Monday, May 31, 2021

Five top fiction titles about Hollywood

Katherine St. John is a native of Mississippi and a graduate of the University of Southern California who spent over a decade in the film industry as an actress, screenwriter, and director before turning to penning novels. When she's not writing, she can be found hiking or on the beach with a good book. St. John currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two daughters.

She is the author of The Lion's Den and The Siren.

[Q&A with Katherine St. John]

At Lit Hub St. John tagged five of her top fiction reads about Hollywood, including:
Taylor Jenkins Reid, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Taylor Jenkins Reid has an ability to personalize characters in such a way that you feel like you really know them, and she brings Evelyn Hugo alive so specifically that you may forget you’re reading about a fictional character. Falling somewhere on the spectrum between Elizabeth Taylor and Greta Garbo, Evelyn Hugo is a deeply flawed yet incredibly brave classic movie star with a glamorous past that is not as envious as it seems. The premise of the book is that Evelyn is finally ready to tell the truth about her flamboyant life, and tale she spins for the young journalist she plucks from obscurity is both captivating and tragic.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Karen Schrier's "We the Gamers"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: We the Gamers: How Games Teach Ethics and Civics by Karen Schrier.

About the book, from the publisher:
Distrust. Division. Disparity. Is our world in disrepair?

Ethics and civics have always mattered, but perhaps they matter now more than ever before. Recently, with the rise of online teaching and movements like #PlayApartTogether, games have become increasingly acknowledged as platforms for civic deliberation and value sharing. We the Gamers explores these possibilities by examining how we connect, communicate, analyze, and discover when we play games. Combining research-based perspectives and current examples, this volume shows how games can be used in ethics, civics, and social studies education to inspire learning, critical thinking, and civic change.

We the Gamers introduces and explores various educational frameworks through a range of games and interactive experiences including board and card games, online games, virtual reality and augmented reality games, and digital games like Minecraft, Executive Command, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, Fortnite, When Rivers Were Trails, Politicraft, Quandary, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The book systematically evaluates the types of skills, concepts, and knowledge needed for civic and ethical engagement, and details how games can foster these skills in classrooms, remote learning environments, and other educational settings. We the Gamers also explores the obstacles to learning with games and how to overcome those obstacles by encouraging equity and inclusion, care and compassion, and fairness and justice.

Featuring helpful tips and case studies, We the Gamers shows teachers the strengths and limitations of games in helping students connect with civics and ethics, and imagines how we might repair and remake our world through gaming, together.
Visit Karen Schrier's website.

The Page 99 Test: We the Gamers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: J. William Lewis's "The Essence of Nathan Biddle"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Essence of Nathan Biddle by J. William Lewis.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Essence of Nathan Biddle is a timeless coming-of-age tale that, as novelist David Armstrong observed, “is like discovering The Catcher in the Rye all over again.” Protagonist Kit Biddle is a rising prep school senior who finds himself tangled in a web of spiritual quandaries and intellectual absurdities. Kit’s angst is compounded by a unique psychological burden he is forced to carry: his intelligent but unstable Uncle Nat has committed an unspeakable act on what, according to the Uncle’s deranged account, were direct orders from God.

The tragedy haunting his family follows Kit like a dark and foreboding cloud, exacerbating his already compulsive struggle with existential questions about the meaning of his life. When the brilliant, perhaps phantasmic, Anna dismisses him, Kit quickly spirals into despair and self-destruction. But when his irrational decision to steal a maintenance truck and speed aimlessly down the highway ends in a horrific accident and months of both physical and emotional convalescence, Kit is forced to examine his perceptions of his life and his version of reality.

In this exquisite bildungsroman, calamity leads to fresh perspectives and new perceptions: it focuses Kit’s mind and forces him to confront the issues that plague him. Readers will empathize—and celebrate—as the darkness lifts and Kit comes to terms with the necessity of engagement with life’s pain, pleasure ... and absurdity.

An intelligent, clever, and captivating tale, The Essence of Nathan Biddle soars in the spaces that exist between despair and hope, darkness and light, love and loss. Beautifully written, profoundly moving, and resplendent with characters destined to remain with you long after the last page is turned, The Essence of Nathan Biddle is unforgettable.
Visit J. William Lewis's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Essence of Nathan Biddle.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Q&A with Sally Cabot Gunning

From my Q&A with Sally Cabot Gunning, author of Painting the Light: A Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

An art teacher once told me my job was to the paint the light, but before I could paint the light, I needed some dark to put it on. In Painting the Light, artist Ida Pease is struggling to regain her career after an impulsive marriage goes wrong; she lands on a sheep farm on Martha’s Vineyard where she works to push back the dark and learn how to paint that incandescent Vineyard light, both inside and out. Hence the title.

What's in a name?

Painting the Light is set on Martha’s Vineyard in 1898. In order to capture the sense of the time and the place, I...[read on]
Learn more about the author and her work at Sally Cabot Gunning's website.

The Page 69 Test: Bound.

The Page 69 Test: The Rebellion of Jane Clarke.

Q&A with Sally Cabot Gunning.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven darkly humorous books about relationships

Emma Duffy-Comparone’s fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, New England Review, One Story, AGNI, The Sun, The Pushcart Prize XXXIX & XLI, and elsewhere. A recipient of awards from the Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers’ Conferences, the MacDowell Colony, the Yaddo Corporation, and the Elizabeth George Foundation, she is an assistant professor of creative writing at Merrimack College.

Love Like That is Duffy-Comparone’s first published book.

