Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Ten of the best music memoirs & biographies

Fiona Sturges is an arts writer specializing in books, music, podcasting and TV.

At the Guardian she tagged ten candid memoirs and biographies that reveal the inner lives of musicians, including:
Life by Keith Richards

Given the legendarily debauched life of the Rolling Stones guitarist, it’s a wonder that he can remember enough of it to fill a book. Eye-watering in its candour, Life gleefully takes us through music, money, arrests, fallouts, makeups, drugs and “chicks”. It’s gossipy, spry and an absolute hoot from beginning to end.
Read about another entry on the list.

Life is among Liz Phair's ten favorite books, Dan Holmes's twenty best memoirs written by musicians, Ginni Chen's top six books that destroyed real life friendships, and Claire Zulkey's five top books "written by folks more famous for rocking out."

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: M. David Litwa's "The Evil Creator"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Evil Creator: Origins of an Early Christian Idea by M. David Litwa.

About the book, from the publisher:
M. David Litwa here examines the origins of the creator concept in early Christian biblical interpretations. His interpretation moves beyond previous attempts to root the analysis in Judaism or in a social-psychological crisis. Rather, it connects the ancient readings with Christianity today. In Gnostic readings, ancient Egyptians' assimilation of the Jewish god to the deity Seth-Typhon is studied to understand Gnostics' reapplication to a "Judeo-catholic" creator. The Christian reception of sections in the gospel of John is shown to implicate the Judeo-catholic figure in murdering Christ. Litwa then discusses Marcionism, where God's harmful behavior continues to be displayed. In the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, the "god of this world" blinds people from illumination. He destroys the Law and the Lawgiver. Christ also succumbs to the "curse of the Law" inflicted by God. In both streams of biblical interpretation, it is shown how ancient readers logically concluded that the creator of this world was not simply just or cruel, but outright evil in his attempt to curse and destroy Christ.

The Evil Creator: Origins of an Early Christian Idea shows how this analysis is a product of Christian biblical exegesis and connects its ancient origins to modern theology. Litwa shows how readers of today's Christian Bible still find wickedness and how these early explications have contributed to the atheism phenomenon.
Visit M. David Litwa's website.

The Page 99 Test: How the Gospels Became History.

The Page 99 Test: The Evil Creator.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 30, 2021

Ten top psychological thrillers

S.F. Kosa is a clinical psychologist with a fascination for the seedy underbelly of the human psyche. Though The Quiet Girl is her debut psychological suspense novel, writing as Sarah Fine, she is the author of over two dozen fantasy, urban fantasy, sci-fi, and romance novels, several of which have been translated into multiple languages. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and their (blended) brood of five young humans.

Kosa's latest novel is The Night We Burned.

At CrimeReads she tagged ten of her favorite psychological thrillers, including:
Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden

Speaking of rich and unvarnished depictions … Virgil Wounded Horse, an enforcer on who exacts justice for those the American legal system neglects, nearly loses his nephew, Nathan, to an overdose and goes on a mission to track down the scourge selling heroin to kids on “the rez.” It’s a compelling and gritty crime novel, a solid mystery—but it’s also a keen portrait of the modern consequences of colonization, the relentless drag of injustice and poverty that too often leads to despair, and the power of dignity, community, and spirituality. The author paints us a lovingly complex picture of the pulls of loyalty, grief, ambition, heritage, and identity—and the absolute necessity of hope and belongingness (a major predictor of psychological wellbeing, by the way).
Read about another entry on the list.

Winter Counts is among Stephen Miller's favorite crime fiction of 2020, Molly Odintz's six favorite titles from the "new wave of thrillers where the oppressed get some well-earned revenge," and Jennifer Baker's top twelve mystery novels featuring BIPOC protagonists.

The Page 69 Test: Winter Counts.

My Book, The Movie: Winter Counts.

Q&A with David Heska Wanbli Weiden.

--Marshal Zeringue

Andrew Welsh-Huggins's "An Empty Grave," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: An Empty Grave: An Andy Hayes Mystery by Andrew Welsh-Huggins.

The entry begins:
I get this question a lot, and the answer is easy: the best person to play Andy Hayes, my disgraced former Ohio State University quarterback, is actor Keanu Reeves. Why? He’s done it twice on screen already.

The first time, in 1991’s Point Break, he teamed with Patrick Swayze in a crime fiction tale involving the FBI’s investigation of a violent California bank robbery gang whose members investigators believe are surfers. Reeves plays Johnny Utah, a former Ohio State quarterback who quit the sport after blowing out his knee, and later becomes an FBI agent. The second time, in...[read on]
Visit Andrew Welsh-Huggins's website.

My Book, The Movie:: An Empty Grave.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Matthew FitzSimmons's "Constance"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Constance by Matthew FitzSimmons.

About the book, from the publisher:
A breakthrough in human cloning becomes one woman’s waking nightmare in a mind-bending thriller by the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Gibson Vaughn series.

In the near future, advances in medicine and quantum computing make human cloning a reality. For the wealthy, cheating death is the ultimate luxury. To anticloning militants, it’s an abomination against nature. For young Constance “Con” D’Arcy, who was gifted her own clone by her late aunt, it’s terrifying.

After a routine monthly upload of her consciousness―stored for that inevitable transition―something goes wrong. When Con wakes up in the clinic, it’s eighteen months later. Her recent memories are missing. Her original, she’s told, is dead. If that’s true, what does that make her?

