Sunday, May 09, 2021

Seven top books that redefine the modern flâneuse

Kavita Bedford is an Australian-Indian writer with a background in journalism, anthropology and literature. Her writing has appeared in Guernica, The Guardian and she was a recent Churchill Fellow exploring migrant narratives. She works and teaches in Sydney in media and global studies.

Friends and Dark Shapes is her first novel.

At LitHub Bedford tagged seven books that by their very nature question the subgenre of the flâneur novel, including:
Valeria Luiselli, Sidewalks

Luiselli is searching for the grave of the poet Joseph Brodsky in the cemetery of San Michele in Venice. The book follows the roaming essayist on her search, moving from the graveyards of Venice to the “relingos,” forgotten lots, of Mexico City, and onward to New York, in apartments filled with memorabilia and relics. Reading Lusielli, I fell in love with the way her sharp thoughts meander along pathways and cities as they move between English, Spanish and, in a short essay exploring saudade, Portuguese. She offers a way into thinking about the private and public excavation of histories and places that is steeped in nostalgia and melancholy.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 08, 2021

Pg. 99: Damon B. Akins & William J. Bauer's "We Are the Land"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: We Are the Land: A History of Native California by Damon B. Akins and William J. Bauer Jr.

About the book, from the publisher:
Rewriting the history of California as Indigenous.

Before there was such a thing as “California,” there were the People and the Land. Manifest Destiny, the Gold Rush, and settler colonial society drew maps, displaced Indigenous People, and reshaped the land, but they did not make California. Rather, the lives and legacies of the people native to the land shaped the creation of California. We Are the Land is the first and most comprehensive text of its kind, centering the long history of California around the lives and legacies of the Indigenous people who shaped it. Beginning with the ethnogenesis of California Indians, We Are the Land recounts the centrality of the Native presence from before European colonization through statehood—paying particularly close attention to the persistence and activism of California Indians in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The book deftly contextualizes the first encounters with Europeans, Spanish missions, Mexican secularization, the devastation of the Gold Rush and statehood, genocide, efforts to reclaim land, and the organization and activism for sovereignty that built today’s casino economy. A text designed to fill the glaring need for an accessible overview of California Indian history, We Are the Land will be a core resource in a variety of classroom settings, as well as for casual readers and policymakers interested in a history that centers the native experience.
Learn more about We Are the Land at the University of California Press website.

The Page 99 Test: We Are the Land.

--Marshal Zeringue

Nine top stories about mother-son relationships

Keisha Bush was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. She received her MFA in creative writing from The New School, where she was a Riggio Honors Teaching Fellow and recipient of an NSPE Dean’s Scholarship. After a career in corporate finance and international development that brought her to live in Dakar, Senegal, she decided to focus full-time on her writing. She lives in East Harlem.

Bush's new novel is No Heaven For Good Boys.

[My Book, The Movie: No Heaven for Good BoysThe Page 69 Test: No Heaven for Good Boys]

At Electric Lit she tagged nine "books, movies, and albums on the bond between boys and their moms," including:
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

This novel, structured as a son’s letter to his mother, pulls the reader headfirst into the complicated experience of coming of age with a broken parent. Vuong explores how generational trauma and pain—in this case, the Vietnam War—are handed down from parent to child. The experiences of his mother become his own, so much so that he cannot say where the wounds of his mother’s body end and the wounds of his own begin.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Mercedes Helnwein

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

For a very long time the title was The World is A Vampire. This was because of the main character’s love for the Smashing Pumpkins, but also because I felt that that song ("Bullet with Butterfly Wings") summed up so perfectly the main character’s teenage view of existence.

When it came to choosing an actual final title for the book, my editor suggested Slingshot. I loved the idea of a one-word title and that it tells you nothing about the story. It’s a love story, so even better, because I had a natural instinct to want to counter-act the romance aspect of the story, without actually compromising it. I really like how hard-core, over-the-top, helplessly the main character falls in love, but it is happening to a person who didn’t ask for it or want it, and who definitely isn’t the right candidate for it. I felt like the title somehow reflected that.

Also, I promise it’s not a random title at all, because the whole story hinges on an actual scene with a slingshot in the book.

What's in a name?

The name of my main character is Gracie Mae Welles. Grace – Gracie. I was...[read on]
Visit Mercedes Helnwein's website.

Q&A with Mercedes Helnwein.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 07, 2021

Seven literary murderers hiding in plain sight

Clare Whitfield is a UK-based writer living in a suburb where the main cultural landmark is a home store/Starbucks combo. She is the wife of a tattoo artist, mother of a small benign dictator and relies on a black Labrador for emotional stability. She has been a dancer, copywriter, amateur fire breather, buyer and mediocre weight lifter.

People of Abandoned Character is her first novel.

