Saturday, December 31, 2022

Eight fantasy tales about the joys of bread & baking

Lindsay Eagar was born and raised just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. She lives surrounded by mountains with her husband and two wild daughters. She loves sharks, coffee, flannel, winter, roller-blading, baking, running, playing the piano, non-fiction about jungle exploration, and making up stories.

Her debut, Hour of the Bees, came out from Candlewick Press to critical acclaim, and her follow-up, Race to the Bottom of the Sea, was named by Booklist as one of the “50 best middle grade books of the century.” These titles were followed by The Bigfoot Files. Her most recent work is The Patron Thief of Bread.

At Eagar tagged eight fantasy tales about the joys of bread and baking, including:
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
For childhood nostalgia in the face of impending family drama

Laura Esquivel’s masterpiece is about Tita, the youngest of the De La Garza family, who falls in love with Pedro. But Tita is forbidden to marry, since tradition dictates that she should remain single and take care of her aging mother until she dies. Tita infuses everything she cooks with whatever emotion she’s feeling—if she cries while making cake, everyone who eats the cake will be violently sick. If she is feeling lustful when she makes quail in rose petal sauce, her older sister, who eats the quail, will throw herself at a revolutionary soldier and end up in a brothel.

The book is divided into months, and each month introduces a corresponding recipe. September’s recipe is for hot chocolate and three kings’ day bread, which Tita bakes while fretting over her possible pregnancy by Pedro. As she folds the candied fruit and the porcelain doll into the dough, Tita also reflects on the simplicity of her childhood, on how easy it was to make wishes and feel lucky if you got the slice of three kings’ day bread that contained the doll. Three kings’ day bread is not just a recipe for Tita, it’s a memory, and by the time the spiced bread comes out of the oven, the scent of cinnamon and anise and citrus filling the kitchen, its powerful nostalgia has worked its magic on the rest of Tita’s family, too.
Read about another entry on the list.

Like Water for Chocolate is among Alexandra Silverman's six top foodie novels from around the world.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Charlotte Bentley's "New Orleans and the Creation of Transatlantic Opera, 1819-1859"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: New Orleans and the Creation of Transatlantic Opera, 1819-1859 by Charlotte Bentley.

About the book, from the publisher:
A history of nineteenth-century New Orleans and the people who made it a vital, if unexpected, part of an emerging operatic world.

New Orleans and the Creation of Transatlantic Opera, 1819–1859
explores the thriving operatic life of New Orleans in the first half of the nineteenth century, drawing out the transatlantic connections that animated it. By focusing on a variety of individuals, their extended webs of human contacts, and the materials that they moved along with them, this book pieces together what it took to bring opera to New Orleans and the ways in which the city’s operatic life shaped contemporary perceptions of global interconnection. The early chapters explore the process of bringing opera to the stage, taking a detailed look at the management of New Orleans’s Francophone theater, the Théâtre d’Orléans, as well as the performers who came to the city and the reception they received. But opera’s significance was not confined to the theater, and later chapters of the book examine how opera permeated everyday life in New Orleans, through popular sheet music, novels, magazines and visual culture, and dancing in its many ballrooms. Just as New Orleans helped to create transatlantic opera, opera in turn helped to create the city of New Orleans.
Follow Charlotte Bentley on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: New Orleans and the Creation of Transatlantic Opera, 1819-1859.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Mark Stevens

From my Q&A with Mark Stevens, author of The Fireballer: A Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

From the day I started writing it, this novel was called The One. It was sold as The One. The “1” is the fastball and the fastball is Frank Ryder’s dominating pitch. I also thought The One worked because Frank is the talk of the sports world. But, no. Too generic in search engines. And it would lead in all different directions, both within book and non-book searches. Arriving at The Fireballer took weeks and weeks of going around and around with my editor, my agent, and a few friends who got pulled into the head-scratching fray.

What else was in play (so to speak)? Unhittable. Pitch Perfect. Never Saw It Coming. Payoff Pitch. A couple dozen others.

For a long time, The Fireballer was in the running. It had staying power. It covered a lot of ground because Frank throws a supremely fast pitch and, in my mind, he’s kind of burning down the joint with the issues he’s bringing to the table. It was one of those stubborn...[read on]
Visit Mark Stevens's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Fireballer.

Q&A with Mark Stevens.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 30, 2022

Seven books that celebrate underappreciated crafts

Aanchal Malhotra is a writer and oral historian from New Delhi, India. A co-founder of the Museum of Material Memory, Malhotra has written two nonfiction books on the human history and generational impact of the 1947 Partition, titled Remnants of Partition and In the Language of Remembering.

The Book of Everlasting Things is her debut novel.

At Electric Lit Malhotra tagged seven books "centering the ancient traditions and unique occupations endangered by a modernizing world," including:
The Printmaker’s Daughter by Katherine Govier

In Japan’s nineteenth-century Edo period, when artists and writers were suppressed by the shogunate, Kastushika Hokusai, a printmaker, lives with his daughter, Oei, working on pieces like The Great Wave that will one day become legend. However, in their time, they live in poverty, traveling often to avoid arrests. Through research, Govier imagines the life of Oei, who reveres her father above all else. She works in his studio for her whole life, and may well have been the hand behind some of his most famous works. This is a novel about artistry and the ukiyo-e tradition of woodblock printing and painting, but is as much about family and loyalty, and the place of women. In the final chapters, Oei says, “I am the brush. I am the line. I am the color”—and yet this is weighed down by one final admission: “I am she, Hokusai’s daughter.”
Read about another entry on the list.