The secrets of Con’s disorienting new life are buried deep. So are those of how and why she died. To uncover the truth, Con is retracing the last days she can recall, crossing paths with a detective who’s just as curious. On the run, she needs someone she can trust. Because only one thing has become clear: Con is being marked for murder―all over again.
Visit Matthew FitzSimmons's website.

The Page 69 Test: Constance.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Seven top thrillers about the dark side of academia

Ceillie Clark-Keane is a writer and editor based in Boston. Her work has been published by Electric Literature, Bustle, the Ploughshares blog, and other outlets. She is a nonfiction reader for Salamander and Pangyrus.

At Electric Lit Clark-Keane tagged seven "excellent thrillers that use the college campus as a setting to explore the darker side of academia, leverage the competitive atmosphere, and present a compactly contained mystery that keeps you reading." One title on the list:
The Girls Are All So Nice Here by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

Like [Ashley Winstead's] In My Dreams I Hold a Knife, this thriller centers on a college reunion that dredges up old feelings of inadequacy, competition, and, of course, guilt. Ambrosia Turner is reluctant to attend her 10-year reunion at Wesleyan, but she relents after receiving letters from her former friend Sloan Sullivan, or Sully. Although they haven’t talked in years, Ambrosia is touched, and not a little concerned, that Sully has reached out this way. In chapters alternating between the present day and the beginning of college, we learn why Ambrosia is uncomfortable returning to a campus where she felt awkward and out of place, how her fiery friendship with Sully made her feel like she finally fit in, and what tragic ending to their friendship kept them away from each other and campus—until now.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Kate Myles

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

The Receptionist
is short and to-the-point. People tell me it’s a great title, so that must count for something! It lets us know we’ll be meeting an entry level worker who does something in the thriller vein…something nefarious. As we get into the book, I like the fact that the title character is not the protagonist. She’s more of a change agent in the other characters’ lives.

What's in a name?

Doug. Say it with me, “Doug.” He’s a monosyllable. A gen-xer. A former frat boy running his dad’s company into the ground. In fifth grade, I sat next to a Doug. He was always...[read on]
Visit Kate Myles's website.

Q&A with Kate Myles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Catherine J. Ross's "A Right to Lie?"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: A Right to Lie?: Presidents, Other Liars, and the First Amendment by Catherine J. Ross.

About the book, from the publisher:
In A Right to Lie?, legal scholar Catherine J. Ross addresses the urgent issue of whether the nation's highest officers, including the president, have a right to lie under the Speech Clause, no matter what damage their falsehoods cause. Does freedom of expression protect even factual falsehoods? If so, are lies by candidates and public officials protected? And is there a constitutional path, without violating the First Amendment, to stop a president whose persistent lies endanger our lives and our democracy?

Perhaps counter-intuitively, the general answer to each question is "yes." Drawing from dramatic court cases about defamers, proponents of birtherism, braggarts, and office holders, Ross reveals the almost insurmountable constitutional and practical obstacles to legal efforts to rein in public deception. She explains the rules that govern the treatment of lies, while also demonstrating the incalculable damage presidential mendacity may lead to, as revealed in President Trump's lies about the COVID-19 pandemic and the legitimacy of the 2020 election.

Falsehoods have been at issue in every presidential impeachment proceeding from Nixon to Trump. But, until now, no one has analyzed why public lies might be impeachable offenses, and whether the First Amendment would provide a defense. Noting that speech by public employees does not receive the same First Amendment protection as the speech of ordinary citizens, Ross proposes the constitutionally viable solution of treating presidents as public employees who work for the people. Charged with oversight of the Executive, Congress may—and should—put future presidents on notice that material lies to the public on substantial matters will be deemed a "high crime and misdemeanor" subject to censure and even impeachment. A Right to Lie? explains how this approach could work if the political will were in place.
Visit Catherine J. Ross's website.

The Page 99 Test: A Right to Lie?.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Seven of the best books about islands

Kiran Millwood Hargrave is a British author, poet, and playwright.

Her debut book, The Girl of Ink & Stars, won the Waterstones Children's Book Prize, and British Children's Book of the Year.

Her second book, The Island at the End of Everything, received starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and VOYA. She holds degrees from both Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and lives by the river in Oxford.

The Mercies is her debut novel for adults.

At the Guardian Hargrave tagged seven favorite books about islands, including:
Madeline Miller’s Circe offers a very different sort of origin story, this time for the witch banished by Zeus to live out her days on Aeaea. Formerly known as a bit player in the Odyssey, Circe’s life story is offered here, full of salt and herbs and sex. It’s a romp, and also a beautiful account of making a home, and making peace with yourself.
Learn about another entry on the list.

Circe is among Zen Cho's six SFF titles about gods and pantheons, Jennifer Saint's ten top books inspired by Greek myth, Adrienne Westenfeld's fifteen feminist books that will inspire, enrage, & educate you, Ali Benjamin's top ten classic stories retold, Lucile Scott's eight books about hexing the patriarchy, E. Foley and B. Coates's top ten goddesses in fiction, Jordan Ifueko's five fantasy titles driven by traumatic family bonds, Eleanor Porter's top ten books about witch-hunts, Emily B. Martin's six stunning fantasies for nature lovers, Allison Pataki's top six books that feature strong female voices, Pam Grossman's thirteen stories about strong women with magical powers, Kris Waldherr's nine top books inspired by mythology, Katharine Duckett's eight novels that reexamine literature from the margins, and Steph Posts' thirteen top novels set in the world of myth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Veronica Bond's "Death in Castle Dark"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Death in Castle Dark (A Dinner and a Murder Mystery) by Veronica Bond.

