Friday, May 20, 2022

What is Linda L. Richards reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Linda L. Richards, author of Exit Strategy.

Her entry begins:
Considering the type of fiction I write, this may sound odd. But. I’m very careful with my diet of media. I currently find myself in a place where I feel the need to be mindful of what I think about. Mindful about the things I dwell on and the dark corners I visit in my thoughts. I think it was Buddha who said: “We are what we think, all that we are arises with our thoughts, with our thoughts we make the world.”

If that is true — and my heart believes it is — then we need to be clear with ourselves about what we immerse ourselves in. Especially since, when crafting works as densely dark as my current series, you are required to spend some time going down pretty dark roads.

With that in mind, I supply myself with a strongly positive diet of material. The music I listen to is upbeat and positive (currently loving "Alright" by KYTES, "4 Mains" by Wim Mertens, "Soulfight" by The Revivalists and a whole lot of music you would describe as Ambient). The shows I watch are bright and fuel my soul (recently binged Emily in Paris and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel). When it comes...[read on]
About Exit Strategy, from the publisher:
A shattered life. A killer for hire. Can she stop?

Her assignments were always to kill someone. That’s what a hitman—or hitwoman—is paid to do—and that is what she does. Then comes a surprise assignment—keep someone alive!

She is hired to protect Virginia Martin, the stunning and brilliant chief technology officer of a hot startup with an innovation that will change the world. This new job catches her at a time in her life when she’s disillusioned, even depressed. It’s not the crushing depression she’d suffered when she’d lost her family and abruptly started this career, but over time, the life of a hired killer has taken a toll on her spirit.

She’s confused about the “why” but she addresses her charge as she always does, with skill and stealth, determined to keep this young CTO alive in the midst of the twinned worlds of innovation and high finance.

Some people have to die as she discharges her responsibility to protect this superstar woman amid the crumbling worlds of money and future technical wonders.

The spirit of an assassin—and her nameless dog—permeates this struggle to help a young woman as powerful forces build to deny her.
Visit Linda L. Richards's website.

My Book, The Movie: Endings.

The Page 69 Test: Endings.

Q&A with Linda L. Richards.

Writers Read: Linda L. Richards.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Ron E. Hassner's "Anatomy of Torture"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Anatomy of Torture by Ron E. Hassner.

About the book, from the publisher:
Does torture "work?" Can controversial techniques such as waterboarding extract crucial and reliable intelligence? Since 9/11, this question has been angrily debated in the halls of power and the court of public opinion. In Anatomy of Torture, Ron E. Hassner mines the archives of the Spanish Inquisition to propose an answer that will frustrate and infuriate both sides of the divide.

The Inquisition's scribes recorded every torment, every scream, and every confession in the torture chamber. Their transcripts reveal that Inquisitors used torture deliberately and meticulously, unlike the rash, improvised methods used by the United States after 9/11. In their relentless pursuit of underground Jewish communities in Spain and Mexico, the Inquisition tortured in cold blood. But they treated any information extracted with caution: torture was used to test information provided through other means, not to uncover startling new evidence.

Hassner's findings in Anatomy of Torture have important implications for ongoing torture debates. Rather than insist that torture is ineffective, torture critics should focus their attention on the morality of torture. If torture is evil, its efficacy is irrelevant. At the same time, torture defenders cannot advocate for torture as a counterterrorist "quick fix": torture has never located, nor will ever locate, the hypothetical "ticking bomb" that is frequently invoked to justify brutality in the name of security.
Learn more about Anatomy of Torture at the Cornell University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: War on Sacred Grounds.

The Page 99 Test: Religion on the Battlefield.

The Page 99 Test: Anatomy of Torture.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten of the best novels about sisters

Alison Espach is the author of the novels Notes on Your Sudden Disappearance, an Indie Next Pick and Amazon Editors’ Pick for 2022, and The Adults, a New York Times Editor’s Choice and Barnes and Noble Discover pick.

At Publishers Weekly Espach tagged ten books in which "the sisters are the hearts of each story," including:
The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

This is the last book I read about sisters that really blew me away. In this novel, you get to hear from all four of the Sorenson sisters and their parents about what it’s like to be in their big family. It is a huge cast and a challengingly wide scope for any writer to manage, but Lombardo is a master at creating individual portraits of each character. The fun is in watching the sisters grapple with their differences and marvel over their uncanny similarities. One of the best contemporary examinations of sisterhood.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Most Fun We Ever Had is among Tara Sonin's twenty-one books for fans of HBO’s Succession.

The Page 69 Test: The Most Fun We Ever Had.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Brian Klingborg's "Wild Prey," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Wild Prey: An Inspector Lu Fei Mystery (Volume 2) by Brian Klingborg.

The entry begins:
This one might seem hard – but actually, it’s easy. I have in mind the perfect actor to play Inspector Lu Fei.

First, a bit of background. Lu Fei lives in northern China, just outside the city of Harbin. His native language is Mandarin, of course, although he has spent some time in the US and speaks passable English. He has an extensive background in the martial arts. He is handsome but not too handsome. He has a slightly caustic sense of humor. His tough exterior masks a kind heart. And while the plot of Wild Prey has him going undercover to infiltrate the hidden compound of a Burmese warlord, he is very much an anti-James Bond: faithful to the woman he loves, has no license to kill, and he prefers cold beer and small-town life to martinis and jet-set travel.

