Monday, August 31, 2020

Q&A with C.M. McGuire

From my Q&A with C.M. McGuire, author of Ironspark:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I remember years ago, while working at my local RenFair, I saw a friend wearing an iron nail around her neck. She told me it came from folklore, as a way to protect children from the Fae. Not long after that, I came up with the idea for the Ironspark novel, so it was inevitable that iron would play a big role in the story to develop, since most of the story is Bryn trying to protect her family and her town from the Unseelie Fae.

Actually, Ironspark wasn’t even the title I had in mind. Originally, the novel was simply called Bryn because of my protagonist. Then, I wanted to call it Autumn of Iron, until it was pointed out that Noun + Prepositional Phrase titles in YA were a little tired for the time being. It was sitting in a cupcake shop drinking a latte and...[read on]
Follow C.M. McGuire on Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: Ironspark.

My Book, The Movie: Ironspark.

Q&A with C.M. McGuire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten thrilling mothers in fiction

Jenny Milchman's books include Cover of Snow, Ruin Falls, As Night Falls, and The Second Mother.

One of the author's ten top thrilling books in which mothers are the driving force, as shared at The Strand Magazine:
Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

Another day of mothering has unraveled to its inevitable end, and Joan and her four-year-old son are leaving the zoo. But then Joan sees something so impossible, so awful, she turns and runs the other way with her son in her arms. For the next three hours—and the rest of the novel—Joan must keep Lincoln safe in an environment that once provided nothing more than a fun, distracting outing, and has now become as alien as motherhood itself.
Read about another entry on the list.

Fierce Kingdom is among Christina McDonald's eight thrillers featuring moms on a mission, Sarah J. Harris's eight mysteries with images that might stay with you forever and Mary Kate Carr's eleven recent novels that powerfully tackle gun violence.

The Page 69 Test: Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Hilary Levey Friedman's "Here She Is"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Here She Is: The Complicated Reign of the Beauty Pageant in America by Hilary Levey Friedman.

About the book, from the publisher:
A fresh exploration of American feminist history told through the lens of the beauty pageant world.

Many predicted that pageants would disappear by the 21st century. Yet they are thriving. America's most enduring contest, Miss America, celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2020. Why do they persist? In Here She Is, Hilary Levey Friedman reveals the surprising ways pageants have been an empowering feminist tradition. She traces the role of pageants in many of the feminist movement's signature achievements, including bringing women into the public sphere, helping them become leaders in business and politics, providing increased educational opportunities, and giving them a voice in the age of #MeToo.

Using her unique perspective as a NOW state president, daughter to Miss America 1970, sometimes pageant judge, and scholar, Friedman explores how pageants became so deeply embedded in American life from their origins as a P.T. Barnum spectacle at the birth of the suffrage movement, through Miss Universe's bathing beauties to the talent- and achievement-based competitions of today. She looks at how pageantry has morphed into culture everywhere from The Bachelor and RuPaul's Drag Race to cheer and specialized contests like those for children, Indigenous women, and contestants with disabilities. Friedman also acknowledges the damaging and unrealistic expectations pageants place on women in society and discusses the controversies, including Miss America's ableist and racist history, Trump's ownership of the Miss Universe Organization, and the death of child pageant-winner JonBenét Ramsey.

Presenting a more complex narrative than what's been previously portrayed, Here She Is shows that as American women continue to evolve, so too will beauty pageants.
Learn more about the book and author at Hilary Levey Friedman's website.

The Page 99 Test: Playing to Win.

The Page 99 Test: Here She Is.

--Marshal Zeringue

Celia Rees's "Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Miss Graham's Cold War Cookbook: A Novel by Celia Rees.

The entry begins:
Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook is set in 1946. The story moves from an exhausted, bombed out London to the devastation of post war Germany. Main character, Edith Graham, is late thirties, an unmarried teacher who has spent the war looking after her mother and teaching school. Desperate for change and to make a contribution, she volunteers to go to Germany to help with re-construction. While in London, she stays with her friend, the exotic, exciting ex SOE agent Dori. At Dori’s house she meets and is immediately attracted to Latvian Jewish Brigade Officer, Harry Hirsch, who is also going to Germany.

Edith’s cousin, Leo, works for MI6 and recruits Edith to help search for fugitive Nazi War Criminals. One in particular, Dr Kurt von Stavenow, with whom Edith had a passionate affair before the war. Von Stavenow was involved in the Euthanasia Project: the elimination of the mentally unfit and precursor to the Holocaust. What Edith doesn’t know is that her cousin wants to use von Stavenow, not punish him. She is also tasked with finding his wife, Elisabeth von Stavenow.

Adeline Parnell, an American journalist and photographer, tells Edith about Operation Paperclip, run by the American Secret Service to find ‘useful’ Nazi scientists and give them new identities. She knows about this from Tom McHale, ex OSS, now CIA. Dori suspects that the British are doing the same thing and Edith agrees to send back information coded into recipes to escape the attention of censors.


Edith Graham – Olivia Colman

Very English, not conventionally beautiful but her expressive eyes command attention. She can play surface prim and proper but with the potential to surprise. She has tremendous emotional range from doubt and vulnerability to steely resolve and would...[read on]
Visit Celia Rees's website.

Q&A with Celia Rees.

My Book, The Movie: Miss Graham's Cold War Cookbook.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Pg. 69: Teri Bailey Black's "Chasing Starlight"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Chasing Starlight by Teri Bailey Black.

About the book, from the publisher:
1938. The Golden Age of Hollywood. Palm trees and movie stars. Film studios pumping out musicals and gangster films at a furious pace. Everyone wants to be a star—except society girl and aspiring astronomer Kate Hildebrand. She’s already famous after a childhood tragedy turned her into a newspaper headline. What she craves now is stability.

