Monday, February 28, 2022

Five top recent hotel thrillers & mysteries

Carolyne Topdjian is a suspense writer with publications in PRISM International, Dreamers Magazine and Firewords Quarterly. She has an interdisciplinary PHD from York University and is a professor in the Faculty of Media and Creative Arts at Humber College in Toronto. She is a two-time Pitch Wars mentor and lives in a 112-year-old haunted house.

The Hitman's Daughter is her first novel.

At CrimeReads Topdjian tagged five recent novels that put an original spin on the creepy hotel setting, including:
For a fresh female-empowered take on the “trapped in a remote hotel” trope, look no further than The Return by Rachel Harrison. This book works on so many levels: from its witty prose, to its eerie-yet-quirky boutique inn, to its psychological exploration of female friendships. The plot follows four best friends who find themselves guilted into a girls’ retreat gone wrong after one of the BFF quartet goes mysteriously missing and turns up a year later with no memory whatsoever of her traumatic disappearance. What starts off as an awkward if not wistful reunion soon turns increasingly horrific as the weekend progresses—thanks to the isolated inn. Think Stephen King pumped full of estrogen and chardonnay, then add a splash of fashion.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Kristy Nabhan-Warren's "Meatpacking America"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Meatpacking America: How Migration, Work, and Faith Unite and Divide the Heartland by Kristy Nabhan-Warren.

About the book, from the publisher:
Whether valorized as the heartland or derided as flyover country, the Midwest became instantly notorious when COVID-19 infections skyrocketed among workers in meatpacking plants—and Americans feared for their meat supply. But the Midwest is not simply the place where animals are fed corn and then butchered. Native midwesterner Kristy Nabhan-Warren spent years interviewing Iowans who work in the meatpacking industry, both native-born residents and recent migrants from Latin America, Africa, and Asia. In Meatpacking America, she digs deep below the stereotype and reveals the grit and grace of a heartland that is a major global hub of migration and food production—and also, it turns out, of religion.

Across the flatlands, Protestants, Catholics, and Muslims share space every day as worshippers, employees, and employers. On the bloody floors of meatpacking plants, in bustling places of worship, and in modest family homes, longtime and newly arrived Iowans spoke to Nabhan-Warren about their passion for religious faith and desire to work hard for their families. Their stories expose how faith-based aspirations for mutual understanding blend uneasily with rampant economic exploitation and racial biases. Still, these new and old midwesterners say that a mutual language of faith and morals brings them together more than any of them would have ever expected.
Learn more about Meatpacking America at the University of North Carolina Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Meatpacking America.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Chris Nickson's "The Blood Covenant"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Blood Covenant by Chris Nickson.

About the book, from the publisher:
The brutal deaths of two young boys and a young man connected to a mill in Leeds propel thief-taker Simon Westow into a disturbing, twisty mystery that recalls his own traumatic past.

Leeds. November, 1823. When a doctor from the infirmary tells thief-taker Simon Westow about the brutal deaths of two young boys at the hands of a mill overseer, Simon's painful memories of his childhood reawaken. Unable to sleep, he goes for a walk - and stumbles upon the body of a young man being pulled from the river.

Simon and his assistant, Jane, are drawn into investigating the deaths, seeking a measure of justice for the powerless dead. But the pursuit of the truth takes them down a dangerous and deadly path. Can they overcome a powerful enemy who knows he stands above the law in Leeds - and the shadowy figure that stands behind him?
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.

The Page 69 Test: Brass Lives.

The Page 69 Test: The Blood Covenant.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Five novels that feel like a trippy haunted house

Isaac Fellman is the author of The Breath of the Sun (published under his pre-transition first name), which won the 2019 Lambda Literary Award for LGBT Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. He is an archivist at a queer historical society in San Francisco.

His new novel is Dead Collections.

At Fellman tagged "five novels that make me feel as if any structure I read them in—the break room, my studio apartment, a bus shelter, a train—is a haunted house," including:
Severance by Ling Ma

Remember in 2020, when Severance had a moment? Everyone was talking about the pandemic sections, their unexpected resonance and their realism: the masks, the paranoia. But Ma’s novel, a zombie story about an illness that makes the infected mindlessly repeat their daily routines until their bodies decay, transcends “relevance”—as it also transcends attempts to categorize it as a comedy or a drama. (One thing all of these books have in common is that they are all funny tragedies, or melancholy tragicomedies, which draw their power from the feelings we can’t name.)

Years letter, what I remember about Severance is its wistfulness, as Ma’s heroine Candace tries to find meaning in her experiences: going to work at a company with no other living employees, falling in with a cultish group of fantasists in a mall, grieving her mother by wearing her old Contempo Casuals slip dresses. It doesn’t need to be relevant to our experience, although with its supple central metaphor, it often is. Its relevance is to Candace, as a person holding on to hope, and whom we come to love.
Read about another entry on the list.

Severance is among Simon Han's eight titles where things don't go that well.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Neal Thompson's "The First Kennedys"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The First Kennedys: The Humble Roots of an American Dynasty by Neal Thompson.

About the book, from the publisher:
Based on genealogical breakthroughs and previously unreleased records, this is the first book to explore the inspiring story of the poor Irish refugee couple who escaped famine, created a life together in a city hostile to Irish, immigrants, and Catholics, and launched the Kennedy dynasty in America.