At CrimeReads Whitfield tagged seven literary murderers who inspired her novel, in which "everyone is potentially masquerading as something or someone else." One entry on the list:
Adele Ferguson, Behind her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

Louise is a divorced single mom and meets David in a bar, they kiss, and the very next day she goes to work and it turns out last night’s David is her new boss, oh and by the way he’s married… more than a little awkward. Louise then meets his wife, the very needy and seemingly unstable Adele. Despite her reluctance Louise finds herself feeling sorry for her. Adele and Louise end up becoming friends, while Louse embarks on an affair with David. Let’s just say it gets even more complicated. Adele is a skilled manipulator, and she’s done this before.
Read about another entry on the list.

Behind Her Eyes is among Alice Feeney's eight top novels featuring odd couples and unexpected partnerships, Leah Konen's seven dark thrillers about friendships gone wrong, and Camilla Bruce's eight novels to make you question reality.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Anthony Aveni's "Creation Stories"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Creation Stories: Landscapes and the Human Imagination by Anthony Aveni.

About the book, from the publisher:
An accessible exploration of how diverse cultures have explained humanity’s origins through narratives about the natural environment

Drawing from a vast array of creation myths—Babylonian, Greek, Aztec, Maya, Inca, Chinese, Hindu, Navajo, Polynesian, African, Norse, Inuit, and more—this concise illustrated book uncovers both the similarities and differences in our attempts to explain the universe.

Anthony Aveni, an award-winning author and professor of astronomy and anthropology, examines the ways various cultures around the world have attempted to explain our origins, and what roles the natural environment plays in shaping these narratives. The book also celebrates the audacity of the human imagination.

Whether the first humans emerged from a cave, as in the Inca myths, or from bamboo stems, as the Bantu people of Africa believed, or whether the universe is simply the result of Vishnu’s cyclical inhales and exhales, each of these fascinating stories reflects a deeper understanding of the culture it arose from as well as its place in the larger human narrative.
Visit Anthony Aveni's website.

The Page 99 Test: Creation Stories.

--Marshal Zeringue

D.W. Buffa on "Brave New World"

Featured at Writers Read: D.W. Buffa, author of The Privilege.

His entry begins:
Some authors are unfortunate in when they were born, writing books that might have had an audience a generation or so earlier, but not much of one now. But some authors are unfortunate in when they died, none more so than Aldous Huxley, the author of Brave New World, who died on November 22, 1963, the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Given a few short paragraphs near the back of the newspaper, his passing was scarcely noticed or, if noticed, paid any great attention. The country had other things on its mind. In l931, however, when he wrote Brave New World, everyone paid attention. The critics, who seldom agreed on anything, dismissed it as “a thin little joke,” a literary work so bad that “nothing can bring it alive.” The public, on the other hand, could not get enough of it, which might have been a warning that the world Huxley foresaw had more of an appeal than he might have imagined.

The story is set in the distant future; a future, however, anchored in the immediate present, the present in which Aldous Huxley was living in l931. Christianity has been abolished, and with it the system of recording historical time. Instead of A.D., from the death of Christ, the years are counted A.F., from the time of Ford. Yes, that’s right: Henry Ford has taken the place of Jesus Christ. The top of...[read on]
About The Privilege, from the publisher:
Joseph Antonelli, who never lost a case he should have won and won nearly every case he should have lost, is about to see his client, Justin Friedrich, convicted for a crime he did not commit. His wife was found shot to death in the bedroom of their yacht in the San Francisco marina, and Friedrich does not have a chance. But then the real killer approaches Antonelli…

Famous and enigmatic, James Michael Redfield, the head of a high tech company that leads the world in the development of artificial intelligence, Redfield gives Antonelli evidence that proves Friedrich is innocent. But why did Redfield wait until the last minute to give Antonelli this proof?

Before Antonelli can even begin to solve that riddle, there is another murder, and Antonelli finds himself an unwilling participant in a conspiracy he does not understand. Antonelli has never known anyone like James Michael Redfield. Because for Redfield, it isn’t about murder at all; it is all about the trial. Because only a trial can show the world what Redfield believes it needs to know…no matter how many people need to die.
Visit D.W. Buffa's website.

Writers Read: D.W. Buffa.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Mary Sharratt's "Revelations"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Revelations by Mary Sharratt.

About the book, from the publisher:
A fifteenth-century Eat, Pray, Love, Revelations illuminates the intersecting lives of two female mystics who changed history—Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich.

Bishop’s Lynn, England, 1413. At the age of forty, Margery Kempe has nearly died giving birth to her fourteenth child. Fearing that another pregnancy might kill her, she makes a vow of celibacy, but she can’t trust her husband to keep his end of the bargain. Desperate for counsel, she visits the famous anchoress Dame Julian of Norwich.

Pouring out her heart, Margery confesses that she has been haunted by visceral religious visions. Julian then offers up a confession of her own: she has written a secret, radical book about her own visions, Revelations of Divine Love. Nearing the end of her life and fearing Church authorities, Julian entrusts her precious book to Margery, who sets off the adventure of a lifetime to secretly spread Julian's words.