My Book, The Movie: The Printmaker's Daughter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Elle Grawl's "One of Those Faces"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: One of Those Faces: A Novel by Elle Grawl.

About the book, from the publisher:
From debut author Elle Grawl comes a psychological thriller about an insomniac artist who discovers a shocking truth about a recent spate of murders in her city: the victims all look just like her.

Years after escaping her abusive childhood, Harper Mallen has only ever known sleepless nights―or terrifying nightmares. She’s struggling to survive as an artist in a trendy Chicago neighborhood, getting by on freelance gigs, when she’s suddenly confronted with the worst fears from her past.

A young woman is killed outside Harper’s apartment―a woman who chillingly resembles her. As Harper searches for information about the victim, she discovers unsettling links to two other murders. Upon discovering another doppelgänger, Harper realizes her life is not the only one hanging in the balance.

As her obsession and paranoia deepen, everyone is a suspect: the handsome stranger in the café, customers at the painting studio, even the ghosts from her past. The closer she comes to unraveling the truth behind the murders, the more Harper realizes there is no one she can trust―not even herself.
Visit Elle Grawl's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Elle Grawl & Olive and Truffle.

My Book, The Movie: One of Those Faces.

The Page 69 Test: One of Those Faces.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jed Rasula's "What the Thunder Said"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: What the Thunder Said: How The Waste Land Made Poetry Modern by Jed Rasula.

About the book, from the publisher:
When T. S. Eliot published The Waste Land in 1922, it put the thirty-four-year-old author on a path to worldwide fame and the Nobel Prize. “But,” as Jed Rasula writes, “The Waste Land is not only a poem: it names an event, like a tornado or an earthquake. Its publication was a watershed, marking a before and after. It was a poem that unequivocally declared that the ancient art of poetry had become modern.” In What the Thunder Said, Rasula tells the story of how The Waste Land changed poetry forever and how this cultural bombshell served as a harbinger of modernist revolution in all the arts, from abstraction in visual art to atonality in music.

From its famous opening, “April is the cruellest month, breeding / Lilacs out of the dead land,” to its closing Sanskrit mantra, “Shantih shantih shantih,” The Waste Land combined singular imagery, experimental technique, and dense allusions, boldly fulfilling Ezra Pound’s injunction to “make it new.” What the Thunder Said traces the origins, reception, and enduring influence of the poem, from its roots in Wagnerism and French Symbolism to the way its strangely beguiling music continues to inspire readers. Along the way, we learn about Eliot’s storied circle, including Wyndham Lewis, Virginia Woolf, and Bertrand Russell, and about poets like Mina Loy and Marianne Moore, whose innovations have proven as consequential as those of the “men of 1914.”

Filled with fresh insights and unfamiliar anecdotes, What the Thunder Said recovers the explosive force of the twentieth century’s most influential poem.
Learn more about What the Thunder Said at the Princeton University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: What the Thunder Said.

--Marshal Zeringue

Julie E. Czerneda's "To Each This World," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: To Each This World by Julie E. Czerneda.

The entry begins:
To Each This World is a story I approached from the start with film in mind. Not in the sense of “here’s my book, it’d make a great movie” (Though that would be lovely and if you think so please contact my agent.), but by paying attention to what I enjoyed on film and television. The grit and reality of in The Expanse. The pacing and heart of Free Guy. The intensity of I am Mother.

Of course, thinking that way got me in trouble because I decided to start writing in the midst of a giant action scene with a crash landing in a dangerous alien jungle, and—it wasn’t me. I like to set up the world and characters before things get big and boom. Show where they came from before they go places. That beginning is now a chapter near the end, to show you how skewed blockbuster thinking got me. Phew! (Though if a movie maker likes that beginning I’d understand.)

Each is a big concept, far future, what if we reconnected with long-lost settlements on other worlds story, with a race against time to save everyone from a mysterious alien threat—or close neighbour, misunderstanding being another theme. Because the canvas is huge and sweeping, in time and space, I chose to tell it through three intimate viewpoints: Killian, the Human pilot of the alien Portal; Beth, a Human explorer on one of those lost settled worlds; and Henry, New Earth’s Arbiter and person in charge, who travels with the aliens and Killian to save everyone—if he can.

Casting those three? I came up with...[read on]
Visit Julie E. Czerneda's website.

The Page 69 Test: To Guard Against the Dark.

The Page 69 Test: The Gossamer Mage.

The Page 69 Test: Mirage.

Q&A with Julie E. Czerneda.

The Page 69 Test: To Each This World.

My Book, The Movie: To Each This World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 29, 2022

What is Peter Blauner reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Peter Blauner, author of Picture in the Sand: A Novel.

His entry begins:
The book that's made the strongest impression on me in the last year is Bambi. Yeah, that's right, I said Bambi. You got a problem with that?