Their Irish ancestry was a hallmark of the Kennedys’ initial political profile, as JFK leveraged his working-class roots to connect with blue-collar voters. Today, we remember this iconic American family as the vanguard of wealth, power, and style rather than as the descendants of poor immigrants. Here at last, we meet the first American Kennedys, Patrick and Bridget, who arrived as many thousands of others did following the Great Famine—penniless and hungry. Less than a decade after their marriage in Boston, Patrick’s sudden death left Bridget to raise their children single-handedly. Her rise from housemaid to shop owner in the face of rampant poverty and discrimination kept her family intact, allowing her only son P.J. to become a successful saloon owner and businessman. P.J. went on to become the first American Kennedy elected to public office—the first of many.

Written by the grandson of an Irish immigrant couple and based on first-ever access to P.J. Kennedy’s private papers, The First Kennedys is a story of sacrifice and survival, resistance and reinvention: an American story.
Visit Neal Thompson's website.

The Page 99 Test: The First Kennedys.

--Marshal Zeringue

Coffee with a canine: Adele Myers & Chipper

Featured at Coffee with a Canine: Adele Myers & Chipper.

The author, on Chipper's contribution to her writing:
When I'm writing or editing, Chipper sits right by my side. He's an excellent co-editor. When I'm on a Zoom call ... totally different story. He likes to be in on the conversation, which is...[read on]
About Adele Myers's The Tobacco Wives, from the publisher:
North Carolina, 1946. One woman. A discovery that could rewrite history.

Maddie Sykes is a burgeoning seamstress who’s just arrived in Bright Leaf, North Carolina—the tobacco capital of the South—where her aunt has a thriving sewing business. After years of war rations and shortages, Bright Leaf is a prosperous wonderland in full technicolor bloom, and Maddie is dazzled by the bustle of the crisply uniformed female factory workers, the palatial homes, and, most of all, her aunt’s glossiest clientele: the wives of the powerful tobacco executives.

But she soon learns that Bright Leaf isn’t quite the carefree paradise that it seems. A trail of misfortune follows many of the women, including substantial health problems, and although Maddie is quick to believe that this is a coincidence, she inadvertently uncovers evidence that suggests otherwise.

Maddie wants to report what she knows, but in a town where everyone depends on Big Tobacco to survive, she doesn’t know who she can trust—and fears that exposing the truth may destroy the lives of the proud, strong women with whom she has forged strong bonds.

Shedding light on the hidden history of women’s activism during the post-war period, at its heart, The Tobacco Wives is a deeply human, emotionally satisfying, and dramatic novel about the power of female connection and the importance of seeking truth.
Visit Adele Myers's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Adele Myers & Chipper.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Pg. 69: Emilya Naymark's "Behind the Lie"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Behind the Lie: A Novel by Emilya Naymark.

About the book, from the publisher:
NYPD detective turned small town PI Laney Bird is in a fight to save lives—including her own—after a neighborhood block party turns deadly.

A transplant to the upstate New York hamlet of Sylvan, all Laney wants is a peaceful life for herself and her son. But things rarely remain calm in Laney’s life—and when her neighborhood summer block party explodes in shocking violence and ends with the disappearance of her friend and another woman, she’ll need all her skills as a PI to solve a mystery that reaches far beyond her small town.

As people closest to Laney fall under suspicion, the local authorities and even her colleagues question her own complicity. And then there’s fifteen-year-old Alfie, her complicated and enigmatic son, obviously hiding something. Even as Laney struggles to bury evidence of her boy’s involvement, his cagey behavior rings every maternal alarm.

Laney’s personal life unravels as she’s drawn into her missing friend’s dark secrets and she realizes she and Alfie are in danger. With treachery blazing hot as the searing summer sun, Laney fights to save lives, her family’s included.
Visit Emilya Naymark's website.

The Page 69 Test: Hide in Place.

My Book, The Movie: Hide in Place.

Q&A with Emilya Naymark.

Writers Read: Emilya Naymark.

The Page 69 Test: Behind the Lie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Charles H. Parker's "Global Calvinism"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Global Calvinism: Conversion and Commerce in the Dutch Empire, 1600-1800 by Charles H. Parker.

About the book, from the publisher:
A comprehensive study of the connection between Calvinist missions and Dutch imperial expansion during the early modern period

Calvinism went global in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as close to a thousand Dutch Reformed ministers, along with hundreds of lay chaplains, attached themselves to the Dutch East India and West India companies. Across Asia, Africa, and the Americas where the trading companies set up operation, Dutch ministers sought to convert “pagans,” “Moors,” Jews, and Catholics and to spread the cultural influence of Protestant Christianity. As Dutch ministers labored under the auspices of the trading companies, the missionary project coalesced, sometimes grudgingly but often readily, with empire building and mercantile capitalism. Simultaneously, Calvinism became entangled with societies around the world as encounters with indigenous societies shaped the development of European religious and intellectual history. Though historians have traditionally treated the Protestant and European expansion as unrelated developments, the global reach of Dutch Calvinism offers a unique opportunity to understand the intermingling of a Protestant faith, commerce, and empire.
Learn more about Global Calvinism at the Yale University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Global Calvinism.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven books to help get through your Olympics hangover

Kathleen West’s novels have been best- books picks by Real Simple, Newsweek, People Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Good Morning America, and the New York Post. A schoolteacher with more than 20 years’ experience, West is particularly interested in the topics of motherhood, ambition, competitive parenting, and the elusiveness of work-life balance. Her new novel, Home Or Away, publishes in March 2022. She is a life-long Minnesotan and lives in Minneapolis with her family.

