and American Literature.

Her newest novel is The Other Mrs..

At The Strand Magazine, Kubica tagged ten favorite mysteries set in Maine, including:

Two strangers, Ted and Lilly, meet at an airport bar and soon make plans to kill Ted’s wife, who’s been cheating on him. Set in both Boston, where Ted, his wife, and Lilly all live, and Maine, where the wife, Miranda, is currently working, this is the type of book where you’ll have to pick your jaw up off the floor more than once. Incredibly plotted with twist after twist after mind blowing twist.
Read about another entry on the list.

My Book, The Movie: The Kind Worth Killing.

The Page 69 Test: The Kind Worth Killing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Adrian Brettle's "Colossal Ambitions"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Colossal Ambitions: Confederate Planning for a Post-Civil War World by Adrian Brettle.

About the book, from the publisher:
Leading politicians, diplomats, clerics, planters, farmers, manufacturers, and merchants preached a transformative, world-historical role for the Confederacy, persuading many of their compatriots to fight not merely to retain what they had but to gain their future empire. Impervious to reality, their vision of future world leadership—territorial, economic, political, and cultural—provided a vitally important, underappreciated motivation to form an independent Confederate republic.

In Colossal Ambitions, Adrian Brettle explores how leading Confederate thinkers envisioned their postwar nation—its relationship with the United States, its place in the Americas, and its role in the global order. Brettle draws on rich caches of published and unpublished letters and diaries, Confederate national and state government documents, newspapers published in North America and England, conference proceedings, pamphlets, contemporary and scholarly articles, and more to engage the perspectives of not only modern historians but some of the most salient theorists of the Western World in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. An impressive and complex undertaking, Colossal Ambitions concludes that while some Confederate commentators saw wartime industrialization as pointing toward a different economic future, most Confederates saw their society as revolving once more around coercive labor, staple crop production, and exports in the war’s wake.
Learn more about Colossal Ambitions at the University of Virginia Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Colossal Ambitions.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Lydia Kang

From my Q&A with Lydia Kang, author of Opium and Absinthe: A Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The title Opium and Absinthe came to my mind fairly fast. The problem was--I didn't know exactly how absinthe played into the story. I was very much affected by Francis Ford Coppola's cinematic version of Dracula in the 1990s, and there was a scene between Mina and the Count drinking absinthe in a salon. It's not in the original text by Bram Stoker. But I was sort of obsessed with this spirit. First, there was the entire ritual of drinking absinthe, which seemed lovely. Then, its history among the literati and artists of the time. Also, its purported hallucinogenic qualities (it's not) and it's illegal status for some time. I just knew I wanted to include it, and so, I made it happen.

As for opium, I...[read on]
Visit Lydia Kang's website, blog, Facebook page and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Control.

The Page 69 Test: Catalyst.

The Page 69 Test: A Beautiful Poison.

The Page 69 Test: Opium and Absinthe.

Q&A with Lydia Kang.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Rebecca Reid's "The Truth Hurts"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Truth Hurts: A Novel by Rebecca Reid.

About the book, from the publisher:
Is her new husband hiding something?

Caught up in a whirlwind romance that starts in sunny Ibiza and leads to the cool corridors of a luxurious English country estate, Poppy barely has time to catch her breath, let alone seriously question if all this is too good to be true. Drew is enamored, devoted, and, okay, a little mysterious—but that's part of the thrill. What's the harm in letting his past remain private?

Maybe he's not the only one…

Fortunately, Drew never seems to wonder why his young wife has so readily agreed to their unusual pact to live only in the here and now and not probe their personal histories. Perhaps he assumes, as others do, that she is simply swept up in the intoxication of infatuation and sudden wealth. What's the harm in letting them believe that?

How far will they go to keep the past buried?

Isolated in Drew's sprawling mansion, Poppy starts to have time to doubt the man she's married, to wonder what in his past might be so terrible that it can't be spoken of, to imagine what harm he might be capable of. She doesn't want this dream to shatter. But Poppy may soon be forced to confront the dark truth that there are sins far more dangerous than the sin of omission…
Follow Rebecca Reid on Twitter.

Q&A with Rebecca Reid.