Mary Sharratt vividly brings the medieval past to life as Margery blazes her trail across Europe and the Near East, finding her unique spiritual path and vocation. It's not in a cloistered cell like Julian, but in the full bustle of worldly existence with all its wonders and perils.
Visit Mary Sharratt's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Vanishing Point.

The Page 69 Test: The Vanishing Point.

Writers Read: Mary Sharratt (June 2007).

The Page 69 Test: Revelations.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Nick Pirog's "Jungle Up," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Jungle Up by Nick Pirog.

The entry begins:
Casting my book as a movie is one of the first steps in my writing process. I do it before I write a single word. Finding the perfect actor for each character in Jungle Up was more laborsome than my previous books simply because with two intersecting storylines, there were an abundance of roles to fill. In one storyline, retired homicide detective Thomas Prescott journeys to the middle of the Bolivian Amazon to rescue Gina Brady, a World Health Organization doctor (and ex-girlfriend) who was abducted from her village. In the other storyline, a documentary expedition (who Thomas hitched a ride down to South America with) is headed into the Bolivian jungle in search of the lost city of the Incas.

This is the fifth book featuring Thomas Prescott and I think Ryan Reynolds is just the guy to play the handsome, sarcastic, and slightly obnoxious detective extraordinaire. Readers have also mentioned they would like to see Paul Rudd, Gerard Butler, Stephen Amell, or...[read on]
Visit Nick Pirog's website.

My Book, The Movie: Jungle Up.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Colin Jerolmack's "Up to Heaven and Down to Hell"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Up to Heaven and Down to Hell: Fracking, Freedom, and Community in an American Town by Colin Jerolmack.

About the book, from the publisher:
A riveting portrait of a rural Pennsylvania town at the center of the fracking controversy

Shale gas extraction—commonly known as fracking—is often portrayed as an energy revolution that will transform the American economy and geopolitics. But in greater Williamsport, Pennsylvania, fracking is personal. Up to Heaven and Down to Hell is a vivid and sometimes heartbreaking account of what happens when one of the most momentous decisions about the well-being of our communities and our planet—whether or not to extract shale gas and oil from the very land beneath our feet—is largely a private choice that millions of ordinary people make without the public's consent.

The United States is the only country in the world where property rights commonly extend "up to heaven and down to hell," which means that landowners have the exclusive right to lease their subsurface mineral estates to petroleum companies. Colin Jerolmack spent eight months living with rural communities outside of Williamsport as they confronted the tension between property rights and the commonwealth. In this deeply intimate book, he reveals how the decision to lease brings financial rewards but can also cause irreparable harm to neighbors, to communal resources like air and water, and even to oneself.

Up to Heaven and Down to Hell casts America’s ideas about freedom and property rights in a troubling new light, revealing how your personal choices can undermine your neighbors’ liberty, and how the exercise of individual rights can bring unintended environmental consequences for us all.
Learn more about Up to Heaven and Down to Hell at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Up to Heaven and Down to Hell.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Alicia Beckman

From my Q&A with Alicia Beckman, author of Bitterroot Lake::
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The title Bitterroot Lake appeared as I neared the end of the first draft, and like love at first sight, I recognized it instantly. My previous novels are cozy mystery—the light-hearted side of the mystery world—and I was headed down an adjacent road, with a proposal for a traditional mystery series. The acquiring editor thought the first had the potential to be stand-alone suspense and I knew she was absolutely right. That meant my working title no longer fit, and also meant using a pen name. I didn’t mind either change. Only a handful of my books have come to print with their original titles, and the pen name gave me a chance to honor my late mother.

Bitterroot Lake is the story of four women who reunite unexpectedly after twenty-five years and are forced by murder to reconsider the tragedy that tore them apart. It’s also a story of fractured friendships and family ties, of the connections between women across the generations, and of the ways a place can influence us.

Not far from my home in NW Montana is a small mountain lake called Little Bitterroot. The name worked so well for this book that I didn’t hesitate to borrow it. The real lake is fairly remote and not near a town, but the surrounding area is very much that of the fictional place.

The connotations of the word “bitterroot” fit the story perfectly. The bitterroot is a ground-flower with pinkish-lavender petals native to the Northern Rockies, wild and impossible to cultivate. Meriwether Lewis, he of “undaunted courage” as historian Stephen Ambrose titled his biography, borrowing a phrase from Thomas Jefferson, named the plant, which is sacred to the native tribes of Western Montana. It is now the state flower. It is pure loveliness, a brief life that returns each year. And yet, the name hints at secrets, that something deeply rooted has left a bitter taste, sown discord.

The unexpected gathering at the center of the story takes place at a lakeside lodge owned by the family of the main character, Sarah McCaskill Carter. And there is something inherently mysterious, even ominous, about “lake” in a title.