About the book, from the publisher:
Actor Nora Blake finds her dream job when she is cast in a murder-mystery troupe that performs in an imposing but captivating old castle. When she stumbles upon a real murder, things take a nightmarish turn in this first book in an exciting new series.

Maybe it was too good to be true, but when Nora Blake accepted the job from Derek Corby, proprietor of Castle Dark, she could not see any downsides. She would sink her acting chops into the troupe’s intricately staged murder-mystery shows, earn free room and board in the fairy tale–like castle, and make friends with her new roommates, which include some seriously adorable kittens.

But something sinister lurks behind the walls of Castle Dark. During Nora’s second performance, one of her castmates plays the part of the victim a little too well. So well, in fact, that no one can revive him. He has been murdered. Not ready to give up her dream gig—or to be the next victim—Nora sets out to see which one of her fellow actors has taken the role of a murderous real-life villain.
Visit Julia Buckley's website and follow Veronica Bond on Facebook.

Q&A with Julia Buckley.

Writers Read: Veronica Bond.

The Page 69 Test: Death in Castle Dark.

--Marshal Zeringue

Jo Perry's "Pure," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Pure by Jo Perry.

The entry begins:
Ascher requires a character-actor, not a movie star––someone really funny and real to bring her to life. A young Sarah Silverman would be perfect. I wish Ascher and Silverman were the same age, but Ascher is much younger. I’m pretty sure Silverman could play a character younger than she is now, but if she couldn’t...[read on]
Visit Jo Perry's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jo Perry & Lola and Lucy.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Better.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Better.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Best.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Best.

My Book, The Movie: Dead Is Good.

The Page 69 Test: Dead Is Good.

The Page 69 Test: Dead is Beautiful.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Beautiful.

Writers Read: Jo Perry (February 2019).

My Book, The Movie: Pure.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 27, 2021

Five top dangers-of-dating thrillers

Catherine Ryan Howard has been a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel, the CWA’s Ian Fleming Steel and John Creasey (New Blood) Daggers, and Irish Crime Novel of the Year multiple times. The Nothing Man, her mix of true crime and crime fiction, was a no. 1 bestseller in her native Ireland. She is currently based in Dublin, where she divides her time between the desk and the couch.

Howard's new novel, 56 Days, is a thriller about a couple locked down together in Dublin that the author wrote while she was locked down in Dublin.

At CrimeReads she tagged five favorite dangers-of-dating thrillers, including:
Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

Twenty-something Catherine exists rather than lives in London, isolated, mistrustful and struggling with crippling OCD. But when we flashback to just four years earlier, we meet a confident and outgoing party-girl who relishes a drunken night on the town with her friends – until, on one of those nights, she meets Lee. What happened in between that wreaked such havoc on Catherine’s life? And what will happen now that Lee is being released from prison? Where this thriller is in a league of its own is in its depiction of the slow, insidious nature of domestic abuse and coercive control. If you’ve ever wondered ‘Why didn’t she just leave?’, this novel has a definitive answer for you: because by the time there was any reason to, it was already too late. Truly terrifying and forever my recommendation for an exceptional psychological thriller that you may have missed first time around.
Read about another entry on the list.

Into the Darkest Corner is among Shalini Boland's five savviest, toughest women in crime fiction and Jane Robins's top ten creepy psychological thrillers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Vivienne Sanders's "Wales, the Welsh and the Making of America"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Wales, the Welsh and the Making of America by Vivienne Sanders.

About the book, from the publisher:
A systematic account of the contributions of Welsh immigrants to the United States.

This book is the first systematic attempt to both recount and evaluate the considerable, though undervalued, contributions of Welsh immigrants to the development of the United States. Vivienne Sanders recounts the lives and achievements of Welsh immigrants and their descendants within a narrative outline of American history that emphasizes the Welsh influence upon the colonists’ rejection of British rule, as well as upon the establishment, expansion, and industrialization of the new American nation.
Follow Vivienne Sanders on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Wales, the Welsh and the Making of America.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Avery Bishop reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Avery Bishop, author of One Year Gone: A Novel.

The entry begins:
Like many writers, I'm often reading several books at the same time, and I often like to read in many different genres. Usually I'm reading a book on my Kindle, an ebook on my phone, a hardcover or paperback, and listening to an audiobook when I'm driving or shopping or walking the dog.

On my Kindle: Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry. A short novel, not even 45,000 words, but it's dark and gritty and has a lyrical quality to its prose. I'm currently halfway through and really enjoying it.

On my phone: The Cipher by Isabella Maldonado. A thriller about...[read on]
About One Year Gone, from the publisher:
A mother will risk everything to find her missing daughter in this twisty thriller from the author of Girl Gone Mad.

“Sometimes teenagers run away…Give her a few days. She’ll be back.”

That’s what the police tell Jessica Moore when her seventeen-year-old daughter, Wyn, vanishes. All signs point to this being true. But days become weeks. Weeks become months. And Jessica begins to fear the terrible truth―that she may never see her daughter again.

Then, one year later, when all hope seems lost, Jessica gets a flurry of text messages from Wyn that freeze her blood: mom. please help. i think he’s going to kill me. But Wyn’s terrified plea comes with a warning not to call the police. Her kidnapper wears a badge.

As Jessica’s fears are raised again, so are the stakes. Delving into the months leading up to Wyn’s disappearance, Jessica stumbles upon information that could put her own life in danger. With each revelation, the nightmare deepens. Now she must decide just how far she’ll go to bring her daughter home.
Visit Avery Bishop's website.

The Page 69 Test: Girl Gone Mad.

Q&A with Avery Bishop.