At Electric Lit she tagged seven "books that break up the dark with some light, whose characters make me laugh and wince with recognition." One title on the list:
The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler

Anne Tyler is a master of the dark/light thing. The backdrop of this novel is deeply sad—Macon Leary’s young son has been killed in a robbery, and in the opening pages his wife asks for a divorce—but a warm, humorous quirkiness soon fills the pages of the book, whether it’s Macon’s adult siblings, who organize their pantry alphabetically, or Muriel Pritchett, the eccentric dog-trainer he falls in love with. One of my favorite scenes is early in the book when Macon, reeling from his recent separation, devises a ridiculous housework system:

“What he did was strip the mattress of all linens, replacing them with a giant sort of envelope made from one of the seven sheets he had folded and stitched together on the sewing machine…At moments—while he was skidding on the mangled clothes in the bathtub or struggling into his body bag on the naked, rust-stained mattress—he realized that he might be carrying things too far. He couldn’t explain why, either.”
Read about another entry on the list.

The Accidental Tourist is among Laura Lippman's top ten books about Baltimore.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Samuel Clark's "Good Lives"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Good Lives: Autobiography, Self-Knowledge, Narrative, and Self-Realization by Samuel Clark.

About the book, from the publisher:
Reasoning with autobiography is a way to self-knowledge. We can learn about ourselves, as human beings and as individuals, by reading, thinking through, and arguing about this distinctive kind of text. Reasoning with Edmund Gosse's Father and Son is a way of learning about the nature of the good life and the roles that pleasure and self-expression can play in it. Reasoning with Siegfried Sassoon's Memoirs is a way of learning about transformative experience, self-alienation, and therefore the nature of the self. Good Lives: Autobiography, Self-Knowledge, Narrative, and Self-Realization develops this claim by answering a series of questions: What is an autobiography? How can we learn about ourselves from reading one? On what subjects does autobiography teach? What should we learn about them? In particular, given that autobiographies are narratives, should we learn something about the importance of narrative in human life? Could our storytelling about our own lives make sense of them as wholes, unify them over time, or make them good for us? Could storytelling make the self?

Samuel Clark provides an authoritative critique of narrative and a defence of a self-realization account of the self and its good. He investigates the wide range of extant accounts of the self and of the good life, and defends pluralist realism about self-knowledge by reading and reasoning with autobiographies of self-discovery, martial life, and solitude. The volume concludes by showing that autobiography can be reasoning in pursuit of self-knowledge; each of us is an unchosen, initially opaque, seedlike self; our good is the development and expression of our latent capacities, which is our individual self-realization; and self-narration plays much less role in our lives than some thinkers have supposed, and the development and expression of potential much more.
Learn more about Good Lives at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Good Lives.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Patrick Chiles's "Frontier," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Frontier by Patrick Chiles.

The entry begins:
Frontier is the story of Marshall Hunter, a newly commissioned Space Force officer, and his adventures aboard the first orbital patrol ship, the U.S.S. Borman. He only wants to fly and is disappointed when what seems like a plum assignment ends up being what he calls “garbage duty.” They spend a lot of time taking care of dead satellites and clearing debris in orbit (which in the real space economy is going to be hugely important). He’s anxious to explore and not just fly in circles around the Earth, and he’ll get his chance when a civilian deep-space mission goes missing and the Borman is sent to find them. In the meantime, they find out that all of these wayward satellites are part of someone else’s plan to create chaos in the new orbital economy, and it may have something to do with the missing civilians they’re after.

Though I didn’t really have anyone in mind when I wrote the book, I think Tom Holland would be good as Marshall. His take on Spider Man in the Marvel movies was really appealing—the nerdy teenager who can hardly believe the awesome stuff he’s gotten involved in. Marshall’s a few years older than that, but he has the same sense of wonder and excitement and is a little scared because...[read on]
Visit Patrick Chiles's website.

The Page 69 Test: Frozen Orbit.

Coffee with a Canine: Patrick Chiles & Frankie and Beanie.

My Book, The Movie: Frontier.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Connie Berry's "The Art of Betrayal"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Art of Betrayal by Connie Berry.

About the book, from the publisher:
In Connie Berry’s third Kate Hamilton mystery, American antique dealer Kate Hamilton’s spring is cut short when a body turns up at the May Fair pageant.

Spring is a magical time in England–bluebells massing along the woodland paths, primrose and wild thyme dotting the meadows. Antiques dealer Kate Hamilton is spending the month of May in the Suffolk village of Long Barston, enjoying precious time with Detective Inspector Tom Mallory. While attending the May Fair, the annual pageant based on a well-known Anglo-Saxon folktale, a body turns up in the middle of the festivities.

Kate is even more shocked when she learns the murder took place in antiquity shop owner Ivor Tweedy’s stockroom and a valuable Chinese pottery jar that she had been tasked with finding a buyer for has been stolen. Ivor may be ruined. Insurance won’t cover a fraction of the loss.

As Tom leads the investigation, Kate begins to see puzzling parallels between the murder and local legends. The more she learns, the more convinced she is that the solution to both crimes lies in the misty depths of Anglo-Saxon history and a generations-old pattern of betrayal. It’s up to Kate to unravel this Celtic knot of lies and deception to save Ivor’s business.
Visit Connie Berry's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Art of Betrayal.

--Marshal Zeringue

Twelve great books about the New York underworld

David Gordon was born in New York City. His first novel, The Serialist, won the VCU/Cabell First Novel Award and was a finalist for an Edgar Award. It was also made into a major motion picture in Japan. His work has also appeared in The Paris Review, The New York Times, Purple, and Fence, among other publications.

[The Page 69 Test: The SerialistThe Page 69 Test: Mystery GirlThe Page 69 Test: White Tiger on Snow MountainWriters Read: David Gordon (August 2019)The Page 69 Test: The Hard StuffQ&A with David Gordon.]

Gordon's new novel, Against the Law, is his third installment in the Joe the Bouncer series.