But when Kate has to move to Hollywood to live with her washed-up silent film star grandfather, she walks into a murder scene and finds herself on the front page again. She suspects one of the young men boarding in her grandfather’s run-down mansion is the killer—or maybe even her grandfather.

Now, Kate must discover the killer while working on the set of a musical—and falling in love. Will her stars align so she can catch the murderer and live the dream in Old Hollywood? Or will she find that she’s just chasing starlight?
Visit Teri Bailey Black's website.

The Page 69 Test: Chasing Starlight.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six novels that could only take place at the seashore

S J Watson’s first novel, Before I Go To Sleep, became a phenomenal international success and has now sold over 6,000,000 copies worldwide. It won the Crime Writers’ Association Award for Best Debut Novel and the Galaxy National Book Award for Crime Thriller of the Year and has been translated into more than 40 languages.

The film of the book, starring Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth and Mark Strong, and directed by Rowan Joffe, was released in September 2014.

Watson’s second novel, Second Life, a psychological thriller, was published to acclaim in 2015.

His new novel is Final Cut.

At CrimeReads, Watson tagged six "books set by the sea and which couldn’t be set elsewhere." One title on the list:
The Beach, Alex Garland

Garland’s debut, memorably turned into a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, tells the story of a once-hidden paradise gone badly wrong. Richard is given a map to a hidden beach by a traveller (emphatically NOT a tourist) who then kills himself. Determined to reach this idyll, and with two new friends in tow, he sets out, though not without first copying the map for two backpackers with whom he has a casual acquaintance, an act which will have catastrophic consequences. This is a brilliant and eviscerating book, and it’s hard to believe either that it was Garland’s first, or that it was published over twenty years ago.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Beach also appears on Cat Barton's top five list of books on Southeast Asian travel literature, Kate Kellaway's ten best list of fictional holidays, Eleanor Muffitt top 12 list of books that make you want to pack your bags and trot the globe, Anna Wilson's top ten list of books set on the seaside, the Guardian editors' list of the 50 best summer reads ever, John Mullan's list of ten of the best swimming scenes in literature, and Sloane Crosley's list of five depressing beach reads.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Suzanne Mettler & Robert C. Lieberman's "Four Threats"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Four Threats: The Recurring Crises of American Democracy by Suzanne Mettler and Robert C. Lieberman.

About the book, from the publisher:
An urgent, historically-grounded take on the four major factors that undermine American democracy, and what we can do to address them.

While many Americans despair of the current state of U.S. politics, most assume that our system of government and democracy itself are invulnerable to decay. Yet when we examine the past, we find that the United States has undergone repeated crises of democracy, from the earliest days of the republic to the present.

In Four Threats, Suzanne Mettler and Robert C. Lieberman explore five moments in history when democracy in the U.S. was under siege: the 1790s, the Civil War, the Gilded Age, the Depression, and Watergate. These episodes risked profound—even fatal—damage to the American democratic experiment. From this history, four distinct characteristics of disruption emerge. Political polarization, racism and nativism, economic inequality, and excessive executive power—alone or in combination—have threatened the survival of the republic, but it has survived—so far. What is unique, and alarming, about the present moment in American politics is that all four conditions exist.

This convergence marks the contemporary era as a grave moment for democracy. But history provides a valuable repository from which we can draw lessons about how democracy was eventually strengthened—or weakened—in the past. By revisiting how earlier generations of Americans faced threats to the principles enshrined in the Constitution, we can see the promise and the peril that have led us to today and chart a path toward repairing our civic fabric and renewing democracy.
Learn more about Four Threats at the St. Martin's Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Four Threats.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Seven books about being young & messy in New York

Greg Mania is a writer, comedian, and award-winning screenwriter based in New York City. His words have been published in The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, O, The Oprah Magazine, PAPER, HuffPost, Out, BOMB, Electric Literature, among other international online and print platforms.

His debut memoir is Born to Be Public.

At Electric Lit, Mania tagged seven titles about being young and messy in New York, including:
Face It by Debbie Harry

I mean, is anyone more New York than Deborah THEE Harry? My love for Debbie Harry contains multitudes beyond being a Blondie superfan. Like yours truly, she also grew up in New Jersey, and she tells a lot of stories about getting in her car and driving to the city at night to hang out with her friends in the Lower East Side, which is literally what my life looked like after I graduated from Hofstra and moved back in with my parents for a year. Face It also captures the Golden Age of New York City, when you could stroll into a bar and bump into a Ramone, see bands like Television perform on a random weeknight, and/or share a cigarette with a Warhol superstar. Also, this book is extra special to me because if you had told 18-year-old Greg that he would one day interview Debbie Harry, he would have hurled a box of Clairol frosted tips at you.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Jenny McLachlan

From my Q&A with Jenny McLachlan, author of The Land of Roar, illustrated by Ben Mantle:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The Land of Roar is one of the few titles I have chosen for my books; many of my titles have been changed by my publishers so it’s great that this one stuck! Hopefully readers will find it intriguing and the ‘Roar’ hints at the humour and dragons to be found inside its pages. It is also made up of the first two letters of the main characters’ names, Rose and Arthur, and is a clue to the observant reader that the fantasy world was created by both of them.

What's in a name?

I find it difficult to start writing until I’m happy with the names of my characters. I called my main character Arthur because it suits him. The boy came first and then I named him! His surname is Trout which is quite close to...[read on]
Visit Jenny McLachlan's website.

Q&A with Jenny McLachlan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Stan Parish's "Love and Theft"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Love and Theft: A Novel by Stan Parish.