Assuming we are casting for an American-made film intended for a Western audience, we’ll need an actor who is Chinese, but speaks English fluently (and it would be great if he spoke Chinese as well); who can make an audience laugh, but also...[read on]
Visit Brian Klingborg's website.

My Book, The Movie: Wild Prey.

--Marshal Zeringue

Five novels that get demon summoning right

Lana Harper is the New York Times bestselling author of Payback's A Witch and From Bad to Cursed. Writing as Lana Popovic, she is also the author of YA novels Wicked Like a Wildfire, Fierce Like a Firestorm, Blood Countess, and Poison Priestess. Harper studied psychology and literature at Yale University, law at Boston University, and is a graduate of the Emerson College publishing and writing master's program. She was born in Serbia and lived in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania before moving to the United States, where she now lives in Chicago with her family.

At Harper tagged five titles that get demon summoning right, including:
Come Closer by Sara Gran

This is one of the most terrifying books on demonic possession I’ve ever read, because it feels so uncannily real; like something that could actually happen to you, or to almost anyone. The main character, Amanda, is a successful architect in a seemingly solid marriage, when she becomes plagued by a demonic entity named Naamah. Naamah initially manifests as repetitive noises that occur only when Amanda is in her loft, followed by sensual, almost hypnotic dreams in which she and the beautiful demon grow increasingly closer; the entity bears an uncanny resemblance to the “imaginary friend” Amanda invented for herself to cope with a difficult childhood. What happens next is a gradual possession that leaves the reader wondering how much of Amanda’s casual new brazenness, deception, violence, and unbridled sexuality is simply a result of her own frustrated desires, rather than the demon’s dark whims—until it spirals into the kind of grotesque and utterly gripping horror show that leaves no doubt as to what’s happening.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Judy Tzu-Chun Wu & Gwendolyn Mink's "Fierce and Fearless"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Fierce and Fearless: Patsy Takemoto Mink, First Woman of Color in Congress by Judy Tzu-Chun Wu and Gwendolyn Mink.

About the book, from the publisher:
The first biography of trailblazing legislator Patsy Takemoto Mink, best known as the legislative champion of Title IX

“Every girl in Little League, every woman playing college sports, and every parent—including Michelle and myself—who watches their daughter on a field or in the classroom is forever grateful to the late Patsy Takemoto Mink.”
—President Barack Obama, on posthumously awarding Mink the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014

Patsy Takemoto Mink was the first woman of color and the first Asian American woman elected to Congress. Fierce and Fearless is the first biography of this remarkable woman, who first won election to Congress in 1964 and went on to serve in the House for twenty-four years, her final term ending with her death in 2002. Mink was an advocate for girls and women, best known for her work shepherding and defending Title IX, the legislation that changed the face of education in America, making it possible for girls and women to participate in school sports, and in education more broadly, at the same level as boys and men.

Mink’s life is wonderfully chronicled by eminent historian Judy Tzu-Chun Wu and Gwendolyn Mink, Patsy’s daughter, a noted political science scholar and first-hand witness to the many political struggles that her mother had to overcome. Featuring family anecdotes, vignettes, and photographs, Fierce and Fearless offers new insight into who Mink was, and the progressive principles that fueled her mission. Wu and Mink provide readers with an up-close understanding of her life as a third-generation Japanese American from Hawaii—from her childhood on Maui to her decades-long career in the House, working with noted legislators like Shirley Chisholm, Bella Abzug, and Nancy Pelosi. They follow the evolution of her politics, including her advocacy for race, gender, and class equality and her work to promote peace and environmental justice.

Fierce and Fearless provides vivid details of how Patsy Takemoto Mink changed the future of American politics. Celebrating the life and legacy of a woman, activist, and politician ahead of her time, this book illuminates the life of a trailblazing icon who made history.
Learn more about Fierce and Fearless at the NYU Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Fierce and Fearless.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Catherine Ryan Hyde's "Dreaming of Flight"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Dreaming of Flight: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde.

About the book, from the publisher:
An unexpected connection becomes the saving grace for two unlikely friends in a heart-stirring novel about love, loss, and moving forward by a New York Times and #1 Amazon Charts bestselling author.

Never knowing his parents, eleven-year-old Stewie Little and his brother have been raised on a farm by their older sister. Stewie steadfastly tends the chickens left by his beloved late grandmother. And every day Stewie goes door to door selling fresh eggs from his wagon―a routine with a surprise just around the corner. It’s his new customer, Marilyn. She’s prickly and guarded, yet comfortably familiar―she reminds the grieving Stewie so much of the grandmother he misses more than he can express.

Marilyn has a reason for keeping her distance: a secret no one knows about. Her survival tactic is to draw a line between herself and other people―one that Stewie is determined to cross. As their visits become more frequent, a complicated but deeply rooted relationship grows. That’s when Stewie discovers how much more there is to Marilyn, to her past, and to challenges that become more pressing each day. But whatever difficult times lie ahead, Stewie learns that although he can’t fix everything for Marilyn or himself, at least he’s no longer alone.
Visit Catherine Ryan Hyde's website.

Q&A with Catherine Ryan Hyde.

The Page 69 Test: Brave Girl, Quiet Girl.

The Page 69 Test: My Name is Anton.

The Page 69 Test: Seven Perfect Things.

The Page 69 Test: Boy Underground.