Well, let me tell you, Bambi wasn't always a Walt Disney cartoon. It started life as a novel published in 1923 by Austro-Hungarian author, literary critic and man-about-town Felix Salten. He was part of a circle that included sophisticates like Arthur Schnitzler and Stefan Zweig. Salten's novel has something of his compatriots' dreamy sensuality, which will come as a surprise to those who only know the Disney version. The Nazis also perceived a threatening cultural/political subtext. They believed that Salten, an outspoken Jewish nationalist, meant his story to be an allegory about anti-Semitism and banned it. Salten fled to Switzerland where he saw the Disney version before he died, and...[read on]
About Picture in the Sand, from the publisher:
Peter Blauner's epic Picture in the Sand is a sweeping intergenerational saga told through a grandfather's passionate letters to his grandson, passing on the story of his political rebellion in 1950s Egypt in order to save his grandson's life in a post-9/11 world.

When Alex Hassan gets accepted to an Ivy League university, his middle-class Egyptian-American family is filled with pride and excitement. But that joy turns to shock when they discover that he’s run off to the Middle East to join a holy war instead. When he refuses to communicate with everyone else, his loving grandfather Ali emails him one last plea. If Alex will stay in touch, his grandfather will share with Alex – and only Alex – a manuscript containing the secret story of his own life that he’s kept hidden from his family, until now.

It's the tale of his romantic and heartbreaking past rooted in Hollywood and the post-revolutionary Egypt of the 1950s, when young Ali was a movie fanatic who attained a dream job working for the legendary director Cecil B. DeMille on the set of his epic film, The Ten Commandments. But Ali’s vision of a golden future as an American movie mogul gets upended when he is unwittingly caught up in a web of politics, espionage, and real-life events that change the course of history.

It's a narrative he’s told no one for more than a half-century. But now he’s forced to unearth the past to save a young man who’s about to make the same tragic mistakes he made so long ago.
Visit Peter Blauner's website.

Writers Read: Peter Blauner (September 2018).

The Page 69 Test: Sunrise Highway.

Writers Read: Peter Blauner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books about the iron curtain

Timothy Phillips is the author of The Secret Twenties: British Intelligence, the Russians, and the Jazz Age (2017) and Beslan: The Tragedy of School No. 1 (2008). He grew up in Northern Ireland and now lives in London. He holds a doctorate in Russian from Oxford University and has written and spoken widely on British and Russian history.

Phillips's new book is The Curtain and the Wall: A Modern Journey along Europe’s Cold War Border [US title: Retracing the Iron Curtain: A 3,000-Mile Journey Through the End and Afterlife of the Cold War].

At the Guardian he tagged ten "books that reveal the essence of the most menacing border the world has yet seen," including:
The Third Man by Graham Greene

When people think of the iron curtain, they tend to think of two European cities particularly – Berlin, itself divided, and Moscow, from where the USSR government effectively ran its satellites. However, until 1955, Vienna was divided much like Berlin into American, British, French and Soviet sectors. Greene’s The Third Man (1950) and the earlier film of that name conjure the period better than anything. The investigation of Harry Lime’s death shows the City of Dreams in a seedy postwar light. Greene also foregrounds one of the greatest cold war oddities, Vienna’s Inter-Allied Military Patrol, which required one soldier from each occupying power to share a jeep and travel to crime scenes together.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jane Draycott's "Prosthetics and Assistive Technology in Ancient Greece and Rome"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Prosthetics and Assistive Technology in Ancient Greece and Rome by Jane Draycott.

About the book, from the publisher:
This is the first comprehensive study of prosthetics and assistive technology in classical antiquity, integrating literary, documentary, archaeological, and bioarchaeological evidence to provide as full a picture as possible of their importance for the lived experience of people with disabilities in classical antiquity. The volume is not only a work of disability history, but also one of medical, scientific, and technological history, and so will be of interest to members of multiple academic disciplines across multiple historical periods. The chapters cover extremity prostheses, facial prostheses, prosthetic hair, the design, commission and manufacture of prostheses and assistive technology, and the role of care-givers in the lives of ancient people with impairments and disabilities. Lavishly illustrated, the study further contains informative tables that collate the aforementioned different types of evidence in an easily accessible way.
Follow Jane Draycott on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Prosthetics and Assistive Technology in Ancient Greece and Rome.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Elyse Friedman

From my Q&A with Elyse Friedman, author of The Opportunist: A Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I think the title is pretty apt, since the story is about exploitation and corruption. I like that it doesn’t identify any character in particular. The titular opportunist may well be the 28- year-old nurse who is marrying her wealthy 76-year-old patient, but it could refer to anyone in the narrative. I did play with a bunch of titles way back when, including Avarice (too boring) and Killing Kelly, which had that hint of fun and danger I was looking for (plus good alliteration), but ultimately it sounded too much like the TV show, Killing Eve.

What's in a name?

I have a bad habit of using the same names over and over again in my fiction. I like names that sound real to me, even if they are...[read on]
Follow Elyse Friedman on Twitter.

Q&A with Elyse Friedman.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Five compelling novels with dual timelines

Liv Andersson is an author, lawyer, and former therapist whose background has inspired her thrillers and mysteries. She and her husband live in the beautiful Green Mountains of Vermont with their sons and three dogs.

Her new novel is Little Red House.