About the book, from the publisher:
An epic Vegas heist. A high-octane international romance. A charismatic thief forced to orchestrate one final, treacherous job to save his family.

When Alex Cassidy and Diane Alison meet at a party in Princeton, New Jersey, the chemistry between them is instant and undeniable. She’s a single mother, local fixture, and owner of a successful catering company. He’s a single father and weekend homeowner — and leader of an armed-robbery crew that just pulled off a record-breaking, precision jewel heist in Las Vegas. Neither one realizes that their lives have overlapped before, and that the shared history they uncover will threaten everyone they love.

Swept up in their burgeoning relationship, Diane joins Alex at his beach house in Tulum, where Alex decides to leave his life of crime behind. It begins as a postcard-perfect weekend until an entanglement with a powerful cartel forces Alex to mastermind one final and unthinkably dangerous job. What ensues is an explosive, adrenaline-soaked journey through the moneyed landscapes of Mexico and Europe, where ghosts from the past collide with unexpected perils in the present. As Alex and Diane fight for their lives, they discover that they’re not the only ones with secrets–and that those closest to us pose the greatest danger of all.

Propulsive, deeply suspenseful, and layered with mesmerizing twists, Love and Theft is a sophisticated thriller about the illusion of control and the high price of past transgressions.
Visit Stan Parish's website.

The Page 69 Test: Love and Theft.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 28, 2020

Eight dark thrillers with unforgettable villains

Michael Laurence was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado to an engineer and a teacher, who kindled his passions for science and history. He studied biology and creative writing at the University of Colorado and holds multiple advanced certifications in medical imaging. Before achieving his lifelong dream of becoming a full-time author, he worked as an x-ray/CT/MRI technologist and clinical instructor.

Laurence's latest thriller is The Annihilation Protocol.

At CrimeReads he tagged eight dark thrillers with with even darker antagonists, including:
Adán Berrera from The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow

An unassuming, unthreatening skinny kid born into poverty, Adán Berrera begins his villainous evolution as the kind of underdog you can’t help but root for, only to become a mockery of his former self. He trades his humanity for money, his soul for power, and in doing so embraces that which he most despises. And yet the genius of the character is that no matter how low he sinks, you’re still pulling for him to do the right thing, clear up until the point when he presents his chief rival with his wife’s severed head and hurls his children from a bridge. (Readers familiar with the story of El Padrino, Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, will recognize many of the events in the book, but will find them no less shocking.)

Read about another entry on the list.

The Power of the Dog is among Rod Reynolds's ten favorite books about gangsters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Dan Rabinowitz's "The Power of Deserts"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Power of Deserts: Climate Change, the Middle East, and the Promise of a Post-Oil Era by Dan Rabinowitz.

About the book, from the publisher:
Hotter and dryer than most parts of the world, the Middle East could soon see climate change exacerbate food and water shortages, aggravate social inequalities, and drive displacement and political destabilization. And as renewable energy eclipses fossil fuels, oil rich countries in the Middle East will see their wealth diminish. Amidst these imminent risks is a call to action for regional leaders. Could countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates harness the region's immense potential for solar energy and emerge as vanguards of global climate action?

The Power of Deserts surveys regional climate models and identifies the potential impact on socioeconomic disparities, population movement, and political instability. Offering more than warning and fear, however, the book highlights a potentially brighter future—a recent shift across the Middle East toward renewable energy. With his deep knowledge of the region and knack for presenting scientific data with clarity, Dan Rabinowitz makes a sober yet surprisingly optimistic investigation of opportunity arising from a looming crisis.
Learn more about The Power of Deserts at the Stanford University Press website and visit Dan Rabinowitz's website.

The Page 99 Test:  The Power of Deserts.

--Marshal Zeringue

C.M. McGuire's "Ironspark," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Ironspark by C.M. McGuire.

The entry begins:
I think everyone, at some point or another, winds up dreamcasting their novel. It’s fun to look at actors and go “Hm, could you be/fight a creepy fairy?” My problem is that I keep finding new actors that I think, on some level, resemble the characters! So here are the main four characters and the key antagonist.

Bryn: For Bryn, I would definitely cast Arryn Zech or Hailee Steinfeld. Brigette Lundy-Paine was on that list, but since seeing them in the Bill and Ted trailer, I struggle to imagine them as this angsty Welsh girl.

Jasika: My dreamcast of Jasika changed during revisions. I would love to see Lovie Simone or...[read on]
Follow C.M. McGuire on Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: Ironspark.

My Book, The Movie: Ironspark.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Top ten books about Florence

Christobel Kent was born in London and grew up in London and Essex, including a stint on the Essex coast on a Thames barge with three siblings and four step-siblings, before reading English at Cambridge. She has worked in publishing and TEFL teaching, and has lived in Modena, in northern Italy, and in Florence.

Kent is the author of The Viper, the latest in the Florentine Sandro Cellini series and Sunday Times bestseller The Loving Husband, among other thrillers.

At the Guardian she tagged ten of her favorite books about Florence, including:
Innocence by Penelope Fitzgerald

An exception to my rule [promising a list of books that "reflect (Florence's) dangerous, seductive chiaroscuro], Fitzgerald’s Florentine excursion is the slow, enchanting love story between a communist doctor from the south and the shy daughter of eccentric nobility in the 50s. Stringing a tightrope between comedy and tragedy, Fitzgerald evokes Florence’s specific atmosphere: a combination of deep melancholy and a beauty that threatens to overwhelm. Mist and shadow are Fitzgerald’s colours, and diffidence is her mode, but the effect is to be absorbed and transported entirely into the city, and a place of the heart.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Heidi Pitlor

From my Q&A with Heidi Pitlor, author of Impersonation:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Hopefully, the title Impersonation does a fair amount of work for the reader. This is a story about a ghostwriter, but it's also about artifice, that which we encounter and adopt on a daily basis both in our private and public lives. People make incorrect assumptions about Allie Lang, the narrator and ghostwriter, but she finds herself doing the same of others. From where do these assumptions tend to come? What purpose do they serve socially and culturally? This is one of the central questions of my novel.

