Sunday, January 31, 2021

Nine pieces of literature that explore the dark side of girlhood

Alison Wisdom's new novel We Can Only Save Ourselves "follows the disappearance and radicalization of one 'perfect' teenage girl, told from the perspective of the town she left behind."

At Electric Lit, Wisdom tagged nine pieces of literature that explore the dark side of girlhood, including:
Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman

The girls in this book are scary and funny, loyal and devious, and together they are, as Wasserman promises in the feverish prologue, radioactive. Like Lydia Lee, Hannah is a nobody at her high school; unlike Lydia, she attracts the attention of a cool girl, Lacey, who is as edgy as Hannah is bland—but Lacey brings out a sharpness, a fire in Hannah. She introduces Hannah to Kurt Cobain and the fun of rebellion, and they bond over their mutual hatred of the beautiful and cruel Nikki, whose boyfriend Craig killed himself a year earlier. These four are connected to each other in surprising ways I won’t reveal, but I’ll say that among them Wasserman creates an incendiary tension that feels real and dangerous, culminating in an ending that really, truly shocked me and made me text my sister to tell her to read this immediately. Relationships between teenage girls are fraught, complicated, in some cases guided almost equally by love and pettiness, passion and jealousy, and Wasserman makes the friendship between Hannah and Lacey both tender and frightening.
Read about another entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Joanna Schaffhausen

From my Q&A with Joanna Schaffhausen, author of Every Waking Hour: A Mystery:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Thriller titles are often short and punchy, evoking a feeling or idea rather than a detailed description. Every Waking Hour implies there’s a clock on this story; the passing of time has particular significance. In this case, a twelve-year-old child is missing and someone devious may have abducted her. Every hour she’s gone is another hour lost. As an idiom, Every Waking Hour also suggests extreme effort or endurance, and indeed, the main characters, Ellery Hathaway and Reed Markham spend their hours in desperate search for the missing Chloe. Finally, the phrase evokes a sense that time itself is a pursuer, that the only way to escape is to sleep, which in literature is akin to death. Ellery Hathaway lives her every waking hour as the lone survivor of an infamous serial killer. The public hunger for his story dogs her, defines her, and tries to limit her. Each book in the series is as much about...[read on]
Visit Joanna Schaffhausen's website.

The Page 69 Test: All the Best Lies.

Writers Read: Joanna Schaffhausen (February 2020).

Q&A with Joanna Schaffhausen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Sara Driscoll's "Leave No Trace"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Leave No Trace by Sara Driscoll.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the fifth F.B.I. K-9 novel, Sara Driscoll weaves together fast-paced suspense and the fascinating world of law enforcement canines, as Meg Jennings and her search-and-rescue dog, Hawk, are heading south, where it's hunting season. But this time the prey is human.
FBI handler Meg Jennings and her search-and-rescue K-9 partner are heading south where it's hunting season. But this time the prey is human.

One arrow through the heart could be a tragic hunting accident. A second one, within days, looks more like a crime. That's when Meg Jennings and Brian Foster of the FBI's Forensic Canine Unit head to Georgia to investigate. With their dogs Hawk and Lacey, Meg and Brian are enlisted to follow the scent of a killer. At first, nothing seems to connect the two victims-a county commissioner and State Patrol officer. But the blood sport around the southern town of Blue Ridge is just beginning.

As the body count rises, the compound bow killer becomes even more elusive, appearing and vanishing like a ghost. However, with each new slaying Meg is beginning to suspect the grim design that's escalating in the shadows. At its heart, a tragic event that reaches back nearly two centuries in Georgia's history is now turning Blue Ridge into a hunting ground. But as Meg gets closer to solving the puzzle, the closer she is to stepping into the crosshairs of an elusive murderer with deadly aim, and motives as deep and dark as the woods...
Learn more about the FBI K-9 Novels.

Coffee with a Canine: M. Ann Vanderlaan & her dogs.

The Page 69 Test: Lone Wolf.

The Page 69 Test: Storm Rising.

The Page 69 Test: No Man's Land.

The Page 69 Test: Leave No Trace.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Five top fantasy heroines that fight systems of oppression

J. Elle was born in Houston, Texas, and is a first-generation college student with a bachelor’s in journalism and MA in educational administration and human development. An advocate for marginalized voices in both publishing and her community, J. Elle’s passion for empowering youth dates back to her first career in education. She’s worked as a preschool director, middle school teacher, and high school creative writing mentor. In her spare time, she volunteers at an alternative school, provides feedback for aspiring writers, loves on her three littles, and cooks up dishes true to her Texas and Louisiana roots. Wings of Ebony is her first novel.

At she tagged five favorite fantasy heroines that fight systems of oppression, including:
A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth (2021)

Favorite line: “…She was going to make them regret letting her discover just how satisfying it was to watch things burn.”

A Dark and Hollow Star is a multi POV epic YA fantasy about a four queer teens working together (in a rather prickly alliance) to solve a string of horrific murders plaguing the city of Toronto before the hidden Fae race is exposed to the human world. Holly Black fans will rave. Think the Cruel Prince meets City of Bones.

Fae stories have a special place in my heart and when I find one I love I never shut up about it. But it’s been a bit since I’ve seen once done in such a way that feels fresh and not just more of the same. A Dark And Hollow Star blows it out of the water. This is a robust, gender inclusive, epic multi-POV fantasy that fae fans will not stop raving about until Shuttleworth gives us another one. This story is rich with deeply immersive worldbuilding, layers of allegory around politics, systemic oppression, mixed race and dual identity–all wrapped up in a murdery plot. The Ironborn (those who are both human and magic blood) are being targeted by a killer, but the High King refuses to acknowledge it as their government’s problem. Together they come together to hold the Court accountable. And if that isn’t the setup for page-turning stakes, I don’t know what is. The power imbalance creates a desperation for justice that’ll have you on the edge of your seat, clenching the book tighter than you should and that’s a nod to Shuttleworth’s tension-building talent. Shuttleworth is a name to write down. They will be gifting us with worlds we want to get lost in for many many years to come.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Ellen Lamont's "The Mating Game"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Mating Game: How Gender Still Shapes How We Date by Ellen Lamont.