So the title is both geography and metaphor, taking us to a place and setting the mood for the journey. Ultimately...[read on]
Visit Leslie Budewitz's & Alicia Beckman's website.

The Page 69 Test: Bitterroot Lake.

Q&A with Alicia Beckman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books about Colombia

Julianne Pachico was born in 1985 in Cambridge, England. She grew up in Cali, Colombia, where her parents worked in international as agricultural social scientists.

In 2004 she moved to Portland, Oregon, where she completed her B.A. at Reed College in Comparative Literature. In 2012 she returned to England in order to complete her M.A. in Prose Fiction at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, where she was a recipient of UEA's Creative Writing International Scholarship. She also holds a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing from UEA.

Pachico's latest novel is The Anthill.

At the Guardian she tagged her ten favorite books about Colombia, including:
Liveforever by Andrés Caicedo, translated by Frank Wynne

A cult novel, the Spanish title of Liveforever is ¡Que viva la música! (Long Live Music!). Music is the book’s obsessive focus, as the story follows a young woman’s infatuation with salsa and rock, and her slow but steady descent into the underbelly of Cali, my home town. Nothing and no one is off limits, and there are no boundaries. Caicedo killed himself at the age 25, and the chaotic energy and underlying melancholy of Liveforever make you realise what a terrible loss his death was to literature.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Pg. 69: James L. Cambias's "The Godel Operation"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Godel Operation by James L. Cambias.

About the book, from the publisher:
Science fiction at its sense-of-wonder best. A wild chase through the billion worlds of the Tenth Millennium in search of a mythical weapon that could save civilization—or doom it!


Daslakh is an AI with a problem. Its favorite human, a young man named Zee, is in love with a woman who never existed — and he will scour the Solar System to find her. But in the Tenth Millennium a billion worlds circle the Sun—everything from terraformed planets to artificial habitats, home to a quadrillion beings.

Daslakh's nicely settled life gets more complicated when Zee helps a woman named Adya escape a gang of crooks. This gets the pair caught up in the hunt for the Godel Trigger, a legendary weapon left over from an ancient war between humans and machines—which could spell the end of civilization.

In their search, they face a criminal cat and her henchmen, a paranoid supermind with a giant laser, the greatest thief in history, and a woman who might actually be Zee's lost love.

It's up to Daslakh to save civilization, keep Zee's love life on the right track—and make sure that nobody discovers the real secret of the Godel Trigger.
Visit James L. Cambias's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Darkling Sea.

Writers Read: James L. Cambias (January 2019).

My Book, The Movie: Arkad's World.

The Page 69 Test: Arkad's World.

My Book, The Movie: The Godel Operation.

Q&A with James L. Cambias.

The Page 69 Test: The Godel Operation.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Thomas Nail's "Theory of the Earth"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Theory of the Earth by Thomas Nail.

About the book, from the publisher:
We need a new philosophy of the earth. Geological time used to refer to slow and gradual processes, but today we are watching land sink into the sea and forests transform into deserts. We can even see the creation of new geological strata made of plastic, chicken bones, and other waste that could remain in the fossil record for millennia or longer. Crafting a philosophy of geology that rewrites natural and human history from the broader perspective of movement, Thomas Nail provides a new materialist, kinetic ethics of the earth that speaks to this moment.

Climate change and other ecological disruptions challenge us to reconsider the deep history of minerals, atmosphere, plants, and animals and to take a more process-oriented perspective that sees humanity as part of the larger cosmic and terrestrial drama of mobility and flow. Building on his earlier work on the philosophy of movement, Nail argues that we should shift our biocentric emphasis from conservation to expenditure, flux, and planetary diversity. Theory of the Earth urges us to rethink our ethical relationship to one another, the planet, and the cosmos at large.
Visit Thomas Nail's blog.

The Page 99 Test: Theory of the Earth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Anne Hillerman

From my Q&A with Anne Hillerman, author of Stargazer: A Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Stargazer is a one-word work horse. It describes the victim, an astronomer whose murder drives the mystery. It also speaks to at least two of the main subplots---one that concerns aviation and a second that involves planning for the future, seeing ahead, and the like—metaphorically studying the stars to see what they hold. Because the story concerns both the murder of an astronomer, fear of flying, and at least two of the major characters’ struggle with how to shape their destinies, I love this title.

Titles usually arrive in my brain around the time I’ve finished the first draft. That was true for Stargazer and I am...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Anne Hillerman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Spider Woman's Daughter.

The Page 69 Test: Spider Woman's Daughter.

The Page 69 Test: Song of the Lion.

The Page 69 Test: The Tale Teller.