What's in a name?

I tend to give my characters names based on sound; ie, does the name suit the person on some visceral level for me? But sometimes I choose names that are also words, words that relate to the character's stage of life or state of mind. Allie is in a "blind alley" for much of this book, feeling her way toward a clearer voice and sense of herself. Nick Felles is ultimately felled by...[read on]
Visit Heidi Pitlor's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Daylight Marriage.

My Book, the Movie: The Daylight Marriage.

Q&A with Heidi Pitlor.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Kate Riordan's "The Heatwave"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Heatwave by Kate Riordan.

About the book, from the publisher:
Elodie was beautiful. Elodie was smart. Elodie was manipulative. Elodie is dead.

When Sylvie Durand receives a letter calling her back to her crumbling family home in the South of France, she knows she has to go. In the middle of a sweltering 1990's summer marked by unusual fires across the countryside, she returns to La Reverie with her youngest daughter Emma in tow, ignoring the deep sense of dread she feels for this place she's long tried to forget.

As memories of the events that shattered their family a decade earlier threaten to come to the surface, Sylvie struggles to shield Emma from the truth of what really happened all those years ago. In every corner of the house, Sylvie can't escape the specter of Elodie, her first child. Elodie, born amid the '68 Paris riots with one blue eye and one brown, and mysteriously dead by fourteen. Elodie, who reminded the small village of one those Manson girls. Elodie who knew exactly how to get what she wanted. As the fires creep towards the villa, it's clear to Sylvie that something isn't quite right at La Reverie ... And there is a much greater threat closer to home.

Rich in unforgettable characters, The Heatwave alternates between the past and present, grappling with what it means to love and fear a child in equal measure. With the lush landscape and nostalgia of a heady vacation read, Kate Riordan has woven a gripping page-turner with gorgeous prose that turns the idea of a summer novel on its head.
Visit Kate Riordan's website.

The Page 69 Test: Fiercombe Manor.

Q&A with Kate Riordan.

The Page 69 Test: The Heatwave.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Eight top thrillers that turn home into a place of mortal danger

Karen Dionne is the USA Today and #1 international bestselling author of The Marsh King’s Daughter, a psychological suspense novel set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula wilderness published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in the U.S. and in 25 other languages.

Her new psychological suspense novel is The Wicked Sister.

At CrimeReads Dionne tagged eight favorite that "turn the characters’ homes from a place of safety into a place of mortal danger," including:
Home Before Dark, by Riley Sager

“You can’t go home again” is the maxim Maggie Hold should have been taken to heart before she went back to her childhood home, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods—not the least because this is the home where her family lived for only three weeks before fleeing in terror in the dead of night.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Home Before Dark.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Thomas A. Schwartz's "Henry Kissinger and American Power"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Henry Kissinger and American Power: A Political Biography by Thomas A. Schwartz.

About the book, from the publisher:
The definitive biography of Henry Kissinger—at least for those who neither revere nor revile him

Over the past six decades, Henry Kissinger has been America’s most consistently praised—and reviled—public figure. He was hailed as a “miracle worker” for his peacemaking in the Middle East, pursuit of détente with the Soviet Union, negotiation of an end to the Vietnam War, and secret plan to open the United States to China. He was assailed from the left and from the right for his indifference to human rights, complicity in the pointless sacrifice of American and Vietnamese lives, and reliance on deception and intrigue. Was he a brilliant master strategist—“the 20th century’s greatest 19th century statesman”—or a cold-blooded monster who eroded America’s moral standing for the sake of self-promotion?

In this masterfully researched biography, the renowned diplomatic historian Thomas Schwartz offers an authoritative, and fair-minded, answer to this question. While other biographers have engaged in hagiography or demonology, Schwartz takes a measured view of his subject. He recognizes Kissinger’s successes and acknowledges that Kissinger thought seriously and with great insight about the foreign policy issues of his time, while also recognizing his failures, his penchant for backbiting, and his reliance on ingratiating and fawning praise of the president as a source of power. Throughout, Schwartz stresses Kissinger’s artful invention of himself as a celebrity diplomat and his domination of the medium of television news. He also notes Kissinger’s sensitivity to domestic and partisan politics, complicating—and undermining—the image of the far-seeing statesman who stands above the squabbles of popular strife.

Rounded and textured, and rich with new insights into key dilemmas of American power, Henry Kissinger and American Power stands as an essential guide to a man whose legacy is as complex as the last sixty years of US history itself.
Learn more about Henry Kissinger and American Power at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: Henry Kissinger and American Power.

--Marshal Zeringue

Alex Landragin's "Crossings," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Crossings: A Novel by Alex Landragin.

The entry begins:
Most of the characters in Crossings appear more than once at different stages of their lives, so until they perfect the technology the movie - or better yet the series - probably can't be made.

But a dream cast would go something like this:

Alula - Auli'i Cravalho

Koahu - James Rolleston

Joubert - Willem Dafoe

Roblet - Sam Neill

Feuille - Philip Seymour Hoffman

Jeanne - Thandie Newton

Baudelaire - Steve...[read on]
Visit Alex Landragin's website.

The Page 69 Test: Crossings.

Q&A with Alex Landragin.