At CrimeReads he tagged twelve "favorite books about outlaw New York," including:
Snakes Can’t Run, by Ed Lin

The final book on the list comes full circle: a crime series by a contemporary writer, set in a vanished New York familiar from my own childhood. Raymond Chow is an NYPD detective working in Chinatown in 1976, investigating a human trafficking ring while the threat of terrorism hangs over lower Manhattan. (Except back then it was the FALN, a Puerto Rican independence group, that had everyone on high alert.) Along with the humor, smarts, insight and humanity of his writing, Lin pulls off a double wonder: a detailed portrait of a neighborhood and culture largely unknown to outsiders, and a historical period piece that dives deep into 70s New York. Every word of Lin’s books rings true.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Snakes Can't Run.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 28, 2021

Pg. 99: Theodora Dragostinova's "The Cold War from the Margins"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Cold War from the Margins: A Small Socialist State on the Global Cultural Scene by Theodora K. Dragostinova.

About the book, from the publisher:
In The Cold War from the Margins, Theodora K. Dragostinova reappraises the global 1970s from the perspective of a small socialist state—Bulgaria—and its cultural engagements with the Balkans, the West, and the Third World. During this anxious decade, Bulgaria's communist leadership invested heavily in cultural diplomacy to bolster its legitimacy at home and promote its agendas abroad. Bulgarians traveled the world to open museum exhibitions, show films, perform music, and showcase the cultural heritage and future aspirations of their "ancient yet modern" country.

As Dragostinova shows, these encounters transcended the Cold War's bloc mentality: Bulgaria's relations with Greece and Austria warmed, émigrés once considered enemies were embraced, and new cultural ties were forged with India, Mexico, and Nigeria. Pursuing contact with the West and solidarity with the Global South boosted Bulgaria's authoritarian regime by securing new allies and unifying its population. Complicating familiar narratives of both the 1970s and late socialism, The Cold War from the Margins places the history of socialism in an international context and recovers alternative models of global interconnectivity along East-South lines.
Follow Theodora Dragostinova on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: The Cold War from the Margins.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Mariah Fredericks

From my Q&A with Mariah Fredericks, author of Death of a Showman (A Jane Prescott Novel, Volume 4):
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The titles for the Jane Prescott series usually come pretty easily. Death of a Showman was always Death of a Showman, except for a brief time when it was Death of an American Showman. First, there’s the helpful echo of The Greatest Showman, and who doesn’t love Hugh Jackman. It immediately suggests a time of American ebullience and bravado, with a slight whiff of chicanery. Even fraud. The title tells us the showman is killed. Why? Was the entertainment not good enough? What was all the razzle dazzle hiding? You think of the Wizard of Oz: Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain! The little con artist pretending to be a great and powerful being.

Or it can also make you think of the desperation of performing. People who wear themselves out to keep the feet moving and the big smile on their face.

There are several characters you might call showmen in the book, but only two impresarios in the mold of...[read on]
Visit Mariah Fredericks's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Girl in the Park.

The Page 69 Test: A Death of No Importance.

My Book, The Movie: Death of an American Beauty.

The Page 69 Test: Death of an American Beauty.

Q&A with Mariah Fredericks.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books about ballet

Erin Kelly is the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Poison Tree, The Sick Rose, The Burning Air, The Ties That Bind, He Said/She Said, Stone Mothers and Broadchurch: The Novel, inspired by the mega-hit TV series. In 2013, The Poison Tree became a major ITV drama and was a Richard & Judy Summer Read in 2011. He Said/She Said spent six weeks in the top ten in both hardback and paperback, was longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier crime novel of the year award, and selected for both the Simon Mayo Radio 2 and Richard & Judy Book Clubs.

Kelly's latest novel is Watch Her Fall.

At the Guardian she tagged ten of the best books about ballet, including:
Ballerina by Deirdre Kelly

This is a comprehensive history of the ballet from its origins in the French courts, when the positions were more etiquette than art, and dancers were as much courtesans as artists. The book’s subtitle is Sex, Scandal, and Suffering Behind the Symbol of Perfection, and Kelly expertly blends juicy gossip with an almost academic look at the contradictions of the ballerina: idealised, stylised, sexy but virginal, in constant pain but always, always poised.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Pg. 69: Kathryn Erskine's "Lily's Promise"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Lily's Promise by Kathryn Erskine.

About the book, from the publisher:
From National Book Award–winning author Kathryn Erskine comes a heartfelt, poignant novel that tackles grief, change, and the struggle to let your voice be heard. Perfect for fans of Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Erin Entrada Kelly, and Ali Benjamin.

Shy, eleven-year-old Lily made her dad an important promise before he passed away—that she would “Strive for Five” and speak her mind at least five times. But speaking up one time, let alone five, is easier said than done. It’ll be even harder now that Lily must attend public school for the first time. Fortunately, she meets curling-obsessed Hobart and quiet Dunya at the beginning of sixth grade. Their kindness gives Lily hope that life without Dad might just be bearable.

But when Lily and her friends are bullied by Ryan and his mean clique, she quickly discovers the true meaning of friendship and speaking out. Despite the anxiety she feels, Lily knows she needs to stand up for herself and others. And she’ll use the tools her dad gave her to not only keep her final promise but bring her whole school together.
Learn more about the book and author at Kathryn Erskine's website.

Check out Erskine's top 10 first person narratives.

Coffee with a Canine: Kathryn Erskine & Fletcher.

The Page 69 Test: The Badger Knight.

My Book, The Movie: The Badger Knight.

The Page 69 Test: The Incredible Magic of Being.

Writers Read: Kathryn Erskine (December 2017).

My Book, the Movie: Lily's Promise.

The Page 69 Test: Lily's Promise.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Alison Peck's "The Accidental History of the U.S. Immigration Courts"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Accidental History of the U.S. Immigration Courts: War, Fear, and the Roots of Dysfunction by Alison Peck.