[The Page 69 Test: Minor Dramas & Other CatastrophesWriters Read: Kathleen West (February 2020]

At Lit Hub West tagged seven favorite books to help you get through your Olympic hangover, including:
Deb Caletti, A Heart in a Body in the World

Lately, when people (mostly my students, who are juniors in high school) ask me for the impossible, a title of “my favorite book,” I offer this one. It’s not a “sports book” in the traditional sense, but it is about a person coming back to herself through movement.

Something terrible has happened to Annabel, and she can’t process it. One minute, she’s eating dinner with her family, and the next, she’s running. She decides to run from Seattle to Washington D.C., and the fact that her family makes it happen for her is a testament to how much she needs it. This book is written for young adults, and I’ve thrust it into the hands of both of my teenagers at home.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 25, 2022

Pg. 99: Reed Gochberg's "Useful Objects"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Useful Objects: Museums, Science, and Literature in Nineteenth-Century America by Reed Gochberg.

About the book, from the publisher:
Useful Objects examines the history of American museums during the nineteenth century through the eyes of visitors, writers, and collectors. Museums of this period included a wide range of objects, from botanical and zoological specimens to antiquarian artifacts and technological models. Intended to promote “useful knowledge,” these collections generated broader discussions about how objects were selected, preserved, and classified. In guidebooks and periodicals, visitors described their experiences within museum galleries and marveled at the objects they encountered. In fiction, essays, and poems, writers embraced the imaginative possibilities represented by collections and proposed alternative systems of arrangement. These conversations interrogated many aspects of American culture, raising deep questions about how objects are interpreted--and who gets to decide their value.

Combining literary criticism, the history of science, and museum studies, Useful Objects examines the dynamic and often fraught debates that emerged during a crucial period in the history of museums by drawing on a wide range of archival materials and accounts in fiction, guidebooks, and periodicals. As museums gradually transformed from encyclopedic cabinets to more specialized public institutions, many writers, including J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, William Wells Brown, Walt Whitman, and Henry David Thoreau, questioned who would have access to collections and the authority to interpret them. Throughout this period, they considered loss and preservation, raised concerns about the place of new ideas, and resisted increasingly fixed categories. Their reflections shaped broader debates about the scope and purpose of museums in American culture that continue to resonate today.
Learn more about Useful Objects at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Useful Objects.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight books about what it means to be human

Edward Ashton is the author of the novels Mickey7, Three Days in April, and The End of Ordinary. His short fiction has appeared in venues ranging from the newsletter of an Italian sausage company to Escape Pod, Analog, and Fireside Fiction. He lives in upstate New York in a cabin in the woods (not that Cabin in the Woods) with his wife, a variable number of daughters, and an adorably mopey dog named Max, where he writes—mostly fiction, occasionally fact—under the watchful eyes of a giant woodpecker and a rotating cast of barred owls. In his free time, he enjoys cancer research, teaching quantum physics to sullen graduate students, and whittling.

At CrimeReads Ashton tagged eight books about what it means to be human, including:
Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty

It’s probably a lucky thing that I didn’t read this book until after I’d finished writing Mickey7, because Six Wakes begins in a very similar place—clones, mind-mapping, immortality, an interstellar colonization mission—but then takes off in a wildly different direction. The first thing that became apparent to me when I started into this book was that, unlike me, Mur Lafferty seemingly has no interest whatsoever in the ol’ teletransport paradox. In this book’s world, it’s taken as a given that your clone is a straightforward continuation of you. People who employ cloning for life extension have no fear of death, to the point that one prominent character allows herself to be assassinated just to seal a business deal. The thought that the clone who comes out of the tank the next day might actually be an entirely separate person has apparently never occurred to any of them.

What Lafferty is interested in is an amazingly baroque murder mystery. The book opens on a scene of carnage. The crew of a colony ship wakes from their cloning vats to find their most recent incarnations gruesomely slaughtered. Complicating things, their memories are twenty-five years out of date, so that even the actual killer has no real idea who did it, or why. What follows is a slow, head-hopping reveal of the crew’s sketchy pasts and legitimately murderous motivations, and the seemingly coincidental ways the six crew-members’ histories have intertwined over the courses of their many lives. Six Wakes is the sort of book I never could have written—just the thought of trying to diagram out all the plot twists in this one makes my head hurt—but it’s one I’m very glad to have had the chance to read.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, February 24, 2022

What is Emilya Naymark reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Emilya Naymark, author of Behind the Lie: A Novel.

Her entry begins:
Frankly, I’m beginning to think my reading has reached pathological quantities. At any given moment I have either a hardcover book, something on my Kindle, or an audiobook going. The other night I cleaned the house top to bottom because I wanted to listen to an audiobook, and I needed something else to do while listening.