My Book, The Movie: Crossings.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Nine titles about nannies for grown-up “Baby-Sitters Club” fans

Preety Sidhu and Jae-Yeon Yoo are interns at Electric Literature. They tagged nine books that tackle the nanny novel from a variety of angles, including:
The Nanny by Gilly MacMillan

When she was 7, Jo Holt’s beloved nanny Hannah disappeared, and her distant aristocratic parents seemed unconcerned about this. After the death of her husband, Jo moves back to her family’s English mansion Lake Hall with her own daughter. When the two of them discover a 30-year-old skull near the lake, investigators suspect it might be Hannah. But then an older woman shows up claiming to be Hannah and Jo, desperate to reconnect, believes her and invites her to take care of her own young daughter—a catastrophic mistake.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Nanny is among Lisa Regan's ten riveting novels filled with shocking secrets.

My Book, The Movie: The Nanny.

The Page 69 Test: The Nanny.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Lisa Black

From my Q&A with Lisa Black, author of Every Kind of Wicked (A Gardiner and Renner Novel):
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The first book in the series was called That Darkness, from a quote I ran across in the Bible that seemed to describe Jack Renner perfectly: “But if the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness.” (Matthew 6:23) I like my titles to have something in common—though my publishers have never been crazy about this habit—so all the titles in the Gardiner-Renner series are from the Bible. For this one I had picked Before Destruction, from “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) I thought ‘pride’ spoke to Jack, his pride allowing him to decide who lives and who dies, and also to how the villain’s pride plays into what they do—and ‘destruction’ definitely describes a scene at the end. But the publisher thought it sounded too much like a military thriller, so they suggested Every Kind of Wicked, from: “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice.” (Romans 1:29) Which also describes my villains to...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Lisa Black's website.

The Page 69 Test: That Darkness.

My Book, The Movie: Unpunished.

The Page 69 Test: Unpunished.

My Book, The Movie: Perish.

The Page 69 Test: Perish.

The Page 69 Test: Suffer the Children.

Writers Read: Lisa Black (July 2020).

The Page 69 Test: Every Kind of Wicked.

Q&A with Lisa Black.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: C.M. McGuire's "Ironspark"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Ironspark by C.M. McGuire.

About the book, from the publisher:
A teen outcast must work together with new friends to keep her family and town safe from murderous Fae while also dealing with panic attacks, family issues, and a lesbian love triangle in C.M. McGuires's kick-butt paranormal YA debut, Ironspark.

For the past nine years, ever since a bunch of those evil Tinkerbells abducted her mother, cursed her father, and forced her family into hiding, Bryn has devoted herself to learning everything she can about killing the Fae. Now it’s time to put those lessons to use.

Then the Court Fae finally show up, and Bryn realizes she can’t handle this on her own. Thankfully, three friends offer to help: Gwen, a kindhearted water witch; Dom, a new foster kid pulled into her world; and Jasika, a schoolmate with her own grudge against the Fae.

But trust is hard-won, and what little Bryn has gained is put to the test when she uncovers a book of Fae magic that belonged to her mother. With the Fae threat mounting every day, Bryn must choose between faith in her friends and power from a magic that could threaten her very humanity.
Follow C.M. McGuire on Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: Ironspark.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 24, 2020

Five top novels featuring parenting gone wild

Pamela Crane is a professional juggler. Not one who can toss flaming torches in the air (though how cool would that be?), but a juggler of four kids, a writing addiction, a horse rescuer, and a book editor by trade. Her USA Today best-selling books unravel flawed women—some she knows, some she creates.

Crane's new novel is Pretty Ugly Lies.

At CrimeReads she tagged five novels powered by the unpredictability of childrearing, including:
Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

Talk about a tough child to raise! Hanna is an only child…and she wants to be only Daddy’s. When her mother Suzette is forced to homeschool her due to some unusual aggressive behaviors at school, we see a whole new side to Daddy’s little girl. A sociopathic side. A side that would make any mother wonder what the heck is wrong with her child. It’s an eerie thriller with a dash of horror that will make you hug your own kids a little tighter and appreciate their tantrums, because at least they’re not trying to kill you.
Read about another entry on the list.

Baby Teeth is among Damien Angelica Walters's five titles about the horror of girlhood and Sally Hepworth's eight messed up fictional families.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: John Dickie's "The Craft"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Craft: How the Freemasons Made the Modern World by John Dickie.

About the book, from the publisher:
Insiders call it the Craft.

Founded in London in 1717 as a way of binding men in fellowship, Freemasonry proved so addictive that within two decades it had spread across the globe. Masonic influence became pervasive. Under George Washington, the Craft became a creed for the new American nation. Masonic networks held the British empire together. Under Napoleon, the Craft became a tool of authoritarianism and then a cover for revolutionary conspiracy. Both the Mormon Church and the Sicilian mafia owe their origins to Freemasonry.

Yet the Masons were as feared as they were influential. In the eyes of the Catholic Church, Freemasonry has always been a den of devil-worshippers. For Hitler, Mussolini and Franco, the Lodges spread the diseases of pacifism, socialism and Jewish influence, so had to be crushed.

Freemasonry’s story yokes together Winston Churchill and Walt Disney; Wolfgang Mozart and Shaquille O’Neal; Benjamin Franklin and Buzz Aldrin; Rudyard Kipling and ‘Buffalo Bill’ Cody; Duke Ellington and the Duke of Wellington.

John Dickie’s The Craft is an enthralling exploration of a the world’s most famous and misunderstood secret brotherhood, a movement that not only helped to forge modern society, but has substantial contemporary influence, with 400,000 members in Britain, over a million in the USA, and around six million across the world.
Visit John Dickie's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Craft.

--Marshal Zeringue

Patty Dann's "The Wright Sister," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Wright Sister: A Novel by Patty Dann.