About the book, from the publisher:
How the immigration courts became part of the nation’s law enforcement agency—and how to reshape them.

During the Trump administration, the immigration courts were decried as more politicized enforcement weapon than impartial tribunal. Yet few people are aware of a fundamental flaw in the system that has long pre-dated that administration: The immigration courts are not really “courts” at all but an office of the Department of Justice—the nation’s law enforcement agency.

This original and surprising diagnosis shows how paranoia sparked by World War II and the War on Terror drove the structure of the immigration courts. Focusing on previously unstudied decisions in the Roosevelt and Bush administrations, the narrative laid out in this book divulges both the human tragedy of our current immigration court system and the human crises that led to its creation. Moving the reader from understanding to action, Alison Peck offers a lens through which to evaluate contemporary bills and proposals to reform our immigration court system. Peck provides an accessible legal analysis of recent events to make the case for independent immigration courts, proposing that the courts be moved into an independent, Article I court system. As long as the immigration courts remain under the authority of the attorney general, the administration of immigration justice will remain a game of political football—with people’s very lives on the line.
Learn more about The Accidental History of the U.S. Immigration Courts at the University of California Press.

The Page 99 Test: The Accidental History of the U.S. Immigration Courts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six non-fiction titles about crime & general bad behavior in Silicon Valley

Kathy Wang grew up in Northern California and is a graduate of UC Berkeley and Harvard Business School. She lives in the Bay Area with her husband and two children.

Wang's debut novel Family Trust was a Costco Pennie’s Pick, Barnes & Noble Discover Pick, and the inaugural selection of the Buzzfeed Book Club. Her second novel Impostor Syndrome will be published by Custom House/HarperCollins in June 2021.

At CrimeReads Wang tagged six of her "favorite non-fiction books about crime and general bad behavior in Silicon Valley," including:
Bad Blood, by John Carreyrou

Even though this is a later release, I think of Bad Blood as almost the big daddy of Silicon Valley non-fiction thrillers, partially because it’s got it all. The setting (Palo Alto), the technology (just a drop of blood!), the crime (the product doesn’t actually work), and most importantly, the characters (some everyday heroes, a host of mini-villains, and a big, complex villain in the shape of Elizabeth Holmes). The book flies, no small part thanks to Carreyrou, who is both a gifted writer and in the later parts an active part of the story, as he helps break the Theranos deception wide open. By the end, I was both dismayed and slightly sympathetic to Elizabeth Holmes—I felt I really knew her story, and what more can we ask from a book?
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Q&A with David Gordon

From my Q&A with David Gordon, author of Against the Law: A Joe the Bouncer Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Ideally, I like titles that add something to the book. This novel, Against the Law, is the third in a series that began with The Bouncer. I was hoping that first title was both simple and intriguing, since the main character, Joe, is a mysterious figure, a strip-club bouncer who is recruited by New York’s underworld bosses when they fear a terrorist in their midst. In Against the Law, Joe is tracking a heroin smuggler who is funding terrorism, so the title, on the surface, refers simply to the criminal capers unfolding in the book. However, “the law,” is also slang for police, and here the title refers to a general sense many of the books’ characters have that they live outside mainstream society and expect little or nothing from its institutions. To them the entire social system is antagonistic, and they are “against” it. In Joe’s world, people don’t call the cops, they call Joe.

What's in a name?

A lot! Choosing character names is...[read on]
Visit David Gordon's blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Serialist.

The Page 69 Test: Mystery Girl.

The Page 69 Test: White Tiger on Snow Mountain.

Writers Read: David Gordon (August 2019).

The Page 69 Test: The Hard Stuff.

Q&A with David Gordon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Eric Wolfson's "Elvis Presley's From Elvis In Memphis"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Elvis Presley's "From Elvis in Memphis" by Eric Wolfson.

About the book, from the publisher:
"I had to leave town for a little while--" with these words, Elvis Presley truly came home to rock and roll. A little over a month earlier he had staged rock's first and greatest comeback in a television program, forever known as "The '68 Comeback Special." With this show, he resurrected himself--at the age of 33, no less--from the ashes of a career mired in bad movies and soundtracks. So where to go from here?

Like a killer returning to the scene of the crime, Elvis came back home to Memphis, where it had all begun. Eschewing the fancier studios of Nashville and Hollywood, he set up shop at the ramshackle American Sound Studio, run by a maverick named Chips Moman with an in-house backing band now known as "The Memphis Boys," and made the music of his life. The resulting work, From Elvis in Memphis, would be the finest studio album of his career, an explosion of mature confidence and fiery inspiration. It was the sound of Elvis establishing himself as a true rock and roll artist--and proving his status as a legend.
Visit the From Elvis In Memphis website.

The Page 99 Test: Elvis Presley's "From Elvis in Memphis".

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven uninhabitable houses in fiction

Claire Fuller was born in Oxfordshire, England, and has an MA in Creative and Critical Writing from the University of Winchester.

She has written four novels: Our Endless Numbered Days, which won the Desmond Elliott Prize; Swimming Lessons; Bitter Orange; and Unsettled Ground.

At Electric Lit Fuller tagged seven "fictional homes that test the limits of where we’re willing to live," including:
Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese

Sixteen-year-old Franklin doesn’t really know his father Eldon, but when he is called to visit the dying man, and ultimately help him make a final journey to the backcountry, he goes. Eldon is living in the most evocatively described flophouse:
Clothes had been flung and were scattered every which way along with empty fast-food boxes and old newspapers… the hot plate was crusted with grease and dribbles, and a coffee can overflowed with butts and ashes and a few jelly jars stuffed full of the same.
A place not even Eldon wants to die in.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Pg. 69: Hannah Mary McKinnon's You Will Remember Me

Featured at the Page 69 Test: You Will Remember Me by Hannah Mary McKinnon.