The Page 69 Test: The Truth Hurts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 27, 2020

Eight top books about cross-generational friendships

Diane Zinna's new novel is The All-Night Sun.

At Electric Lit she tagged eight books about connections that transcend age, including:
The Lost Book of Adana Moreau by Michael Zapata

In this deftly conjured novel of bubble universes and dopplegängers, people are united by a beloved lost manuscript in post-Katrina New Orleans. I felt deeply for Saul, who we see at the start mourning his grandfather Benjamin’s death. While trying to piece together an understanding of his grandfather, Saul discovers his own best friend, Javier, had a deep relationship with him of his own. When his grandfather met Javier for the first time, he called Javier a “luftmensch,” a Yiddish word for someone who lives in “a cloud of possibility.” Saul is jealous of that but comes to understand that his friend and grandfather were drawn together because they were people insistent on hearing and saving people’s complicated stories.

Author Michael Zapata shared with me that he wrote this novel for a dear friend of his, Matt Davis, who passed away in 2003. Matt was a seminal figure in the Afro-Punk movement and the first person Michael ever knew to be a true artist. He was also the only reader Michael ever had in mind for this novel, and hearing that made the friendships on the page feel all the more poignant.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: The Lost Book of Adana Moreau.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jeremy Withers's "Futuristic Cars and Space Bicycles"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Futuristic Cars and Space Bicycles: Contesting the Road in American Science Fiction by Jeremy Withers.

About the book, from the publisher:
Given the extensive influence of the 'transport revolution' on the past two centuries (a time when trains, trams, omnibuses, bicycles, cars, airplanes, and so forth were invented), and given science fiction's overall obsession with machines and technologies of all kinds, it is surprising that scholars have not paid more attention to transportation in this increasingly popular genre. Futuristic Cars and Space Bicycles is the first book to examine the history of representations of road transport machines in nineteenth-, twentieth-, and twenty-first-century American science fiction. The focus of this study is on two machines of the road that have been locked in a constant, often bitter, struggle with one another: the automobile and the bicycle. With chapters ranging from the early science fiction of the pulp magazine era in the 1920s and 1930s, to the postcyberpunk of the 1990s and more recent media of the 2000s such as web television, zines, and comics, this book argues that science fiction by and large perceives the car as anything but a marvelous invention of modernity. Rather, the genre often scorns and ridicules the automobile and instead promotes more sustainable, more benign, more restrained technologies of movement such as the bicycle.
Learn more about Futuristic Cars and Space Bicycles at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: Futuristic Cars and Space Bicycles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Gretchen Anthony

From my Q&A with Gretchen Anthony, author of The Kids Are Gonna Ask:
Photo credit: M. Brian Hartz
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I'm slightly obsessed with book titles because they're a first look into the book and they should draw you in. With The Kids Are Gonna Ask, I wasn't convinced I liked the title, but every time I said it aloud, people loved it. They found it intriguing, and that's what this book is at its heart -- it's a mystery about family, heritage, and belonging. In fact, the only reason ts secrets get uncovered is precisely because the kids, Thomas and Savannah, start asking for answers.

What's in a name?

I'm also very careful about naming my characters. Most of them just need to "feel" right, need to match the concept I have in my head for that character. But I'm strategic about main character names. I chose botanical names for the mother and daughter in my last novel, Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners because that matriarch believed in symbolism and loved that her husband's family name, Baumgartner, translates as "tree gardener." In The Kids Are Gonna Ask, I named one of the twins Savannah. On the surface, it's just a pretty name. But...[read on]
Visit Gretchen Anthony's website.

Q&A with Gretchen Anthony.

--Marshal Zeringue

Jay Stringer's "Marah Chase and the Fountain of Youth," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Marah Chase and the Fountain of Youth by Jay Stringer.

The entry begins:
Note: This article is soundtracked by It’s a Good Day to Save the World by Danger Twins.

In Marah Chase and the Fountain of Youth, rogue archaeologist Marah Chase is in a race to find the mythical Fountain before a group of modern Nazis, who want the water to further their eugenics plan.

Talking about my book as a movie is an interesting challenge. Both easy and difficult. Easy because the book -and character- grew out of movies. But at the same time, as a writer I don’t like to give the reader too much description of the main character.