In no particular order, these are the books that have had an extreme effect on me in the past year or so.

The Beastie Boys Book – I listened to this one as an audiobook, and it was like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. It’s written partly by the surviving Beasties, but also by such luminaries as Colson Whitehead, and is read by actors, musicians, friends, DJs, chefs, and more. Listening to it made me...[read on]
About Behind the Lie, from the publisher:
NYPD detective turned small town PI Laney Bird is in a fight to save lives—including her own—after a neighborhood block party turns deadly.

A transplant to the upstate New York hamlet of Sylvan, all Laney wants is a peaceful life for herself and her son. But things rarely remain calm in Laney’s life—and when her neighborhood summer block party explodes in shocking violence and ends with the disappearance of her friend and another woman, she’ll need all her skills as a PI to solve a mystery that reaches far beyond her small town.

As people closest to Laney fall under suspicion, the local authorities and even her colleagues question her own complicity. And then there’s fifteen-year-old Alfie, her complicated and enigmatic son, obviously hiding something. Even as Laney struggles to bury evidence of her boy’s involvement, his cagey behavior rings every maternal alarm.

Laney’s personal life unravels as she’s drawn into her missing friend’s dark secrets and she realizes she and Alfie are in danger. With treachery blazing hot as the searing summer sun, Laney fights to save lives, her family’s included.
Visit Emilya Naymark's website.

The Page 69 Test: Hide in Place.

My Book, The Movie: Hide in Place.

Q&A with Emilya Naymark.

Writers Read: Emilya Naymark.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Roy Sorensen's "Nothing: A Philosophical History"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Nothing: A Philosophical History by Roy Sorensen.

About the book, from the publisher:
An entertaining history of the idea of nothing - including absences, omissions, and shadows - from the Ancient Greeks through the 20th century

How can nothing cause something? The absence of something might seem to indicate a null or a void, an emptiness as ineffectual as a shadow. In fact, 'nothing' is one of the most powerful ideas the human mind has ever conceived. This short and entertaining book by Roy Sorensen is a lively tour of the history and philosophy of nothing, explaining how various thinkers throughout history have conceived and grappled with the mysterious power of absence -- and how these ideas about shadows, gaps, and holes have in turned played a very positive role in the development of some of humankind's most important ideas. Filled with Sorensen's characteristically entertaining mix of anecdotes, puzzles, curiosities, and philosophical speculation, the book is ordered chronologically, starting with the Taoists, the Buddhists, and the ancient Greeks, moving forward to the middle ages and the early modern period, then up to the existentialists and present day philosophy. The result is a diverting tour through the history of human thought as seen from a novel and unusual perspective.
Learn more about Nothing: A Philosophical History at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Nothing: A Philosophical History.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five SFF books featuring protective siblings

Patti Callahan is the New York Times, USA TODAY, and Globe and Mail bestselling novelist of fifteen novels, including Becoming Mrs. Lewis, Surviving Savannah, and Once Upon a Wardrobe. A recipient of the Harper Lee Distinguished Writer of the Year, the Christy Book of the Year, and the Alabama Library Association Book of the Year, Callahan is the cofounder and cohost of the popular web series and podcast Friends & Fiction.

At Callahan tagged five "favorite stories with protective sibling relationships," including:
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

What is a greater sacrifice than to take the place of someone you love in a dangerous mission? In The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen steps forward and takes the place of her gentle and beloved little sister, Prim, when Prim’s name is called to participate in the Hunger Games. Katniss knows she has more years of experience hunting and that she is far more likely to survive in the deadly game that takes place in the deep woodlands. In a powerful scene, Katniss is carried off not knowing whether she will live or die in her sacrifice, but only knowing she must save her little sister from certain death.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Hunger Games also appears on Off the Shelf's list of ten incredible literary parties, Chevy Stevens's list of the best survivalist thrillers, Amanda Craig's top ten list of the best-dressed characters in fiction, Sarah Driver's list of her five favorite fictional siblings, Meghan Ball's list of eight books or series for Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans, Jeff Somers's lists of "five pairs of books that have nothing to do with each other—and yet have everything to do with each other," top five list of dystopian societies that might actually function, and top eight list of revolutionary SF/F novels, P.C. Cast’s top ten list of all-time favorite reads for fantasy fans, Keith Yatsuhashi's list of five gateway books that opened the door for him to specific genres, Catherine Doyle's top ten list of doomed romances in YA fiction, Ryan Britt's list of six of the best Scout Finches -- "headstrong, stalwart, and true" young characters -- from science fiction and fantasy, Natasha Carthew's top ten list of revenge reads, Anna Bradley ten best list of literary quotes in a crisis, Laura Jarratt's top ten list of YA thrillers with sisters, Tina Connolly's top five list of books where the girl saves the boy, Sarah Alderson's top ten list of feminist icons in children's and teen books, Jonathan Meres's top ten list of books that are so unfair, SF Said's top ten list of unlikely heroes, Rebecca Jane Stokes's top ten list of fictional families you could probably abide during holiday season and top eight list of books perfect for reality TV fiends, Chrissie Gruebel's list of favorite fictional fashion icons, Lucy Christopher's top ten list of literary woods, Robert McCrum's list of the ten best books with teenage narrators, Sophie McKenzie's top ten list of teen thrillers, Gregg Olsen's top ten list of deadly YA books, Annalee Newitz's list of ten great American dystopias, Philip Webb's top ten list of pulse-racing adventure books, Charlie Higson's top ten list of fantasy books for children, and Megan Wasson's list of five fantasy series geared towards teens that adults will love too.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Q&A with Stephanie Wrobel