About the book, from the publisher:
An unputdownable amnesia thriller that begs the question: how can you trust anyone when you can't even trust yourself?

Forget the truth.
Remember the lies.

He wakes up on a deserted beach in Maryland with a gash on his head and wearing only swim trunks. He can’t remember who he is. Everything—his identity, his life, his loved ones—has been replaced by a dizzying fog of uncertainty. But returning to his Maine hometown in search of the truth uncovers more questions than answers.

Lily Reid thinks she knows her boyfriend, Jack. Until he goes missing one night, and her frantic search reveals that he’s been lying to her since they met, desperate to escape a dark past he’d purposely left behind.

Maya Scott has been trying to find her estranged stepbrother, Asher, since he disappeared without a trace. Having him back, missing memory and all, feels like a miracle. But with a mutual history full of devastating secrets, how far will Maya go to ensure she alone takes them to the grave?

Shared fates intertwine in a twisty, explosive novel of suspense, where unearthing the past might just mean being buried beneath it.
Visit Hannah Mary McKinnon's website.

Q&A with Hannah Mary McKinnon.

The Page 69 Test: Sister Dear.

My Book, The Movie: You Will Remember Me.

The Page 69 Test: You Will Remember Me.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Dahlia Adler

From my Q&A with Dahlia Adler, author of Cool for the Summer:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

This book was always called Cool for the Summer and I honestly would not have let it go to publication with any other title. If you're a queer teen reader, you're almost definitely aware of the Demi Lovato song it takes its name from, and not only was that song an inspiration for the book, but it's also at the center of major plot points. The book itself is meant to echo the song, almost as if they're in conversation, so if you know the song, you know what you're getting into: sexual identity exploration, secrecy, the emotions (including shame) that can come along with that... If you don't know the song, I bet you'll check it out first thing when...[read on]
Visit Dahlia Adler's website.

The Page 69 Test: Cool for the Summer.

Q&A with Dahlia Adler.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jim Cullen's "From Memory to History"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: From Memory to History: Television Versions of the Twentieth Century by Jim Cullen.

About the book, from the publisher:
Our understanding of history is often mediated by popular culture, and television series set in the past have provided some of our most indelible images of previous times. Yet such historical television programs always reveal just as much about the era in which they are produced as the era in which they are set; there are few more quintessentially late-90s shows than That ‘70s Show, for example.

From Memory to History takes readers on a journey through over fifty years of historical dramas and sitcoms that were set in earlier decades of the twentieth century. Along the way, it explores how comedies like M*A*S*H and Hogan’s Heroes offered veiled commentary on the Vietnam War, how dramas ranging like Mad Men echoed current economic concerns, and how The Americans and Halt and Catch Fire used the Cold War and the rise of the internet to reflect upon the present day. Cultural critic Jim Cullen is lively, informative, and incisive, and this book will help readers look at past times, present times, and prime time in a new light.
Visit Jim Cullen's website.

The Page 99 Test: Sensing the Past.

Writers Read: Jim Cullen (February 2013).

The Page 99 Test: From Memory to History.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five historical fantasies set beyond New York and London

Nicole Jarvis has been writing stories as long as she can remember. After graduating with degrees in English and Italian from Emory University, Jarvis moved to New York City to pursue a career in publishing. She lives in Manhattan with two cats named after children’s book characters.

The Lights of Prague is her first published novel.

At Jarvis tagged "five brilliant historical fantasy novels exploring a range of locales—all with their own dose of magic." One title on the list:
Crossings by Alex Landragin

Alex Landragin’s debut is a journey from start to end—wherever that end might be for you. There are three parts, along with an intriguing frame story, and two ways to read—straight through, or following guidelines that send you jumping around the different parts. Through the different stories we are introduced to a strange ability called crossing which allows certain people to swap bodies with another after sustained eye contact. The mystery of this power—where it comes from, how it works, and the murders that seem to follow in its wake—are woven through a variety of historical moments and places, including 1940s France and Spain, antebellum Louisiana, and the fictional Pacific island Oaeetee.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Crossings.

Q&A with Alex Landragin.

My Book, The Movie: Crossings.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 24, 2021

Kathryn Erskine's "Lily’s Promise," the movie

Featured at My Book, the Movie: Lily's Promise by Kathryn Erskine.

The entry begins:
Like many writers, I see my stories unfold in my mind like a movie. Sometimes, I even have a particular actor in mind. Lily is a shy 11-year-old who must attend school for the first time after years of being homeschooled by her dad, who recently died. Her “promise” was to her dad—that she would learn to speak up. As it turns out, she also uses her voice to help others.

Here’s the cast of main characters: I would love to throw them together and see what they come up with!

Lily: Isla Johnston could play a shy Lily very well, as well as the Lily who, on occasion, loses her cool and, in the end, learns to speak up, fulfilling her promise to her dad.

Hobart, Lily’s quirky best friend: Iain Armitage has played a different kind of quirky character in Young Sheldon, but I have no doubt he could play the exuberant, naïve Hobart with great skill. I suspect he could even...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Kathryn Erskine's website.

Check out Erskine's top 10 first person narratives.

Coffee with a Canine: Kathryn Erskine & Fletcher.

The Page 69 Test: The Badger Knight.

My Book, The Movie: The Badger Knight.

The Page 69 Test: The Incredible Magic of Being.

Writers Read: Kathryn Erskine (December 2017).

My Book, the Movie: Lily's Promise.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Amanda M. Fairbanks's "The Lost Boys of Montauk"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Lost Boys of Montauk: The True Story of the Wind Blown, Four Men Who Vanished at Sea, and the Survivors They Left Behind by Amanda M. Fairbanks.