I can tell you Chase is somewhere around 36 or 37 in this book. She grew up on a farm in Washington state, with an American father and Scottish mother. She’s Jewish and gay, and I think that should be reflected in the casting.

For some reason I have...[read on]
Visit Jay Stringer's website.

Q&A with Jay Stringer.

My Book, The Movie: Marah Chase and the Fountain of Youth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Pg. 69: Timothy Jay Smith's "Fire on the Island"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Fire on the Island: A Romantic Thriller by Timothy Jay Smith.

About the book, from the publisher:
FIRE ON THE ISLAND is a playful, romantic thriller set in contemporary Greece, with a gay Greek-American FBI agent, who is undercover on the island to investigate a series of mysterious fires. Set against the very real refugee crisis on the beautiful, sun-drenched Greek islands, this novel paints a loving portrait of a community in crisis. As the island residents grapple with declining tourism, poverty, refugees, family feuds, and a perilously damaged church, an arsonist invades their midst.

Nick Damigos, the FBI agent, arrives on the island just in time to witness the latest fire and save a beloved truffle-sniffing dog. Hailed as a hero and embraced by the community, Nick finds himself drawn to Takis, a young bartender who becomes his primary suspect, which is a problem because they’re having an affair. Theirs is not the only complicated romance in the community and Takis isn’t the only suspicious character on the island. The priest is an art forger, a young Albanian waiter harbors a secret, the captain of the coast guard station seems to have his own agenda, and the village itself hides a violent history. Nick has to unravel the truth in time to prevent catastrophe, as he comes to terms with his own past trauma. In saving the village, he will go a long way toward saving himself.

A long time devotee of the Greek islands, Smith paints the setting with gorgeous color and empathy, ushering in a new romantic thriller with the charm of Zorba the Greek while shedding bright light on the very real challenges of life in contemporary Greece.
Visit Timothy Jay Smith's website.

Writers Read: Timothy Jay Smith.

My Book, The Movie: The Fourth Courier.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Matthew Van Meter's "Deep Delta Justice"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Deep Delta Justice: A Black Teen, His Lawyer, and Their Groundbreaking Battle for Civil Rights in the South by Matthew Van Meter.

About the book, from the publisher:
In 1966 in a small town in Louisiana, a 19-year-old black man named Gary Duncan pulled his car off the road to stop a fight between a group of four white kids and two of Gary’s own cousins. After putting his hand on the arm of one of the white children, Duncan was arrested for assault. A member of the local branch of the NAACP, Duncan used his contacts to reach Richard Sobol, a 29-year-old born and bred New Yorker working that summer in a black firm (“the most radical law firm”) in New Orleans, to represent him.

In this powerful work of character-driven history that benefits from the author’s deep understanding of the law, Van Meter brings alive how one court case changed the course of justice in the South, and eventually the entire country. The events that Gary Duncan set in motion brought to an end a form of injustice — denial of trial by jury– that led to the incarceration of thousands of poor and mostly black Americans. Duncan vs. Louisiana changed America, but before it did it changed the lives of the people who litigated it.
Learn more about Deep Delta Justice.

The Page 99 Test: Deep Delta Justice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Rebecca Reid

From my Q&A with Rebecca Reid, author of The Truth Hurts: A Novel:
What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

As well as writing fiction, I work as a journalist, so I’m constantly reading other people’s stories. The germ of The Truth Hurts came from an article I read, about a woman who found a load of photographs of her husband with an ex-girlfriend in a cupboard at their house.

I think it’s a really exciting time to be a writer, in that we are exposed to more stories than ever before. If I’m feeling creatively blocked, an afternoon reading Instagram, Reddit and local online newspapers will provide me with access to hundreds of real life stories, any of which have the potential to kick off a new story.

The people in my life are a constant influence, too. Sometimes I will read back a chapter and realise that I’ve lifted elements of a friend, a co-worker or someone I knew as a child, without meaning to. Interestingly, people never seem to…[read on]

Q&A with Rebecca Reid.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven of the best books to inspire hope for the planet

Ann Pettifor is director of Prime: Policy Research in Macroeconomics and a fellow of the New Economics Foundation. She is the author of The Case for the Green New Deal.