The Page 69 Test: Dreaming of Flight.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Q&A with Sarah McCoy

From my Q&A with Sarah McCoy, author of Mustique Island: A Novel:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

A great deal! It’s the name of the setting, Mustique Island. Immediately, readers are docked on the shore. I don’t think the title could be more specific about what you’re going to get: it’s a book about an exclusive, privately-owned tropical island. Google the name and you’ll see it’s real and notable for scandal and secrets. The title has been Mustique since I saved the first page as a word document and thought, “This could be a book.”

What's in a name?

In Mustique Island, the spark of inspiration for the three protagonists’ names came from...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Sarah McCoy’s website, Facebook page, Instagram page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico.

The Page 69 Test: The Baker's Daughter.

Coffee with a Canine: Sarah McCoy and Gilbert.

The Page 69 Test: The Mapmaker's Children.

My Book, The Movie: The Mapmaker’s Children.

The Page 69 Test: Marilla of Green Gables.

Writers Read: Sarah McCoy (October 2018).

The Page 69 Test: Mustique Island.

Q&A with Sarah McCoy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight unnerving New England psychological thrillers

Brian Lebeau was born in Fall River, Massachusetts, home of the infamous Lizzie Borden. After being awarded an “A” in high school English once and denied a career in music for “lack of talent” repeatedly, he taught economics at several colleges and universities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island before moving to Fauquier County, Virginia, to work as a defense contractor for two decades.

A Disturbing Nature is Lebeau’s first novel.

At CrimeReads the author tagged eight favorite New England psychological thrillers, including:
Published in 2020, Megan Collins’ Behind the Red Door is a mysterious psychological thriller that takes place in New Hampshire. A woman struggles with memories from her past after a girl from her youth goes missing for a second time. When she revisits her childhood home, the main character has trouble distinguishing truth from fiction and reoccurring nightmares from reality. An unreliable narrator and a primary character plagued with suppressed memories unwind this twisted and haunting tale. The classic New England settings that include dark forests and creepy cabins are memorable, as is the thought-provoking writing style.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Sam Lebovic's "A Righteous Smokescreen"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: A Righteous Smokescreen: Postwar America and the Politics of Cultural Globalization by Sam Lebovic.

About the book, from the publisher:
An examination of how the postwar United States twisted its ideal of “the free flow of information” into a one-sided export of values and a tool with global consequences.

When the dust settled after World War II, the United States stood as the world’s unquestionably pre-eminent military and economic power. In the decades that followed, the country exerted its dominant force in less visible but equally powerful ways, too, spreading its trade protocols, its media, and—perhaps most importantly—its alleged values. In A Righteous Smokescreen, Sam Lebovic homes in on one of the most prominent, yet ethereal, of those professed values: the free flow of information. This trope was seen as capturing what was most liberal about America’s self-declared leadership of the free world. But as Lebovic makes clear, even though diplomats and public figures trumpeted the importance of widespread cultural exchange, these transmissions flowed in only one direction: outward from the United States. Though other countries did try to promote their own cultural visions, Lebovic shows that the US moved to marginalize or block those visions outright, highlighting the shallowness of American commitments to multilateral institutions, the depth of its unstated devotion to cultural and economic supremacy, and its surprising hostility to importing foreign cultures. His book uncovers the unexpectedly profound global consequences buried in such ostensibly mundane matters as visa and passport policy, international educational funding, and land purchases for embassies. Even more crucially, A Righteous Smokescreen does nothing less than reveal that globalization was not the inevitable consequence of cultural convergence or the natural outcome of putatively free flows of information—it was always political to its core.
Learn more about A Righteous Smokescreen at the University of Chicago Press website.

The Page 99 Test: A Righteous Smokescreen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Third reading: D.W. Buffa on "War and Peace"

D.W. Buffa's recent novel is The Privilege, the ninth legal thriller involving the defense attorney Joseph Antonelli. The tenth, Lunatic Carnival, will be published in the spring. He has also just published Neumann's Last Concert, the fourth novel in a series that attempts to trace the movement of western thought from ancient Athens, in Helen; the end of the Roman Empire, in Julian's Laughter; the Renaissance, in The Autobiography of Niccolo Machiavelli; and, finally, America in the Twentieth Century.

Buffa writes a monthly review for the Campaign for the American Reader that we're calling "Third Reading." Buffa explains. "I was reading something and realized that it was probably the third time that I knew it well enough to write something about it. The first is when I read it when I was in college or in my twenties, the second, however many years later, when I wanted to see if it was as good as I remembered, and the third when I knew I was going to have to write about it."

Buffa's "Third Reading" of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace begins:
Years ago, when writers were serious, and editors knew what they were doing, Maxwell Perkins, who worked with Hemingway and Fitzgerald, would give a copy of War and Peace to every new author he agreed to take on. It was, he would tell them, the greatest novel ever written, the measure of the perfection they should try to achieve. Tolstoy might have been amused. War and Peace, he insisted, “is not a novel, still less an epic poem, still less a historical chronicle. War and Peace is what the author wanted and was able to express, in the form in which it is expressed.”

This is not as strange as it may seem.

“The history of Russian literature since Pushkin’s time not only provides many examples of such departure from European forms, but does not offer even one example to the contrary. From Gogol’s Dead Souls to Dostoevsky’s Dead House, there is not a single work of artistic prose in the modern period of Russian literature, rising slightly above mediocrity, that would fit perfectly into the form of the novel, the epic, or the story.”