About the book, from the publisher:
An immersive account of a tragedy at sea whose repercussions haunt its survivors to this day, lauded by New York Times bestselling author Ron Suskind as “an honest and touching book, and a hell of a story.”

In March of 1984, the commercial fishing boat Wind Blown left Montauk Harbor on what should have been a routine offshore voyage. Its captain, a married father of three young boys, was the boat’s owner and leader of the four-man crew, which included two locals and the blue-blooded son of a well-to-do summer family. After a week at sea, the weather suddenly turned, and the foursome collided with a nor’easter. They soon found themselves in the fight of their lives. Tragically, it was a fight they lost. Neither the boat nor the bodies of the men were ever recovered.

The fate of the Wind Blown—the second-worst nautical disaster suffered by a Montauk-based fishing vessel in over a hundred years—has become interwoven with the local folklore of the East End’s year-round population. Back then, on the easternmost tip of Long Island, before Wall Street and hedge fund money stormed into town, commercial fishing was the area’s economic lifeblood.

Amanda M. Fairbanks examines the profound shift of Montauk from a working-class village—“a drinking town with a fishing problem”—to a playground for the ultra-wealthy, seeking out the reasons that an event more than three decades old remains so startlingly vivid in people’s minds. She explores the ways in which deep, lasting grief can alter people’s memories. And she shines a light on the powerful and sometimes painful dynamics between fathers and sons, as well as the secrets that can haunt families from beyond the grave.

The story itself is a universal tale of family and brotherhood; it’s about what happens when the dreams and ambitions of affluent and working-class families collide. Captivating and powerful, The Lost Boys of Montauk explores one of the most important questions we face as humans: how do memories of the dead inform the lives of those left behind?
Visit Amanda M. Fairbanks's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Lost Boys of Montauk.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eleven books to help understand the 1960s

Mike Bond has been called the “master of the existential thriller” by the BBC and “one of the 21st century’s most exciting authors” by the Washington Times. He is a bestselling novelist, environmental activist, international energy expert, war and human rights correspondent and award-winning poet who has lived and worked in many remote and dangerous parts of the world.

Bond's latest novel is America.

At LitHub he tagged eleven books that influenced his 1960s experience, including:
Eldridge Cleaver, Soul On Ice

If this book doesn’t blow your mind then nothing will. I met Eldridge Cleaver after he got out of Folsom Prison in late 1966. At nineteen he’d been sentenced to two years in Soledad for marijuana possession, then got sent to San Quentin and Folsom, and finally got out thanks to the magnificent lawyer Beverly Axelrod and Ramparts. I’d done some prison time by then, but totally agreed with Eldridge that we had to listen to Malcolm X and find a way for Blacks and Whites to live together – which we should do with love and respect.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Soul on Ice is among Jeff Tamarkin's thirteen books that every hippie owned.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Q&A with Jessica Anya Blau

From my Q&A with Jessica Anya Blau, author of Mary Jane: A Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Mary Jane is the name of my new book and the name of the title character. I came up with the name immediately. The book takes place in 1975 and Mary Jane’s family is conservative and sort of emotionally locked down. The double name, and the Mary in there imply both those things to me. I should point out that I love the name Mary Jane and almost want to have another baby just so I can name it that!

In the book, Mary Jane gets a job as a summer nanny for a doctor and his wife who live down the street. Her mother approves of this job, as working for a doctor, in her mind, means it’s a respectable house. It turns out the doctor is a psychiatrist and he has cancelled all his patients for the summer save one: a world-famous rockstar who moves into his house with his movie star wife so the rockstar can get sober. Once she’s embedded in this house, Mary Jane learns about sex, rock and roll, love, marriage, parenting . . . she even goes to group therapy. And she learns about Mary Jane, AKA marijuana. So the name...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Jessica Anya Blau's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Jessica Anya Blau and Pippa.

The Page 69 Test: The Wonder Bread Summer.

My Book, The Movie: The Wonder Bread Summer.

The Page 69 Test: The Trouble with Lexie.

My Book, The Movie: The Trouble with Lexie.

Writers Read: Jessica Anya Blau (June 2016).

The Page 69 Test: Mary Jane.

Q&A with Jessica Anya Blau.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Loren Stephens's "All Sorrows Can Be Borne"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: All Sorrows Can Be Borne by Loren Stephens.

About the book, from the publisher:
Inspired by true events, All Sorrows Can Be Borne is the story of Noriko Ito, a Japanese woman faced with unimaginable circumstances that force her to give up her son to save her husband. Set in Hiroshima, Osaka, and the badlands of eastern Montana and spanning the start of World War II to 1982, this breathtaking novel is told primarily in the voice of Noriko, a feisty aspiring actress who fails her audition to enter the Takarazuka Theater Academy. Instead, she takes the “part” of a waitress at a European-style tearoom in Osaka where she meets the mysterious and handsome manager, Ichiro Uchida. They fall in love over music and marry. Soon after Noriko becomes pregnant during their seaside honeymoon, Ichiro is diagnosed with tuberculosis destroying their dreams.

Noriko gives birth to a healthy baby boy, but to give the child a better life, Ichiro convinces her to give the toddler to his older sister and her Japanese-American husband, who live in Montana. Noriko holds on to the belief that this inconceivable sacrifice will lead to her husband’s recovery. What happens next is unexpected and shocking and will affect Noriko for the rest of her life.

Eighteen years later, her son enlists in the U.S. Navy and is sent to Japan. Finally, he is set to meet his birth mother, but their reunion cracks open the pain and suffering Noriko has endured.

With depth and tenderness, All Sorrows Can Be Borne is a harrowing and beautifully written novel that explores how families are shaped by political and economic circumstances, tremendous loss and ultimately forgiveness.
Visit Loren Stephens's website.