At the Guardian she tagged seven books that offer hope for the future and the Green New Deal, including:
The Green New Deal is about system change – a struggle to subordinate the power of Wall Street and the City to the interests of society and the ecosystem. A book that inspires me to believe such a transformation possible is The Money Makershistorian Eric Rauchway’s 2015 account of how Roosevelt dismantled the privatised global financial system. On the night of his inauguration, Roosevelt began the process of ending the gold standard, by stripping Wall Street of private authority over the system, and restoring democratic, public authority. As Henry Morgenthau, then the US treasury secretary, wrote: “We moved the financial capital from London and Wall Street right to my desk at the Treasury.”
Read about more entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Pg. 99: Virginia Wright Wexman's "Hollywood's Artists"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Hollywood's Artists: The Directors Guild of America and the Construction of Authorship by Virginia Wright Wexman.

About the book, from the publisher:
Today, the director is considered the leading artistic force behind a film. The production of a Hollywood movie requires the labor of many people, from screenwriters and editors to cinematographers and boom operators, but the director as author of the film overshadows them all. How did this concept of the director become so deeply ingrained in our understanding of cinema?

In Hollywood’s Artists, Virginia Wright Wexman offers a groundbreaking history of how movie directors became cinematic auteurs that reveals and pinpoints the influence of the Directors Guild of America (DGA). Guided by Frank Capra’s mantra “one man, one film,” the Guild has portrayed its director-members as the creators responsible for turning Hollywood entertainment into cinematic art. Wexman details how the DGA differentiated itself from other industry unions, focusing on issues of status and creative control as opposed to bread-and-butter concerns like wages and working conditions. She also traces the Guild’s struggle for creative and legal power, exploring subjects from the language of on-screen credits to the House Un-American Activities Committee’s investigations of the movie industry. Wexman emphasizes the gendered nature of images of the great director, demonstrating how the DGA promoted the idea of the director as a masculine hero. Drawing on a broad array of archival sources, interviews, and theoretical and sociological insight, Hollywood’s Artists sheds new light on the ways in which the Directors Guild of America has shaped the role and image of directors both within the Hollywood system and in the culture at large.
Learn more about Hollywood's Artists at the Columbia University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Hollywood's Artists.

--Marshal Zeringue

Nine books about homesickness for a place that doesn’t exist anymore

Stephanie Soileau's new collection of short stories is Last One Out Shut Off the Lights. Her work has also appeared in Glimmer Train, Oxford American, Ecotone, Tin House, New Stories from the South, and other journals and anthologies, and has been supported by fellowships from the Wallace Stegner Fellowship Program at Stanford University, the Camargo Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and has taught creative writing at the Art Institute of Chicago, Stanford University, and the University of Southern Maine. Originally from Lake Charles, Louisiana, Soileau now lives in Chicago and teaches at the University of Chicago.

At Electric Lit she tagged nine favorite literary expressions of homesickness "for a place that does not exist anymore—and maybe never did exist as you imagined it." One title on the list:
The Sellout by Paul Beatty

With satire that will singe your eyebrows, Paul Beatty tells the story of Bonbon, a young Black man raised in Dickens, an “agrarian ghetto” on the outskirts of Los Angeles. After racially profiled and much maligned Dickens is removed from the California map, Bonbon campaigns to redraw the borders (literally, with white paint, but in other ways too) of a home that is oppressed, oppressive, and still, despite that, home.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Sung J. Woo's "Skin Deep"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Skin Deep by Sung J. Woo.

About the book, from the publisher:
Korean-American adoptee Siobhan O'Brien has spent much of her life explaining her name and her family to strangers, but a more pressing problem is whether to carry on the PI agency that her dead boss unexpectedly left to her. Easing into middle age, Siobhan would generally rather have a glazed donut than a romance, but when an old friend asks Siobhan to find her daughter who has disappeared from her dorm, the rookie private detective's search begins at Llewellyn College.