Writers Read: Avery Bishop.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Q&A with Kira Jane Buxton

From my Q&A with Kira Jane Buxton, author of Feral Creatures:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Feral Creatures
is a nod to a few elements of the book, which I’m thrilled about since I love how it sounds phonetically and that it has an aura of intrigue. Since the novel is narrated by a crow and is set in a world where humans have succumbed to a deadly virus (a little topical, alas), most of the characters are animals and are indeed, feral creatures. At the beginning of the novel, S.T. the domesticated crow—a fervid fan of all things human and in many ways the last bastion of humanity—finds the impossible: the last child on earth. He vows to protect her against the many dangers of the Alaskan village in which they live, as well as the horror that humanity has morphed into and that continues to plague the planet. S.T. attempts to raise Dee as he knew humans to be, imagining her to grow up well-adjusted and with cultural understanding and education. But as Dee grows, S.T. realizes that Dee is perhaps not the quintessential human being, but rather, a creature with animal instincts. S.T. fear materializes as he realizes that Dee is wild and untamable, and that—much to his chagrin—he is raising a...[read on]
Visit Kira Jane Buxton's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kira Jane Buxton & Ewok.

My Book, The Movie: Hollow Kingdom.

The Page 69 Test: Hollow Kingdom.

My Book, The Movie: Feral Creatures.

Q&A with Kira Jane Buxton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Sarah Adlakha's "She Wouldn't Change a Thing"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: She Wouldn't Change a Thing by Sarah Adlakha.

About the book, from the publisher:
Sliding Doors meets Life After Life in Sarah Adlakha's story about a wife and mother who is given the chance to start over at the risk of losing everything she loves.

A second chance is the last thing she wants.

When thirty-nine year old Maria Forssmann wakes up in her seventeen-year-old body, she doesn’t know how she got there. All she does know is she has to get back: to her home in Bienville, Mississippi, to her job as a successful psychiatrist and, most importantly, to her husband, daughters, and unborn son.

But she also knows that, in only a few weeks, a devastating tragedy will strike her husband, a tragedy that will lead to their meeting each other.

Can she change time and still keep what it’s given her?

Exploring the responsibilities love lays on us, the complicated burdens of motherhood, and the rippling impact of our choices, She Wouldn't Change a Thing is a dazzling debut from a bright new voice.
Visit Sarah Adlakha's website.

The Page 69 Test: She Wouldn't Change a Thing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Mary Angela Bock's "Seeing Justice"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Seeing Justice: Witnessing, Crime and Punishment in Visual Media by Mary Angela Bock.

About the book, from the publisher:
A behind-the-scenes look at the struggles between visual journalists and officials over what the public sees--and therefore much of what the public knows--of the criminal justice system.

In the contexts of crime, social justice, and the law, nothing in visual media is as it seems. In today's mediated social world, visual communication has shifted to a democratic sphere that has significantly changed the way we understand and use images as evidence. In Seeing Justice, Mary Angela Bock examines the way criminal justice in the US is presented in visual media by focusing on the grounded practices of visual journalists in relationship with law enforcement. Drawing upon extended interviews, participant observation, contemporary court cases, and critical discourse analysis, Bock provides a detailed examination of the way digitization is altering the relationships between media, consumers, and the criminal justice system. From tabloid coverage of the last public hanging in the US to Karen-shaming videos, from mug shots to perp walks, she focuses on the practical struggles between journalists, police, and court officials to control the way images influence their resulting narratives. Revealing the way powerful interests shape what the public sees, Seeing Justice offers a model for understanding how images are used in news narrative.
Visit Mary Angela Bock's website.

The Page 99 Test: Seeing Justice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten gripes in literature

Lucy Ellmann has published seven novels: Sweet Desserts (winner of the Guardian Fiction Prize), Varying Degrees of Hopelessness, Man or Mango? A Lament, Dot in the Universe, Doctors & Nurses, Mim, and, in 2019, Ducks, Newburyport (shortlisted for the Booker and winner of the Goldsmiths Prize).

Ellmann's first essay collection is Things Are Against Us.

At the Guardian she tagged ten "admirable examples of the fine tradition of being an awkward customer." One entry on the list:
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Driven to distraction by Rochester’s cavorting with a gold-digger and dressing up in drag as a fortune teller, Jane finally erupts. “Do you think I am an automaton? – a machine without feelings? … Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! – I have as much soul as you – and full as much heart!” Like Sojourner Truth’s real-life speech a few years after the novel was written, Ain’t I a woman? Brontë’s fervid feminist statement refutes the Victorian gridlock imposed on womanhood. But after Jane and Rochester retreat triumphantly indoors, lightning blights the tree they were just sitting under: you can’t make an omelette without cracking eggs.
Read about another entry on the list.