The Page 69 Test: All Sorrows Can Be Borne.

--Marshal Zeringue

Nine books about the reality of life on the internet

Kleopatra Olympiou is a writer from Cyprus, and holds an MA in Creative Writing from Durham University. She works as a staff writer at Reedsy.

At Electric Lit she tagged nine titles about the reality of life on the internet, including:
Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta

Dana Spiotta’s Stone Arabia is a novel concerned with the act of chronicling. It takes the form of a “counter-chronicle” written by Denise, whose musician brother, Nick, has always documented his (often imaginary) career as an artistic and performance project. Denise’s acute self-consciousness makes for an unreliable narrative steeped in identity anxiety. Her inability to knowingly contribute to the all-chronicling web will ring true to anyone who’s ever discovered scraps of themselves on Wayback Machine (blog you wrote when you were 13, anyone?)—and anyone who’s ever felt a little existential about the way they present themselves online...
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Pg. 99: Martin Halliwell's "American Health Crisis"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: American Health Crisis: One Hundred Years of Panic, Planning, and Politics by Martin Halliwell.

About the book, from the publisher:
A history of U.S. public health emergencies and how we can turn the tide.

Despite enormous advances in medical science and public health education over the last century, access to health care remains a dominant issue in American life. U.S. health care is often hailed as the best in the world, yet the public health emergencies of today often echo the public health emergencies of yesterday: consider the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918–19 and COVID-19, the displacement of the Dust Bowl and the havoc of Hurricane Maria, the Reagan administration’s antipathy toward the AIDS epidemic and the lack of accountability during the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

Spanning the period from the presidency of Woodrow Wilson to that of Donald Trump, American Health Crisis illuminates how—despite the elevation of health care as a human right throughout the world—vulnerable communities in the United States continue to be victimized by structural inequalities across disparate geographies, income levels, and ethnic groups. Martin Halliwell views contemporary public health crises through the lens of historical and cultural revisionings, suturing individual events together into a narrative of calamity that has brought us to our current crisis in health politics. American Health Crisis considers the future of public health in the United States and, presenting a reinvigorated concept of health citizenship, argues that now is the moment to act for lasting change.
Learn more about American Health Crisis at the University of California Press website, and read Halliwell's essay, "Breaking the Cycle of Health Crises."

The Page 99 Test: American Health Crisis.

--Marshal Zeringue

Hannah Mary McKinnon's "You Will Remember Me," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: You Will Remember Me by Hannah Mary McKinnon.

The entry begins:
A few years ago, a man from Toronto vanished from a ski hill in Lake Placid while there on vacation and he showed up six days later in Sacramento. He was still wearing his ski gear, had amnesia and couldn’t remember much, including the cross-country trip he’d made as he’d hitchhiked across the US. Everything worked out for the man in the end, and he found his way home, but it made me wonder—what could have gone wrong? That was the genesis for You Will Remember Me.

My fifth novel is amnesia-driven psychological thriller about a man who wakes up on a beach with no recollection of who or where he is, a woman named Lily who’s searching for her boyfriend, Jack, who went missing after a swim, and Maya, who’s looking for her estranged stepbrother, Ash, who disappeared two years prior, leaving everyone and everything behind. But is the man from the beach Jack, Ash, neither…or both?

As part of my plotting process, I cast my characters and build a photo gallery, but unlike other authors I know, I use hairstyle models, not celebrities. If I cast celebrities before I write the novel, I worry I’ll be influenced by the actors and their body of work, borrowing perhaps too much from the artists themselves or the well-known characters they’ve played. Using hairstyle models means I can fully concentrate on the people I’m creating and develop a their backgrounds and history from scratch.

Now the book is done though, of course I’ve thought about who I might love to see as my three protagonists as I’ve often dreamt of the elusive, “Can we option your book for the screen?” question. Specifically, for You Will Remember Me, Joe Dempsie who plays Gendry in Game of Thrones, or Daniel...[read on]
Visit Hannah Mary McKinnon's website.

Q&A with Hannah Mary McKinnon.

The Page 69 Test: Sister Dear.

My Book, The Movie: You Will Remember Me.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books about depression

Alex Riley is an award-winning science writer and the author of A Cure for Darkness: The Story of Depression and How We Treat It, his first book. He received a best feature award from the Association of British Science Writers for his reporting on The Friendship Bench, a project that began in Zimbabwe in 2006 and has since provided mental health care to thousands of people in New York. A former research scientist, he has co-authored peer-reviewed scientific papers while working at the Natural History Museum in London. Since leaving academia in 2015, he began writing popular science articles for magazines such as New Scientist, PBS’s NOVA Next, BBC Future, Mosaic Science, Aeon, and Nautilus Magazine.

At the Guardian Riley tagged ten top books about depression, including:
A First-Rate Madness by Nassir Ghaemi

A welcome reminder of the potential benefits of mental illness in society. Whether it’s empathy, courage, or leadership in a crisis, the idea that people with a history of depression can perform better than people without such an experience is compelling. It’s just a shame that this book focused entirely on male leaders with mental illness. Could Ghaemi have covered the work of Jane Addams, for example, someone who battled through depression and was awarded a Nobel prize for her humanitarian work?
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 21, 2021

Pg. 99: Rebecca Hamlin's "Crossing"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Crossing: How We Label and React to People on the Move by Rebecca Hamlin.