A women's institution of higher learning in upstate New York, Llewellyn, for the first time in its two-hundred-year history, has opened its doors to male students. Fringe group The Womyn of Llewellyn are furious, but their ex-fashion-model president declares they have little choice due to financial shortfalls. But if that's true, where did she get the money to build a brand new science center, and why is it under 24/7 surveillance by the town cops?

As Siobhan delves deeper into the search for her friend's daughter, she encounters politely dangerous men in white turtlenecks, vegan cooking that might kill her, possibly deadly yoga poses, and a woman named Cleopatra who's got more issues than National Geographic. This first in a new series introduces an endearing P.I. heroine in the tradition of classic female detectives like Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone and Sara Paretsky's V.I. Warshawski readers won't be able to put down.
Learn more about the book and author at Sung J. Woo's website.

The Page 69 Test: Everything Asian.

My Book, The Movie: Skin Deep.

Q&A with Sung J. Woo.

The Page 69 Test: Skin Deep.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 24, 2020

Eight mysteries about the American home front during WWII

Paul D. Marks's books include the Shamus Award-Winning mystery-thriller White Heat.

His latest novel, The Blues Don’t Care, is set on the Los Angeles home front during World War II.

At CrimeReads Marks tagged eight "mysteries that explore the simmering tensions and contradictions of the war at home," including:
A Fierce Radiance (2010) by Lauren Belfer

Life Magazine photojournalist Claire Shipley is writing a story on a breakthrough new drug being developed for use by the military in the early days of World War II—penicillin. Believing that the penicillin wonder drug will help prevent deaths and keep military force numbers high, the U.S. government pushes for the development of the drug. When one of the researchers is killed, it becomes clear that the stakes involved in developing this drug are very high.

This book is more of a romance/thriller, but does show how our world has changed and how the war helped spur great scientific advancements. Some might find it a bit of a soap opera, but Belfer delivers a well-told and moving story with well-researched historical details and descriptive writing.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: A Fierce Radiance.

My Book, The Movie: A Fierce Radiance.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Andrew Hom's "International Relations and the Problem of Time"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: International Relations and the Problem of Time by Andrew R. Hom.

About the book, from the publisher:
What is time and how does it influence our knowledge of international politics? For decades International Relations (IR) paid little explicit attention to time. Recently this began to change as a range of scholars took an interest in the temporal dimensions of politics. Yet IR still has not fully addressed the issue of why time matters in international politics, nor has it reflected on its own use of time -- how temporal ideas affect the way we work to understand political phenomena. Moreover, IR remains beholden to two seemingly contradictory visions of time: the time of the clock and a longstanding tradition treating time as a problem to be solved.

International Relations and the Problem of Time develops a unique response to these interconnected puzzles. It reconstructs IR's temporal imagination by developing an argument that all times - from natural rhythms to individual temporal experience - spring from social and practical timing activities, or efforts to establish meaningful and useful relationships in complex and dynamic settings. In IR's case, across a surprisingly wide range of approaches scholars employ narrative timing techniques to make sense of confounding processes and events.

This innovative account of time provides a more systematic and rigorous explanation for time in international politics. It also develops provocative insights about IR's own history, its key methodological commitments, supposedly 'timeless' statistical methods, historical institutions, and the critical vanguard of time studies. This book invites us to reimagine time, and in so doing to significantly rethink the way we approach the analysis of international politics.
Learn more about International Relations and the Problem of Time at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: International Relations and the Problem of Time.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Jay Stringer

From my Q&A with Jay Stringer, author of Marah Chase and the Fountain of Youth: A Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The titles for the Marah Chase series have been hard. Before the first one came out, myself, my publisher, and my agent kicked around a lot of variations. How to sell the tone? How to establish a series?

It needed to sell to the reader the idea that these are like modern Indiana Jones stories, but also a bit like Mission: Impossible movies, and also that they’re diverse and inclusive, and overall fun. Giving them the Marah Chase and… titles felt like the obvious route, but do they sound too much like YA novels in the current market? I kicked around titles like Marah Chase, Gold Dogs, No More Worlds, Save The World. In the end, the obvious route felt like the right one.

This second book was written under the title Marah Chase and the Gateway to Hell. But the publisher felt --rightly, I think-- that it sounded too dark and more like a horror story. Whereas Marah Chase and the Fountain of Youth said...[read on]
Visit Jay Stringer's website.