[The Page 69 Test: Little Red House]

At CrimeReads Andersson tagged five favorite novels with dual timelines, including:
The Last Flight by Julie Clark

Clark’s gripping dual timeline thriller brings together two women in desperate circumstances, each of whom is determined to vanish. During a chance meeting at an airport bar, Claire Cook, the wife of a controlling and powerful man, meets Eva, a woman who wants to escape her grief over her husband’s death. The two women decide to swap identities, believing the exchange will give them a fresh chance at a new life far away from their homes. But when Claire’s flight to Puerto Rico crashes with Eva onboard, everyone assumes Claire is dead. Claire must now assume Eva’s identity—and the dark secrets that go along with it.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jeremy Harte's "Cloven Country"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Cloven Country: The Devil and the English Landscape by Jeremy Harte.

About the book, from the publisher:
An exploration of the myths of England’s deceptively bucolic rolling hills and country lanes believed to be created and shaped by the Dark Lord himself.

According to legend, the English landscape—so calm on the surface—is really the Devil’s work. Cloven Country tells of rocks hurled into place and valleys carved out by infernal labor. The Devil’s hideous strength laid down great roads in one night and left scars everywhere as the hard stone melted like wax under those burning feet. With roots in medieval folklore of giants and spirits, this is not the Satan of prayer, but a clumsy ogre, easily fooled by humankind. When a smart cobbler or cunning young wife outwitted him, they struck a blow for the underdog. Only the wicked squire and grasping merchant were beyond redemption, carried off by a black huntsman in the storm. Cloven Country offers a fascinating panorama of these decidedly sinister English tales.
Learn more about Cloven Country at the Reaktion Books website.

The Page 99 Test: Cloven Country.

--Marshal Zeringue

Shirley Russak Wachtel's "A Castle in Brooklyn," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: A Castle in Brooklyn: A Novel by Shirley Russak Wachtel.

The entry begins:
A Castle in Brooklyn is a story about family and friendship. It is also a story which conveys the importance of home, taking us through the dream of establishing a home in a new land, and how the home remains a symbol of all of its inhabitants’ aspirations. Jacob survives a heart-wrenching trauma at the hands of the Nazis, and ultimately escapes from Europe to begin a new life in America. His lifelong dream is to build a home, a dream which he accomplishes with the help of his friend, Zalman, someone who was by his side during his daring escape. Esther, a young immigrant from Poland, gives up her own dreams of a career in real estate when she becomes his wife and, along with Zalman, the three live together in their “castle” in Brooklyn. But when an unexpected tragedy occurs, Jacob’s friendship with Zalman is put at risk, and so is his marriage.

While I do not write a novel with casting in mind, it is fun to consider which actors might be best suited to play the central characters in my book. I believe Benedict Cumberbatch might be well-suited to play Jacob. Cumberbatch’s roles which include The Power of the Dog and The Imitation Game, reveal his ability to play characters who are determined to fulfill a goal, yet haunted by a mysterious past. Jacob is a reticent, but determined, character who is haunted by...[read on]
Visit Shirley Wachtel's website and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: A Castle in Brooklyn.

My Book, The Movie: A Castle in Brooklyn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Pg. 69: Mark Stevens's "The Fireballer"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Fireballer: A Novel by Mark Stevens.

About the book, from the publisher:
A poignant story about hopes, dreams, and how far one man’s talent takes him before he realizes it’s about what you do―and how you do it.

Frank Ryder is unstoppable on the baseball field―his pitches arrive faster than a batter can swing, giving his opponents no chance. He’s being heralded as a game-changing pitcher.

But within the maelstrom of press, adulation, and wild speculation, Frank is a man alone. Haunted by a tragic incident from years past, he yearns to be the best but cannot reconcile the guilt he carries with the man everyone believes him to be. Frank’s path to redemption leads him on a journey back to where his life changed forever, to visit his family, his high school coach, and his brother. Through reconnection and reconciliation with those also deeply affected by the devastating event of Frank’s youth, he finds peace and his place in the world both in and outside the game.

The Fireballer is a lyrical, moving story of undeniable talent and the life-changing power of forgiveness and a subtly romantic ode to America’s favorite pastime.
Visit Mark Stevens's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Fireballer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books to read when you’re lonely

Claire Alexander lives on the west coast of Scotland with her husband and children. She has written for The Washington Post, The Independent, The Huffington Post, and Glamour. In 2019, one of her essays was published in the award-winning literary anthology We Got This: Solo Mom Stories of Grit, Heart, and Humor.

When she’s not writing or parenting, Alexander is on her paddle board, thinking about her next book.

Her latest book is Meredith, Alone.

At Lit Hub Alexander tagged five books that have given her "comfort during periods of disconnection or retreat," including:
Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason

Funny and heartbreaking and thoughtful, this novel is captivating from the very first page. Far from being another conventional tale of a woman with depression, it tackles dark topics with welcome lightness. Whether you like her or not, Martha’s story of love and loss reminds me that I’m not alone in this world, where “everything is broken and messed up and completely fine.”
Read about another entry on the list.

Sorrow and Bliss is among Jane Shemilt's five books tracing the portrayal of mental disorders in literature and Alyssa Vaughn's [February 2021] 42 books to help you get through the rest of quarantine.

The Page 69 Test: Sorrow and Bliss.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Heather Gautney's "The New Power Elite"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The New Power Elite by Heather Gautney.

About the book, from the publisher:
Revisiting C. Wright Mills' classic, an analysis of power structures in the neoliberal era and America's drift toward authoritarianism.

In 1956, radical icon C. Wright Mills wrote The Power Elite, a scathing critique of elite power in the United States that has become a classic for generations of nonconformists and students of social and political inequality. With rising rates of inequality and social stratification, Mills' work is now more relevant than ever, revealing a need for a fresh examination of American elitism and the nature of centralized power.