Far from a question of literary classification, this points to the very essence of what Tolstoy was trying to do. While Europe, while the West, believed in modern science, progress, and the equal right of everyone to acquire as much wealth as they could, Tolstoy had a different, and a deeper, understanding of what life was meant to be. There are two stories in War and Peace, stories that intertwine with each other: the story of Napoleon’s ill-fated invasion of Russia, and the story of how the ungainly, and often confused, Pierre and the lovely young girl Natasha, draw closer until, after engagements and marriages, broken hearts and tragic deaths, they understand that everything has been a prologue to their own marriage, and then, for the first time, understand what marriage means. Everything that happens to them seems a chance occurrence, yet somehow pre-ordained; everything a step necessary in a chain of circumstances leading to a conclusion that no one could have foreseen, and nearly everyone at the time thought...[read on]
About Buffa's new novel Neumann’s Last Concert, from the publisher:
Neumann’s Last Concert is a story about music and war and the search for what led to the greatest evil in modern history. It is the story of an American boy, Wilfred Malone, who lost his father in the early days of the Second World War and a German refugee, Isaac Neumann, the greatest concert pianist of his age when he lived in Berlin, but who now lives, anonymous and alone, in a single rented room in a small town a few miles from San Francisco.

Wilfred has a genius for the piano, “a keen curiosity not yet corrupted by vanity” and “a memory that forgot nothing essential.” Neumann, alone in his room, is constantly writing, an endless labyrinth of questions and answers, driving him farther and farther back into the past, searching for the causes, searching for the meaning, of what happened in Germany, trying to understand what had led him, a German Jew, to stay in Germany when he could have left but instead continued to perform right up to the night that during his last concert they took his wife away.

Neumann’s Last Concert is a novel about the great catastrophe of the 20th century and the way in which music, great music, preserves both the hope of human decency amidst the carnage of human insanity and the possibility of what human beings might still accomplish.
Visit D.W. Buffa's website.

Third reading: The Great Gatsby

Third reading: Brave New World.

Third reading: Lord Jim.

Third reading: Death in the Afternoon.

Third Reading: Parade's End.

Third Reading: The Idiot.

Third Reading: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Third Reading: The Scarlet Letter.

Third Reading: Justine.

Third Reading: Patriotic Gore.

Third reading: Anna Karenina.

Third reading: The Charterhouse of Parma.

Third Reading: Emile.

Third Reading: War and Peace.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Q&A with Wendelin Van Draanen

From my Q&A with Wendelin Van Draanen, author of The Peach Rebellion:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Titles can be tricky! Sometimes the perfect one reveals itself from day one, or was the inspiration for the entire story. And sometimes it’s a struggle. The working title for The Peach Rebellion was Millions of Peaches. The trouble with a working title is that it’s seared into your brain for – in this case—the three years that it took to write it. So, when my editor suggested that the working title didn’t really reflect the story of three young women standing up to the patriarchy, it was a challenge to erase my mental board and start fresh. But she was right. And I do love The Peach Rebellion as a title. I like that it’s not too on the nose, and reflects the sweet conflict...[read on]
Visit Wendelin Van Draanen's website.

Q&A with Wendelin Van Draanen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Seven books about women who refuse to fit in

Anne Heltzel is a New York-based novelist and book editor. In addition to writing horror, she has penned several milder titles for children and young adults.

Just Like Mother is her adult debut.

At Electric Lit Heltzel tagged seven books "about characters...who are unable to be the type of women their communities expect them to be." One title on the list:
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Keiko, a woman working at a convenience store in Tokyo, best understands how to function “normally” within the framework of her job at Smile Mart, where social interactions can be learned by studying a manual. Keiko flourishes at the store and achieves a level of contentment she hasn’t experienced elsewhere; but as she approaches middle age, her lack of ambition and marital status (single, uncoupled) become an increasing affront to her meddling family and coworkers. Keiko contorts herself into a desperate emotional pretzel in an effort to appease her loved ones. The resulting decision is comically aligned with her personality—an unusual arrangement that makes her even more of an aberration, at least by the standards of people who care about such things.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Nancy Thayer's "Summer Love"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Summer Love: A Novel by Nancy Thayer.

About the book, from the publisher:
Old secrets come to light when four friends gather on Nantucket for a life-changing reunion in this heartwarming novel of love and self-discovery by New York Times bestselling author Nancy Thayer.

When four strangers rent bargain-basement rooms in an old hotel near the beach, they embark on the summer of their lives. First there’s Ariel Spencer, who has big dreams of becoming a writer and is looking for inspiration in Nantucket’s high society. Her new friend Sheila Murphy is a good Catholic girl from Ohio whose desire for adventure is often shadowed by her apprehension. Then there’s small-town Missourian Wyatt Smith, who’s immediately taken with Ariel. The last of the four, Nick Volkov, is looking to make a name for himself and have a blast along the way. Despite their differences, the four bond over trips to the beach, Wednesday-night dinners, and everything that Nantucket has to offer. But venturing out on their own for the first time, with all its adventure and risks, could change the course of their lives.