Q&A with Anne Hillerman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight top books about the power dynamics between parents & children

Kirstin Valdez Quade is the author of The Five Wounds, her debut novel. Her story collection, Night at the Fiestas, won the John Leonard Prize from the National Book Critics Circle, the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a “5 Under 35” award from the National Book Foundation, and was a finalist for the New York Public Library Young Lions Award. It was named a New York Times Notable Book and a best book of 2015 by the San Francisco Chronicle and the American Library Association. Quade is the recipient of the John Guare Writer’s Fund Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award, a grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation, and a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Best American Short Stories, The O. Henry Prize Stories, The New York Times, and elsewhere. She is an assistant professor at Princeton.

At Electric Lit Quade tagged "eight books about the power dynamics between parents and their children," including:
Cartwheel by Jennifer duBois

What do you do when you get a call informing you that your bright, independent daughter, who is spending her junior year abroad, is in jail for murder? Jennifer duBois’s Cartwheel is a compassionate and insightful exploration of a ripped-from-the-headlines nightmare scenario. When the story opens, Andrew Hayes has just landed in Buenos Aires, ready to rescue his daughter and sort out the situation, but already the tabloids and internet sleuths have begun to comb through Lily’s online presence and form their narratives, and he must confront the many versions of his daughter sweeping across the internet. Jennifer duBois’s subject is how we reveal ourselves in the stories we tell, and how in the search for truth, truth can become ever more elusive.
Read about another entry on the list.

Cartwheel is among Megan Reynolds's ten books you must read if you loved Gone Girl.

The Page 69 Test: Cartwheel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Martine Bailey’s "The Prophet," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Prophet by Martine Bailey.

The entry begins:
My heroine Tabitha is a former London courtesan who reluctantly returned to her home village. Recently married and expecting her first child, she is a clever risk-taker. To play her I had in mind Crystal Laity’s performance as harlot Margaret Vosper in Poldark, a mix of sharp wits, charm and physical allure.

Tabitha is married to Nat De Vallory, a former hack writer and the unexpected heir to Bold Hall. Hiding his connection to the victim, he struggles with his new position. Fascinated by the local prophet he makes an ill-judged test of Gunn’s powers to foresee the future. No apologies for casting...[read on]
Visit Martine Bailey's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: An Appetite for Violets.

The Page 69 Test: An Appetite for Violets.

My Book, The Movie: A Taste for Nightshade.

My Book, The Movie: The Almanack.

My Book, The Movie: The Prophet.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Steven Feldstein's "The Rise of Digital Repression"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Rise of Digital Repression: How Technology is Reshaping Power, Politics, and Resistance by Steven Feldstein.

About the book, from the publisher:
The world is undergoing a profound set of digital disruptions that are changing the nature of how governments counter dissent and assert control over their countries. While increasing numbers of people rely primarily or exclusively on online platforms, authoritarian regimes have concurrently developed a formidable array of technological capabilities to constrain and repress their citizens.

In The Rise of Digital Repression, Steven Feldstein documents how the emergence of advanced digital tools bring new dimensions to political repression. Presenting new field research from Thailand, the Philippines, and Ethiopia, he investigates the goals, motivations, and drivers of these digital tactics. Feldstein further highlights how governments pursue digital strategies based on a range of factors: ongoing levels of repression, political leadership, state capacity, and technological development. The international community, he argues, is already seeing glimpses of what the frontiers of repression look like. For instance, Chinese authorities have brought together mass surveillance, censorship, DNA collection, and artificial intelligence to enforce their directives in Xinjiang. As many of these trends go global, Feldstein shows how this has major implications for democracies and civil society activists around the world.

A compelling synthesis of how anti-democratic leaders harness powerful technology to advance their political objectives, The Rise of Digital Repression concludes by laying out innovative ideas and strategies for civil society and opposition movements to respond to the digital autocratic wave.
Learn more about The Rise of Digital Repression at the Oxford University Press website, and follow Steven Feldstein on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: The Rise of Digital Repression.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Mary Alice Monroe's "The Summer of Lost and Found"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Summer of Lost and Found (The Beach House) by Mary Alice Monroe.

About the book, from the publisher:
The New York Times bestselling Beach House series returns with this tender and compassionate novel following the Rutledge family as they face a summer of upheaval and change with perseverance, unity, and a dose of humor, discovering unexpected joys and lessons that will endure long past the season.

The coming of Spring usually means renewal, but for Linnea Rutledge, Spring 2020 threatens stagnation. Linnea faces another layoff, this time from the aquarium she adores. For her—and her family—finances, emotions, and health teeter at the brink. To complicate matters, her new love interest, Gordon, struggles to return to the Isle of Palms from England. Meanwhile, her old flame, John, turns up from California and is quarantining next door. She tries to ignore him, but when he sends her plaintive notes in the form of paper airplanes, old sparks ignite. When Gordon at last reaches the island, Linnea wonders—is it possible to love two men at the same time?