From my Q&A with Stephanie Wrobel, author of This Might Hurt:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The novel grapples with the concepts of fear and pain, so the title is thematically relevant. I hope it intrigues, above all else. I usually start my books with placeholder titles. For this one, it was Wisewood, the name of the self-improvement group that the book is about. It's hard for me to name a book before or while I'm writing it; I usually don't figure out the title until a few drafts in. The other title my editors and I liked was The Fearless. In the end, we chose the viscerality of This Might Hurt.

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

I don't think she'd be surprised at all. Cults have always...[read on]
Visit Stephanie Wrobel's website.

The Page 69 Test: Darling Rose Gold.

My Book, The Movie: Darling Rose Gold.

Q&A with Stephanie Wrobel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Luanne G. Smith's "The Raven Spell"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Raven Spell: A Novel (A Conspiracy of Magic) by Luanne G. Smith.

About the book, from the publisher:
In Victorian England a witch and a detective are on the hunt for a serial killer in an enthralling novel of magic and murder by the Amazon Charts and Washington Post bestselling author of The Vine Witch.

After a nearly fatal blow to the skull, traumatized private detective Ian Cameron is found dazed and confused on a muddy riverbank in Victorian London. Among his effects: a bloodstained business card bearing the name of a master wizard and a curious pocket watch that doesn’t seem to tell time. To retrieve his lost memories, Ian demands answers from Edwina and Mary Blackwood, sister witches with a murky past. But as their secret is slowly unveiled, a dangerous mystery emerges on the darkened streets of London.

To help piece together Ian’s lost time, he and Edwina embark on a journey that will take them from the river foreshore to an East End music hall, and on to a safe house for witches in need of sanctuary from angry mortals. The clues they find suggest a link between a series of gruesome murders, a missing person’s case, and a dreadful suspicion that threatens to tear apart the bonds of sisterhood. As the investigation deepens, could Ian and Edwina be the next to die?
Visit Luanne G. Smith's website.

Q&A with Luanne G. Smith.

The Page 69 Test: The Raven Spell.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Maggy Krell's "Taking Down Backpage"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Taking Down Backpage: Fighting the World’s Largest Sex Trafficker by Maggy Krell.

About the book, from the publisher:
Insider details from the takedown of Backpage, the world’s largest sex trafficker, by the prosecutor who led the charge

For almost a decade, was the world’s largest sex trafficking operation. Seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, in 800 cities throughout the world, Backpage ran thousands of listings advertising the sale of vulnerable young people for sex. Reaping a cut off every transaction, the owners of the website raked in millions of dollars. But many of the people in the advertisements were children, as young as 12, and forced into the commercial sex trade through fear, violence and coercion.

In Taking Down Backpage, veteran California prosecutor Maggy Krell tells the story of how she and her team battled against this sex trafficking monolith. Beginning with her early career as a young DA, she shares the evolution of the anti-human trafficking movement. Through a fascinating combination of memoir and legal insight, Krell reveals how she and her team started with the prosecution of street pimps and ultimately ended with the takedown of the largest purveyor of human trafficking in the world. She shares powerful stories of interviews with survivors, sting operations, court cases, and the personal struggles that were necessary to bring Backpage executives to justice. Finally, Krell examines the state of sex trafficking after Backpage and the crucial work that still remains.

Taking Down Backpage is a gripping story of tragedy, overcoming adversity, and the pursuit of justice that gives insight into the fight against sex trafficking in the digital age.
Visit Maggy Krell's website.

The Page 99 Test: Taking Down Backpage.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight retellings with a bite of darkness

M. A. Kuzniar spent six years living in Spain, teaching English and travelling the world which inspired her children’s series The Ship of Shadows.

Her adult debut novel Midnight in Everwood was inspired by her love of ballet and love of The Nutcracker.

At CrimeReads Kuzniar tagged eight "retellings [that are] a mixture of fairy tales and folklore (for they often intersect) that explore deeper themes and do not shy away from the darker side of human nature." One title on the list:
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Set during a brutal winter of 1920s rural Alaska, this is a reimagining of the classic Russian fairy tale Snegurochka or, The Snow Maiden. When a little girl, made out of snow, appears to Mabel and Jack after a tragic stillbirth several years ago, hope enters their fragmented lives and relationship once more. But is she what she seems? This novel is ethereal and beautiful. But threaded through its pages is an exploration of the difficult themes of death and loss and grief.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Emilya Naymark's "Behind the Lie," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Behind the Lie: A Novel by Emilya Naymark.

The entry begins:
When I first started writing the series, I imagined a thirty-something Annie Lennox for my PI character Laney Bird. Recently, I saw Zoë Kravitz in a series, and had an epiphany. Zoë has the ideal combination of vulnerable and fierce that would be crazy perfect for Laney.