Twenty-six years after that amazing summer, Ariel, Sheila, Wyatt, and Nick reunite at the hotel where they first met. Now it’s called The Lighthouse and Nick owns the entire operation with his wife and daughter. Ariel and Wyatt, married for decades, arrive with their son, and Sheila’s back too, with her daughter by her side. Life hasn’t exactly worked out the way they had all hoped. Ariel’s dreams have since faded and been pushed aside, but she’s determined to rediscover the passion she once had. Nick has the money and reputation of a successful businessman, but is it everything he had hoped for? And Sheila has never been able to shake the secret she’s kept since that summer. Being back together again will mean confronting the past and finding themselves. Meanwhile, the next generation discovers Nantucket: Their children explore the island together, experiencing love and heartbreak and forging lifelong bonds, just as their parents did all those years ago. It’s sure to be one unforgettable reunion.

This delightful novel from beloved storyteller Nancy Thayer explores the potential of dreams and the beauty of friendship.
Learn more about the book and author at Nancy Thayer's website.

The Page 69 Test: Summer House.

The Page 69 Test: Beachcombers.

My Book, The Movie: Beachcombers.

Writers Read: Nancy Thayer.

My Book, The Movie: The Guest Cottage.

The Page 69 Test: The Guest Cottage.

The Page 69 Test: Summer Love.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Alvin Eng's "Our Laundry, Our Town"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Our Laundry, Our Town: My Chinese American Life from Flushing to the Downtown Stage and Beyond by Alvin Eng.

About the book, from the publisher:
With humor and grace, the memoir of a first-generation Chinese American in New York City

Our Laundry, Our Town is a memoir that decodes and processes the fractured urban oracle bones of Alvin Eng's upbringing in Flushing, Queens in the 1970s. Back then, his family was one of the few immigrant Chinese families in a far-flung neighborhood in New York City. His parents had an arranged marriage and ran a Chinese Hand Laundry. From behind the counter of his parent’s laundry and within the confines of a household that was rooted in a different century and culture, he sought to reconcile this insular home life with the turbulent yet inspiring street life that was all around them––from the faux martial arts of tv’s Kung Fu to the burgeoning underworld of the punk rock scene.

In the 1970s, NYC, like most of the world, was in the throes of regenerating itself in the wake of major social and cultural changes resulting from the Counterculture and Civil Rights movements. And by the 1980s, Flushing had become NYC’s second Chinatown. But Eng remained one of the neighborhood’s few Chinese citizens who could not speak fluent Chinese. Finding his way in the downtown theater and performance world of Manhattan, he discovered the under-chronicled Chinese influence on Thornton Wilder’s foundational Americana drama, Our Town. This discovery became the unlikely catalyst for a psyche-healing pilgrimage to Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China—his ancestral home in southern China—that led to writing and performing his successful autobiographical monologue, The Last Emperor of Flushing. Learning to tell his own story on stages around the world was what proudly made him whole.

As cities, classrooms, cultures, and communities the world over continue to re-examine the parameters of diversity, equity, and inclusion, Our Laundry, Our Town will reverberate with a broad readership.
Visit Alvin Eng's website.

The Page 99 Test: Our Laundry, Our Town.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, May 16, 2022

Natalie Jenner's "Bloomsbury Girls," the movie

Featured at My Book, The Movie: Bloomsbury Girls: A Novel by Natalie Jenner.

About the book, from the publisher:
Ironically, it was an early pandemic rewatch of the 1987 movie 84 Charing Cross Road, based on the wonderful book by Helene Hanff, that lit the creative spark for my new novel Bloomsbury Girls, which is about a trio of women working in a 1950s London bookshop who are engaged in a battle of the sexes with their male department heads and decide to stage a coup. Although the movie focuses on the epistolary relationship between Hanff and the manager of a 1950s bookshop at—you guessed it—84 Charing Cross Road, its wonderful set design for the shop brought to humming life all manner of staff. As I watched, I thought to myself, there’s a whole other book in here, and immediately half a dozen characters came to mind. Here’s how I would cast the main ones:

Lord Baskin, the elegant, sympathetic earl who owns the one-hundred-year-old bookshop at the heart of Bloomsbury Girls, has to be played by Richard Armitage, who narrated the audiobook for my debut novel The Jane Austen Society, the actual writing of which he also inspired. What can I say—I’m a huge fan.

Evie Stone, the former servant girl turned literary sleuth and Cambridge graduate, is also connected to my first book, and for years now I have envisioned a shorter Saoirse Ronan in this role, given the serious, fiercely ambitious Jo March vibes from her performance in Little Women.

For Vivien, the insolent ringleader of the discontented female staff, I can only see...[read on]
Visit Natalie Jenner's website.

Q&A with Natalie Jenner.

My Book, The Movie: The Jane Austen Society.

My Book, The Movie: Bloomsbury Girls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Eight thrilling books about mountaineering

Amy McCulloch is the author of eight novels for children and young adults, including the internationally bestselling YA novel The Magpie Society: One for Sorrow. In September 2019, she became the youngest Canadian woman to climb Manaslu in Nepal--the world's eighth-highest mountain. She also summited the highest mountain in the Americas, Aconcagua, in -50°F temperatures and 55 mph winds, and has visited all seven continents. Breathless is her adult fiction debut.