Love in the time of the coronavirus proves challenging, at times humorous, and ever changing. Relationships are redefined, friendships made and broken, and marriages tested. As the weeks turn to months, and another sea turtle season comes to a close, Linnea learns there are more meaningful lessons learned during this summer than opportunities lost, that summer is a time of wonder, and that the exotic lives in our own back yards. In The Summer of Lost and Found, Linnea and the Rutledge family continue to face their challenges with the strength, faith, and commitment that has inspired fans for decades.

Mary Alice Monroe once again delves into the complexities of family relationships and brings her signature “sensitive and true” (Dorothea Benton Frank, New York Times bestselling author) storytelling to this poignant and timely novel of love, courage, and resilience.
Visit Mary Alice Monroe's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Summer of Lost and Found.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten creepiest gothic novels

Elizabeth Brooks’ debut novel, The Orphan of Salt Winds, was hailed by BuzzFeed as “evocative, gothic, and utterly transportive.” She grew up in Chester, England, graduated from Cambridge University, and resides on the Isle of Man with her husband and two children.

Brooks’ new novel is The Whispering House.

At Publishers Weekly she tagged ten of the creepiest gothic novels, including:
Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller

The haunted house trope seems inexhaustible: novelists are drawn back to it, time and again, and the best of them will always find a fresh approach. Fuller’s third novel unfolds at Lyntons, a dilapidated stately home in England, over an obscenely hot summer in 1969. The middle-aged narrator—awkward, lonely Frances Jellico—has been employed to stay at Lyntons in order to catalogue the gardens for its absent American owner. She is joined there by Peter and Cara, a charming and self-possessed young couple to whom she finds herself increasingly, and uncomfortably, attracted. As in all the best ghost stories, the supernatural elements are ambivalent–as much a projection of Frances’s disturbed mental state as of the house itself.
Read about another entry on the list.

Bitter Orange is among Alison Wisdom's seven top thrillers featuring communal living.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 03, 2021

Q&A with James L. Cambias

From my Q&A with James L. Cambias, author of The Godel Operation:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I picked The Godel Operation very specifically because it sounds like one of a series of adventures. I plan to write other adventures in the Billion Worlds setting, involving some of the same characters, so I wanted a name with an obvious structure for future variations. So at present I'm writing another novel in the same setting called The Scarab Mission, and I just finished a short story for an upcoming Baen anthology called "The Paoshi Puzzle."

Now for short fiction I don't plan to be quite as locked into the structure of "The Name Thing" forever but since that particular short story is sort of a prequel to The Godel Operation it seemed appropriate. I have two other Billion Worlds stories which don't follow that pattern: "Calando" in Athena Andreadis's anthology Retellings From the Inland Seas, and "Out of the Dark" in John Joseph Adams's collection Lost Worlds and Mythological Kingdoms.

The title does have significance within the story. The "Godel Trigger" is the legendary MacGuffin my characters are pursuing in the novel. So one of the characters could well refer to these events as the "Godel Operation." Though they'd probably call it...[read on]
Visit James L. Cambias's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Darkling Sea.

Writers Read: James L. Cambias (January 2019).

My Book, The Movie: Arkad's World.

The Page 69 Test: Arkad's World.

My Book, The Movie: The Godel Operation.

Q&A with James L. Cambias.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven great thrillers that play with form

Amy Suiter Clarke is a writer and communications specialist. Originally from a small town in Minnesota, she completed an undergraduate in theater in the Twin Cities. She then moved to London and earned an MFA in Creative Writing with Publishing at Kingston University. She currently works for a university library in Melbourne, Australia.

Clarke's debut novel is Girl, 11.

[The Page 69 Test: Girl, 11]

At CrimeReads she tagged seven favorite thrillers that play with the writing form, including:
They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall

Unbeaten for its use of symbolism and metaphor, Howzell Hall’s contemporary interpretation of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None makes use of emails throughout the novel to build suspense and mislead the reader. The main character, Miriam Macy, is thrilled when she receives an email congratulating her on winning an all-expenses-paid trip to a private island. As things take a dark turn in this strange group of strangers, the snippets of emails from the contest organizers, as well as emails between Miriam and her daughter back home, start to take on a sinister tone as the reader learns that none of the characters in this book is reliable in what they’re telling each other—or themselves.
Read about another entry on the list.

They All Fall Down is among Catriona McPherson's five top mystery novels set on islands, CrimeReads' ten best crime novels of 2019, Kristen Lepionka's seven favorite unlikable female characters.

The Page 69 Test: They All Fall Down.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Gail Crowther's "Three-Martini Afternoons at the Ritz"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Three-Martini Afternoons at the Ritz: The Rebellion of Sylvia Plath & Anne Sexton by Gail Crowther.

About the book, from the publisher:
A vividly rendered and empathetic exploration of how two of the greatest poets of the 20th century—Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton—became bitter rivals and, eventually, friends.

