Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Pg. 69: L. C. Shaw"s "The Silent Conspiracy"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Silent Conspiracy: A Novel by L. C. Shaw.

About the book, from the publisher:
The past is about to catch up to Jack Logan and Taylor Parks in this gripping follow-up to The Network—praised by Steve Berry as “mandatory reading for any thriller aficionado.”

It’s been almost two years since investigative reporter Jack Logan and television producer Taylor Parks brought down the Institute—the secret facility responsible for indoctrinating a generation of America’s political and media power players. Their lives are just getting back to normal, and Jack and Taylor have settled into married life with their young son, Evan.

But soon a series of bizarre, seemingly random murder/suicides captures Jack’s attention as a disturbing pattern emerges. Could someone be intentionally causing people to become homicidal? At the same time, Taylor is producing a story about a class action suit against a national insurance company that has reached the Supreme Court.

As Jack and Taylor start to suspect that their stories are connected, they realize there is something far more insidious at play that could not only directly threaten them—but the very future of the country…
Visit L. C. Shaw's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Lynne Constantine & Greyson.

Writers Read: L.C. Shaw (December 2019).

The Page 69 Test: The Network.

My Book, The Movie: The Network.

The Page 69 Test: The Silent Conspiracy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thirty-three essential works of fiction by Iranian writers

The work of British-born, Iranian-American artist Niloufar Talebi appears in a variety of media, often inspired by Iranian culture while taking great leaps into Western art forms. The vision driving her work is to address the invisibility and erasure of non-dominant voices through projects of cultural translation. Foundational to her projects are literary texts that she authors, translates, curates, and remixes.

Niloufar is the author of Self-Portrait in Bloom (2019).

At Lit Hub she shared a list of 33 essential works of fiction by Iranian writers, including:
Ehsaneh Sadr, A Door Between Us
(Blackstone Publishing)

A scholar and activist who has worked on campaigns ranging from Iran human rights to biking advocacy, Ehsaneh Sadr turned her fictional eye to the 2009 Iranian green movement in A Door Between Us. Having spent time between Iran and the United States, she tells the story of a young couple whose families fall on opposite sides of the political spectrum. The daughter of a Mormon American mother and a Muslim Iranian father, she considers many places home.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Tahseen Shams's "Here, There, and Elsewhere"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Here, There, and Elsewhere: The Making of Immigrant Identities in a Globalized World by Tahseen Shams.

About the book, from the publisher:
Challenging the commonly held perception that immigrants' lives are shaped exclusively by their sending and receiving countries, Here, There, and Elsewhere breaks new ground by showing how immigrants are vectors of globalization who both produce and experience the interconnectedness of societies—not only the societies of origin and destination, but also, the societies in places beyond. Tahseen Shams posits a new concept for thinking about these places that are neither the immigrants' homeland nor hostland—the "elsewhere." Drawing on rich ethnographic data, interviews, and analysis of the social media activities of South Asian Muslim Americans, Shams uncovers how different dimensions of the immigrants' ethnic and religious identities connect them to different elsewheres in places as far-ranging as the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. Yet not all places in the world are elsewheres. How a faraway foreign land becomes salient to the immigrant's sense of self depends on an interplay of global hierarchies, homeland politics, and hostland dynamics. Referencing today's 24-hour news cycle and the ways that social media connects diverse places and peoples at the touch of a screen, Shams traces how the homeland, hostland, and elsewhere combine to affect the ways in which immigrants and their descendants understand themselves and are understood by others.
Visit Tahseen Shams's website.

The Page 99 Test: Here, There, and Elsewhere.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Charlie Lovett

From my Q&A with Charlie Lovett, author of Escaping Dreamland:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I feel like the title of Escaping Dreamland works on two levels. First, Dreamland is the amusement park on Coney Island where the three historical characters, Magda, Tom, and Gene, spend a day in 1906. Almost everything about the relationships among these characters either leads to or springs from what happens at Dreamland and in a real way the characters find ways to escape from the mistakes they made that day. But Dreamland can also be a metaphor for sleep or for non-reality. The novel explores the relationship between stories and real life, between fantasy and reality, and so I think the title also works as a kind of caution to the contemporary character Robert that he needs to escape from a world of memories and stories and deal with...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Charlie Lovett's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Bookman's Tale.

My Book, The Movie: The Bookman's Tale.

The Page 69 Test: First Impressions.

My Book, The Movie: First Impressions.

My Book, The Movie: The Lost Book of the Grail.

The Page 69 Test: The Lost Book of the Grail.

Writers Read: Charlie Lovett (March 2017).

The Page 69 Test: Escaping Dreamland.

Q&A with Charlie Lovett.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Six books to restore hope in humanity

Cathy Rentzenbrink was born in Cornwall, grew up in Yorkshire, lived in London for a couple of decades and has now returned to Cornwall. Her first book, The Last Act of Love, is about the life and death of her brother. Her second book is called A Manual for Heartache; it is a broader look at sorrow, anguish, despair, loss and how to try to live with the knowledge that the world can be a cruel place. Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books is Rentzenbrink's new book.

At the Guardian she tagged six books that confirm her faith in people. Two titles on the list:
Humankind by Rutger Bregman really did make me feel hopeful about humanity and reinforce my long-held resolution – under threat from the effects of consuming too much social media and news – that we should try to give our fellow humans the benefit of the doubt, and that it is better to be occasionally screwed over than move through the world full of suspicion and mistrust. Black and British by David Olusoga, an erudite exploration of racism and how it continues to mutate, is hopeful because it is exhilarating to read a fine mind at work, and because, as Olusoga says in his conclusion: “Knowing this history better, understanding the forces it has unleashed, and seeing oneself as part of a longer story, is one of the ways in which we can keep trying to move forward.”
Read about more books Rentzenbrink recommends.