In The New Power Elite, Heather Gautney takes up the problem of concentrated political, economic, and military power in America that Mills addressed in his original text and echoes his outrage over the injustices and ruin brought by today's elites. Drawing from years of experience at the highest levels of government and in the entertainment industry, Gautney examines the dynamics of elite power from the postwar period to today and grounds her analysis in political economy, rather than in institutional authority, as Mills did. In doing so, she covers diverse, yet interconnected centers of elite power, from the US State and military apparatus, to Wall Street and billionaires, to celebrities and mass media. Gautney also accounts for changes in global capitalism over the last forty years, arguing that neoliberalism and the centering of the market in political and social life has ushered in ever more extreme forms of violence and exploitation, and a drift toward authoritarianism.

A contemporary companion to Mills' work through a fresh critique of elites for the new millennium, The New Power Elite offers a comprehensive look at the structure of American power and its tethers around the world.
Follow Heather Gautney on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: The New Power Elite.

--Marshal Zeringue

Q&A with Adam Braver

From my Q&A with Adam Braver, author of Rejoice the Head of Paul McCartney:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

In some respects, this is a tricky title. On the one hand, it is quite literal, with its allusion understood by the underlying events of the opening pages. It also is a phrase later chanted by one of the characters. But I also hope that its metaphorical aspects are part of the underpinning of reading the book—namely, the idea that much of the novel looks at a significant moment in modern history, and the moment where a kind of idealism is challenged, and for some, even, lost, or destroyed. And in tracking the echoes of that time—the feelings of confusion, loss, and uncertainty—it was important to me that the book ultimately become about the idea of connection through beauty and grace (even when difficult to see). And with The Beatles being for many (at least in my world) the touchstone of the unconditional belief in love and peace (a version of my saying beauty and grace), that title, Rejoice the Head of Paul McCartney became the title almost from the get-go, in that it told...[read on]
Visit Adam Braver's website.

Q&A with Adam Braver.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 26, 2022

Elle Grawl's "One of Those Faces," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: One of Those Faces: A Novel by Elle Grawl.

The entry begins:
One of Those Faces is a psychological thriller that follows a young freelance artist in Chicago who discovers that a recent murder victim bears a striking resemblance to her.

While I was writing, I visualized the story playing out like a movie but I didn’t really think about which actors lined up with my mental images until after I finished the manuscript.

Harper: Harper is the troubled freelance artist at the heart of my novel.

Shortly after finishing my manuscript, I stumbled upon the movie Earthquake Bird. In this film, Alicia Vikander struck me as a great candidate to play Harper, the lead in my novel. Vikander really portrays a complex, insecure character that’s navigating interpersonal conflict while also dealing with her past traumas. I also think Nell Free from The Servant would be a great fit for the same reason. Both actresses portray their characters with this quiet intensity that comes across as very vulnerable due to their warped sense of identity and background. Visually, they also have similar features to Harper.

Iann: Iann is the attractive stranger that enters Harper’s life in the beginning of the novel. He’s...[read on]
Visit Elle Grawl's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Elle Grawl & Olive and Truffle.

My Book, The Movie: One of Those Faces.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books where assuming aliens are just like us might get you killed

Karen Osborne is the author of Architects of Memory and Engines of Oblivion from Tor Books. Her short fiction appears in Uncanny, Clarkesworld, Fireside, Escape Pod, Robot Dinosaurs, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. She is a member of the DC/MD-based Homespun Ceilidh Band, emcees the Charm City Spec reading series, and once won a major event filmmaking award for taping a Klingon wedding.

Osborne lives in Baltimore, MD, with two violins, an autoharp, five cameras, two cats and a family.

At the she tagged five books where assuming aliens are just like you might get you killed, including:
Noumenon Infinity by Marina Lostetter

In this delightful sequel, Convoy Seven—a scientific mission from Earth, dispatched centuries earlier and staffed primarily by clones of the original crew—has set off once more to LQ Pyx to study the ancient, unfinished alien structure centered around it—is it a Dyson sphere? A weapon? (Assumption #2!)

This sequel introduces Convoy Twelve, the “lost” mission, which had disappeared while studying dimensional anomalies. They come out the other side of a terrible accident to find themselves face-to-face with a megastructure-creating race of alien beings that have no interest whatsoever in speaking with them. (Assumption #3—of course!)

It’s a common trope in science fiction that alien contact is going to be absolutely consequential when it happens—through wars, or world peace, or a rapid increase in science, for example, so it’s strange that Twelve meets up with the aliens and the aliens are actually hostile to talking with them. But Lostetter’s series is about a larger perspective—it plays out against the scale of the universe itself, over centuries, with entire civilizations as characters, not just individuals. Human beings aren’t very good large-scale thinkers, yet that’s exactly what Lostetter is asking readers to do.

The Convoy Seven side of the narrative continues to be anchored by I.C.C., an AI through which we see how the passing of time affects the mission even as characters are born and die and are born again. Sticking with Convoy Twelve reads as the standard experience of a single crew over days or months. When the timelines merge, nothing about this book is standard. Lostetter wants you to know that assumptions, when placed against a backdrop of the universe and of alien consciousnesses—mean nothing, and can get you in far more trouble than an open mind might. What does it mean to be human? Do you think you really know? Or do you just assume?
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Valerie Padilla Carroll's "Who Gets to Go Back-to-the-Land?"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Who Gets to Go Back-to-the-Land?: Gender and Race in U.S. Self-Sufficiency Popular Culture by Valerie Padilla Carroll.