Jane Eyre also made Elizabeth Brooks’s list of ten of the creepiest gothic novels, Kate Kellaway's list of the best romantic novels that aren’t riddled with cliches, Julia Spiro's list of seven titles told from the perspective of domestic workers, Jane Healey's list of five favorite gothic romances, Annaleese Jochems's list of the great third wheels of literature, Sara Collins's list of six of fiction's best bad women, Sophie Hannah's list of fifteen top books with a twist, E. Lockhart's list of five favorite stories about women labeled “difficult,” Sophie Hannah's top ten list of twists in fiction, Gail Honeyman's list of five of her favorite idiosyncratic characters, Kate Hamer's top ten list of books about adopted children, a list of four books that changed Vivian Gornick, Meredith Borders's list of ten of the scariest gothic romances, Esther Inglis-Arkell's top ten list of the most horribly mistreated first wives in Gothic fiction, Martine Bailey’s top six list of the best marriage plots in novels, Radhika Sanghani's top ten list of books to make sure you've read before graduating college, Lauren Passell's top five list of Gothic novels, Molly Schoemann-McCann's lists of ten fictional men who have ruined real live romance and five of the best--and more familiar--tropes in fiction, Becky Ferreira's lists of seven of the best fictional depictions of female friendship and the top six most momentous weddings in fiction, Julia Sawalha's six best books list, Honeysuckle Weeks's six best books list, Kathryn Harrison's list of six favorite books with parentless protagonists, Megan Abbott's top ten list of novels of teenage friendship, a list of Bettany Hughes's six best books, the Guardian's top 10 lists of "outsider books" and "romantic fiction;" it appears on Lorraine Kelly's six best books list, Esther Freud's top ten list of love stories, and Jessica Duchen's top ten list of literary Gypsies, and on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best governesses in literature, ten of the best men dressed as women, ten of the best weddings in literature, ten of the best locked rooms in literature, ten of the best pianos in literature, ten of the best breakfasts in literature, ten of the best smokes in fiction, and ten of the best cases of blindness in literature. It is one of Kate Kellaway's ten best love stories in fiction.

The Page 99 Test: Jane Eyre.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Amy Mason Doan's "Lady Sunshine," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Lady Sunshine: A Novel by Amy Mason Doan.

The entry begins:
Lady Sunshine is a surprise inheritance story that, in my totally unbiased opinion, would make a fantastic movie. We follow main character Jackie Pierce in two time periods – 1979 and 1999. In ’79, Jackie is a restless, fiery, unhappy teen sent to live with her musical, bohemian relatives for the summer at The Sandcastle. It’s a gorgeous place cut off from the rest of the world -- a wild, sprawling estate in far northern coastal California. She forms an intense bond with her hippie cousin Willa, although the two couldn’t be more different, and she has the best summer of her life with the many free spirited visitors who flock there.

But at the end of the summer, Jackie flees for mysterious reasons. Twenty years later, Jackie, now a staid music teacher in Boston, inherits The Sandcastle and returns “just to pack up and sell it.”

Of course it’s not that simple…

Jackie in ’99 is keeping a lot of secrets, and she’s buried her teenage boldness for reasons we don’t understand until the end of the book, but we can still see a flicker of that fire. The musicians who come to The Sandcastle to record a tribute album to Jackie’s uncle in the present thread of the story help her rediscover that old self – and the passions she’s been stuffing deep down for many years.

Florence Pugh would capture both Jackie’s fierce and tender sides, and would make us feel her joy and vulnerability as she opens up to love with...[read on]
Visit Amy Mason Doan's website.

The Page 69 Test: Summer Hours.

My Book, The Movie: Lady Sunshine.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five gripping mysteries set in small towns

A former magazine editor and award-winning journalist, Janice Hallett has written speeches and articles for, among others, the UK's Cabinet Office, Home Office and Department for International Development. In screenwriting, Hallett's first feature film Retreat was released by Sony Pictures (co-written and directed by Carl Tibbetts) which starred Cillian Murphy, Thandie Newton and Jamie Bell.

Her debut novel is The Appeal.

At the Waterstones blog Hallett tagged five favorite gripping mysteries set in small towns, including:
Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

You can taste the dust in this beautifully written thriller – the first of Locke’s Highway 59 series – with Black Texas Ranger Darren Matthews at the helm. Two bodies are pulled from the Bayou in Lark, a tiny backwater community in East Texas. One victim is a local white woman, the other a black lawyer from Chicago. What links them, and how their murders relate to racial tension stirred up by the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, is a driving force in Matthews’ investigation. With strong roots in the dry Texas soil, he is determined to uncover the truth. At first glance a police procedural, Bluebird, Bluebird is a lot more, as its slow burn of a mystery is as much an emotional journey as it is an intelligent one.
Read about another entry on the list.

Bluebird, Bluebird is among Katie Tallo's top ten crime novels about returning home.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Carolyn N. Biltoft's "A Violent Peace"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: A Violent Peace: Media, Truth, and Power at the League of Nations by Carolyn N. Biltoft.

About the book, from the publisher:
The newly born League of Nations confronted the post-WWI world—from growing stateless populations to the resurgence of right-wing movements—by aiming to create a transnational, cosmopolitan dialogue on justice. As part of these efforts, a veritable army of League personnel set out to shape “global public opinion,” in favor of the postwar liberal international order. Combining the tools of global intellectual history and cultural history, A Violent Peace reopens the archives of the League to reveal surprising links between the political use of modern information systems and the rise of mass violence in the interwar world. Historian Carolyn N. Biltoft shows how conflicts over truth and power that played out at the League of Nations offer broad insights into the nature of totalitarian regimes and their use of media flows to demonize a whole range of “others.”

An exploration of instability in information systems, the allure of fascism, and the contradictions at the heart of a global modernity, A Violent Peace paints a rich portrait of the emergence of the age of information—and all its attendant problems.
Learn more about A Violent Peace at the University of Chicago Press website.

The Page 99 Test: A Violent Peace.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Lucy Burdette's "A Scone of Contention"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: A Scone of Contention: A Key West Food Critic Mystery by Lucy Burdette.

About the book, from the publisher:
A murderer’s out to spoil Hayley’s honeymoon in national bestselling author Lucy Burdette’s eleventh Key West Food Critic Mystery.