--Marshal Zeringue

Peter Colt's "Back Bay Blues," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Back Bay Blues by Peter Colt.

The entry begins:
Back Bay Blues is the second Andy Roark book. Roark is a Vietnam veteran and Private Investigator in Boston, Massachusetts circa 1985. Roark is taking boring cases and having trouble letting the war go. He befriends a Vietnamese restaurant owner and hired by a Vietnamese woman to investigate the murder of her uncle. Roark’s investigation brings him into conflict with a group of former South Vietnamese army officers who want to topple the current government in Vietnam. It seems Roark can’t escape Vietnam.

If Back Bay Blues were made into a film who would I like to play the lead roles? In my mind I picture Adam Driver as Andy Roark, because Driver was in the Marine Corps and his service would lend authenticity to the role that other actors might not. Driver is both a dramatic heavy weight and quite capable of comedy, which would be well suited to playing a character who suffers from PTSD and who...[read on]
Visit Peter Colt's website.

My Book, The Movie: Back Bay Blues.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Aaron Shaheen's "Great War Prostheses in American Literature and Culture"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Great War Prostheses in American Literature and Culture by Aaron Shaheen.

About the book, from the publisher:
Drawing on rehabilitation publications, novels by both famous and obscure American writers, and even the prosthetic masks of a classically trained sculptor, Great War Prostheses in American Literature and Culture addresses the ways in which prosthetic devices were designed, promoted, and depicted in America in the years during and after the First World War.

The war's mechanized weaponry ushered in an entirely new relationship between organic bodies and the technology that could both cause, and attempt to remedy, hideous injuries. Such a relationship was also evident in the realm of prosthetic development, which by the second decade of the twentieth century promoted the belief that a prosthesis should be a spiritual extension of the person who possessed it. This spiritualized vision of prostheses proved particularly resonant in American postwar culture. Relying on some of the most recent developments in literary and disability studies, the book's six chapters explain how a prosthesis's spiritual promise was largely dependent on its ability to nullify an injury and help an amputee renew or even improve upon his prewar life. But if it proved too cumbersome, obtrusive, or painful, the device had the long-lasting power to efface or distort his 'spirit' or personality.
Learn more about Great War Prostheses in American Literature and Culture at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Great War Prostheses in American Literature and Culture.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 28, 2020

Eleven previously hip books that have not aged well

Hephzibah Anderson memoir Chastened: The Unexpected Story of My Year without Sex was published by Chatto & Windus in the UK, Penguin Viking in the US, and Editions Michel Lafon in France.

She is currently a columnist at Prospect magazine, feature writer for BBC Culture and Fiction Editor at the Mail on Sunday.

For BBC Culture she tagged eleven cult books that lost their cool, including:
The Beach by Alex Garland, 1996

You likely had to be there to even begin to get how The Beach exerted such a hold over its readers. ‘There’ being not its exotic location – an idyllic island off Bangkok – but the 1990s, when rave culture ruled. It was a moment ripe for this amphetamine-fuelled, hallucinogenic novel whose disaffected narrator has been given directions to a supposedly pristine Utopia. Here’s the catch: Richard is searching for a truly authentic experience, something that few even pretend to want any longer, preferring instead to enquire about what filter’s been used. Plus, who’d know what to do with a hand-drawn map these days?
Read about another entry on the list.

The Beach also appears on S J watson's list of six novels that could only take place at the seashore, 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

Q&A with Nathan Makaryk

From my Q&A with Nathan Makaryk, author of Lionhearts (Nottingham, Volume 2):
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I think most people are familiar with King Richard the Lionheart, but the plural Lionhearts opens it up to a bit of intrigue. Just like I’ve done with many Robin Hood tropes in the previous book, this book deconstructs the trope of King Richard swooping in to save the day, and takes a hard look at what it takes for a person to call themselves a “Lionheart.” It’s also a hopeful and uplifting word … and then halfway through the book, an entirely new definition comes into play which hopefully changes the reader’s take on what the title actually means.

What's in a name?

Well, many of my character names are dictated by Robin Hood folklore or by history, so sometimes my job is just to create nicknames to distract you from the fact that almost everyone in Medieval England was named “William”! Other than that, I’m a fan of shortening archaic medieval names to something more accessible: I have a fussy, educated man named Quillen who...[read on]
Visit Nathan Makaryk's website.

The Page 69 Test: Lionhearts.

My Book, The Movie: Lionhearts.

Q&A with Nathan Makaryk.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Robert Dugoni's "The Last Agent"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Last Agent by Robert Dugoni.

About the book, from the publisher:
Betrayed by his own country and tried for treason, former spy Charles Jenkins survived an undercover Russian operation gone wrong. Exonerated, bitter, and safe, the retired family man is through with duplicitous spy games. Then he learns of a woman isolated in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo Prison.

If it’s Paulina Ponomayova, the agent who sacrificed her life to save his, Jenkins can’t leave her behind. But there’s no guarantee it’s her. Or proof Paulina is still alive. To find out, Jenkins must return to Russia. Next move: blackmail Viktor Federov, a former Russian officer with his own ax to grind, into helping him infiltrate Lefortovo. The enemy who once pursued Jenkins across three continents is now the only man Jenkins can trust.