At CrimeReads McCulloch tagged eight "favorite thrilling books to read about mountaineering," including:
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

It’s impossible to talk about mountaineering literature without mentioning Into Thin Air—the incredible true story of the 1996 Everest disaster, where eight climbers were killed in a storm. Jon was a journalist covering the expedition for Outside magazine, and his writing is gripping, compelling and haunting. For an alternate point of view of the expedition, The Climb by Anton Boukreev is worth reading as well.
Read about another entry on the list.

Into Thin Air is among four books that changed Rupert Guinness, Jeff Somers's five best books where nature is the antagonist, Nicole Dieker's top nine books even non-readers will love, James Mustich's five top books about mountaineering, and Ed Douglas's ten best survival stories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Stephen L. Moore's "Patton's Payback"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Patton's Payback: The Battle of El Guettar and General Patton's Rise to Glory by Stephen L. Moore.

About the book, from the publisher:
A stirring World War II combat story of how the legendary George Patton reinvigorated a defeated and demoralized army corps, and how his men claimed victory over Germany’s most-feared general, Erwin Rommel

In March 1943, in their first fight with the Germans, American soldiers in North Africa were pushed back fifty miles by Rommel’s Afrika Korps and nearly annihilated. Only the German decision not to pursue them allowed the Americans to maintain a foothold in the area. General Eisenhower, the supreme commander, knew he needed a new leader on the ground, one who could raise the severely damaged morale of his troops. He handed the job to a new man: Lieutenant General George Patton.

Charismatic, irreverent, impulsive, and inspiring, Patton possessed a massive ego and the ambition to match. But he could motivate men to fight. He had just ten days to whip his dispirited troops into shape, then throw them into battle against the Wehrmacht’s terrifying Panzers, the speedy and powerful German tanks that U.S. forces had never defeated. Patton, who believed he had fought as a Roman legionnaire in a previous life, relished the challenge to turn the tide of America’s fledgling war against Hitler—and the chance to earn a fourth star.
Visit Stephen L. Moore's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Battle for Hell’s Island.

Writers Read: Stephen L. Moore (November 2016).

The Page 99 Test: As Good As Dead.

The Page 99 Test: Patton's Payback.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Q&A with Seraphina Nova Glass

From my Q&A with Seraphina Nova Glass, author of On a Quiet Street:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Titles are so hard. When I was writing Hallmark scripts, I learned that networks will sometimes buy just a title by itself, or buy a script they don’t like just to take the title because they are so powerful. I find coming up with a title painstaking, and arduous. It sometimes seems easier to write the whole novel then land on a title you love.

I’ve also learned that the publisher usually wants to change it. So far, my very first book, Someone’s Listening, is the only title I had as a working title that made it to the actual final vote and was used. At first I was a little offended. Can they just change my title? Now. I’m very grateful because my titles are usually crap and they have a glorious team of people working on creating a title that works on so many levels.

Often, I start with a working title and part way through writing the book, I hate it so much, I take the time to go into all my working documents, the notes, outlines, character pages and change it everywhere because I can’t look at it anymore! Dramatic, I know. But, I’m happy to report though, that the novel I’m writing currently is titled The Vanishing Hour, and I think it suits the piece for a change, and I’m happy with it.

My novel, On A Quiet Street, coming out this month was originally called The Payoff, and my agent and I, and our film agent really liked it and thought it would stick, but when the publisher proposed On A Quiet Street, it felt right. All of the three main characters in the story live in a quiet cul-de-sac in Brighton Hills where all the chaos rests just under the glossy, manicured surface, and they are all just close enough to nose into one another’s secrets and uncover a…[read on]
Visit Seraphina Nova Glass's website.

Q&A with Seraphina Nova Glass.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six top books featuring mythical creatures

A.F. Steadman grew up in the Kent countryside, getting lost in fantasy worlds and scribbling stories in notebooks. Before focusing on writing, she worked in law, until she realized that there wasn’t nearly enough magic involved.

Skandar and the Unicorn Thief is her debut novel.

At the Waterstones blog Steadman tagged six "favourite children's books featuring richly imagined and beautifully realised mythical creatures. From beloved classics to exciting new stories," including:
Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston

Talking of friends, how about a mythical creature for a roommate? One of my favourite recent fantasy reads is Amari and the Night Brothers. When Amari Peters is invited to the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs she certainly comes across her fair share of mythical creatures – even her roommate is secretly a weredragon! I love the playfulness that Alston uses to imagine the mythical creatures Amari encounters in the Bureau: a bigfoot named Sir Francis Sasquatch III, a bored cyclops, flocks of fairies. It’s wonderful.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Sarah McCoy's "Mustique Island"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Mustique Island: A Novel by Sarah McCoy.

About the book, from the publisher:
From bestselling author Sarah McCoy, a sun-splashed romp with a rich divorcee and her two wayward daughters in 1970s Mustique, the world’s most exclusive private island, where Princess Margaret and Mick Jagger were regulars and scandals stayed hidden from the press…

It’s January 1972 but the sun is white hot when Willy May Michael’s boat first kisses the dock of Mustique Island. Tucked into the southernmost curve of the Caribbean, Mustique is a private island that has become a haven for the wealthy and privileged. Its owner is the eccentric British playboy Colin Tennant, who is determined to turn this speck of white sand into a luxurious neo-colonial retreat for his rich friends and into a royal court in exile for the Queen’s rebellious sister, Princess Margaret—one where Her Royal Highness can skinny dip, party, and entertain lovers away from the public eye.