Introduced at a workshop in Boston University led by the acclaimed and famous poet Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton formed a friendship that would soon evolve into a fierce rivalry, colored by jealousy and respect in equal terms.

In the years that followed, these two women would not only become iconic figures in literature, but also lead curiously parallel lives haunted by mental illness, suicide attempts, self-doubt, and difficult personal relationships. With weekly martini meetings at the Ritz to discuss everything from sex to suicide, theirs was a relationship as complex and subversive as their poetry.

Based on in-depth research and unprecedented archival access, Three-Martini Afternoons at the Ritz is a remarkable and unforgettable look at two legendary poets and how their work has turned them into lasting and beloved cultural figures.
Visit Gail Crowther's website.

The Page 99 Test: Three-Martini Afternoons at the Ritz.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 02, 2021

James L. Cambias's "The Godel Operation," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: The Godel Operation by James L. Cambias.

The entry begins:
The Godel Operation is a tricky book to cast, in part because at least two of the main characters are faceless machines or cyborgs, and thus would rely heavily on voice actors. Still, recent superhero spectaculars have shown that there's almost no limit left to what can be filmed. So here are my thoughts on casting The Godel Operation.

Zee Sadaran is my "leading man" character: young, athletic, very good-natured, and smarter than most people who meet him realize. He's on a journey across the Solar System to find his lost love, which is an almost hopeless quest since there are literally a billion worlds circling the Sun at the end of the Tenth Millennium. If we stick to contemporary actors, Channing Tatum or Adam Beach would be good candidates. If I can pluck anyone from time and space I think I'd cast the late Brandon Lee.

Daslakh, the narrator, is a spider-shaped machine controlled by a smart aleck digital intelligence. It is helping Zee on his quest but has a secret agenda of its own. It constantly describes itself as "old and cunning" so I'd choose a voice actor with a good deadpan comedy delivery. Alan Tudyk is the obvious choice, with...[read on]
Visit James L. Cambias's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Darkling Sea.

Writers Read: James L. Cambias (January 2019).

My Book, The Movie: Arkad's World.

The Page 69 Test: Arkad's World.

My Book, The Movie: The Godel Operation.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Sofía Segovia

From my Q&A with Sofía Segovia, author of Tears of Amber:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The original title in Spanish is Peregrinos — Pilgrims— in honor of the oldest and most shared human story of exodus and migration. It didn’t work in English, especially in the US because of the foundational story, and so it had to change. I love the title Tears of Amber because it shows the subtle fantastical element of the story, but it also directly connects the stories of Arno and Ilse. I chose both (Spanish and English titles) in the hope to intrigue, but I know they are still on the abstract side of things. In other words, they don’t give the story away from the get go, but I hope they become clear in the process and still resonate strongly when the reader...[read on]
Visit Sofía Segovia's website.

The Page 69 Test: Tears of Amber.

Q&A with Sofía Segovia.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Amy Suiter Clarke's "Girl, 11"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Girl, 11 by Amy Suiter Clarke.

About the book, from the publisher:
Elle Castillo once trained as a social worker, supporting young victims of violent crime. Now she hosts a popular true crime podcast that focuses on cold cases of missing and abducted children.

After four seasons of successfully solving these cases in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, Elle decides to tackle her white whale: The Countdown Killer. Twenty years ago, TCK was terrorizing the community, kidnapping and ritualistically murdering three girls over seven days, each a year younger than the last. Then, after he took his eleven-year-old victim, the pattern—and the murders—abruptly stopped. No one has ever known why.

When Elle follows up on a listener tip only to discover the man’s dead body, she feels at fault. Then, within days, a child is abducted—a young girl who seems to fit suspiciously into the TCK sequence halted decades before. While media and law enforcement long ago concluded that TCK had suicided, Elle has never believed TCK was dead. She had hoped her investigation would lay that suspicion to rest, but her podcast seems instead to be inciting new victims.
Visit Amy Suiter Clarke's website.

The Page 69 Test: Girl, 11.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven books that imagine a world without men

Christina Sweeney-Baird was born in 1993 and grew up in North London and Glasgow. She studied Law at the University of Cambridge and graduated with a First in 2015. She works as a corporate litigation lawyer in London.

The End of Men is her first novel.

At Eletric Lit Sweeney-Baird tagged "seven books that show, in some way, what a world could look like without men," including:
Outlawed by Anna North

This short, perfectly-plotted novel follows Ada as she is forced to leave her town and becomes an outlaw. Set in the 1800s, decades after a plague has killed the majority of the population, it’s a woman’s ability to bear children that determines her value and safety in this new world. Ada finds a gang of outlaws—all women and non-binary people—who have created a safe oasis for themselves outside of the confines of this dystopian world.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Outlawed.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 01, 2021

Coffee with a canine: Ann Garvin & Peanut

Featured at Coffee with a Canine: Ann Garvin & Peanut.