About the book, from the publisher:
In Who Gets to Go Back-to-the-Land?, Valerie Padilla Carroll examines a variety of media from the last century that proselytized self-sufficiency as a solution to the economic instability, environmental destruction, and perceived disintegration of modern America. In the early twentieth century, books already advocated an escape for the urban, white-collar male. The suggestion became more practical during the Great Depression, and magazines pushed self-sufficiency lifestyles. By the 1970s, the idea was reborn in newsletters and other media as a radical response to a damaged world, allowing activists to promote the simple life as environmental, gender, and queer justice. At the century’s end, a great variety of media promoted self-sufficiency as the solution to a different set of problems, from survival at the millennium to wanderlust of millennials.

Nevertheless, these utopian narratives are written overwhelmingly for a particular audience—one that is white, male, and white-collar. Padilla Carroll’s archival research of the books, newspapers, magazines, newsletters, websites, blogs, and videos promoting the life of the agrarian smallholder illuminates how embedded race, class, gender, and heteronormative dogmas in these texts reinforce dominant power ideologies and ignore the experiences of marginalized people. Still, Padilla Carroll also highlights how those left out have continued to demand inclusion by telling their own stories of self-sufficiency, rewriting and reimagining the movement to be collaborative, inclusive, and rooted in both human and ecological justice.
Follow Valerie Padilla Carroll on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Who Gets to Go Back-to-the-Land?.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Nine books recommended by travel experts

At Tripadvisor Perri Ormont Blumberg surveyed several travel experts to share their favorite recent book recommendations. One title on the list:
The Fire Thief by Debra Bokur

“I always love a good mystery, so when I came across The Fire Thief I couldn’t wait to dive in, especially after seeing it was the first of a series based in Maui,” says Lori Michimoto, a travel public relations consultant who resides in Honolulu. “The author showed a deep understanding of Native Hawaiian and local culture, and seamlessly wove it into the story.” If you get sucked into this book, the other two in the series—The Bone Field and The Lava Witch—are already out as well.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Page 69 Test: The Fire Thief.

My Book, The Movie: The Fire Thief.

--Marshal Zeringue

Crime fiction experts tag their favorite books of 2022

J. Kingston Pierce is the editor of both The Rap Sheet and Killer Covers, the senior editor of January Magazine, and a contributing editor of CrimeReads. At The Rap Sheet he's rounded up lists of their favorite crime fiction of 2022 from some experts. Two titles from Jim Thomsen's list:
Other People’s Secrets, by Meredith Hambrock (Crooked Lane):

There’s no character I love more in literature that the loser, through poor choices and poorer circumstances, with a hidden higher gear that’s revealed only when they’re threatened with the loss of what little they have left. Baby, the heroine of Hambrock’s debut novel, is a classic such character. Born in a dumpster and scraping out a daily subsistence existence not so removed from the trash bin nearly three decades later, Baby finds her calling when the rundown lakefront resort she works at—and illegally squats in—is targeted for big changes that appear designed to leave her and her loser friends behind. And when she learns that the closure is part of a conspiracy by developers in league with local drug kingpins, god help anybody who gets in Baby’s way. Most of...[read on]

[The Page 69 Test: Other People's Secrets]

Blackout, by Erin Flanagan (Thomas & Mercer):

Erin Flanagan came onto my radar in a big way with Deer Season, the richly deserved winner of this year’s Edgar Award for Best First Novel. Blackout, her second novel, is a completely different beast, but no less assured than her debut. It’s a highly original twist on the unreliable-thriller trope. Maris Heilman, a college sociology professor and recovering alcoholic, is suffering blackouts that endanger herself and the stability of her family, and she seems unable to convince anyone that she isn’t drinking again. The truth, though, is that she is the target of a monstrous conspiracy involving some seriously weird science. But what Maris knows and what she can prove to anyone’s satisfaction are two very different things, and the gap between them may be too...[read on]

[The Page 69 Test: Blackout; My Book, The Movie: Blackout; Coffee with a Canine: Erin Flanagan & Mavis and Lorna]
Read about the favorite 2022 crime fiction titles tagged by J. Kingston Pierce, Kevin Burton Smith, Ali Karim, Stephen Miller, Jim Napier, Fraser Massey, and Jim Thomsen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Pg. 69: Liv Andersson's "Little Red House"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Little Red House: A Novel by Liv Andersson.

About the book, from the publisher:
Twenty years isn’t enough to erase the sins of the past—but the future is even more terrifying in this thrilling read perfect for fans of Megan Collins and Julia Heaberlin.

In 1997, Eve Foster’s daughter, Kelsey, runs away to New Mexico and vanishes without a trace. Eve is convinced that she’s the victim of a serial killer who’s been hunting women in the region—but Kelsey’s body is never found.

Years later, Eve dies, leaving everything to her adopted twin daughters. The majority of the wealthy estate in Vermont goes to Lisa, the “good daughter,” while Connie inherits only a small stipend and a property in New Mexico. Connie, often the target of Eve’s cruelty, suspects this was another of her mother’s vindictive games.