For Holly, I pictured Kirsten Dunst, who I love. I just love her. She can be accessible and fragile, while also single-minded—everything I imagine Holly Dubois being....[read on]
Visit Emilya Naymark's website.

The Page 69 Test: Hide in Place.

My Book, The Movie: Hide in Place.

Q&A with Emilya Naymark.

My Book, The Movie: Behind the Lie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Scott Reynolds Nelson's "Oceans of Grain"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Oceans of Grain: How American Wheat Remade the World by Scott Reynolds Nelson.

About the book, from the publisher:
A revelatory global history shows how cheap American grain toppled the world’s largest empires

To understand the rise and fall of empires, we must follow the paths traveled by grain—along rivers, between ports, and across seas. In Oceans of Grain, historian Scott Reynolds Nelson reveals how the struggle to dominate these routes transformed the balance of world power.

Early in the nineteenth century, imperial Russia fed much of Europe through the booming port of Odessa. But following the US Civil War, tons of American wheat began to flood across the Atlantic, and food prices plummeted. This cheap foreign grain spurred the rise of Germany and Italy, the decline of the Habsburgs and the Ottomans, and the European scramble for empire. It was a crucial factor in the outbreak of the First World War and the Russian Revolution.

A powerful new interpretation, Oceans of Grain shows that amid the great powers’ rivalries, there was no greater power than control of grain.
Follow Scott Reynolds Nelson on Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: Steel Drivin' Man.

My Book, The Movie: Steel Drivin' Man.

The Page 99 Test: Oceans of Grain.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six literary works about deeply flawed mother figures

Mary Kuryla is the author of the novel Away to Stay and the short story collection Freak Weather, which was selected by Amy Hempel for the Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction. Her stories have received a Pushcart Prize and the Glimmer Train Very Short Fiction Prize and have appeared in The Paris Review, Conjunctions, Pleiades, Agni, Epoch, Strange Horizons, Greensboro Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. As a journalist, she has written for the Hollywood Reporter, Filmmaker Magazine, TheWrap.Com and The Washington Post. Also an award-winning filmmaker, she has taught at Emerson College, University of Southern California, and UCLA-Extension and is currently a visiting full-time screenwriting professor at Loyola Marymount University, School of Film and Television.

At Lit Hub Kuryla tagged "six works [that] resonate for me as nuanced characters who resist the bounds of traditional motherhood to lead unconventional lives," include:
Hannah Lillith Assadi, The Stars are Not Yet Bells

As Elle, the heroine of Hannah Lillith Assadi’s novel The Stars Are Not Yet Bells, attempts to report the story of her life in the face of encroaching dementia, the reader is lulled by melodious prose into the tale of her marriage to Simon on the remote island of Lyra. Fact and imagination, memory and forgetting supply tension to Elle’s rendering—and it quickly becomes evident that for Elle the true love of her life was not her husband but her “sham cousin” Gabriel, a singular lover lost to the sea.

If the narrator is understandably terrified of “losing all that makes me Elle: my facts,” it is the constant burn of a secret regarding her daughter that supplies present day dramatic tension in the novel. Zelda, whose name already blurs in Elle’s memory, vibrates with barely suppressed fury from her own flawed marriage. She picks fights with her father, calling him by his given name as if intuiting something not quite truthful in the origins of their bond. The shouting between husband and daughter is soon muffled by Elle ’s passionate recollections of Gabriel, whose ghostly presence in her mind seems more material than any fact Elle can summon. In Assadi’s rendering of dementia, we are rewarded with a privileged view of a mother’s secrets and passions simply by virtue of what insists in the mind and what muddles. Can we be surprised that motherhood and its demands, for all its insistence, winds up in the muddle?
Learn about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 21, 2022

Pg. 69: Rob Hart's "The Paradox Hotel"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: The Paradox Hotel: A Novel by Rob Hart.

About the book, from the publisher:
January Cole’s job just got a whole lot harder.

Not that running security at the Paradox was ever really easy. Nothing’s simple at a hotel where the ultra-wealthy tourists arrive costumed for a dozen different time periods, all eagerly waiting to catch their “flights” to the past.

Or where proximity to the timeport makes the clocks run backward on occasion—and, rumor has it, allows ghosts to stroll the halls.

None of that compares to the corpse in room 526. The one that seems to be both there and not there. The one that somehow only January can see.

On top of that, some very important new guests have just checked in. Because the U.S. government is about to privatize time-travel technology—and the world’s most powerful people are on hand to stake their claims.

January is sure the timing isn’t a coincidence. Neither are those “accidents” that start stalking their bidders.

There’s a reason January can glimpse what others can’t. A reason why she’s the only one who can catch a killer who’s operating invisibly and in plain sight, all at once.

But her ability is also destroying her grip on reality—and as her past, present, and future collide, she finds herself confronting not just the hotel’s dark secrets but her own.

At once a dazzlingly time-twisting murder mystery and a story about grief, memory, and what it means to—literally—come face-to-face with our ghosts, The Paradox Hotel is another unforgettable speculative thrill ride from acclaimed author Rob Hart.
Visit Rob Hart's website.

My Book, The Movie: Potter's Field.

The Page 69 Test: Potter's Field.

The Page 69 Test: The Warehouse.

Writers Read: Rob Hart (January 2021).