The entry begins:
I have imagined The Wright Sister as a movie.

I think Reese Witherspoon would be a great Katharine.

I also think Laura...[read on]
Visit Patty Dann's website.

Q&A with Patty Dann.

The Page 69 Test: The Wright Sister.

My Book, The Movie: The Wright Sister.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Q&A with Kylie Schachte

From my Q&A with Kylie Schachte, author of You're Next:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I love You’re Next as a title, because it gets straight to the heart of the book with such a simple, economical phrase. This book is a heart-pounding, edge of your seat kind of thriller, where you truly don’t know if any of the characters you love will survive to see a happy ending. The title is a reference to a specific plot point, but it’s also a theme of the book as a whole. Anyone could be killed. Anyone could get hurt--even you, the reader, as the story crushes your heart into a bloody pulp.

I think having a big, in-your-face title was really important, because the first chapter is pretty mellow compared to the rest of the book. Flora Calhoun, the main character, experienced devastating trauma in her past, but at the start of the story she’s found an uneasy stasis or status quo. If you opened to that chapter without seeing the title, you might think this was a more conventional high school story. But in Chapter 2, that tentative peace gets shattered, and the rest of the book is a dark & vicious ride. My hope is that the title...[read on]
Visit Kylie Schachte's website.

My Book, The Movie: You're Next.

The Page 69 Test: You're Next.

Q&A with Kylie Schachte.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten books about the importance of the post office

Jae-Yeon Yoo is a volunteer intern at Electric Literature.

She tagged "ten books in which letters and the postal service—or lack thereof—play a crucial role." One title on the list:
Possession by A.S. Byatt

Byatt’s Booker Prize-winning 1990 novel is all about the paper trail we leave behind, and what others may make of it later on. Two scholars’ paths converge through letters, as they uncover a potential love affair between two famous fictional poets. Poring over drafts and getting tangled up with academic power struggles, the scholars make it their quest to find out the truth behind the letters. Byatt highlights our society’s obsession with written “truth” and explores what it means to collect historical artifacts, challenging the reader to ask questions about a text’s authority and the concept of possession itself.
Read about another entry on the list.

Possession also appears on Paraic O’Donnell's top ten list of modern Victorian novels, a list of four books that changed Charlie Lovett, Michelle Dean's list of the six best books about university life, Kelly Anderson's top five list of books for newlyweds, Rebecca Mead's list of six favorite books that illuminate the Victorian era, Marina Warner's ten top list of fairytales, Ester Bloom's top ten list of fictional feminists, Niall Williams's list of ten of the best books that manage to make heroes out of readers, Kyle Minor's list of fifteen of the hottest affairs in literature, Emily Temple's list of the fifty greatest campus novels ever written, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best fossils in literature, ten of the most memorable libraries in literature, ten of the best fictional poets, ten of the best locks of hair in fiction, ten of the best graveyard scenes in fiction, and ten of the best lawyers in literature, and on Rachel Syme's list of the ten most attractive men in literature, Christina Koning's critic's chart of six top romances, and Elizabeth Kostova's top ten list of books for winter nights.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Darin Strauss's "The Queen of Tuesday"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Queen of Tuesday by Darin Strauss.

About the book, from the publisher:
From the award-winning, bestselling author of Chang & Eng and Half a Life, a new novel about Lucille Ball, a thrilling love story starring Hollywood’s first true media mogul.

This indelible romance begins with a daring conceit—that the author’s grandfather may have had an affair with Lucille Ball. Strauss offers a fresh view of a celebrity America loved more than any other.

Lucille Ball—the most powerful woman in the history of Hollywood—was part of America’s first high-profile interracial marriage. She owned more movie sets than did any movie studio. She more or less single-handedly created the modern TV business. And yet Lucille’s off-camera life was in disarray. While acting out a happy marriage for millions, she suffered in private. Her partner couldn’t stay faithful. She struggled to balance her fame with the demands of being a mother, a creative genius, an entrepreneur, and, most of all, a symbol.

The Queen of Tuesday—Strauss’s follow-up to Half a Life, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award—mixes fact and fiction, memoir and novel, to imagine the provocative story of a woman we thought we knew.
Follow Darin Strauss on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Half a Life.

Q&A with Darin Strauss.

My Book, The Movie: The Queen of Tuesday.

The Page 69 Test: The Queen of Tuesday.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Five deeply flawed characters you’ll learn to appreciate

Amy Stuart is the #1 bestselling author of three novels, Still Mine, Still Water, and Still Here. Shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Best First Novel Award and winner of the 2011 Writers’ Union of Canada Short Fiction Competition, Stuart is the founder of Writerscape, an online community for hopeful and emerging writers. She lives in Toronto with her husband and their three sons.

At CrimeReads, Stuart tagged "five thrilling novels with deeply flawed fictional characters we know you’ll learn to appreciate as you turn the pages." One title on the list:
The “Detective Elouise Norton” series by Rachel Howzell Hall

Elouise “Lou” Norton is the star of Rachel Howzell Hall’s eponymous series of detective novels. A Black homicide detective in Los Angeles, Lou comes off as a confident powerhouse at work, but her struggles are laid bare on the home front. Her insecurities around her marriage and home life are frustrating to the reader at first, but ultimately lead us to ask a universal question: Why can’t our confidence in some areas of life translate well to others? By book three in the series readers will have such a profound affection and understanding of Lou, thanks in large part to Hall‘s strong character-building chops. As Kirkus writes in a starred review of the series’ second novel Trail of Echoes, Hall “gives voice to a rare figure in crime fiction: a highly complex, fully imagined black female detective.”
Read about another entry on the list.