About the book, from the publisher:
Despite enormous changes in patterns of dating and courtship in twenty-first-century America, contemporary understandings of romance and intimacy remain firmly rooted in age-old assumptions of gender difference. These tenacious beliefs now vie with cultural messages of gender equality that stress independence, self-development, and egalitarian practices in public and private life.

Through interviews with heterosexual and LGBTQ individuals, Ellen Lamont’s The Mating Game explores how people with diverse sexualities and gender identities date, form romantic relationships, and make decisions about future commitments as they negotiate uncertain terrain fraught with competing messages about gender, sexuality, and intimacy.
Visit Ellen Lamont's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Mating Game.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Todd Strasser

From my Q&A with Todd Strasser, author of The Good War:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I think the title does about half the work in conjunction with the cover. Readers see the kids egaming and read "good war" and hopefully assume that the story is about a military video game competition.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

Quite surprised, given that when I was a teenager there was...[read on]
Visit Todd Strasser's website.

My Book, The Movie: Summer of '69.

Writers Read: Todd Strasser (May 2019).

The Page 69 Test: Summer of '69.

Q&A with Todd Strasser.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 29, 2021

Ten of crime fiction's most dynamic detective duos

Joanna Schaffhausen wields a mean scalpel, skills developed in her years studying neuroscience. She has a doctorate in psychology, which reflects her long-standing interest in the brain—how it develops and the many ways it can go wrong.

Her new book, Every Waking Hour, is the fourth book in her heartpounding Ellery Hathaway mystery series.

At Publishers Weekly Schaffhausen tagged ten of her favorite dynamic detective duos in crime fiction, including:
Ruth Galloway and Harry Nelson

Archeologist Ruth Galloway and DCI Harry Nelson have been circling each other and solving crimes together for 12 books in Elly Griffith’s wonderful series. They first meet in The Crossing Places, when contented loner Ruth finds her life upended by Harry, who needs her help identifying some recently unearthed children’s bones. Like the dirt Ruth digs in, this relationship develops a rich history and layers that provide fertile ground for engaging mysteries.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: The Crossing Places.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Maxine Kaplan's "Wench"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Wench by Maxine Kaplan.

About the book, from the publisher:
A funny, fiercely feminist YA epic fantasy—following the adventures of a tavern wench

Tanya has worked at her tavern since she was able to see over the bar. She broke up her first fight at 11. By the time she was a teenager she knew everything about the place, and she could run it with her eyes closed. She’d never let anyone—whether it be a drunkard or a captain of the queen’s guard—take advantage of her. But when her guardian dies, she might lose it all: the bar, her home, her purpose in life. So she heads out on a quest to petition the queen to keep the tavern in her name—dodging unscrupulous guards, a band of thieves, and a powerful, enchanted feather that seems drawn to her. Fast-paced, magical, and unapologetically feminist, Wench is epic fantasy like you’ve never seen it before.
Visit Maxine Kaplan's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Accidental Bad Girl.

The Page 69 Test: Wench by Maxine Kaplan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Keisha Bush's "No Heaven for Good Boys," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: No Heaven for Good Boys: A Novel by Keisha Bush.

The entry begins:
No Heaven For Good Boys is an Oliver Twist like tale, but with a grittier City of God mixed with a bit of Beasts of No Nation.

Ten years ago, I wanted Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, the directors of City of God to direct the film adaptation of No Heaven For Good Boys. I watched their film at the Angelica Film Center in SoHo and was entranced, it was so visceral and raw.

Now, in 2021, there are so many great American directors, not to mention great Senegalese directors, but to narrow it down, I’d be interested in either a Gina Prince-Bythwood film, or Cary Joji Fukunaga, or even perhaps a collaboration bringing their two styles together, like City of God.

I think in terms of actors, there are roles in the book for a diverse cast that includes Senegalese, Americans, French, and British actors. I think of Paula Patton or Gugu Mbatha-Raw as the young American mother who is married to a Senegalese ambassador, and...[read on]
Visit Keisha Bush's website.

My Book, The Movie: No Heaven for Good Boys.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Top ten books about children fending for themselves

Una Mannion’s debut novel is A Crooked Tree.

At the Guardian she tagged ten books in which "the dramatic force of the children portrayed is not their weakness but their strength, their ability to resist and sometimes to forgive." One title on the list:
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Thirteen-year-old Jojo, three-year-old sister Kayla and addicted mother Leonie take a road trip to collect their father from prison. Ward eschews the epic and redemptive possibilities we associate with road narratives as Leonie takes a diversion to pick up a package of crystal meth and Jojo tends to a feverish Kayla. Watching Jojo hold Kayla, how she “sticks to him, sure as a burr”, Leonie says: “I stand there watching my children comfort each other. My hands itch wanting to do something. I could reach out and touch them, but I don’t.”
Read about another entry on the list.

Sing, Unburied Sing is among Sahar Mustafah's seven novels about grieving a family member and LitHub's ten books we'll be reading in ten years.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Rachel Blum's "How the Tea Party Captured the GOP"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: How the Tea Party Captured the GOP: Insurgent Factions in American Politics by Rachel M. Blum.

About the book, from the publisher:
The rise of the Tea Party redefined both the Republican Party and how we think about intraparty conflict. What initially appeared to be an anti-Obama protest movement of fiscal conservatives matured into a faction that sought to increase its influence in the Republican Party by any means necessary. Tea Partiers captured the party’s organizational machinery and used it to replace established politicians with Tea Party–style Republicans, eventually laying the groundwork for the nomination and election of a candidate like Donald Trump.