Willy May, a former beauty queen from Texas—who is also no stranger to marital scandals—seeks out Mustique for its peaceful isolation. Determined to rebuild her life and her relationships with her two daughters, Hilly, a model, and Joanne, a musician, she constructs a fanciful white beach house across the island from Princess Margaret—and finds herself pulled into the island’s inner circle of aristocrats, rock stars, and hangers-on.

When Willy May’s daughters arrive, they discover that beneath its veneer of decadence, Mustique has a dark side, and like sand caught in the undertow, their mother-daughter story will shift and resettle in ways they never could have imagined.
Learn more about the book and author at Sarah McCoy’s website, Facebook page, Instagram page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico.

The Page 69 Test: The Baker's Daughter.

Coffee with a Canine: Sarah McCoy and Gilbert.

The Page 69 Test: The Mapmaker's Children.

My Book, The Movie: The Mapmaker’s Children.

The Page 69 Test: Marilla of Green Gables.

Writers Read: Sarah McCoy (October 2018).

The Page 69 Test: Mustique Island.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Eight books about women's rage

Kelly Barnhill lives in Minnesota with her husband and three children. Her novels include The Girl Who Drank the Moon, winner of the 2017 John Newbery Medal for the year’s most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. She is also the winner of a World Fantasy Award and a Parents’ Choice Gold Award. She has been a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award, the NCTE Charlotte Huck Award, the SFWA Andre Norton Award, and the PEN/USA literary prize.

Barnhill's new novel is When Women Were Dragons.

At Electric Lit she tagged eight books that explore "rage, feminism, memory, and maybe dragons too." One title on the list:
Circe by Madeline Miller

How is it that a novel that spans generations, centuries, and even millenia manages to feel so intimate, immediate and brave? Is Madeline Miller a sorceress? I’m starting to think she is.

Miller takes on on a journey through the landscapes of Greek mythology—war, death, betrayal, castle intrigue, lust, possession, dissolution, the insufferable snobbery of gods and the heartbreaking frailty of humanity. This is the story of Circe, a disempowered daughter of a careless god, unappreciated and disparaged by her own kind; she lives in exile among the animals, where she cultivates her skills in witchcraft and discovers a wellspring of power that even the gods don’t understand. Both diminished and demeaned, Circe discovers the roots of her own anger, and both the power and possibility presented by that rage. She is both startled and transformed—as are we, the reader. Rage in this story acts as a fire—it burns away the lies that she has been told and the lies she tells herself. It clears away the debris and clutter, allowing her, at long last, to see a new path, a new self, a new way forward.
Read about another entry on the list.

Circe is among Sascha Rothchild's most captivating literary antiheroes, Rachel Kapelke-Dale's eleven top unexpected thrillers about female rage, Kat Sarfas's thirteen enchanted reads for spooky season, Fire Lyte's nine current classics in magic and covens and spellsElodie Harper's six top novels set in the ancient world, Kiran Millwood Hargrave's seven best books about islands, Zen Cho's six SFF titles about gods and pantheons, Jennifer Saint's ten top books inspired by Greek myth, Adrienne Westenfeld's fifteen feminist books that will inspire, enrage, & educate you, Ali Benjamin's top ten classic stories retold, Lucile Scott's eight books about hexing the patriarchy, E. Foley and B. Coates's top ten goddesses in fiction, Jordan Ifueko's five fantasy titles driven by traumatic family bonds, Eleanor Porter's top ten books about witch-hunts, Emily B. Martin's six stunning fantasies for nature lovers, Allison Pataki's top six books that feature strong female voices, Pam Grossman's thirteen stories about strong women with magical powers, Kris Waldherr's nine top books inspired by mythology, Katharine Duckett's eight novels that reexamine literature from the margins, and Steph Posts's thirteen top novels set in the world of myth.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Michelle R. Warren's "Holy Digital Grail"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: Holy Digital Grail: A Medieval Book on the Internet by Michelle R. Warren.

About the book, from the publisher:
Medieval books that survive today have been through a lot: singed by fire, mottled by mold, eaten by insects, annotated by readers, cut into fragments, or damaged through well-intentioned preservation efforts. In this book, Michelle Warren tells the story of one such manuscript—an Arthurian romance with textual origins in twelfth-century England now diffused across the twenty-first century internet. This trajectory has been propelled by a succession of technologies—from paper manufacture to printing to computers. Together, they have made literary history itself a cultural technology indebted to colonial capitalism.

Bringing to bear media theory, medieval literary studies, and book history, Warren shows how digital infrastructures change texts and books, even very old ones. In the process, she uncovers a practice of "tech medievalism" that weaves through the history of computing since the mid-twentieth century; metaphors indebted to King Arthur and the Holy Grail are integral to some of the technologies that now sustain medieval books on the internet. This infrastructural approach to book history illuminates how the meaning of literature is made by many people besides canonical authors: translators, scribes, patrons, readers, collectors, librarians, cataloguers, editors, photographers, software programmers, and many more. Situated at the intersections of the digital humanities, library sciences, literary history, and book history, Holy Digital Grail offers new ways to conceptualize authorship, canon formation, and the definition of a "book."
Follow Michelle R. Warren on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Holy Digital Grail.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 13, 2022

Six top creepy novels involving childcare

Jason Rekulak is the author of The Impossible Fortress, which was translated into 12 languages and was nominated for the Edgar Award. For many years, he was the publisher of Quirk Books, an independent press, where he acquired and edited multiple New York Times bestsellers. He lives in Philadelphia with his family.