The Page 69 Test: The Paradox Hotel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Jason Pack's "Libya and the Global Enduring Disorder"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Libya and the Global Enduring Disorder by Jason Pack.

About the book, from the publisher:
We no longer inhabit a world governed by international coordination, a unified NATO bloc, or an American hegemon. Traditionally, the decline of one empire leads to a restoration in the balance of power, via a struggle among rival systems of order. Yet this dynamic is surprisingly absent today; instead, the superpowers have all, at times, sought to promote what Jason Pack terms the 'Enduring Disorder'.

He contends that Libya's ongoing conflict-more so than the civil wars in Yemen, Syria, Venezuela or Ukraine-constitutes the ideal microcosm in which to identify the salient features of this new era of geopolitics. The country's post-Qadhafi trajectory has been molded by the stark absence of coherent international diplomacy; while Libya's incremental implosion has precipitated cross-border contagion, further corroding global institutions and international partnership.

Pack draws on over two decades of research in and on Libya and Syria to highlight the Kafkaesque aspects of today's global affairs. He shows how even the threats posed by the Arab Spring, and the Benghazi assassination of US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, couldn't occasion a unified Western response. Rather, they have further undercut global collaboration, demonstrating the self-reinforcing nature of the progressively collapsing world order.
Learn more about Libya and the Global Enduring Disorder at the Oxford University Press website and Jason Pack's website.

The Page 99 Test: Libya and the Global Enduring Disorder.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five books that explore the dark side of belonging

Elizabeth Macneal is a Scottish author and potter based in London.

Her bestselling novels, The Doll Factory and Circus of Wonders. are out now.

At CrimeReads she tagged five books that explore the dark side of trying to fit in, including:
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Ugwu is a houseboy in a small village in Nigeria, but when the Biafran War breaks, he is conscripted into the army. There, desperate to fit in, he finds himself participating in a terrible crime along with several other soldiers, an act which will haunt him for the rest of his life.
Read about another entry on the list.

Half of a Yellow Sun is among Nicci French's ten top dinner parties in fiction, Uzo Aduba’s ten favorite books, Barnaby Phillips's ten top books about Nigeria, Pushpinder Khaneka's three best books on Nigeria, and Lorraine Adams's six best books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Pg. 99: Stephen Mumford's "Absence and Nothing"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Absence and Nothing: The Philosophy of What There is Not by Stephen Mumford.

About the book, from the publisher:
Nothing is not. Yet it seems that we invoke absences and nothings often in our philosophical explanations. Negative metaphysics is on the rise. It has been claimed that absences can be causes, there are negative properties, absences can be perceived, there are negative facts, and that we can refer to and speak about nothing. Parmenides long ago ruled against such things. Here we consider how much of Parmenides' view can survive. A soft Parmenidean methodology is adopted in which we aim to reject all supposed negative entities but are prepared to accept them, reluctantly, if they are indispensable and irreducible in our best theories. We then see whether there are any negative entities this survive this test. Some can be dismissed on metaphysical grounds but other problems are explained only once we reject another strand in Parmenides and show how we can think and talk about nothing. Accounts of perception of absence, empty reference, and denial are gathered. With these, we can show how no truthmakers are required for negative truths since we can have negative beliefs, concerning what-is-not, without what-is-not being part of what is. This supports a soft ontological Parmenideanism, which accepts much though not all of Parmenides' original position.
Learn more about Absence and Nothing at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Absence and Nothing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven novels told from both members of a couple

Robin Kirman studied philosophy at Yale before receiving her MFA in writing from Columbia, where she also taught for several years. Her curiosity about humanpsychology has led her to combine work in psychoanalysis with writing fiction. Her first novel, Bradstreet Gate, was published by Crown in 2015, and her television series The Love Wave is currently in development.

Kirman's new novel is The End of Getting Lost.

At Lit Hub Kirman tagged seven novels that alternate between the voices of members in a couple, specifically where this is more than a device: where it’s an examination of one of the central concerns we lonely humans have—how much can we ever really know of another, or be known? How close to another living soul can we ever truly come?
One title on the list:
Tayari Jones, An American Marriage

An American Marriage is the story of a couple torn apart by an instance of racial injustice, but the novel goes on to explore other more universal forces that can erode intimacy in our contemporary culture, including the powers of less overt prejudice and the seductions of success. Among the provocative themes on display is the way Celestial, as an artist, both honors and exploits her husband’s suffering in her art – a moment that perhaps implicates the writer and brings creative expression into tension with personal commitments. In some respects, this complex and lovely novel reaches back to Anna Karenina in depicting how society’s injustices set the path for our own private betrayals.
Read about another entry on the list.

An American Marriage is among Christopher Louis Romaguera's nine books about mistaken identity, Scarlett Harris's eight classic and contemporary novels, written by women, that offer insight into damaged male psyches, Tochi Onyebuchi's seven books about surviving political & environmental disasters, Ruth Reichl's six novels she enjoyed listening to while cooking, Brad Parks's top eight books set in prisons, Sara Shepard's six top stories of deception,and Julia Dahl's ten top books about miscarriages of justice.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Seven unlikely love stories in literature

Saumya Roy is the author of Castaway Mountain: Love and Loss Among the Waste Pickers of Mumbai, a narrative non-fiction book about the garbage landfill of Mumbai. It is among NPR, Washington Independent Review, Telegraph India, GQ India, and's best loved books for 2021.