Hall's Lou Norton series is among Sara Sligar's seven California crime novels with a nuanced view of of race, class, gender & community. Land of Shadows is among Steph Cha's top ten books about trouble in Los Angeles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Steven D. Hales's "The Myth of Luck"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Myth of Luck: Philosophy, Fate, and Fortune by Steven D. Hales.

About the book, from the publisher:
Humanity has thrown everything we have at implacable luck-novel theologies, entire philosophical movements, fresh branches of mathematics-and yet we seem to have gained only the smallest edge on the power of fortune. The Myth of Luck tells us why we have been fighting an unconquerable foe.

Taking us on a guided tour of one of our oldest concepts, we begin in ancient Greece and Rome, considering how Plato, Plutarch, and the Stoics understood luck, before entering the theoretical world of probability and exploring how luck relates to theology, sports, ethics, gambling, knowledge, and present-day psychology. As we travel across traditions, times and cultures, we come to realize that it's not that as soon as we solve one philosophical problem with luck that two more appear, like heads on a hydra, but rather that the monster is altogether mythological. We cannot master luck because there is nothing to defeat: luck is no more than a persistent and troubling illusion.

By introducing us to compelling arguments and convincing reasons that explain why there is no such thing as luck, we finally see why in a very real sense we make our own luck, that luck is our own doing. The Myth of Luck helps us to regain our own agency in the world - telling the entertaining story of the philosophy and history of luck along the way.
Learn more about The Myth of Luck at the publisher's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Steven D. Hales & Sophie.

The Page 99 Test: The Myth of Luck.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Kate Riordan

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

The Heatwave, as a title, doesn’t attempt to tell the reader much about the specific plot points of my story, which is set in the south of France and brim-full of long-buried family secrets. But what it does suggest, I hope, is the mood of the book. A heatwave is by its nature extraordinary and so it follows that the people enduring it will start to behave in extraordinary ways, shucking off the normal rules like their clothes as the mercury keeps on rising.

A reader knows without conscious thought that there will be drama in a book called The Heatwave because hot weather can send people mad; we naturally associate extreme heat with fury and fire and boiling resentments, and all of these are present in the book. We also know instinctively that heatwaves can’t go on forever. At some point the weather is going to break, and probably in dramatic fashion. Any reader will pick up that the action ‘on the ground’ in the book is going to mirror that climax.

I did consider the title Heatstroke instead - I liked the single word, and the sensuousness of ‘stroke’ (though the medical condition, which features in the book, is anything but), but...[read on]
Visit Kate Riordan's website.

The Page 69 Test: Fiercombe Manor.

Q&A with Kate Riordan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 21, 2020

Pg. 69: Kylie Schachte's "You're Next"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: You're Next by Kylie Schachte.

About the book, from the publisher:
When a girl with a troubled history of finding dead bodies investigates the murder of her ex, she uncovers a plot to put herself — and everyone she loves — on the list of who’s next.

Flora Calhoun has a reputation for sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong. After stumbling upon a classmate’s body years ago, the trauma of that discovery and the police’s failure to find the killer has haunted her ever since. One night, she gets a midnight text from Ava McQueen, the beautiful girl who had ignited Flora’s heart last summer, then never spoke to her again.

Just in time to witness Ava’s death from a gunshot wound, Flora is set on a path of rage and vengeance for all the dead girls whose killer is never found. Her tunnel-visioned sleuthing leads to valuable clues about a shocking conspiracy involving her school and beyond, but also earns her sinister threats from the murderer. She has a choice: give up the hunt for answers, or keep digging and risk her loved ones’ lives. Either way, Flora will regret the consequences. Who’s next on the killer’s list?
Visit Kylie Schachte's website.

My Book, The Movie: You're Next.

The Page 69 Test: You're Next.

--Marshal Zeringue

Darin Strauss's "The Queen of Tuesday," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Queen of Tuesday by Darin Strauss.

The entry begins:
The Queen of Tuesday would be fun to cast: it's a woman in love, it has celebrity, media, glamor, and it’s set in a period we can't turn from. The glitzy 50s, New York and LA, dream-towns at their dreaming best.

It's half-fiction/half nonfiction. It tells the story of the famous Lucille Ball -- and she's named. It tells the story, too, of my unfamous grandparents -- and they're also named. And it tells the story of the affair between my grandfather and Lucille -- and that's invented. Usually, when I write novels, I have to work out, in my head, what the main characters look like. This time, actual faces of actual people stayed in my head.

So, who would play them now? Well....

Isidore Strauss: I think of him as handsome -- but not in a way you’d notice if you saw him in line at Whole Foods. I'd say there's a range from Chris O’Dowd to Tom Hiddleston. But I think the best bet would be James McAvoy. Like my grandfather., there's something in him that reads as wicked and serious at once. Someone whose charisma you might miss, but -- if you paid attention -- you'd realize he's the sort of man who licks the cream off everything. You may not notice him at first, but if you do, you might fall in love with him.

Lucille Ball: Who could play Lucille Ball when Lucille Ball herself inhabited the role so brilliantly? I think...[read on]
Follow Darin Strauss on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Half a Life.

Q&A with Darin Strauss.

My Book, The Movie: The Queen of Tuesday.

--Marshal Zeringue

Nine books about disreputable women by women writers

Iris Martin Cohen grew up in the French Quarter of New Orleans. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and studied Creative Nonfiction at the Graduate Center, CUNY. She is the author of The Little Clan (2018). Her new novel is Last Call on Decatur Street. She lives in Brooklyn.