The author, on the real Peanut's connection with the over-sized diabetic Great Pyrenees of the same name in her new novel, I Thought You Said This Would Work:
I liked the idea that a Great Pyrenees would have a diminutive name. Also, it was a stunning moment of a lack of imagination on my part. They are alike as they both have serious issues with personal space. Peanut is constantly asking with his eyes, is this too close? Peanut from the book understands so much more than my Peanut. Book-Peanut is much...[read on]
About Garvin's new novel I Thought You Said This Would Work, from the publisher:
A road trip can drive anyone over the edge—especially two former best friends—in bestselling author Ann Garvin’s funny and poignant novel about broken bonds, messy histories, and the power of forgiveness.

Widowed Samantha Arias hasn’t spoken to Holly Dunfee in forever. It’s for the best. Samantha prefers to avoid conflict. The blisteringly honest Holly craves it. What they still have in common puts them both back on speed dial: a mutual love for Katie, their best friend of twenty-five years, now hospitalized with cancer and needing one little errand from her old college roomies.

It’s simple: travel cross-country together, steal her loathsome ex-husband’s VW camper, find Katie’s diabetic Great Pyrenees at a Utah rescue, and drive him back home to Wisconsin. If it’ll make Katie happy, no favor is too big (one hundred pounds), too daunting (two thousand miles), or too illegal (ish), even when a boho D-list celebrity hitches a ride and drives the road trip in fresh directions.

Samantha and Holly are following every new turn—toward second chances, unexpected romance, and self-discovery—and finally blowing the dust off the secret that broke their friendship. On the open road, they’ll try to put it back together—for themselves, and especially for the love of Katie.
Visit Ann Garvin's website.

Writers Read: Ann Garvin (July 2014).

My Book, The Movie: The Dog Year.

The Page 69 Test: The Dog Year.

Coffee with a Canine: Ann Garvin & Peanut.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six top revenge thrillers & chillers

New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist Joshilyn Jackson is the author of ten books, including Mother May I, The Almost Sisters, and Never Have I Ever.

[The Page 69 Test: The Girl Who Stopped SwimmingMy Book, The Movie: The Girl Who Stopped SwimmingThe Page 69 Test: Backseat SaintsThe Page 69 Test: A Grown-Up Kind of PrettyThe Page 69 Test: The Opposite of EveryoneMy Book, The Movie: The Opposite of Everyone.]

At CrimeReads Jackson tagged six favorite thrillers and chillers that feature the kind of “getting even” narrative she loves, including:
After the Flood, by Kassandra Montag

Kassandra Montag’s speculative, action-packed thriller takes place in a watery post-apocalyptic nightmare-scape. It’s narrated by Myra, a woman on a quest to find the child that was stolen by her own husband. Her heart is filled with rage at her betrayals and a desire to put right all that has been done to her. Her dangerous quest is complicated by the presence of her other child, seven year old Pearl, and the group of fellow survivors they join up with along the way. It’s a harrowing and intense ride that’s cathartic and also strangely hopeful.
Read about another entry on the list.

After the Flood is among Tosca Lee's seven top books from the end of the world.

My Book, The Movie: After the Flood.

The Page 69 Test: After the Flood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jo Napolitano's "The School I Deserve"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The School I Deserve: Six Young Refugees and Their Fight for Equality in America by Jo Napolitano.

About the book, from the publisher:
Uncovers the key civil rights battle that immigrant children fought alongside the ACLU to ensure equal access to education within a xenophobic nation

Journalist Jo Napolitano delves into the landmark case in which the School District of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was sued for refusing to admit older, non-English speaking refugees and sending them to a high-discipline alternative school. In a legal battle that mirrors that of the Little Rock Nine and Brown v. Board of Education, 6 brave refugee students fought alongside the ACLU and Education Law Center to demand equal access. The School I Deserve illuminates the lack of support immigrant and refugee children face in our public school system and presents a hopeful future where all children can receive an equal education regardless of race, ethnicity, or their country of origin.

One of the students, Khadidja Issa, fled the horrific violence in war-torn Sudan with the hope of a safer life in the United States, where she could enroll in school and eventually become a nurse. Instead, she was turned away by the School District of Lancaster before she was eventually enrolled in one of its alternative schools, a campus run by a for-profit company facing multiple abuse allegations. Napolitano follows Khadidja as she joins the lawsuit as a plaintiff in the Issa v. School District of Lancaster case, a legal battle that took place right before Donald Trump’s presidential election, when immigrants and refugees were maligned on a national stage. The fiery week-long showdown between the ACLU and the school district was ultimately decided by a conservative judge who issued a shocking ruling with historic implications. The School I Deserve brings to light this crucial and underreported case, which paved the way to equal access to education for countless immigrants and refugees to come.
Visit Jo Napolitano's website.

The Page 99 Test: The School I Deserve.

--Marshal Zeringue