At Electric Lit she tagged seven books that "trace the unlikely journey of love bucking against constrictions within and without—making us all worthy of romantic love," including:
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

The beautiful and fierce divorcee Ammu lives with her twin children, Rahel and Esthapen, in Ayemenem, a village caught in the throes of communism and the endless entrails of religion and caste. “There are rules for who is to be loved and how. And how much,” Roy writes in her hypnotic, intense, unforgettable love story set in the ‘70s. Ammu’s family runs Paradise Pickles and mostly lives by “the laws that made grandmothers grandmothers, uncles uncles, mothers mothers, cousins cousins, jams jams and jelly jelly.” Then Ammu and the children see Velutha, their Dalit carpenter, in a communist rally. The unbending laws that dictate their lives begin to quiver and crumble. The powerful last scene is a memory of Velutha swimming across the river to meet Ammu: “he folded his fear into a perfect rose. He held it out in the palm of his hand. She took it from him and put into her hair.”
Read about another entry on the list.

The God of Small Things is among Miranda Doyle's top ten books about lies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Julia C. Morse's "The Bankers' Blacklist"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: The Bankers' Blacklist: Unofficial Market Enforcement and the Global Fight against Illicit Financing by Julia C. Morse.

About the book, from the publisher:
In The Banker's Blacklist, Julia C. Morse demonstrates how the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has enlisted global banks in the effort to keep "bad money" out of the financial system, in the process drastically altering the domestic policy landscape and transforming banking worldwide.

Trillions of dollars flow across borders through the banking system every day. While bank-to-bank transfers facilitate trade and investment, they also provide opportunities for criminals and terrorists to move money around the globe. To address this vulnerability, large economies work together through an international standard-setting body, the FATF, to shift laws and regulations on combating illicit financial flows. Morse examines how this international organization has achieved such impact, arguing that it relies on the power of unofficial market enforcement—a process whereby market actors punish countries that fail to meet international standards. The FATF produces a public noncomplier list, which banks around the world use to shift resources and services away from listed countries. As banks restrict cross-border lending, the domestic banking sector in listed countries advocates strongly for new laws and regulations, ultimately leading to deep and significant compliance improvements.

The Bankers' Blacklist offers lessons about the peril and power of globalized finance, revealing new insights into how some of today's most pressing international cooperation challenges might be addressed.
Visit Julia Morse's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Bankers' Blacklist.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Marius Gabriel's "Goodnight, Vienna"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Goodnight, Vienna by Marius Gabriel.

About the book, from the publisher:
Katya never wanted to look after Gretchen. Now she’s the young girl’s only hope of survival.

1937. Katya Komarovsky is studying medicine in Glasgow, living among friends and eager to begin her career as a doctor. But when her spendthrift parents announce that they’ve run out of money and are facing ruin―and that she’ll now have to support them by working as a governess in Vienna―the life she’s dreamed of goes up in smoke.

Furiously resentful, Katya rages at her wealthy employer, Thor, for stealing her future―and saddling her with twelve-year-old Gretchen, a deeply troubled child who has only a blazing musical talent to redeem her. Yet as Katya grudgingly digs into her reserves of compassion, she finds herself losing her heart to both father and daughter.

Storm clouds are gathering, though, and when Hitler annexes Austria, patriot Thor is arrested, leaving Katya wholly responsible for saving ‘imperfect’ Gretchen from being forced into a Nazi medical research laboratory. With the terrifying uncertainty of the new world order, can Katya and Gretchen flee to safety? And dare they dream of ever seeing Thor again?
Follow Marius Gabriel on Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: The Parisians.

My Book, The Movie: The Parisians.

Writers Read: Marius Gabriel (January 2019).

The Page 69 Test: The Girls in the Attic.

The Page 69 Test: Goodnight, Vienna.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 18, 2022

Six of the best office thrillers

Bonnie Kistler is a former Philadelphia attorney and the author of House on Fire and The Cage. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College, magna cum laude, with Honors in English literature, and she received her law degree from the University of the Pennsylvania Law School, where she was a moot court champion and legal writing instructor.

She spent her law career in private practice with major law firms. Peer-rated as Distinguished for both legal ability and ethical standards, she successfully tried cases in federal and state courts across the country.

[ Q&A with Bonnie KistlerThe Page 69 Test: The Cage]

She and her husband now live in Florida and the mountains of western North Carolina.

At CrimeReads Kistler tagged six favorite office thrillers, including:
Bad news for the Work-from-Home contingent: One by One, by Ruth Ware, shows us that the office thriller doesn’t have to take place in a physical office. Equally deadly is an Alpine ski resort where a group of tech colleagues gather for a retreat to take a critical vote on a takeover bid. In a deliberate homage to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, the author kills off one executive or employee after another until the killer is revealed in a sleight-of-hand almost as brilliantly devious as Christie’s.
Read about another entry on the list.

One by One is among Sandie Jones's six mysteries with large casts of characters and Allie Reynolds's seven chilling winter thrillers and Louise Candlish's ten hardest characters in literature to love.

--Marshal Zeringue