In How the Tea Party Captured the GOP, Rachel Marie Blum approaches the Tea Party from the angle of party politics, explaining the Tea Party’s insurgent strategies as those of a party faction. Blum offers a novel theory of factions as miniature parties within parties, discussing how fringe groups can use factions to increase their political influence in the US two-party system. In this richly researched book, the author uncovers how the electoral losses of 2008 sparked disgruntled Republicans to form the Tea Party faction, and the strategies the Tea Party used to wage a systematic takeover of the Republican Party. This book not only illuminates how the Tea Party achieved its influence, but also provides a framework for identifying other factional insurgencies.
Visit Rachel Blum's website.

The Page 99 Test: How the Tea Party Captured the GOP.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Jeannie Mobley

From my Q&A with Jeannie Mobley, author of The Jewel Thief:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The title The Jewel Thief takes the reader into the novel in much the same way that the first page does. We are introduced to the main character, Juliette, as she is being accused by Louis XIV of stealing his most precious diamond, the large blue stone known as The French Blue. Juliette did, in fact, steal the diamond, but the circumstances surrounding her theft—competition among the master gem-cutters of Paris to achieve an impossible cut and glorify the king—must be understood if she is to save herself. So the title helps launch the reader into the dangerous adventure that is Juliette’s tale. It is not the title the book had originally, but I am very grateful for editorial teams that know how to find just the right title to draw readers in to the book.

What's in a name?

Because some of the characters in the book are real historical figures, their names are not a matter of choice. For the main characters, who are fictional, I tried to pick...[read on]
My Book, The Movie: The Jewel Thief.

The Page 69 Test: The Jewel Thief.

Q&A with Jeannie Mobley.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

What is Rob Hart reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Rob Hart, author of The Warehouse.

His entry begins:
I just finished Devolution by Max Brooks, which is the best bigfoot novel I've ever read. It's also the only bigfoot novel I've ever read, but it's pretty incredible. I finished it in a day. I sat down after breakfast to read it and was done by dinner. I think I skipped lunch. It's wildly smart and entertaining.

Right now I'm reading...[read on]
About the book, from the publisher:
Cloud isn’t just a place to work. It’s a place to live. And when you’re here, you’ll never want to leave.

Paxton never thought he’d be working for Cloud, the giant tech company that’s eaten much of the American economy. Much less that he’d be moving into one of the company’s sprawling live-work facilities.

But compared to what’s left outside, Cloud’s bland chainstore life of gleaming entertainment halls, open-plan offices, and vast warehouses…well, it doesn’t seem so bad. It’s more than anyone else is offering.

Zinnia never thought she’d be infiltrating Cloud. But now she’s undercover, inside the walls, risking it all to ferret out the company’s darkest secrets. And Paxton, with his ordinary little hopes and fears? He just might make the perfect pawn. If she can bear to sacrifice him.

As the truth about Cloud unfolds, Zinnia must gamble everything on a desperate scheme—one that risks both their lives, even as it forces Paxton to question everything about the world he’s so carefully assembled here.

Together, they’ll learn just how far the company will go…to make the world a better place.

Set in the confines of a corporate panopticon that’s at once brilliantly imagined and terrifyingly real, The Warehouse is a near-future thriller about what happens when Big Brother meets Big Business–and who will pay the ultimate price.
Visit Rob Hart's website.

My Book, The Movie: Potter's Field.

The Page 69 Test: Potter's Field.

The Page 69 Test: The Warehouse.

Writers Read: Rob Hart.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten novels that explore true crime obsession

Eliza Jane Brazier is an author, screenwriter, and journalist.

If I Disappear is her adult debut.

At CrimeReads, Brazier tagged ten favorite novels that explore true crime obsession, including:
Truth Be Told, Kathleen Barber

Citizen Detective: Poppy Parnell, an investigate reporter with a hit podcast.

Crime: The murder of Chuck Buhrman, the father of twin girls.

Fandom: The ‘Reconsidered’ Podcast. Podcast Host Poppy Parnell re-investigates the cold case murder of Chuck Buhrman, and we follow the fallout for daughter Josie Buhrman and family. Is the wrong person behind bars?
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: James E. Mueller's "Ambitious Honor"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Ambitious Honor: George Armstrong Custer's Life of Service and Lust for Fame by James E. Mueller.

About the book, from the publisher:
George Armstrong Custer, one of the most familiar figures of nineteenth-century American history, is known almost exclusively as a soldier, his brilliant military career culminating in catastrophe at Little Bighorn. But Custer, author James E. Mueller suggests, had the soul of an artist, not of a soldier. Ambitious Honor elaborates this radically new perspective, arguing that an artistic passion for creativity and recognition drove Custer to success—and, ultimately, to the failure that has overshadowed his notable achievements.

Custer's ambition is well known and played itself out on the battlefield and in his persistent quest for recognition. What Ambitious Honor provides is the context for understanding how Custer's theatrical personality took shape and thrived, beginning with his training at a teaching college before he entered West Point. Teaching, Mueller notes, requires creativity and performance, both of which fascinated and served Custer throughout his life—in his military leadership, his politics, and even his attention-getting, self-designed uniforms. But Custer's artistic personality emerges most clearly in his writing career, where he displayed a talent for what we now call literary journalism. Ambitious Honor offers a close look at Custer's work as a best-selling author right up to the time of his death, when he was writing another book and planning a speaking tour after the 1876 campaign against the Sioux and Cheyenne.