Connie arrives in New Mexico to find a small, dilapidated red house in the desert, and the home’s mysterious caretaker, Jet Montgomery, living in a shack on the property. She learns there’s been a string of women murdered in the area—murders that no one will talk about.

Before Connie can get to the truth, her mother’s sadistic mind games come creeping back from the grave—and now the danger becomes all too real. With a serial killer on the loose and a trove of deadly secrets coming to the surface, Connie is in a desperate race to save herself and what little is left of her shattered family.
Visit Liv Andersson's website.

The Page 69 Test: Little Red House.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five novels with lessons to turn a post-apocalyptic story into a thriller

Pedro Hoffmeister is the author of the critically acclaimed novels American Afterlife, Too Shattered For Mending, This Is The Part Where You Laugh, Graphic The Valley, and others.

At CrimeReads he tagged five novels he read and studied to learn how to write a post-apocalyptic thriller, including:
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

Then I went a different direction, away from thriller. I’d already read Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven (which I loved), and I’d heard that Heller’s similar novel was an even better book. (Strange side note I discovered through research: both post-apocalyptic airport novels were edited by the same editor at Random House and in the exact same year.)

So I analyzed the post-apocalyptic elements, comparing my draft to both Station Eleven and to Heller’s The Dog Stars. I discovered that Heller’s post-plague novel is the perfect example of a book where a flawed character becomes the reader’s favorite. I read this book twice as well, wanting to know how Heller makes the reader love both Hig and Bangley, how Heller makes abrasive and imperfect people into the readers’ favorite characters.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Dog Stars is among Lorna Wallace's eleven best dogs in post-apocalyptic books and films and Siobhan Adcock's six crime novels that explore the experience of veterans.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 23, 2022

Coffee with a canine: Elle Grawl & Olive and Truffle

Featured at Coffee with a Canine: Elle Grawl & Olive and Truffle.

The author, on how she and Olive and Truffle were united:
My husband and I wanted to buy a coffee plant one Saturday morning while I was in law school and we returned with Truffle instead! While we were looking for the plant, we stumbled upon a local shelter event and we really connected with Truffle. We'd been wanting to get a second dog for some time and had been on waiting lists with doodle-mix rescues in the area for a while before...[read on]
About One of Those Faces, from the publisher:
From debut author Elle Grawl comes a psychological thriller about an insomniac artist who discovers a shocking truth about a recent spate of murders in her city: the victims all look just like her.

Years after escaping her abusive childhood, Harper Mallen has only ever known sleepless nights―or terrifying nightmares. She’s struggling to survive as an artist in a trendy Chicago neighborhood, getting by on freelance gigs, when she’s suddenly confronted with the worst fears from her past.

A young woman is killed outside Harper’s apartment―a woman who chillingly resembles her. As Harper searches for information about the victim, she discovers unsettling links to two other murders. Upon discovering another doppelgänger, Harper realizes her life is not the only one hanging in the balance.

As her obsession and paranoia deepen, everyone is a suspect: the handsome stranger in the café, customers at the painting studio, even the ghosts from her past. The closer she comes to unraveling the truth behind the murders, the more Harper realizes there is no one she can trust―not even herself.
Visit Elle Grawl's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Elle Grawl & Olive and Truffle.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Bradford Vivian's "Campus Misinformation"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Campus Misinformation: The Real Threat to Free Speech in American Higher Education by Bradford Vivian.

About the book, from the publisher:
An incisive examination of how pundits and politicians manufactured the campus free speech crisis--and created a genuine challenge to academic freedom in the process.

If we listen to the politicians and pundits, college campuses have become fiercely ideological spaces where students unthinkingly endorse a liberal orthodoxy and forcibly silence anyone who dares to disagree. These commentators lament the demise of free speech and academic freedom. But what is really happening on college campuses?

Campus Misinformation shows how misinformation about colleges and universities has proliferated in recent years, with potentially dangerous results. Popular but highly misleading claims about a so-called free speech crisis and a lack of intellectual diversity on college campuses emerged in the mid-2010s and continue to shape public discourse about higher education across party lines. Such disingenuous claims impede constructive deliberation about higher learning while normalizing suspect ideas about First Amendment freedoms and democratic participation.

Taking a non-partisan approach, Bradford Vivian argues that reporting on campus culture has grossly exaggerated the importance and representativeness of a small number of isolated events; misleadingly advocated for an artificial parity between liberals and conservatives as true viewpoint diversity; mischaracterized the use of trigger warnings and safe spaces; and purposefully confused critique and protest with censorship and "cancel culture." Organizations and think tanks generate pseudoscientific data to support this discourse, then advocate for free speech in highly specific ways that actually limit speech in general. In the name of free speech and viewpoint diversity, we now see restrictions on the right to protest and laws banning certain books, theories, and subjects from schools.

By deconstructing the political and rhetorical development of the free speech crisis, Vivian not only provides a powerful corrective to contemporary views of higher education, but provides a blueprint for readers to identify and challenge misleading language--and to understand the true threats to our freedoms.
Follow Brad Vivian on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Campus Misinformation.