Key Zest food critic Hayley Snow and her groom, police detective Nathan Bransford, chose Scotland for their long-delayed honeymoon, hoping to sightsee and enjoy some prize-winning scones. But their romantic duo swells to a crowd when they’re joined by Nathan’s family as well as octogenarian Miss Gloria.

Nathan’s sister Vera takes the women on a whirlwind tour of some of Scotland’s iconic mystic places as research for a looming book project. But the trip takes a deadly tartan turn when a dinner party guest falls ill and claims she was poisoned. And then the group watches in horror as a mysterious tourist tumbles to his death from the famous Falkirk Wheel, high above the Forth & Clyde canal.

Vera and her friends deny knowing the dead man, but after observing their reactions to the fall, Hayley is not convinced. With one person dead, a second possibly poisoned, and the tension among Vera’s friends as thick as farmhouse cheese, Hayley fears her long-awaited honeymoon might end with another murder.

Far away from home, surrounded by unfamiliar faces, eccentric characters, and a forbiddingly gorgeous setting, Hayley must call on all her savvy to keep a killer from striking again and then escaping Scot free.
Read more about Lucy Burdette's books on her website, Twitter perch, and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: An Appetite For Murder.

Writers Read: Lucy Burdette (January 2012).

The Page 69 Test: Death in Four Courses.

The Page 69 Test: A Scone of Contention.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Four top new hard-hitting crime novels

Saloni Gajjar is a staff writer at The A.V. Club. She tagged four new hard-hitting crime novels to get you through the end of summer, including:
Laura Lippman doesn’t waste any time amping up the disquietude in her latest novel. In Dream Girl (June 22, William Morrow), 61-year-old novelist Gerry Andersen, who’s moved back to his hometown of Baltimore, lives in a fancy penthouse apartment. After an accident leaves him bedridden and downing Ambien, he begins having hallucinations of the leading lady of his own popular book titled, yes, Dream Girl. Gerry gets letters, calls, and in-person visits from Aubrey, but no one believes him, not his night nurse, Aileen, or his assistant, Victoria. Told in three different timelines—from the 1960s to the present day—Dream Girl stages a fascinating reckoning of sorts for Gerry. Lippman uses her dubious hero, who lacks self-awareness, to comment on relevant affairs of the last few years, particularly the #MeToo movement. The psychological thriller zeroes in on pivotal moments of Gerry’s life and how his childhood with an absent father and sad single mother shaped his career and interactions with women.

Lippman is best known for her Tess Monaghan series about a reporter-turned-private investigator. Tess makes a cameo in Dream Girl, but the story is focused on Gerry’s possibly deteriorating state of mind, unraveling sordid details of his past at a satisfyingly measured pace. “In a world that is speeding up, novelists were obligated to make people slow down,” Lippman writes.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: Dream Girl.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Cynthia Estlund's "Automation Anxiety"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Automation Anxiety: Why and How to Save Work by Cynthia Estlund.

About the book, from the publisher:
Are super-capable robots and algorithms destined to devour our jobs and idle much of the adult population? Predictions of a jobless future have recurred in waves since the advent of industrialization, only to crest and retreat as new jobs-usually better ones-have replaced those lost to machines. But there's good reason to believe that this time is different. Ongoing innovations in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics are already destroying more decent middle-skill jobs than they are creating, and may be leading to a future of growing job scarcity. But there are many possible versions of that future, ranging from utterly dystopian to humane and broadly appealing. It all depends on how we respond.

This book confronts the hotly-debated prospect of mounting job losses due to automation, and the widely-divergent hopes and fears that prospect evokes, and proposes a strategy for both mitigating the losses and spreading the gains from shrinking demand for human labor. We should set our collective sights, it argues, on ensuring access to adequate incomes, more free time, and decent remunerative work even in a future with less of it. Getting there will require not a single "magic bullet" solution like universal basic income or a federal job guarantee but a multi-pronged program centered on conserving, creating, and spreading work. What the book proposes for a foreseeable future of less work will simultaneously help to address growing economic inequality and persistent racial stratification, and makes sense here and now but especially as we face the prospect of net job losses.
Learn more about Automation Anxiety at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Automation Anxiety.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Kelly Creagh

From my Q&A with Kelly Creagh, author of Phantom Heart:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Titles have always been tough for me. I actually tend to title my books with a poetic mind, but when they reach the publisher, they usually receive a much more straight-forward title. This, I feel, has really worked out. Through the process of revision and editing, I get close to my work, and so the bird’s-eye view titles don’t occur to me. In the instance of Phantom Heart, I think the title accomplishes a lot toward conveying what the story is about. The word “phantom” seems particularly pivotal since the novel is a modern retelling of Gaston Leroux’s gothic classic, The Phantom of the Opera. So, one look at the novel’s cover and title will convey this to the reader, which is a huge plus when it comes to reaching the intended audience. Additionally, Phantom Heart deals with a missing heart and a shattered soul. My phantom character is in an interesting predicament that leaves him with few options regarding how to deal with Stephanie, the protagonist, who has moved into the dilapidated mansion he is bound to through a curse. As the story progresses, the issue of the absent heart compounds the danger, and ultimately raises an interesting question. Can a person’s heart...[read on]
Visit Kelly Creagh's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kelly Creagh and Annabel (September 2010).

Coffee with a Canine: Kelly Creagh & Annabel, Jack and Holly.

The Page 69 Test: Phantom Heart.

Q&A with Kelly Creagh.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 23, 2021

Six top crime novels about settling old scores

Lesley Kara is an alumna of the Faber Academy Writing a Novel course. She completed an English degree and PGCE at Greenwich University in London, and has worked as a lecturer and manager in further education. She has now relocated to the small town of Frinton-on-Sea on the North Essex coast.