Custer's fate at Little Bighorn was so dramatic that it sealed his place in the national story—and obscured, Mueller contends, the more interesting facets of his true nature. Ambitious Honor shows us Custer anew, as an artist thrust into the military because of the times in which he lived. This nuanced portrait, for the first time delineating his sense of image, whether as creator or consumer, forever alters Custer's own image in our view.
Learn more about Ambitious Honor at the University of Oklahoma Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Ambitious Honor.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Natalie Haynes's "A Thousand Ships"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: A Thousand Ships: A Novel by Natalie Haynes.

About the book, from the publisher:
This is the women’s war, just as much as it is the men’s. They have waited long enough for their turn...

This was never the story of one woman, or two. It was the story of them all...

In the middle of the night, a woman wakes to find her beloved city engulfed in flames. Ten seemingly endless years of conflict between the Greeks and the Trojans are over. Troy has fallen.

From the Trojan women whose fates now lie in the hands of the Greeks, to the Amazon princess who fought Achilles on their behalf, to Penelope awaiting the return of Odysseus, to the three goddesses whose feud started it all, these are the stories of the women whose lives, loves, and rivalries were forever altered by this long and tragic war.

A woman’s epic, powerfully imbued with new life, A Thousand Ships puts the women, girls and goddesses at the center of the Western world’s great tale ever told.
Visit Natalie Haynes's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Furies.

My Book, The Movie: The Furies.

The Page 69 Test: A Thousand Ships.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Doug Engstrom's "Corporate Gunslinger," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Corporate Gunslinger: A Novel by Doug Engstrom.

The entry begins:
Corporate Gunslinger is set in a near-future United States where duels have become the last stop in the legal system. Companies are allowed to hire professionals to represent them; ordinary citizens must fight for themselves.

The duels are highly formal. A judge presides with the assistance of wards, who help prepare the combatants and enforce the rules. Combatants use identical single-shot pistols, and wear pants and tunics with no metal parts that might deflect a bullet. They start back-to-back, separated by an opaque hologram called the Wall. The Wall makes it impossible to get a clear shot until both combatants enter their respective “kill boxes,” a space about ten yards from the center. At that point, the Wall disappears, and the combatants are free to turn around and fire at each other. The last person to fall wins.

The story is told from the perspective of Kira Clark, a young woman who’s incurred huge debts for her education and secured them with a “lifetime services contract” that will make her property of her creditors if she fails to pay. She wards off foreclosure by training as a gunfighter for TKC insurance. We see her career from her first day as a trainee through a climactic match against another professional.

I’d like to see Emma Stone as Kira. Like Abigail, the character Ms. Stone plays in The Favourite, Kira has fallen from a relatively high social status, and is simultaneously an abused waif trying to make her way in a world she isn’t well-prepared to navigate and a relentless predator who’s determined to do whatever it takes to make herself safe. I think Ms. Stone could bring Kira’s dual nature to life on screen.

The key physical features of Diana Reynolds, Kira’s trainer, are that she’s tall, muscular, and intimidating. She’s also...[read on]
Visit Doug Engstrom's website.

The Page 69 Test: Corporate Gunslinger.

My Book, The Movie: Corporate Gunslinger.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten top female assassin books

Vernieda Vergara is a freelance writer who specializes in comics, entertainment, and literature.

At Book Riot, she tagged ten female assassin books about death, justice, and survival. One title on the list:

Readers probably know Kelley Armstrong through her Women of the Otherworld urban fantasy series. What they may not know is that she also wrote a trilogy about an assassin. No witches. No werewolves. No demons. Just an ex-cop who became a hired killer for the Mafia. Yes, you read that correctly. People who like their assassins to be pragmatic and matter-of-fact, and to treat murder like a day job, definitely need to check this novel out.
Read about another entry on the list.

My Book, The Movie: Exit Strategy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Michael Brenes's "For Might and Right"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: For Might and Right: Cold War Defense Spending and the Remaking of American Democracy by Michael Brenes.

About the book, from the publisher:
How did the global Cold War influence American politics at home? For Might and Right traces the story of how Cold War defense spending remade participatory politics, producing a powerful and dynamic political coalition that reached across party lines. This “Cold War coalition” favored massive defense spending over social welfare programs, bringing together a diverse array of actors from across the nation, including defense workers, community boosters, military contractors, current and retired members of the armed services, activists, and politicians. Faced with neoliberal austerity and uncertainty surrounding America’s foreign policy after the 1960s, increased military spending became a bipartisan solution to create jobs and stimulate economic growth, even in the absence of national security threats.

Using a rich array of archival sources, Michael Brenes draws important connections between economic inequality and American militarism that enhance our understanding of the Cold War’s continued impact on American democracy and the resilience of the military-industrial complex, up to the age of Donald Trump.
Learn more about For Might and Right at the University of Massachusetts Press website.

The Page 99 Test: For Might and Right.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Joshua Phillip Johnson

From my Q&A with Joshua Phillip Johnson, author of The Forever Sea:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I spent an enormous amount of time on my title, and my hope is that it gives readers both a sense of the lyrical prose as well as a glimpse into the mythology of the book. And beyond that, I hope it signals that the environment here is a major focus—if not the focus! Initially, I had called it The Book of the Forever Sea, but it was too misleading (since there’s no actual book in this novel called that). Following that getting nixed, I tried out longer, more poetic titles that were all iterations or permutations of the “A Noun of Noun and Noun” formula, but each one felt like a well-walked path, and so I settled with The Forever Sea.

What's in a name?

Names are all about sound for me. My main character is named Kindred Greyreach, and she’s...[read on]
Visit Joshua Phillip Johnson's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Forever Sea.