Q&A with Jay Stringer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Jennifer Honeybourn's "The Do-Over," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Do-Over by Jennifer Honeybourn.

The entry begins:
When I was writing The Do-Over, I imagined the main character, Emelia, as Madelaine Petsch, the wonderful actress who plays Cheryl Blossom on Riverdale. I even gave Emelia Madelaine’s gorgeous red hair. Emelia is a bit misguided, she’s starry-eyed about popularity and what it would be like to be part of that crowd. She’s been a little bit in love with Ben for years, so when he finally notices her, she is so flattered that she can’t see him for who he really is. This feels like her chance and she’s going to take it, even if it means putting aside her burgeoning (and confusing) feelings for her best friend Alistair.

For Alistair, Emelia’s love interest, I saw him as...[read on]
Visit Jennifer Honeybourn's website.

My Book, The Movie: Just My Luck.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Top ten books about adventures

Philip Marsden is the award-winning author of a number of works of travel, fiction and non-fiction, including The Bronski House, The Spirit-Wrestlers, The Levelling Sea and, most recently, The Summer Isles. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and his work has been translated into fifteen languages. After years of traveling, he now lives on the tidal upper reaches of the River Fal in Cornwall with his wife, children and various boats.

At the Guardian, Marsden tagged ten top books about adventures: "a seeking out, a spirited or even reckless exposure to the unfamiliar in order to reveal something usually unstated, to say: 'I came within a whisker of life'.” One title on the list:
Passage to Juneau: A Sea and its Meanings by Jonathan Raban

Few can craft a sentence like Raban, and there are few better travelogues of the 20th century than his three waterborne books – Coasting, Old Glory and Passage to Juneau. In each one he sets off on a different boat with undisguised nervousness to produce a narrative of electrifying prose. Sailing to Juneau in Alaska from his home in Seattle is a proper nautical adventure, with fearsome episodes – winds and tides and fog – and a calamitous finale that has nothing to do with the elements.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: LaFleur Stephens-Dougan's "Race to the Bottom"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Race to the Bottom: How Racial Appeals Work in American Politics by LaFleur Stephens-Dougan.

About the book, from the publisher:
African American voters are a key demographic to the modern Democratic base, and conventional wisdom has it that there is political cost to racialized “dog whistles,” especially for Democratic candidates. However, politicians from both parties and from all racial backgrounds continually appeal to negative racial attitudes for political gain.

Challenging what we think we know about race and politics, LaFleur Stephens-Dougan argues that candidates across the racial and political spectrum engage in “racial distancing,” or using negative racial appeals to communicate to racially moderate and conservative whites—the overwhelming majority of whites—that they will not disrupt the racial status quo. Race to the Bottom closely examines empirical data on racialized partisan stereotypes to show that engaging in racial distancing through political platforms that do not address the needs of nonwhite communities and charged rhetoric that targets African Americans, immigrants, and others can be politically advantageous. Racialized communication persists as a well-worn campaign strategy because it has real electoral value for both white and black politicians seeking to broaden their coalitions. Stephens-Dougan reveals that claims of racial progress have been overstated as our politicians are incentivized to employ racial prejudices at the expense of the most marginalized in our society.
Visit LaFleur Stephens-Dougan's website.

The Page 99 Test: Race to the Bottom.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Sung J. Woo

From my Q&A with Sung J. Woo, author of Skin Deep:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The working title of this book was Shadows Deep. I still reference it in the epigraph:

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep

It’s from W.B. Yeats’s poem, “When You Are Old,” which highlights the aging of beauty (among many other things). The central theme of my book is the concept of beauty and the disturbing lengths some people will go to attain it. Early on, private detective Siobhan O’Brien discovers that the college where a female student went missing has curiously admitted an overwhelming number of attractive young women for its freshman class. Now led by an ex-runway fashion model, Llewellyn College has not only gone co-ed for the first time in its two-hundred-year history, but it seems possible that its president may have even stranger plans for her school.

I was given...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Sung J. Woo's website.

The Page 69 Test: Everything Asian.