[Q&A with Iris Martin Cohen; The Page 69 Test: Last Call on Decatur Street; My Book, The Movie: Last Call on Decatur Street]

At Electric Lit she tagged nine favorite books about disreputable women by women writers, including:
The Vagabond by Colette

I loved the story of Renée, the disillusioned writer who takes up a music hall career in turn of the last century Paris so much that I literally started burlesque dancing in my 20s just to be like her. Colette writes the female experience with aching beauty and razor precision. An independent woman, lonely and cynical, with a French bulldog named Fosette? Maybe my perfect novel.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Pg. 99: Justin M. Jacobs's "The Compensations of Plunder"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Compensations of Plunder: How China Lost Its Treasures by Justin M. Jacobs.

About the book, from the publisher:
From the 1790s until World War I, Western museums filled their shelves with art and antiquities from around the world. These objects are now widely regarded as stolen from their countries of origin, and demands for their repatriation grow louder by the day. In The Compensations of Plunder, Justin M. Jacobs brings to light the historical context of the exodus of cultural treasures from northwestern China. Based on a close analysis of previously neglected archives in English, French, and Chinese, Jacobs finds that many local elites in China acquiesced to the removal of art and antiquities abroad, understanding their trade as currency for a cosmopolitan elite. In the decades after the 1911 Revolution, however, these antiquities went from being “diplomatic capital” to disputed icons of the emerging nation-state. A new generation of Chinese scholars began to criminalize the prior activities of archaeologists, erasing all memory of the pragmatic barter relationship that once existed in China. Recovering the voices of those local officials, scholars, and laborers who shaped the global trade in antiquities, The Compensations of Plunder brings historical grounding to a highly contentious topic in modern Chinese history and informs heated debates over cultural restitution throughout the world.
Learn more about The Compensations of Plunder and Justin M. Jacobs's work.

The Page 99 Test: The Compensations of Plunder.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven novels that enhance the suspense by using weather

Jody Gehrman is a native of Northern California, where she can be found writing, teaching, reading, or obsessing over her three cats most days. She is also the author of numerous award-winning plays and novels, including The Girls Weekend.

Her Young Adult novel Babe in Boyland was optioned by the Disney Channel and won the International Reading Association's Teen Choice Award.

Gehrman's plays have been produced in Ashland, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and L.A. She and her partner David Wolf won the New Generation Playwrights Award for their one-act, Jake Savage, Jungle P.I.

She is a professor of English and Communications at Mendocino College.

At CrimeReads, Gehrman tagged seven favorite "books that use the weather beautifully to enhance the reader’s sense of imminent danger," including:
The Widow’s House by Carol Goodman

My husband and I listened to this during a Christmas road trip, and we loved the rich descriptions of winter in the Hudson Valley. We’re both suckers for a gothic mansion with ghosty undertones and sudden, violent storms, so this book checked plenty of boxes for us. Set in the dilapidated estate known as Riven House, a crumbling mansion once owned by the protagonist’s old college professor, this book has some of the claustrophobic dread of Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca, another one of our favorites. There’s lots of swirling fog and hazy figures emerging from the mist; what’s not to love?
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Darin Strauss

From my Q&A with Darin Strauss, author of The Queen of Tuesday:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Tough one. I picked The Queen of Tuesday because I hoped it a) sounded cool, b) was mysterious, c) made sense once you realized the book was about the most famous television star of all time.

The book has tough to name because it's tough to peg: It's a half memoir/half fiction hybrid, about a speculative affair between my grandfather and Lucille Ball.

What's in a name?

Letters, generally.

More serious answer: I wanted to show how much sway Lucille had over America at that time. Her show (which in real-life aired on Monday nights, but in my book -- to show that it was a novel -- ran on Tuesdays) had the country all to itself on that night.

The nation's reservoirs are said to have dipped when her show broke for a commercial. (The whole country, flushing as one). Also, Lucille Ball was kind of a proto-feminist and progressive. She had one of the first famous American interracial marriages, and she fought to get her Latinx husband on primetime TV; she was a secret communist; and she invented the idea of...[read on]
Follow Darin Strauss on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Half a Life.

Q&A with Darin Strauss.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Patty Dann's "The Wright Sister"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Wright Sister: A Novel by Patty Dann.

About the book, from the publisher:
An epistolary novel of historical fiction that imagines the life of Katharine Wright and her relationship with her famous brothers, Wilbur and Orville Wright.

On December 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright flew the world’s first airplane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, establishing the Wright Brothers as world-renowned pioneers of flight. Known to far fewer people was their whip-smart and well-educated sister Katharine, a suffragette and early feminist.

After Wilbur passed away, Katharine lived with and took care of her increasingly reclusive brother Orville, who often turned to his more confident and supportive sister to help him through fame and fortune. But when Katharine became engaged to their mutual friend, Harry Haskell, Orville felt abandoned and betrayed. He smashed a pitcher of flowers against a wall and refused to attend the wedding or speak to Katharine or Harry. As the years went on, the siblings grew further and further apart.

In The Wright Sister, Patty Dann wonderfully imagines the blossoming of Katharine, revealed in her “Marriage Diary”—in which she emerges as a frank, vibrant, intellectually and socially engaged, sexually active woman coming into her own—and her one-sided correspondence with her estranged brother as she hopes to repair their fractured relationship. Even though she pictures “Orv” throwing her letters away, Katharine cannot contain her joie de vivre, her love of married life, her strong advocacy of the suffragette cause, or her abiding affection for her stubborn sibling as she fondly recalls their shared life.

An inspiring and poignant chronicle of feminism, family, and forgiveness, The Wright Sister is an unforgettable portrait of a woman, a sister of inventors, who found a way to reinvent herself.

Visit Patty Dann's website.

Q&A with Patty Dann.

The Page 69 Test: The Wright Sister.

--Marshal Zeringue