Every step of the way—from Moscow to Scandinavia to the open ocean—they’re hunted by a brutal Russian agent on a killer quest of his own. Out of loyalty to Paulina—dead or alive—Jenkins is putting everyone’s life on the line for a new mission that could be his last.
Visit Robert Dugoni's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Wrongful Death.

The Page 69 Test: Bodily Harm.

My Book, The Movie: Bodily Harm.

The Page 69 Test: Murder One.

My Book, The Movie: Murder One.

My Book, The Movie: The Eighth Sister.

The Page 69 Test: The Eighth Sister.

My Book, The Movie: A Cold Trail.

The Page 69 Test: A Cold Trail.

The Page 69 Test: The Last Agent.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Pg. 99: Lorri Glover's "Eliza Lucas Pinckney"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Eliza Lucas Pinckney: An Independent Woman in the Age of Revolution by Lorri Glover.

About the book, from the publisher:
The enthralling story of Eliza Lucas Pinckney, an innovative, highly regarded, and successful woman plantation owner during the Revolutionary era

Eliza Lucas Pinckney (1722–1793) reshaped the colonial South Carolina economy with her innovations in indigo production and became one of the wealthiest and most respected women in a world dominated by men. Born on the Caribbean island of Antigua, she spent her youth in England before settling in the American South and enriching herself through the successful management of plantations dependent on enslaved laborers. Tracing her extraordinary journey and drawing on the vast written records she left behind—including family and business letters, spiritual musings, elaborate recipes, macabre medical treatments, and astute observations about her world and herself—this engaging biography offers a rare woman’s first-person perspective into the tumultuous years leading up to and through the Revolutionary War and unsettles many common assumptions regarding the place and power of women in the eighteenth century.
Learn more about the book and author at Lorri Glover's website.

The Page 99 Test: Founders as Fathers.

The Page 99 Test: Eliza Lucas Pinckney.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five fantasy novels starring self-taught protagonists

At James Davis Nicoll tagged five fantasy novels featuring self-taught protagonists, including:
The Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke (2020)

Sideways Pike is a self-taught witch, an antisocial autodidact of the arcane. She’s smart, she’s determined, and her doting fathers have bought her some grimoires. No, she hasn’t attained powers beyond mortal comprehension, but she’s learned some minor spells that are flashy enough to convince a trio of popular girls to hire her to entertain at a party.

The party is a wild success. The magic dazzles. Sideways makes new friends and develops a massive crush on one of the girls she met at the party. She has also attracted the attention of witch-hunters determined to save Sideways from the evils of magic…even if stripping the magic from Sideways kills her.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Marjorie Agosin

From my Q&A with Marjorie Agosin, author of The Maps of Memory: Return to Butterfly Hill (Part of The Butterfly Hill Series), illustrated by Lee White:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The title of this book is the heart of the story; it came later to me, when the narrative was done. The characters of the book have created maps of the places their disappeared classmates lived. Each map becomes a memory of a lost life due to political upheavals. To create a cartography of a life is also to create a memory.

The editor liked this title. This collection is part of a series, and the first book is titled I Lived on Butterfly Hill, so we added a subtitle after The Maps of Memory: Return to Butterfly Hill. I love titles and I always give them as gifts to our fellow writers so this came as if it just happened. I am sure the unconscious plays a central part of a title but this one simply came and it is the perfect one.

Chile is a very long and thin country and everyone says, Oh yes Chile I have seen it in a map. This title evokes the story of a young adult involved in very brutal times, when a Dictator took over the nation and made those that did not think like him to simply disappear. The Maps of Memory wants to honor those that vanished and those who...[read on]
Learn more about The Maps of Memory: Return to Butterfly Hill.

Q&A with Marjorie Agosin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Pg. 99: Derek W. Black's "Schoolhouse Burning"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Schoolhouse Burning: Public Education and the Assault on American Democracy by Derek W. Black.

About the book, from the publisher:
The full-scale assault on public education threatens not just public education but American democracy itself

Public education as we know it is in trouble. Derek W. Black, a legal scholar and tenacious advocate, shows how major democratic and constitutional developments are intimately linked to the expansion of public education throughout American history. Schoolhouse Burning is grounded in pathbreaking, original research into how the nation, in its infancy, built itself around public education and, following the Civil War, enshrined education as a constitutional right that forever changed the trajectory of our democracy. Public education, alongside the right to vote, was the cornerstone of the recovery of the war-torn nation.

Today’s current schooling trends–the declining commitment to properly fund public education and the well-financed political agenda to expand vouchers and charter schools–present a major assault on the democratic norms that public education represents and risk undermining one of the unique accomplishments of American society.
Visit Derek W. Black's website.

The Page 99 Test: Schoolhouse Burning.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven satirical novels about social upheaval

Adam Wilson is the author of three books: the novels Sensation Machines (2020) and Flatescreen (2012), and the collection of short stories What's Important is Feeling (2014).

At Electric Lit he tagged seven "books that push us out of complacency and force us to stare at our ugliest selves," including:
Oreo by Fran Ross

Oreo was all but ignored upon its original publication in 1974, and I can see why. Published at the peak of the Black Power Movement, this experimental novel about a biracial woman on a Homeric quest to track down her Jewish father intrepidly pushed against the grain of the zeitgeist. As Mat Johnson explains in a 2011 NPR piece:
“A novel about a biracial woman’s search for her Jewish identity, complete with Yiddish word jokes and a structure based around Greek mythology, was about as far away from what was expected of a black writer as possible.”
On top of that, Oreo is one of the most stylistically unorthodox books I’ve ever read; the closest comparison I can think of is The Crying of Lot 49, but reimagined as a Richard Pryor routine. It also happens to be one of the funniest, a novel whose very subject—cultural admixture—fuels its virtuosic joke-making and feverish wordplay. Ross draws from Yiddish and Black Vernacular English, but also from academic jargon, hippie slang, restaurant menus, and mathematical notation to produce a sui generis carnival of diversity.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Charlie Lovett's "Escaping Dreamland"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Escaping Dreamland: A Novel by Charlie Lovett.