The Rumor is her first novel. Her new novel is The Dare.

[Q&A with Lesley Kara]

Kara writes:
In The Rumor, loosely inspired by the real-life case of Mary Bell who killed two little boys when she was ten, I wanted to explore how the families of victims often feel that justice has not been done, particularly in cases where the child perpetrator is rehabilitated and enabled to start afresh under a new identity. The novel addresses the ongoing grief and anguish of the victim’s family and how such unresolved feelings can sometimes spill over into righteous anger and vigilantism.
At CrimeReads Kara tagged six crime novels about settling old scores, including:
They Never Learn by Layne Fargo

Now when I first heard Layne Fargo’s They Never Learn described as a feminist serial killer story perfect for fans of Killing Eve, I knew straightway that I had to read it! It’s about an English professor who routinely punishes men who have abused women on her school campus. She makes their deaths look like accidents or suicides, until the local police finally catch on to her hobby. Meanwhile, a student in her freshman year is seeking revenge on the man who has sexually assaulted her roommate. When these two stories merge halfway through the novel, the plot twist is a delight.
Read about another entry on the list.

They Never Learn is among Heather Levy's top eight books on those darkest guilty pleasures we love to devour, Melissa Colasanti's six deliciously duplicitous female characters in thrillers, Amy Gentry's novels of the new Dark Academia canon, and Molly Odintz's six best vigilante thrillers.

My Book, The Movie: They Never Learn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Kate Vigurs's "Mission France"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Mission France: The True History of the Women of SOE by Kate Vigurs.

About the book, from the publisher:
The full story of the thirty-nine female SOE agents who went undercover in France

Formed in 1940, Special Operations Executive was to coordinate Resistance work overseas. The organization’s F section sent more than four hundred agents into France, thirty-nine of whom were women. But while some are widely known—Violette Szabo, Odette Sansom, Noor Inayat Khan—others have had their stories largely overlooked.

Kate Vigurs interweaves for the first time the stories of all thirty-nine female agents. Tracing their journeys from early recruitment to work undertaken in the field, to evasion from, or capture by, the Gestapo, Vigurs shows just how greatly missions varied. Some agents were more adept at parachuting. Some agents’ missions lasted for years, others’ less than a few hours. Some survived, others were murdered. By placing the women in the context of their work with the SOE and the wider war, this history reveals the true extent of the differences in their abilities and attitudes while underlining how they nonetheless shared a common mission and, ultimately, deserve recognition.
Visit Kate Vigurs's website.

The Page 99 Test: Mission France.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Zak Salih's "Let's Get Back to the Party"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Let's Get Back to the Party by Zak Salih.

About the book, from the publisher:
It is 2015, weeks after the Supreme Court marriage equality ruling, and all Sebastian Mote wants is to settle down. A high school art history teacher, newly single and desperately lonely, he envies his queer students their freedom to live openly the youth he lost to fear and shame.

When he runs into his childhood friend Oscar Burnham at a wedding in Washington, D.C., he can’t help but see it as a second chance. Now thirty-five, the men haven’t seen each other in more than a decade. But Oscar has no interest in their shared history, nor in the sense of be­longing Sebastian craves. Instead, he’s outraged by what he sees as the death of gay culture: bars overrun with bachelorette parties, friends cou­pling off and having babies. For Oscar, confor­mity isn’t peace, it’s surrender.

While Oscar and Sebastian struggle to find their place in a rapidly changing world, each is drawn into a cross-generational friendship that treads the line between envy and obsession: Se­bastian with one of his students, Oscar with an older icon of the AIDS era. And as they collide again and again, both men must reckon not just with one another but with themselves.

Provocative, moving, and rich with sharply drawn characters, Let’s Get Back to the Party introduces an exciting and contemporary new talent.
Visit Zak Salih's website.

The Page 69 Test: Let's Get Back to the Party.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Five top time-bending books

Catriona Silvey was born in Glasgow and grew up in Scotland and England. After collecting an unreasonable number of degrees from the universities of Cambridge, Chicago, and Edinburgh, she moved back to Cambridge where she lives with her husband and son. Her short stories have been performed at the Edinburgh International Book Festival and shortlisted for the Bridport Prize.

Silvey's new novel is Meet Me in Another Life.

At the Waterstones blog she tagged five favorite books in the "rich tradition of tales that make the most of a time-bending conceit," including:
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Ursula is born in 1910, and immediately dies. The next time round, things go better. Atkinson’s use of literary stream-of-consciousness takes on a new, time-slipping significance as her protagonist lives and relives the first half of the twentieth century. Isolated by her unique situation, Ursula sometimes treats people more as inconveniences than as fellow human beings (like poor Bridget the maid, pushed down the stairs to prevent Ursula’s death by Spanish flu). But as the Second World War looms, the arc of Ursula’s story moves away from creating her perfect life towards sublimating herself in the service of something greater: “We can never get it right, but we must try.”
Read about another entry on the list.

Life After Life is among Clare Mackintosh's ten great books with “What if?” moments, Emily Temple's fifty best contemporary novels over 500 pages, Miriam Parker indisputably best dogs in (contemporary) literature, Liese O'Halloran Schwarz's top ten books about self-reinvention, Caitlin Kleinschmidt tagged twelve moving novels of the Second World War, Jenny Shank's top five innovative novels that mess with chronology, Dell Villa's top twelve books from 2013 to give your mom, and Judith Mackrell's five best young fictional heroines in coming-of-age novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

What is Chris Nickson reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Chris Nickson, author of Brass Lives.