About the book, from the publisher:
Today, the concept of "the refugee" as distinct from other migrants looms large. Immigration laws have developed to reinforce a dichotomy between those viewed as voluntary, often economically motivated, migrants who can be legitimately excluded by potential host states, and those viewed as forced, often politically motivated, refugees who should be let in. In Crossing, Rebecca Hamlin argues against advocacy positions that cling to this distinction. Everything we know about people who decide to move suggests that border crossing is far more complicated than any binary, or even a continuum, can encompass. Drawing on cases of various "border crises" across Europe, North America, South America, and the Middle East, Hamlin outlines major inconsistencies and faulty assumptions on which the binary relies. The migrant/refugee binary is not just an innocuous shorthand—indeed, its power stems from the way in which it is painted as apolitical. In truth, the binary is a dangerous legal fiction, politically constructed with the ultimate goal of making harsh border control measures more ethically palatable to the public. This book is a challenge to all those invested in the rights and study of migrants to move toward more equitable advocacy for all border crossers.
Follow Rebecca Hamlin on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Let Me Be a Refugee.

The Page 99 Test: Crossing: How We Label and React to People on the Move.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Wallace Stroby

From my Q&A with Wallace Stroby, author of Heaven's a Lie:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I look at it as an invitation. It sets tone and mood, if nothing else. I always have a lot of titles on hand, but it’s never easy to find the right one for a particular project. Usually the best titles come to you immediately, as opposed to the ones you have to think over. As far as how much the title relates to the book, I don’t think that’s important. Readers will always make a connection on their own as to what it means, maybe not one you ever even imagined. They always bring...[read on]
Learn more about the author and his novels at the official Wallace Stroby website and The Heartbreak Blog.

The Page 69 Test: Gone 'til November.

The Page 69 Test: Cold Shot to the Heart.

The Page 69 Test: Kings of Midnight.

The Page 69 Test: The Devil's Share.

Writers Read: Wallace Stroby (August 2018).

The Page 69 Test: Heaven's a Lie.

Q&A with Wallace Stroby.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six novels which aren’t mysteries but are full of suspense

Claire Fuller was born in Oxfordshire, England, and has an MA in Creative and Critical Writing from the University of Winchester.

She has written four novels: Our Endless Numbered Days, which won the Desmond Elliott Prize; Swimming Lessons; Bitter Orange; and Unsettled Ground.

"Sometimes it’s easy to slot a book into a category or genre: romance, crime, or indeed, mystery. But there are lots of novels which are too slippery for that," Fuller writes at CrimeReads. "They have plenty of suspense and often a good dose of secrets and the unexplained to propel the story forward, even though their premise is not built around a central mystery which follows a trail to a satisfying conclusion."

She tagged "six recommended novels which aren’t mysteries but are full of suspense," including:
The Underneath by Melanie Finn

Kay is spending the summer with her family in Vermont when she becomes obsessed with needing to discover who owns the house they’re renting and where the owners are now, until she puts this need for the truth before her own family. In flashbacks we learn about her time as a journalist in Uganda, and what choices she made then about truth versus family. All the way through Finn lets us think the worst and then deftly illuminates the thought as our own: a sinister noise in a basement turns out to be a trapped cat, a secret cubby hole in a bathroom with the latch on the inside could simply be a place to hide.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Pg. 99: Mary K. Bercaw Edwards's "Sailor Talk"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Sailor Talk: Labor, Utterance, and Meaning in the Works of Melville, Conrad, and London by Mary K. Bercaw Edwards.

About the book, from the publisher:
This book investigates the highly engaging topic of the literary and cultural significance of 'sailor talk.' The central argument is that sailor talk offers a way of rethinking the figure of the nineteenth-century sailor and sailor-writer, whose language articulated the rich, layered, and complex culture of sailors in port and at sea. From this argument many other compelling threads emerge, including questions relating to the seafarer's multifaceted identity, maritime labor, questions of performativity, the ship as 'theater,' the varied and multiple registers of 'sailor talk,' and the foundational role of maritime language in the lives and works of Herman Melville, Joseph Conrad, and Jack London. The book also includes nods to James Fenimore Cooper, Rudyard Kipling, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Meticulous scholarly research underpins the close readings of literary texts and the scrupulously detailed biographical accounts of three major sailor-writers. The author's own lived experience as a seafarer adds a refreshingly materialist dimension to the subtle literary readings. The book represents a valuable addition to a growing scholarly and political interest in the sea and sea literature. By taking the sailor's viewpoint and listening to sailors' voices, the book also marks a clear intervention in this developing field.
Learn more about Sailor Talk at the Liverpool University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Sailor Talk.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Catherine Ryan Hyde's "Seven Perfect Things"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Seven Perfect Things: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde.

About the book, from the publisher:
Thirteen-year-old Abby Hubble lives in an unhappy home in the Sierra Nevada foothills where her father makes life miserable for her and her mother, Mary. One day Abby witnesses a man dump a litter of puppies into the nearby river. Diving in to rescue all seven, she knows she won’t be able to bring them home. Afraid for their fate at the pound, she takes them to an abandoned cabin, where all she can offer is a promise that she’ll be back the next day.

To grieving widower Elliot Colvin, life has lost meaning. Looking for solace, he retreats to the hunting cabin he last visited years ago, before his wife’s illness. What he discovers is not at all what he expected: seven puppies and one determined girl with an indomitable heart.

As Abby and Elliot’s friendship deepens, Abby imagines how much better her life―and the puppies’ lives―would be if her mother were married to Elliot instead of her father. But when Abby’s father moves the family hundreds of miles away, Abby and her mother must decide how long they’re willing to defer happiness.

Seven Perfect Things is a story about joy, where to find it, how to know it when you see it, and the courage it takes to hang on to it once you have it.
Visit Catherine Ryan Hyde's website.

Q&A with Catherine Ryan Hyde.

The Page 69 Test: Brave Girl, Quiet Girl.

The Page 69 Test: My Name is Anton.

The Page 69 Test: Seven Perfect Things.

--Marshal Zeringue