About the book, from the publisher:
Robert Parrish’s childhood obsession with series books like the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift inspired him to become an author. Just as his debut novel becomes a bestseller, his relationship with his girlfriend, Rebecca, begins to fall apart. Robert realizes he must confront his secret demons by fulfilling a youthful promise to solve a mystery surrounding his favorite series—the Tremendous Trio.

Guided by twelve tattered books and an unidentified but tantalizing fragment of a story, Robert journeys into the history of the books that changed his life, hoping they can help him once again. His odyssey takes him to 1906 Manhattan, a time of steamboats, boot blacks, and Fifth Avenue mansions, but every discovery he makes only leads to more questions.

Robert’s quest intertwines with the stories of three young people trying to define their places in the world at the dawn of a new and exciting century. Magda, Gene, and Tom not only write the children’s books that Robert will one day love, together they explore the vibrant city on their doorstep, from the Polo Grounds to Coney Island’s Dreamland, drawing the reader into the Gilded Age as their own friendships deepen.

The connections between the authors, their creations, and Robert’s redemptive journey make for a beautifully crafted novel that is an ode to the children’s series books of our past, to New York City, and above all, to the power of love and friendship.
Learn more about the book and author at Charlie Lovett's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Bookman's Tale.

My Book, The Movie: The Bookman's Tale.

The Page 69 Test: First Impressions.

My Book, The Movie: First Impressions.

My Book, The Movie: The Lost Book of the Grail.

The Page 69 Test: The Lost Book of the Grail.

Writers Read: Charlie Lovett (March 2017).

The Page 69 Test: Escaping Dreamland.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 25, 2020

Ten American masterpieces that are actually crime fiction

Smith Henderson is the author of Fourth of July Creek and lives in California and Montana. Jon Marc Smith teaches English at Texas State University and lives in San Marcos, Texas. Make Them Cry is their first novel.

At CrimeReads, the authors tagged ten American masterpieces that are actually crime novels, including:
Marilou Is Everywhere, by Sarah Elaine Smith

In her fantastic debut Marilou Is Everywhere, Smith pulls off a similarly incredible shift: premised on the abduction of a teenage girl, the novel focuses on the way a neighbor girl slowly insinuates herself into the life of the missing girl’s mother. While the book is steeped in the troubles and mores of rural Pennsylvania and rendered in gorgeous prose, what Smith pulls off narratively is just as crucial as the craftwork: as the crime of the missing girl curdles the relations in this troubled community, new, subtler crimes and transgressions occur, as the roles between and within families morph into new silent agreements.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Marilou Is Everywhere.

My Book, The Movie: Marilou Is Everywhere.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Margaret Mizushima

From my Q&A with Margaret Mizushima, author of Hanging Falls: A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Hanging Falls, the title of the sixth Timber Creek K-9 Mystery, is all about setting, and from page one it’s meant to move the reader right up a mountain trail along with Deputy Mattie Cobb, the book’s protagonist. At the end of that trail lies a pristine lake, a sparkling jewel sheltered by mountain peaks and fed by a waterfall carrying runoff from rain and melting snowfields. Unfortunately, the serenity of the setting is shattered when Mattie and her K-9 partner discover a body snagged within the boughs of a felled pine floating at the edge of the lake.

In 2015 my editor and I discussed the title of...[read on]
Visit Margaret Mizushima's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Margaret Mizushima & Hannah, Bertie, Lily and Tess.

Coffee with a Canine: Margaret Mizushima & Hannah.

My Book, The Movie: Burning Ridge.

The Page 69 Test: Burning Ridge.

The Page 69 Test: Tracking Game.

My Book, The Movie: Hanging Falls.

The Page 69 Test: Hanging Falls.

Q&A with Margaret Mizushima.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Michael J. Schreffler's "Cuzco"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Cuzco: Incas, Spaniards, and the Making of a Colonial City by Michael J. Schreffler.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the wake of the invasion and conquest of Peru in the early sixteenth century, Cuzco—the ancient capital of the Inca Empire—was reborn as a Spanish colonial town. Evidence of this transformation abounds on the streets and plazas of Cuzco today, where the distinctive stone walls and trapezoidal portals of the Inca capital stand alongside columns, arcades, and other architectural forms imported from early modern Europe. This book tells the story of Cuzco, considering the design and symbolism of the storied settlement known to the Inca ruler Atahualpa and his wife, Cuxirimay; the ritual foundation of Spanish Cuzco under the governorship of Francisco Pizarro and recorded by his scribe, Pedro Sancho; the devastation brought by siege and insurrection, and the eventual construction of a town replete with a cathedral, monasteries, and houses for elite Spanish and native Andean residents. A remarkable collection of sixteenth-century texts facilitates the reconstruction of this story: the writings of Pizarro’s secretaries, histories conveyed to Spanish translators by native Andeans, and the official reports and legal documents of colonial administrators. Enlivening these accounts are the architectural traces of the sixteenth-century town in present-day Cuzco, and a host of objects that convey this fascinating story of cultural contact and change.
Learn more about Cuzco at the Yale University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Cuzco.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Joe Clifford's "The Lakehouse," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Lakehouse by Joe Clifford.