Q&A with Joshua Phillip Johnson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 25, 2021

Six top stories for fans of beautiful Australian Gothic

Kathleen Jennings is an illustrator and writer based in Brisbane, Australia. As an illustrator, she has won one World Fantasy Award (and been a finalist three other times), and has been shortlisted once for the Hugos, and once for the Locus Awards, as well as winning a number of Ditmars. As a writer, she has won two Ditmars and been shortlisted for the Eugie Foster Memorial Award and for several Aurealis Awards.

At Jennings tagged six favorite stories for fans of beautiful Australian Gothic, including:
Day Boy by Trent Jamieson (2015)

Day Boy is a little different from some of the other books I’ve mentioned here. For one thing, it’s a post-apocalyptic vampire novel, the story of a vampire’s young daylight servant who is growing out of childhood, and whose loyalties and choices for the future in a slowly decaying world will be tested. But while it is set in a small Australian town around which the bush presses, and while it deals with death and teeth and eternity, the tone is remarkably tender, and as the world crumbles the book begins to feel like a certain type of rural coming-of-age novel told backwards. I read it immediately after reading Willa Cather’s My Antonia, and there were such odd resonances there! In the Australian context, it has some of the bleak gentleness of one of James Aldridge’s St Helens stories—The True Story of Spit Macphee, perhaps—or a Colin Thiele novel (Storm Boy or The Sun on the Stubble). And yes, it is about vampires and death and the slow end of the world, but alongside the “melancholy, long, withdrawing roar” of the modern world, there is an appreciation of the enduring, small kindnesses and daily joys of life.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: David Pearson's "Rebel Music in the Triumphant Empire"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Rebel Music in the Triumphant Empire: Punk Rock in the 1990s United States by David Pearson.

About the book, from the publisher:
At the dawn of the 1990s, as the United States celebrated its victory in the Cold War and sole superpower status by waging war on Iraq and proclaiming democratic capitalism as the best possible society, the 1990s underground punk renaissance transformed the punk scene into a site of radical opposition to American empire. Nazi skinheads were ejected from the punk scene; apathetic attitudes were challenged; women, Latino, and LGBTQ participants asserted their identities and perspectives within punk; the scene debated the virtues of maintaining DIY purity versus venturing into the musical mainstream; and punks participated in protest movements from animal rights to stopping the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal to shutting down the 1999 WTO meeting. Punk lyrics offered strident critiques of American empire, from its exploitation of the Third World to its warped social relations. Numerous subgenres of punk proliferated to deliver this critique, such as the blazing hardcore punk of bands like Los Crudos, propagandistic crust-punk/dis-core, grindcore and power violence with tempos over 800 beats per minute, and So-Cal punk with its combination of melody and hardcore. Musical analysis of each of these styles and the expressive efficacy of numerous bands reveals that punk is not merely simplistic three-chord rock music, but a genre that is constantly revolutionizing itself in which nuances of guitar riffs, vocal timbres, drum beats, and song structures are deeply meaningful to its audience, as corroborated by the robust discourse in punk zines.
Visit David Pearson's website.

The Page 99 Test: Rebel Music in the Triumphant Empire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Jeannie Mobley's "The Jewel Thief"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Jewel Thief by Jeannie Mobley.

About the book, from the publisher:
A lush, slow-burn romance set in 17th century France, and based on the history of the Hope Diamond–The Glittering Court meets Alex and Eliza.

Her story begins . . . in Paris. The only daughter of the King’s crown jeweler, Juliette marvels at the large, deep-blue diamond Louis XIV has commanded her father to make shine like the sun. But Jean Pitau has never cut a diamond quite like this, and shaping it is a risky endeavor. As Jean spirals into depression, Juliette takes it upon herself to cut the stone, and with every misstep, brings her family closer to ruin.

Her story resumes . . . in a cold, dark cell of the Bastille prison. Charged with stealing the King’s diamond, Juliette has but one chance to convince him that her motives were pure. If she fails, this night may very well be her last. Though, death wouldn’t be her worst fate. Because recording Juliette’s confession is René, a court-appointed scribe, and the man she loves. But René holds his own grudge against Juliette, and this is her one and only chance to win back his heart.
My Book, The Movie: The Jewel Thief.

The Page 69 Test: The Jewel Thief.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Six perfectly alluring academic mysteries

Edwin Hill is the Edgar- and Agatha-award nominated author of Little Comfort, The Missing Ones, and Watch Her.

[Q&A with Edwin Hill]

At CrimeReads. he tagged six favorite academic mysteries, including:
The Secret History, by Donna Tartt (1992)

How can you write about academic novels without bringing in Tartt’s terrific debut? Set at the fictional Hampden College in Vermont (and based on Tartt’s very real alma mater, Bennington College), the novel follows a group of six academically gifted classics students who— no spoilers because happens in the first pages—kill one of their own. The novel follows the build up to and the aftermath from the crime and its lasting impact on those who survive. Reading the novel for the first time in a decade or so, I’m stunned by its intelligence, and how Tartt succeeds in creating richly drawn characters who are intelligent, annoyingly intelligent, and annoying, sometimes in the same paragraph. More than any other novel on this list, it makes me yearn for my own college days.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Secret History is on a top ten list of the best Twinkies in fiction, and among Kate Weinberg's five top campus novels, Emily Temple's twenty best campus novels, and Ruth Ware's top six books about boarding schools.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jeffrey C. Sanders's "Razing Kids"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Razing Kids: Youth, Environment, and the Postwar American West by Jeffrey C. Sanders.