--Marshal Zeringue

Nine of the best books for a good cry

Eight Vogue staffers shared "the books that make them well up every time, whether in sadness or happiness or just flat-out amazement at a perfectly put-together sentence." One pick from Emma Specter, culture writer:
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

I don’t normally cry over books (or movies or TV shows, unless I’m living through the early weeks of a pandemic, which I’ve learned helps me turn on the waterworks). Yet when I read Makkai’s work of historical fiction about young gay men living through—or, in far too many cases, dying during—the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, I was a sobbing mess. There’s a specific reference to one young man reflecting on the things he’ll miss about being alive, among them “a dog he could walk by the lake,” and the first time I read that sentence, I was overcome and almost nauseous with grief thinking about the many whose lives and futures were taken from them by disease and government inaction.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Great Believers is among Edward McClelland's ten favorite modern fiction titles set in Chicago, Joel Fishbane's five best books with multiple timelines, The Center for Fiction's 200 books that shaped 200 years of literature, seven top books for World AIDS Day, and Joanna Hershon's seven darkly fascinating books about cults.

My Book, The Movie: The Great Believers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Christiane M. Andrews's "Wolfish," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Wolfish by Christiane M. Andrews.

The entry begins:
Wolfish, a very loose reimagining of the Romulus and Remus myth, centers on four key characters: a rising boy-king who receives a troubling prophecy; Alba, a young oracle-apprentice who, despite her best intentions, gives the king this prophecy; and the twins the king abandons in the wilderness in an attempt to escape his foretold fate. While one twin, a girl, is rescued by shepherds who name her Rae and raise her as their own, the boy is left to nature. Nursed by a she-wolf, re-stitched by insects, he becomes a wolf himself, and it is years before the twins—as girl and wolf—find each other again. When the king learns the twins have lived, he sets out in search of them, and as his hunt grows ever more desperate and cruel, Rae and the wolf must unite with Alba to try to stop his terrible reign.

While much of Wolfish is set in a realistic ancient world, it does incorporate some fantastical natural elements—in particular, the aforementioned mysterious stitching insects and the boy bound into wolf. Though I don’t envision actors or directors or cinematic elements as I write, I think David Lowery’s The Green Knight, in which the fantastical arises out of lushly filmed nature that highlights beauty and depth and mystery, is an excellent model. (This is visible to some extent in his Pete’s Dragon as well.) Guillermo del Toro’s films, too, that present the magical within the human world (The Shape of Water or Pan’s Labyrinth, for example) could be...[read on]
Visit Christiane M. Andrews's website.

My Book, The Movie: Spindlefish and Stars.

The Page 69 Test: Spindlefish and Stars.

Q&A with Christiane M. Andrews.

The Page 69 Test: Wolfish.

Writers Read: Christiane M. Andrews.

My Book, The Movie: Wolfish.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Kal Raustiala's "The Absolutely Indispensable Man"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Absolutely Indispensable Man: Ralph Bunche, the United Nations, and the Fight to End Empire by Kal Raustiala.

About the book, from the publisher:
A wide-ranging political biography of diplomat, Nobel prize winner, and civil rights leader Ralph Bunche.

A legendary diplomat, scholar, and civil rights leader, Ralph Bunche was one of the most prominent Black Americans of the twentieth century. The first African American to obtain a political science Ph.D. from Harvard and a celebrated diplomat at the United Nations, he was once so famous he handed out the Best Picture award at the Oscars. Yet today Ralph Bunche is largely forgotten.

In The Absolutely Indispensable Man, Kal Raustiala restores Bunche to his rightful place in history. He shows that Bunche was not only a singular figure in midcentury America; he was also one of the key architects of the postwar international order. Raustiala tells the story of Bunche's dramatic life, from his early years in prewar Los Angeles to UCLA, Harvard, the State Department, and the heights of global diplomacy at the United Nations. After narrowly avoiding assassination Bunche received the Nobel Peace Prize for his ground-breaking mediation of the first Arab-Israeli conflict, catapulting him to popular fame. A central player in some of the most dramatic crises of the Cold War, he pioneered conflict management and peacekeeping at the UN. But as Raustiala argues, his most enduring achievement was his work to dismantle European empire. Bunche perceptively saw colonialism as the central issue of the 20th century and decolonization as a project of global racial justice.

From marching with Martin Luther King to advising presidents and prime ministers, Ralph Bunche shaped our world in lasting ways. This definitive biography gives him his due. It also reminds us that postwar decolonization not only fundamentally transformed world politics, but also powerfully intersected with America's own civil rights struggle.
Learn more about The Absolutely Indispensable Man at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Absolutely Indispensable Man.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten books about hellraisers

David Fleming has been an award-winning documentary filmmaker and a journalist, whose articles have appeared in the Guardian, Independent, The Telegraph and the Mail of Sunday.

His new book is Hellfire: Evelyn Waugh and the Hypocrites Club.

At the Guardian Fleming tagged ten notable books about hellraisers, including:
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson

The two gonzo antiheroes start as they mean to go on, loading the trunk of their convertible with enough drugs and drink to knock out the US navy. It’s a grotesque fantasy, a savage, rage-fuelled, at times extremely funny 100 mph rollercoaster “Journey into the dark heart of the American dream”. And a lament for the failure of the consciousness-expanding hippie dream. What Ornette Coleman is to Dizzy Gillespie, this book is to Burroughs and the Beats.
Read about another entry on the list.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is among Kurt Andersen’s five favorite ’60s books, Samuel Muston's 10 best travel books and Willie Geist's six favorite humor books.

--Marshal Zeringue