The entry begins:
I love this question. I don’t know any author who doesn’t fantasize about their book being optioned for a film. While the truth is, most authors would be happy with any director or actor (Michael Bay, I’m listening!), we also have a wish list!

The Lakehouse is no exception. The story centers around a man (Todd Norman) accused—and acquitted—of murdering his wife, who returns to her small hometown to finish construction on their dream house by the lake. When a body washes up on the shore… So that’s the basic plot, told via three POVs: Tracy Somerset (30-something divorced mom); grizzled Sheriff Dwayne Sobczak; and Dr. Meshulum Bakshir, the town psychiatrist.

And, yes, I’ve thought a lot about who I’d cast! For Tracy, Amy Adams would be perfect. A little older than Tracy, Adams could pull it off. A rather obvious choice, I know. Sheriff Dwayne Sobczak is...[read on]
Visit Joe Clifford's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Lakehouse.

My Book, The Movie: The Lakehouse.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: April Henry's "The Girl in the White Van"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Girl in the White Van by April Henry.

About the book, from the publisher:
A teen is snatched outside her kung fu class and must figure out how to escape—and rescue another kidnapped victim—in The Girl in the White Van, a chilling YA mystery by New York Times bestselling author April Henry.

When Savannah disappears soon after arguing with her mom’s boyfriend, everyone assumes she's run away. The truth is much worse. She’s been kidnapped by a man in a white van who locks her in an old trailer home, far from prying eyes.

And worse yet, Savannah’s not alone: ten months earlier, Jenny met the same fate and nearly died trying to escape. Now as the two girls wonder if he will hold them captive forever or kill them, they must join forces to break out—even if it means they die trying.
Learn more about the book and author at April Henry's website.

My Book, The Movie: Girl, Stolen.

The Page 69 Test: The Body in the Woods.

The Page 69 Test: Blood Will Tell.

The Page 69 Test: Run, Hide, Fight Back.

The Page 69 Test: The Girl in the White Van.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books about social media

Matthew Sperling's first novel, Astroturf, was published by riverrun in August 2018, and was longlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize 2019. His second novel, Viral, is out this month. His writing has also been published in 3:AM, Best British Short Stories 2015, The Guardian, The Junket, The Literateur, the New Statesman, The White Review, and elsewhere.

At the Guardian, Sperling tagged ten books that "trace the development of social media across the last decade, explore its effects in everyday life, and place it in its wider context. They share a sense of its enormous dynamism and power, as well as its vertiginous capacity for harm." One title on the list:
The Twittering Machine by Richard Seymour

Seymour is wide-ranging in his analysis of the destructive effects of the “social industry” on personal and political life. He shows how the “variable rewards” of social media alerts are geared to perpetuate addictive and depressive cycles of engagement; how the imperative to think of yourself as a micro-celebrity, with a personal brand that constantly needs to be maintained and is always in danger of trashing, has poisoned private life; how the attention economy incentivises trolling and reactionary politics; and how the “degradation of information” perpetuated by social media outruns even liberal diagnoses of Trumpian “fake news”. By the end, if you weren’t already, you will be on the verge of deleting your Twitter account. And yet Seymour himself is still on there, professionally compelled as a freelance writer to plug into the machine…
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Q&A with Brian Freeman

From my Q&A with Brian Freeman, author of Funeral for a Friend: A Jonathan Stride Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

In the early days, my working titles often changed by the time the books made it into print. Rachel's Body became Immoral. Vegas Baby became Stripped. In fact, I think I was on my fifth novel, The Burying Place, before a title stuck all the way through the publishing process. So I learned not to become too emotionally attached to them.

Honestly, working titles are probably more important for me than the reader. A title grounds me in the story. Some writers can stick “Untitled” or “Title to Follow” at the top of their manuscript and get going. Not me. I need to have a title to bring the project to life.

On the other hand, by the time a book appears in print, I’m really not sure the title does much to engage the reader with the story itself. It’s really just a tease – something interesting, dramatic, and mysterious to get the reader to pick up the book. It may or may not have anything to do with the plot.

But just to prove there’s always an exception to the rule, Funeral for a Friend is actually a very meaningful title for my new novel. As...[read on]
Visit Brian Freeman's official website and follow him on Facebook.

The Page 69 Test: Stripped.

My Book, The Movie: Stripped.

The Page 69 Test: Stalked.

My Book, The Movie: Spilled Blood.

The Page 69 Test: The Cold Nowhere.

My Book, The Movie: Season of Fear.

Writers Read: Brian Freeman (January 2018).

My Book, The Movie: The Crooked Street.

Q&A with Brian Freeman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Benno Weiner's "The Chinese Revolution on the Tibetan Frontier"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Chinese Revolution on the Tibetan Frontier by Benno Weiner.

About the book, from the publisher:
In The Chinese Revolution on the Tibetan Frontier, Benno Weiner provides the first in-depth study of an ethnic minority region during the first decade of the People's Republic of China: the Amdo region in the Sino-Tibetan borderland. Employing previously inaccessible local archives as well as other rare primary sources, he demonstrates that the Communist Party's goal in 1950s Amdo was not just state-building, but also nation-building. Such an objective required the construction of narratives and policies capable of convincing Tibetans of their membership in a wider political community.