About the book, from the publisher:
Children are the future. Or so we like to tell ourselves. In the wake of the Second World War, Americans took this notion to heart. Confronted by both unprecedented risks and unprecedented opportunities, they elevated and perhaps exaggerated the significance of children for the survival of the human race. Razing Kids analyzes the relationship between the postwar demographic explosion and the birth of postwar ecology. In the American West, especially, workers, policymakers, and reformers interwove hopes for youth, environment, and the future. They linked their anxieties over children to their fears of environmental risk as they debated the architecture of wartime playgrounds, planned housing developments and the impact of radioactive particles released from distant hinterlands. They obsessed over how riot-riddled cities, War on Poverty era rural work camps and pesticide-laden agricultural valleys would affect children. Nervous about the world they were making, their hopes and fears reshaped postwar debates about what constituted the social and environmental good.
Learn more about Razing Kids at the Cambridge University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Razing Kids.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Allie Reynolds

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

Titles are so hard to get right! My novel, when I originally submitted it to agents, was titled The Icebreaker. I chose it because the icebreaker game the characters play in the reunion is a pivotal point in the story. Rather than breaking the ice, the game ends up doing the opposite and revealing deep, dark secrets that cause huge rifts between the characters, who are now trapped on an isolated mountaintop, all suspecting each other.

But my agent didn’t feel it was a strong enough title. I guess people might think an icebreaker refers to a ship that breaks the ice in Arctic waters! So we brainstormed alternative titles. My agent eventually came up with the title Shiver at 4AM one morning and I loved it. It definitely suits the novel, which is set on a freezing French glacier and is creepy rather than gory or overly violent, and I hope that readers will actually...[read on]
Visit Allie Reynolds's website.

Q&A with Allie Reynolds.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Eight books about mothers separated from their daughters

Eman Quotah grew up in Jidda, Saudi Arabia, and Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, USA Today, The Toast, The Establishment, Book Riot, and other publications. She lives with her family near Washington, D.C.

Her new "novel, Bride of the Sea, tells the story of Hanadi, a daughter separated from her father when her mother, Saeedah, abducts her. In the end, though, the true rift is with her mother." (That's not a spoiler.)

At Electric Lit, Quotah tagged eight books about mothers separated from their daughters, including:
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Lee’s rich family saga spans much of the 20th century, with mother and daughter Yangjin and Sunja enduring multiple separations. Yangjin orchestrates the first and longest, convincing a young pastor to marry Sunja —who is pregnant by a wealthy, married man—and adopt her child. “Of course it would be far better for them if she went away,” Yangjin tells the pastor, who plans to leave Korea for Osaka, Japan. Yangjin’s maternal sacrifice, as much as Sunja’s doomed love affair, sets the family’s fate in motion.
Read about another entry on the list.

Pachinko is among Karolina Waclawiak's six favorite books on loss and longing, Allison Patkai's top six books with strong female voices, Tara Sonin's twenty-one books for fans of HBO’s Succession, and six books Jia Tolentino recommends.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: William Sites's "Sun Ra’s Chicago"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Sun Ra’s Chicago: Afrofuturism and the City by William Sites.

About the book, from the publisher:
Sun Ra (1914–93) was one of the most wildly prolific and unfailingly eccentric figures in the history of music. Renowned for extravagant performances in which his Arkestra appeared in neo-Egyptian garb, the keyboardist and bandleader also espoused an interstellar cosmology that claimed the planet Saturn as his true home. In Sun Ra’s Chicago, William Sites brings this visionary musician back to earth—specifically to the city’s South Side, where from 1946 to 1961 he lived and relaunched his career. The postwar South Side was a hotbed of unorthodox religious and cultural activism: Afrocentric philosophies flourished, storefront prophets sold “dream-book bibles,” and Elijah Muhammad was building the Nation of Islam. It was also an unruly musical crossroads where the man then known as Sonny Blount drew from an array of intellectual and musical sources—from radical nationalism, revisionist Christianity, and science fiction to jazz, blues, Latin dance music, and pop exotica—to construct a philosophy and performance style that imagined a new identity and future for African Americans. Sun Ra’s Chicago shows that late twentieth-century Afrofuturism emerged from a deep, utopian engagement with the city—and that by excavating the postwar black experience of Sun Ra’s South Side milieu, we can come to see the possibilities of urban life in new ways.
Learn more about Sun Ra’s Chicago at the University of Chicago Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Sun Ra’s Chicago.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Joshua Phillip Johnson's "The Forever Sea"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Forever Sea by Joshua Phillip Johnson.

About the book, from the publisher:
The first book in a new environmental epic fantasy series set in a world where ships kept afloat by magical hearthfires sail an endless grass sea.

On the never-ending, miles-high expanse of prairie grasses known as the Forever Sea, Kindred Greyreach, hearthfire keeper and sailor aboard harvesting vessel The Errant, is just beginning to fit in with the crew of her new ship when she receives devastating news. Her grandmother—The Marchess, legendary captain and hearthfire keeper—has stepped from her vessel and disappeared into the sea.

But the note she leaves Kindred suggests this was not an act of suicide. Something waits in the depths, and the Marchess has set out to find it.

To follow in her grandmother’s footsteps, Kindred must embroil herself in conflicts bigger than she could imagine: a water war simmering below the surface of two cultures; the politics of a mythic pirate city floating beyond the edges of safe seas; battles against beasts of the deep, driven to the brink of madness; and the elusive promise of a world below the waves.

Kindred finds that she will sacrifice almost everything—ship, crew, and a life sailing in the sun—to discover the truth of the darkness that waits below the Forever Sea.
Visit Joshua Phillip Johnson's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Forever Sea.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, January 22, 2021

Seven chilling winter thrillers

British-born Allie Reynolds is a former freestyle snowboarder who swapped her snowboard for a surfboard and moved to the Gold Coast in Australia, where she taught English as a foreign language for fifteen years. She still lives in Australia with her family. Reynolds’s short fiction has been published in women’s magazines in the UK, Australia, Sweden, and South Africa.

Shiver is her debut novel.