Rekulak's new novel is Hidden Pictures.

At CrimeReads the author tagged "six of my favorite books featuring inquisitive nannies, creepy children, supernatural forces, curiously distant parents, disapproving housekeepers, and so much more." One title on the list:
Nanny Needed by Georgina Cross

Here’s yet another nanny taking yet another job in yet another glamorous dwelling. Sarah finds work caring for a small child in a penthouse apartment on New York City’s upper west side. She doesn’t have good employment references, or any experience dealing with kids, but her new employers offer her the gig, anyway. There’s just one very twenty-first century complication: Sarah must agree to sign an extremely restrictive NDA. Because “discretion is of the utmost importance.” (Also because this family is up to no good.)
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 99: Clayton Butler's "True Blue"

Featured at the Page 99 Test: True Blue: White Unionists in the Deep South during the Civil War and Reconstruction by Clayton J. Butler.

About the book, from the publisher:
During the American Civil War, thousands of citizens in the Deep South remained loyal to the United States. Though often overlooked, they possessed broad symbolic importance and occupied an outsized place in the strategic thinking and public discourse of both the Union and the Confederacy. In True Blue, Clayton J. Butler investigates the lives of white Unionists in three Confederate states, revealing who they were, why and how they took their Unionist stand, and what happened to them as a result. He focuses on three Union regiments recruited from among the white residents of the Deep South—individuals who passed the highest bar of Unionism by enlisting in the United States Army to fight with the First Louisiana Cavalry, First Alabama Cavalry, and Thirteenth Tennessee Union Cavalry.

Northerners and southerners alike thought a considerable amount about Deep South Unionism throughout the war, often projecting their hopes and apprehensions onto these embattled dissenters. For both, the significance of these Unionists hinged on the role they would play in the postwar future. To northerners, they represented the tangible nucleus of national loyalty within the rebelling states on which to build Reconstruction policies. To Confederates, they represented traitors to the political ideals of their would-be nation and, as the war went on, to the white race, making them at times a target for vicious reprisal. Unionists’ wartime allegiance proved a touchstone during the political chaos and realignment of Reconstruction, a period when many of these veterans played a key role both as elected officials and as a pivotal voting bloc. In the end, white Unionists proved willing to ally with African Americans during the war to save the Union but unwilling to protect or advance Black civil rights afterward, revealing the character of Unionism during the era as a whole.
Follow Clayton Butler on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: True Blue.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Q&A with Evie Hawtrey

From my Q&A with Evie Hawtrey, author of And by Fire:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Generally I am rubbish at titles. Absolute rubbish. That’s not a new discovery for me, because, although this is my first foray into crime writing, I’ve been a published historical novelist (Sophie Perinot) for over a decade. So, I get stressed around titles because they matter. And I am also very open to input from my agent and editor when titling my books.

In the case of And by Fire, however, the title is mine and I am rather proud of it. I think it takes the reader deep into both timelines in my crime novel (modern-day London & London 1666), while simultaneously connecting them.

And by Fire is excerpted from a longer phrase, “and by fire, resurgam,” from a taunting note written by my modern-day murderous arsonist on the back of a unusually placed necktie. The word resurgam (Latin for “I shall rise”), come up repeatedly in the novel—spotted by my contemporary detectives, DIs Parker and O’Leary, on the south transcept of St. Paul’s Cathedral; on the charred page of a book that floats down at the feet of architect Sir Christopher Wren during the horrific...[read on]
Visit Evie Hawtrey's website.

Writers Read: Evie Hawtrey.

Q&A with Evie Hawtrey.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten novels about neighbors

Ayşegül Savaş is a Turkish writer living in Paris. Her first novel, Walking on the Ceiling, was published in 2019.

Her new novel is White on White.

At the Guardian Savaş tagged ten books that "investigate lives at close proximity, at once familiar and distant," including:
By the Sea by Abdulrazak Gurnah

One afternoon, Saleh Omar arrives at Gatwick airport from Zanzibar, seeking asylum. He is taken to a B&B where other men, from Kosovo and the Czech Republic, are lodging. Though they share the same strange accommodation, they know little about the histories that have brought them here. The only person in England who knows Omar is the son of the man whose name Omar has taken, once a neighbour in Zanzibar. When the two meet, a story of the past is revealed, at once intimate and mysterious, the fates of the men entangled profoundly.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Pg. 69: Marion Deeds's "Comeuppance Served Cold"

Featured at the Page 69 Test: Comeuppance Served Cold by Marion Deeds.

About the book, from the publisher:
Seattle, 1929—a bitterly divided city overflowing with wealth, violence, and magic.

A respected magus and city leader intent on criminalizing Seattle’s most vulnerable magickers hires a young woman as a lady’s companion to curb his rebellious daughter’s outrageous behavior.

The widowed owner of a speakeasy encounters an opportunity to make her husband’s murderer pay while she tries to keep her shapeshifter brother safe.

A notorious thief slips into the city to complete a delicate and dangerous job that will leave chaos in its wake.

One thing is for certain—comeuppance, eventually, waits for everyone.
Follow Marion Deeds on Twitter.

Writers Read: Marion Deeds.

The Page 69 Test: Comeuppance Served Cold.

--Marshal Zeringue