As Weiner shows, however, early efforts to gradually and organically transform a vast multiethnic empire into a singular nation-state lost out to a revolutionary impatience, demanding more immediate paths to national integration and socialist transformation. This led in 1958 to communization, then to large-scale rebellion and its brutal pacification. Rather than joining voluntarily, Amdo was integrated through the widespread, often indiscriminate use of violence, a violence that lingers in the living memory of Amdo Tibetans and others.
Learn more about The Chinese Revolution on the Tibetan Frontier at the Cornell University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Chinese Revolution on the Tibetan Frontier.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven books about confinement and the need to escape

David Moloney worked in the Hillsborough County Department of Corrections, New Hampshire, from 2007 to 2011. He received a BA in English and creative writing from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where he now teaches. He lives north of Boston with his family.

He is the author of the novel Barker House.

At Electric Lit, Moloney tagged seven "books that deal with confinement, but also the need to escape," including:
The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker

Some people have come to think of our social distancing (more like physical distancing, because we are still being social) as a timeout. Much has been put on pause and many of us have had our work suspended, furloughed into a holding pattern. This peculiar situation has caused me to muse about the inessentials in my life: cable, department meetings, paid-for haircuts. Baker’s meditative narrative, The Mezzanine, follows Howie as he spends his lunch break from his office work. Much of the novel is told through digressions, which don’t feel random, but are the meditations of a man who wants to see his digressions through to the end with linearity.

Howie is confined by his musings, which seem to clutter the narrative and also his life. Told through a plotless narrative and digressive footnotes (later in the book, there are a series of footnotes about footnotes), his attention to his daily experience allows him to think minutely about the things he interacts with: shoelaces, small bags, milk, CVS, straws, escalators. Take when his shoelace snaps, causing him to buy new ones at CVS, which makes him think of small bags, he wonders about his relationship to his memory of learning to tie his shoes: “But I supposed this is often true of moments of life that are remembered as major advances: the discovery is the crucial thing, not its repeated later applications.”

Howie escapes his office job’s physical confinement during his lunch break only to find himself mentally confined by his tangential thoughts. This plotless novel is the perfect book for when you feel like your days are becoming plotless.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Mezzanine is among Aaron Robertson's seven books in which very little happens and Alex Clark's eight best books set over twenty-hours.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Pg. 69: Joe Clifford's "The Lakehouse"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Lakehouse by Joe Clifford.

About the book, from the publisher:
After being cleared of his wife’s murder, Todd Norman returns to her small Connecticut hometown in order to finish building their dream house by the lake. He is eager to restart his life and cast aside any remaining suspicious...but all of that is dashed when a young woman’s body washes up on the beach next door.

When Tracy Somerset, divorced mother from the small town of Covenant, CT, meets a handsome stranger in a midnight Wal-Mart, she has no idea she is speaking with Todd Norman, the former Wall Street financier dubbed “The Banker Butcher” by the New York tabloids. The following morning, on the beach by Norman’s back-under-construction lakehouse, another young woman’s body is discovered. Sheriff Dwayne Sobczak’s investigation leads him to town psychiatrist Dr. Meshulum Bakshir, whose position at a troubled girls’ group home a decade ago yields disturbing ties to several local, prominent players, including a radical preacher, a disgraced politician, a down-and-out PI―and Sobczak’s own daughter.

Unfolding over the course of New England’s distinct four seasons, The Lakehouse is a domestic psychological thriller about the wayward and marginalized, the lies we tell those closest to us, and the price of forbidden love in an insular community where it seems everyone has a story to tell―and a past they prefer stay buried.
Visit Joe Clifford's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Lakehouse.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jack Meng-Tat Chia's "Monks in Motion"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Monks in Motion: Buddhism and Modernity Across the South China Sea by Jack Meng-Tat Chia.

About the book, from the publisher:
Chinese Buddhists have never remained stationary. They have always been on the move. In Monks in Motion, Jack Meng-Tat Chia explores why Buddhist monks migrated from China to Southeast Asia, and how they participated in transregional Buddhist networks across the South China Sea. This book tells the story of three prominent monks Chuk Mor (1913-2002), Yen Pei (1917-1996), and Ashin Jinarakkhita (1923-2002) and examines the connected history of Buddhist communities in China and maritime Southeast Asia in the twentieth century.

Monks in Motion is the first book to offer a history of what Chia terms "South China Sea Buddhism," referring to a Buddhism that emerged from a swirl of correspondence networks, forced exiles, voluntary visits, evangelizing missions, institution-building campaigns, and the organizational efforts of countless Chinese and Chinese diasporic Buddhist monks. Drawing on multilingual research conducted in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, Chia challenges the conventional categories of "Chinese Buddhism" and "Southeast Asian Buddhism" by focusing on the lesser-known--yet no less significant--Chinese Buddhist communities of maritime Southeast Asia. By crossing the artificial spatial frontier between China and Southeast Asia, Monks in Motion breaks new ground, bringing Southeast Asia into the study of Chinese Buddhism and Chinese Buddhism into the study of Southeast Asia.
Visit Jack Meng-Tat Chia's website.

The Page 99 Test: Monks in Motion.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven medical thrillers that go beyond the emergency room

Joel Shulkin, MD, is a developmental-behavioral pediatrician and United States Air Force veteran with a master’s in public health. Having been lucky enough to be mentored by the legendary Michael Palmer, his short stories have appeared in various print and online journals, and he has won several national and local writing awards for fiction and poetry. He lives in Florida with his wife and twin daughters.

Shulkin's new medical thriller is Adverse Effects.