At CrimeReads, Reynolds tagged seven of her favorite chilling snowy thrillers. One title on the list:
Ruth Ware brings a classic locked-room murder mystery bang up to date in One by One. The fascinating cast of oddball characters are employees of a trendy social media company on a team bonding trip in the French Alps. Rivalry and rifts amongst the guests are already present when an avalanche hits, cutting their isolated luxury chalet off from civilization. And someone, it seems, has murder in mind.
Read about another entry on the list.

One by One is among Louise Candlish's ten hardest characters in literature to love.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Charles Kenny's "The Plague Cycle"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Plague Cycle: The Unending War Between Humanity and Infectious Disease by Charles Kenny.

About the book, from the publisher:
For four thousand years, the size and vitality of cities, economies, and empires were heavily determined by infection. Striking humanity in waves, the cycle of plagues set the tempo of civilizational growth and decline, since common response to the threat was exclusion—quarantining the sick or keeping them out. But the unprecedented hygiene and medical revolutions of the past two centuries have allowed humanity to free itself from the hold of epidemic cycles—resulting in an urbanized, globalized, and unimaginably wealthy world.

However, our development has lately become precarious. Climate and population fluctuations and aspects of our prosperity such as global trade have left us more vulnerable than ever to newly emerging plagues. Greater global cooperation toward sustainable health is urgently required—such as the international efforts to harvest a Covid-19 vaccine—with millions of lives and trillions of dollars at stake.

Written as colorful history, The Plague Cycle reveals the relationship between civilization, globalization, prosperity, and infectious disease over the past five millennia. It harnesses history, economics, and public health, and charts humanity’s remarkable progress, providing a fascinating and timely look at the cyclical nature of infectious disease.
Visit Charles Kenny's blog and learn about his six favorite books.

The Page 99 Test: The Upside of Down.

The Page 99 Test: The Plague Cycle.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Liese O’Halloran Schwarz

From my Q&A with Liese O'Halloran Schwarz, author of What Could Be Saved:
photo credit: Amy Stern
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I think it really accurately reflects the book, but it is subtle and the meaning isn’t clear until one has read the book. My editor and I struggled a good while to find the right title. My books tend to be sort of complex (What Could Be Saved is told in two timelines, on two continents and in two eras, from several different points of view), so we considered a number of titles that might fit one bit or the other well, but it was hard to find a title that worked not only to encapsulate the whole story, but also to communicate properly to the reader something about what the reading experience might be. My wonderful editor at Atria, Peter Borland, generated lists of suggestions, and What Could Be Saved was in one of his lists. It’s actually a phrase taken from a conversation between two characters in the book, but its meaning as a title is layered, and not limited to that specific conversation. I also feel it communicates a hint of hope— I want prospective readers to know that while the book contains some serious themes and might stir their emotions, the...[read on]
Visit Liese O'Halloran Schwarz's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Possible World.

Writers Read: Liese O'Halloran Schwarz (August 2018).

The Page 69 Test: The Possible World.

The Page 69 Test: What Could Be Saved.

Q&A with Liese O'Halloran Schwarz.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Pg. 69: Melanie Benjamin's "The Children's Blizzard"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Children's Blizzard: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin.

About the book, from the publisher:
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator’s Wife comes a story of courage on the prairie, inspired by the devastating storm that struck the Great Plains in 1888, threatening the lives of hundreds of immigrant homesteaders, especially schoolchildren.

The morning of January 12, 1888, was unusually mild, following a punishing cold spell. It was warm enough for the homesteaders of the Dakota territory to venture out again, and for their children to return to school without their heavy coats–leaving them unprepared when disaster struck. At just the hour when most prairie schools were letting out for the day, a terrifying, fast-moving blizzard blew in without warning. Schoolteachers as young as sixteen were suddenly faced with life and death decisions: keep the children inside, to risk freezing to death when fuel ran out, or send them home, praying they wouldn’t get lost in the storm?

Based on actual oral histories of survivors, this gripping novel follows the stories of Raina and Gerda Olsen, two sisters, both schoolteachers–one who becomes a hero of the storm, and one who finds herself ostracized in the aftermath. It’s also the story of Anette Pedersen, a servant girl whose miraculous survival serves as a turning point in her life and touches the heart of Gavin Woodson, a newspaperman seeking redemption. It was Woodson and others like him who wrote the embellished news stories that lured Northern European immigrants across the sea to settle a pitiless land. Boosters needed them to settle territories into states, and they didn’t care what lies they told these families to get them there–or whose land it originally was. At its heart, this is a story of courage, of children forced to grow up too soon, tied to the land because of their parents’ choices. It is a story of love taking root in the hard prairie ground, and of families being torn asunder by a ferocious storm that is little remembered today–because so many of its victims were immigrants to this country.
Learn more about the book and author at Melanie Benjamin's website.

The Page 69 Test: Alice I Have Been.

The Page 69 Test: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb.

My Book, The Movie: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb.

The Page 69 Test: The Aviator's Wife.

The Page 69 Test: The Swans of Fifth Avenue.

The Page 69 Test: The Girls in the Picture.

Writers Read: Melanie Benjamin (May 2019).

Q&A with Melanie Benjamin.

The Page 69 Test: The Children's Blizzard.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Heath Brown's "Homeschooling the Right"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Homeschooling the Right: How Conservative Education Activism Erodes the State by Heath Brown.

About the book, from the publisher:
For four decades, the number of conservative parents who homeschool their children has risen. But unlike others who teach at home, conservative homeschool families and organizations have amassed an army of living-room educators ready to defend their right to instruct their children as they wish, free from government intrusion. Through intensive but often hidden organizing, homeschoolers have struck fear into state legislators, laying the foundations for Republican electoral success.