His entry begins:
I tend to have a few books on the go at once. As a rule (though not always) it’s non-fiction downstairs, and a novel for bedtime.

Currently, I have Tracy Borman’s biography of Thomas Cromwell on the couch. I’d loved the Hilary Mantel trilogy and the TV series of Wolf Hall. This gives the real man, yet it also emphasizes the difference between fiction and biography: a good novel can take you deeper into the person than most biographies that are shackled by facts. The further you go back in time, the truer that becomes, and with someone like Cromwell, where much of his early life is shadowy…well, he was made for the novelist. Still, it’s a fascinating book and...[read on]
About Nickson's Brass Lives, from the publisher:
A dangerous American is in town, but is he really responsible for a deadly crime spree in Leeds?

Leeds, June 1913.
Deputy Chief Constable Tom Harper is overseeing a national suffragist pilgrimage due in Leeds. Then Davey Mullen, an American gangster, returns from New York to his city of birth and seemingly triggers a series of chilling events. Is Davey responsible for the sudden surge in crime, violence and murder on Leeds's streets?
Visit Chris Nickson's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Constant Lovers.

The Page 69 Test: The Constant Lovers.

The Page 69 Test: The Iron Water.

The Page 69 Test: The Hanging Psalm.

Q&A with Chris Nickson.

The Page 69 Test: The Molten City.

My Book, The Movie: Molten City.

Writers Read: Chris Nickson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Celia E. Schultz's "Fulvia: Playing for Power at the End of the Roman Republic"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Fulvia: Playing for Power at the End of the Roman Republic by Celia E. Schultz.

About the book, from the publisher:
Fulvia is the first full-length biography focused solely on Fulvia, who is best known as the wife of Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony). Born into a less prestigious branch of an aristocratic Roman clan in the last decades of the Roman Republic, Fulvia first rose to prominence as the wife of P. Clodius Pulcher, scion of one of the city's most powerful families and one of its most infamous and scandalous politicians. In the aftermath of his murder, Fulvia refused to shrink from the glare of public scrutiny and helped to prosecute the man responsible.

Later, as the wife of Antonius, she became the most powerful woman in Rome, at one point even taking an active role in the military conflict between Antonius's allies and Octavian, the future emperor Augustus. Her husbands' enemies painted her as domineering, vicious, greedy, and petty. This book peels away the invective to reveal a strong-willed, independent woman who was, by many traditional measures, an immensely successful Roman matron.
Learn more about Fulvia: Playing for Power at the End of the Roman Republic at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Fulvia: Playing for Power at the End of the Roman Republic.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Top ten books about family life

Stephen Walsh is an Irish writer.

In his debut story collection Shine/Variance, "there’s a father smiling his way through a crisis while Christmas tree shopping with his son, a daughter pretending there’s nothing wrong with her mother, brothers and sisters realising who their parents really are."

At the Guardian, Walsh tagged ten "books about families [he's] been thrilled to read about (but pretty glad not to be part of)," including:
Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler

Open almost any book by Tyler and you’ll dive into the heart of what family members do to each other: know each other far too well and keep going regardless. This is my favourite. Maggie and Ira Moran, 28 years married, drive to a funeral and back in one day. They meet old high-school friends. Maggie intervenes (Ira would say meddles) in her son’s failed relationship. She holds an ideal family and marriage in her mind, and, though she’s not in either (who is?), her attempts to make things better, or at least less regrettable, are the raw and true heart of this book.
Read about another entry on the list.

Breathing Lessons is among Laura Barnett's top ten unconventional love stories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Zoje Stage

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

I submitted the book to my agents (and then my editor) under a different working title, but I always knew I'd be asked to change it (it was a little too artsy). As standard practice I prepare a list of alternate titles, and Getaway was the first one I suggested. I like a title that works on multiple levels, and the story involves a group of friends on a "getaway" who then need to "get away" from the situation they find themselves in.

What's in a name?

Naming characters is both tricky and fun. I try to pick names that...[read on]
Visit Zoje Stage's website.

Writers Read: Zoje Stage (July 2018).

Q&A with Zoje Stage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Robyn Harding's "The Perfect Family"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Perfect Family by Robyn Harding.

About the book, from the publisher:
The bestselling author of the The Swap explores what happens when a seemingly perfect family is pushed to the edge... and beyond in this “propulsive, constantly surprising” (Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, author of The Girls Are All So Nice Here) thriller.

Thomas and Viv Adler are the envy of their neighbors: attractive, successful, with well-mannered children and a beautifully restored home.

Until one morning, when they wake up to find their porch has been pelted with eggs. It’s a prank, Thomas insists; the work of a few out-of-control kids. But when a smoke bomb is tossed on their front lawn, and their car’s tires are punctured, the family begins to worry. Surveillance cameras show nothing but grainy images of shadowy figures in hoodies. And the police dismiss the attacks, insisting they’re just the work of bored teenagers. Unable to identify the perpetrators, the Adlers are helpless as the assaults escalate into violence, and worse. And each new violation brings with it a growing fear. Because everyone in the Adler family is keeping a secret—not just from the outside world, but from each other. And secrets can be very dangerous….

This twisty, addictively page-turning suspense novel about a perfect family’s perfect façade will keep you turning pages until its explosive ending.
Visit Robyn Harding's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Robyn Harding & Ozzie.

The Page 69 Test: The Arrangement.

My Book, The Movie: The Swap.

The Page 69 Test: The Perfect Family.

--Marshal Zeringue