At CrimeReads he tagged seven medical thrillers set outside the emergency room, including:
Gravity by Tess Gerritsen

While most know Gerritsen for her Rizzoli & Isles series, she wrote a number of terrifying standalone medical thrillers. Harvest is my favorite, but to finish off this list, I chose Gravity, which takes readers far beyond the ER to the final frontier. Again, cheating a little as there are a few ER scenes in the beginning, but they’re really just the appetizer before the main course. When an experiment aboard a space station goes wrong, a physician researcher must stop an outbreak of mutated cells before all the astronauts aboard the station die. Gerritsen’s research on NASA is impressive, and the medical suspense boosts this novel out of the stratosphere.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 21, 2020

Annie Lampman's "Sins of the Bees," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Sins of the Bees: A Novel by Annie Lampman.

The entry begins:
Sins of the Bees begins with main character Isabelle who is an artist who has disappeared into a religious doomsday cult to complete commissioned paintings of child brides called the Twelve Maidens, and also “to make sense of my past, to understand myself, to make amends for the wreckage of my own life.” Main character Silva is Isabelle’s granddaughter who is trying to find and track Isabelle down in order to remake a family for herself. But both women are asking the same questions of themselves on the path of their separate journeys—trying to understand who they are after suffering trauma and loss. And unbeknownst to them, they are both mourning two specific things: the loss of the same man—Isabelle’s husband and bonsai artist Eamon, who after Isabelle abandoned him, raised Silva by himself; and the trauma of suffering sexual assault that resulted in pregnancy. And tied into both Isabelle and Silva is character Nick Larkins—an outfitter and beekeeper and Silva’s eventual love interest.

My dreamcasting for Sins of the Bees would therefore include four main actors: Nicole Kidman for Isabelle, Scarlett Johansson for Silva, Daniel...[read on]
Visit Annie Lampman's website.

The Page 69 Test: Sins of the Bees.

My Book, The Movie: Sins of the Bees.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten top books of autofiction

Nina Bouraoui was born in 1967 to a French mother and an Algerian father. She lived in Algiers until the age of fourteen before moving to France and becoming a writer. She is one of France's most renowned living novelists, and has won several prestigious literary prizes, including the Prix Emmanuel Robles, the Prix du Livre Inter and the Prix Renaudot, and she was awarded the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Her novel All Men Want to Know is translated by Aneesa Abbas Higgins.

Onbe title on her list of ten favorite books of autofiction ("It may not be the absolute truth the author is telling, but it is her truth as she lived and experienced it") as shared at the Guardian:
A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgård, translated by Don Bartlett

Norwegian writer Knausgård has constructed an autofictional edifice. The master of detail, he writes not only about life as it is being lived, but also about the roots of that life: childhood, adolescence, the death of his tyrannical father. Knausgård’s work, considered by some to be sensationalistic, is the ultimate in provocative, brutally honest autobiographical writing.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Imraan Coovadia's "Revolution and Non-Violence in Tolstoy, Gandhi, and Mandela"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Revolution and Non-Violence in Tolstoy, Gandhi, and Mandela by Imraan Coovadia.

About the book, from the publisher:
The dangers of political violence and the possibilities of non-violence were the central themes of three lives which changed the twentieth century--Leo Tolstoy, writer and aristocrat who turned against his class, Mohandas Gandhi who corresponded with Tolstoy and considered him the most important person of the time, and Nelson Mandela, prisoner and statesman, who read War and Peace on Robben Island and who, despite having led a campaign of sabotage, saw himself as a successor to Gandhi.

Tolstoy, Gandhi, and Mandela tried to create transformed societies to replace the dying forms of colony and empire. They found the inequalities of Russia, India, and South Africa intolerable yet they questioned the wisdom of seizing the power of the state, creating new kinds of political organisation and imagination to replace the old promises of revolution. Their views, along with their ways of leading others, are closely connected, from their insistence on working with their own hands and reforming their individual selves to their acceptance of death. On three continents, in a century of mass mobilization and conflict, they promoted strains of nationalism devoid of antagonism, prepared to take part in a general peace.

Looking at Tolstoy, Gandhi, and Mandela in sequence, taking into account their letters and conversations as well as the institutions they created or subverted, placing at the centre their treatment of the primal fantasy of political violence, this volume reveals a vital radical tradition which stands outside the conventional categories of twentieth-century history and politics.
Learn more about Revolution and Non-Violence in Tolstoy, Gandhi, and Mandela at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Revolution and Non-Violence in Tolstoy, Gandhi, and Mandela.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Jenny Milchman

From my Q&A with Jenny Milchman, author of The Second Mother:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Oh, how I hope the title takes readers into the story! We struggled with it like crazy, and the original title was completely different. It was the name of the island where The Second Mother is set.

My editor pointed out that all of my previous titles concern nature, setting, weather, and that while those are elements in my work, they miss a psychological dimension that is also there.

When The Second Mother came to me, it was like a jab to the skin. I hope it opens up all sorts of mysterious questions in the reader’s mind. What is meant by the “second” mother? Who will she turn out to be in the book? Is there a “first” mother? And if so, what happened to her?

The Second Mother is about the mystery of...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Jenny Milchman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Cover of Snow.

The Page 69 Test: Cover of Snow.

The Page 69 Test: Ruin Falls.

My Book, The Movie: Ruin Falls.

My Book, The Movie: The Second Mother.

The Page 69 Test: The Second Mother.