In Homeschooling the Right, the political scientist Heath Brown provides a novel analysis of the homeschooling movement and its central role in conservative efforts to shrink the public sector. He traces the aftereffects of the passage of state homeschool policies in the 1980s and the results of ongoing conservative education activism on the broader political landscape, including the campaigns of George W. Bush and the rise of the Tea Party. Brown finds that by opting out of public education services in favor of at-home provision, homeschoolers have furthered conservative goals of reducing the size and influence of government. He applies the theory of policy feedback—how public-policy choices determine subsequent politics—to demonstrate the effects of educational activism for other conservative goals such as gun rights, which are similarly framed as matters of liberty and freedom. Drawing on decades of county data, dozens of original interviews, and original archives of formal and informal homeschool organizations, this book is a groundbreaking investigation of the politics of the conservative homeschooling movement.
Learn more about Homeschooling the Right at the Columbia University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Immigrants and Electoral Politics.

The Page 99 Test: Homeschooling the Right.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books about spirit mediums

Laura Purcell is the author of The Silent Companions, The Poison Thread, and The House of Whispers. She worked in local government, the financial industry and a bookshop before becoming a full-time writer. She lives in Colchester, the oldest recorded town in England, with her husband and pet guinea pigs. Fascinated by the darker side of royal history, Purcell has also written two historical fiction novels about the Hanoverian dynasty.

Her latest novel is The Shape of Darkness.

At the Guardian, Purcell tagged her ten top books about spirit mediums, including:
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Danny Torrance is not a typical spirit medium, nor is seeing the dead his only gift – if gift it can be called. But in this sequel to King’s famous horror The Shining, we gain a believable glimpse into the psychological toll such power would take upon its host, driving him to alcohol and drug abuse. Despite dark subject matter and thrilling action, this is ultimately an uplifting read, and the angle of Danny helping palliative care patients to pass more easily to the afterlife is an original one.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Pg. 69: Katherine Rothschild's "Wider than the Sky"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Wider than the Sky by Katherine Rothschild.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the wake of sudden tragedy, twin sisters uncover a secret that rips open their world. Katherine Rothschild explores the pain and power of forgiveness in a stunning debut novel that will shatter your heart and piece it back together, one truth at a time.

Sixteen-year-old Sabine Braxton doesn’t have much in common with her identical twin, Blythe. When their father dies from an unexpected illness, each copes with the loss in her own way—Sabine by “poeting” (an uncontrollable quirk of bursting into poetry at inappropriate moments) and Blythe by obsessing over getting into MIT, their father’s alma mater. Neither can offer each other much support . . . at least not until their emotionally detached mother moves them into a ramshackle Bay Area mansion owned by a stranger named Charlie.

Soon, the sisters unite in a mission to figure out who Charlie is and why he seems to know everything about them. They quickly make a life-changing discovery: their father died of an HIV- related infection, Charlie was his lover, and their mother knows the whole story. The revelation unravels Sabine’s world, while practical Blythe seems to take everything in stride. Once again at odds with her sister, Sabine chooses to learn all she can about the father she never knew. Ultimately, she must decide if she can embrace his last wish for their family legacy—along with forgiveness.
Visit Katherine Rothschild's website.

The Page 69 Test: Wider than the Sky.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten top feminist retellings of mythology

Christine Hume is the author of an experimental memoir in the form of three interlinked essays, Saturation Project (2021), as well as three books of poetry. Her chapbooks include Lullaby: Speculations on the First Active Sense; Ventifacts; Atalanta: an Anatomy; a collaboration with Jeff Clark, Question Like a Face, a Brooklyn Rail Best Nonfiction Book of 2017, and A Different Shade for Each Person Reading the Story. She recently curated and introduced two issues, on #MeToo and on Girlhood, of the American Book Review. Since 2001, she has been faculty in the Creative Writing program at Eastern Michigan University.

At Electric Lit, Hume tagged ten "modern stories that turn patriarchal folklore on its head," including:
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

I exchanged letters last year with a writer incarcerated in Texas (through Deb Olin Unferth’s marvelous PenCity Writers Program) about Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. He was especially vivid at accounting for the way Ward uses fractured and recombinant myth (ancient Greek, biblical, American South) to pick up narrative speed.
Read about another entry on the list.

Salvage the Bones is among Michelle Sacks's five books with complex and credible child narrators, Amy Brady's seven books that provocatively tackle climate change, Jodi Picoult's six recommended books, Peggy Frew's ten top books about "bad" mothers, and Jenny Shanks's five least supervised children in literature

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Susan Lee Johnson's "Writing Kit Carson"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Writing Kit Carson: Fallen Heroes in a Changing West by Susan Lee Johnson.

About the book, from the publisher:
In this critical biography, Susan Lee Johnson braids together lives over time and space, telling tales of two white women who, in the 1960s, wrote books about the fabled frontiersman Christopher "Kit" Carson: Quantrille McClung, a Denver librarian who compiled the Carson-Bent-Boggs Genealogy, and Kansas-born but Washington, D.C.- and Chicago-based Bernice Blackwelder, a singer on stage and radio, a CIA employee, and the author of Great Westerner: The Story of Kit Carson. In the 1970s, as once-celebrated figures like Carson were falling headlong from grace, these two amateur historians kept weaving stories of western white men, including those who married American Indian and Spanish Mexican women, just as Carson had wed Singing Grass, Making Out Road, and Josefa Jaramillo.

Johnson’s multilayered biography reveals the nature of relationships between women historians and male historical subjects and between history buffs and professional historians. It explores the practice of history in the context of everyday life, the seductions of gender in the context of racialized power, and the strange contours of twentieth-century relationships predicated on nineteenth-century pasts. On the surface, it tells a story of lives tangled across generation and geography. Underneath run probing questions about how we know about the past and how that knowledge is shaped by the conditions of our knowing.
Learn more about Writing Kit Carson at the University of North Carolina Press.

The Page 99 Test: Writing Kit Carson.

--Marshal Zeringue