My Book, The Movie: Skin Deep.

Q&A with Sung J. Woo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: L. Annette Binder's "The Vanishing Sky"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Vanishing Sky by L. Annette Binder.

About the book, from the publisher:
“There was no shelter without her sons.”

In 1945, as the war in Germany nears its violent end, the Huber family is not yet free of its dangers or its insidious demands. Etta, a mother from a small, rural town, has two sons serving their home country: her elder, Max, on the Eastern front, and her younger, Georg, at a school for Hitler Youth. When Max returns from the front, Etta quickly realizes that something is not right-he is thin, almost ghostly, and behaving very strangely. Etta strives to protect him from the Nazi rule, even as her husband, Josef, becomes more nationalistic and impervious to Max's condition. Meanwhile, miles away, her younger son Georg has taken his fate into his own hands, deserting his young class of battle-bound soldiers to set off on a long and perilous journey home.

The Vanishing Sky is a World War II novel as seen through a German lens, a story of the irreparable damage of war on the home front, and one family's participation-involuntary, unseen, or direct-in a dangerous regime. Drawing inspiration from her own father's time in the Hitler Youth, L. Annette Binder has crafted a spellbinding novel about the choices we make for country and for family.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Five books in which magic comes at a price

Isabelle Steiger was born in the city and grew up in the woods. She received her first notebook when she was eight, and she’s been filling them up ever since. When not writing, she enjoys playing RPGs, getting excited over obscure facts, and never knowing enough about movies to sound cool when she talks about them. She is only fluent in one language but can speak three others terribly, and is possibly the only person who hates sand as much as Anakin Skywalker. After a childhood filled with haunted mansions, lightning-induced power outages, and insects rude enough to sabotage a perfectly honorable swordfight, she was relieved to finally return to New York, where she currently lives.

Steiger's new novel is The Rightful Queen (Paths of Lantistyne, Volume 2).

At she tagged "five books (or the first book in a series, when the whole series is applicable) in which the price of magic is particularly ingenious." One title on the list:
Physical/psychological trauma: Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone

Caleb, the protagonist of Two Serpents Rise, has the very rare ability to unravel the spells of the series’ primary magic-users. This ability comes from a long-overthrown priesthood, and it was bestowed on him by his father, Temoc, one of the last living priests. However, a recipient of this power must suffer wounds ritually carved all over their bodies. When Caleb was still a child, Temoc drugged him and performed this ritual without his consent, an act that put Caleb in the hospital and tore apart his family when his mother couldn’t forgive his father for what he had done. Caleb’s scars are literally the source of his power, and as his adult self grows ever closer to all-out conflict with Temoc, those scars are a constant reminder of his father’s hopes for his future, a dream that Caleb cannot fulfill.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Two Serpents Rise.

My Book, The Movie: Two Serpents Rise.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Nicolas Bommarito's "Seeing Clearly"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Seeing Clearly: A Buddhist Guide to Life by Nicolas Bommarito.

About the book, from the publisher:
Many of us, even on our happiest days, struggle to quiet the constant buzz of anxiety in the background of our minds. All kinds of worries--worries about losing people and things, worries about how we seem to others--keep us from peace of mind. Distracted or misled by our preoccupations, misconceptions, and, most of all, our obsession with ourselves, we don't see the world clearly--we don't see the world as it really is.

In our search for happiness and the good life, this is the main problem. But luckily there is a solution, and on the path to understanding it, we can make use of the rich and varied teachings that have developed over centuries of Buddhist thought.

With clarity and compassion, Nicolas Bommarito explores the central elements of centuries of Buddhist philosophy and practice, explaining how they can improve your life and teach you to live without fear. Mining important texts and lessons for practical guidance, he provides a friendly guide to the very practical goals that underpin Buddhist philosophy. After laying out the basic ideas, Bommarito walks readers through a wide range of techniques and practices we can adopt to mend ingrained habits.

Rare for its exploration of both the philosophy that motivates Buddhism and its practical applications, this is a compassionate guide to leading a good life that anyone can follow.
Visit Nic Bommarito's website.

The Page 99 Test: Seeing Clearly.

--Marshal Zeringue