Q&A with Jenny Milchman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Nine of the most unforgettable antagonists in fiction

L.C. Shaw is the pen name of internationally bestselling author Lynne Constantine who also writes psychological thrillers with her sister as Liv Constantine. Her family wonder if she is actually a spy, and never knows what to call her. She has explored coral reefs all over the world, sunken wrecks in the South Pacific, and fallen in love with angelfish in the Caribbean. Constantine is a former marketing executive and has a Master’s in Business from Johns Hopkins University. When editing her work, she loves to procrastinate by spending time on social media, and when stuck on a plot twist has been known to run ideas by her Silver Labrador and Golden Retriever who wish she would stop working and play ball with them. Her work has been translated into 27 languages and is available in over 31 countries.

Shaw's new novel is The Silent Conspiracy.

[Coffee with a Canine: Lynne Constantine & Greyson; The Page 69 Test: The Network; My Book, The Movie: The Network.]

At CrimeReads, she tagged "nine antagonists so memorable that they’ve gone beyond the pages of the book and become famous in their own right." One entry on the list:
The Shark in Peter Benchley’s Jaws

The shark is the antagonist in the tale of an unseen monster fish hiding beneath swimmers and waiting to attack. We are in the head of the shark, watching the next victim from beneath the water’s surface. We know what’s coming, are unable to give warning, almost as if we are complicit in the death that will soon occur.
Read about another entry on the list.

Jaws is among Kat Rosenfield's list of eight books that’ll make you scared to go back in the water, Rebecca Jane Stokes's seven books not to bring to the beach, the Barnes & Noble Review's five top books set at the beach, and six hugely popular books that accidentally screwed the world.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Erica Wright's "Snake"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Snake by Erica Wright.

About the book, from the publisher:
Feared and worshiped in equal measure, snakes have captured the imagination of poets, painters, and philosophers for centuries. From Ice Age cave drawings to Snakes on a Plane, this creature continues to enthrall the public. But what harm has been caused by our mythologizing? While considering the dangers of stigma, Erica Wright moves from art and pop culture to religion, fetish, and ecologic disaster. This book considers how the snake has become more symbol than animal, a metaphor for how we treat whatever scares us the most, whether or not our panic is justified.
Visit Erica Wright's website.

My Book, The Movie: Famous in Cedarville.

The Page 99 Test: Snake.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Annie Lampman's "Sins of the Bees"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Sins of the Bees: A Novel by Annie Lampman.

About the book, from the publisher:
Sins of the Bees blends natural majesty, mystery, and compelling characterizations to present the lives of two very different women and their tumultuous interactions with a dangerous doomsday cult.

Other than her bonsai trees, twenty-year-old arborist Silvania August Moonbeam Merigal is alone in the world. After first her mother dies and then her grandfather—the man who raised her and the last of her family—Silva suffers a sexual assault and becomes pregnant. Then, ready to end her own life, she discovers evidence of a long-lost artist grandmother, Isabelle.

Desperate to remake a family for herself, Silva leaves her island home on the Puget Sound and traces her grandmother’s path to first a hippie beekeeper named Nick Larkins with secrets of his own, and then to a religious, anti-government, Y2K cult embedded deep in the wilds of Hells Canyon. Len Dietz is the charismatic leader of the Almost Paradise compound, a place full of violence and drama: impregnated child brides called the Twelve Maidens, an armed occupation of a visitor’s center, shot-up mountain sheep washing up along with a half-drowned dog, and men transporting weapons in the middle of the night.

As tensions erupt into violence, Silva, Isabelle, Nick, and the members of Almost Paradise find themselves disastrously entangled, and Silva is forced to face both her own history of loss, and the history of loss she’s stepped into: ruinous stories of family that threaten to destroy them all.
Visit Annie Lampman's website.

The Page 69 Test: Sins of the Bees.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Five unforgettable books involving amnesia

At James Davis Nicoll tagged five memorable books involving amnesia, including:
Cold-Forged Flame by Marie Brennan (2016)

The swordswoman finds herself in the warrior’s version of the actor’s nightmare, with no idea who or what she might be, despite which she is magically compelled to perform an arduous quest for reasons unclear. The one certainty: she must collect blood from the cauldron of the Lhian. Who this Lhian might be and what views they might have about blood being collected from their cauldron—both are unknown. The revelation that most of the people who try to win a prize from the Lhian never return is cold comfort.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: James R. Skillen's "This Land is My Land"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: This Land is My Land: Rebellion in the West by James R. Skillen.

About the book, from the publisher:
Among American conservatives, the right to own property free from the meddling hand of the state is one of the most sacred rights of all. But in the American West, the federal government owns and oversees vast patches of land, complicating the narrative of western individualism and private property rights. As a consequence, anti-federal government sentiment has animated conservative politics in the West for decades upon decades.

In This Land Is My Land, James R. Skillen tells the story of conservative rebellion-ranging from legal action to armed confrontations-against federal land management in the American West over the last forty years. He traces the successive waves of conservative insurgency against federal land authority-the Sagebrush Rebellion (1979-1982), the War for the West (1991-2000), and the Patriot Rebellion (2009-2016)-and shows how they evolved from regional revolts waged by westerners with material interests in federal lands to a national rebellion against the federal administrative state. Cumulatively, Skillen explains how ranchers, miners, and other traditional users of federal lands became powerful symbols of conservative America and inseparably linked to issues of property rights, gun rights, and religious expression.

Not just a book about property rights battles over Western lands, This Land is My Land reveals how the evolving land-based conflicts in the West since the 1980s reshaped the conservative coalition in America-a development that ultimately helped lead to the election of President Donald J. Trump in 2016.
Learn more about This Land is My Land at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: This Land is My Land.

--Marshal Zeringue